I woke up wondering if I had been dreaming. Did I really finished the long sportive that I had been training for? Was it all over? The medal on the bedside table, shinning under the morning sun, was leaving no doubt. I did it!
For me, Vätternrundan was not a 300km recreational ride around a big lake in Sweden, it was a 6 months race that required more than 1500km of riding and total of 90h on the bike.
The long road to the finish line
When it all started in November, when I registered for the event, I had doubts about how will happen on the day (and night!) of the event. For somebody that had never been on a road bike or didn’t really like cycling, registering for completing a 300km (200miles) sportive in one stretch seemed like a crazy – or stupid- goal.
The event’s website was fairly poor on advice about training but specified that you should make sure you had been riding at least 1000km prior to the event, and ideally closer to 2000km. So this became my obsession.
It is difficult to enjoy something you suck at
I started as a full beginner. This is not an over statement if you consider that I don’t really like biking to start with, and when I occasionally rode a bike casually in family, it was quite obvious that I was not really talented. Our first training session was a 30km ride on a flat road near Stockholm, it was barely 2h but I ended up so exhausted that I had to sleep the complete afternoon. Fast forward 6 months later and I was finishing a 300km sportive. A great achievement.
But It took months for cycling to become bearable, and a couple more to start to find it slightly enjoyable. Getting used to the road bike felt like learning how to ride a bike again for me: your riding position is different, the steering is much more sensitive and you have to practise how to ride with shoes in. You fell several times. They tell you it is “a rite of passage”, which doesn’t make your feel any better. It was tough.
04.00am on race day, heavy rain. At this time you should be in bed, instead you are just miserable.
Be ready to sacrifice
I was training 3 times a week, with at least one ride a week over 4h. Nights out, relaxing weekend and lie in on weekends were sacrificed. I rode when it was really cold, when it was too warm, before work, after work, when I felt like it (and mainly when I didn’t feel like it… because I didn’t feel like it often!).
I came to the point where training owned my life. When not riding, I was researching equipment, training techniques, fixing logistics for our trip to Sweden. I have to say it was far from always being pleasant. Nothing comes free of charge.
The finish line: Hard work eventually pays off
Just after the finish line, the end of the journey!
But was it worth it? Totally. Putting the hours on the saddle allowed me to come prepared and to stand at the start line confident in my abilities to finish it. At no moment during the 16h it took me to complete Vätternrundan I doubt I will fail to finish: from the start line at 19.40pm, through the first kilometres, through the night, during the 2h of rain and through the last stretch until the finish line we crossed before 12.00pm the next day, I knew I will do it. My body was probably not fully up for challenge but my mental was. I didn’t come this far, to only come this far. I felt unstoppable.
As I was feeling each little part of my body starting to hurt, something was growing in me. The indescribable feeling of reaching your goals. As I write these lines I now realise: for me, Vätternrundan was not a 300km ride around a big lake in Sweden, it was not really about biking eventually. It was a journey where I showed myself that everything is possible and where I became my own hero.
And you? You can’t imagine what you are capable of. Go and get it.
Vätternrundan is a 300km cycling event that takes places every year in June in Sweden. It start and ends in Motala, with 20,000 cyclists trying to complete the loop over the day and the night. The event is so popular that it sells out every year in minutes.
Vatternrundan is part of the Swedish Classics, a serie of 4 challenges that stretch the limits of the athletes among cycling, swimming, running and skiing.