I’ve been reading survival stories for the past week. The solo riders have been sharing their Soggy Bottom tales, which aren’t always pretty. Each year, many riders abandon the course in agony, frustration and/or exhaustion.
Others sit down and watch their leg muscles spasm. Some fight nausea, cramps, or other symptoms of illness. Last weekend, one sat down beside the trail and cried for 20 minutes, then got up and kept riding.
As a relay rider who was happy to see my suffering end at Cooper Landing, I find it hard to understand the appeal of racing the entire course. Besides not having the discipline and time to truly train for a solo attempt, I lack the desire to endure 15 to 17 hours of torture and the days of recovery.
But the consistent message in the stories of solo finishers is that the reward lies not in the ride, but in completing it. My friend akdeluxe said that after one of his finishes, it took him three days to feel happy that he hadn’t quit.
There’s something really sick and twisted in that, but I admire the tenacity of every solo rider. There’s a small part of me that wishes I had that kind of drive. There’s a much bigger part of me that’s glad I don’t.
This year, “ghost riders” were allowed to accompany their friends on the third and final leg to offer moral support and comfort in the dark, final hours of the race. Maybe that’s where my Soggy future lies, if I have one—volunteering to keep a friend company in the House of Pain and Bears.
I like that idea. Because I feel no need to reach the Seaview Bar as a soloist, but I sure enjoy seeing others pull it off.