Endurance Skating

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Le Mans Last Minute Thoughts

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
— Benjamin Franklin

Well, we’re finally here. Le Mans is T-2 at the time of writing this. You can feel the sense of excitement and anticipation amongst our skating community racheting up to fever level! 

This year there will be at least 100 UK skaters at Le Mans, plus their entourage of crew and supporters. Most will be on 10 and 6-person teams. That’s terrific – UK participation in this fabulous event is as high as ever, and for sure tomorrow’s duos and solos will be drawn from today’s first timers.

This will be my 7th straight year at Le Mans, and my 2nd solo. Over that time I’ve proabably skated a couple of hundred laps around the famous bugatti circuit, but by far my most memorable lap was the very first one I ever skated…

It was 2009, and I was not the paragon of fitness and endurance that I strive to be today. That year was hot. 4.2km flat out, rinse and repeat on a team of 10. How hard could that be? I was about to find out. 

Oh boy, was I about to find out.

Half way up the hill on my first ever flying lap I had already redlined and blown up. To say I felt terrible would be an understatement. And I still had 3km to skate just to finish the first lap. It might as well have been 30km.

I wanted it to be over. I so wanted it to be over. 

I thought I was going to puke, or pass out. Perhaps I would puke and then pass out.

Without a doubt it was the most uncomfortable 10 minutes and 39 seconds I had ever physically experienced. After finally making it around to complete the lap and passing the baton off, I was utterly exhausted. Spent. 

Upon returning to the pit box, my first port of call was to dunk my head under the taps at the back of the pitbox and run the cold tap until my brain turned numb. And then I lay down… literally incapacitated for the next hour. I was still seeing stars, oblivious to anything else going on around me. I just wanted the ground to swallow me up and put me out of my misery.

Eventually life did return to my legs, and I scraped myself off the floor some 90 minutes later to do my 2nd lap. Somehow I managed to pull myself together and contribute a total of 12 laps to our team effort that year. I even got down to manage a 10:04 lap (twice!) as I paced myself better on some of my laps while there was still enough freshness in my legs. It was hard work, in its own way just as hard as a solo or duo effort. 

I saw a lot of strops and suffering amongst our friends that year – we were still wet behind the ears, and in awe of the Sparkys and Tanyas who could slam in superhuman sub-8 laps at will.  However, I was convinced that none of them had suffered as deeply as I had on that very first lap. Hand on heart, I had never come anywhere as close to that level of physical exhaustion before, and unless I find myself being chased by the hounds of hell, I doubt I ever will again.

When assessing my mental state ahead of this year’s campaign, I’ve been struggling to understand where my head is at. 7 months of hard training will culminate in just 24 hours this weekend. Shouldn’t I feel excited? Nervous? Shouldn’t I be bricking it? Ordinarily yes, but I think I’ve rationalized my calmness. You see, the thing is I know that I’ll love the experience… I love it every year, which is why I keep returning. Knowing that puts me in a good place mentally. I know that I have my “why?” to keep me going. It’s never enough just to want something; you have to know why you want it. And I have the comfort of knowing that even when I’m exhausted and struggling to get up that hill for the 100th time, the next lap still won’t hurt as much as that first one did all those years ago..
So if anyone still reading and about to set off on their own first time Le Mans adventure, I hope you find it just as hard, rewarding, and inspiring as I did my first time, and love the experience so much that you want to come back next year and the year after that. 

But for goodness sake, just take it easy on that first lap, and I’ll see you on track.


One comment on “Le Mans Last Minute Thoughts

  1. jc1080
    June 25, 2015

    !!GO ON VANO!!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on June 25, 2015 by in LeMans, Mental, Uncategorized, Update and tagged , .

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