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Etna Marathon - Gerry Said is tamed by the monster.

Published by Gerard Said in Sport · 25/9/2012 20:16:26

A bad day to have a bad day

I had fever. It was a stark
, inescapable fact. After three months of training, I had screwed up in the last week. I knew this, but I refused to believe it. As I huddled in bed, shivering, I refused to believe it, willing strength into my legs and toughness into my head. It will pass, I thought, next Sunday I will kick ass. I must. It had been three months of gruelling, leg busting training, dragging myself endlessly up and down Lapsi hill...chasing Ramon's back wheel for forty seconds after painful forty seconds. It couldn't unravel in so short a time, could it?
Saturday I tested myself, trying to understand why my legs wouldn't turn properly. Rode 18km of uphill at tempo pace, while reason and my friends looked upon patiently knowing what I'd refused to accept.

Yep, the day dawned, and the legs were fried. It was the worst possible thing that could happen. Still I refused to believe it, chasing fruitlessly, struggling against my legs until I couldn't anymore and I had to stop, cough my lungs out by the side of the road watching the race ride past me up impossible gradients, endless merciless rivers of acerbic lava gravel punctuated by sharp rocks. I caught my breath, I got back on, tasting the coppery taste of failure. I had done 10km in the first hour. Would I make it in the time cut? I just struggled on. I couldn't find anything in my legs. Gel after sweetened gel washed down my throat, but it was like starting a dead engine. I would cough and splutter into life for a few seconds, and then settle into the torpor of turning my 24/34, revolution after painful revolution, head down not to look at the awful gradients I faced.

The forests were like a quiet funeral, shafts of sunlight stabbing through the grass as I ground up turn after turn. We burst out of the treeline into the awful grandeur of the volcano, riders bent double over their bikes as they struggled in the harsh hiss of volcanic lava, wheel turning in the fruitless battle of muscle against the endless, uncaring gradient. I felt like I was on the moon, breath rasping in my lungs as I watched the rocks piled on top of each other.

Then down the hill towards the finish, lava hissing under my tyres as I feathered my back brake, fighting the bike to make it to the end. After the hours of insane suffering, I had to make it to the finish.

I will come back to this next year. Damned volcano, I have unfinished business with you!

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