It’s doubtful that most people set out with the intention of getting themselves into emergency situations, although some decisions are so blatantly stupid they are bound to result in immediate medical intervention (countless YouTube videos and the Darwin awards confirm this). Rather, a collection of small errors accumulate to result in a serious issue. Fortunately a few minor errors on the Gravel Dash did not result in any major problems, but served as a reminder of a few valuable lessons:
Failing to plan is planning to fail – We probably carried too much kit (certainly compared to the racing snakes) but having a few spares just in case was important; the mistake I made was leaving spare clothes behind on day 2. I was lulled into a false sense of security by the very hot day one and a sunny start to day two. Although it never rained, the weather changed and the temperature dropped and if the weather had deteriorated further it could have been a problem.
Knowledge is not the same as experience. Researching methods on the internet is clearly not the same as practicing the real thing. Knowledge will tell you what to try when your normal method fails but experience will help ensure your techniques work in a given situation. The microadventures to date have shown me what kit worked, and on the Gravel Dash everything worked together to make it an enjoyable experience. My knowledge and experience of bike maintenance meant that I was able to quickly repair my stuck brake when it locked on shortly after the start.
Do your own race – We held back a bit at the start, not getting caught up in the early enthusiasm of the ride and were soon passing people on the first big hill of the day, where I went wrong was following everyone else later on. Which lead to:
Don’t rely on technology:
I had a gps in my bag but never used it, instead relying on OS maps for navigation (this was intentional). The map said right then left, everyone else went straight. We followed them as they had GPS devices and thought they had the right route, we were soon off track. We pushed up through some woods and my inner compass said left. Two Gps’s said right, one said left. Out came the map and an compass and we went left. I did make a few navigation mistakes along the way but we were always able to get back on track with a minor detour. Navigation skills are a key skill, but one you lose if you don’t practice.
Pay attention to the little things – I ended up with a bit of one leg getting sunburnt. I burn easily and had put on suntan lotion. However I did it in a bit of a rush and missed a spot; I spotted it before it got too bad but if I had taken my time I could have avoided the problem all together.