the DNF comes for us all at some stage; a veritable sword of damocles. in a brutal and confusing world, one thing is assured; it will strike you down when pace and fitness seem at their peak, and when there is much at stake. it can even happen when the abstract feeling of glory becomes an almost tangible reality…
for me, it wasn’t nearly so savage or even mechanical. i took a wrong turn. it’s one of those things, the parochial and undernourished world of hardriders events dictates that at some point there may be a shortage of marshalls, thus requiring signage, and at any given point, the sign may be difficult to see, and if you don’t know the course, the next thing you see will be a signpost for malmesbury.
going off-course is pretty odd – in a 10 or 25 it’s almost laughable – ‘so you missed the turning where you supposed to come back the way you came? oh.’ but in a twisty sporting course with two right turns, it’s perhaps easier. i blame myself, i also blame the car that obscured the sign, and maybe a little bit blame the organiser, but he’s a decent chap, so i can’t blame him really. the worst thing is the process – once you suspect you may have gone off course you know the race is lost – but hope that maybe, just maybe, you haven’t strayed from the beaten track, and it will all be right again imminently. instead, the nagging feeling grows and grows, becomes a deafening chorus of disillusionment and confusion, before you reach the nadir, and stop, and turn, and ride back the way you came, and feel like a schmuck, wearing the race number but riding along in inglorious solipsism. i’m not sure robert frost would approve, but it seems apt…
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference.