“Please take into consideration that you’ll ride through deserts at temperatures close to 40º but…
“It’s about putting yourself in difficult situations often enough that they’re no longer difficult.” That, from Lachlan Morton on the heels of his 1 day, 19 hour and 30 minutes race around southern Spain.
He went over mountains, through deserts, and along the sea. Rode more than 700 kilometers, and climbed 15,000 meters (or 49,000 feet). Of course Lachlan isn’t a stranger to ultra-racing after last year’s GB Duro efforts and this year’s Kokopelli Trail record… but things happen out there alone for that long.
The Badlands was no different. We caught up with Lachlan as he recovered the day after finishing. Hear from the tale of the open road (and trail) below.
Tell us about the whole experience. They’re all different, right? What was the Badlands ride like?
It was awesome, man. I didn’t have a plan or anything going in, but I sort of had an intention to test myself in some sort of way. And that was really my only goal in it. And that kind of manifested into me just seeing how long I could continue to ride for. And it was a really challenging course because you have proper desert, sandy sections where it was 40 degrees. And then also really high alpine passes where it was freezing. So I just enjoyed the ride. Obviously, it was super hard, but I don’t know this time around… I felt mentally I was really ready for it. And that made the whole experience pretty enjoyable.
You have to go through a ton of different emotions out there for that long. How do you manage those?
Having done a couple of long rides now, I’m just very aware of my emotions and which ones are useful and which ones aren’t. And so this time I felt like I was much more stable and also knowing that there’s loads you have that just pass and if you don’t buy into it too much, it will pass quicker. So, yeah, I don’t know. It was also very different this time. My phone totally reset on the first night. So 12 hours in, I had no music or no connection at all really with anyone. It was just me and my own thoughts for a few days. And it was really, I don’t know what the right word is, it was just cool to sort of have all that time to yourself in a way.
Was there a certain thought you kept having, something that kept coming back to you?
Honestly, I thought a lot about just my life in general and how I’m very lucky in my day-to-day life. I don’t know if it’s the context of being in such an uncomfortable or extreme situation, but I just thought a lot about like, just at home, how much I have and how important it is to appreciate that. So yeah, I was looking forward to getting home for that reason.
These are called races, but you never seem to race anybody but yourself. How do you approach it in that context?
It’s only a race in a sense that you measure the time it takes you compared to someone else, but the reality is that their race and your race don’t impact one another much in any way, because ultimately, you’re limited by yourself. It was nice in that I couldn’t see where anyone else was. The whole time I assumed that everyone was not far behind. And then after a while, I just stopped thinking about that, and the idea of just pushing through all the way to the end inspired me more than winning. I was like, “that would be special if I could do that just for myself personally.”
And I had a particularly hard, daunting moment on the last climb when obviously, into the second night, still no sleep, your brain starts doing pretty strange things. Time started passing incredibly slow. It was the weirdest thing I ever felt, like I was stuck. It was a situation where I knew I was like, “all right, there’s only you here. It’s like a hiking trail, you’re so far from anywhere. You’re at like 3000 meters. So you have to deal with this.” And I I managed to pull myself together in a way that I never had before. So that was really rewarding to pull myself through that situation and just deal with it on my own. I’ll take a lot from that.
Was there any low point mechanically or any sort of specific highs or lows that came into play?
Lachlan Morton: I had a pretty big crash on the first afternoon, but I managed to pick myself up from that and move on. Mechanically, I didn’t have any mechanicals, which is pretty amazing when you can see that the course. High points, probably popping out on top of that climb last night after a 10 kilometer hiking trail and you just, for four hours before, you’re thinking about trying to get up this mountain and then only the last moment, you could pop over and see that Granada right there. And just knowing, “I think I’m going to do this.” It’s pretty hard to beat that.
Did you end up sleeping at all?
No. I couldn’t sleep. I just kept going. I stopped maybe three times just to get food and I just filled up water whenever I could. I started with a bunch of Maurten drink mix, which got me really far.
You mentioned you’re doing a bunch of road training because you’re looking at doing the Giro. How did that impact you and how will you recover?
It was good because I was really excited to get out there. I enjoyed training on the road, but I was a little bit stale on it… I kept pushing myself to train on the road for the last three weeks or so just to really get back an appetite to be out there on the trails, having an adventure. And looking forward to Giro, when I got out of bed this morning, I honestly thought about it. I could barely move and I was just like, “No. Giro’s out of the question.” And then I walked around town for 10 minutes and started thinking. I was like, “Actually, I’m pretty excited about that.” Got the body going. It’s going to be an interesting challenge to try and turn it around and get myself ready for that. It’s an exciting challenge.
A lot of people can’t really relate to an effort like that, but people do think about doing something outside of their comfort zones, or something really long. What kind of advice would you give them?
Well, you’ve just got to commit to doing it, but I think if it’s something you want to do regularly, it’s about normalizing difficult situations. I realized during the ride that just riding, regular riding, say I was on the dirt road or something unchallenging was just kind of like my regular state. So that became sort of like sitting on the couch, if that makes sense. And then a downhill was better than normal, to be like, “Oh, this is even better than doing nothing.” And then a climb was something like, “Okay. This is a bit of discomfort, but soon we’ll be back to the baseline.” Which was a strange mindset to be in but when you’re just pedaling like, “Oh, this is nothing.”
It’s about putting yourself in difficult situations often enough that they’re no longer difficult. So I specifically went out three days before this race with my bike fully loaded and tried to get myself lost in the Pyrenees, which I did very successfully. And then it involved a two-hour hike off a mountain to get out of it. I did that to try and sort of frustrate myself in the difficult situation, but just make sure all those mental cues are there to calm yourself down, bring yourself back and be like, “It’s fine.” Because that ultimately is the limiting factor is how you deal with that difficulty.