“I had never ridden a mountain bike until a couple of months before the Titan. This year, the date suited me and a friend told me about it… and there we were.”
I still remember the sore rib and bruises all over my body, recently returned from the Sahara. With the feeling of having reached a new dream and having become another person. I crossed the finish line of the Titan Desert 2019, in the south of Morocco, after six very tough days that put anyone to the test. I say this with pride, but also with the humility that comes from knowing you are vulnerable and overcoming setbacks through effort and teamwork.
The first thing is to thank: my family and friends who were by my side supporting me, pushing me and sending me strength in the most difficult times. This energy is what has allowed me not only to finish the race, but to do so in 49th place in my category, something unthinkable when I left the Madrid Barajas airport in the early hours of April 27.
The desert tests your physical and mental limits.
In this type of demanding test, the challenge is not really physical. Despite the harshness of the terrain, the accidents and getting lost in the middle of the immensity of the desert (I’ll talk about it later), the challenge is mental. Psychological. Many times people get stressed and blocked when we think only in terms of time and success. We pressed ourselves looking at the clock and the podium.
I’m sure some people give up when their body says enough, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. During the test I think I could see how some riders got off the bike simply because they couldn’t get over the loneliness of feeling in the middle of nothing. When you cycle through the desert you are completely alone, for five or six hours, without music or social networks, without a phone or anything that accompanies us on a day-to-day basis.
For most of the test you are completely isolated and only hear the sound of your bike and your breathing. You have to be able to live with yourself nothing else. Something difficult in the hectic world we live in.
After each exhausting day you found a new meaning to the little things in life.
The mix of pressure and emptiness can break anyone emotionally, but for someone like me it can become a spiritual experience. From the first day I felt among the dunes of Erg Chebbi that sensation of freedom so pleasant to be away from distractions: just me, my bike, and the desert.
Throughout the six days I was able to find a treasure under the desert sand. What was inside it? Time and serenity. I was able to reflect on my life in a new dimension. I also thought about work, about the challenges we face at Natural Athlete. And the solutions to problems and challenges came with more clarity and simplicity than when you tackle them in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city.
The camp, about which it is necessary to praise the organization of the Titan Desert, was dismantled at the beginning of each day and changed its location. After each stage, we found the tents set up and all the food and drink that more than half a thousand athletes required. There were also showers and laundry, where so much sand and sweat had to be removed. The Titan Desert provided us with all kinds of food, but I only took advantage of the water, because it was crucial to maintain my diet. The Natural Athlete products, which we brought from Madrid, were key to nourishing me every day and recovering from the tremendous wear and tear of the desert, both at the end of the stage and while pedaling. Thanks to these natural nutrients I was able to do without the refined carbohydrates that other competitors consumed.
In the tents I ate, above all, eggs and Beef Jerky from Natural Athlete. In addition, every afternoon I recovered with natural protein dissolved in water and peanut butter. Natural Athlete’s energy bars were my best ally during the race, both for their nutrients and for the ease of tasting them on the bike.
In conclusion, I can tell you that the camp was anything but a five-star hotel. But after each exhausting day, any small detail became something big. From a simple glass of water to a chat around a simple table with the Natural Athlete team and with the new friends made in the race. I am aware, despite the hardships and setbacks, that there we found the peace and mutual recognition that I still feel back home.
Peace and reward cost sweat and tears… The test was not a path of roses.
During all six stages my pace was good, always finishing in the top 100. Sometimes the route was a true blessing for cyclists, with sections of extraordinary beauty or with the firmer surface. But often the hardness of the terrain and the height of the dunes forced us to get off the bike and run with it on our shoulders to try not to lose too much time. And the accidents were continuous.
At this point in my life I can say that I am an experienced cyclist, but even with that experience in extreme tests like the Ironmans, I had two accidents: the first was on the fifth day and I came out with scratches and bruises, but the worst came in the sixth stage. A fall caused a crack in my rib. At the time I didn’t give it importance and I continued the race, but it’s once home that the pain worsened. There, in the desert, there was no time for contemplation.
In addition to injuries, there were other setbacks. In the second stage I got lost. I was only 15 kilometers from the finish and in an attempt to go faster I ventured down a seemingly faster road. Unfortunately, I ran into some towering dunes and took too long. In that shortcut I was accompanied by two cyclists, one in front and one behind me, but after a few minutes in line I was completely alone. I decided to retrace my steps, but I found myself surrounded by sand and dunes, in the middle of the desert, without any reference.
I climbed the highest dune and there was nothing to be seen. Until suddenly I heard a cry in the distance, at a distance of a couple of kilometers. And I saw him. He was a partner. With the bike on my shoulder, due to the hardness of the dunes, I approached and saw that he was even more lost and desperate than me. He was crying, and it became clear to me that I had to get him out of there. We set off trying to retrace our steps, until we found three more lost cyclists. Between all of us we were able to find the main route and reach the finish line.
I lost a lot of time, 40 minutes, but the learning from the experience and the collective solidarity that allowed it not to go too far made up for everything. The stopwatch was the least important when I crossed the finish line. I can say without a doubt that the Titan Desert is meaningless if you don’t pass, and overcome, these types of challenges.
The end of the journey
The emotion that came over me as I crossed the finish line on the last day was overwhelming. I was assailed by all the feelings that a human being is capable of experiencing at the same time. It is difficult to try to summarize or describe it with a word or a phrase. No expression could do justice to what it means to feel that you have arrived, that you have achieved it after so much suffering. The only thing I remember clearly is that at that moment all the previous work went through my head, the training, the fears, the energy that my teammates and my family gave me… I felt like a titan, without vanity of any kind. And looking at the exhausted but happy faces of my fellow adventurers, I perceived the same feeling in them.