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Be Like Mike
March 31, 2017
I didn't know Mike Hall. I never spoke to him, saw him, or followed him on the internet. The closest I’ve ever come to him was watching Inspired to Ride.
As an ultra endurance athlete, his achievements in cycling are second to none. Forget the Tour de France or the Olympics, Mike pushed himself across continents, in a matter of days. This wasn’t the Race Across America (RAAM), there was no support, no crowds, no prizes, just pain. Days upon days of cycling for more than 20 hours, sleeping 3 or 4 hours and then more cycling.
Even amongst crazy cycling racers, these competitors are the craziest.
I’ve followed professional cycling, in some capacity, for most of my adult life. While most americans could name Lance, or Greg, or possibly even Eddy, it’s unlikely they could name anyone in the pro peloton today. Not even the guys that have won the past few tours. Not even the americans on their team.
Most of the pros probably couldn't name Mike or the events that he competed in. It’s the smallest end of the wedge. The men and women that push themselves beyond imaginable limits.
Even as a cycling fan, enthusiast, and professional, I probably would not know anything about these ultra endurance races if it wasn't for my friend Kai.
I know Kai because he is a bike messenger, and because he’s been living on my couch on and off for more than a decade. He’s full of heart, grit, smiles, and love. And there’s something seriously fucking wrong with him.
He’s rode his bike from my house in New York City to Guatemala. He’s raced from Washington DC to Boston. He’s rode from Seattle to Mexico City by way of the Baja peninsula and the ferry from La Paz. Last year, he competed in Trans Am Bike race - from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia - 4300 miles (almost 7000 km). Carrying all of his own gear that entire distance in less than 20 days.
The woman who won, Lael Wilcox, finished in 18 days, 10 minutes.
There’s something seriously wrong with her too. In fact, I believe there’s probably something really fucking wrong about all the nut jobs in this niche of the sport.
Their psychosis, tenacity, strength and endurance coalescing into some kind of super-being, defying the limits of the body and pushing harder, further, and longer than what should be possible.
There are few sponsorship opportunities at their end of the wedge. Little press coverage. No groupies or armies of adoring fans. The cliched question to a mountain climber - “why did you climb that mountain?” - and its obvious answer - “because it was there” taken to the nth degree, its only reward in the journey and knowing that you could do it.
In the age of the internet, many of us have been watching the dots race across Australia as part of the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. Cheering for our friends, but also for these strange competitors as they push themselves far beyond the edge of comprehension.
I never met Mike Hall, have no aspirations to be like Mike, or compete in his world, or even to try to understand what made him tick, but I know that we lost a real life super hero this morning on the highway outside Canberra. A man that could do what shouldn't be possible on a bicycle.
I send my condolences to Mike’s friends and family. He will be remembered by those closest to him and people like me, total strangers who couldn’t help but admire him from afar.