7th October 2020
Written by Johnny Stausholm
Johnny is a 56 year old Dane who has been living in Norway for the last 34 years. Following his first virtual cycling event - VRAW - he has recently registered to join the Virtual Revolve24 as a soloist in the 24 hour Challenge. Here is his extraordinary journey:
“Following a car accident in 2001 I have been struggling with chronic pain and had many operations, as well as chronic injuries to my lower back including ailments including arthritis. Between 2001 and 2009 I was prescribed strong painkillers to help me manage the constant pain.
Shortly after the accident, I had two of my neck discs replaced with titanium implants. In addition, broken ligaments etc were found - injuries that could not be repaired.
Immediately after the accident, I was reported sick in my job as a mechanical engineer in the oil industry, and since then I have been without a job, only interrupted by a job period from 2010 - 2014, where I worked as an engineer in a 50% position. It became too much for me, I got worse, and I had to say goodbye to working life again.
I always wanted to be able to return to my previous life but knew my troubles had come to stay. What I could change was to get out of my isolation and my daily use of strong painkillers.
In 2008, I borrowed my youngest son’s bike – it was a little too small. I cycled around a small lake, Lima Vatnet, a trip that was approximately 15 km. I initially had to divide the trip with a short break halfway, where I took painkillers before I started the last part of the trip.
Such trips left me in great pain, however, I never lost the urge to go on a new trip a few days later. The trips got longer and longer, and in the spring of 2009 I sometimes cycled 30 - 40 km on the trips. It was heavy and painful.
In June 2009 I bought my first cycle-cross bike. I also bought proper cycling clothes and was more motivated to change in my life than ever. I cycled harder and longer, and I cried a lot during my trips because it hurt. Still, I wanted to move on. I now wanted to get rid of my medication.
In just four weeks, I managed to cut out the use of my medications, morphine, etc on my own. I was able to do this because on my trips I experienced success and mastery. I just had to make sure to keep the bike the same, because without it I got no mastery and my ailments were again impossible to master.
Cycling had now become my new medicine, a medicine I was now addicted to :)
In 2010, I participated, as part of a team, in Norway's longest cycling race (from Trondheim to Oslo) called the Great Strength Test. It is 540 km and with about 3400 altitude meters, and after 15 hours and 31 minutes I crossed the finish line in Oslo.
In 2010, I also started working in a 50% engineering position. It only lasted until 2014, when due to my severe ailments and subsequent depression I was forced to leave my job. All my efforts went into trying to sustain my job at the expense of training and cycling.
My doctor and specialists said I should prioritize exercise over work, because without exercise I would again have to take the strong painkillers, and I certainly did not want that.
In the summer of 2012, I was invited by a good friend and neighbour, Ibrahim Shabi, to ride with him to Peja, Kosovo, to visit his family. It was a trip of approx. 3400, a trip which took 21 cycling days and 4 days. The trip was an adventure of experiences. I hardly slept on the trip due to my pain, but was still eager to carry on. After returning to Norway, I was completely tired and exhausted for 3-4 months. Both during and after the trip, I was completely determined that for me cycling was no longer short hard and intense races, but long, with experiences, and often with tough challenges.
The following year, in 2013, I heard about RAAM for the first time, and since then I have not been able to let go of the idea of being able to participate in the race. In 2016, I qualified for RAAM in a 24 hour race in Denmark, a race called Extreme Melfar 24. I was on the bike for 22.5 hours, and at that time I cycled 663km and approx. 3900m altitude, and the qualification was in the box.
In 2017, I was on the starting line in Oceanside with starting number 576, and was mentally and physically ready to get to Annapolis. Unfortunately, it did not go my way. I got a stomach infection shortly after the start, something I could not get rid of. It became very difficult to get enough nutrition in me, and my cycling intensity gradually became more and more reduced.
Shortly after the checkpoint in Tuba City, I withdrew from the race. In just under 3 days, I had only ingested approx. 5-6000 kCal, where I should have had at least 30000 kCal. It was terribly sad.
In 2020, I then participated in VRAW, which took me 9 days and 14.5 hours (70.5 hours on the bike)
From 2008 - 2020 I have gone through many ups and downs following my accident, not least because I have had to have surgery many times. In addition to the daily ailments, my struggles have been to get back on my feet after each hospital stay, and preferably in better shape than before the operation.
The last operation was the second operation on my lower back (L4), which was performed on 14 February this year. I still struggle with back pain (including all the other ailments from around the body) and have therefore not quite managed to get back in top shape.
Therefore, the upcoming V24 will probably focus on keeping me on the bike most of the 24 hours, and without much focus on how far I can ride. If, on the other hand, I feel that the body is working in teams with me, I will focus on the RAAM qualification requirement. Maybe it will work, maybe not - there are an incredible number of altitude meters to be covered."
Thanks to Johnny for sharing his inspiring journey with us and we look forward to dot-watching his progress around the six racetracks!Back to R24 CC
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