Nine hours after he dismounted because of severe foot pain, Andrew Willis is getting back on his bicycle in an attempt to finish the Race Across the West.
“I’m going to get back out there and try,” he said at 11 a.m. Texas time today. “Obviously being in contention for the win is out window. Now the goal is to carry on and see if we can make Durango and finish.”
This year’s race marks Willis’ second attempt at the grueling endurance event. The route, which starts in Oceanside, California, and finishes in Durango, Colorado, spans more than 900 miles.
Willis decided to get off the bike and take a break at about 2 a.m. Texas time, about 500 miles into the race. He slept at a hotel room in Palo Verde, Arizona.
“We were at top of a mountain pass and had a 20-mile twisty windy descent in the dark,” he said. “You need to be able to focus 100 percent on descending and not on how much your foot is hurting. I was out of it – not just the gout, but to relieve the pressure on my foot I was sitting on the saddle funny. I tore up my knee and sitting area.”
Willis, president of Holland Racing, which puts on the weekly Thursday night races at The Driveway, suffers from gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis. Last night, the ball of his foot became inflamed and swelled to the size of a tennis ball. To alleviate pressure on his foot, he adjusted his position on the bike seat, which made his knee and rear end hurt.
“We were considering cutting my bike shoes open last night to make my foot fit,” he said.
The swelling in his foot has diminished this morning, but it’s still inflamed. He called a physician, who advised him not to take Ibuprofen, because it restricts kidney function.
“Outside of that, it’s just pain,” Willis said. “I’ll apply cream to various parts of me.”
At 11 a.m. his support crew was loading up his bike to take Willis back to the point where he dismounted last night.
Willis was leading his solo male rider division when he stopped.
“It’s not a question of having the fitness, and I’ve worked hard to get here. I’ve got great sponsors and supporters … I was hoping to bring home victory.”