This Sunday is the Dawn Farm Ride For Recovery 100k and I far am less prepared for it this year than last. Some could make the leap that I’m not ready at all but longer rides are a funny monster. If ever there were a case of something being mind over matter, I don’t mind so it doesn’t matter, it’s a long ride. Don’t get me wrong, riding hard for 3-1/2 hours (solo) is no easy task but there are ways to recoup available in cycling that just don’t work with running. If I crap out on a long run, I’m walking back and that takes forever. On a ride though, if I’m cooked I can stop for a few minutes, lay down and stretch out, drink some water (or Gatorade better yet), eat a power bar and I’ll be right as rain before I know it – especially on something as short as 62.3 miles. Even on a century (100 miles), a little break will do wonders. With running, on the other hand, anyone whose put in any distance knows that once you stop for more than a few seconds or so you tighten up (or worse, cramp up) and getting going again hurts terribly. With me it’s so bad I know I’m toast if I walk with more than a mile or two to go. On those rare occasions where I want to walk, rather than walking I’ll slow my pace from 7-8 minute miles down to 10-11 minutes rather than walk. I find that this can reset my breathing, heartbeat and cadence. This works on the bike as well and I’d say even better because instead of slowing down to six miles an hour, I can still pull a four-minute mile and recharge.
With that out of the way, here’s a quick background: Last March I put in 410 miles on the road. This March I was stuck inside on the trainer because of nasty weather. I did put in a little over 350 miles but trainer miles don’t come close to road miles. Last April: 510 miles. This April I’ll be lucky to hit 400 and that includes the 100k in one day (though things are absolutely looking up around here).
So, the question is am I physically ready for this? I think so, especially if I can get into a decently paced group (the groups were pretty slow last year, I’m pretty sure I finished first – they don’t keep track but I even passed a guy who’d started out a fifteen minutes early) and I’m still in excellent shape, even after this extended winter we’ve had. My miles are coming back and I feel great.
Here’s the trick, the ride snuck up on me. I just realized yesterday that I’ve only got a week until it’s here and I’d like to have a few more 30+ mile rides in to be comfortable. Unfortunately cramming the week before like it’s a test won’t work, I’m just going to have to muscle this one out – but we know for sure these endurance events are 90% mental, so how to prepare for the mental toughness I’m going to need to muscle it out in the first place?
The answer lies in a recovery trick that I learned long ago in dealing with anxiety attacks.
Doubt mimics cancer. It starts very small and benign – as if a few cells mutate and grow into a monster that kills the host. Doubt starts as a single thought. If we are prepared, really ready for a race, this thought is extinguished as easily as putting out a match – a simple puff of breath and it’s gone. If not, that simple thought multiplies, it is entertained… “Maybe I’m not ready”. “What happens if I bonk”? “I’d better come up with a plan in case I have to bail”… And so on. This is 30 seconds into the thought process and if I allow my mind to continue down this path, I’ve doomed myself to fail a week before I hit the starting line. Riding well, while fighting doubt, is as tough as it gets and here’s why: At the first sign of difficulty on the road (or even sitting at the starting line waiting to take off) all of those thoughts and fears from the last week will flood back in and you will crash – it’s almost an inevitability. It’s at this point, after the difficulty and the flood of thoughts that we begin to believe that we were right all along, that we indeed were not ready, and we start looking for the SAG vehicle.
There is hope though, and not some wishy-washy notion like maybe I’ll be okay… There is a way to stop the cancer before it can grow and the only requirement is that we pay attention and combat those negative thoughts as they enter. Using the same starting thought, “Maybe I’m not ready”… “Oh yes I am, I’m in way better shape than I was last year coming out of the winter, I’m going to be fine… I’m going to start out easy and I’m going to finish strong and I’ll deal with the adversity as it comes – I did a half-dozen of these things last year only 30-60 miles longer without a hitch. It’s mind over matter and this won’t matter”. I completely change the tape that plays in my head. I change the entire thought process from one of doubt and negativity to victory. Trust me on this, you throw enough shit at the side of a barn eventually some will stick – politicians rely on this reality. Well it’s the same principle at work here, you just do it positively.
Now this isn’t all peaches and cream. Just because we kick the hell out of negativity once doesn’t mean it won’t try to creep in through another door. Persistence is the key. Over the course of the next six days I must come to believe that this ride is mine or I will lose that 90%. I may not be able to PR on Sunday but I won’t be mentally unprepared going in.
UPDATE: Be sure to check out the comments – less than an hour after publishing this post Saltyvelo added a treasure trove…