I stepped out the door, bike in tow, yesterday morning properly dressed for a long ride with the temp in the low 50’s. I had one bottle of water and one with a Hammer Perpetuem mix, a single ERG Energy Bar (all natural, best I’ve ever eaten – check them out) and ten bucks in my pocket. Other than that, all I knew is that there would be at least three of us and we’d be riding somewhere between 90 and 120 km (50-70 miles give or take).
We rode comfortably in a tight formation for 48 miles at without a moment of distress. No discomfort, no hanging on at the back to conserve energy and no wondering if I’d have enough in the tank to make it. I knew I would make it and have a great time.
Times weren’t always so bright. Not long ago I’d have had my back pockets jammed with goodies – Gu Roctane gels, Jelly Belly Energy Beans and a couple of energy bars and I’d have been hoping I’d keep up and have enough on-board food to keep from bonking. I’d have eaten way too much and still worried about not being able to push through the tough times that come with any long ride. Back in those days I was thought I could make it but I never really knew. Even though I loved cycling, because I questioned whether or not I’d have it, riding was always just a little stressful.
This doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods completely, there’s always something that can go wrong. A mechanical issue that I cant fix, a stupid fitting mistake like when I decided to change my bike saddle and put the new one on almost an inch too far forward and not checking it (that had me bonking out of my favorite ride of the year after just 45 miles)… When all things are square though, I know I’ve got what it takes.
Much of knowing comes with experience. To further abuse an already overused statement, I have been there and done that but there is more to it than just having completed big rides in the past… I’ve become so brutally adept at beating my mental demons that they are no longer as pernicious. They don’t hold the same sway that they once did. I don’t entertain those doubts as I once did.
Taking part in any endurance activity, especially at an above average level, be it running, cycling or swimming (or all three) requires the ability to conquer those thoughts that hold me back – and more importantly, discerning which are simply thoughts to be ignored and when I’ve actually reached my limits. Unfortunately, in my case it’s usually the former that I mistake for the latter.