My big ride for August is coming up in just a few days. Normally it’s the Assenmacher 100 but I’m heading up to Boyne City for the Mountain Mayhem 160 km. With 7,000 feet of climbing over the 104 miles, that’s going to be my big ride this year. The fun little fact here is that, if I’m lucky, in my neck of the woods we might top 3,000 feet on a century, though most gain only 1,000-1,500 feet in elevation. Take the Hoppe 100 we did last week, less than 1,200 feet and really there was only one decent hill the whole ride. In other words, we’ve got some work cut out for us. My friends Mike, Chuck and Phill will be going along as well and thankfully, we’re fairly equally matched when it comes to fitness (we ride together a lot).
So, I’ve been signed up for this ride for a few months now – I knew it was coming up, how tough it would be and I’m more ready for this ride than I’ve ever been for a ride since I began using clipless pedals. Here’s how I got there (and it’s not as tough as you might think):
First and foremost, this is not rocket science: The Number One, most important way for me to get ready for the big ride is lots of saddle time. This year has been especially awesome as my best cycling bud moved just two short miles from my house so we’re riding long miles every weekend – and really, other than my weekend rides being a lot longer (last year was 35-50 miles on Saturday and 16-20 on Sunday, this year is 50-100 miles each day) I’m not doing much more that I did last year.
Second, my overall speed fitness is about the same to slightly better than last year – and I achieved this by riding slower three or four days a week. Seriously. Slower. Monday is a slow day, Wednesday, Thursday and even Friday are slow. The short weekend day is a medium/hard effort and the long day is harder. My only all-out “I’m cooked” day is Tuesday evening. Last year was all hard miles all of the time. My “recovery rides” last year were often more than an 18 mph average and my hardest days were topping out around 22. This year, the recovery rides are more like 16 to 17 mph and the medium efforts are only 18-19… The end result is that I have a lot more gas in the tank when it counts.
Third, Hammer is my friend:
I use the Perpetuem for long ride fuel and Heed for shorter efforts and to go along with the Perpetuem on long rides. They are exceptional liquid fuel alternatives and I don’t leave home without them anymore. On a century, I’d rather have a full complement of Hammer products over an American Express card any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
There’s one other all-important cog that fits in here – and because I’ve done all of the above, because I’ve put in the miles and hammered some really hard rides (the Horsey Hundred to name just one which was almost an identical profile to MM Beat the Heat) and gotten my body in tip-top shape (at least for me, I’m not all that impressive), I’ve got the one thing that is the glue to stick all of these pieces together: I’ve got confidence.
Cycling is almost entirely mental until you get into the anaerobic zone. Once you hit that, you’re pretty much smoked, but leading up to it isn’t all fun and games either. I know exactly how hard I can push, when I can push, and when I have to back off a little bit – because I’ve done it over and over again. There’s a mountain of difference between going into a ride knowing I can do it and hoping I can. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t give it a whirl and challenge ourselves – this ride is going to be a challenge. The trick is, when it really starts to suck (I’d say between 46 and 86 miles looking at that profile), I know I can push through a lot to get to the finish line. I know I can climb, I know I can ride and I’m certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can do the distance. Confidence is everything.
If I don’t have that seemingly elusive confidence, it’s because I skimped on one of the items above – usually the first one. In that case, I deserve what’s coming…