When I started cycling, I made a lot of mistakes and tried some pretty unwise adventures. Like riding 108 miles (out and back) with one bag of Jelly Belly energy beans, one Gu Rocktane, and two bottles of water. Nothing in the water, by the way. Just pure H2O.
I made it farther and faster than you might think. I refilled my water bottles once at a filling station on the Pere-Marquette rail trail and saved the Gu and beans for the turnaround at 54 miles. I held a 19 mph average for 80 miles before starting to struggle. By the time I hit 98 miles I was in a pure, irreparable bonk. I stopped at a Burger King for some lunch and felt worse after, even with a large Coke to zap some sugar into the void. I was in bad shape. I called my wife for a ride home. It took her 20 minutes to get there. I’d made it maybe three miles. That was an “I think I can” adventure. And I was mistaken.
Over the next couple of years I transitioned to “I will”. I was still hitting a lot of firsts but with more than 10,000 miles under my belt, I was getting the hang of things and I was fairly strong. I was beginning to understand that when my friends looked calm and composed after 85 miles, they were just as wiped out as I was. “I think I can make it over than next hill” became “I will make it over that next hill”. “I think I can make that last 15 miles (of a century) without crumbling” became “I will make it”. This was what can be described as my “Shut Up Legs” phase, the saying made popular by the great Jens Voigt.
With five full seasons and 30,000 miles under my belt, I’ve been through a lot of different hydration and eating changes. I know if I have to, I can go 100 miles on 4 bananas and some Gatorade and water. I know I can tear up 30 miles in less than an hour and a half without needing to eat, as long as I have at least a full bottle of sports drink. I know I can crush Mountain Mayhem Beat the Heat at better than 18 mph with something like 11,000 feet of climbing… I went from “I will” to “I know I can”.
There are no more jitters before a big ride. No more sleepless nights. No more wondering if I’ll be able to hack it. No more second guessing my training (that would be different if I took up racing – at least until I went through “I think I can” and “I will”). Actually, it would be fairer to say that I do have jitters now and again but that’s more in anticipation for what’s to come than wondering if I’ll be able to manage or not – I hope that makes sense.
The point that I’m trying to get at is that I can’t go into, in my case a challenging bike ride, with any kind of confidence unless I’ve put in the work ahead of time. I can fight back doubt but I never really get rid of it until I get to that point where I can smell the finish line. I don’t get the jitters anymore because, for the most part, I’ve been there so many times I know there’s nothing to worry about. Trying to wish away pre-ride jitters without putting in the effort before hand would be like trying to swat flies with a piece of spaghetti.