Some days I can’t tell if it’s that I’m dedicated, if I’m a glutton for punishment, or possibly a little dim.
I rode my bike over to the shop rather than drive, for the Assenmacher 100 pre-ride yesterday. The shop is only five miles from my house. No big deal, right?
Adam and Diane showed up in my driveway a few minutes early but I was ready and rarin’ to go. I donned my brain bucket and we rolled. We kept an easy pace, around 18-20 mph. We got to the parking lot to several people in various stages of preparing for the big ride.
I am at the upper end of our B Group. Our average at the 30 mile (33 lately) club ride varies between 20-1/2 and 22 mph. We can hustle, but our A guys are fast. They average 24 to 25 mph. Most of my friends think I’m stronger, tougher and faster than I really am – or maybe they think I’m tougher than I do, that might be closer. Only two of my closest buds, Chuck and Mike, know me to a “T”.
The first 30 miles of the hundred went by in a flash but by the 40th mile, I was struggling.
“Are my legs hurting already!”
Ten miles later…
“My legs should definitely not be this tight. Damn… I’m beat! Why am I this tired?! Maybe I should cut it short with Diane and Adam, or cut out with Brad and Phill.” (They all had things to do that afternoon…)
It became a mental battle… and I was A) not going to lose and B) not going to quit… I’ve got the big ride next week and it’s going to be a lot faster, though with a much deeper field, and plenty of time to recover in between turns up front. I knew if I quit though, it’d play on my mind all next week.
I have a few tricks to share that I use to win that mental battle that would have me quit every time I feel a little rougher than I should. Know this, I wasn’t in my best form yesterday… I really could have justified cutting the ride short.
- I am not responsible for the first thought that enters the mush in my thick skull… I am responsible for the second. Example: “My legs shouldn’t be this tight, I should cut it short”. My second thought, the one I can control, was “If I quit, I’m going to be a mental train wreck next week. Just keep pedaling, you’ll come back in a bit.”
- I break the ride into sections. Example: I started struggling at mile 40. I know if I can make it to 80, I’m good. I’ve got enough fuel in my back pocket that I can’t bonk, so it’s “Just get through the next ten or twenty miles.” Or “Get to the next stop”…. I know when I get to 70 or 80 miles, I can do 20 or 30 in my sleep.
- I like to focus on what is going right rather than dwell on what isn’t. Example: Legs are tight, right? Well I’m going to focus on breathing well, more on exhaling and getting the CO2 out. Getting CO2 out, and thus fresh air to replace it in, will help my muscles make it through. Another example: The two A guys riding with us complimented me every time I took a turn up front, and I took some good ones. “I am stronger than those BS thoughts.”
- Remember the successes… “I’ve ridden some excellent long miles this year. I am stronger than this momentary struggle. I will come back from this.”
- When all else fails, Coca-Cola. And Gatorade. And Payday candy bars. The sugar and caffeine gives me a nice “everything is better” jolt. The peanuts are good long-burning fuel. Dude, don’t underestimate the power of a Coke and a Payday when you’re struggling. Manna from Heaven.
Long story short, I used every one of those tricks on that ride, and I came back. I did every last mile and felt so good by mile 75 that I was able to spend some serious time up front, pulling for my friends. I took a three, a four, and even a five mile turn up front. I not only came back, I came back with a vengeance… and a Venge. ‘Cause that’s what I do.
The five mile ride home sucked by the way. I averaged 17-1/2 mph… with a tailwind. That said, we got the hundred done in 5h:05m.
Incidentally, I touched on something earlier that deserves its own post but I’ll partially let the cat out of the bag… My friends think I’m stronger than I do. I know when I’m hurting. I know when I just want to slow down. I know when my legs are tight and a little sluggish.
My friends don’t. All they see is a guy who always takes his turns at the front, who always gives them his best.
It occurred to me a while back, if my friends think I’m stronger than I do, maybe they’re right and I’m wrong. Chew on that a bit. I have, and doing so has produced some interesting results.