This past weekend was the famous mountain bike race Iceman. 30 miles in unknown weather. Some years it's sunny and mild, others years, well other years can be epic weather. 2014 will go down as one word, BRUTAL.
Cold, mid to late 30's, rainy and dark.
It was cold enough to be very cold, but not cold enough to freeze the ground. It was rainy enough to cause soup, muck and peanut butter single track. Through in some wind, you have the recipe for hard riding.
I'd trained all summer to be able to ride the race in about 3 hours. Goal was to ride a bit under 3 hours without cramping. Cramping has been my Achilles heel for every event that lasts over 2 hours.
There are several theories about cramping; electrolyte, new muscular activity, and central governor theory. All have some merit, but non proven. I'd done multiple rides of 2 or more hours, some I cramped, some I didn't. But, always on the verge. I'd pushed past the 2 hours on several rides and was always riding pretty hard. So Iceman wouldn't be new territory or new fatigue. I was taking 1700mg of sodium with 24oz of water each hour. I also had enough calories and real food every 20 min. Nothing like a Belgium stroop waffle 3 hours into a ride that is now warm and moist from your back sweat!
My game plan was to ride pretty slow for about an hour, get some miles, resist the temptation to go out fast. I wouldn't let my heart rate go over 150 and would only spin up hills. At no time would I let myself work for speed.
"Everyone has a plan, till they get punched in the face." Mike Tyson.
My punch in the face came at 1.5 hours in and I had gone a whopping 10 miles. It didn't take a genius to realize at this rate, I'm going to be riding my bike a freaking 4.5 hours.
Going off wave 28, several thousand riders had chewed up already chewed up single track and it was slow going. 1.5 hours into the ride, it was time to accept the new reality.
1. Reframe: You have to be able to reframe your goals. It would have been easy to quit, if my goal of riding under 3 hours was kept. It wasn't going to happen. Accept it. Reframe a new goal. New goal was to keep pedaling and finish this race.
2. Don't Project: 2 hours into the race, cramping starts to show it's familiar face. I wasn't quite halfway done and I'm thinking, "I'm starting to cramp now, in an hour this is going to be quite miserable. No way can I finish this race." This is a pretty common thing that people do. If this, then that. The body and life aren't usually like that. Sure, if you have a 1000 dollars and spend 100 dollars a day, you can project that you will be out of money in 10 days and won't make two weeks, but competitions don't work that way.
Stay in the moment. This moment, I'm not cramping at this moment, I'm feeling good, my bike is working, enjoy this. Every couple minutes. Stay in the moment. Don't project what this will be like in 2 hours.
"The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up." Chuck Palahniuk
3. Gratitude: Gratitude can produce perseverance. It can take the little bit of physical suffering you are experiencing and instead of being overcome can say, "cool, I'm alive and ridging my bike!" I am still riding while others bikes have broken, I'm still riding while others are cramped on the hills, I'm still riding.
4.5 hours later, I crossed the finish line. The longest I've ever sat on a mountain bike. To say I was happy it was over, was an understatement. Not sure If I've ever wanted to just be done with something as much as this race. I heard from several people that have done the Iceman race since its inception that this was the hardest race. Over 2000 people dropped out. It was brutal. It was miserable at times. In a few days, I will probably be ready to be talked into doing it again next year.