Friday, August 20, 2010

Psychological Challenges

I've been asked by a few people how I managed to deal physiologically with riding the Colorado Trail Race. It's a good question, and one that I thought about a lot before even lining up to start. While there are a number of things that could have ended my ride regardless of how psychologically prepared I was (a broken frame or bones, for example), the CTR was largely a mental game for me--as it is for most riders. Here's a list of stuff that kept me going, not in any specific order:
  1. Stay safe, focus on not crashing or breaking gear.
  2. Eat and drink lots and often. Forward motion requires calories, so keep them coming--even when wanting to barf more than eat.
  3. Don’t get emotional when things don’t align with expectations—just adapt and move on.
  4. Listen to my body, and try to figure out what it needs and what it doesn’t.
  5. Maintain some forward motion, even when “resting”—even if that means just walking.
  6. Deal with small issues before they become big issues (blisters, getting cold, mechanical problems, etc.)
  7. Don’t get overwhelmed by the many small pains and maladies like blisters, saddle sores, swollen hand & feet, tired legs, multiple infections on hands & feet, trashed shins, etc.
  8. Don’t get scared about things that I’m prepared for, like snow, hail, etc.—even if it looks like crap.
  9. Believe in myself, and embrace the encouragement of others. Right before I started riding, Alix (my wife) told me that I could do it because I was a "bad-ass." Amazing how much her words helped at times!
  10. Ignore the negativity of others. That includes naysayers beforehand and anyone whining on the trail.
  11. Have a good time, and focus on all of the positive things about riding a bike through 485 miles of one of the more beautiful places in the world.
Overall, I was happy with my mental performance except for on the last day. My body was getting beat to pieces, and I just wanted to finish already—which made me think about finishing more than just riding. As I result, my focus diminished and I crashed twice—fortunately not too hard.

I'm not planning on changing much for next year, although I hope to ride two days faster. I will train harder, especially my upper body. I will carry a little less gear, and I'd like to have a better bike with full suspension. Knowing the route and having a better idea of what can be ridden quickly and what can't, where to get water, how much food to carry, etc. will help a lot.

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