Suffering. I don’t mind suffering a bit. I’m OK taking on and going through discomfort. A friend of mine recently commented, “Once you’re there it’s only a memory”. That’s so true. There is much to enjoy about a ride after you get off the bike. The sense of achievement, the numbers, the mapping and so on. It’s lovely though when it all comes together and you can enjoy the experience as it happens and not mostly in the story telling.
On Sunday I completed the Man of Kent 400 km audax. This was the last ride I set out on to complete an SR series in the 2014 / 2015 audax season. My first SR. The 400 had for me seemed the toughest of the lot – 200, 300, 400 and 600. It might be counter-intuitive to think the 600 would be less of a challenge. With the distance to cover and the time allowed, in my mind that was just two long rides with a break in the middle. That’s how it turned out back in May. I know there are people who do the 600 in one hit and chapeau to them. The 400 was though a different kettle of fish. After much pondering I decided it was not far enough to call for a sleep stop so that meant it would be one long ride. I truly enjoyed it.
When I started out doing these distance routes I suffered a great deal on a few of them. It was from those early experiences I resolved to sort my game out and create the possibility of enjoying the miles. This is my take on putting in big miles without undue suffering.
It’s not all about the bike! The things to take the notice of are the bits where you connect with the bike. The tyres, the handlebars, the saddle, the pedals and the cleats. Everything else is fluff. There I said it. Spend all you like but do so knowing that shiny stuff soon tarnishes. Wide supple tyres make a big difference; the PSI proportionate to your weight. The handlebars and saddle of a good enough fit. The pedals and cleats set up for each leg / foot. I say good enough as it’s as much about noticing how you hold yourself and remembering to move and reposition your hands and backside from time to time. This will deal with the pressure points as much I reckon as any supposed perfect bike fit.
The most important part on a bike is you. You’re the engine. You have a lot of moving parts. Look after yourself. Good sleeping habits make a lot of difference. Cutting down on vices helps. Eat what’s good for you. Try to notice what makes you feel fit and what makes you sluggish. Act on what you notice. Drink plenty of water. I have found that green tea is great for muscle relief and endurance. Do these things all the time not just before your next challenge. Think life style and not event planning.
Put in the miles before you put in the miles. Endurance develops over time. Ride every day. Have a regular go to route you don’t have to think about. 20 something miles most days is good enough. Habit will get you there. If you miss one day try not to miss a second. Miss the third and the habit is no more. Speaking of habits I’ve just remembered having seen at least fifty road kill rabbits yesterday.
Know the route. Map it out. Don’t just download someone else’s gpx file. It’ll help your resolve on the ride having some vague notion of the path ahead and recognising sections as you hit on them. Chunk the route into sections. 40 miles is about as far as I like to go before a quick stop. Keep the stops short. Half hour maximum and not too many of them. 10 to 15 minutes a pop is better.
Establish your pace. Your pace. Not that of someone else. Your pace. Stick to it. That’s how long you will be on the saddle. If you slow down when you think you are tired and a bit sore you will be riding tired and sore for a lot longer. That’s no fun. Tired is as much a belief as it is a feeling.
There is much gained from loading up with carbs and proteins for a day or two before the ride. Garage stops are great but supplement them with portable food. Sticky white rice cakes are fantastic to have in you bar bag. Unless you’re riding through the wilderness there is no need to make like a pack-horse. Notice feeling when a drink seems like a good idea. Don’t ignore it. Nearly every church and garage has a tap you can use to fill your water bottle. You do not need to carry litres of water. Don’t overdo the electrolyte tablets if you use them especially if they have caffeine in them. Have a pee when you feel the urge. Don’t ignore it. Life is so much better with an empty bladder.
It’s helpful to know what’s motivating you and keep that in mind. Clear intention is a powerful thing. Own it. Nurture it. Live into it. Intention works best when you make it personal. If you have a goal have one of intrinsic value. This is your challenge not that of someone else. No one other than you really cares about how many miles you ride. Work on developing some stock positive self talk statements. A mantra. Something to ground yourself in a good place when the road surface has rattled you about for the last 25 miles. Negative self talk will quite literally get you no where.
If you’re the type of person motivated by accountability then share your challenge with others and ask for their support. Try not though to talk up and bask in the glory of your plans too much before the ride. It’ll effect your intentions to prepare properly as you end up kidding yourself it’s in the bag before you even start.
Weather conditions. Not much you can do about them other than to dress for it and temper your expectations in terms of speed. It’s not a race unless you make it one. Generally speaking I don’t race; far too much suffering for me!
Those are some of the things I have learned in the last three years about enjoying the big miles. Remember though that most things need tweaking for an individual fit. You’ll be your own expert if you can notice and learn from experience. Take notice of other people’s experience but don’t mistake them for your own. Enjoy your rides don’t endure them.