Greg LeMond, American Cyclist
Like all but the very shortest of sporting events, an endurance bicycle race cannot be won at the start. There are too many variables, over too much time. As a race lengthens, the variables increase in number, complexity and unpredictability. Preparation and experience certainly help to successfully finish a long race, but the right mindset from the start is the most powerful tool in your kit.
On the other hand, the wrong mindset can lose an endurance bicycle race before the start. I know it, because I have done it. So, how to create, develop and maintain a successful mindset to finish? There is no single, right answer. You must get out there and learn how for yourself.
One thing is certain. No matter how prepared or experienced you are at the start, or how great you feel during the race, you will go through a rough patch. Something will go south. Emotional, intellectual, physical, mechanical, maybe more than one thing, maybe everything. It won't last forever. Find a way to stay positive and keep moving.
|That mountain looks a long way away. Or, that's a lot of great country to ride through to get to that mountain.
As I consider events for next year that may be a bit of a reach, I find inspiration in the thoughts of endurance cyclists who struggled through difficulties and broke through their perceived limitations. A common thread is positivity: focusing on the positive present, visualizing a positive future, or recalling the positive past. Remember the positive reasons for undertaking such experiences in the first place. Here is a short collection of thoughts from some folks who have the mindset to successfully finish.
"There is no room for negative thoughts. When Jay is on the bike, it's only positive thoughts. For Jay, it approaches a near-Zen mind state. He teaches that a negative thought must become so foreign it's as if you have an inability to even process it. Instead, focus on how you can succeed and be thankful for your ability to ride your bike."
Tom Puzak, GearJunkie contributing editor interviewing legendary cyclist Jay Petervary
"But gravel racing is not always about fitness and who is fastest. It's about decision making, mental toughness and being humble enough to let go of your expectations and embrace the struggle and adventure of the day. A day spent with like minded people who enjoy that kind of experience is a day well spent."
Sarah Cooper, endurance cyclist, Odin's Revenge Champion, Spotted Horse Ultra Race Director
|Positive focus on what you can see.
"But, even as uncomfortable as it is, becoming better acquainted with myself is one of the reasons I seek out difficult cycling challenges. They afford me the opportunity to stress myself while working to stay positive, to stay patient, and to keep problem solving and moving forward."
Nick Legan, endurance cyclist, author of "Gravel Cycling"
"Adversity: Your proving ground. There is no greater opportunity in life than to be presented an enormous obstacle and a chance to overcome it. Embrace adversity and find calm within the chaos to grow. Discomfort is common on the path and an indication you're headed in the right direction."
Todd Poquette, 906 Adventure Team, HAMR & Marji Gesick 100 Race Director
"Just because you feel bad now, does not mean you will feel bad later. A short stop to drink, eat and stretch can do wonders. On a hot day like this past Saturday, a long break to fully re-hydrate can renew the body and spirit, and can enable you to go on. The most enjoyable part of these long rides is the evening, as the temperature subsides and the winds calm. If you can get to the early evening, all will be good."
OldGravelGuy blog, 2013 Gravel Worlds
|"He hath need of his wits who wanders wide."
Odin, somewhere out there at the 2016 Odin's Revenge.
"Try something crazy hard every once in a while, just to see where you stand. The Almanzo is the mirror that shows who you are, not who you tell people you are."
"The demons live within us all and to willingly push ourselves into something that invites them to open doors most would keep locked forever is a peculiar thing. I've met my demons, I've embraced their company, and I've had them turn and exit through the door I unlocked. It's a good feeling to see them leave, but it's also a good feeling to understand what they've brought to the fold and what to do with it. It's during those confrontations that I've forgotten I was even on a bike despite the gravel rushing under my wheels. It is during these moments that we begin to truly understand who we are."
Paul Krumrich, endurance cyclist, GearJunkie contributing editor
Tim Ek, long time sponsored endurance cyclist
The simple act of experiencing the world from the saddle of a bike is, like the most important people in our lives, a privilege. It could, can, and might be taken away at a moment's notice. Happens to other people all the time. Could happen to me tomorrow. Maybe today. Time for me to flip the conundrum on its head and stop taking this thing for granted. Time to get inspired again."
Mike Curiak, endurance cycling pioneer
|With no electronic communications out here, other voices may be heard.
"Cyclocross Magazine: You mentioned 'growth of people.' What do you mean by that in terms of gravel riding?
Guitar Ted: I suppose it would make more sense to spell out what I mean. The thing here is that, in my opinion, our culture, our world as we have it now, is far too inundated with information, time-chewing, soulless relationships and vapid consumerism that when you extricate yourself from all of that and get away in the country, it can have the effect of making an imprint on your spirit and soul. You can experience a sort of growth from that or maybe you won't. I'll leave that up to the individual, but that's what I am talking about here."
Mark Stevenson, Trans Iowa Race Director, grandfather of today's gravel scene
"Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. And sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself."
Candy Hersch, my much older sister who always works in the last word, quoting a coffee house chalk board