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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 02-20-10, 12:35 PM   #1
CbadRider
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The Mental Aspect of Long Distance Riding

For me, being mentally up for a ride is just as important as being physically ready. My thoughts can help me dig deep and pull through a tough situation. They can also distract me to the point where I just cut short a ride and go home.

How important is the mental aspect of riding to you?
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Old 02-20-10, 11:04 PM   #2
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I don't think it matters who it is (as long as you are reasonably fit) it's mostly mental and the farther you go, the greater the mental part of it becomes.
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Old 02-21-10, 12:32 AM   #3
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I'm running on about 2 weeks of poor sleep, and last night my dog woke me up 3 times (not to go outside, but to play... urgh!) I still woke up and churned out my solo 200k today. There was hardly anything physical-fitness about this ride. It was a 10 hour mental battle to keep my wheels turning.
For me, the mental aspect is very important. I've managed to grit through a 40 degree, 10.5 hour constant rainfall and 3 flats in the first 10 miles of a 200k (including 1 before I left the parking lot, and 1 where the valve core shot out and stabbed me in the leg.)
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Old 02-21-10, 12:35 AM   #4
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I have to have a good nights sleep to have a good ride.
70 miles is no problem for me on any day.
Mental comes in after that.
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Old 02-21-10, 01:07 AM   #5
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Then couldn't one's physical conditioning determine say for example, in a century, WHEN the mental emphasis kicks in? If in lousy shape, after 40 miles you might "loose control" of your thoughts.....conversely, if in supurb shape, you may still be flying along past mile 85, entertaining yourself with Ipod music or fellow riders, etc., excited to roll the finish and do a jacuzzi!
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Old 02-21-10, 01:07 AM   #6
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To paraphrase Yogi Berra, "Distance cycling is 90% mental, the other half is physical." I agree, w/o a good night of sleep, it's a lot more difficult.
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Old 02-21-10, 01:28 AM   #7
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My son did a century with a with another kid he met at RAGBRAI, both were on single bikes (the other boy on a K-mart bike) and they were both 8yrs old. If you can't ride a century, you are not reasonably fit or you don't have the mental aptitude for it... I know a guy who did Paris-Brest-Paris without getting on a bike for the year prior to the ride except to do the qualifying series. He was sore and hurting at the end but he did it. The big part of the "mental" aptitude is the ability to get through the lows that inevitably come with long distance rides. Some people got it and some people don't. Simple as that.
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Old 02-21-10, 02:05 AM   #8
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I agree, w/o a good night of sleep, it's a lot more difficult.

Lack of sleep is to be expected the night before a big ride or event. The centuries I've done with 10,000-12,000 ft of climbing have been done on less than 3 hours of sleep. Like so many others that I have read about, a rider gets anxious and excited resulting in loss of sleep. I sleep well the prior 3 or 4 nights, really helps.
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Old 02-21-10, 06:09 AM   #9
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I think commitment and experience are the keys, and they are critical to me.

Commitment says I am here to finish the ride, unless I have a serious health or mechanical problem. I've seen many dnf's, and couldn't understand why they were giving up when the bike was working, no bleeding head wound, etc. It's not for me to judge them, but I don't want to bail unless I need to go to the bike shop or the hospital.

Experience says I have been through this or worse...

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...I've managed to grit through a 40 degree, 10.5 hour constant rainfall and 3 flats...
I had a 200k just like that this year, except I had 2 flats. The next time it rains, well, at least it's not 40; If it's 40, at least it isn't raining. A bonk does not have to be the end, either. If you have recovered before(commitment), you are more willing to work through it, knowing things will get better(experience).

That's about all the mental I put to use. I don't think I can will myself to feel better or ride faster. But, those two bits have been enough to get me through so far.
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Old 02-21-10, 12:55 PM   #10
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One way of finding out just how important the mental side is: Wait until maybe 80 miles into a 200K, then somewhere around 2/3 of the way through a 1200 foot climb, think of something that happened to you that was painfully embarassing. Boy ... that'll slow you down!

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Old 02-21-10, 09:26 PM   #11
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It really helps to be mental.
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Old 02-22-10, 10:26 AM   #12
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I don't think I can will myself to feel better or ride faster.
There's a lot of tricks I can make my brain play on my body; I can either feel better (ignore pain), or go faster (and still hurt), but not both.
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Old 02-22-10, 10:26 AM   #13
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It really helps to be mental.
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Old 02-23-10, 05:25 AM   #14
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I had a 200k just like that this year, except I had 2 flats. The next time it rains, well, at least it's not 40; If it's 40, at least it isn't raining. A bonk does not have to be the end, either. If you have recovered before(commitment), you are more willing to work through it, knowing things will get better(experience).

That's about all the mental I put to use. I don't think I can will myself to feel better or ride faster. But, those two bits have been enough to get me through so far.
Are you talking about the Jupiter ride in January? That was brutal....10+ hrs, constant rain and the temp at the turnaround was 35F!!!

Probably one of the hardest 200Ks in my recollection.
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Old 02-23-10, 03:04 PM   #15
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Are you talking about the Jupiter ride in January? That was brutal....10+ hrs, constant rain and the temp at the turnaround was 35F!!!

Probably one of the hardest 200Ks in my recollection.
Yeah, that was the one. The weather was really off the chart, for Florida--worst conditions in 10 years I've been here. It's really a spectacular ride, under normal conditions. But, it was hard to appreciate the scenery that day.
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Old 03-01-10, 12:35 AM   #16
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My son did a century with a with another kid he met at RAGBRAI, both were on single bikes (the other boy on a K-mart bike) and they were both 8yrs old. If you can't ride a century, you are not reasonably fit or you don't have the mental aptitude for it... I know a guy who did Paris-Brest-Paris without getting on a bike for the year prior to the ride except to do the qualifying series. He was sore and hurting at the end but he did it. The big part of the "mental" aptitude is the ability to get through the lows that inevitably come with long distance rides. Some people got it and some people don't. Simple as that.
8-year-olds also have a considerably better power-to-weight ratio than most adults, and have a lot more energy. We have a 9 year old in my club that can beat almost anyone up a hill because he weighs next to nothing and if he eats and drinks properly, he never seems to run out of energy. Not many adults seem to retain that seemingly endless reservoir of energy that doesn't need training or discipline to maintain outside of the teenage years.
Also, it depends on the century. I could do a century in the central valley no problem. But I can damn well forget the century ride that my club puts on every year. 10k feet of climbing. Unless you are quite fit and have some experience to help carry you through the mental hardships, you are simply not going to be able to do that, no matter how much your mind wills you to. Mental fortitude is extremely important, but also having a realistic view of what your body is physically capable of also helps you be able to work your way towards your goals without getting too discouraged, burnt out, or sidelined because you pushed your body too far too fast and it broke down on you.
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Old 03-01-10, 09:15 AM   #17
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...Also, it depends on the century. I could do a century in the central valley no problem. But I can damn well forget the century ride that my club puts on every year. 10k feet of climbing. Unless you are quite fit and have some experience to help carry you through the mental hardships, you are simply not going to be able to do that, no matter how much your mind wills you to.
My very first century was the Grizzly Century (98miles/10,000ft of climbing). I did it three months after getting my first bike with hardly any cycling fitness riding a 20+yr old 7speed Peugeot with toe straps. I had no idea what 10,000ft of climbing meant (I do now). I started early and was the last rider to finish but, I finished! I think you are making my point...

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Mental fortitude is extremely important, but also having a realistic view of what your body is physically capable of also helps you be able to work your way towards your goals without getting too discouraged, burnt out, or sidelined because you pushed your body too far too fast and it broke down on you.
It's not just being able to ride through the typical highs and lows of long distance riding. Knowing what your body is doing part of the mental aspect of it. If you are out there pushing your body past it's limits it doesn't matter how fit you are, you are done. You have to be able to pace yourself and measure your effort in relation to your fitness. It's all mental!
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Old 03-01-10, 12:25 PM   #18
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Now that I have faith in my recovery ability, that has made things a lot easier. I used to worry that I was only going to get worse as a ride went to extreme lengths. Then I realized on my 200k rides, I would start feeling a lot better about 100 miles in. I feel better at 200 miles than I do at 100 miles. I suppose this may cause over-confidence at some point, who knows. It certainly helps me through the low points, I still have those on just about every ride. But since I expect those, and know I'm going to feel better in a couple of hours, they aren't quite as catastrophic to my chances.
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Old 03-01-10, 02:21 PM   #19
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My very first century was the Grizzly Century (98miles/10,000ft of climbing). I did it three months after getting my first bike with hardly any cycling fitness riding a 20+yr old 7speed Peugeot with toe straps. I had no idea what 10,000ft of climbing meant (I do now). I started early and was the last rider to finish but, I finished! I think you are making my point...
Then you likely have a natural aptitude for cycling. I could probably complete the Grizzly Century, but would I be able to do it in time? Nope. My knees currently require me to go very slow up long grades with a high cadence. I've been riding over a year and its taken my this long with regular riding several times a week to get to the point where I can do long climbs without stopping due to the pain of my knees. I am fighting the effects of tibial torsion every time I get on my bike, and it's a struggle to overcome the problems introduced by such a deformity. In my club there is a lady who suffers from the same problems as I do (only in one leg, though), and is a distance cyclist. It took her years to get where she is now. Not everyone, and I would posit that most people, are not able to hop on a bike and 3 months later do the Grizzly Century within the time limit, if they finished at all.
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Old 03-01-10, 02:28 PM   #20
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I think commitment and experience are the keys, and they are critical to me.

Commitment says I am here to finish the ride, unless I have a serious health or mechanical problem. I've seen many dnf's, and couldn't understand why they were giving up when the bike was working, no bleeding head wound, etc. It's not for me to judge them, but I don't want to bail unless I need to go to the bike shop or the hospital.

Experience says I have been through this or worse...



I had a 200k just like that this year, except I had 2 flats. The next time it rains, well, at least it's not 40; If it's 40, at least it isn't raining. A bonk does not have to be the end, either. If you have recovered before(commitment), you are more willing to work through it, knowing things will get better(experience).

That's about all the mental I put to use. I don't think I can will myself to feel better or ride faster. But, those two bits have been enough to get me through so far.
If you're going to ride Brevet's, one of the most important things you have to lock into your brain is that "it aint over 'til it's over" - you have to do whatever it takes to make it to the next control. I had read that a number of times in long distance publications and on my first Brevet (a 300K - almost 200 miles) I was 31 miles from the next control (125 mile mark) and had exactly 3 hours to get there. I'd been climbing all day, still had 2,000 feet of climbing to reach the control, and was fighting a 20 mile head wind. Miserable. I'm toasted, and only making about 8 miles an hour. Really, really, wanted to turn around and just coast back home.

I crested the Continental Divide at the 25 mile mark and the last 6 miles were straight down hill. Probably the fastest 6 miles I've ever ridden (the head wind became a tail wind), and I slammed into the control with a minute to spare. Rest of the ride was mostly down hill after that and I finished the ride with plenty of time to spare.

Don't ever quit! - the most amazing things can happen on a ride. Over comming adversity will make you forever stronger. Don't quit!!!
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Old 03-01-10, 02:44 PM   #21
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to quote The Wedding Crashers: "I like where your head is at"

but seriously - I agree - you gotta have it upstairs before your can deliver it downstairs.
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Old 03-01-10, 06:02 PM   #22
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Then you likely have a natural aptitude for cycling.
I don't know about that. I'm just more stubborn than most people.

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...Not everyone, and I would posit that most people, are not able to hop on a bike and 3 months later do the Grizzly Century within the time limit, if they finished at all.
I never said everyone could do it. I said anyone in reasonable physical condition can. If you have physical limitations, you have physical limitations, that's pretty simple.
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Old 03-01-10, 06:12 PM   #23
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I never said everyone could do it. I said anyone in reasonable physical condition can. If you have physical limitations, you have physical limitations, that's pretty simple.
Is there hope for me, being mental and all!
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Old 03-01-10, 08:23 PM   #24
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Is there hope for me, being mental and all!

Is there hope for you???? I have to admit, you have the mental part down!
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Old 03-02-10, 06:03 AM   #25
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I find that long distance riding improves my mental / emotional well being. It's getting my leg slung over the top bar that is sometimes problematic. I've often gotten all dressed, prepped the bike, planned the route and then sat down and abandoned the journey. If I get out of the garage and down the road I can just keep going and going as though I'd left the demons behind.
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