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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 10-30-10, 12:31 PM   #1
Barrettscv 
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Mental stamina: the final frontier?

I’ve enjoyed century rides and the training required to finish a hilly 200k has improved my physical fitness substantially. I’ve also fine tuned my equipment and my bikes have the correct fit, accessories and drive-train for a 400k and beyond. I’ve also adjusted my fuel and hydration to avoid endurance issues related to intake.

I’ve pushed myself hard this year. I completed a metric 100 in 3.5 hours on a 90+ f degree afternoon and also 100 mile century in the same kind of weather. I’ve done 140 miles in one day while riding unsupported with a friend.

But the prospect of completing a Brevet series still seems impossible. I feel like I would need to build a fitness base of 150 miles a week for 6 months and have a trainer reviewing my training data that I download from my Garmin device before even trying a 400k or longer event.

Is mental prepared-ness the final frontier?

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Old 10-30-10, 01:12 PM   #2
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These things are 90% mental (assuming you are reasonably healthy/fit). When I first stared these things there was no such thing as a Garmin. We just got on our bikes and rode em. Look at it this way, if you can ride 200 miles in one day, then do it again for 2 1/2 more days you can ride a 1200k. Pretty simple. Most people can ride 200 miles in 18hrs (that's two 9hr centuries) or less, that still leaves 6hrs of sleep. You can't look at these things in their entirety, you have to break them down. It makes it easier. When you start, you're just riding to the first control (about 100km) then you ride to the next one. Before you know it your done. Piece of cake.
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Old 10-30-10, 05:26 PM   #3
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Good question.

I've never ridden a 100k in 3.5 hours, by the way. And if you ride a rando route at that speed, you're going to be hitting controls as soon as the opening time is available. There is surely nothing wrong with that, but it's not a requirement to do randonneruing, either.

The last several months I've been able to get in 700-800 miles a month, so the 150/week is doable. In my case, part of that milage is doing a 200k once or twice a month, so I don't necessarily hit 150 miles every week.

People don't all like the same things. I expect there's a lot of excellent cyclists that could do well in RAAM, and don't bother because it doesn't appeal to them. That's okay. So part of the challenge of doing whatever distance is involved, is having a desire to do it in the first place.

I've also found there's a difference between riding a 200k and enjoying a 200k. It's two different skills. A lot of the difference is attitude. Part of the difference is fitness, part of it is riding conditions, part of it is the company.

I just got back from a 211k ride. The ride organizer was encouraging everyone to ride in costumes. A lot of 'em must be afflicted with grumpy old man/woman syndrome, but there were several of us that rode in costume. Didn't make it quick, but made it different. "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how!"- Theodore Geisel.

It's possible that you are pushing yourself so hard that you're not enjoying the ride any more, and in that case, maybe some mental adjustment is in order.

Recently, I just did my first 300k. One thing I found was that a 300k under good conditions is easier (not necessarily quicker) than a 200k in bad conditions. ("bad" = hot, cold, or headwindy for me). And yes, it was a long ride, but it worked out pretty well and I was glad I did it. One thing that was neat was that when I finished, I still felt pretty good. I wasn't in death-march condition, and felt like I could have kept on riding if necessary. I'm thinking this next year, I will try to get in an ACP super-rando series. I don't foresee myself doing a 600k every other weekend like some of these guys, but I'd like to prove I can.

My suggestion would be not to mentally dedicate yourself to a series, but just go do a 300k when you get a chance. Then, if it still sounds like fun, go do a 400k. And if you're still having fun, go do a 600k. And if somewhere along the way, you decide that 200k is all you ever want to do, that's okay, too.
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Old 10-30-10, 08:35 PM   #4
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I agree completely with the notion that you have to enjoy the ride. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, for example, if you want to ride year-round, you have to enjoy riding in the cold and rain. I just enjoy being out on the bike, I love the feeling of the steel frame vibrating beneath me, I love looking down at the artistic sweep of the Campag dual-pivot front brake, I love watching the scenery rolling by at just the right speed.

When you're out on a 400 km ride, with about 100 km to go (about four hours), your decision to keep going will be based on how much you're enjoying being out there. Me, I just want to keep riding.

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Old 10-31-10, 08:15 AM   #5
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I might add that I do enjoy my cycling. I'm a believer in preparation, and know that any difficult challenge can be a great personal experience, if a person is well prepared. Pushing myself to be successful is its own reward.

I do tend to fully problem-solve and over-prepare for challenges, but that's what I enjoy doing.

As I read about long-distance cycling, it’s apparent that the mental part is 90% of success. However it’s almost never discussed as a topic.
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Old 10-31-10, 10:23 AM   #6
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you're only going to feel confident that you can do it if you have experience at actually doing it. As far as I am concerned, the only trick is eating. But in my experience, you can generally make up for mistakes in eating
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Old 10-31-10, 02:04 PM   #7
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An old cycling buddy of mine used to say "If you think riding a bike is mostly mental you aren't putting in enough miles." I tend to agree and believe that the less fit you are the more important the mental aspect of the ride.

Later,
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Old 10-31-10, 05:57 PM   #8
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But the prospect of completing a Brevet series still seems impossible. I feel like I would need to build a fitness base of 150 miles a week for 6 months and have a trainer reviewing my training data that I download from my Garmin device before even trying a 400k or longer event.

Is mental prepared-ness the final frontier?

Here's the thing ... if you think about riding FOUR HUNDRED KILOMETRES it seems like a very long distance. But if you think about riding 50 kilometres, it's not that bad. You've ridden 50 kilometres before. You've ridden more than 50 kilometres so 50 kilometres is a manageable distance for you. 400 km is simply eight 50 km rides. You've done 8 rides of 50 km or more ... you've probably even done them relatively close together. A 400K just brings them a bit closer than usual. When you set off to ride a 400K, all you've got to do is to ride the first 50 km ride ... then the next 50 km ride ... then the next 50 km ride ... until you're done.

The only way I get through long distances is to break them down into managable pieces. A 100K out and back will get broken down into a 50 km ride, then lunch at the town we're cycling to, then a 50 km ride back. A 200K brevet, like the one we did yesterday, got broken down into the distance of the controls ... we'll ride for 92 km (and that's easy because we had done five 100K rides in the past 5 weeks) to the first control which looked like it was in an interesting location, then 58 km to a town I've wanted to see since I noticed it on the map, then 50 km back to the start.

1200K events usually get broken down into two parts ... the controls, which are usually about 80 km apart ... so I ride a whole series of 80 km rides ... and where I will be by nightfall, then where I will be by daybreak, then where I will be by the next nightfall, so that in my head, I am just riding till nightfall, then I'm doing a night ride, then another day ride, etc.

But the moment I think of the long rides in terms of FOUR HUNDRED KILOMETRES or TWELVE HUNDRED KILOMETRES ... I start thinking I can't do it, and start toying with the idea of quitting.


Have a read of Ron's article, entitled: "Eating an Elephant". He has some very good advice in there, but his third piece of advice is the one I'm talking about above:
http://www.randonneurs.bc.ca/toolbox...himschoot.html

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Old 10-31-10, 06:03 PM   #9
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An old cycling buddy of mine used to say "If you think riding a bike is mostly mental you aren't putting in enough miles." I tend to agree and believe that the less fit you are the more important the mental aspect of the ride.
It's interesting that this little quote so concisely expresed such diametrically opposed views. Personally, my view and experience has changed markedly as I've aged. As an idiot teen in good athletic condition, I could muscle my way through almost anything. After a few accidents requiring actual rehab, I found that pain and fear of failure were both limiting factors. Now in my mid-50s, it's mostly a mental thing comprised of both determination and realistic expectations.
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Old 10-31-10, 07:42 PM   #10
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the nice thing about riding an SR series is that it builds. First you do a 200k, then a 300k, then a 400k, then a 600k. So you realize you did a 300k and you survived, so you figure adding 60 miles is no big deal. Same with the 400k. Then the 600k is really a 400k with a 200k the next day. The real leap of faith for me was going from a 200k to a 300k. I remember the point on the 300k where I realized I was only 20 miles from the end and I felt pretty good. Then I knew I could do the 400k no problem. Since my training has really been horrible this year, the confidence I built from doing it before has pulled me through. And since I knew I was at least a little out of shape, I haven't been punishing myself as much and I came out of the 600k this year feeling much better than last year.
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Old 10-31-10, 08:14 PM   #11
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The first 200k I did, I went out with Chris' (Ram) group, but thankfully didn't make the cut at the first control, so then soloed most the rest of the way, on a 35 and rainy PNW spring day. The last 50k got kinda hard. My best riding buddy dropped off of the #2 lead group and waited at the last control, because he knew I was only like 15 minutes behind. Then he babysat me in. When I got in, I was telling one of the Real Rando riders that there was no way I could ride a 300. His reply was that I had made it in under 8 hours and I absolutely had another 100k in me. I thought about that for a long time, and finally realized he was right. I soloed the 300 in decent time. It was hard and the last 20k hurt pretty good. That's how it goes. If you like that, it's all good.

There are really two mental aspects. The first is the preparation. It helps to be analytical. You have to figure out what will increase your speed and endurance, and then carry out that plan. It helps if you were right. Then there's the suffering aspect during the ride. That's just a type of spiritual purification, not that different from the rituals in other tribes. Remember: they don't call it the Dark Side for nothing.

The program the OP envisions is exactly correct. Get after it right now.
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Old 10-31-10, 08:14 PM   #12
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Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
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Old 10-31-10, 08:23 PM   #13
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The real leap of faith for me was going from a 200k to a 300k.
The leap for me was 400K to 600K.

I rode my first official 200K (I had done two rides of the 200 km distance before, but very casually) on a 40 lb mtn bike with knobby tires, and I completed it in 12 hours. I did the 300K a couple weeks later on my road bicycle ... and the ride was so much easier than that 200K!! I finished the 300K in about 17 hours, so it was longer than the 200K, but much less effort.

Our 300Ks there were 323 km (a double century), so doing a 400K wasn't much more of an effort. But the 600K was 200 km more, and I still struggle with the 600K distance.


On the physical aspect ... fitness ... I used to think that anyone with reasonable fitness could pull off these rides, and that may be true for some, but I've discovered during my recent fight to get back my fitness and cycling ability since the DVT that my fitness level plays a huge role for me in completing these rides. When I've been cycling and generally exercising lots, the long rides are so much easier and it is so much easier to get through them mentally, when I'm not in pain and discomfort from the get-go.

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Old 11-04-10, 11:47 AM   #14
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Finishing a SR series is definately a mental thing, for me at least. I've lined up at the start with riders who were a lot stronger than I am, but who didn't finish the rides. If you're going to be on a bike for 30 or so hours, you are going to be miserable for at least part of it. The key is pushing through that, to keep the pedals truning -- it always gets better. I've also benefited greatly from riding with more experienced riders -- people who know how to ride within themselves; who know how to manage difficult weather situations; who know how to handle mechanicals, etc.

I did my first SR series this year, and the only ride I didn't enjoy was the 300k that I rode by myself. It was just a long grind. My advice would be try to find a person or group to ride with. There is something (for me at least) about helping and being helped that makes these rides such an experience. Also, in my experience, the people who tend to do these rides tend to be really interesting people.

For me the monster was the 600k. Part of this was weather (it was brutally hot), and part of this was the course (it was very hilly), but the other part of it is that 600k is just a really long way to ride. You can't really train for this sort of distance (at least I can't given work, family, etc., demands). The key again for me was to just keep the pedals turning.

Enjoy yourself.

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Old 11-04-10, 12:45 PM   #15
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I would guess the idea of "mental stamina" means many things to many people. Certainly, the whole idea of having brevet series in increasing order of length goes to providing cyclists with opportunities to experience fatigue gradually.

I am guessing you are worried that you lose aerobic fitness rapidly and may struggle with a brevet series later on. I don't know what your your experience is but your organized approach to handling the physical aspects of brevet riding could easily supplant any need for much "mental toughness."

I think its the riders who make many mistakes early on in a brevet that end up having to make up their minds to over come physical limitations or other ride negatives. When I used to coach some newbies to new distances I simply told them - "You have to want it."
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Old 11-04-10, 04:34 PM   #16
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Macha's comment about breaking the ride down into a series of short rides in your mind is spot on. (or on a really bad day...breaking the distance down to getting to THAT rock and then THAT rock....). So the brain only internalizes that you've just ridden 50 miles or so - which is a piece of cake. Never mind that you're doing it again and again and again. My brain still believes that the 1200K that i did recently is really only 60 miles or so.

I don't know about anybody else- if I ride a 200k and then drive the same course in a car it FEELS like a much bigger distance in the car. I find that I'm much more mentally fried after driving it. My butt just feels like it's been a long day after riding it
It blew my mind to realize that the distance from denver colorado to santa fe new mexico is just an ordinary 600K.

I think the mental toughness issue is just the DECISION to finish the ride and everything else is irrelevant.

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Old 11-04-10, 04:57 PM   #17
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...I think the mental toughness issue is just the DECISION to finish the ride and everything else is irrelevant.
That's my take, too. Show up at the start with the decision made to carry on as long as possible, no matter what happens. There are times in the ride where you might easily bail if your heart and head were not in it. But, if you are committed, you push through, and things usually get better (then worse, then better again). If you are reasonably prepared, and don't quit, the odds are with you to finish.
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Old 11-05-10, 02:57 PM   #18
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I’ve enjoyed century rides and the training required to finish a hilly 200k has improved my physical fitness substantially. ...
Is mental prepared-ness the final frontier?
Yes, but it's probably not as hard as you're making it seem. Just take small bites -- ride a 200, wait three days and decide if you're going to ride the 300, wait three days and decide if you're going to ride the 400. Then it's just one more ride to do the 600. On each one, it's impossible to do the whole ride all at once. Just ride to the next control and when you get there adjust your sights to the next one. When things are really bad -- as they inevitably will be at some time -- evaluate whether you are likely to cause yourself injuries that keep yourself off the bike for an extended period (e.g. two weeks or longer). If not, then slow down for a few minutes, eat something no matter how much you don't want to, keep in mind that if you quit, you'll always wish you hadn't, and most likely in twenty minutes you'll be feeling like this is the greatest sport in the universe again.
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Old 11-05-10, 04:36 PM   #19
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Mental toughness can have a negative effect, too. The will to carry on regardless of the pain in a knee or achilles tendon (or in the chest) could really be setting one up for a complete physical disaster that will curtail riding indefinitely. Likewise, riding on through a period when sleep is demanded (not just desirable); the risk then is severe injury or death from crashing. And riding on through a lack of hydration has some similar disastrous scenarios.

The fact is that preparation is a critical key to success. That means lots of bike time over shorter distances, and ensuring that technique (riding style, bike fit) and routines (drinking, eating) are well learned. On long rides when fatigue sets in, style and routines suffer if they aren't instilled into one's psyche.

This also brings knowledge of when to back off. Don't take this the wrong way, Barrett, because it's not particularly aimed at you, but I find it fascnating how people post that they have done 3.5-hour metric centuries, as if that is some significant achievement that will help them get through much longer distances. For mine, it doesn't mean that at all. It just means that the poster has maintained a good speed over 100km (likely in as ideal conditions as you can get).

But deep down, I have suspicions that there is real potential for the poster to go out hard on a long ride, and blow up before the finish. It happens often when a newbie to a distance tries to keep up with the seasoned riders for 50km or so then goes on a death march for the remaining 250km.... whatever style and routines were in place disappear as the poster tries to keep pace with the group.

That time in the saddle must teach you when to back off and stay within reasonable limits. In other words, riding your own ride.

I have found, in getting Machka back riding long distances comfortably on the tandem, that a heart-rate monitor is a vital piece of kit. I could tell when she was overdoing it, say, going up steeper hills by the excessive labouring of her breathing, but I couldn't really convince her to back off to a more reasonable HR unless she could see the HR figure in front of her, and compare it with mine.

The 200 randonnee we did last weekend on the tandem was a roaring success for us because I could get her (and me) to even out the effort and the hydration and fuelling deficits.

Therefore, long distance riding, in my book, is about smoothing out the workrate so that (a) the body feels comfortable (b) the potential for injury is reduced and (c) the mind is happy. That means adopting a pace within your limits. At the moment we are relatively slow with a real-time (including stops) average speed of around 18km/h -- not fast, but we are in recovery phase, so we are happy with that compared with 15km/h or less only six months ago.

We rode hard enough on last weekend's 200 to sit on 22 to 24km/h for much of the flat stuff, and on the gentler climbs were still above 13km/h. We had relatively leisurely breaks at the controls, and finally finished in 11 hours 5 minutes. The time, of course, is irrelevant on a randonnee, but we were happy to finish within the limit, and felt we could have kept going for another 100km.

Oh, and the refuelling/hydration regimen is as important to mental outlook as it is to physical output. Both Machka and I know when we are low on energy and need something to eat -- we get crabby with each other and it is evident we aren't enjoying what we are doing. I find that my mood turns very dark, and I will pick problems with just about everything and everyone around me -- from minor errors on the route instructions to that idiot who gave a friendly honk as they passed and waved.

So, beware the food and drink deficits. The advice from old-timers to those who want to DNF from a randonnee is worth heeding -- sit down, have something to eat and drink and then decide if you want to pull out or keep going.
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