As I ease into the starting weeks of another new year, so to do I soon find myself in the hot Victorian Alps for another sojourn of cycling challenge at the Audax Alpine Classic in Bright. This has now become an annual fixture on my activity calendar, a brilliant endurance ride event, made all the more better that I share the experience with some of my very best friends.
Typically we start ramping up our riding (and talking) a couple of weeks from Christmas, and then making it a real focus over January. In some ways it feels a bit like cramming for an exam you deep down know requires a bit more effort than you have given it!! Interestingly the ambitious declarations of intended performance tend to die down nearer to the event, possibly something to do with the realization that there are one or two gaps in our preparations, most notably training rides that come near the demands of the event!! Also, the mountains always give cause for respect, no matter the level of the rider.
All of this can give cause to FEAR, little negative voices and feelings that ultimately get in the way of what should be an overwhelmingly fantastic life experience. The thoughts below might help keep your positivity within the experience in surplus – certainly it keeps me returning for more!!
- Recognize the opportunity (riding all day, rather than sitting in traffic or plucking chickens in a factory etc. etc.) – opportunity, if not privilege
- Like what you see – yes you are participating in a heroic cycling challenge, that is definitely something to like about yourself
- You are not alone, draw positive energy of others
- Monitor your cadence and effort on the pedals. Try and maintain a cadence around 90 (slightly above or below), avoiding strain over smoothness where possible. Too often we will choose to strain and tap into fatigue, rather than over dropping down a cog or two and spinning economically.
- Organise and attend to your ride eating and drinking needs. Work on the idea you should be drinking (2 swallows) every 15 minutes, and eating every 25-30 minutes. That’s a lot of time and focus on the bike refuelling, a very important distraction if you want to call it that.
- Pay attention to your breathing, particularly on climbs with a bit of length. Breathing should be deep (strong) and regular, but not excessively fast. It is about maintaining a sustainable rhythm, not over-reaching and digging your-self into a hole.
- As well as attention to breathing, pay attention to other areas of the body were you may be holding onto unnecessary tension. Hands, arms, and shoulders are often overusing energy, particularly on climbs. Work the legs, and try and keep the rest of the body soft and tension free.
- Find good wheels to follow. Always look to energy save, and quite possibly a personal best time could simply arrive on making a couple of good decisions relating to who you choose to sit behind. This requires a heightened level of attention and awareness at all times, particularly early in the ride as groups of similar abilities and intentions almost organically form. In other words don’t miss the bus!!
- Finally work at thinking ‘glass half thoughts’ over ‘glass half empty thoughts’. This can be difficult, but it certainly trainable with awareness and practice. Think appreciatively about the opportunity you have, rather than dwell on the discomfort.