Monday, August 25, 2014

How to succeed at tough races



Two months ago I signed up for one of the harder races in Switzerland: the Alpenbrevet, a 276km race with over 7000m of elevation. However, with a new job I have less time for riding and only two months ago I hopped on my bike maybe once a week. 

Still, I signed up for the longest and hardest distance of the three racing options. 

Finishing a race of that magnitude is not an easy goal, especially if your training capacity is mediocre at best. 

However, although physical fitness is very important, what gets you really up the mountain, through nasty weather conditions and across the finish line is your mind!

Here are a few suggestions that help me get through tough challenges, even with less training:

Never doubt your success. You gotta be on the start line thinking that you will succeed. Any doubt will later, in tough times, knock on your mental door and question your sanity. During the first climb of the Alpenbrevet, all the different distance groups (Silver, Gold, Platinum) rode together. I asked a few riders what distance they will ride. A lot said `I will see. I was thinking of Platinum but if I do not feel well, I will go for the Gold distance`. All of them set themselves up for not completing the highest goal they could achieve. 

Don’t focus on the pain. If you do it will only get worse. It`s the same with feeling sick. If you think about getting sick, you will. Distract yourself. Especially on long challenges, try to distract yourself with something else than your current activity. Sooner or later, you will find yourself thinking about it all the time anyway. Now, when it is easy to entertain yourself with other things, like chatting (if possible) with other riders, enjoying the nature, counting the white stripes of the middle lane, will make the latter and tougher part of the race mentally easier. 

Tell as many people as possible about your goal. Because you would have to tell all of them you had to quit. Then try to imagine what you would tell them. If it sounds like an excuse, keep going.

Play worse-case scenario. If you are getting tired climbing up a mountain, ask yourself: How could it be worse? The grade could be steeper. It could rain. There could be headwind. It could be a cobble way. All of a sudden, your current condition does not seem too bad anymore.

After all it all boils down to:
Pain is temporary but failure lasts forever.

Plus, crossing the finish line after a very tough challenge is an indescribable addicting feeling.

What gets you through a tough race?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How a dating service gets you through a 1000km race

Three weeks before the race

I got a strange email question from a still unknown person : Would I want to join a four person team for the Tortour? Ahemmm YES!.

I knew about the Tortour too well. It`s a 1000km race around Switzerland with 14,500m elevation gain that not only requires some serious physical fitness but, if not more importantly, a well organized support team, a similar format as the Race Across America.

So from one day to the next I was on the team to join them only three weeks later.

I would learn soon I had the fortune to be on a fantastic team that not only was organizational top notch but funny that would even make the most serious German smile.

And here goes the story in pictures and videos:

Thursday, 14 August: Morning

Everyone was excited on the way to the race (f.l.: me, Stefan (racer), Isa (racer), Ariella (support))


A lot of gear is required with the hope you can find it when you need it.


Every racer got a box which should minimize chaos. I successfully created chaos anyway.
Thursday 12pm 

At the race briefing. Being surrounded by 500+ other excited racers and supporters made for an incredible atmosphere. If you werent excited before this briefing, you are definitely now! The anticipation was rising!
Thursday 15:30

Then, the prolog in the afternoon. Merely a kilometer or so of high intensity to place the teams into an order for the next day.

video

We won the prolog in our category. That meant we start first at 2:33AM, a minute ahead of the second placed team.

Friday 2:30AM Start

The starting formation. The team to the right and the follow vehicle behind.

Just imagine about 130 vehicles with `Caution Bicycle ahead` driving around in Switzerland....Bikes rule the next 48 hours
No idea why we were waving to the follow vehicle. I (pink arm warmers in the front) was occupied with other things apparently.
And then the countdown. 1000km ahead


 
Ariella and Mirco...let the fun get started

Friday 10:30AM: 8 Hours - 233km

There were three team stages (first, middle and last). The other ~850km were split between the four racers.
We had highly concentrated drivers. Not only the cyclist had to ride 1000km, our support crew had to drive those too!
I wasnt aware that we had a mountain goat on the team. This woman can climb!

The views were breathtaking....in two ways.


Friday 14:30 PM - 12 hours - 340km
As hard as we were working, we had at least the same amount of fun (here on the way up the 14km climb, Fl├╝ela pass.)

video


Friday 18:30 - 16 hours - 480km

Not a lot of rest time between the individual stages: Transfer to next check point, eating and getting clothes ready for next stage do not give a lot of time to relax
The weather couldnt decide. It was sunny. 10 minutes late it poured down.


Saturday 4:00 AM - 26 hours - 770km
After some 30 hours of having fun and riding, the energy was slowly draining and I got tired. My last shift (before the team stage) was about to start. It was 4am. 26 hours on the road. 50km to ride to the next check point.

It was dark. It was wet. I was tired.


10km into my stage, I was falling asleep on the bike and swerving around the lane.I needed some entertainment. I asked our support team to tell me a story.
Of all the stories Barbara could tell me she chose to give me the pros and cons to date her two brothers. After a 30 minutes very entertaining monologue she decided herself, it might not be a good idea to date either of them.

And all of a sudden I was at the checkpoint.

Saturday 13:29 34 hours: 1000km

After the last team stage and 34 hours of being on the road we crossed the finish line. 


We made it! From left: Max, me, Isa, Stefan


Then, the entry into the arena onto the stage with our song. No matter how often I watch this video I am still getting wet eyes. It brought all the fantastic memories into one moment.

video



The moderator asked me three questions back-to-back. Sleep deprived, I forgot all of them and answered my own.
Thanks to a fantastic team: Stefan, Max, Isa, Ariella, Barbara, Betty and Mirco!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Preparing for a new level of EPIC


There is no shortage of tough rides in the Alps, especially considering the endless possibilities of climbing up passes without a lot of flats between them. This ride was a preparation for the highly respected Alpenbrevet race. I was pretty exhausted after this ride of 147km and 4,300m elevation. The Alpenbrevet with an additional 130km and 2,700m elevation gain will ask for a new level of toughness in two weeks.


 The route:

The elevation:
Barely any flats, climbing from 500m up to 2,400m
video



video




On the way down from Grimsel with the view towards Furka Pass


But before testing my climbing legs, the non-stop 1000km Tortour around Switzerland will challenge the endurance of my team and I. With a highly organized five person support crew, a camper, a follow vehicle and a loooooot of food, we are ready for the challenge starting this Friday EARLY morning. We hope to cross the finish line 39 hours later, Saturday evening!

You can follow us via live tracker. Link will follow.

Oh, this race will be so epic!