I regularly get some form of the pre-ride jitters before intense multi-day cycling events. I don’t sleep well. I keep thinking I’m forgetting something. The longer the event and the more complicated the travel logistics, the greater the jitters.
This year, Felkerino and I signed up to ride the High Country 1200K, which takes place out in Colorado from July 9-12. The event comes five weeks on the heels of the D.C. Randonneurs 600K brevet. While in a way that is perfect timing as we do not have to re-peak for the long distance, it’s also given me ample opportunity to work up my nerves.
While some people may never get these nervous feelings before an event, I am not one of those people. A worrier by nature, I use the weeks before an event to maximize my freak-out time.
I convince myself that if I do something, the jitters will go away. I’m not sure what that something is so I try a variety of somethings. This round of pre-1200K jitters prompted me to meticulously review a variety of aspects of our upcoming trip and ride. I started with the aspects over which I have some control.
Ride Updates. Our ride organizer, John Lee Ellis, has done a great job of keeping riders informed about the High Country 1200. He’s shared helpful blog updates and emails about the course description and profile, what to expect when riding in Colorado, and other critical aspects about the ride. It’s been a good way to mentally prepare for our time out west and has assuaged a few of my worries about what the ride will be like.
Bike Checkups. After a season of riding brevets, Felkerino and I make sure to take the bike in a for a checkup. Usually something on the bike will require a little attention. That is followed up by a discussion about gear. Do we have enough spare parts? Tires? What’s the saddle situation in the Dining Room Bike Shop? We want to make sure everything is in good working order.
Clothing. It’s funny how I somehow made it through a full season of randonneuring with no clothing shortages, but the looming 1200K has me rooting through my closet to see if I might need more shorts, jerseys, socks, or arm warmers. In this case, I think that is partly because we will be riding in areas where we could experience relatively large temperature swings and I want to be prepared for that, but it’s also a way of burning nervous energy.
Packing. Preparing for a bike trip takes extra effort. First, we have to pack for both on-the-bike as well as off-the-bike clothing. Yes, it’s true that a person can cycle in anything, but for brevets I prefer my “special ride” clothing and shoes. Things like helmets, Camelbaks, and tools add bulk and weight to our bags. (May I also add that helmets are an easy item to forget?!) Sometimes I have special ride food that I want to make sure I pack. Traveling with a tandem, even a coupled one like ours, is always a cumbersome adventure. My list of items to pack seems to keep growing by the day, and still I wonder if I have enough stuff to do this ride!
After I checked the above items off of my freak-out list, I moved onto the things that are, at least now, beyond my ability to do anything about.
Altitude. In fact, altitude was one of the first things I spent my time being concerned about. I lived for a while at altitude, but it was many years ago and I wasn’t participating in ultra-distance events then. I have no idea how my body will react to cycling at altitude.
People say that response to altitude is very individualized so I will just have to read what I can about acclimating to it, wait and see what happens to me as we ride, and address any issues if and when they arise. To worry about it now is not productive.
Weather. I can’t even talk about this. It’s potentially bad luck to discuss weather.
Training. The time between my last hard effort prior to an event and the event itself (the tapering period) is a window to rest and reflect on my training. While I did have some level of control over my training, that time has now passed. Instead I’m going over and re-going over my workout logs, seeing if I really did put in an acceptable level of miles and cross-training.
No matter how I look over my workout log, I always come to the conclusion that I could have done more. Perhaps that is slightly true, but in the effort to balance riding with work and family, I think I did a pretty good job.
Tapering. Usually when I fret I head to the gym, go for a ride, or head out for a run. During a taper that’s not necessarily the best idea, as one of the most important things a person can do prior to an endurance event is to show up to the starting line well-rested and full of energy.
I’m not saying I’m not staying active, just not in the quantity it would take to keep the nerves at bay. I’m a big believer in tapering, even though it’s more difficult to do than I think it should be.
When I’ve worked hard to develop endurance-distance conditioning it’s difficult to accept that there should be a time set aside to rest before the big day. Instead, I want to push and push and push until I’m at that starting line or else I worry my condition will vanish.
Provided the tapering period is not excessive, that is not true. My body craves recovery from hard efforts so that I will be strong for the next thing that comes its way.
There is only so much that I can do to prepare for this 1200K. I can read up on the ride and know the course layout, control what I pack, but I can’t control what happens to my body at altitude or what the weather will bring. I have to accept that I trained as well as I could and I tapered to rest my body for the big day(s).
Ultimately, many of my jitters stem from the general thrill of attempting a longer ride, as well as the knowledge that distances of this length test me, sometimes in unexpected ways. After diligent preparation, all that’s left is for Felkerino and me to ride our best ride with whatever the event has in store for us.
I can’t wait for the ride to start. It’s the only thing that makes the pre-ride jitters go away.