Fear

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. -Frank Herbert “Dune”

Let’s recap. About this time last year I got the crazy notion that I was going to learn how to mountain bike and then compete in one of the toughest, most extreme mountain bike races The Leadville Trail 100. This race is tough for 3 reasons. It is at a high altitude (10,000 ft – 12,600 ft), it is long (103 miles) and it has a lot of climbing (12,000 ft). (Little fun fact. I rode about about 120,000 ft of climbing this year. Leadville would be 10% of that in one ride!) Here is the elevation profile.

OK. Only a completely insane person wouldn’t look at that and shudder. (This is one way I know I am not completely insane, I shudder when I see that profile)

Looking forward to the race I think a little fear is called for. For me I find that for me a little fear is a motivating force. And so it is time for a plan.

I think there are a couple of ways to go about prepping for this race. I could just do what I have been doing as far as riding goes. Ride hard and fast. Try to increase my endurance. Try to get better on climbs. But somehow I think that is not enough. If I look at my past couple of years riding. Well I have plateaued. My speed has been pretty constant. Even this year while I have been riding a lot (its going to be a record year in distance, time on bike, and total climbing).

Nope. I am approaching this thing as a once in a life time kind of event. You see its not really practical for me to think about doing this race a couple of times to get it right. I need to do that on my first try. A friend of mine who has raced Leadville 8 times (and who regularly finished under 9 hours and who is not named Elden BTW) suggested reading a book on training. “The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible” by Joe Freir. I did that. I quickly realized a couple of things.

1. I have never actually trained on a bike. I do what most of us recreational bikers do when we are “training”. Ride too light when riding hard and ride too hard when recovering. I ride without a real sense of what I am trying to accomplish, and so I do not accomplish what is my ultimate goal. Becoming the best biker I can be.

2. I now have enough knowledge about training to be dangerous but probably not enough to be effective. Yeah I could probably be  more purposeful about my training using this book. But learning from a book has its own problems. (See “ouch” where I was practicing the mtb skills I learned from a book.)

And so I made a decision. It is time to get some help. It is time to get a coach.

Team meet Drew Edsall. Drew is a professional mountain biker and coach. Drew has agreed to help me prepare for Leadville over the next year. When I talked with him I think he was intrigued by what I was proposing. This is what I asked for.

I wanted a coach who would work with me develop a training plan for the year and then be a resource as I trained throughout the year. I have two goals for this training program. The first is to finish Leadville. My goal time is 10:19 (Why the weird time? It’s the historic average finish time. I am totally shooting for average here. That seams hard but realistic for me.) The second goal is more along the lines of personal development. I want to learn how to be my own coach. I want to learn how to develop a training plan for myself.

Drew is going to work with me to develop two month training blocks. We are going to talk about how it was developed and why we are doing the things we are doing. My sense is the why/teaching part is as interesting to Drew as the doing part. Perfect!

The nice part of this is I have a plan for what I want to race next year. I am going to race in the Tour of the Battenkill in April. That’s a road race with dirt sections (kind of like a European 1 day classic). The goal there is to have fun. Depending on the weather, the race goes from hard to brutal (good training!) Its a race I will not train specifically for or taper for. Essentially its going to be one of my workouts for the week. My second race is going to be the Wilmington Whiteface 100 again. That race is going to be a dress rehearsal for Leadville. I will work to achieve a performance peak, taper, prepare etc. the same way as I will in Colorado. Can you say measuring stick? The last race is obviously Leadville itself. The goal time there is already stated.

I feel good about this part of the plan. There are going to be sacrifices that I have to make. Its going to mean more time training, especially over the winter. Its going to mean less time riding just to ride. But I am OK with that. I think my family is OK or becoming OK with that as well. (Just the crazy dad going through his midlife crisis. It will pass, hopefully ;))

In the end I am hoping for this: I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Along with a healthy dose of respect for the course (because Leadville will never be easy no matter how prepared you are), a stronger body, new skills and a belt buckle!

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5 thoughts on “Fear

  1. Hey Doug, love to hear that you’re working with a coach. I’ve worked with two coaches so far as well as a nutritionist and love it. My current coach is a pro MTBer as well as roadie, so getting that side of cycling as a roadie only has been interesting.

    I may actually do Tour of Batenkill this year. I didn’t put it on my calendar but depending on how the season’s going by then I may make the trip out there. I have a number of teammates who race it.

    Maybe I’ll see you there!

  2. I went through a similar cycle of fear. Oddly, by the day of the race I was strangely calm. I couldn’t sleep the night before AT ALL, but my mind was calm. I was confident. I had planned and executed a training ride of (what i believed to be) a similar magnitude and I pulled it off in less than 10 hours.

    In retrospect my training ride was simply 50 miles of climbing followed by 50 miles of descending. The numbers (total mileage, total gain, and overall elevation) added up, but the impact was vastly different.

    It gave me a false sense of confidence.

    But during the race I surprised myself and my crew with my rock solid pace. All the way up until I QUIT I was on an 11 hour pace. Solid. I still am not completely sure why I quit. Sheer exhaustion is the likeliest culprit.

    So now I am in the 2013 LV100 via a lottery qualifying slot from the Alpine Odyssey. I’m much more confident I can mitigate all of my mistakes from this past year. Except…

    I’ve applied for, and have been called for an interview for, a job in the East. Back at sea level.

    If…big IF…I get this job all of my training and preparation will be at a few measly dozen feet above sea level. My edge of living at, and training completely above, 5,400′ will be gone.

    So while I am confident I can manage all of my faux pas from my first attempt, the altitude will cast another unknown into the pot. Fear has returned. I will be one of the poor sods I pitied coming from the Midwest and Atlantic coast with little or no acclimatization on race day.

    • Chris good luck with the interview. Hopefully you will find a job that you are happy in.

      The altitude is one thing I am not stressed about right now. There is nothing I can do about it! All I can do is be the strongest most prepared I can. Probably when I get out to Colorado and do some pre race riding of the course that will change. But I can only control what I can.

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