So after all the planning is done- it’s time to ride!
I start with 2 key philosophies. First- the longer you go, the more mental it is. Finishing a long ride, whether it’s my (or your) first century or a multi-day challenge, is an exercise in mental fortitude. Athletic talent plays less and less of a role, and the ability to overcome fatigue, doubt, and obstacles- both anticipated and unforeseen- takes over.
Second is “planning and execution”. The planning and training is done. We are ready. Now let’s go out and reap the rewards of all that hard work! Execute the plan. It sounds simple. Keep it that way.
What do you think about as you ride?
Focusing on the road requires far more attention than might be expected. Road debris, potholes, and above all traffic require constant attention through the long hours. Safe driving varies a lot. Many people give adequate clearance (at least 3 feet) and wait patiently to pass. Many don’t- and it only takes 1 to create a scary, dangerous situation. So constant focus is necessary.
Navigating the route, including water and food stops, can occupy a chunk of the time mentally. Even turn by turn directions can be confusing at times. My Garmin also shows the upcoming elevation profile on planned routes, so I can be ready for climbs coming up. Breaking up the ride into mental segments, whether it’s a busy road, a tough climb, or a pot-holed road, is definitely is part of the mental game. Just get through a section and don’t think how far there is to go.
I try to enjoy the scenery when I’m riding somewhere new- which is most of the time on endurance rides- but watching traffic and the road require most of my attention. Plus, I’m listening and watching for any problems with the bike- although those are rare. Long hours of riding inevitably leads the mind to wander. Which is a good thing, to detach from the fatigue and at times- boredom.
What is your daily routine on endurance rides?
Riding across the US, I woke up as early as 330am (to get an early start in the desert), but typically around 6. Get dressed, eat some breakfast- with my Warmshowers host, hotel, or packed food if nothing else was available, and pack the bike. Usually I could do that and be riding within an hour.
Ride all day.
As soon as I reach my stop for the night, I have a definite routine. First is to drink down a bottle of recovery drink (I use Hammer Recoverite). Then plug in electronics to charge- my Garmin bike computer, electronic drivetrain that need charging every few days (depending how hilly the terrain), head and tail lights, phone, etc. A long shower and finding real food for dinner were the next priorities, plus spending time sharing travel and bike stories and talking about the ride with my Warmshowers host and posting on social media. I always pack the bike as much as possible at night, to get moving as soon as possible after waking up. Riding at sunrise is my favorite!
For true ultra-endurance events, sleep becomes a luxury. I haven’t done any ultra races (yet…), but those involve 18-20 hours or more of riding per day. I have no desire to do RAAM- the ultimate endurance event, where athletes sleep only an hour or 2 a night for over a week as they race across America.
What do you eat?
Breakfast was usually oatmeal, pancakes, or cereal at a hotel or Warmshowers host. I try to eat as much as I comfortably can to start the day. Sometimes both breakfast and dinner have to come from convenience and grocery store stops, aiming for food such as dry cereal, sandwiches, maybe juice, granola, and hard boiled eggs. On the bike food consisted of my Clif supplied products- bars, gels, and shot bloks along with energy and electrolyte drink. Riding across the US, I began to crave “real food” through the day, but couldn’t afford long stops. My go to choice was Subway breakfast sandwiches- essentially a sub, but with scrambled eggs. It provided a good 20-30 minute break, and in the US, Subways are, of course, everywhere.
Dinner consisted of whatever carb source was close by. A couple times I had to ride my bike a mile or 2 to dinner- which doesn’t seem like much after 130 or 140 miles but was the last thing I wanted to do. A couple times I downed pasta for 2 or an entire medium size pizza (double what I’d normally eat), then a dozen breadsticks. For the one time in my life, I hoped to find an all you can eat buffet- but never did, although I think I nearly bankrupted a couple of Pizza Huts by the number of salad bar trips I made! I did have a few hamburgers, accompanied with veggies or some other carbohydrate. As much as a beer tasted good after a long day’s ride, I focused on rehydrating and carbs, so only treated myself to a single beer every 4-5 nights. I did enjoy dessert every single night- often 2 or more desserts! No guilt whatsoever! And I’d almost always have a granola bar or other snack in the middle of the night.
Riding across the US, I didn’t feel full for nearly a month . I’d eat and eat, and still feel hungry.
Through the day of riding, I averaged 3-4 convenience store stops per day. I’d fill up on water, energy and/or electrolyte drink, and often a salty snack, usually potato chips. It wasn’t unusual to stop for 10 minutes, down 30-40oz of liquid, fill my water bottles, and eat some potato chips and perhaps a Clif bar before getting back on the bike. On hot days, I’d soak my arm sleeves and neck gaiter in water- the refreshing coolness felt incredible, though it only lasted a few minutes.