Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trans Iowa V7 Update #15: Mental Toughness Part II and Observations

Mental Toughness Part II and Observations: Last week I saw a few gems in the comment box in reaction to T.I.V7 Update #14: Mental Toughness. Apparently, this is a popular post, as my stats are showing it at the top of the heap for the past week. With those things in mind, I wanted to share the comments here, and add some further observations on my part.

Commentary: Following are the comments left last week. Great thoughts here from some past T.I. Vets, so take these to heart.

"Definitely the mental part is the most important. My riding partner Hellmut and I have been talking about the subconscious part that almost hinders you from making the checkpoints so that you don't have to keep going. We are focusing a lot more on mental strength this time than physical."

T.I. Dinosaur Club 

"I believe the most important thing one can do to prepare mentally... 1.) Recognize that at some point you are going to reach a very dark place. and 2.) Decide BEFOREHAND how you are going to react when you get there. If you wait until you get there to decide, you will make the wrong decision. That, and like GT said... keep a level head and remain calm. Good luck to all preparing for TIV7. "

Jim C.

"Yep, stay in the moment. When I get low I look around and say to myself "this is where I wanted to be and what I trained for. I'm here and I'm doing it."

Don't think too far ahead. Think about that next cue on the sheet not how much further it is to the finish.

Yes, it's 90% mental, but you won't get to 100% without that 10% physical and the best way to train for the mental is to train for the physical.

Easier said than done of course."

Matt Maxwell

"All good tips. Here's one that I use. Think about the race every day for about a year. I try to picture myself succeeding, meeting my goals. Accept nothing else."

Tim Ek

Observations: Wow! The wisdom these guys have blows me away. I'll comment on a couple of things that stick out to my mind.
  1. Self Defeatism: Ari brought up something I've heard mentioned by many riders that have lined up at long events like T.I. and failed. They mention many times about how the checkpoint will be a "mercy killing" if they make it too late. Once that thought creeps into your head, you may as well mail it in. Sometimes we do this in our training too. We set a goal, but take a short cut home once we get face to face with the "hurt locker". We don't want to open that door! Obviously, there are several factors that go into a decision to "pull the plug", but this negative thought about missing a time cut off is a mental trap, most times. 
  2. That leads us to Jim C's excellent advice. How will you respond? Decide now, or maybe, on a training ride that gets tough, uncomfortable, or frustrating. Practice working through tough spots. 
  3. Matt Maxwell's advice blew me away. How true! This is where we want to be! Out there riding till we're stupid and farther. It's what you came to do. Then again, (and like I say- this is never easy. No one said it is easy), you've got to be smart too. Don't keep on with an injury, or a developing one, that will kill your riding for a long time. Know when to say when, and come back to ride another day. It is important to know what you are battling. Is it mental or physical? Decide which, and deal with it appropriately.
  4. Matt's next point is one of my favorites. It reminds me of that old riddle: "How does a man eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time." Trans Iowa is the "elephant". Like Matt suggests, don't look at the entire beast. Dissect it into "chewable parts", and enjoy!
  5. Matt makes a final point that is so obvious, it's like a punch to the mid-section. That said, most folks get hung up on the physical, and forget to think while they are training about how they will think in the event. (If that makes any sense!)
  6. Tim Ek is one of my favorite T.I. vets. This advice is pure "Eki". "Never Say Quit". Envision success. Again, like Matt said above, it is training your mind to think through the barriers and accept nothing short of the goal. No getting to checkpoints late to stop the misery. No freaking out, worrying, or fear. Just calmly going out to get what you came for. (Again- it ain't easy, and you'll still be "dealing with your demons", but unless you are prepared, you won't succeed.)
Okay, that's it for this edition of the T.I.V7 update. Stay tuned for more....


Sean said...

I got an email response from Ira Ryan the other day and he told me how Sean Kelly was riding his rollers for 6 hrs a day in his garage to prepare for the Roubaix and reminded me to never underestimate the power of mind numbing training and mental fortitude. I think this is spot on w/all the other good points listed above in the post. Thanks

Ben Welnak said...

Some good stuff here. I think there are some other key points. I have not yet attempted TI; however, have raced 4 24 hour races. I think that when it comes to events like this, some people have it and some don't. Even for those who enter the TI, who have trained the mental side, don't have the full mental toughness required to relax and push through. No amount of roller training will "make" mental toughness, only hone the capacity. Guys like Ek just have it (check out his account of last year's Dirty Kanza). It comes down to embracing the moment, focus on relaxing/breathing and fueling, and just keep the pedals turning. It's really important to not avoid the down times, but minimizing the depth of the down times. When you learn to do this, you've come a long way into understanding these type of things. Great comments from everyone! Keep them coming!

brian said...

I'm rolling into TI7 as a total rookie, I have been cycling less than a year, and besides a few cyclocross races, this will be my first cycling race. I do come at this from an ultra running background however. One of the things I have learned from running 100 miles is to fully commit yourself to finishing. Know with every fiber of your being that you will roll across that finish line. Visualize yourself doing it. Stay flexible with your goals and know that there will be several bad times. The old ultra running quip is "it never always gets worse". The experience of powering through dark spots to emerge renewed is eye opening. The mind and body are capable of amazing feats and numbers like 320 are arbitrary when you know that you can dig deep and keep things rolling. 90% mental, 10% physical but both are only possible with vigilant intake of calories and hydration. Ambition, confidence and spirit can dry up fast if without fuel. Being self supported, it is going to be supremely important to have a system of easy eating while in the saddle. I have spent way more time tending to my hydration and food carrying systems than I have to gearing or tire selection. So, if anyone is interested in a rookies perspective, there is my 2 cents

Ari said...

I have developed Chilblains from riding all winter and having moist, cold feet. I will continue on and work through it. Keep your feet warm and DRY.

Ari said...

Brian I can't wait to ride with you in April.
Sycamore, IL
Slender Fungus Cycling Assoc.

MG said...

Yeah, Brian, for a TI rookie, you have a very seasoned perspective. I'll admit that I haven't given a second thought to what gearing I'm gonna use, b/c the gearing I used in TIv.5 and 6 worked well. Better to focus on important things... Like sustenance and commitment to purpose.

I can't wait for this year's event. It's gonna be a great one.

Paul said...

It is all about commitment. I believe to be successful in Trans Iowa you have to have near perfect weather, months of training, years of experience and the willingness to be on the bike for 30 hours straight with very minimal time off. The hardest part of Trans Iowa for the average Joe are the cutoff's at the checkpoints. The distance is doable by a lot of the participants, but the pace that is required to make the cut offs is very difficult. You have to be relatively fast and have tremendous endurance. I was never a believer in luck until I finished Trans Iowa.

When I started my fourth TI during version five and we had a perfect forecast I knew that I had to finish. I had to finish. Let's hope this year is another great year.