Monday, September 17, 2012

Lessons learned

Okay. The Taste of Carolina 1200k, my "next big thing" is done. I did it - barely. I was the "lanterne rouge" - the final finisher - rolling in bandaged but unbroken, tired but triumphant, on a course that was difficult but surmountable. But I did it.

I learned a few things in the process. Some of those things seem obvious now, in hindsight, but I missed them the first time around. I don't want to miss them again. (Oh yes, I am already looking at the calendar and considering what will be the next big thing. What can I say; this sport has epic physical challenges, adventure, uncertainty, stunning visuals, a really cool cast of characters and makes for a memorable story -I'm hooked.)

But I could do without the unnecessary suffering. So, for future reference and for those whose next big thing is yet to come -whether its a 1200k or something else - here are a few thoughts I have in retrospect. Warning - I did one 1200K and was no model of execution, so take any ideas you get from this with a big grain of salt. (I will.) With that caveat, here goes:

Lesson one: Understand the event. A 1200K is like two rides in one. The first is more like a standard 600K with regard to time constraints and planning. The second 600K is far more forgiving because of the additional time provided. In practical terms, what that means is that during the second half of the ride, the key thing to know when you get to a controle is when the next controle closes. If you know that and how long it will take you to get there then you really know how what time you should leave the current controle. That time may be after the current controle closes. If you are behind in sleep or needing food or believe that having a bit more time NOW is more helpful than having more time at the next controle, that information can be crucial.

Lesson two - Eat early, often and enough. Although I never completely bonked, I found myself burning fat for fuel instead of food. There is a difference. A food fueled ride is a much different experience than the slow burn of a fat fueled ride.

Lesson three - Deal with problems early and definitively. Whether it's a slow leak or a "hot spot" deal with it once and get it right. 

Lesson four - Be here now. The source of this phrase was a Kent Peterson blog that I read (and re-posted) just weeks before the ride. The message struck a chord. If I was riding just to get someplace - to be somewhere else - then  riding a bike was a really poor choice. But if, as I imagined before the ride, I was there for the experience, then I should experience it. Look. Taste. Listen. Smell. Observe. Remember.  We shall never have this moment again. Be it good, bad or indifferent - cherish it. Life is short.

Be here now. 


  1. I review each brevet and look for new lessons I've learned, then add them to a list I've started. These lessons are so hard-won and randonnesia kicks in so soon that I have to do this exercise right away or they're lost.

    Before a "big" brevet I review my list, often finding goodies that I've forgotten. It's painful to learn these twice!

    1. Please feel free to share from your list. Some easy won lessons would be appreciated too!

  2. 1. Correct early pacing is paramount for success on the longer brevets. It's difficult to have the humility needed to let the other riders go on ahead, but usually I'll see them later, and I'll be in good shape.

    2. Lantiseptic, lots of it, right from the start on 400k+ brevets.

    3. Get a flat? Eat. Have to take a ditch nap? Eat. Have to wait for another rider? Eat.

    4. Pickle juice: re-acidifies the gut and cleanses the palate after all those sweet calories.

    5. Hot foot temporary RX: Tums and/or upping hydration.

    6. Silicone ear plugs work great for naps/sleep stops.

    7. Never put anything down; put it in something or on yourself. This simple discipline works great late in a brevet when the haze of fatigue is greatest; my IQ is at ebb tide then!

  3. I like that last one, Nigel. "Be here now." Critical advice. I know that one of my most common mental funks is watching the odometer, wishing I was at the next controle. While this is decidedly better than wishing I was home, in bed, it's not good for my mental health on a long ride.

    Taking a camera and FORCING MYSELF TO TAKE SOME DAMN PICTURES is a good way to stay in the present. I know you do this quite well. Me, I always struggle to motivate myself to stop and take a shot. But those brief stops to admire something strange or beautiful are very beneficial.

    1. "Be here now" got me through some very tough moments. As for the pictures, that part's easy, I just point the camera at whatever catches my eye and shoot. Seeing the strange or beautiful passes the time much more pleasurably than watching the odometer.