What do you think about?

“What do you think about during all that time you are out there … pedaling”, a team mate asked me after one of my most successful 24 hour races in which I covered 311 miles. This is a question that I am asked the most. The process usually goes like …

  1. The subject comes up and information given in the form of how far and in how many hours on which kind of terrain.
  2. The person post a puzzled look while their brain starts to crunch the numbers. A follow up question is then required … “How many miles and how long?”
  3. I repeat the figures, this particular time I say, “311 miles in 25 or so hours on pitchy climb-y rock garden strewn trails.”
  4. More puzzled looks as the extra processing starts to overheat the brain. This is about the time when a certain glaze of overload appears in their eyes. Then all they can come up with is, “Holy [insert some profanity] what the [more possible profanity depending upon the person] do you think about all that time?”

So I figured I would write a post about last nights training ride, what I thought about, and what I can remember thinking about two weeks ago during that race.  I found a new place to do my hill intervals and I swear it is the hardest pitch to climb in town. It is the hidden trail, so named at the East Missoula trail head. It goes up pretty steeply then after a switchback it get aggressive. So aggressive that you must perch on the tip of your saddle and grind out in extreme agony until the HRM beeps and the interval is complete … around 9 minutes. No way to keep it HR zone 4. More like 5. Ouch!

“Am I overdoing it”, was my initial thought as I suffered into zone 4 for the first time in 2 weeks. It hurt a lot.

“When will I blow up?”, I thought as a flat cause me to go into catch up panic mode two weeks ago. I spent much of the initial laps doing complex math calculations. HR zone 5 for 3 laps plus HR zone 4 for another 2 equals death by dusk.

After the initial interval I descended back into East Missoula noticing some Friday evening parties in the back yards that bordered Jumbo Mountain. I turned at the base of the trail and rested a bit for my next effort. I had serious doubts that I could do 5 of these climbs. After a bit I sprinted back out of the valley.

“Is it me, do I suck, am I fat, what gives”, was pretty much the chant on interval 2.

Going back 2 weeks after the initial laps I was thinking, “Wonder what Jill is doing today and more importantly is she reading Normans updates”.  (Insert a visual image of my friends smile as she sees that I am about 35 minutes into the lead). Yep that is about what I was thinking mostly. How I wanted to impress my friends and also feeling a sort of connection through Norman’s updates.

The second interval finished was sooner then I thought. After the first I envisioned a 3 week pain battle but after a mere 9 minutes I was happy to turn around and let gravity take over. I ripped downwards back to the valley floor.

“Hmmm, wonder what I should do this weekend”, I thought as I endured interval 3 seemingly consuming the worlds oxygen supply in a mere 9 minutes. I went over numerous scenarios of how the weekend should progress.

Back two weeks prior my thought process slowed to absolutely no thoughts at all. In fact I sat back and enjoyed slide shows and movies (memories) of past times. Topping the playlist mostly was the adventures of Bill and Marcy. All night I was on cruise control with maybe 1 single thought making its way to my brain which was, “this lap don’t forget to pick up the Marcy tribute”.

My third interval was tough, even tougher then the previous. And rightly so because that is what intervals do. They get harder.

“Wow, I am doing it, maybe I am not so bad, MAYBE I WILL make is through 5 intervals”, I thought as I almost lost my balance due to my impressive speed of 2 mph on the steepest section. My heart rate was maxing out.

“Everyone will be so freaked out … so impressed … so inspired. I think I will finish this race without succumbing to death after all”, I thought as morning drew near and the skies started to show signs of illumination.  From those initial thoughts my brain is usually flooded with inspirational stuff, mantras, and self-back-patting. Self encouragement complete with imaginary sideline cheerleaders (mostly Swedish blonds) is the usual fair.

The forth interval was a combination of hitting the wall buffered with a “light at the end of the tunnel” embodiment.

“Just one more to go … this is going to be so great … when this is done I am going to the bridge to celebrate … almost there … be brave be … holy [insert profanity] this is ….”, I think is how it went as black spots started to overlay my visual sight of the trail just a mere 4 feet below my nose. I dreamed of falling over and dying and how comforting that would be. Also I wondered how [insert another profanity] long this damn interval was going to take. Maybe my GPS bike computer was broke. I tapped on the glass a few times.

“OK … my story will be that I just don’t remember what happened, no … a bear attacked me and I had to hide”, I thought as the race entered into its final hours two weekends ago. I needed to come up with a excuse. A excuse to stop. All the joys of the morning “happy cheers” wore off and the reality of a aftermath of fighting my own biology started to show its ugly face. My body was a shell and the only thing keeping me going were the internal battles in my mind. Mostly, “I cant go on but first I have to rationalize why, no I cant, where am I … WHAT THE [to tired to come up with a profanity] AM I DOING THIS FOR?”

The fifth lap is so trivial because I had to climb out of the valley one more time to go home anyway. But that doesn’t mean it was not tough. It was, but once on top I took my time to check the views and smell the wildflowers.

“I should stop by Ed’s house to see if he wants to do some riding this weekend”, I thought as the last interval came to a conclusion and I skirted Mount Jumbo high above Hellgate Canyon. Most of my thoughts were about how I wished I could spend time with friends this weekend. I miss my friend so much.

“I cant believe I did it. I cant wait to see my team mates faces at the finish line, Normans face, the faces at the finish line. I cant wait to see the joy in their eyes. THIS is why I am doing this.”

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