“When you’re in the middle of a race and working hard it can be difficult to tell if the bargaining means that you are appropriately adjusting your goal or if it means that you are backing off because you’ve cracked” (Carrie Cheadle)
Carrie Cheadle’s snippet below flashed me back to bargaining at the last 24 hour race, when accumulatively things got tough, the mental negotiations voiced like someone was talking right beside me and at the point of cracking this back and forth battle distracted me on the bike. When your at the hour where its neither night nor morning, sleep deprived, still battling on the bike, at your threshold of pain, gas tank empty, I wonder if there’s a point where you’ve cracked already but just working through it.
When you’re pushing yourself to the limit one of the natural things that happens for many athletes is that you start bargaining with yourself. When you’re in the middle of a race and working hard it can be difficult to tell if the bargaining means that you are appropriately adjusting your goal or if it means that you are backing off because you’ve cracked. It reminds me of a quote by General George S. Patton who also happened to be an Olympic Pentathlete, “Now if you are going to win the battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up.” Sometimes if you can just wait long enough to get through that moment when you want to stop, it can be enough to keep you going. This would have to be a strategy that you’ve practiced and that you’ve committed to before your race. It can be waiting until the next marker and taking a deep breath, it can be singing through a song, it can be visualizing your favorite scene from your favorite comedy in detail … anything to get you to hold on for a moment instead of immediately feeding into the desire to stop. The moment when you start to crack, if you can commit to doing something else first, and then deciding if you can keep going, sometimes it can get you through that moment– or prolong it just a bit.
Doing something else to get through a rough patch in shorter races is one thing, having to revisit this every hour or lap for 24 hours can be more complicated. When dealing with discomfort over ultra distance pain seems to reach a max where it hurts no more no less, but its the mental drain of the whole situation that seems to be the factor influencing the decision to stop to recharge or stop to quit.
Canmore 24hr in July I had bad feet from lap4, a bit early to be figuring just how your going to finish a race, slightly stressed it took a good few laps to figure a plan and get the mind back in control. The body is tough but its as strong as the mind makes it, without the mental direction the body is like a 4 year old that wants to stop at the slightest inconvenience. At this point I find myself splitting into 2 persons, the 44 year old that wants to win and the 4 year old that’s actually riding and wanting to stop.
Follow a 24solo guy in all sorts of trouble you could observe a neurotic individual that one might think has lost his shit, talking to oneself, moving awkwardly, communicably unresponsive and if observed closely you might see what it looks like when a person is battling itself.
So what do you do with a 4 year old ? From parental experience you give it small digestible tasks to get through at a time, so I set out on a kai-zen approach building laps increments at a time. Mentally taking over what your doing, strategising where to coast on course, where to work, figuring alternative lines and where to grab pain relief stamps authority over the situation, keeping the mind engaged and in control directing the body to move and how. Before long this focus of minimizing damage, managing discomfort, shifting positions, adjusting movements, telling yourself to shutup at the same marker on course become routine and part of the norm.
Reaching this point a refocus on racing is a reinforcement that the mind is running the show, it can bring you back to life, back in the chase and arm you with a new lease of strength, urgency and determination. This is the beauty of 24hr racing, you may undergo a slump for a few hours, reach rock bottom, but there is time to soul search, regroup and come out the otherside still battling like a warrior.
24hr racing is not for everyone, but for an event to force one to reach a state of primal survival, to persevere and overcome challenge is synonymous to life and wish everyone could experience this.
Cracking is an option if you let it happen, its not compulsory, our bodies are tough but our minds are tougher.
“Your tougher than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can.” – Ken Chlouber, Leadville 100 Race Director