Indoor Training

"It's sad to see anyone inside on the trainer." That was the comment attached to an article about riding outside all winter lo...

Thursday, November 3

Race Ready

The final race of the 24 hour season is fast approaching - 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, held over the end of Daylight saving every year. This year, it also marks the finale of the N24 - the National 24 Hour Mountain Bike Solo series. It's a new series this year, with three races joining forces to host solo riders and award the championship to the most consistant soloists. With Frog Hollow only days away, now comes the time for all races to make sure they are ready - double checking all gear and the plan. Most of these tasks should have been completed before leaving home, but it's always a good reminder. 

Lights - at this point, you have done a few night rides, ensuring that you know how to use your lights and that the position on both helmet and bars is correct. You should also know long the batteries last - nothing worse then getting halfway on a lap and having lights fail. Note on your master plan how long each light lasts and how many laps you'll be ably to get out of it. You can manage lights well on this course - conserving on the climb and then full power for the descent. 

Bike - no last minute maintenance here. All you want to do is make sure position is correct and you've got the spare parts you might need. Brakes, chain, tires - all should have been addressed prior to leaving. A good once over before the race is all you need to do at this point - bump tight everything - and then make any needed adjustments after the preride in terms of tire pressure. Check tire pressures regularly through the night as part of the between laps cleaning and matainance. The course is dusty this year, so cleaning will be important between laps. If you have a spare bike and a solid pit crew, you can alternate bikes and have a cleanish bike every lap. 

Clothes and gear - despite what the weather forecast says, it will be cold at night. I've woken up with frost on the ground at this race before and there have been some nasty rain storms. Make sure you have layers and enough clothes to last 25 hours. If weather does move in, having rain gear, spare gloves, knee warmers and a warm jersey will not be overkill. Not sure what to bring? Pack the closet. Remember, that the first half of the lap is climbing, followed by some fast descending and finally the punchy efforts of hurricane rim. Don't be afraid to bring a jacket with you and put it on at the top of the climb to prevent getting chilled. It's also a good idea to bring a warmer pair of gloves and a dry hat in case of a mechanical that forces you to stop. 

Food - Plenty of water and other liquids. It's hot and dusty during the day and you will need the water for more then just drinking. As far as food, the usual selection of race food, as well as some real food. Rating gels for 25 hours straight doesn't do well on the stomach. Salty, sweet and simple - the best for long racing. Food is the biggest area of personal preference in racing - what works well for one person may not for another. And there will be cravings for the strangest things at 2:00. 

The course is a fun one - and fast, with the fastest men taking about 45 minutes. The first half is a steady double track climb, with a few steep pitches and a couple of short descents. Pace yourself here and don't go too hard on the first climb. Then you turn onto the JEM trail and it's all downhill for a few miles. There's the infamous JEM drop, a series of tight switchbacks carved into cliff to reach the wash below. It's loose this year, with lots of dust. After JEM, there's a long fast swooping descent that is nothing but fun. A wake up call of a rock garden series after you cross the road - ledgy moves both up and down. The descent on this section harder then JEM - line selection has to be smooth to abide flatting. A brief respite of double track and then the Hurricane Rim trail - the hardest section in the race. Slabby rocks, tight moves - all next to a bit of a cliff. That's why you want to be a little more conservative in the first half! Save some energy for the last three miles. Once off the Rim, it's a half a mile of double track climbing back to the transition tent. Sound easy enough? Then keep repeating until the bitter end and good luck! The 2:00 AM demons will be lurking - twice at this race!

Wednesday, October 12

Hunting season

No, I don't mean KOM/QOM hunting season. I mean real hunting - heading out into the woods with a deadly weapon in the hopes of filling the freezer with meat for the winter. In Colorado, archery season kicks off at the end of August and goes through September, depending on the type of animal. Muzzleloader hunting is in the middle of September. And finally, rifle season for big game such as deer and elk started October 1 and depending on where you are, runs through November 20. Why are those dates so important? Because the middle of September through the middle of October is also prime leaf season and fall riding season. Riders from all over are converging on the mountain trails for the final alpine loops and golden singletrack. And most of them aren't thinking about the hunting season or the precautions they should follow to stay safe. That fact became quite clear last year during a late season trip to Salida and Fairplay. We met several groups of hunters, all decked out in their orange. And us? Nothing. I had to scrounge for something bright to wear for my long run.

So what should runners and cyclists do to be safe during hunting season? Hunters are required by CO law to wear at least 500 square inches of blaze orange above the waist, in addition to a hat that can be seen in all directions. And the orange camouflage seen in the sporting goods stores doesn't cut it - it hast to be solid. And as of August, fluorescent pink is also a legal color for hunters - as long as they follow the same rules for the orange. Obviously, every state is different and these are just the CO rules. I would encourage everyone to research what is required in your area or where you plan to travel - some states also require hikers to have some amount of orange on their gear. Think about that - 500 square inches of orange in addition to a hat. That's a lot - and the bright Enduro baggies, helmets and bikes don't always cut it. Runners are even worse - with most clothes being on the sedate side of the color scheme. We need to take a cue from the hunters and make sure that there is something blaze orange in our riding and running gears during hunting season.

Blaze orange and Fluorescent pink - two colors highly recommended for wearing during hunting season.
 Here are some other tips for riding and running during hunting season:
- Know when the hunting seasons are and in what areas. Different areas of the state are open for hunting at different times.
- Be aware of other vehicles in parking areas and at trailheads. If there's an unusually large number for the area, there may be hunters around and you need to be aware.
- Make some noise like talking or using a bell. Sound travels and voices are a good clue that the movement isn't coming from an animal.
- Wear bright clothes. Reds, oranges and yellows are all good choices. If in doubt, getting a blaze orange hat or buff is never a bad idea. Even putting a blaze orange vest over your pack would help
- Along those lines, put away the tans and browns, and the white helmet. A while helmet over brown clothes and the rider having fun on the decent closely mimics a deer running away. If you don't have any other color helmet, tie some florescent flagging to your helmet to add some color.
- Don't forget about your trail dog! Invest in an orange vest for your puppy if you plan on taking him with you during hunting season.
- If possible, avoid riding at dawn or dusk during hunting season. That is prime hunting season and the low light makes it even harder to discern objects. Make sure you have lights if you are going out in the afternoon and might be caught out after dusk.
- Be courteous. While mountain bikers and trail runners have year round access to trails, hunters have small windows in which to pursue their sport and hopefully fill the freezer. And the tags and licenses are usually pricey...
- Check for closures. Some areas close trails during hunting season to ensure safety and provide for a better hunting experience. Make sure that your travel plans and riding plans won't be impacted by any potential closures.

Ready for hunting season? I am now! Same hat as in the prior photo.
Don't let the fear of hunting and hunters keep you inside during the prime leaf peeping and fall riding or running season. Just take some precautions to be visible. Common sense goes a long way in staying safe.

Sunday, August 14

Failure Redefined

In racing, the goals are usually black and white - finish or bust; finish in such a time; finish in such a place. The success of racing - and the emotions that are tied to that success are measured against these concrete goals. So what happens if you come up short? So much time and energy invested in that one day, that one race and the ability to go faster or further. It's easy to view the entire event and the build up leading to the race as a failure based on the final outcome. I didn't reach my goal, therefore I failed. It's the most common reaction.

And most of the time, the wrong one. Yes, the goals weren't met or the race wasn't finished. You fell short of the objective and did not succeed. But not succeeding is different from failure. Any time a race doesn't go as planned, it's important to review the training and preparation for the race as well as performance in the  race. A race becomes a failure if you don't learn from the process building up to the event and then the race itself. A race only becomes a failure if you repeat the same mistakes, expecting a different outcome.

It's not something that's easy to do right after a poor performance or a DNF. This is the hard part - separating yourself from the emotions tied to the event and the performance. But after the emotions of the event have settled - the anger, disappointment, and frustration - it is time to review. In order for the race to not be a failure, you have to learn from the experience and grow as an athlete. You have to be able to objectively analyze the entire event and identify areas where mistakes were made. Here is where a coach is important - it's hard to be analytical when there was so much invested in the event.  Everything about the event has to be reviewed. The training leading into race - finding the balance between intensity and volume - quality and quantity - and still being able to have a life. Race specific training - was there enough training that targeted the complexities of the goal race? The gear and the equipment used for the event - from something as simple as sidewall thickness on a rocky race course to the method of packing for a week long bikepacking gear. The strong areas, the weak links and the eventual break point all need to be addressed.

In the case of the CTR, Judd was feeling great leading into the race.  We'd reviewed bike and gear briefly and he'd done several shorter bikepacking trips of 1-2 nights to practice with his gear. Mentally and physically he was ready to finish this year. Once the race started, he was moving well. The pace was strong and he was on pace to finish and finish under his goal. But when I got up on the fourth day of the race, and his blue dot hadn't moved, I knew something was wrong. It wasn't a catastrophic mechanical, nor a mental breakdown. It wasn't his legs giving out from the hours of pedaling and pushing. It was something as simple as a sunburn. Yes, a sunburn - something neither of us had even thought about while preparing for the race. But this wasn't just any sunburn - but a second degree burn along the top of his shorts, from his shirt riding up under the pack on the long detour around the Lost Creek Wilderness. From what Judd told me, it was a blistered mess on day two, which quickly turned into open sores and an infected mess. Not something you want to head across HWY 50 into the most isolated sections of the Colorado Trail. While scratching wasn't what he wanted to do, it was the only option for him at that point. Continuing on would have had lasting effects that would have impacted his goals for the rest of this year.

The post-race review focused on his gear as that was the weakest link in the CTR attempt. In races like CTR, Arrowhead 135, and the Vapor Trail 125, gear plays just as much a part as the physical and mental training. Carry too little and if things go wrong, then you are in trouble. Carry too much and the pace will be slower, meaning you will be out there longer and will need more gear. With the Vapor Trail 125 coming up quickly, having the right gear - and then training with that gear will be key for a strong finish. We may not have had the outcome that we wanted, but learning from the event will redefine our preparation for races next year. Taking the lessons from the CTR and implementing them for future races will mean that CTR wasn't a failure.

Tuesday, July 19

On Crew

One underestimated area of importance in endurance racing - from 24 hour mountain biking to ultra distance gravel grinding to ultra running - is the crew support. The amount and quality of crew support can make or break a race. If the pit crew is efficient and smooth, the athlete is in and out with minimal time spent not making forward progress. If there is a lack of communication or the crew doesn't know what is going on, then time will be lost. Watching a well practiced pit crew is just like watching NASCAR - it doesn't matter how many people are helping, each person has a task and knows the most efficient way to achieve the goal without getting in the way. But those well oiled, efficient pit crews don't just happen. It takes a lot of work - preparation, communication and practice from both the athlete and the crew.

Preparation - one of the tenants of Thelen Coaching. It goes beyond simply training for an event, but into gear, nutrition and course knowledge. The athlete who is truly prepared for the race will have covered all of those aspects in detail and will usually succeed when things get challenging as compared to an athlete that just trained. Preparation involved studying the course map and elevation profiles, finding out where the checkpoints, drop bags and crew access points are. It's planning the gear for each point, based on estimated race time, time of day, and distance. There's also anticipating the unexpected and "oh shit" moments where the weather turns or it's the second flat tire of the day. It's knowing the line between not having enough and carrying the kitchen sink for an entire 100 miles - and also knowing how to use all the gear being carried. Practicing with gear and clothes and food, but being aware that race day nerves and intensity can mean changes. And that's just the athlete. The crew also needs to be prepared. A solid crew team, with the help of the athlete, will be prepared for any outcome during the race. The extra set of shoes or dry socks after a few too many stream crossings. Spare gear - from a complete change of clothes to a change of packs if needed. Ginger Ale instead of coke to help settle a cranky GI system. The crew needs to have what the athlete has requested - and a few additional options - available and ready to go before the athlete comes into pit.

Communication goes hand in hand with preparation. It doesn't do much good for the athlete to have prepared a plan with split times and needs at each crew point if it's not shared and reviewed. The plan can be as simple as a list of estimated splits and general "to dos" at each crew point, to a detailed spread sheet with estimated splits, miles and elevation between crew points and specific tasks to accomplish at each location.. Having the estimated splits is important - even if they end up being inaccurate - because it provides the crew a timeframe from which to work and when to be ready. The general "to dos" are also important because it provides the framework for the crew to work from - with tasks like changing shoes, cleaning chain, refilling hydration packs. The time to review the plan isn't the morning of the race. It's the day or two days before, when athlete and crew can sit down together, discuss the plan, review the tasks and have the ability to ask questions and offer opinions. Always realize that things may change as the race progresses - the plan is fluid - and be ready for it. And once the race starts, the athlete needs to be ready to let the crew help and follow the plan. Communicate any changes based on GI issues, blisters or moving slower/faster then expected, or if something different is needed for food and allow the crew to take it from there. The best crew teams will be able to read the athlete and anticipate needs.

Practice is the final piece of the puzzle for the smoothest teams. NASCAR pit crews don't get fast sitting around and talking about it. They practice and prepare. While that level of dedication isn't needed at most events, practice always helps. What will the order of operations be when the athlete arrives at the check point? Doing tasks in the same order every time will decrease the likelihood of forgetting something important. What will the athlete need to do prior to arriving at the checkpoint? Even something as simple as unclipping or taking off the pack prior to sitting down will make the entire process run smoothly. Does the crew have a chair ready for the athlete to sit down if needed? There shouldn't be a last minute scramble to get everything organized and out - it should be neatly arranged within the limits of the space allowed by the race. The only items that shouldn't be laid out and ready should be things that need to be kept cold. Otherwise, everything from the plan should be ready. Once the athlete arrives, the crew should be entirely focused on doing what needs to be done based on the plan or check list. If the athlete has a specific request, file it and work it into the order of operations.

One key to having a great crew and being the best support available is understanding that the crew is there to help the athlete. That is the one mission they have to accomplish. Committing to being a crew member for an athlete is a big task - and one not to be taken lightly. It's going to be periods of utter boredom, followed by moments of activity. Socializing among crews is great - its a long day to waiting around - but when the athlete is spotted and comes into pit 100% of the attention needs to be focused on the task at hand. Getting the athlete in and out as smoothly and efficiently as possible. At no point should the athlete be trying to change socks and shoes while sitting in the grass if the crew has chairs available. The athlete shouldn't be trying to eat while digging in the cooler for the fresh bladder for the hydration pack. That is what the crew is there for - what they have prepared for: to anticipate needs, help with tasks and think for the athlete if necessary.

A final note to athletes - make sure that you are nice to your pit crew, or at least apologize in advance and after the race for any snappiness! They have given up a day - or days - to help make the race a success. Acknowledge that and make sure they know you appreciate everything. And thank them for their help - just like with the volunteers, being polite and saying thanks goes a long way. If you have a good team put together, you want to keep it together. The best way to do that is to make your crew feel needed and appreciated, not abused and undervalued.

Wednesday, June 8

Dirty Kanza

The Dirty Kanza 200 Gravel Race -  one of the hardest and most challenging gravel races around. It's one of those races where no matter how hard you train, there is always something that is unexpected - from the unrelenting mud of last year to this year's heat and wind, in addition to mud from an early morning thunder storm. The course changes slightly every year, but riders know they will face river crossing, unrelenting wash-boarded roads, tire-slicing flint and the ever changing Kansas wind. The race starts at 6:00AM Saturday - with the ultimate goal for the fastest riders to beat the sunset. Most just want to finish. Most will not - 1500 started this year and only 559 made it back to Emporia before 3:00AM Sunday. And it is all self-supported, outside of a few checkpoints. Carry what you need for the next five to eight hours - because once you leave the check point, you are on your own. Preparation for this race involves more then just riding - gear selection and knowledge also plays a huge role in success.

I had two athletes taking on the DK200 - Don returning for redemption after a DNF last year and Judd facing the beast for the first time. Just like during Arrowhead 135 and 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, I was checking the updates as frequently as I could. But this wasn't as straight forward as the movements of a blue dot or the consistent lap times in a 24 hour race. There was hours between the three checkpoints, with no way of knowing what was going on. Even if I'd been out there helping as support crew - it would have been the same. Support crew had to take separate roads from the race to ensure self-support. Unless picking up a dropped rider, the only time support could help was at the checkpoints. So I was waiting for the results to pop up, doing the math on average times and when I should anticipate seeing the splits appear. And consistently, they did. I was also watching the official DK feeds so knew that the course was muddy and crazy for the first few hours, then dusty and hot. Very hot. Many athletes were wilting in the heat and I was seeing photos and reading stories of people sitting in the river crossings to try to cool off. I just had to hope that both of my athletes were handling the heat well, staying on top of nutrition and hydration and that they'd paced themselves smartly.

With Don I also had the added worry about factors outside his control - how well his stoker was doing. Yes, Don was the captain of a tandem team. That's how he races for most of these gravel grinders. I knew that his stoker, Brian, was strong, but had no other information. And Judd had just missed two weeks of training with a nasty chest cold. Was he 100% going into the race? Or would the dust aggravate the residual lung issues and cause him to pull up short? Each checkpoint result was a sigh of relief. Even better was watching Don and Brain move up through the tandem class at each checkpoint. Not only were they going to finish, but at the final check point they had landed in podium position! When I checked the results first thing Sunday morning, Judd and Don had both finished. Judd in 18:35 and Don and Brian in 18:54. Success on both counts, with the bonus of a 5th place in the tandem class for Don and Brian. I'm sure as I get race reports and the stories from the dust, the finishes will be even more impressive for both of them. Dirty Kanza is all about finding your limits and the personal challenge of keeping pedaling when things are going great and when things are bleak. Both of my athletes met the challenge head on and succeeded and I couldn't be prouder.

Very hard earned pint glasses!
Photo Don Wood

And bringing home some hardware! Don Wood and Brian Gillies took 5th in the tandem class
Photo Don Wood

Tuesday, April 12

Convenince or Success

As the summer racing season approaches, there are some things that all athletes need to remember while training. The biggest is to train for your course - not for convenience. Sure, it's easy to go out and put in the hours on the local big ride loops. In Colorado Springs, the favored ride is the Fountain loop, a nice 40 mile loop on gently rolling terrain. The chance of head winds are higher then of any significant, sustained climbing and the farm dogs are usually more of a hazard then other vehicles. But are those loops an accurate simulation of the terrain faced on race day? The bike paths around town are nice and flat - perfect for speed and turnover work. How many marathons are actually as flat as the Santa Fe Trail here in Colorado Springs? Not many. Yet every day, hundreds of runners turn to the greenway as the go-to workout and long run training grounds. It's close, convenient and safe. For triathletes, finding open water that is truly open for swimming is a major challenge. Despite Colorado's hotbed status for triathletes, most lakes and reservoirs are closed to swimming or the swimming is limited to a tiny beach area. It's really much more convenient to hit the local masters program and not deal with the logistics of open water.

All of the above are training for convenience, not training specifically for the goal race. For time limited athletes, that can sometimes be the only way to get the training done between work and family responsibilities. But always training for convenience will limit performance on race day. Sometimes, simulating the course is more important then convenience depending on the goals. From the runner who finds that the goal marathon has some bigger then expected hills in the last few miles to the mountain biker faced with miles of hike-a-bike and the triathlete forced to tackle the tricky open water conditions, the unexpected course conditions can both physically and mentally break even the strongest athletes. A great race can be derailed by not knowing and understanding that the specific course entails. The smartest athletes study the course, looking for areas that they can simulate even while training for convenience. That flat marathon with some hills at the end? Get a training partner and do some point to point long runs, ending on the hilliest sections of trail. A race like the Breck 100 where there is going to be some hike-a-bike? Make it a point to practice both pushing and carrying the bike so it's easier on race day.

How can someone train for a destination race or when there is no way to actually get on the course to practice? That question was a lot harder to answer years ago, but now it's easy. There is a wealth of knowledge available online for nearly every race out there - from the official race website to race reports and individual blogs. The official websites have course maps, course profiles and sometimes even turn by turn descriptions. If the race is in a popular riding area like St George or Park City, there are bound to be blogs about the different trails from riders of all levels. Big city marathons always have plenty of third party reports and commentary and even some of the smaller marathons will have runners race reports. Google is the traveling athlete's best friend when it comes to finding information about different events and friends who have done the target event are an even better resource. Doing the research and then trying to match the training toward the goal course when possible will pay dividends. It might take some time upfront, but it will be time well spent.

With all the information out there, there's no excuse for always training for convenience. Train for success, not just convenience. Training for success means giving up some things as it isn't always time-effective. Runners need to balance heading out the door before work with long runs that mimic the target race. Cyclists should balance the trainer time with riding on dirt or in groups with other cyclists. Just how much to balance convenience over success is up to you as the athlete and what your goals are.

Friday, February 19

The Other Side of Racing

It is a different experience observing a race from this side of the screen. I've done many 24 hour races and consider the ultra endurance mountain biking as my favorite style of race. The mental and physical challenges of testing myself against the distance, the terrain and the chances of failure - as well as the opportunity to explore the unknown. Outside of occasional blue dot stalking on Track Leaders, I never paid much attention to events that I was not at. All that has changed the past year as my athletes have taken on races around the country. I've found myself obsessively checking results and following blue dots to make sure that everything is going according to plan. Not that I'd be able to change the outcome sitting at my computer, but I wanted to know.

At Arrowhead 135, it was just watching the dot moving along. I knew Judd was moving slower then he wanted, but also was reading reports from the trail - about how soft the snow was and how hard the riding was. Every extended stop, I was worried that something was wrong. Except at MelGeorges - I knew he'd stop and get some food and such there. Going to bed that night was rough as I didn't know what I'd be waking up to see in the morning. Would the dot have moved or not? And once the dot started moving and I started seeing updates from people out in MN, I knew he would finish. The question was time and if he would be able to set a new best time despite the conditions. We were close - so close. And now have a lot of things to look at before next year. Conditions affect times in snow bike endurance racing like Arrowhead 135 and the Iditarod Trail Invitational but having the best training and preparation can help mitigate some of those effects.

Judd on course at the Arrowhead 135.
Photo BPR member Woody Preacher
And then came 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo in Tucson. I had two athletes racing there, both in the Solo Singlespeed class. Rhino was hoping for a solid showing after a crazy few months with very time limited training due to school, a new job and family responsibilities. Judd was coming off Arrowhead and had one very specific goal. Break the 200 mile barrier, which means 13 laps at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. The most laps he'd ever gotten at 24 OP was 10 - back in 2010. The last two years after finishing Arrowhead, he was also not mentally ready for another hard 24 hour effort. This year was different and he was ready to tackle the 2:00 AM demons head on. We talked about staying consistent with the lap times, needing to be about 1:45 for the majority of the laps in order to reach 13 laps easily. We talked strategies for staying focused and for being efficient in pit to maximize riding vs stationary time. But that was all I would be able to do - the rest was up to him.

Contemplation time as the sun sets - The bikes are ready, is the body and mind?
Photo - Rhino N
At noon on the 13th, the race was on. The race against the desert, the body and the mind. All I could do was hit refresh on the results page and wait for laps to start adding up. Both Rhino and Judd started out steady, but fast. I knew after the adrenaline of the start, they would both settle into a nice pace and I was right. After the first third of the race, Rhino had gotten 4 laps done and had opted to stop for a while. Judd was rolling strong with 5 laps - well on track for his goal of 13. I sent out encouraging texts to both and went to bed, hoping for good news in the morning. Very stressful, knowing that there's so much riding on the next few hours and not knowing what will happen. When I got up for my workout early Sunday morning, Judd was out on lap 10. He'd rolled through the night, nice and constant with his lap times. And that consistency had moved him within range of making it into the top ten of a very competitive field. Rhino also headed back out for a few more laps and finished with a respectable 7 laps, including a few hours nap over night. At the end of the race, Judd met his goal, finishing 13 laps at 12:31, strong enough for 8th place in the Men's Solo Singlespeed class.

Judd on his sunrise lap, still smiling - sort of!
Photo - Damion Alexander, The Damion Alexander Team Tucson
There's a lot that can happen in Ultra-endurance mountain bike racing. The training and the workouts help get you to the starting line and can help break through barriers. But the mental and preparation aspect of 24 Hour racing can be what makes or breaks a race. How do you handle the unexpected stresses both on course and in the pit? What will your response be when the demons start whispering in you ear, telling you it's okay to stop and take a break, rest for a while. Even the fittest athletes can crumble when the demons call if they aren't prepared. It takes a team to succeed, and I'm happy that I was part of the team that helped Judd reach his goal of 200 miles.

Riders out on course at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo - the coming dawn a welcome sign
Photo - Damion Alexander, The Damion Alexander Team Tucson

Wednesday, January 13

Too many minds

Is your mind helping or hurting?
The mind is a powerful advantage - but also the weakest link when it comes to endurance sports. Too many things to think about, outcomes to consider and possibilities to ponder. Instead of turning off the brain, the outcomes overwhelm and you begin to second guess the training, the preparation and the goals. Planning for a variety of outcomes is one thing, but allowing them to overwhelm is a completely different story. Not contemplating the potential pitfalls is one way to handle the influx of information, but not that may lead to less then satisfactory results. So what to do? Build on the knowledge and base you have gained through training to confidently be ready for whatever happens. It calls for being willing to head out in all conditions, knowing that clothing choices are appropriate. It also calls for understanding the course and the the history of the event so you have a baseline for the possible conditions you could face. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with outcomes, use them to train. Understand your equipment and your gear and know the options you have at hand. Show up to your race confident but not cocky. 

Another area where the mind can betray you is during rebuilding after a major race or an injury. Everyone has done this - signed up for a race and then gone and searched the names of competitors. What are their times, have they raced this event before? Do they like chunky technical trails or smooth roads? And then the mental games begin as we begin to compare ourselves and our historical performances with those other competitors. "My marathon time is 20 minutes faster, this should be easy - I've done four 100 mile races to her one". Thoughts like that roll around in your brain, priming you for only one outcome - easily besting the competition. On the flip side, if the times are one you cannot touch,  the negative talk that "I can't keep up or my skills aren't good enough" will color the race before the starting line. Either result - coming to the line anticipating an easy win or expecting to be roundly beaten will affect performance. If that slower runner has been training hard and is tapered for the race, it may not be the easy cruise to the line we built ourselves up to have. If that more skilled rider is struggling and falls off the pace early, we can quickly begin doubting the pace and whether it's a sustainable effort level.

Too many minds. Instead of focusing on what everyone else around you is doing, focus on yourself. Your training, the skill work and the intervals. The long rides and endurance runs that have brought you to the starting line. Turn off the mind, the expectations - both positive and negative - and let the race unfold. History is made in the present.