It was May and I needed motivation for the summer. Hanging out in the sun on the lake sounded like a blast, but I knew I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I didn’t push towards and accomplish a goal for the season. I had my eye on a few races, but almost all of them fell on dates that I was either going to be attending weddings or traveling out of the area. All except for one- the Pierre’s Hole over at Grand Targhee.
Pierre’s Hole offers several different endurance distances- 50K, 100K, and 100 mile- and this year the course was boasting even more sweet singletrack than ever. I decided to commit to the 100-mile race, which meant that I had to tell everyone and anyone about it so that I actually had some accountability to train for it. The only other mountain bike race I had ever done was the 25-mile Teton Pass Kicker last year. I knew that 100 miles was a stretch and would take a serious training commitment to even finish the ride, never mind to do well in it.
I started off the season feeling strong. I completed the bike fitness program at Wright Training and had been running and spinning all winter. My cardio strength was in good shape. My goal was to get at least 3-4 rides in during the week, including one long-distance ride. Plus, to continue my strength training at Wright Training three times a week. Regardless of how much I ride or run, strength workouts are a necessary component to my training plans because I rely hugely on them mentally for toughness, preparedness, and confidence.
Throughout the summer season I progressed my distance rides incrementally from 25 miles up to 60+ miles. I typically love riding by myself and setting my own pace, but looping Cache-Game and Phillips Ridge gets really old about 30 miles in, and 6+ hour bike rides alone get really, really …wait for it… lonely. Mentally I really struggled with finding motivation when faced with the choice between spending precious summer days having fun in the mountains or on the water with good friends versus spending 8 hours in the saddle by myself eating GU. I also faced the challenge of traveling for a few weeks of Jackson’s short summer and those training gaps had me missing out on some critical long rides. The rides that would have made getting to my goal of riding 80 miles on the trails before the race more realistic.
I returned from a week and a half on the East Coast with three weeks left to train for the race. I headed over to Targhee to ride the course and try to get my 80 miles in. I knew if I could do 80 that I’d be in the clear. The longest ride I had done before was about 62, and getting to 80 was a big leap. Too big. About 40 miles into my ride it was pouring rain and thundering and I was pretty much in tears just thinking about having to ride another 40, or 60 on race day. I wasn’t having fun. AT ALL. And mountain biking should be fun! Being extremely hard headed, stubborn, and self-competitive, my decision to “down-grade” to the 100K race wasn’t an easy one. But once I officially signed up for the 100K I felt a huge weight off my shoulders and, for the first time during training, I felt excitement about the race instead of pure dread.
The race itself was a blast. The trails at Targhee are super fun and still somewhat new to me. Since I had never done a race of that length, I had no idea how I would do and my expectations were low. I had three goals for the race: 1)stay positive, 2) have fun, and 3) finish. I found myself in second place for a majority of the first lap and just behind me was a friendly female racer from Bend, OR. We chatted a little on the uphills and raced each other on the downhills. She passed me on the road climb back to Targhee and I happily took the third place position. Further and further into the race, I was still holding onto third place and still having fun. I had some severe leg cramping about 50 miles in, but upped my water intake, grabbed a Coke and some electrolytes at the next aid station and continued to push. The last lap was a challenge. My lungs were burning and my climbs were slow, but the downhills rejuvenated me and the prospect of being on the podium kept me going. I gave myself a lot of pep talks and held on to the positive attitude that I was going to finish.
I ended up finishing third for the women’s 100K, just 21 seconds behind my second-place Bend friend. I was so psyched. Psyched to be done and on the podium, psyched to not be last, and psyched to see my awesome support crew cheering for me at the end. It made the lonely training days and GU stomach aches all worthwhile, and made my apres-race huckleberry mojito at the Branding Iron taste that much better.
An article about Gu alternatives- if you’re having the same problem: http://www.rockcreekrunner.com/2012/04/27/3-natural-alternatives-to-energy-gel/
I definitely learned some important newbie lessons during my first endurance race training experience. I’m hoping to do Pierre’s again next year and will try to take my own recommendations on how to do a few things differently:
#1: Be realistic about time, commitment, and motivation when choosing a race goal; mock-up a training schedule and determine whether or not you can commit to it based on travel, pre-existing weekend commitments, and personal level of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out- mine is high at all times)
#2: Find someone to train with, even if it is for one or two laps of a three lap training day
#3: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
#4: Take the time to find race-day nutrition that works for your body- I was too overwhelmed by my training mileage to think about finding an effective GU replacement, but I wish I had- my stomach was upset for days after the race
#5: If you’re not having fun, reevaluate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and don’t be afraid to adjust your goals to reality
#6: Find someone to train with- I’m saying this again because I think it is crucial for mental health on long training days
#7: Be kind to yourself and be proud of what your body can accomplish
#8: Incorporate longer road rides into training schedule- I can’t believe I just typed that, but Jackson summers are short and I think road rides are one of the only ways to get enough training miles in for an endurance race
Mental toughness was once again huge for me at Pierre’s. Although I felt shaky going into the race due to perceived under-training, race-day adrenaline kicked in. Confidence in my strength and willpower kept me pushing hard to the finish line!
Now, who wants to do the 100 miler with me next year? I’m on the hunt for training partners!
By: Jenny Wolfrom- Trainer at Wright Training
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