My power has been pretty good this year but losing weight has been a struggle. This means hilly gravel rides are much more difficult that I’d hoped they would be! I love gravel, but felt pretty dejected this weekend after I had to bail on the longer route of my ride because the hills were soul-crushing. I drove home wondering if I should sell my gravel bike.
So…this morning…I’m thinking about all the changes I could do to eat better, maybe drop some weight, fine tune the training…etc. I want to redo this ride next year and crush those damned hills. I’m no quitter! I’ve said this in years past, and made some incremental progress, but have far to go.
Clearly, the pain has faded a bit and I’m looking at the ride through those proverbial rose-colored glasses. I take it this is a pretty normal reaction, otherwise there wouldn’t be people doing Leadville/Unbound/etc. multiple times (and according to my mom, if she remembered how hard it was to give birth she wouldn’t have had the second and third kids!)
Do you think this is a healthy reaction? Perceived failures can be motivational, but they can also be the opposite if taken to the extreme. I have a few more challenging gravel rides in the next few weeks and I’m setting a goal to complete the planned routes even if I have to walk a climb or 3. Any tips on channeling perceived failures/frustration/etc into healthy motivation? Is there a point where one should just say “this ride/etc. isn’t for me?”
Edit: I just wanted to add…I appreciate any advice specific to my scenario, but I hoped for this to be broad enough to bring in others’ perspectives!
I would try and take a wide view of that days ride. What else happened?
Were weather conditions optimal? Were you battling a full-on headwind, was the sun blazing? Could this have impacted your performance?
Did you fuel properly? If this was a big ride, what did the meal the night before look like? Breakfast and the supplies you took with you?
How hard did you set off? Did you pace the early efforts?
All of this and more can turn a challenge into a nightmare. If you’re 100 percent happy with the above, maybe it is time to assess your training. Is it developing you for the type of rides you want to complete?
Personally, I try and put my rides, both good and bad, to one side for a couple of days. Then I can look back with a more objective mindset. If you’re ready to beat yourself up and sell the bike, I’m not sure that’s a good starting point.
To be fair, I only wanted to sell the bike for ~24 hours after the ride
You make great points about the other factors…it was HOT, dinner and sleep the night before were not ideal, etc. I think most of us are in a similar boat trying to optimize that stuff with the additional stress of family, work, etc. This is how (I think) I get comfortable wanting to so better next time.
I appreciate your tips about being more objective…it’s a learning process to even get there I think!
I think also being careful on what your expectations are going into ‘crazy’ rides are is important. What often bothers us (about many things in life) is not so much what actually happened, but rather whether our expectations were met or not. With any really big ride, there are lots of things outside of our direct control that can affect how our day goes, and we should give ourselves some grace when things don’t go as planned. On a hot day being one water bottle short at a critical time can be devastating - we need to be careful not to beat ourselves up too much for stuff like this.
Were the hills ‘soul crushing’ because you truly couldn’t do them, or because they were harder than you thought they ‘should be’, for the kind of shape you ‘should be’ in. (I have been quite hard on myself with various “I should …” thoughts, and benefited greatly from a few counselling sessions deconstructing these.)
Are you dejected because you ‘had to bail’, or because you ‘chose to bail’? I hope this doesn’t come across as harsh, but I think pondering what exactly is bothering could be fruitful.
I think how you have re-framed your upcoming challenging rides to be about persevering and finishing them, rather than ‘crushing’ them (or however you were thinking about them) is a good mental strategy. Being able to deal with ‘unplanned outcomes’ (not failures) is an important part of taking on very difficult challenges.
Also, things like changing body composition are not quick to happen, so some goals might be in the ‘not this year’ category. I can really identify with this as I would like to do another Everesting (and maybe finally do it in under 24 hours), but with my extra 'COVID 19’lbs this is likely not the year for this. This has pushed me to not only think longer term, but also to re-evaluate what a ‘good year’ of cycling looks like when I’ve ‘had to’ scratch my larger goals. We’re having fun doing this, right? (even if some of it is very much type 2 fun.)
I’m going to copy this and save so I can re-read it frequently. So much good info!!
At least in this case, the main hill in question I deemed “soul crushing” because I literally couldn’t ride up it. I plugged the info in bikecalculator.com and it sounded like a 15 min high sweetspot effort…it was way more once I hit the it especially compounded with heat, etc. (sweetspot was HARD). Rather than reflecting on the heat, etc. that made the it harder than it “should have been” at the time, I bailed. Live and learn!
Everybody who does big/hard things has gone through this. I was ready to sell my gravel bike after a terrible race this summer. Turns out 3 weeks after Unbound XL was a dumb time to try to race again. My wife DNF’d a 100 mile run this weekend and was ready to never try again, then back to problem solving.
I think the important thing to recognize is that some days you don’t have it, and that is pretty normal.
Don’t try and overthink things, getting outside your comfort zone makes you think and behave differently. So what if you have to walk up a few hills? Benchmark your time and enjoy the journey, both geographically and physically. It’s smiles per mile. And you will look back at your achievements with a smile and a more grounded experience of what your capable of.
One thing that always makes me tighten the nut on calorie intake is climbing some steep inclines as it crystallises the benefits of a lighter body.
There’s a lot to be said, let’s see if I can put my thoughts into words:
When it comes to workouts, rides and races I like to differentiate between “external” factors and “internal” factors.
Let me explain this with an example: A few months ago I failed a doable threshold workout. It was beginning to storm outside, so last second I opted to do it indoors. Only problem: It had been incredibly hot before it started to rain. So now it was humid and hot indoors. Of course, I overheated and failed. For me this is an external factor: I could not have changed the conditions which led me to fail my workout. And just like I can’t change the weather, I can’t change if someone decided to carelessly drop his bottle on the cycling path which later on leads to me failing an threshold interval because I get a flat.
On the other hand, I’ve failed doable workouts because I was lazy. I procrastinated getting on the bike and then when I finally was on the bike, as soon as it was getting difficult and exhausting, I simply bailed. This is an internal factor for me. Something that’s in my power to prevent happening. So now for my point: I don’t beat myself up over external factors, although I try to minimize them (preparation etc.). What I’m working on is reducing the internal factors and this simply means getting fitter, better at tolerating hard efforts, fine tuning nutrition etc. You get the idea.
But still, and this is probably the most important thing: Whenever I experience failure, I give myself 24 hours to be mad, frustrated and sad or whatever. After this 24h period of self pity, I try to rationally analyze what went wrong and why. After my conclusion, I move ahead. I think this is pretty important. In the long term, the healthier approach is always taking a step back and try again later than to let something become an obsession that eventually eats you up.
I hope this all makes sense, formulating my internal self evaluation system is hard enough as it is, but also english isn’t my native language.
You said it better than I could have and I’m a native English speaker!!!
Thanks so much for this. It makes so much sense to allow yourself to be frustrated or mad, but to look at the root causes objectively before doing anything rash. I think I need to really hone in on my goals, realistic time frames for them, and figuring out what’s actually within my control (or totally outside of it!)
Thanks so much!!
Thank you for your the kind words!
Yeah keep on challenging yourself, but don’t set yourself up for failure.
I hope you will slay your remaining events!