Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The meditative state of mind during 100 mile bike racing: W101

Best number plate ever!

On Friday, a guy at work started quizzing me on the mental state of someone who chooses to race 100 miles on a mountain bike. The guy is really smart, and was genuinely intrigued by the state of the mind during such a processes. He asked me if it was meditative. I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer him. It’s certainly not meditative in the sense that you are breathing slowly, deeply and relaxed, I replied. He then asked me if I could perform my everyday mental work tasks as soon as I got off my bike. I hesitantly said yes (not really sure what the right answer was), and with that he said, well it’s not meditative then.

So there I am 5 or 6 hours into the Wilderness 101, the hours whittling away as I thought about nothing more than my smooth pedal stroke and nutritional intake, thought after thought. As soon as my mind drifted towards anything less primitive than pedaling and drinking (like work or life in general), my meditative state repelled it quickly, and brought me right back to thinking about the job at task, smooth pedal stroke, take a drink. Could I perform a mental task if I jumped off my bike at that minute? Most certainly not!
Bike meditation. Photo: Scott Knouse
OK OK, so for the whole 100 miles, the mind is not in such a meditative state. The W101 starts with a fast uphill climb for a couple of miles, where people are scrambling for position, the legs start whimpering and the mind says stop this nonsense at 7am on a Saturday. There is a danger of pushing too hard, and paying for it later, so I started conservatively and judged how my legs felt. I could see Cheryl, 50 feet ahead of me at the crest of the climb. Do I push hard to catch her train, or sit up and wait for Rich and Tim to come by? I chose the latter, but panicked that even they were moving too fast. With hindsight I should have pushed harder as Rich told me he had caught Cheryl soon after. Instead, I jumped on the train from behind, with Kristin Gavin, Karen Potter and Mark Drogalis who were pushing a manageable pace.

I pulled away from Kristin and Karen about 20 miles into the race. I felt it was time, as I knew I was feeling really good. Cathy De Santo was my heroine and fed and cheered me at Aid #2 (and 4!). Eventually I caught Rich and Geronimo at Aid #3.

Sassy Pig and Sassafras trails greeted us with greasy rocks, but my Kenda Klimax and Kozmik lite II tires attached to my Stan’s Race Golds gripped the trails nicely and were the perfect choice for the race. I soon passed Rich, who had eased up for a bit (we’re not so secret about wanting to beat each other, but that’s healthy!), and Erik Scott (owner of the local Bicycle Shop). Poor Erik, everyone wants to beat him (because he is really fit and trains consistently). 

I rode with Erik for a short while, then another local Vanya (who kindly picked up my sunglasses and bottles when I was going through a buttery-fingers moment) before pushing on to finish. I crossed the line in 7.55, 13 minutes slower than last year, but equally happy. Rich also snuck in under the 8-hour mark and was first ‘un-official clydesdale’! Cheryl had indeed gained a minute on me every 10 miles, and finished with a solid win (congrats!). Kristin finished behind me, followed by Brenda and then Karen. I was also so happy to see Richie Rich cross the line, less than 6 months after back surgery.

On my way to the finish. Photo: Roel Fleuren
Women's podium. Photo: Rich Straub
Chris Scott puts on the best events that I race, with good food, beer and equal pay-out for men and women. The W101 is many people’s favorite NUE race, often because it was there first 100-miler. We like to think of it as the original! I have enjoyed seeing all the positive comments of people’s race experiences on FB.

Although I took the “w” at the W101 last year, I enjoyed the race even more this year. There is nothing quite like an injury or illness to make you appreciate what you love doing. All the parts of the race that I normally dread seemed effortless (Greenlee, No Name trail and ‘the tunnel’). Yes, I was probably riding well within myself, and maybe should have been riding harder to catch Cheryl, but I was comfortable in 2nd, riding strong and feeling a sense of zen.

Not all 100 milers gift me with such a sense of well-being and contentment, there are often demons chattering in my ear to quit or stop trying. But for some reason I got lucky this past Saturday. My sense of zen was of course still with me on Monday, and I was sure to report to the guy at work that of course endurance mountain biking induces a meditative state of mind! 

The feeling of contentment is now starting to fade, which means it must almost be time to start planning for the next big race, the NUE New Hampshire 100. I can only hope to feel the way I did last Saturday. Even if I don’t, I will appreciate being back out there doing what I love. A big thanks to all of my sponsors for all of the support.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. Nothing like illness or injury to make you appreciate riding. TOTALLY agree there!