It doesn’t get easier, you get stronger.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson
This post containS potential spelling and grammar errors – it’s imperfect like life. I was contacted by email the other day by someone inquiring about the level of preparation required for an event like The Crusher. I started putting my thoughts to paper and it turned into a fairly comprehensive outline. I’m not one to miss an opportunity to share information to potentially motivate, inspire, or nudge someone outside their comfort zone – so here we are. I’m going to leave the body of content below untouched, and add a couple additional things here.
You can’t be your best for others if you don’t share your best with yourself. Let that sink in. What I’m telling you is – being your best takes practice, daily practice. Some of that practice will be uncomfortable, and you’ll have days you don’t want to do it… you need to practice doing things when most other people would take the day off. I’m not saying over-train, I’m simply stating a fact – you’ll have days that your best is less than 100%, but you still need to give every ounce of it. I believe everyone should create systems that fit them and help create positive habits, accountability, and discipline. If you’re in a position to do it, work with a trainer. If you can’t afford it, or you prefer managing yourself – use online and virtual tools. I feel strongly many people would benefit from working with a mentor/trainer. Why? Because we all reach natural set points that no one but someone else can shake us out of, and mentors help us grow while educating and pushing us farther. If we’re honest with ourselves, there’s probably money we waste on a monthly basis that could be leverage to pay for a trainer. Other people might need to admit they stay away from working with a trainer simply due to the fact it’s easier and more comfortable – and that ok I guess, but it’ll only change you to a point. I’ve worked with Rob Lee since November of 2019 and the relationship has been nothing short of life-changing. I could have maybe done it without him, but I would not have, and that’s the key. Find someone you trust, ask them to help you.
I guess that’s about it. Except, I should say this. I will acknowledge certain products I use throughout the post that follows. I’m not sponsored by anyone. My feedback is genuine – not manufactured. I think it’s important to share that, because nowadays it seems like everyone is pushing something for someone. 100% of what I share is intended for the reader, in the hopes one thing might help you. Enjoy.
Mental (Resilience, Durability, Grit)
Targeted daily workouts focused on aerobic endurance. Training load averages 7-14 hour-per-week, generally building over a four-week period from lower volume (lower hours) to higher volume (more hours) before transitioning to a rest week, and starting the process over. After initially establishing your base fitness through weeks of low-effort aerobic rides, you slowly transition to incorporating increasing levels and intensities to develop tempo, steady state, and anaerobic capacity. Long rides are always reserved for the weekend, building from a couple hours on a Saturday up to an eight-hour training ride prior to the event.
I think it’s important to note following a plan impacts your life in a variety of positive ways beyond improved fitness. It helps you develop discipline, resilience, durability, and ultimately confidence (and accountability). I think people would be amazed just how much can be learned about their body, and themself when they commit to the process. You spend many hours alone, on the bike, with nothing but you and your thoughts. My daily and weekly rides are as much a meditative experience as they are a physical training activity. I highly suggest training without earbuds and other electronic devices – allow yourself to reconnect with yourself and the world around you.
I’ll talk about gear under equipment – but this is worth noting: In the month leading up to the Crusher every training session was completed “fully-loaded”. I refer to this as “the shakedown”. You gotta learn what the bike feels like with 20-40 lbs. of gear and water on it. Hint: It’s harder, and the bike will handle much differently. Training should always be performed under the same conditions you plan to compete. Embracing this habit will ensure you see the finish line and finish what you started.
Good news for those who don’t want to train or feel like they don’t have the time. By simply committing to riding your bike on a regular basis your health and fitness is guaranteed to improve. I have watched many “trained” athletes quit or fail, while lunch-pail athletes ride through the night and into the finish chute.
The mind-body connection is undeniable. Strong bodies fail all the time as a result of a weak mind. You must commit to doing hard things to prepare for hard times. No shortcuts. As a training plan ramps delivering incrementally more difficult workouts – your mind adapts too. At times it’s almost imperceptible, but it’s happening. Over days, weeks, and months you become capable of going longer, faster, harder, in less time. For those choosing to follow a plan and capture workouts on training tools (Garmin, Wahoo) tangible evidence can be produce to show physical improvements in things like power and aerobic fitness (determined by heart rate). Indoor or outdoor training is adequate but I am an advocate for training outdoors when preparing for events such as the Crusher or Marji Gesick. You need real-world conditions. Bike trainers are great but they will never be able to simulate a 20mph headwind, rain, snow, or the physical demands of an enhanced course. The mind is constantly adapting to the conditions and demands we place on it. Get lazy and comfortable? Lose your edge. I love events like Crusher because we literally tell people: You are on your own. No one is out there to save you. This is a self-supported event. In an emergency, dial 911. It forces people to adapt, and they do! It’s incredible.
You can do everything right up to this point, and still come up short if you don’t know how to use your equipment and train with it prior to the event. For the Crusher you’ll need stuff like a water filter, capacity to carry more water than most other events, a lot of food, multiple tools, emergency equipment, bike computers, lights, and tracking beacons. You need to learn how to pack the bike, where to pack heavier items, and where to put the stuff you’ll need frequently throughout the ride – then you need to go ride and see how it works. Perform a shakedown, figure out what works and what doesn’t, go back to the drawing board. I rode fully-loaded for thirty-days leading up to the event. I prepared my mind and body for the added load, and in the process memorized exactly where everything was in my kit. Automating as much of your routine is critical if you know you’re going to experience periods of sleep deprivation. I can tell you first hand – your mind doesn’t work the same 20-hours into an event at 3:00am. Practicing this will ensure when the time comes – you’ll be able to execute what needs to happen efficiently without having to think about it. Practice filtering water. Use your tracking beacon on training rides, have your spouse or family make sure it works on their end. Please make sure you know how to use your bike computer (the thing that tells you where to go!). For me, this is the fun part. Embrace it.
Everything comes together with a plan. You’ve been training. You are physically and mentally stronger. You’re trained with gear, learned how to use your gear, and shook things down on a regular basis in order to develop on-the-bike habits to help you get to the finish line. Now you need to make sure you’re testing it under real-world conditions. I talked earlier about training outdoors – make sure a majority if not all of your training happens outside (ideally). Next step: Ride at night. Ride in the rain. Ride when it’s windy (real wind, like20+ mph). Are you going to stay home on race day if it rains? No. So train in it. I highly recommend training at night – it’s a whole new world out there when the sun goes down. Learn what a 20 mph headwind feels like (hint: not good!). Experience all the things to be fully prepared come race day.
Lastly. After investing all this time into getting ready, don’t be one of those people who start making all sorts of last minute changes to gear and strategy. That’s what you spent the last several months doing. Come race week everything should be dialed and ready. Clean the bike, pack it, and get your rest. The last thing you want to do is buy gear you haven’t tested, make major changes to your bike setup etc.
Enjoy the adventure. Tell people about it. Inspire others to join you.
Specific gear notes
My on-the-bike nutrition consists of ERG Energy Bars, Carbo Rocket Half Evil 333, complimented by a variety of jerky, chips, and candies.
Carbo Rocket note: This is a product that has completely changed my game, and when I don’t have it I can feel the difference. Highly recommend.
Hydration was handled by an Orange Mud Gear Vest 2.0 (3-liters). I did not carry any water on the bike.
Water filtration system was the Sawyer squeeze water filter. It was fast and efficient.
All of my bike packs come from Cedaero.
Wheels from Velocity USA, tires from Teravail (Cumberland 2.6”).
The bike: Bearclaw Beaux Jaxon Dropbar gravel bike.
Garmin 1030 for navigation.
Personal Beacon – InReach Mini. Phenomenal device. Real-time tracking. Text through satellites. Loved it. Thank you, Dave.