On June 25th, Lincoln Steward will attempt to bike almost all of the D&L Trail’s 165 miles from Bristol to Glen Summit AND BACK in one continuous ride. Each week until June 25th, we will publish a post or two on Lincoln, what inspired him to take this challenge and how he is preparing for this epic ride. After June 25th, he will fill us in on the result of his ride. Stay tuned!
Training – Physical and Mental
How do you prepare for something like this? The simplest answer is RIDE. A LOT. Of course there’s much more to it than just that, but this is where it starts. So far this year, I’ve pedaled close to 5,000 miles. It’s not just the number of miles that matter, but how those miles get accumulated. If I were planning a century ride (100 miles), I could not prepare for that by just riding 10 miles a day. My body would recognize 10 miles as a type of limit, and I would probably only make it 15 or 20 miles into that ride before physically being unable to continue.
Early in the year, as early as January, I began training by riding 20-30 miles on each ride, and have gradually been ramping that number up. I have completed several 100+ mile rides so far this year, the longest being about 140 miles. I hope to complete at least one 200 mile single ride in the weeks leading up to my departure. My rides have taken me along the entire length of the D&L Trail, as shorter segments, so that I am aware of the trail conditions. Right now the trail seems to have been maintained well, and is in superb shape.
Although the D&L Trail is relatively flat, I’ve found that one of the best training techniques is to ride hills. After forcing myself to crank up steep grades and cover a lot of vertical elevation, getting back on a flat trail feels easy in comparison. It’s like the bike is riding itself, and I’m just a passenger.
Training on terrain more technically difficult than I will encounter on the D&L Trail will make this ride much easier and more enjoyable, so I have also gotten in several mountain bike rides. If I encounter any hazards along the trail during my big adventure, it will pale in comparison since I have prepared myself by riding on rough, rocky, trails with tree roots, water crossings, and steep climbs and descents.
Weather conditions can also be a factor on a ride such as the one I have planned. It could possibly rain, be very windy, or be colder than expected on the day of the big event. Taking this into consideration, I have been trying to make myself get on my bike every single day, regardless of the conditions. Remember all that snow we got from that blizzard we had back in January? I was on my bike every day that week. And those horribly cold windy days in March and April? I pedaled through those as well. Since I have forced myself to ride through the worst of conditions in Winter and early Spring, even the worst climate that summer can offer should be no different than any other day on the bike.
I’ve also learned to rely on my Garmin to gauge how well my training is going. As I mentioned in the “My Bike and Related Gear” write-up, this electronic device is not just a GPS, but it offers a wealth of data that I can analyze during a ride. I can see exactly how fast I am moving (speed), at what rate of pedal spin (cadence), how fast my heart is beating, and the slope (grade) of the terrain on which I am riding. By comparing this data to the rate and depth of my breathing, I am able to achieve a perfect balance between my legs, heart, and lungs. This helps assure that my body is working efficiently, without burning myself out.
There is also a large mental game being played on longer rides such as the one I am planning. There are times when my body may not be operating optimally, and the thoughts in my head can make me want to stop and go home. It is imperative to maintain a confident attitude, and know that I have the ability to continue on.
A mechanical failure of my equipment may also put a damper on things. I find it extremely important to put a positive spin on any circumstances that may arise. If I get a flat tire, I try not to whine about it, but be happy that I have the knowledge and tools to fix it quickly and continue on. The same goes with weather conditions. If the climate changes for the worse, I am glad that I have prepared by carrying the proper gear to maintain my personal comfort in any situation.
Riding with other people also helps with the mental aspect of training. When riding alone, it can be too easy for my mind to slip into that “dark place” where I don’t think I have the ability to complete the goal at hand. There is a sense of camaraderie that comes with cycling in a group, even if it is only two people together. Having another person to talk to can be enough to keep my mind positive.
While I am training my mind and body to operate to the fullest of their potential, it is also important to not “over-train,” and realize when my negative thoughts are telling me that I am doing more harm than good. It is quite the balancing act, that can only be achieved through experience.