My friend, and sufferfest compatriot, Tyler, talks often of the various stages of ultra-marathons including what he calls the Pity Party. This is the part of the race where you start thinking impure thoughts and you begin to doubt your ability to finish. He gets this during 100 mi. ultramarathon trail runs which makes sense since it takes 20+ hrs.
I never thought of it that way but I too suffer the same affliction at some point during pretty much all long events be it a marathon or 100mi mountain bike race. There always seems to be at least one part of the race where I get a small niggle – maybe a muscle that feels slightly more tired than I’d like - and soon it turns into a full-blown meltdown if I can’t get the train back on the rails.
I know the saying is that “misery loves company” but I have found this to be distinctly untrue. I don’t want anyone to attend my pity party. I don’t want the person on the side of the course telling me “you look great” or that “you’re almost there.” I want to be invisible and I want to continue to tell myself there is nothing that can be done. I am part of the saddest story ever told. Once in the spiral it is battle to not keep digging the hole. This has happened to me a million times which is why I always kick myself afterwards because I know exactly what causes it, how to prevent it and how to get out of it. In the moment, the pull of the pity party is so strong that I sometimes forget how to solve it. Usually the party is over when someone hands me a Coke. After three sips a miracle occurs and suddenly I think “I can do this.” Why is it, after experiencing this innumerable times, I always forget that Coke can bring you back from the dead? More importantly, why don’t I just execute the nutrition plan I came up with. Why skip the 30 min snack? It never worked for you in the past, why keep doing it?
This will be the RAAM challenge. Not only will we all be dealing with physical exhaustion from riding hard but also sleep deprivation but for about a week, we will be on an odd food schedule. Having a nutrition plan and sticking to it will be key. While I’ll use some gels, my goal is to eat real food during my off time. Since we are planning to do 20min – 30 min pulls, most of the eating will be off the bike so this should be easier. The critical point will be to stick to it even when my brain says “no.” With an event this long, we can’t afford too many pity parties. I figure by day three, I’ll be on a straight Coke diet so if anyone knows someone there – I need a sponsorship.