With the New Year, the world celebrates the passing of 2018 and welcomes 2019. Perhaps no single holiday creates such a unified world-wide celebration. Tonight I also reflect on 2018, and especially look forward to the new challenges of 2019, and especially to RAW 2019 in just 161 days.
Looking back at 2018
2018 was a great year on the bike. I returned to the Tour of the Gila, a 5-day stage race in New Mexico. I did the Gila the first year in 1987, and again in 1991 and 1992. I also completed my first road ultra, the Hoodoo 300, well under my goal time of 20 hours. It was also a huge training year, purposefully preparing for both Gila and Hoodoo with 13572 miles and 29 rides over 100 miles. There is a lot to reflect on, but even more to take forward to 2019.
Forward to 2019
Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.
Completing the RAW is not about the finish, the time, or the place. It is about the journey of self-discovery and the testing of courage and character along the way.
More to Learn, More to Train
RAW will have whole set of new challenges, and opportunities to learn new things, and develop myself in new ways. In enjoy the logistics and planning for the ultra (did you know the McDonalds Parker AZ is open from 5 am to 11 pm?). Multi-day events require a huge amount of planning and preparation beyond the physical training. It really is a team sport, and without the crew, you cannot be successful at it.
Nutrition is also a challenge, and new. I'm still learning, developing, and testing what will be the nutritional approach to RAW. I am convinced that the essential element is recognizing that performance and recovery are merged into a single continuous process in the multi day ultra. During sustained under-threshold activity, our muscles use several replenishable reservoirs of fuel, glycogen in our liver and muscles, triacylglycerol in our muscles, and finally the fat in our adipose tissues. Traditional endurance nutrition focuses on replenishing glycogen with high carbohydrate energy foods. More recently, Keto has discovered the weight loss benefits of low carbohydrate diets that adapt the body to derive energy from fat and encourage lipolysis (the conversion of fat in the adipose tissues to energy). Carbohydrates are avoided as they promote the release of insulin that in turn inhibits lipolysis.
I'm convinced the key to ultra-nutrition is to feed all the replenishable energy stores with a mix of simple and complex carbohydrate, and fat in the form of medium and long chain triglycerides (MCTs and LCTs). It's a blend of aspects of Keto and traditional high-carbohydrate feeding. LCTs are dismissed by most, as they take hours to digest, but remember RAW is a >70 hour event, RAAM over 250 hours). MCTs can be difficult to digest, so I'm adding MCT oil to the oatmeal, and into my homemade keto butter/honey gel. So far, my stomach seems to tolerate the MCT pretty well. The possibility of inhibiting lipolysis with carbohydrate feeding is not relevant as I am not trying to lose weight. If I am feeding with enough fuel, inhibiting lipolysis is a good thing. I already know that eating more fat on long rides leaves me feeling better longer. Those calories are clearly available to me, or I would be suffering the bonk big time late in the training rides. Ironically, Eddie B. in his classic 1985 book Bicycle Road Racing: Complete Program to Training and Competition stressed the need for real food, even advising riders eat tiny meat and cheese sandwiches in long road races. Now I'm introducing MCTs into the on-bike feed, and reading more research.
I'm often asked why I would want to ride my bike 928 miles non-stop for three days, and ultimately try to ride 3000 miles for 10-12 days. I am convinced that understanding why is an answer everyone must discover for themselves. Many who ask don't really seem to consider the either the answer or the question. I've already heard the common "Oh, that's only 10 mph" response. Perhaps it's just too abstract. I know for me, RAW, and if I ultimately attempt RAAM, will be about the self-discovery. Its about setting audacious goals, planing, preparing, then executing and achieving. The experience will reveal inner truths and character that would not otherwise be exposed for self-inspection. RAW will leave a trail of memories, challenges, special moments and difficult moments. There will be shared experiences with the crew and stories that will be told and retold. We will relate the stories to others, but will never be truly able to share them in the full richness.
As a final thought, consider this. When I was reading the RAW directions, and skipping ahead thinking about RAAM, I found this simple instruction:
My RAW Story, Day 51. 161 days, 2 hours to RAW 2019.
My interest in ultracycling dates back when I first started seriously riding a bike in college in the early 1980s. This is my RAAM story preparing to compete in the Race Across the West in 2020 and RAAM 2021.