The taper has begun.
We are ten days away from the biggest race I’ve ever done.
Bigger than a marathon. Bigger than an enduro. Bigger than any of that.
I know I can do a six to eight hour day on the bike.
But can I do that six days in a row?
In my training to date, I’ve done three back-to-back days of four to five hours, and in doing so, have found myself exhausted, frustrated, demoralized, and anxious. I’m not the strongest I’ve ever been, but my endurance is probably the best it’s ever been.
I’ve been obsessing over electrolyte mixes, recovery protein and carbohydrate content, calories consumed per hour, water intake, underwear choice, tire choice and tire pressures. I’ve been mucking around with suspension settings, rubber compounds, and seat angles. I’ve tried various sports bras, shirt fabrics, water bladders and packs. I’ve been riding at the hottest times of day. I’ve been riding all the technical uphill trails I often forgo, and then riding them again on tired legs. How fast can I do this? How long can I keep this pace? How far can I push myself?
I’ve avoided high risk trails in the bike park, avoided trying too much at the dirt jumps, avoided sketchy features on trails. After all this training, I don’t want to risk an injury.
At this point, my fitness is what it is.
Now, it’s recovery and maintenance. Building up the reserves. Eat today to fuel tomorrow, only no one tells you how to do this when it’s the same thing again tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and so on.
Now is the time to start shopping. All the extra tubes, tires, brake pads, chains, derailleur hangers, CO2 cartridges, electrolyte tabs, supplements.
Now is the time to sort out food plans. Packing lists.
I’m writing doctor friends, naturopaths, anyone who knows things about infusions to see if I can get my hands on IV tubing and saline bags so my companions and I can run a litre of saline into our veins to speed our recovery efforts each night. Less fluid in the tummy means more room for food.
There are still training rides on the schedule, but they’re meant to be for maintenance. No more building.
It’s been a psychological journey, these past five or six months, and we’re not out of the woods yet.
At this point, I simply want to finish; injury free, with a smile on my face and no worse for wear.
I want to know I couldn’t have done any better.
I want this to be an achievement, a big spike in the memory bank of something difficult and fun and wholly out of my comfort zone, because I know that usually, on the other side of self-inflicted fear, is adrenaline-fuelled bliss.
It is what it is.
But I want it to be everything it can be.