When my vacation request form was handed back to me last week, I felt a little lump in my throat and chills up my spine. It meant that I was going to have the time off to attempt another Bikepacking event. The BC Epic 1000. The BC Epic is an offroad, unofficial, completely self-supported 1000km, 11,600m elevation traverse across South Central BC. It starts in Merritt and ends in Fernie and begins on June 30th, which just happens to be my birthday. Happy Birthday! Here, why don’t you suffer for a few days.
I attempted another such event last year, The Alberta Rockies 700, which I scratched from. I spent months researching the route and the gear I might need. I read other riders stories about the event and other events related to it, like The Tour Divide. I trained by increasing my distances and tried to spend as much time in the saddle as possible. I spent most of the time on the bike riding fully loaded to get a feel for things. I felt somewhat prepared for that event. My fitness was pretty good, but the one aspect I wasn’t prepared for was the mental fortitude required. You can train your ass off and ride thousands of kms leading up to the event, but if you’re not mentally prepared for what’s to come, you’ll get your ass kicked. I had never done such an event, so that side of things was a bit of a mystery and I learned a lot on the AR700. I thought I’d share a couple of things I learned on my first attempt.
Goals and expectations. It’s important to set goals for yourself. To have some construct around what you plan to accomplish day to day gives you a way to measure your success. This sounds pretty straight forward but when the variables are unknown, things can start to crumble. Since I don’t plan to win, or even place in this event, my overall goal is to get to Fernie. That’s it really. Another expectation is that I could probably knock off 200km per day, which I know I can do. The riders that are wining these races are riding well over 300km per day which is something I’m not sure I can do, especially on a fully loaded rig. I may give it a go though. If I can get to Fernie in 5 days I’ll be pretty happy.
Listen to your body. The human body is capable of so much and is extremely resilient. Most of us, including myself, probably have no idea what it is capable of. When we place our bodies under stress, it talks back to us. “My hands hurt a little, I should probably change positions.” “I’m sweating way to much and need to slow down before I dehydrate.” “I’m so hungry I could probably eat that roadkill we just passed.” “I need to rest and cool down.” On one particular training ride, my body decided that it was time to sleep. As I pedalled along, my eyes were drooping and I was loosing focus. I wasn’t so much physically tired but it was a long day with 8 hours (6am – 2pm) of work followed by 10 hours on the bike. My brain had had enough and it figured it would take over and do what was best for me. I had been awake for almost 20 hours after all. I rolled out my mat and snuggled fully clothed under my quilt for an hour or so. When I woke up, I felt pretty good and finished my ride. Listen to your body…
It’s personal. You’ll notice, in the points above, that preparing yourself for these events is personal but you’re going to be riding with others. The BC Epic already has something like 70 people registered which is more than double the attendance of last years event. There are going to be athletes of all fitness levels riding, and it’s best to try to put your ego aside when riding these events. The ego has a tendency to make you push harder than you should, or to ignore what your body is telling you, especially when you watch someone roll away from you effortlessly. This can get you into trouble as trying to match your effort with someone who is more physically prepared than you can adversely effect your day. You ride your race and they will ride theirs.
Keep moving forward. Pretty basic really. Just keep on moving. Ride, eat, sleep, repeat. If you need to get off your rig and walk for a bit, do it. In fact, that task alone can be very beneficial as it allows your body to move in a different way than it has been for the last several hours. Keep moving forward…
I had a lot of these things on mind during my AR700 attempt, but my mind had other plans and eventually I was shattered. I have a lot of physical work to do to get ready, but mostly, I need to work on my mental game. In the end, it’s riding bikes. I have to remember how privileged and lucky I am to be able to head out on these adventures. I am going to get to see this awesome province in a way most haven’t. I get to catch up with all the new friends I have made since becoming involved with the Bikepacking community. I may even get to ride with my friend Katrina for a few hours before I watch her pedal effortlessly into the sunrise as we head east towards Fernie.