Before I go any further I want to reiterate that there are only 2 weeks left. 2 weeks is how long it takes to become heat acclimated. If you haven't started already then you run the risk of getting behind the curve. I started this past weekend and was out again today when the mercury peaked in the mid 30's (Celsius). Heat acclimation is easy when it's hot—just ride during the hottest part of the day. If you're in the northern hemisphere that becomes a challenge. I've heard people suggest you use you indoor trainer without a cooling fan or hang out in a sauna. I don't know what works in the absence of the real thing.
Some info you might find helpful
I imagine that many of you, like me, are fiddling with your bikes, weighing your kit and figuring out what to take and what goes where. I've already set up my weather app to check the weather at the various race villages so that I can prepare kit that best matches the predicted weather. Now I wait for the date to roll forward enough that the 10 day forecast reveals what might lay ahead. I'm probably going to check it a few times every day even though I know it's hopelessly unreliable until a few days out.
With training almost wrapped up and final kit choices on hold is there anything you can do to improve your race outcome? Over the years I've found myself staring down the barrel of failure because of silly mistakes. Silly in that they were entirely avoidable. They were mistakes that most people would never make. But most people never experience the levels of exhaustion and sleep deprivation that we do. Our faculties get clouded whether we are aware of it or not.
Think through the likely challenges that you will face or even previous experiences that you have had that didn't go like clockwork. Decide now how you would like to respond or, in the case of previous hiccups, how you should have responded and determine that this is what you will do when you're not firing on all cylinders.
I have developed habits that have become automatic responses no matter what my state of mind. The most important of these is my water bottles. I left Sutherland one year without water and had to get to the Tankwa Lodge before I could remedy the blunder. It's not a mistake I want to repeat. Now when I get to a race village or support station the first thing I do is fill my water bottles and put them back on my bike. Only once that is done do I go in search of food.
Likewise, when you take off your helmet, gloves, glasses and other paraphernalia do so methodically. In the early days of endurance racing I was an organisational mess. I'd get to a support station and explode. My equipment and clothing was spread over whatever space was available. Gathering my stuff together and repacking it became a chore where it was all too easy for something to go astray. In later years I added stuff bags and categorised my clothing and equipment. That contained my mess. In the last few events I have gone with very little kit and less kit means less mess. I also make sure I have a routine. Gloves, buff, glasses, and earphones go in my helmet and my helmet gets hung over my handlebars. The trick is to put your stuff in a non-shared uncluttered space. If it's empty when you arrive then it must be empty when you leave. That way nothing gets left behind.
If you put your phone or batteries on charge away from the rest of your stuff make sure you leave a vital piece of equipment with them so you can't leave without noticing. For me it's my helmet.
I take a picture of the sign in sheets when I arrive and leave a race village. Apart from a digital record of my in and out times it's a habit that ensures I sign the sheets and leave with my phone.
If I'm going to sleep I always use a countdown timer instead of a time of day alarm. It's too easy to get your PM's and AM's mixed up not to mention 12 and 24 hour times. If I want to sleep the last thing I want to do is think. Thinking is a stimulant. I set my phone on a 90 minute countdown before the race and simply activate it when I'm ready to nod off.
These are some of my race habits and may not be applicable to you. Figure out what your challenges are for easy transitions and develop routines to suit.
Lastly for this post I want to urge you to be presumptuous. Stop with the 'if's' and 'I'll see's'. I hear it over and over-if I get to Sutherland. That's negative programming. Change that to when I get to Sutherland. The other phrase I hear is along the lines of 'I'll see how I feel when I get to Van der Kloof to decide if I stay or go.' Obviously if you are really shattered it makes sense to regroup. And it's probably our individual assessments of what shattered feels like that is the problem. I know I am not stopping at Van der Kloof. I also know that when I get there I'm going to be wrecked. I don't allow myself the space to choose the soft option. For what it's worth, we all feel completely drained when we get to Van der Kloof. It doesn't matter if you are first or last- it's hard. The front guys and gals just suck it up and get on with the job.
In the next post we will have a closer look at power nap techniques and the virtue of cowardice.