Lotoja 2015 is done and over with but its memory lives on! I am so happy with how this event shaped the year for many VQers, both individually and collectively as a VQ group. After reflecting on the event and the lessons learned, I have some good personal and professional take-aways…
Lesson 1: Epic Events Bring Extreme Fitness and an Improved Mindset
An event as challenging as this kept many of the attendees on their toes all year, resulting in all-time highs in fitness levels. Many athletes hit new heights in power and threshold power output. Several told me that they had achieved the best fitness of their lives. This is the most exciting part of Lotoja for me.
Often, the goal is just the target that propels us through a process or down a path. The event itself is magical, but results like improved fitness from a long, hard journey are rewarding and motivating, encouraging better choices and boosting the mindset in the future. Not only is there an increase in physical threshold, there is also an improvement in mental threshold. A lot can go wrong over the course of 12 hours, so the fact that 45 VQers used this event to achieve their fitness goals is wonderful.
Lesson 2: Knowledge is Power
The more information you have about an event, the more you can reduce race-day stress. For this event we really tried to make sure that all the VQers knew everything possible about all aspects of the course, feed zones and training to prepare for the event. We gave them more articles, videos and training advice than they could handle and we re-sent the information in multiple formats to make sure they processed it. Bottom line: I think it worked. Our 45-strong VQ crew was pretty relaxed during the days leading up to the event and I think it ultimately helped them perform at their best on race day. Consider: when facing big challenges, overwhelm yourself with relevant information.
Lesson 3: Quitting is Contagious
During the event, more than our usual share of people dropped out. I am convinced it was because as people dropped out, they were visible to the other riders. We had a feed zone full of “late-day droppers” who figured as long as they were out of the race, they might as well help and support the other riders–a nice gesture and a great reflection of what makes VQers so special. The downside was some of the riders who were still riding, but now very tired or dehydrated, saw that crowd of people that had dropped and decided it was much easier to call it a day when they knew they’d have company. I am not saying they wouldn’t have stopped at that point anyway, but it was ironic how many people decided to stop that ride there and join the others.
The take-away is: ride your own event! When you see others withdraw from an event, realize that what you are seeing is their journey, not yours! And if you do drop out and want to cheer on our VQ team: help them stay in! If they pull off in your presence, encourage them to keep going!
Lesson 4: Luck Matters
Ultra-long events have a huge component of luck. The longer the event, the more opportunity there is for things to go right or wrong. Crashes, hot foot, stomach issues, mechanicals, bugs in your eyes, cramps, hot spots on your body, neck pain, etc. Sometimes the event can become more about how you tolerate issues that hit you than your fitness, power or tactics. If you are not up for trying to navigate the potential list of obstacles that come along with longer events, do shorter events to have more control over the outcome.
Lesson 5: We are Capable of More
We are all capable of way more suffering and discomfort than we think. If we have support and support others, if we just don’t stop moving, if we keep food and water coming in…we can do pretty much anything! It really is a mental lesson and threshold that can be trained and developed only by pushing ourselves beyond typical experiences. It takes going outside of “typical” to experience what it means to expand your thinking and willingness to suffer. So remember that dealing with adversity and pain is trainable! The more you suffer, the more you can tolerate suffering!
Looking to 2016, I am anticipating some killer events. The bulk of the events are under six hours long with options for road, TT and cross bikes. This will keep things interesting. Take a chance on something outside your comfort zone in 2016. Like many of this year’s Lotoja athletes, by taking that leap you may find yourself in the best shape of your life and focusing on something that will require hard work and attention.