As Many of you know from my last Blog, I just competed a 6 stage(day) cycling race in Sardegna Italy. I have had many of you send me notes of encouragement and as well asking how the race went. I can honestly say, it was the most physically and mentally demanding race I have ever, ever done. Most races last a portion of a day and although Marathons or Triathlons are difficult, it is a different event to race every single day for an average of 3-6 hours full out and typically climbing mountains. Having said that, it was an amazing week and one I will cherish forever as I am sure my friends from Milton will attest. I struggled with how to report on the race as there were so many amazing moments that was tough to fit into one blog. I hope you enjoy the format I have chosen:
1. Saddle Sores Are Real!
I had heard about saddle sores before but never experienced them firsthand. Mine were so sore that I couldnt even sit on my seat my last few days of racing without exrutiating pain but I had to finish. Mine were infected and I am still nursing them 4 days after the race(thank goodness for polysporin!). As you can see from the picture below, Barb went out and bought me some of her “home remedies” for Saddle Sores!
2. The Importance of Family and Friends
When I signed up for the race, I had asked Barb to join me during the race week. Initially she wasn’t going to come as she knew I was going to be busy racing, recovering etc. I managed to convince her to join me and I must say, it was great to have her there for moral support of me and our team. She was there every day to see us cross the finish line and also provided great support of me during the week(including nursing my injuries!). In addition, I had notes of encouragement all week long from our children – Tim, Matt and Lauren which was amazing. I also had notes from many friends and many of you offering your support which I truly appreciated.
3. Nothing beats being prepared.
I trained for this race as much as possible based on my schedule. And although I felt that I was in shape, there were tons of amazing racers that were definitely at another level(Pros). I raced for a total of over 18 hours and although it was gruelling, I had good energy levels each day as I had put in the necessary training.
4. Cycling Pals – Work Hard/Play Hard
I was invited to this event by John Norris and attended with some other members of
the Milton Cycling Club who took me in as one of their own. They were an amazing group of people and provided amazing motivation and fun during the week. The best part was although they all treated the race very seriously, we had a blast the rest of the time and had more fun than anything. A huge shout out to John,Jane,Ron, Pat, Karl and his twin John who came in from Ottawa. Also to our new found friends – Dennis(has completed 9 Tour Sardegna races), Paul, Dominic, Paul and Christine – all great people that we truly enjoyed!.
5. It is as much Mental as it is Physical
Although the race was extremely physically demanding each day, it was even more important to have the Mental focus to stay with it. Many days were very long and taxing, and each day I found I needed to re focus mentally prior to the race in order to maximize my racing. Even while racing it was easy to “ease off “however it was important to stay focused on giving every stage and every mile maximum effort. I can honestly say that I didn’t leave anything out there on any given day.
6. Now I truly understand what a Peloton is:
Although I had seen the Peloton on various races on TV, I had never experienced riding in one before. When racing at speeds over 40 +km hour and less than 1′′ from the cyclists in front and around you, it takes mental focus to stay out of danger. The Peloton provided amazing benefits in terms of reducing wind resistance however on the other hand was mentally taxing as you needed to be on your game 100% of the time. The best was one day I raced with the Peloton the entire race(120km) as it was relatively flat and the end was amazing. The momentum continued to build toward the end of the race and the final km was a full out sprint to the finish. Was amazing and my Adrenaline was going full blast!
7. Cycling Racing is Dangerous
Most of the time you are riding within inches of fellow riders while moving very fast. Add to this riding in large groups(Peloton), crazy speed and racing up and down mountains is a recipe for danger. Every day there were numerous riders being taken off the course by ambulance. My thoughts and prayers went out to these riders daily.
8. Cycling is a “brotherhood”.
Most of the other cyclists did not speak a word of English. Even with this barrier, it was amazing how close I felt to other cyclists in the race. There were many moments during the week where I found myself racing, climbing or descending with the same people. Although we couldn’t communicate through language, we did through expression, laughter, pats on the back as we rode past each other. It was amazing to feel the connection to riders from around the world.
9. Sustaining Energy Over The 6 Days.
I found the most important component was to maintain a steady level of energy over the course of the 6 days. I had met with Naturopath Dr. Callum Cowan(http://phenomhpm.com) prior to my race and he provided me with advice and supplements for pre race preparation as well as during the event itself. Following each day of racing I would eat massive amounts of food and try to replenish my glycogen stores that had been depleted(particularly from the Grand Fondo which was 172 km long and almost 6 hours of racing). The Pre and Post recovery powders that Dr.Callum recommended I feel were instrumental in me maintaining my energy levels throughout the week. Besides my Saddle Sores(couldn’t sit) and my aggravated Archillies, I had the same energy level on Day 6 that I did on Day 1.
10. HRV Readings Don’t Matter When Racing
I must say that I have never had my HRV readings so low as when I raced last week. It is an obvious sign of the crazy stress I was putting my body through each day and was reflective of my Sympathetic Nervous System. Most days it was either “Yellow” Or “Red” readings which therefore meant I should have been doing zero excretes those days. Even with those readings, I believe that is where the “Mental” component came through and took over to ensure I still went maximum. In fact one of my very fastest days of racing was on a day when my HRV was the lowest score I had ever logged
– Red 42(which means don’t do any excercsie!
11. The Importance of Enjoying Every Moment Of the Experience(I know I said 10 however I needed to include this one)
I must say that I truly enjoyed every moment of the race. The views were amazing, the sound of the birds that surrounded us, the sunlight, the ocean views – was all amazing. I felt truly connected to the beautiful world around me during this event. Our son Tim reminded me during the event to “Enjoy the Journey” which was a great reminder to me.
I also had my phone with me and played Music(typically Cold Play) on a few of those lonely climbs. Other cyclists loved it(I think) as when I went by them they would comment “Musica”! All of this was in an effort to maximize the enjoyment of the experience.
Yours In Good Health from Sardegna, Kev