Longest Day

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Yesterday was the biggest day of the trip. Three hundred kilometres distance, twenty seven hundred metres of elevation. Stats and figures aside it was what got me to that point that I’m proud of.

We spent the previous evening in the last motel room in Marathon, Ontario. We have had pretty good luck rolling into towns and booking the closest or most economic room without ever running into a no vacancy sign. The room that was available was a smoking room, right next to an exit that some bikers were using for all hours smoke breaks. We had the foresight to check the next town’s availability for the following night and, you guessed it, the town of Nipigon was booked solid as well. It occurred to us that this might be an opportunity. It might be the chance for me to see how far I could go.

We planned this crazy idea out to the best of our ability. The weather wasn’t looking promising, I severely underestimated the elevation, and the constantly slamming of the “smoke break” door was not going to faze us. It was Thunder Bay or bust.

We woke up early and on a healthy breakfast of A&W we set out. I knew that I was going to have to change my pace, most days from the first pedal stroke onwards I try to crush every kilometre. Today the strategy was to keep a little bit more in the tank. I was going to coast down a few more hills and focus on gearing properly for climbing hills.

The mental game is more important than ever when trying to achieve a big goal. Broken up into small goals it looks a lot easier to swallow. By the time I reached a sign saying “Thunder Bay 203 KM” I knew I had it in the bag. I was less than a third of the way through, how could one possibly think this naively. Well I knew that I had conquered two hundred kilometre days several times on this trip. I knew that two hundred and three was achievable, even though I had already done ninety seven.

The next mind game came at the half way mark. I convinced myself that doing what I had just done one more time wouldn’t be that bad. After researching the elevation chart the night before I concluded the second half would actually be easier. I was averaging close to thirty kilometres per hour so I set myself a goal of reaching Thunder Bay in less than five hours.

Another tool we use when setting my days up is breaking the ride down into thirty kilometre sections. It averages out to
be close to an hour and allows me to stop and get water filled up or take a little break if need be. This also allows me to compartmentalize the day. I was advised to do it by town or by meal by a friend Chris who has done the ride before. I find thirty kilometres works perfect for me.

I talk a little bit about setting fitness goals when I go and talk at recovery or treatment centres. It’s not about getting off the couch and running a marathon, it’s about taking the steps and achieving the goals on your way to the ultimate.

With forty kilometres before me I was forced off the freshly paved highway by no cycling signs and rumble strips, and then almost immediately got a flat tire. This might be the point when others say “two hundred and sixty kilometres is fine for one day, let’s pack it in and I’ll complete the last forty tomorrow.” But the final head game I had is seemingly sicker than the rest. I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I saw the two change to a three on that Garmin device sitting between my aero bars. I played the scenario of me sitting up in bed thinking about not eclipsing the goal of 300. I shuddered, and there was the motivation.

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