It’s all about ‘chunking it down’.
The Hells 500 group I ride with is passionate about hills. When we’re not riding them, we’re talking about them (and most of the time when we’re riding them we’re ALSO talking about them). We like the idea of setting our own challenges. There is no one setting the bar for us – but we can’t help raising it a little more each time. The challenge is in completing something that we know we couldn’t just go out and do the next day without planning and training for it.
The RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride is exactly the same. With 610km of winding ocean roads and the lumpy Otways to contend with it’s not the sort of event you can just rock up and do. The beauty of the event is in your own management of it. How will I feel on day 7? What will the climbs be like? Am I ready for a multi-day ride?
The easy trap to fall into is to be overwhelmed by the big numbers. The total distance. The total amount of time on the bike. The multiple days. It can be confronting taking the helicopter view, and that’s why I’d suggest you don’t!
Chunking down is a common endurance sport method of breaking up a seemingly insurmountable goal into smaller manageable ‘chunks’. It could be as macro as chunking down the RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride into the 8 days of riding (I usually also like to plan out on how I can relax the most on the rest day, and Port Campbell looks like the perfect setting!), or it can be breaking each ride day up in terms of distance to the next town or landmark.
Sometimes things don’t go quite according to plan – an unexpected headwind, some soggy weather, or a pesky phantom rubbing brake / flat tyre / overtight rim (read: an off-day). The chunking method is then essential in getting you to that next corner, over that crest, and past the next highway marker – because thinking about how many kilometres you have to go before you finish for the day will only do your head in…
When the Hells 500 group is riding we chunk down our day into bite-size pieces. To think about the full challenge would be panic-inducing, however, slicing it up into manageable pieces (even when the same of those pieces still equals the whole) really helps to maintain focus on the task at hand, and not get overwhelmed.
One of our riders recently took on a gargantuan task. Inspired by George Mallory’s effort on Mt Donna Buang a decade ago, he wanted to climb the equivalent of Mt Everest (a staggering 8848m) on the 1:20 – that famous cycling icon 30km out of Melbourne winding its way to Sassafras 7km and 300 vertical metres above The Basin. The ride required a staggering 30 repeats – for a total of 420km and 9100m climbing. With those sorts of repeats, distance and climbing targets the battle in the mind could well be lost before it even started. I asked him how he could possibly fathom riding that many laps. “I don’t even think about the laps – if I focus on getting to the next bend, the next corner, the next street sign then the laps will take care of themselves”.
The old micro-focused saying goes ‘not being able to see the forest for the trees’ – but sometimes focusing just on the trees is what will get you through.