You’re going to hate me for saying this. The Telluride 100 climbs 14,000 feet up and over some of the biggest mountain passes in Colorado and my body didn’t hurt during any of it. A half mile from the top of Last Dollar Pass, no more than 30 minutes from the finish line, I started to feel a little tired and my feet a little swollen. That was it.
I’m no spring chicken. I spent my twenties slogging up and down mountains in the Northwest with a 95-liter pack on my back and boots that didn’t fit quite right. Now in my thirties, I’m paying for it, and within ten miles of the start of most races aches and pains flare up all over my body. But not this race. The nine hours and twenty-eight minutes it took me to finish 100-mile race felt pretty damn close to effortless.
I would like to know why.
I probably nailed nutrition, hydration, and training. But I’ve done that before and still had to fight the pain cave tooth and nail. On the hunt for answers, I turned to a YouTube video by the sport’s psychology expert Carrie Cheadle called The Psychology of Suffering: How to Handle the Pain. Here are five things I think I did right:
- I was in a good mood. Actually, I woke up groggy and in a bad mood because my scrawny-ass boyfriend had woken me up during the night to eat cashews for a full hour. He then got a cashew stuck in his throat and proceeded to cough for another hour. I rolled into the start area irritated about only getting five hours of sleep because of him, but when my teammates made fun of his baggy lycra shorts I laughed and the grumpy cloud over my head dissipated. The poor guy really needed those cashews.
- I rolled up to the start line confident. Actually, I was trembling when I pulled in behind the pro woman who had won the race two years in a row. But when my teammates didn’t hear their names during roll call I said “here” for them. This made the people around me laugh, which in turn made me feel popular, and popular is the same as confident, right?
- I practiced dissociating myself from the race and in turn dissociated myself from the pain cave. From start to finish, the Telluride 100 felt like a big fat Flagstaff family group ride. One friend passed me and let me know that my boyfriend had missed the start because he was taking a poop. I worried about this for a bit, and then glanced back and saw him climbing up the switchbacks. Another friend almost plowed me over while making “baa, baa” black sheep sounds as we descended from Black Bear Pass into a basin filled with sheep. While dodging jeeps and SUVs on the steep, fast descents I worried about either my friend Erin’s boyfriend or my boyfriend getting creamed by one of them. If it was Erin’s boyfriend, who was ahead of me at that point, I told myself I would have to stop. If it was my boyfriend, unfortunately, I wouldn’t know until the finish line. I worried about this for a solid hour.
When I caught up to Erin’s boyfriend I thought, “shit yeah, he didn’t get hit by a car and there’s no way the woman in second is as fast as him.” This was my finest moment of dissociation because it never crossed my mind that I’m not as fast as him. The gorgeous views of the San Juan Mountains also helped me dissociate from the pain cave.
- I established end points on the climb up to Last Dollar Pass. Instead of looking at my GPS I went by memory. Four times on the climb I thought I was approaching the saddle. Three of those times I was wrong by at least a mile. This helped me maintain a pretty fast pace.
- I worked on relaxation. I tried not to ride with my shoulders scrunched up to my ears like I usually do. Oh, and I’d had pre-race sex. Need I say more?
I’m already looking forward to next year’s Telluride 100. It’s a well-organized race with quality schwag, good people, and amazing terrain. For more about the Telluride 100 visit their facebook page and website. I’ve also posted the YouTube video on the Psychology of Suffering below. I suggest drinking a strong cup of coffee while watching it.