So you want to ________ Marji Gesick
So you want to ________ Marji Gesick
How to keep your sanity intact during the MG100
1. Find your motivation
I watch this reality show on History called Alone where 10 experienced survivalists get dropped onto Vancouver Island for a chance to win $500,000 if they’re the last one left. The catch being an imminent winter and each person separated by miles of dense mountainous forest and uncrossable bodies of water, rendering the show’s anti-climatic but truthful title. By day three of being alone, after their first black bear or cougar encounter or day without food, many contestants confront the fact they are unsure about their purpose on the island and bail. They have bear spray, they’ve been preparing for this all their lives, but they forgot to ask themselves the essential question.
Why are you putting yourself through this? is something you’ll be asking yourself way sooner than expected (wanting to accessorize your midriff is not a good enough reason) and if the answer doesn’t hold bones somewhere deeper inside of you than your self-doubt, well, you too may be phoning for a ride back home.
2. Don’t catastrophize things
It’s an evolutionary adaptation to shit bricks in high pressure environments. Back in the early days of Man, you wouldn’t want to forget about the cougar that just tore through camp, you’d want that terrifying memory supplanted over every other sensation till the threat was alleviated. In endurance races, however, this trait works against you. A flat tire is not the end of the world. Neither is a wrong turn, a dropped bottle, a crash, a bout of diarrhea, or any number of other minor mountain biking incidents that somehow seem apocalyptic on race day. Breathe. Let it go.
3. Don’t engage in story-making
Essentially, don’t let the ego steer the ship. A lot of bad thoughts run through the mind of an individual under high stress. Think of the Marji as a one-day mindfulness retreat and treat those dark thoughts as the naturally-occurring byproduct of human consciousness under duress. Focus on the breath, repeat your mantra, channel your hate, whatever works for getting into that flow state.
4. Have a plan for when it all goes wrong
Inevitably, the plan falls apart. What is your system for dealing with disappointment? Are you the type to adjust expectations and push on? Or were you here for one thing and its absence makes the whole outcome irrelevant? Or are you the type to never let go of the goal even when it looks furthest from reach?
5. Stay positive
For a while growing up, my dad was a seed and chemical salesman and under the bucket seat in his pickup he had this plastic book of motivational tapes from Dennis Waitley titled The Psychology of Winning that got him through the many rejections and setbacks of retail ag sales (it takes somewhere on average 10 trips to the farm to make a cold seed sale). We used to listen to those tapes on the way to hockey tournaments and it was amazing seeing the results in practice when our team would lose the first game of the round robin and go on to win the whole thing because we were cocky little pricks who expected to win. I’m sure all the other teams’ mommys and daddums told them they were special and could do anything but in Midland we were just pretentious enough to believe it. And that counts for A LOT.
6. The last 15 are the best
My sarcastic cycling-blogger persona would like to remind you that the last 17 (né 15) are your favorite miles. Danny Duro, Flannel Shirt, Grandview, AM/FM, Devils Drop, those are your jams. You love the tight handmade switchbacks that you hear some guy cleared once. You love the steep rock rolls you’re never quite sure won’t buck you headfirst into a tree. The climbs are short and have plenty of traction. The new stuff is easy and flowy. It’s never wet out there and you’ve never seen glass on the trail.
7. The first 15 are the hardest: go out easy
Most races don’t start with something as hard as Harlow. If you’re not top 5 at Top of the World you’ll be walking it and there’s a good chance the race will be backed up on Rickles too. There’s also a pretty close to zero chance you’ll make it up World Cup and it’s better to save some power for the rock garden that follows. Harlow is hard. Just thank Todd he took you on the easy stuff and there’s a 400-foot climb back to Forestville where you can catch up to all your friends.