This spring, on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday lunch ride from the Trek Travel office, I was offered the opportunity to participate in the 2017 Etape du Tour. What came next was something I never expected.
The invitation came so casually that it took a moment before the onset of nerves, excitement, and admittedly a bit of panic set in. The Etape du Tour is a citizen’s ride that covers one stage of the Tour de France, and it’s often the year’s most difficult queen stage in the mountains. With a simple verbal commitment during a 12-mile lunch ride around the lake, I had just signed myself up for a 110-mile challenge with almost 11,000 feet of climbing and a summit finish on the harrowing Col d’Izoard.
The Alps seemed unreachable for a recreational cyclist like me. My personal life was taking unexpected turns and I was coming off a frigid Wisconsin winter with too-few miles on the trainer. But so began the journey. Over the next four months, training for and ultimately completing the Etape du Tour taught me three valuable lessons that helped me not only conquer the Alps, but also helped me navigate the ride that is life.
1. Eat Real Food
When training for and participating in endurance sports, nutrition becomes essential to your success. Trust me when I say that you do not want to bonk in the middle of a 100-mile ride. As someone who typically forgets to eat and drink until we crack a post-ride beer, I had to focus on fueling up at every stop and hydrating consistently. Not just gu’s and gel’s, either. The key to my success at the Etape was eating real food all day long. It is vital to recognize what your body needs and nourish yourself with fuel to sustain you.
2. Don’t Burn Too Many Matches
For any long-distance event, it’s important to go in with a plan. Use the countless hours of training to learn your limits, so when it comes time for the main event you know just how hard you can go. Unfortunately, race-day jitters and excitement often cause us to make the fatal mistake of going out too fast. Don’t. Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When hundreds of eager athletes fly pass you at the start, stick to your plan. If you ride at your pace, you will get to where you want to go.
3. Stay in the Envelope
The best part about riding the Etape with Trek Travel is the overwhelming support. I had a team of 15 people to train with, learn from and lean on leading up to and during the event. I knew when accepting the invitation that I had a lot to learn about cycling – about climbing and descending with 15,000 other riders around me. But the most important lesson I learned is to trust your team. If you want to succeed, surround yourself with people far more experienced than you. They have knowledge, wisdom, protection and strength to offer.
So the moral of the story? Life has a way of surprising us. Enjoy the ride.
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