Ghost-Riding – the mind sport of UltraCycling
Lot of people ask me how are you are able to cycle 5000 km in Race Across America and 9100 km in Trans-Siberian Extreme (TSE). To me Ultra-cycling is a Mind Sport. You can only prepare physically to an extend and then you depend on your mind and spirit to ride those thousands of kilometres in a given specific time limit.
It is impossible for riding 5000 km or 9000 km in training and not required also. The maximum distance during my training for trans-Siberian extreme (TSE) was around 300 km in a day. The best way to train physically is to build up slowly your weekly mileage and do quality training. Then you depend on your mind to do the job in the race when the physical limits are crossed. There is no other way to do it.
To ride massive distances like 5000 km in RAAM or 9000 km in TSE, all you need is an empty mind. If you make too many calculations or thinking, it is not possible to sign up for races like RAAM or TSE and not even train. Generally the more educated we get, the more calculations we make based on the knowledge we receive from the outer world. Most of the time these calculations lead to negative decisions, because it is very difficult to put a value to the power of mind and motivation in such situations.
Signing up for Trans-Siberian for me is a classic example of setting a goal so tough which will push my mind, body and spirit to its limits and beyond. I knew that 90 per cent there is a chance of DNF in this race, looking at the history of the race. With RAAM success it was easy for me to keep harping about it and about success at Ironman races. But I still went ahead and literally jumped into a monster of a race called Trans-Siberian Extreme. Alien country, alien terrain, alien weather and a very different food system. All factors were against me. Race was way too hard as expected but I kept on believing in my goal.
I had told myself before the race that I have already done 5000 km in RAAM, so let’s ride up to first 5000 km in TSE, which is up to the 10th stage and then I will figure out how to ride the last 4000 km in next 5 stages. The biggest difficulty of TSE is that you ride first 5000 km in 10 different stages and the last 4000 is squeezed into only 5 stages. So in the end stages become longer and difficult.
Words can be biggest motivators. The biggest motivation came from the facebook and whatsapp messages which I used to get for my posted videos on social media. After every stage I used to read them and read them again to keep myself motivated. Powerful messages can ignite your mind and help you bike those extra few hundred kilometres which you have never done in the training.
In the night, I used to listen to the music. Songs were generally from sports movies like Chak De India, Dangal, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and many other such movies. Another big favourite was the music from the movie Baahubali. Music helped me to keep awake and kept the pedals moving at a faster cadence. Then many times I used to think about my son and family, because I had promised them of a successful finish. Some of my friends told me that it will be impossible for me to land in Nagpur (my home town), if I don’t get this race done successfully.
I don’t think about the kilometres already done in the race. If you think about them, you will think about the soreness, rest and recovery, which is very minimal in races like TSE or RAAM. I call it Ghost riding, where you don’t think of the kilometres done, how many left, how much pain or soreness you have in different parts of the body. I think there is no other way to ride in TSE if you want to get it done successfully. Riding on that long straight highway in between Moscow to Vladivostok, through hills, hundreds of kilometres of forest and extreme weather conditions can kill you mentally, if you let these factors overtake your motivation.
The race situation, the geographical expanse and natural beauty of Russia will make you do these monstrous distances in every stage of TSE or RAAM. Apart from that you have these fellow ghost riders in the race and most of the time I used to draw motivation from them. I used to think if they are doing it and are riding ahead of me, then I can also do it. I may be slower than others but still I had good many hours to finish every stage comfortably and take rest. TSE is one of its kind on the planet and it happens only once in a year on the planet.
So if you want to be successful at Ultra-cycling – don’t think, just ride – be a Ghostrider..!
Dream big…Very big…Push yourself beyond…Take risks..!
Don’t keep doing same things every year..! And Be your own Hero…!