I have been competing in endurance sports since I was 9 years old, and as my life progressed so have my goals and motivations. This is perfectly normal, of course, but it’s relevant to your journey in sport because some athletes get stuck in a rut, pursuing the same goals at the same events against the same people for far too long. When you break out of that rut you find a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose, which leads to improved focus, greater physical performance, and heaps of satisfaction. I’ve experienced this phenomenon first-hand and helped many athletes through their own journeys. Here is a guide to breaking out of your endurance sports rut and finding your next great adventure.
When I was young racing was all about winning and moving up through the ranks: national team, world championships, Olympics, pro peloton. Even as an amateur and pro, my goals evolved from winning for myself to helping my teammates win. And once I stopped competing I transitioned into coaching athletes to win and achieve their personal goals.
When I returned to competition, my first event was the 2006 Leadville 100. In truth, I was only there because I made a foolish wager with CTS Coaches who had ridden the event the year before. How difficult could it be to ride 100 miles in less than nine hours? We used to do it half that time, sometimes faster. Yeah… I lost that bet, but I was hooked on Leadville. I raced it six times, earned a few big buckles, and brought several top-tier pros and hundreds of CTS Athletes to the start line. At one point more than 10% of the field was comprised of CTS Athletes.
By 2010, I knew I needed a new goal. Leadville was still challenging, but it wasn’t inspiring for me anymore. It didn’t have the pull to get me out of bed on a February morning to go out and train. The uncertainty and risk of failure that existed in the early years had disappeared. I searched for new adventures and found La Ruta de los Conquistadores, Dirty Kanza 200, and others. As with Leadville, turning CTS Athletes on to those events helped accelerate their growth, too.
A coach’s primary job is to inspire athletes to push beyond their self-perceived limitations and help them achieve more than they thought they could. In some cases that includes helping them find a new goal or event that stokes their imagination and inner fire.
Here are some of the criteria we use in those conversations. If you’re stuck in a rut or wondering what you want to sign up for, use them to find your next great adventure.
Challenge comes in different forms: distance, duration, climbing, altitude, weather, or some combination of them all. When I moved from Leadville to DK200, the terrain and altitude were less of a challenge, but the duration and distance were intimidating. A lot of CTS Athletes are moving from Leadville to Breck Epic. The altitude and terrain are similar, but Breck is 3-6 stages that include significantly more technical singletrack. Whether it’s a road/gravel/MTB adventure you’re after, think about the type of new challenge you want add to the events you’ve already done.
Endurance sports can take you to the coolest places on the planet, but practically speaking you also have to consider the cost, complexity, and time required to get there. Domestically, they’re all pretty easy. Costa Rica (La Ruta), Canada (BC Bike Race), and Western Europe (France/Belgium/Spain/Italy) have proven to be the easiest international trips for American athletes. For trips requiring more travel days, South Africa (Cape Epic) has been easier and more appealing than South America (Trans Andes), Australia, or Asia.
What kind of environment are you looking for? Do you want to ride the Alps on the same day as 15,000 other people (l’Etape du Tour), or are you looking for a more close-knit experience like Trans Portugal with only 75 people? Even for events somewhere in between, there’s a relationship between the number of entrants and the size of the course. With 2,000 people at Dirty Kanza, there’s still space and time for athletes to experience solitude. For better or worse, with 2,000 riders at Leadville you’re almost always going to have company.
Event support can range from totally self-supported (Ride the Divide) to five star luxury, and everything in between. Again, it comes down to the experience you’re after. My advice is to invest in the highest level of support you can afford because comprehensive support on and off the bike means riders can just focus on having a great time. Let someone else handle the mundane details. In nearly 20 years of leading camps and trips, no one has ever complained about not getting to schlep their own bike bag, arrange their own transfers, or fix their own equipment.
Nothing is static in life, and what you find meaningful and valuable about endurance sports changes over time. I’m at the point in my life where my own finisher medals aren’t that valuable, but it’s extremely fulfilling to help others grow and overcome new challenges. When I was younger, competing in endurance events was something I did for myself. Now I choose events that allow me to create unique experiences with my children, like taking my daughter with me to France or my son to Hawaii. Athletes always perform better when pursuing a deeply personal goal. Sometimes finding a new adventure starts with discovering a new personal goal.
Whatever you choose for your next adventure, get inspired, go big, and don’t look back!
CEO/Head Coach of CTS