Every morning I check the weather. A habit I picked up during my time living at the coast. Where the weather is everything. It determines whether you are going to the beach or not. Is the surf going to be epic or vanilla plain. Every morning I would pull back the curtain and look at the sky. Cloudy? Any wind? You become quite the expert on what the weather does. And of course what defines bad weather.

Everyone has an opinion on bad weather

When I entered the world of endurance sport, you quickly realize that bad weather is quite a big issue. Every group ride it would be mentioned at least half a dozen times. Every race there is talk about what the weather would do. And it would normally be the deciding factor, letting you know who is the ‘real deal’, and who is a bit ‘softer’.

The strong and the weak

On the one hand you would have the hardcore leather-faced men, those battle hardened souls with the thousand yard stare, that see bad weather as an opportunity. With tales of epic distances, conditions and summits, they would normally be the ones who start at the back of the bunch, and finish in front. To them ‘there is no bad weather, only bad equipment’.

Then you have the other side. The weekend warrior, those who would routinely cancel a group ride at the slightest whiff of ‘bad weather’. I got so used to it. When you tell people that you mountain bike, there would be a lot of excitement and interest on the Friday night around the braai. Then the first test would be if they still feel the same way after hearing that ‘we start at 6’. If yes, the next test would be the weather. As you might know, cycling is a cold sport. And if you add a bit of wind or even rain, then you quickly see who is the ‘real deal’.

Train like you race

Of course, common sense would dictate that you have to train like you race, bad weather or not. But few people see it that way. Only the ones, I think, who are serious about their sport. And I wish I could say that is definitely me, but I would have to admit a handful of instances where I too succumbed to the sloth monster.

 What is that?

Is it the self-preservation instinct that kicks in? that tells you that it is OK to mark the session as DNS? You know that in a race it would be a different story. How many times have you woken up on the second or third day of a stage race to the soothing sounds of raindrops on your tent?

Your brain wants to protect itself, so it comes up with all sorts of excuses that you are all too eager to believe. And yet we push ourselves far beyond our limits when the start gun goes off.

 Give yourself the best chance

If you are anything like me and you want to perform well at those races, it is something that you are going to have to learn to overcome. Some tips:

 

  1. First, invest in some quality gear. Things will be a lot better if your jacket actually keeps the water out, and doesn’t weigh a ton. This is an investment, as that high-priced item will also probably last a long time.
  1. See it as a race simulation. Imagine you are in a racing situation, and you are testing your gear. See yourself as going to the race. Then it becomes an experiment, of how well you can cope with the conditions. It is also a low risk opportunity.
  1. You can go to your local trail, one that you are familiar with. With the option of deciding on the distance you want to do. Not sure you will follow through, and just stay in the car? Believe me, the hardest part is lacing up your shoes. Once you are there, you will fee differently. You get to test your gear and your self in a low risk situation. In a race it will be unknown terrain for a set distance. Start getting yourself used to it in smaller doses, then it will be less daunting next time.
  1. It is also an opportunity to improve your result. As most of the other people will be where you used to be. Scared, unsure, not confident. Unlike you, who will not back down from the challenge. A few people will also pull out of the race, which means more chance for you to improve your result!

 

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