All right, then, I’ll go to hell.
-Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
If you take one thing from Twain, let it be a willingness to give it hell.
My last three springs have involved training for the Dirty Kanza 200—maybe the most sadistic single-day event you’ll find in cycling. It’s 200 miles of rugged, hilly gravel roads specifically chosen to treat your bike, body and soul like mud flaps.
Over that distance, something’s bound to crack. Nobody gets through clean. It’s just a question of whether the cracks split your plate.
There’s an element of pain involved. (photo, Adventuremonkey.com)
To become shatter-resistant, I believe you must familiarize yourself with riding cracked. Enter hell week.
During hell week, you dial everything up in order to break yourself down. You squeeze your recoveries between a succession of big-mile days, gym efforts, commutes and home workouts. You burn the toast. You choke it down.
Huck takes his punishment.
Given this spring’s ride-killing snow, cold rain and 40 mph winds, my mileage isn’t where it should be. So the devil’s due nine days this year: April 29 to May 7.
Hell week may not be best for your fitness. At a certain point, you’re no longer sharpening; you’re wearing down. And I leave myself a few weeks before race day (June 2) to rebuild what I tear out with all this foolishness.
But foolishness is kind of the point. Can you keep going when keeping going sounds like a fool’s idea? Can you keep going when you’re out of ideas entirely?
Hell week gives me some of the “Hell yes!” I need.
And even if my answers wear down into something less emphatic than “hell yes”—even if it’s just a dull “uh-huh,” or a dim “yep,” I’ll take it. I’ll take it straight to hell.
It’s powerful stuff to train like the damned—to train according to Twain. “And for a starter, I would go to work … and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.”