Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Interview with David Rowe - author of “The Ride of Your Life”

Lots of riders dream about what it would be like to “go long.” Most will attempt a century and stop there. Those that want to ride through the 100-mile barrier learn that physical conditioning can only prepare you to a point. The challenge of a multi-day, ultra-endurance event is mostly mental.

A few weeks ago, author and road cyclist David Rowe released a new book called “The Ride of Your Life.” His goal in writing the book, he says, is to help others achieve great things on the bicycle and in life.

His goal-centered approach helped him break the 100-mile-barrier and attempt routes in the Washington Cascades, the Columbia Plateau, and the Oregon Coast Range. As a randonneur, he has completed some of the most challenging road cycling events in the Northwest, including the Cascade 1200, the Portland-to-Glacier 1000, and the Rocky Mountain 1200.

With his son Evan, David created Ready to Ride® in 2005 with the goal of helping cyclists who, like himself, do not have a background in road racing, but want to excel at long distance riding.

Aside from his avocation for road cycling, David's professional life has centered on a career in magazine publishing and Internet marketing. He has held executive roles in product development and marketing for leading companies in the magazine and Internet industries. For the past nine years, he has been an active participant in the emerging online health and wellness industries as a vice president of marketing with WebMD.

David holds a Masters in Business Administration from Portland State University and is a frequent guest lecturer in the Graduate School on topics ranging from Internet marketing to consumer engagement.

We are pleased to welcome David to PAC Tour, the third stop on his “virtual book tour” in support of his new eBook released by on January 8. We put the following questions to David, and we hope his answers will better prepare those coming to a PAC Tour camp for success.

Lon: Can your program work for something so major as a month-long transcontinental pac tour?

David: I have never ridden a ride as challenging as a coast-to-coast PAC Tour, but I imagine that at some point along the way, every rider will question his or her own motives for being there. When those moments arise, it is vital that you know the answer to that question, and that it as compelling to you then as was the day you sent in your deposit. These are the moments of truth. If your motivations are thin, you may start looking for a way out. If your motivations are rooted deeply within your core values, you will find the inner strength to push through the pain, because it is worth it. You know the pain is temporary, but the memories - the feelings of accomplishment - will last a lifetime.

The importance of a using a values-centered approach, such as the one I've described in my eBook, only increases as the rides get longer and more difficult. So I would say - yes, absolutely yes - riders who take the time to clarify their core values, and link the completion of a transcontinental ride to those values, are the ones who are most likely to finish.

Lon: Pac Tour training is based on building up to 150-mile rides back-to-back on weekends. How can you prevent a spouse from resenting that commitment?

David: You have to get permission from those who are important to you before you sign-up for a challenging event like this. Whether we're talking about a spouse or any person who is in relationship with you, you need to understand that they, too, are going to be making a sacrifice for you to achieve your goal. You need to carefully explain why you want to complete the ride, and you must be absolutely transparent about the requirements in terms of its impact on your time, your finances, and your ability to carry your fair share in the household - especially in the last 8 to 10 weeks or so before the event begins. A lot of people seek the support of their spouse or significant other. I recommend that instead, you seek permission. Permission is a pre-requisite. Support is a bonus.

Lon: What tips can you give for dealing with the fatigue of long, hard training and its effect on your off-bike life?

David: I subscribe to the “periodization” theory of endurance training, where rest periods are designed into the schedule. I try to get completely away from cycling during those respites and reinvest in my relationships. Taking long walks with my wife on the beach or through the neighborhood are great ways to recharge and reconnect.

Occasionally, you may find you need a rest from the riding before you reach a planned rest period. My attitude is, if you don't feel like riding the bike - don't! Let's face it. Most riders have love affairs with their bicycles. If you can walk past your bike and you don't feel like looking at it, you certainly aren't ready to get on it and ride.

Of course, there is a danger in letting this go on too long. Sometimes, just the opposite will work. If I am burned out and I don't feel like riding, I will just grab the bike from the rack, hop on it and pedal in the driveway; no helmet, no gloves, no spandex or cycling shoes. Sometimes just reconnecting with the feeling that riding bicycle gives me will stimulate a desire to resume the hard work of training.

Lon: Pac tours never have a rest day, which may be as challenging mentally as physically. What's the key to confidence?

David: I think the first thing to recognize is that everyone is feeling the pain! Not everybody will show it, or admit to it, but they are feeling it. Even the guys at the front of the ride are suffering. They just have a better grounding in the important of riding in their lives, and have a greater tolerance for pain, as a result.

The best way to build confidence is to gain experience. In my book, Kent Petersen talks about chunking-down long rides into pieces he knows he can do, because he's done them before. That is how he went after all of the long rides in his career - one leg at a time, knowing that leg was no longer than a section of road he'd ridden before. From there on, completing a ride is simply a matter of stringing together a series of shorter rides, which he knows he can do. That approach is like money in the bank.

Never think about the distance to the finish line. Think only about the distance to the next control. If that's too much to handle, think about the distance to the next turn on the cue sheet. If that's more than you can handle, then get your head up and find a landmark - a fence post or a tree in the distance - and promise yourself you will keep the pedals turning until you reach it. Play that game a time or three and you'll probably have forgotten what it was that was bothering you. The rough patches always pass.

The key to success in long distance cycling is knowing why are you out there in the first place. If you have that squared away, then you're going to be prepared for the mental challenges. You will just keep on searching for a way to get your head and your heart pulling in the same direction, toward that finish line of the ride of your dreams.

Lon: Thanks, David. We appreciate your thoughts about long distance cycling, about PAC Tours, and about the mental preparation that's required to be successful in the longer rides we support.

We would like our readers to know that David will be our guest at Desert Coaching Camp, which begins on February 28. He will be riding with us, and sharing his thoughts about how riders can prepare for the big rides of their 2009 season.

If you would like to learn more about David, or about his new book, The Ride of Your Life, visit his Web site at


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