Fast Talk Episode 180: Transformative Endurance Challenges

Hello members!

This week on Fast Talk, we mine the treasure trove of results from our N1 Challenges. Jana, Ryan, and Chris have all completed their 2021 challenge rides and have described them as “transformative”.

What does that mean? Can one ride change you forever?

That’s the topic we explore in this week’s episode.

Fast Talk Episode 180: Transformative Endurance Challenges

Can a simple bike race change you forever? Jana, Ryan, Trevor, and Chris describe the lessons they learned in each of their respective N1 Challenges.

Have you had a transformative ride? What was it like and how did it change you? And what would it take for you to challenge yourself to transform again?


This podcast came at a great time…just as I was coming off completing my N1 challenge and starting to journal and reflect on my challenge - how it went, what I learned, and how to use this for the future.

I posted earlier my challenge - In short I have always had a goal to ride from where I live in the Madison Wisconsin area to Wicker Park (an area good to meet up with old friends and eat and have a drink after a long ride) in downtown Chicago while taking a route going through Milwaukee. This was to get me out of a bit of a cycling funk I have been in where I have been riding a lot but not feeling fulfilled because I was doing rides that were hard and fast but missing out on the long rides and enjoying the scenery, commutes, and casual rides with friends and family who are not as into cycling as I am.

But without getting into too much detail (I hope to document my training and journey somewhere else. I am getting that together now) - I set out at 4:45am on Thursday morning, September 2nd on a planned 200 mile route (200 miles became a secondary goal after just making the ride to Chicago). About 14 hours later (11 hours in the saddle, most of my downtime was spent at traffic lights in the greater Milwaukee and Chicago areas!!) I rolled into Wicker Park to browse a little at the Rapha Clubhouse and meet up with a college roommate for dinner and a few drinks!

What did I learn

  • One main thing I learned is that a lot of the fitness gained on my years of long rides I did in my past were not lost and was the base that enabled me to complete the challenge. The final few weeks leading to the challenge was spent with a large decrease in riding and training volume. I focused more on making sure I was rested physically and mentally.
  • I was a little worried about physically being able to complete the ride but knew that doing it solo would be more of a mental challenge. I can say I learned the physical demands were more built in over time and the work that allowed the mental demands were “trained” in the shorter term.
  • I lucked into learning that this route was a great variety of riding and that getting the opportunity to experience it all in one ride was an experience in itself…It kind of had everything except for mountains: urban traffic, exurban sprawl, nice suburban neighborhoods and paths/trains, rolling hills through dairy farmland, flat neverending roads through cornfields, and even “coastal” riding (OK Lake Michigan isn’t an ocean but you do get the coastal feeling…plus it is a great change of scenery to help change things up mentally).


  • Since I was really in tune about my workouts and focusing more on having fun outside, I found the joys of being the “experienced” rider to make others who are either looking to ride casually or getting into the sport comfortable with riding - finding the “safe” roads, being a helper. I look forward to taking opportunities to ride in support with others looking to get out on the bike and have fun or mentoring those looking to get into more serious cycling with taking them on routes and discussing their goals and helping them achieve them.
  • I found out a lot about my general endurance fitness and coupled with my more recent specific short/hard rides, I know how to focus my future training to enjoy training all year around. I know I can work in other things and can still do the long-rides a few times a months to maintain but can work in other cross training or shorter harder rides and still be able to do those long endurance rides…
    – – In short, it has shown me that I will be able to have the balance in my endurance fitness. Mentally, I would not have the stress of thinking that I am losing my endurance when I take a few weeks to focus on some shorter and more intense training.
  • I will focus more on the mental and resting part of training. I was amazed how I felt the mental and physical break I took leading up to the ride helped get me through mental obstacles that came up that I would not have gotten past if I didn’t take time. Those included:
    – – Getting a flat in the first hour before leaving the Madison area. I thought about quitting as I was having difficulty changing a tire in the dark.
    – – 100 miles of headwinds between Milwaukee and Chicago. I specifically try to do rides into headwinds just to not be psyched out by them. That training along with attention to being rested mentally, helped on that stretch.
    – – Seeing commuter trains every few minutes once in the Chicago area. The last 20-30 took long, because of the flow of traffic, and I was up against a time constraint (meeting up with a friend) I was tempted to stop and take the train the final few miles. But I was able to overcome the urge mentally.
    – – I also had the mental clarity to alter my route to sacrifice the secondary goal (200 miles) and to take time to route a direct route to get me where I needed to go within my time constraint. I was able to live with making my goal (Wicker Park in Chicago) in 191 miles rather than 200. I was able to realize that is still an accomplishment knowing that if I wanted to put in 9 more miles I could!