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Set A Goal So Big This article is link to blog post from July 20th 2012 Set Yourself A (Seemingly) Impossible Goal   One of my best buddies, Rolf Gøtze, signed me up for a bicycle race that would take place over 3 countries, but during just one day. The race is called the Drei Länder Giro (which mean the Three Countries Giro) and starts in Austria and then passes into Italy, then Switzerland and finally you end up where you started in Austria. Race starts in little sweet mountain town named Nauders.

Just Before The Race Start In Nauders, Austria 2012


Rolf Gøtze Before Race Start

The race is 168 km long (he signed us up for the long distance of course, which also included having to climb the highest pass in Europe) and it includes 3500 altitude meters to endure, including as mentioned in the parentheses the highest pass in Europe, Stelvio. Stelvio is a monster of a climb and it has no less than 48 switchbacks to encounter to make it to the top. You can see the race course profile below:

 

Now I did actually have a rather long time to get into shape and ready for this race, but you know how it is, it just didn’t happen. My training was non-existing until finally it dawned upon me that I probably needed to do a little bit of bike riding in order to just survive this race, let alone make it within cut off time. So with just a few weeks to go, I finally pulled myself together and started out on my bicycle to do some training rides. This is how my mileage ended up looking like for 2012 prior to race day, June 24th 2012:   April 1st 2012, my first bicycle ride this year, 40km, which also happened to be the bike leg of an Olympic distance Triathlon, The Nautica South Beach Triathlon in Miami, Florida May 12th 2012, my second bicycle ride this year, 40km, which happened to be the bike leg of another Olympic distance Triathlon, The 2012 ITU World Triathlon San Diego, California May 19thth 2012, my bike training begins with a 71 km bike ride, flat South Florida roads June 4th 2012, 90 km South Florida June 6th 2012, 102 km South Florida June 7th 2012, 120 km South Florida June 12th 2012, 130 km South Florida June 14th 2012, 130 km South Florida June 16th 2012, 71 km South Florida June 21st 2012, 45 km Austria & Italy (915 altitude meters) June 22nd 2012, 36 km Austria (935 altitude meters) In total just about 875 km   All in all, way too little training for what I was about to venture out on. But sometimes it is best to set yourself an impossible goal. An impossible goal makes you stretch even further and makes you dig deep into yourself to find the extra strength needed to pull through. Whether physically or mentally and more like probably both. By being forced to stretch yourself beyond what you normally think is possible for you, you may actually end up surprising yourself positively and certainly such experiences will help you grow and you will move your own perception of what you are capable of doing and accomplishing.   Race day was nearing and it was time to take off for Europe. Flying into Munich where I met up with my buddy and two of his buddies who flew down from Denmark. We rented two cars and set out for Nauders in Austria a 2.5 hours drive away. We arrived on a Thursday and had the opportunity to get in a minor training ride the same afternoon – that is right after my puncture which happened about 500m into the ride. I think the inner-tube quite simply had gotten old. It was during this training ride that I realized that I really needed to have that rear cassette changed out with at least one higher sprocket. We took on one small hill, which turned into a mountain and it was a real struggle for me getting up over it. I got even more scared about the upcoming race and was just thankful that my buddies were patient with me and not showing any nuisance about my slow speed. Friday arrived and we drove off to another town in order to get to a bike shop to get our last minutes fixes done on our bikes. My fix to my bike was the rear cassette. To our true surprise and with great gratitude we found the local bike mechanic of this little town to be really knowledgeable about his metier and he fixed all our bike issues, so that at least our bikes could be ready for the race.

Local Great Bike Mechanic Setting Up My Bike

Returning from our little outing to the mechanic, we set out for another small bike training ride. This time with a few more guys who had also come down from Denmark for the race. We rode over to Switzerland, made a nice little descend and then turned around for the ascend again. This ascend turned out to be the final mountain part of the race course, which was brilliant as it would give us prehand knowledge about the last challenge that we each would face towards the end of the race come Sunday. Climbing this ascend was so much better than the ascend that we had faced the day before. No doubt, my legs had adjusted to the experience somewhat, but probably even more importantly, I now had a much more suitable gear (and rear cassette) to help me out. In fact although, I wasn’t exactly flying I felt good and made a decent climb and with sported a decent climb tempo.   Perfectly located at the top of this mountain was a nice restaurant where we settled in for a little cappuccino and some even opted for a bit of ice cream.

Mikkel Pitzner after a little training ride in Austria and Switzerland

Having enjoyed our coffees and icecream we rode back to our little hotel, but upon arrival we saw yet another of the group’s guys who was just about to head out for his training ride. He had for some reason not been able to make it out on the ride we just came back from so he was about to go out on his own. Rolf and I felt great, so we quickly opted for riding out to the descend with him once more. At the descend point we would then make up our minds whether to go down and up once again depending on how our legs felt at that point, and of course we ended up doing exactly that. In other words Rolf and I doubled our training pass for that day. Second ascend seemed to go even better than the first one and compared to the ascend of the day before (which was though on another mountain) my speed was about twice the ascend rate. I felt great and I felt strongish (comparatively) and it helped me greatly for mentally preparing myself for race day two days later. We returned to the hotel after that and had a chance to relax a little and put our legs up. Mentally the two rides of this day helped me tremendously in feeling that I would be able to make it through the upcoming race. Setting out with a mental attitude that tells you that you can do it is all important.

Legs Up Resting After two Training Rides In Austria And Switzerland

Saturday came. For sure this was no day to be training, but was preset to be just a rest day. We picked up our race numbers and then Rolf and I headed for the chair lift to the top of one of the mountain sides. When in winter this entire area is a perfect ski resort, so in winters the lifts take skiers up to the mountain tops and in summer they are open for the trekkers and other sightseeing  tourists.

Rolf Gøtze & Mikkel Pitzner on rest day before bike race

Race morning. The entire little town of Nauders was buzzing. Some 3,000 riders were readying themselves for the race start and droves of bikers stretch far up into the back of the villages all the way from the race start line. Full of anticipation, some nervousness about the unknown and with butterflies in my stomach, I too along with my Danish friends were lined up for start. There was no turning back now. A big challenge laid before me and there was no point now in regretting the lack of training. Now I just had to do the best I could and hopefully enjoy the experience at the same time. And enjoyed it I did. Never had I before tried real mountain road biking and certainly not in a race. And although I had been to these countries before I had never seen them in summer clothes before, as my visits here had previously been for skiing. How beautiful the scenery was and how beautiful the bike course proved to be. Although hard most of the time, I really enjoyed the ride. A great deal of the initial leg of the bike ride was downhill and with my somewhat bigger weight than most of the other bike riders, I had no trouble keeping up and stayed near the front initially. I knew of course that would change once the climbing would set in, but I was also concerned with conserving enough energy for the duration of the entire ride, so that I would be able to complete it in its entirety. Stelvio of course proved to be a big challenge, but I was exhilarated by the experience and loved the challenge of it. The beautiful looks of the nature all around and even the occasional small groups of cows with their big bells hanging around their necks all aided my ride experience and enjoyment.

There are 48 switchback to the top of Stelvio and we actually came above the snow line. So not only was I heavier than I had set out to be for race day, under-trained, but also I would have to deal with serious altitude also and the lesser amounts of oxygen there. Everything went well though. Perhaps I can thank my 7 liters lung capacity a bit for that too.

Mikkel Pitzner Digs Deep In Climbing Stelvio 2012


Above Snow Line On Stelvio 2012


Mikkel Pitzner Climbing Stelvio 2012

But not only the ascend are challenging. The descend are equally challenging although for other reasons. The descends demand technical skills and balance and not least is it intimidating that many of the stretches happen to be on relatively narrow roads and with no guard rails present and a deep mountain slope just off the road. My weight quickly adds to the speed going downhill and demands for heavy use of brakes. But that can be dangerous too. Too much use of the brakes and they turn hot and the wheels turn extremely hot. I tried to feather the brakes and not least alternate between usage of front and rear, so they would have a chance to cool down, but I still ended up blowing an inner-tube melting from the excessive heat. I even managed to burn myself on the wheel when I stopped to change out the inner-tube. But again it all just added to the experience and excitement.

Mikkel Pitzner Descending After Stelvio Summit 2012

By kilometer 100 I was beginning to feel the toll of the hard work and anxiety for how I was going to make the final 68 km began to rise. But I kept at it. I had tried to eat some of those energy bars, but I really, really have trouble getting them down into me. Always did. So perhaps there was a slight feeling of hitting the wall, or as they say bonking, but more than that I just felt it was the fact that I did not have the miles in my legs. Nor did I have the mountains in my legs. I reside in South Florida at time of this event and South Florida sports completely flat terrain where I’m located. So even the few miles of training bike rides that I had in before coming over to Europe were on flat roads. But I was helped a bit by the fact that a great distance of the final stretch is downhill. Downhill right until the final climb. I hit the final climb and I was determined just to keep a good speed and not let up, knowing that this was the final challenge and that I would soon be at the finish line. It worked. I was relatively soon at the top and from there it was just a few more kilometers downhill to the finish line.

Mikkel Pitzner Reaches The Last Mountain Top Of Drei Laender Giro 2012

Finish line was reached and I felt exhilarated. I even surprised all the other Danish friends with my good time (comparatively) and even beat 3 of the others who actually had trained a bit and had trained mountains also. I even surprised myself. But more than anything, it was just an ecstatic moment, that I had and I enjoyed it long after. Thank you Rolf, my buddy, for this great experience. What a rush and what memorable event to carry with me as I face other challenges.

Mikkel Pitzner At Finish Line Drei Laender Giro 2012

Mikkel Pitzner At Finish Line Drei Laender Giro 2012

July 8th 2012, I raced at the New York City Triathlon (my 7th participation in this event). Not much more training had come in following my Drei Laender Giro, but I felt strong and great, in no small part due to my great experience from the Drei Laender Giro. My set point and personal perception of what I was able to do had been moved. Had I not had to deal with a flat tire situation during that race, I would have made my personal record for the event. I know now what to aim for for next year’s same event (especially if I keep in shape and possibly get a bit more real training in).   So it’s like I say. In conclusion, set yourself a seemingly impossible goal and you will find yourself in a position where you need to stretch yourself and dig deeper into yourself mentally, physically, creatively and find those hidden extra resources and capacities that you perhaps didn’t even know you possessed, and you just might come out and surprise yourself and those around you. What’s more is, that you will have moved your set point and your compass for what you now know is possible for you to do and for you to accomplish. You have grown and developed. You are now stronger and more resourceful, and you have more power readily available to you. You have grown into a person who can.