Today, I'm pleased to present a short interview with Salsa sponsored rider Jay Petervary. Jay has more ultra-endurance experience than most of us can dream of, and there is without a doubt, a lot we can all learn from him to better ourselves as cyclists. -Kid
Kid: How much has your background of adventure racing influenced your ability in ultra-endurance cycling?
JayP: Funny you ask that because I often say my adventure racing background has really built who I am today. The approach, practice, and theories of competitive AR is very raw but is also very analytical (if you’re not too sleep deprived). Things like traveling lightweight in the AR world are simply that - I never carried a sleeping system or more than rain gear for warmth, ever! In AR racing you did not go through towns to resupply, you came across your Rubbermaid box in the woods that had all your food (Ensure) and equipment for the four to seven days the event would take you. If you got cold you worked harder to stay warm (or hugged your teammate) and if you got sleepy your teammate’s job was to try and snap you out of it, or at least keep you safe. And if the whole team was so nonfunctional from sleep deprivation we would all lay on each other forming a puppy pile, cover ourselves with emergency blankets, and sleep literally 15 minutes to an hour, that was it. The rawness in AR comes from things like doing a bike leg where it meant carrying the bike most of the time. Through swamps and over mountains, we would question if we were even on a biking leg. The calculated side to AR was navigation: done by map and compass (no GPS allowed), counting steps, keeping time, holding bearings, reading maps and making decisions. You also never knew the route, sometimes until just minutes before the start. All you did know was you would be running, cycling, doing some rope work, paddling, and maybe even Rollerblading…all self-navigated…for some 500km. The unique thing about AR is that it is a team sport. You traveled together with your team, helping each other, and relying on each other in both the good and difficult times. For some reason I look back and often say I would never push myself like I had in those days. I think your teammates were your safety barrier and that increased the level that one would push themselves, or be pushed to, and from that I am very comfortable with trying to reach my limits today.
This was my introduction to outdoor sports and racing. I started AR fresh out of college and it was all I knew for years. I look back now and chuckle at things we have done, but my how it has built me as a person. I feel very fortunate to be able to apply a lot from those days to my solo efforts of today. It all comes down to experience and how you can apply it.
Kid: When it comes down to an ITT of the Tour Divide Route, break these four items into percentages of importance: Training, Gear Choices, Mental Toughness, and Luck
JayP: Training...25% - You will be training the whole time and gain fitness down the road. You don't want to be peaking at the start but towards the middle...
Gear Choices...15% - I always think back to the days of Shackleton or the Buffalo Soldiers. The gear they had, or lack of gear, did not seem to stop them.
Mental Toughness...50% - If your head is not into it your body will not be either. I like to use the term "strong mind" instead of "mental toughness".
Luck...10% - As a karma type of guy...one makes their own luck. I also look to answer this as never looking for good luck, just not wanting bad luck. Our own lines and decisions will ultimately feed us the outcome or experience. We are responsible for our own adventure and we do control it, no matter the weather or luck.
Kid: A lot of competitive cyclists understand what it is like to battle through moments of negativity during rides or events. How do you combat negativity? Do you need to deal with it any differently in multi-day events?
JayP: I do my best to keep all negative thoughts out of my head, as well as no spoken words of negativity. If I do start to enter that zone I try to turn it into a positive going back to that whole theory of “for every negative there is a positive”. What’s there to be negative about anyway? I am riding my bike…one of the most-free things a man can do.
Kid: What's the hardest moment you've experienced on the bicycle?
JayP: Gosh, I can't really think of anything overly "hard"…definitely a few epic experiences like pushing a fatbike through waist-deep snow, moving a half mile an hour for 16-plus hours, but it wasn't necessarily hard. It took patience. Sure I get fatigued and sleepy and need to get through those times, but I have felt this way so many times I just accept it for what it is. That question has me thinking, what would be the hardest thing I could experience on a bike?
Kid: When you're riding what do you find yourself thinking about? Or does your mind go someplace else for a while?
JayP: I am thinking ‘How can I go faster? What can I do to be more efficient? How is my body holding up? Am I getting enough nutrition/hydration? What do I need to do to keep at the top of my game?’ I am also doing a lot of math in my head. I simply enjoy being in the moment, looking around often to absorb and be aware of the surrounding environment...there is so much to do and enjoy in the moment. I do my best to keep everyday life and personal things at home or to leave them at the start line. At this point in my riding I do feel I have control of where my mind does go. I feel I turn into a machine and am so concentrated in my own little bubble. In longer events like the Tour Divide I start to feel somewhat odd when I am in a town or having to engage with people.
Kid: If you could give someone considering racing the Tour Divide for the first time three pieces of advice, what would they be?
JayP: Build your own "kit". Figure out what will work for you and use it beforehand.
Be honest when setting a time goal for yourself. Be realistic and don't get down on yourself if your not reaching it.
Embrace the ride and enjoy each moment thinking you are the luckiest person in the world.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.