Snake Alley

Photo: SnowyMountain Photography

The feeling of lining up for the start of Snake Alley is rivaled by very few other events. I can think of a short list of maybe five other races that would produce similar levels of adrenaline on the start line. Snake Alley is like a cross race, as many say, but it’s also like a time trial, a downhill race, and a classics all wrapped up into one event. Depending on your category, this race may be a half hour, or it could be an hour. Either way, it feels never ending during it, and it’ll be over before you can say “Alley”. I’m going to keep this post simple with a few tips centered around acceptance. While I’ve never won Snake Alley, I have raced this  event since 2007 as a Junior, a cat3, cat2, and cat 1 (most recently finishing 11thin 2017 in the Pro1/2).

Acceptance One:

Accept how insanely nervous you will be at the start. Do NOT TRY TO FIGHT HOW YOU ARE FEELING! If you wish to be cool as a cucumber at the start line, you should have hired a mental coach about 6 months ago. That stuff takes work! I can guarantee, however, that wishing to be in a mental state that you are not currently in will only add more stress to the situation. Instead, accept that you feel nervous. Maybe you think you are more nervous than everyone else lined up. Maybe so! (but probably not). Simply say to yourself… “All right, I’m nervous as hell but I’m still going to get this done”. So accept that you are nervous. Embrace it.

Acceptance Two:

The next step of acceptance is how much insane discomfort you will be in. Embrace that as well! You are alive! There’s an elderly man or women in that crowd that would love to turn back time and be in your shoes. And you’ll be where they are one day, too. So enjoy that you are in a position to suffer this deeply. I challenge you to see if you can just be there with the pain rather than labeling it bad or good. Take in the raw data of pain. In my experience, that raw data is so much less of a thing than the thoughts of “I don’t know how much longer I can ride at this pace”, or whatever you may be thinking. You are already bearing the weight of that pain, and it hasn’t cracked you. And on the next time up the snake, you’ll bear it again, and again. Accept the pain. Thrive on it!

Acceptance Three:

The next stage of acceptance; how things are going. I’m not talking about how you want things to go, I’m talking about that exact moment in the race. Accept how things are right at this moment and work with that. If you are three laps in and you find yourself just behind the lead group, okay. That’s already happened. The focus should be what you can do at this very moment, and how you can get to those leaders. Too often riders allow themselves to get discouraged at Snake Alley. The course breaks people’s will power every race. Are you going to be that person who breaks? Of course not! That’s not what this sport is about, and you know that. This is a day where you fight to the bitter end. So figure out how to get to those leaders or re-asses and figure out how to win out of the group you’re in. And if you’re in the lead group, it should go without saying that you better go big or go home.

Acceptance Four:

Lastly, accept how it went. The snake is a cruel animal with no emotional feelings (figuratively and literally). It does not care about your FTP. So however you finished, accept it. Learn from it. Talk to your coach about it. This sport is not about winning every race; it’s about overcoming and improving. And if you win, well, hell yeah. Congratulate your competitors and be nice because they are coming for you tomorrow!