Fueling the soul with self-supported challenges that put your physical and mental strength to the ultimate test
By INFINIT Athlete & Soul Seeker, Kayla Bowker
I’m a triathlete, and like most endurance athletes, I have always predominantly relied on races to fuel my motivation and training.
That changed this year when my fourth race of the season was cancelled, and I was faced with the challenge of adjusting plans last minute. It was frustrating and overwhelming but deep down I knew I would find something else to keep me moving.
It wasn’t long before my coach texted me, asking if there were any challenges that I wanted to try to keep my motivation high. Funny enough, I already had a challenge mulling in the back of my mind.
That challenge was to complete 500 miles on my bike in one week. More specifically, I wanted to ride 100 miles each day, for five days. Of course my coach loved the idea, so with little to no fanfare, we decided to go for it. A few weeks later I went on a completely self-made and self-supported adventure that, to my surprise, turned out to be more of a journey of the mind than of the body.
The goal was simple, complete a total of 500 miles on the bike in five daily doses of 100 miles.
Previously the plan had been to do three days in a row then take a day off and then complete the final two days back to back, however due to scheduling conflicts I ended up having to complete four days in a row before taking a day off and finishing off the final day on it’s own.
"Fueling was very important because I didn’t have the ability to keep up on my overall calorie needs throughout the day. Therefore the intra ride fueling was critical to ensure that I received enough calories to supplement my glycogen stores and get through each ride, especially as the week progressed."
Each of my rides were 100% self-supported. This is mostly because of where I ride, there are not many pit stops for refueling of water or calories. I knew I had to be prepared so I created my own little aid station from the back of my car. Every morning I would fill up four or five bottles of my Custom Infinit Bike Blend (280 calories and 60g of carbs) and a gallon of water to refill my fresh water supply.
The plan was to carry enough Infinit to last me approximately fifty miles (two 90-minute bottles).Then, I would make a quick stop and pick up two more bottles from the car to finish out the ride.
Fueling was very important because I didn’t have the ability to keep up on my overall calorie needs throughout the day. Therefore the intra ride fueling was critical to ensure that I received enough calories to supplement my glycogen stores and get through each ride, especially as the week progressed.
To be honest, starting out I thought this was going to be a huge physical challenge where I would be pushing through my own physical barriers to accomplish it. And while it was very difficult physically, it came down to being way more of a mental challenge.
My first two days went as you would expect when riding 100-miles, they were challenging. There were a few moments of complete longing to just get off the bike, but overall, nothing too out of the ordinary. I was able to hold pretty good speed and power with both of these rides, completing them in almost the same time.
It was on day 3 that cracks started to show. My body did not want to ride again, everything was sore, and I was really tired both physically and mentally. This exhaustion manifested into a complete lack of motivation and desire to get back to work.
"I got through those final miles completely on grit, resilience, and determination to not give up on the goal that I set out to do."
That day I spent the entire ride running through every single mental performance trick I knew, from repeating power statements, telling myself I could do this, visualizing myself somewhere else, taking deep breaths to recenter myself. Basically, if you can name it, I did it. From mile 90 on, all I did was complete 1-3 mile back and forth segments of soft pedaling because that was all I could handle. I simply could not focus on more than 1-3 miles at a time.
After that struggle, I think the universe knew that I needed a mental break. On day 4, it was pouring down rain so I was thankful to complete the fourth century inside on my trainer. I was still tired, but I was able to check off my longest trainer ride ever and recharge my mind.
I took my first (and only) rest day on day 5, and set out for my final 100 miles of the challenge the following morning.
Turns out one day is not enough time to really gain any adaptation or recovery from a total of four hundred miles in four days. My legs did not want to respond to the work I was asking them to do.
Day 6 started out decently from a performance standpoint but quickly faded when I hit the 70-75 mile marker. By mile 85 the legs totally shut down, and it took another feat of mental endurance to get me through the final 15 to 20 miles. I got through those final miles completely on grit, resilience, and determination to not give up on the goal that I set out to do.
I learned a lot about myself during those five days and surprisingly none of it was related to physical strength but completely about mental strength.
⚡️ Motivation and discipline are totally different
⚡️ You can do hard things
⚡️ Letting go of your data and expectations is very freeing
⚡️ Hard things are totally worth it
This self-guided, soul searching challenge was one of the most empowering things I have done in a long time. There was no finish line, no medal, no final race time, and no one out there physically cheering... yet I was just as proud of myself as I was when I crossed my first Ironman finish line.
When you strip away any and all physical strength and bring yourself down to nothing you find out a lot about yourself. You find a newfound strength, and power, and completing this did exactly that.
Follow Kayla on Instagram @where_your_feet_take_you
About the Author
2x IM World Championship Finisher
2019 Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga - 1st AG
2018 Ironman Texas - 2nd AG
2018 Ironman 70.3 Couer d’Alene - 1st AG
2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship Finisher
2016 Ironman Arizona - 1st AG
Born and raised in Hood River, OR, Kayla Bowker is a small town girl at heart, with a desire for adventure. Kayla attended Gonzaga University where she earned a Biology degree. Kayla’s permanent residence is now Spokane, WA where she lives, works and trains.
Kayla got into triathlon as way to find herself during a rough patch in her life, “I remember riding my mom's old touring bike (with crotch rocket gears and a rack for backpacks on the back of it) in the middle of an Olympic distance race thinking, ‘this is the best thing ever.’ It allowed me to find passion, faith, and strength in myself again.” Since then, she has made it her mission to help others find that very same thing, recently through the development of her coaching business, and through the documentation of her journey in her popular blog and Instagram Where Your Feet Take You.
“I started using INFINIT three years ago and since then I have come to love everything about it. It was the only product that really allowed me to chase my dreams without having to chase a porta potty.”
INFINIT has not only played a huge factor in her success as an athlete but as coach as well because it provides an easy way for Kayla to help others nail their race day nutrition as they journey to their own finish line.
Fun Facts About Kayla:
∞ Kayla is a new mom!
∞ Her favorite INFINIT Flavor is watermelon.