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Exploring mind over matter approach featuring Pivot athlete Kait Boyle

By Kelsey Timpany

In the realm of endurance sports, where the body is pushed to its limits, the line between physical prowess and mental fortitude blurs into insignificance. The mantra "mind over matter" resonates profoundly, encapsulating the ability to transcend physical barriers through sheer mental strength by having the ability to control a physical condition or problem by using the mind.

After a summer of lapping chairlifts

After a summer of lapping chairlifts in North America and relying on lazy skill to hurtle down a mountainside, the unexpected chance to compete in the renowned New Zealand Whaka100 arose. Despite the lack of preparation, only three weeks remained until the race. The daunting challenge ahead sparked a realization: “If it don’t mind, it don’t matter.” With that mantra echoing in my mind, I was determined on this challenge, viewing it as an experiment to test the power of mind over matter. 

When it comes to the concept of ‘mind over matter,’ no-one else compares to fellow Pivot athlete, Kait Boyle.  An ultra-endurance guru, World Champion, and record-holding athlete, Kait is not just a rider; she’s a force of nature. Her passion for backcountry mountain biking goes beyond the thrill; it’s about delving deeper, forging connections with both the land and the people around her. Consulting with Kait was a natural choice, given her wealth of experience and unwavering dedication. She’s not just an athlete; she’s a living testament to resilience and mental fortitude.  

As Kait reflects, “Choosing to race ultras is choosing to play the mind over matter game.” 

She reflects on her challenges, triumphs, and the pivotal moments that shaped her mindset:

The longer you’re out, the more highs and lows there is going to be. There’s highs and lows in anything, for example with XC racing, if you’re out for an hour, you’ll have little blips that are low, where you’ll really hurt like when passing someone, but in Ultra Endurance races, when you are out for 6, 12, 24 hours, or 3 days, its extending the number of highs and lows possible. You can’t have the highs without the lows – it’s also a metaphor for life, and so the mind over matter part is how you can manage those lows and preventing them from becoming even longer than they need to be.”  


– Kait Boyle

Anecdotes from Her Expeditions

Kait shares anecdotes from her expeditions, illustrating how she confronted moments of fatigue head-on. Whether bushwhacking through South American jungles or battling snowstorms in the Alps, her ability to navigate adversity with resilience is unparalleled. Reflecting on challenging moments, she recalls, “There was an instance in South America that involved bushwhacking through bamboo and thorny bushes for hours on end… I just wanted to go home. It was in that moment that there’s literally no way that can happen, and the only way to change this is to change my attitude about it.” 

Control the Controllable

There’s an element in all these examples of just realizing that this situation, there is only so much you can control. You can’t control the weather, you can’t control the quality of the weather, the bad luck like mechanicals, but we can control how we react to them. I let myself wallow for a minute, but then I was like, time to move on and control the controllable. In racing, I used to include writing mantras on athletic tape and putting it on my handlebars as a tool to remind myself that the lows in long rides are inevitable. It was a tool that I’ve used to cultivate that as a reaction to the lows. And then I think good teammates or partners out in the back country are a great tool. 

Drawing from my conversation with Kait, I embraced these principles throughout my race. Undoubtedly, there were challenging moments where I found myself cursing at my lead legs and waning energy. In the darker moments I had to remind myself: I chose this experiment; I chose this discomfort. I understood that enduring temporary pain would pave the way for long-term fulfillment.  
When your core is anchored in genuine reasons and values, every moment of struggle becomes more bearable. There’s a certain allure in pushing your body to its limits, entering what I like to call the ‘twilight zone.’ The most grueling segment of my race came around the 70km mark, where fellow athletes were sparse, and doubts crept in. Yet, every glimpse of a marker brought me relief. Events like this strip away layers, leaving behind ego, revealing your simplest, purest essence. It’s a transformative space, a realm rarely visited by many.  

Everyone should taste this experience,

Everyone should taste this experience, as it transcends mere race dynamics; it prepares you for life’s challenges. Enduring the pain of a race can lessen the sting of real-life hardships. In the realm of endurance sports, the philosophy of mind over matter holds sway above all else.  

Through Kait Boyle’s career and my modest experiment, one resounding truth emerges: it is all about mind over matter. In witnessing the spirit of the human psyche—a testament to resilience, perseverance, and the triumph of the human spirit.