I have been to the mountain and this is what I have for you and this is in order of importance. Some may disagree, others may not. This is my opinion:
1. BE SAFE! You can't finish the race if you get hurt.
2. Your bike is your BEST FRIEND. Treat it like it's all you have on the planet. It's your tool to survival - DON'T BREAK IT!!!
3. Every time you think about water take a drink of it - NO MATTER WHAT. That is my rule, if water crosses my mind I take a drink, it's your brain's way of telling you that you need it.
4. Eat regularly, don't fall behind. Farrow likes to eat according to his clock (that's a good plan). I just try to remain cognizant of my need to keep the cals coming - DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOU'RE HUNGRY, then it's too late.
5. Don't suffer on purpose. If you're cold and you have something to put on, stop and put it on. The race is hard enough, if you have a way to make it easier, TAKE IT! In last year's T.I. Farrow and I stopped and I put on every bit of clothing I had, just so I could reduce the suffering.
6. YOU WILL GET LOST! Minimize the damage. Pay attention to the cues, trust no one to do it for you, they'll screw up. Plus, engaging in the cues reduces suffering, it keeps the mind busy and activated. Be your own leader! Be aware of your surroundings and where you are on the planet (i.e. "I'm heading north now, pretty soon I'll be heading west, the wind will be at my back then). STAY ENGAGED!
7. LOOK AROUND. You're doing this because you love it (Amy's words to me before every big race). Appreciate what you're doing, it's a beautiful thing. THESE ARE THE MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE, don't miss them.
8. LAUGH AND HAVE FUN. Last year's T.I. was the most fun I've had on a bike ever. Farrow and I goofed around like little kids out there. I can't count how many belly laughs we were in. We were just talking about it recently and we were laughing all over again.
9. SMALL CHUNKS. Don't think of the whole race ever. Just think about pieces of it. Amazingly, some 12 hour mt. bike races I've done seem harder than the T.I. I think this is because there's so much more to manage in the T.I., so many more logistics that sections of it just seem to tick by. Last year I remember thinking when I was about 70 miles out that, "this thing is almost over". We do 70 mile rides all the time. Think check point to check point. That's key.
10. Maybe this should be #1, BELIEVE, BELIEVE, BELIEVE. You can do this thing! No one can stop you. The first time I did the T.I. I taped these words on my stem. "Never, Ever, Ever, Quit". Quitting never crossed my mind. In fact, that year I was riding with a group of guys when suddenly I heard them talking about how they just wanted to make it half way, then they were going to quit. It broke my heart to leave them, but I couldn't be around them anymore.
Good luck buddy. I'll be there with you guys. I'll be on your shoulder telling you that the T.I. can be tamed and you're the one that can do it.