Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Baby Steps into the Endurance World: A Few Lessons I'm Learning

The first time my middle school track coach made me run a 200 meter dash, I half jokingly told him I wasn't an endurance athlete.  I'll stick to the 70m, 100m, and the long jump.  My sophomore year of high school, my track coach added the 400 meter dash to the equation.  I actually started running a few miles for conditioning to try to get better at the event.

College brought football conditioning and more track.  I discovered mountain biking.  But, back then, I was taught that aerobic development would make me slower.  As a fast twitch speed guy, this was the last thing I wanted.  (this is all pre Internet, no real books I found, and Hillsdale had no Strength and Conditioning Coach)

Rugby brought a new way of thinking.  You had run, tackle and display ball skills for 90 minutes.  I brought biking back in and used track workouts to get in anaerobic shape.  I still pretty much shunned straight aerobic work.

Bobsled brought back pure power and speed.  Get big, get fast, run for 5 seconds.  You have 45 min to recover.  Fitness is truly defined by the parameters that you find yourself in.  I was in shape to push a sled well.  More then 5 seconds, and I was very unfit.

Decade and some change later, I find myself riding my bike for longer and longer stretches.  I have friends, that ride even longer.  Friends so good, they are Pros and win big races in the biking endurance world.


I find myself for the first time semi training to be an endurance guy.  Semi as in I try to ride my bike about 2x a week.  About two times less then is ideal.  But, in dipping my toes in this endurance world, there is some very interesting thoughts that come to mind.

Speed world is technical and done.  Mistakes mean hundredths of a second.  Gains are hard to come by.  Rhythm is big in the world.  I think this is why music is such a big deal to fast twitch archetypes.

Endurance you have time to think, I mean time.  Hours and hours.  It's the crux of being good (outside of being slow twitch monster)  It's your mental control of time.  It's your relationship to time.  Can you stay focused with each step or each pedal stroke.  I'm not sure how many times, I have zoned out on a bike, looked down and be going about 2 MPH slower.  My legs weren't tired, I wasn't tired, but my mind was.  I haven't trained the mental focus.  It too, needs to be trained.

Over the weekend I did a 100 mile gravel race as a training ride.  I purposefully went out to hard to put myself in a hole to see how my body would recover, physical and mentally.  I didn't expect to start cramping at 2.5 hours in.  My goal was 8 hours for the race.

It's really easy to project when you are in pain.  If this is how much I hurt now, in 4, 5, 6 hours what am I going to feel?  Fear.  Endurance lesson for me is stay in the moment.  Don't think about the outcome, do what you have to do right now.  Don't Project the Future.

Cramps have been my nemesis since I can remember.  Running through the woods when I was eight and getting a calf cramp.  I think most high school football games and rugby games I got calf cramps.  Every mountain bike ride over 2 hours, quad cramps.  I've tried everything under the sun.  At this point, I think I'm simply neuromuscularly under trained for the race/task at hand.  I don't do enough at the intensity I race at.

Endurance training takes time.  I miss the 45 min workouts.  Even the lung burners.   But, there are some nice life takeaways that are hard to own, when you haven't lived through them.  Be in the moment is great advice, but to shut off your anxiety of the future and work the minute is an entirely different takeaway.  Pain gets worse when we project it into the future.

I have some cool friends to bounce ideas and questions off, or just pick up some tidbits.  Here is my Matt Acker Pro Tip number 7, use loose sandwich bags to hold your snacks in.  Zip lock are hard to open with one hand when your biking down bumpy roads.  I forgot this tip going into the race.  I found myself struggling to open up my snacks.

I brought a PB&J sandwich to eat halfway of my last 100 mile race.  It may have been the 2nd most enjoyable meal of my life.  LOL.  Endurance work has a unique way of making ordinary things extraordinary.

Preparation. 

There might not be a more fitting word to describe a successful endurance athlete.    

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