After putting some thought into what was keeping me out of the pack during cycling road races I came up with the following list of what athletes call “limiters:”
I’ve already addressed strength-to-weight ratio, so today I’ll just drone on about the heart and mind.
I’ve participated in endurance sports for about twenty five years now, and tough I never won any races – or even came close – I did develop a fairly good idea of how to complete the distance in a competitive fashion. An endurance event is anything lasting over two hours and thus issues such as nutrition, hydration and body maintenance come into play. Cat 4 criteriums, time trials, cyclocross races and short course mountain bike events last only thirty to forty minutes and even the longer road races rarely last more than two hours, so this bike racing is putting me in a new realm.
Finishing an endurance event, especially ultra marathons, and Ironman events, is contingent upon: nutrition/hydration, body maintenance, and fitness, in that order. Your body is like an automobile in that even a Ferrari conks out if you don’t put gasoline in it and it goes pretty dang slow if you don’t inflate the tires. Nutrition/hydration is the body’s gasoline; you don’t feed the machine it stops moving. Body maintenance (eliminating/reducing blistering, chaffing, GI distress) is like driving on flat tires, you may continue down the road, but it’s going to be a slow, uncomfortable trip. The point is that when it comes to completing endurance events fitness isn’t the paramount concern; some folks may say I’m crazy, but time and time again I’ve seen properly prepared folks trot past some super fit dude as he lays collapsed in the parking strip awaiting an ambulance.
When it comes to bicycle racing I’m learning that it’s all about supreme aerobic fitness and the ability to briefly tolerate extreme misery. Even in Ironman I never felt like my heart was going to explode, the pain of long races is more associated with bodily discomfort: an aching back, aching knees, sore feet, bad stomach, but in bike racing, at least for me, it’s all about overcoming the sensation that you’re about to go into cardiac arrest. I think a good way to improve my high end aerobic fitness is to engage in more short/explosive efforts and reduce the number of moderately paced “bike rides.” Up until now most of my training has simply been getting on my bike and riding it around for a couple of hours. From now on it’s going to be more hills and more time on the trainer.
Increasing my high end aerobic fitness will, I think, have the side benefit of increasing my mental toughness. I’m quite used to enduring long periods of low level pain, but I need to work on my ability to tough out short periods of high end suffering in order to avoid getting dropped off the back and left for dead.
Got in 22 miles yesterday, which now puts me at 625 miles for the year. Tuesday and today were trainer days.