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May 21, 2013

Endurance Thoughts

It’s no secret, right? This boy loves going long. Since the early days, I preferred running the 1200m to the 100m and swam the 1500m far better than the 200m. Efficiency was always my game.

In the last few months I have been through various forms of this and wanted to share some of the things that made it easier, some elements to avoid and some processes to work on in the future. A summary of sorts.

During the Cape Epic, I learned about routine more than anything. The Epic is filled with schedule and organisation and they made it easy for us to get into the routine. While I added the element of running to the photography theme for the week, the endurance required for the day is quite specific and the seasoned photographers had it down from Day 1. It was very much a “hurry up and wait” approach to the day which revolved around key moments like the start of the stage, the three or four major points to get to, the rush to the finish, then a break before frantic editing of images and seeding them into the right channels. A quiet dinner would follow and then the next days’ briefing would follow, followed by a mad setting of the days’ plan ahead to make sure you got somewhere others may not have thought of. Collaboration and fast decisions require rest periods after. The serious guys were asleep early and prepped before anyone else.

It’s the same with endurance sports. Small bursts are great, but only if you can recover adequately in the middle.

Knowing where the red zone lies and where the point of no return lies is SO huge in this game. Look at marathons, Ironmans and the grand cycling tours. An attack is only rewarded if the attacker can sustain the effort, then recover slightly before attacking again. Those in the group that can’t recover are first out the back.

The lessons out of Ironman for endurance were simple. The pain is far more manageable when you are having fun. If you are desperate or completely “over” the whole experience, the pain is so much worse. This includes the days after the race. I finished strong and with a happy heart, happy mind & happy body this year. I walked well the next day and had no niggles out of the race. It was a huge lesson for me. As we get a little older, we realise that life doesn’t stop for us to smell the roses. It’s this continuous moving thing and change is the only constant. This year I moved well in the days after Ironman and wasn’t in that space where nothing made sense or where I felt life had no purpose.

Lessons.

Joberg2c was a biggie and I learned some lessons the hard way there. I learned that you have a deeper dark place than you currently know. By letting go and by feeling an obligation to a partner, you can give a little more, every time.

On day 3, I pushed to the deepest, darkest place I have ever been. It was great because there was no reason not to. We were going well and then *poof* by body just gave in. I didn’t want to drop back as we were gaining momentum as the race was going on and so, I rode till I couldn’t. I then recovered for about a minute and then would do the same again and again. I went till I thought about giving up. Then I went again. I learned there is always more.

Always.

A few days later, I was watching my partner go through severe illness. I was guiding him, chatting with him and distracting him as much as possible as he struggled through his days. In the long run, we eventually all slow down. Something will slow us down and Nic was slowing down. Ironically, I was also slowing down a few days later and much more so than he was. It was in this period where I learned that two competitive sick people should never ride together.

“We’re taking it easy today, eh bro”.

“Totally bro, soft pedalling”.

The gun would go off, and both of us would be there, mixing it near the front 10 teams. FOR NO REASON AT ALL.

1+1 = 3 times the motivation to be there when it comes to 2 highly driven individuals working for a common goal. Our natural endurance can keep us in the mix easily, despite it pushing one of us completely over the edge. This led to the last lesson for Joberg2c.

Health = wealth. I got an extremely stern talking to by the doctor in the race village. I knew what she was saying and I agreed with her 100%, completely contrary to my behaviour in the 6 hours before that.

If I didn’t slow down, I could have caused long term damage to myself. It was a big moment for me and the final nail in the coffin of a lesson coming for a long time. I rested for 7 full days after the race and slept 10 hours a night.

Sani2c was the culmination and we applied all these lessons with gusto. We rode and recovered like champions with little bursts and enough time to get back our strength. We rode incredibly well, as a pair. Brett and I ride like no other partners out there. We let loose on the penultimate evening and got to bed late, in a red wine haze and rode as hard as we could the next day despite being a little tender. Sure, we lost one place overall, but even if we lost 8 placed, it would have been worth it because who cares whether you were 18th or 28th?

So what’s next and how do we apply these things going forward?

I would be lying if I said that I had all the answers. Mostly though, I want to make sure all my systems are 100% through winter – immune, endocrine, nervous, integumentary, etc. I saw many many tired looking unhealthy 40-50 year olds at these races and my aim in life is certainly not to replicate their paths.

As for the rest – they will make superb topics to talk about here. So stay tuned.

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