This time (Wednesday, 20h32) in 3 weeks time, I’ll hopefully be asleep, or very close to it, in the race village having finished day 3 of the ABSA Cape Epic.
I’ve taken quite a bit in the last few weeks. Not really pain in the conventional way one thinks of it. Although the legs get bloody painful at times (in the very conventional sense), maybe hardship is a better word for it.
Sweating profusely, breathing hard (nay – gasping at times) are more hardship than pain. Though come to think of it, that excruciating discomfort that befalls my poor toes after about 5 hours into a ride is very definitely pain.
As was my lower back on my third climb up the steep side of Breedt’s Nek this last weekend.
Okay. If we are to define it, let’s settle for a heady mixture of pain and hardship. Interestingly enough, in one of the podcasts I was listening to while on such a long ride, Tim Ferriss (best-selling author, unconventional self-help guru ) spoke of voluntary suffering and how the more you are able to build into your life, the less he believes involuntary suffering will affect it. And the more I’ve pondered that notion, the more I believe it holds true.
As Tim pointed out, that philosophy comes from the Roman philosopher Seneca, who said “Let them be harassed by toil, by suffering, by losses, in order that they may gather true strength”.
So I subject myself to pain voluntarily so that when it comes involuntarily I’ll be better equipped. Nah. I don’t think I can profess to be that deep. Jaco has prescribed what I should do and I’m too anxious to miss a session lest I come up short at the race. So I do what needs to be done.
But I have found that in times of abstinence from things I love (things like coffee, chocolate, booze), usually during lent I have found that I’ve thought about things like yearning, privilege, poverty more deeply than I would ordinarily. And thinking about pain in Seneca’s light does make it a lot more tolerable.
Well the good news is that until the race itself, there is not too much more pain to go through. Which brings me to my next point, perspective.
In recent weeks, as we get closer to the race, it’s been occupying my mind a lot. A myriad of different thoughts and emotions pass whimsically and transiently through my head at any given time.
One minute confidence and excitement at the conclusion of a particularly hard training session, the next anxiety and doubt about whether I have good enough technical skills or whether I’ll be able to put it all together for 8 days in a row.
Thankfully, I’m familiar with these thoughts of doubt. They always seem to surface in droves as you approach a big event you’ve been training hard towards. Having done quite a few endurance events, I think I am now able to quell them a lot quicker than before, but then this is different. It’s not just a one day, nor 3-day event. It’s 7 consecutive days with a prologue thrown in for good measure. I’ve done other tough things BUT can I do this.
The pain I’ve felt in training; could it be worse during the race?
But it’s all about perspective.
1.I am doing this voluntarily
2.I do feel pain, but relatively speaking, it’s so transient. No sooner have I crested a killer hill, or finished a brutal session and I’m filled with amazing feelings of triumph and I’m off onto the next activity and my head is filled with new thoughts on the next hill I need to climb or the beer I need to drink in celebration.
3.There are people all around my suburb, city, country being subjected to a far more severe pain of a far less transient nature and not of their choosing.
4.I can stop it at any time. I just get off the bloody bike.
Perspective – running through the thoughts above, really helps to motivate me during those tough times to just get on and do it.
You get a serious sense of perspective from stories of amazing people like father and son IronMan duo Dick and Rick Hoyt – watch this Youtube clip for some incredible inspiration – or that of our own South African heroes Kevin and Nicky Garwood (Ironman 2013) .
I also read a great article in the recent March issue of Bicycling magazine, which described how Collyn Ahart decided to ride in last year’s ABSA Cape Epic as a type of catharsis to get over the loss of her business. After falling badly on the penultimate day, she had climbed off her bike and was standing just off the trail sobbing, before a hand reached out, grabbed her bike and began pushing it up the hill in front of her. She chased after it, begging the protagonist to stop because she was done. The helping hand came from ex-rally car driver Gugu Zulu, who told her “If you can’t ride, you walk, but you will finish. You have to”. She took up the challenge again, made the cut-off by 10 minutes and finished the race the next day.
That story gives me goosies. If stories like that and people like the Hoyt’s and the Garwood’s can’t get you up off your gat, very little could.
And the beautiful thing that comes from enduring that pain, in athletic terms, is progress in the form of fitness.
One of the best measures of that progress is a very cryptic looking graph presented on the website www.trainingpeaks.com.
It’s a site developed to interpret data (Speed, distance, heartrate, power etc) collected by cycling computers and GPS wristwatches worn during events and training sessions and apply algorithms to present the data to coaches and athletes so that they can see how they are doing.
That’s the very simple explanation. Its far more involved and intelligent than that and provides:
- great integration with the various devices to get your data into the platform
- great analytics to be able to understand that data, and
- a great intuitive interface on which a coach can load your training sessions every week and you can record your sessions in comparison to those.
The single most important chart, is the performance management chart, an incredibly complicated looking beast. Now I don’t profess to understand how the chart works. It was once explained to me when training for IronMan in 2014 and since then I’ve been meaning to delve into it to get a better understanding, but I just haven’t had the time.
Still, if the peaks are getting higher (as I demonstrate in the graph below), then you are getting fitter.
The other thing that chart does very well is inform the coach when an athlete is badly fatigued and getting the person to take it a bit easier or abstain from a few sessions altogether can often help one avoid unnecessarily long bouts of illness.
So it’s verry clevva Trevor.
I’m just delighted that the graph has tracked upwards so nicely and it helps to keep ticking off the sessions and then seeing how those sessions translate directly on the chart and display how you’re improving.
As I conclude this post, I’m 2 weeks away from Race day and not feeling completely right. I felt a bit less than full strength all week and on this morning’s last tough Friday interval session didn’t feel good at all, managing only 3 out of 4 of my required intervals.
So I’ve chatted to Jaco and we’ve agreed that my two 6-hour sessions planned for tomorrow and Sunday may have to be shortened quite substantially depending on how I feel, and I no longer have to concentrate on heavy climbing as was planned, but just need to put time on the saddle. I’m praying that whatever I’m afflicted with will be short-lived and I’ll be back to full strength shortly.
Being just 2 weeks out, it’s time to sit and plan for the race. I need to think about what I need to take with me and how I’m going to prepare for each day.
Time to draw up some lists.
It’s Monday morning. Despite feeling a little ill on Friday I managed a 5.15hr ride on Saturday and an even better 6.10 on Sunday with 2,000 ascent and felt good.
So the long rides are done and now I need to taper towards race day next Sunday. Whoop whoop. Really excited now.
The Tim Ferriss show podcast – available on itunes OR stitcher is an absolutely MUST check out. I’ve listened to a ton of them in the last month and they have almost all, without fail, left me inspired, challenged and far more knowledgeable on a host of wildly different topics and characters.