December 13, 2010 cburnham


Endurance racing is suffering. Training smart with a good plan is crucial,but all else being equal, the athlete that is able to suffer more in training and racing will do better. They will get in more work, give everything they have, squeeze out a few more watts, claw back a few more seconds before tapping out, and that will result in a fitter athlete. A fit athlete with a high pain tolerance for suffering and a solid work ethic is a successful athlete. **Note that the pain I am referring to is pain from exertion. Not from an injury. Don’t train through an injury!

On some level, I think most athletes like this suffering. It makes the podiums sweeter and teaches us a lot about ourselves. I like to refer to it as Fight Club theory: After competing, everything else in your life gets the volume turned down. We need our competition to inflict some suffering, to hit us, to make other things in life seem a little easier (like a marathon shopping session at the mall with your significant other- guys you know what I am talking about**). Sport is our “Fight Club” and we are a ll a little masochistic.

Narrator: Well, what do you want me to do? You just want me to hit you?

Tyler Durden: C’mon, do me this one favor.

Narrator: Why

Tyler Durden: Why? I don’t know why; I don’t know. Never been in a fight. You?

Narrator: No, but that’s a good thing.

Tyler Durden: No, it is not. How much can you know about yourself, you’ve never been in a fight? I don’t wanna die without any scars. So come on; hit me before I lose my nerve.

Narrator: This is crazy.

Just because your not racing doesn’t mean you don’t have competitors.  We can compete against a climb, a trail, a course, or the hardest competitor of them all, ourselves. Staying focused on that competition can provide a ton of motivation. That climb isn’t getting easier, other racers aren’t taking the day off because they stubbed their toe on the plastic Santa in the front lawn (you know who you are…), and that trail isn’t getting any easier. You have to claw for those inches, those seconds…

That video probably made you run out the door to get that workout in you have been procrasting about reading this…

We owe a lot to our competitors.  They make us fitter, provide motivation, give us something to measure ourselves against, and ultimately make us faster.  We need them to be our best.  A good example of how our competition can push us is with the history of the 1-mile running record.  In 1913 the record for the mile run was at 4:14.  At that time many people thought that it was impossible to break a 4-min mile.  Over the next 32 years runners pushed as hard as they could to topple the 4 min mile with Gunder Hägg from Sweden getting the world record down to 4:01.3.  The average life of a world record through that time was little under 2.5 years.  But after Hägg’s record of 4:01.3, it stayed there for the next 10-years until Roger Bannister ran a 3:59.4 thus ending the belief that the 4-min mile was impossible.  Less than 2-months after Bannister broke the record John Landy broke the record again with an unbelievable 3:57.9!  In the 10 years after Bannister ran the first sub-4 minute mile the world record was broken another 5 times and 16 runners had run sub 4-min miles.   Those runner’s needed Bannister to prove that it was possible, to push them, to show them what real suffering was so they could have the confidence to push themselves even harder.  They needed Bannister to hit them as hard as he could…

Since I have stopped racing a few years ago to focus on coaching, I had to find a new “competitor” to keep me motivated. At first it was improving some nagging injuries and regaining range of motion and strength to get back some comfort on the bike. Then last year I used the Death Ride to challenge my endurance and capacity for suffering. After 8.5 hours, a sore knee, and a decent amount of suffering I finished that ride and marked it off my list. The problem was I knew in the back of my mind I could of done better. I knew what mistake I made to cause the knee issue, I knew I could of paced myself better, and I could of done a better job fueling. Mix in a little endurance athlete amnesia (ie forgetting most of the pain) and there I was sitting at my computer this past Thursday signing up for the 2011 edition. Sucked back in.  Time to Do Work!

**Yeah, I know I am going to pay for that shopping comment…

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