#111 – Testing, Distractions and a welcome-back WHACK

I guess I always imagine it might be more like the prodigal son’s return – you know open arms, a welcoming embrace and a small party…..but it’s never quite like that.  It’s something more akin to a welcoming headbutt or kick to the shins, as if my body is saying “oh great, look who’s back…..where the hell have you been – WHACK” – it’s a sure-fire way of knowing that I’m at the early part of training…..and not all parties have agreed to come along for the ride.

Pre-training, or “prep” (as some like to call it) is so wonderful and easy going – a few workouts here and there a slow, easy pace, work – but not THAT much…..and so on.  I love that aspect, mostly because it feels like time to yourself with just a little exertion mixed in.  And then there’s the early phases of base training, which are not much more than prep really. Still pretty easy going, with the main emphasis of readying the system and organizing life.  Officially, I’m at the later stages of that and, as mentioned last week, the making plans part (getting organized) is done-enough for now…..so this week, was the beginning of actual training…..and with the beginning of any “actual” comes the bitter pill known as “testing”.

The truth is no one really “likes” testing. It’s hard…..as it should be if you’re going to figure out where you really stand. And so, with enough early base hours in, and formal training right around the corner, it was time to test…..and apropos for this time of year, I chose yesterday’s “pie run” as my first test.  The objective of the run is to correctly guess your overall time for a 6 mile loop…closest person wins the pies….not bad, except the course is anything but predictable.  A couple of flat sections, a solid uphill and a big downhill, with a time trial start.  Having no idea where I stood, I underestimated my fitness by more than I should have, but it gave me a solid idea of where I stood…..I pushed hard enough to get a good concept of where my fitness stands, and as usual, it’s never as good as it should be nor where I’d like it; but it was decent.

Silence the mind

So although I wasn’t super enthused to do so today, I took my sore quads and put them on the bike trainer for a couple hours of blissfulness. I was definitely tired from yesterday’s run, but it was good to push my legs some…..but the best thing was that I tried to put some emphasis on the mental endurance portion of training.  Truly, there is nothing more boring than the bike trainer….and in the early going of training about 1 hour is my mental max before my boredom manifests into thinking about all of the things I’d rather be doing….so I figured this week, I’d try to make that one of my training objectives: to work on keeping the mental focus needed.  This is probably one of the most functionally translatable aspects of endurance sports for me. It forces me to calm and focus, a skill that, like most I suppose, isn’t supported by the pace of my everyday life.  When one of your best-practiced habits is trying to do to much, simply “being” is not nearly as simple as it sounds…..so something that not only will help my racing, but my everyday.

For starters, I found a few meditation-like exercises that help with focus and figured I’d give them a try while I rode – best of both worlds .  It was not easy….and my mind wandered a lot, but I think there’s real value there since racing “within oneself” is so important at the ultra distances…. 

So with >50 miles on the bike and nearly 20 on the run…..training is slowly gearing back up.  My fitness has a way to go and my focus even further, but my routine is starting to take shape.

Steady as she goes,

Mike E.