Friday, November 22, 2013

Seems Like Science: Remove your excuses

In almost every race, we're forced to bargain with ourselves. If you're racing at an intensity that's appropriate for the distance, you'll eventually hit a point where you'll have to argue with your body about slowing down while it's presenting some pretty solid reasons for doing so. One of the biggest keys to racing success will be your ability to remove the excuses your body will try to give you, so let's review a few of the ways you can prepare yourself to keep on pushing.

We've all been there.


This seems stupidly obvious, but it's worth mentioning. Every single workout you do is one more drop in the bucket of water you can throw on your body's lame-ass demands to slow down, stop and just curl up for a nap in the middle of the race course. The harder the workout, the closer you get to blowing yourself up to squeeze out one last interval, the stronger your voice will be able to shout LALALALALALANOTLISTENING when your legs are screaming at you that they've had enough and it's Miller time.

I don't think it'll be a big seller.

Tailoring your training to your chosen races will produce the best results. If you're going to be racing in Hawaii, doing all of your training in mild temperatures is going to leave you gasping. Similarly, if your race is a cross-country course with hills akimbo, running exclusively on the local highschool's track is probably not your best tactic. The more specific the preparation, the easier it will be to pull a Jens Voigt - because you've already done the work before, you know you're capable, which is a huge mental boost.


Not surprisingly, your body doesn't perform at its peak when you're hungry or hypoglycemic (that's low on blood sugar, kids). In endurance events that last longer than 90-120mins, there are proven benefits to consuming a carbohydrate solution to supplement muscle glycogen stores, which will generally deplete within that timeframe. There have also been demonstrable benefits to rinsing with a carbohydrate solution for shorter events, even if no calories are actually consumed. If your body is telling you that it's completely spent, you may be able to quiet that voice with some sugar.

I won't judge how you go about it.


Similarly to the above, there is a proven decline in cardiovascular function as a direct result of dehydration. A thirsty body will slow down and begin to shut down no matter how strong your will to power through may be, so take a moment and hit that aid station for a cup of water or sport drink. There's evidence that the latter may be preferable, as the carbohydrate and electrolyte content may increase fluid absorption, keeping you better hydrated and able to maintain intensity. There's a pretty exhaustive hydration guide here.

'Cause noone wants to be this guy.


One of the easiest ways to ensure that you'll end up blown and unable to maintain pace in a race is to go out too fast. You only have so many "matches" to burn, and once they're gone, you're going to be left limping to the finish line...assuming you can make it there at all. To avoid a performance explosion, you can either buy some fancy gadgetry (GPS device showing pace for runners or a power meter for cyclists), or you can pace by feel. If you intend to do the latter, you'll have to train at your intended race pace until you know it absolutely intuitively - so well as to be able to overcome the adrenaline and zippy, easy feeling from being tapered and rested at the starting line of an event. This is one of the toughest things to really nail down, but when you manage it, the first third of the race will tend to feel too easy, the second third will start to feel like work, and the final kilometers will have you ready to barf your lungs all over the finish line as your legs simultaneously fall off.

If you can coordinate all of the above, you can generally mitigate the effects of fatigue, using your mental strength to carry you through those last agonizing minutes. The suffering only lasts a little while - you can always collapse later!

Me after every single race.

How do you shut down your body's excuses? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments!

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