Friday, April 21, 2017
How to get faster on a bike: Suffer (Part II)
My neurological condition does not enable me to train very long for endurance, about 2.5 hours maximum before pain and cramping become unbearable. Hence, I tend to train in shorter time intervals, but more intensely than others. Most days when I ride, I ride hard and try to put some stress or suffering on the body for at least some portion of the ride. My weekly rides consist of a 38 mile ride up and back from Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet from 8,000) feet in 2:05:00 to 2:25:00; or I do two or three hill repeats up a 2.4 mile 850 foot climb as hard as I can do them; or I will do a time trial over a variety of terrain (flat 5K sprints, 10.7 mile 700 feet, or 22 mile 1,200 feet); or I do some sort of interval training on a low incline (30 second to 10 minute intervals). I also try to schedule a Time Trial race (or some other race: road race, criterium, or hill climb) each week. I try to do a personal best most days training and all days racing. I generally have 1 to 2 easy rides and at least 1 day off each week. When I race, I make sure that I am so tired I cannot sprint for the finish. People that have enough energy to do an all-out sprint the final 250 meters or so had enough energy that could have been used to sustain higher speeds during the race. They did not suffer enough. I do not plan out a strategy for a race, I go as fast as I can which varies depending on the distance of the race. I have an average speed I try to attain for each race. I usually try to keep a steady pace but will attack going up hills a bit harder and pull back a bit on the downhill. My neurological condition makes it difficult for me to change speeds (my quick or fast muscle twitch in my quads is non-existent) and hence, I excel at getting up to speed and trying to maintain that pace. There have been many workouts and races where I have been in so much pain that I never thought I would finish, but that is part of the fun: to work through that adversity and suffering. To endure pain psychologically and or mentally I remind myself that there are so many people around the globe that are suffering much more than myself and I push on. In many regards I believe my neurological condition helps me endure more pain while I cycle. It is odd, but sometimes the pain I feel from my disorder masks the pain I should be feeling while I ride. On most rides my hands and feet are in lots of pain. I suffer from paresthesia in my hands and feet 24/7. And of course that condition worsens when I am on the bike. Usually my hands and feet will stay cold, but from time to time they will get hot and I suffer some neuropathy symptoms where my brain is actually telling my body that my feet are burning. It is so real that when I am done riding my feet are covered in blisters. The pain is so intense I cannot even remember struggling to get oxygen in my lungs during these rides, but I was going very fast. Pain is relative and we can never understand how much pain others are going through. I was abused as child and suffered many broken bones that were never treated; I wrestled in high school; and suffer from a painful neurological disorder whose primary symptom is exercise intolerance. Yet, some of the suffering I go through on a bike is worse than I have ever experienced. For this reason, I know my training is putting me through some extreme suffering. Some say you cannot put yourself through so much pain and not rest. However, my neurological condition never rests, I am going to be in pain one way or the other. I may as well feel “good” pain from exercising than the “bad” pain from my disorder. Sure, my cycling career may be short lived from the intensity of my workouts, but I am probably already on borrowed time with the neurological disorder. I was never a great athlete. In high school I was an average runner, below average wrestler, and average baseball and football player. I probably overachieved because I did not have any gifted athletic talent. Now, I am a well above average masters cyclists (time trial). How can that happen? I cannot explain it but I have some theories. It is not technology or equipment because everyone else has the best that money can buy. It is not my natural doping living at 8000 feet because everyone in Colorado has natural doping. Masters competition is a war of attrition and chance. First, you must survive that long. Second, you must remain relatively healthy and free from serious injury. Third, you must still have the desire to compete – most top competitors give up and retire from sports altogether when they are young. There is no question I meet all three of these requirements with the exception of the neurological disorder. The disorder has made it practically impossible to do any sports, including hiking (too much pain and cramping making recovery times several days to weeks), except to ride a bike or to walk at a moderate pace. The only explanation for my success is my ability to train my body to deal with pain and suffering for races. A few labs at UC Irvine conducted tests on me to better understand my physical makeup that makes me an anomaly. They discovered nothing to shed any light on the situation: why an average high school athlete can become a better masters’ athlete despite a debilitating neurological disorder? My only explanation is my desire to suffer when I train and race.