Yesterday I was scouting out a new 60 mile bicycle route for the Crew. What was supposed to be a ride punctuated with map checks, became a mini Warrior-Up session. This weekend I finished installing a new wheelset, exchanged my 8-speed Hyperglide for a 9-speed, new chain, new rear shift cable, and adjusted my bar-end shifters for the new set-up. Saturday night all seemed well.
Everything started out well enough. The route starts out the first 10-15 miles or so sharing the same roads of other routes we ride. I had to conduct a couple of map checks, to verify intersections, etc., but all was well.
Before the halfway point, my front derailleur stopped shifting to the big chain ring. I made a pit stop in Rutledge, GA, made the field adjustments, and proceded. Then the front derailleur began dropping my chain to the outside. Several roadside adjustments later, and I had that under control.
By adding time to the ride, my water began to get low.
Then, in the second half I couldn’t shift to my lowest gear.
Later in the second half, I couldn’t hit the #8 sprocket.
Then the #7 sprocket.
I stopped the check it out. Clearly a couple turns on my cable nut would square it away. I succeeded in up-shifting to my 12 tooth #1 with a completely stretched out cable, and the one nut on the whole bike I couldn’t adjust with my new onboard multi-tool.
I had to ride it out like that, hills and all.
There were at least two hills I considered dismounting and walking.
Eventually, the school parking lot where my truck was parked was in sight.
It didn’t kill me.
I’m glad it happened–now. We don’t want to have to Warrior-Up every training session. Once in a while, we need a little extra suck–those sessions where one thing after the other, after the other, goes wrong to really test and stretch us mentally.
In the gym lifting yesterday, I had an epiphany. An article tweeted by @EastTriFitCrew drew the analogy of your body as a vehicle you train and prep for race day–a vehicle that it is then up to you the driver to drive for the race. I found this analogy striking at the moment, a great distinction between your body, training, and your self who must actually execute on race day, mechanical malfunctions, inadequacies and all. It is similar, but not exactly, like the guy with the $5000 bike, the bike alone won’t make him go fast. (I also appreciate the role of the self as the observer)
However, in the gym yesterday, it occurred that this analogy can be extended further, and more meaningfully to Practice and life in general. We practice for what purpose? It is not an end in itself. Nor is it for the purpose of the real side benefits–reduced heart rate, longevity, improved health, better focus–but to prepare ourselves to navigate this life, many of whom’s ultimate goal is to not rinse-and-repeat next life, but ultimate freedom from Samsara.
Practice that only aims for the side benefits, falls far short. Yoga, zazen, tai chi–whatever your practice, there are many side benefits (so readily marketed to us now), but what is the point if you don’t then use that improved vehicle to navigate this life.
You are the driver. Your body is a shell. You will eventually shed your body, your mind even. Until then, to what use will you put them?
Training is my Practice. It is what actually keeps me functional in this life. For me the vehicle and driver analogy is perfect. My truck with 316,000 miles on it–I do the maintenance so it will remain functional, and continue to help me navigate around town. I don’t do the maintenance just so it will look nice, or people will think it is cool (though some actually do think it’s cool). I practice so my mind and body will remain functional (sometimes even at peak performance), and I can use them to help me navigate this universe.
Yesterday I rode 45 or so miles. The temps when I left were 95 degrees. The temp when I got back was 109. I could tell when I got back that I was right on the edge. I actually cut my route short a bit because I had run through my water much faster than anticipated. The Queen questioned the wisdom of me training under such conditions. Given that I did not have a heat injury, I feel it was a successful session. However, like I said, I was right on the edge. If I did have a heat injury, it could have been a bad day.
These thoughts prompted me to do some cursory research on training in the heat. A few days ago, I read an article about a Navy Lieutenant training for an ultramarathon while on ship. One of the things she would do is actually train in the sauna. She is an experienced ultramarathoner, so my assumption is she knows what she is doing. As it turns out, she does.
Training in the heat can provide some significant advantages. However, there are two extremely important preconditions. First, you must train smart. Second, you must already be fit.
Training smart begins with being meticulous with your hydration, pre-training, during training, and post-training. Being fit before the hot season is also key.
Be fit beforehand. Studies show that athletes who are fit prior to heat training show marked improvements over those who are not. Additionally, the type of training you did in the cooler conditions also matters. Intense, interval type sessions conducted in cooler weather translate to faster heat acclimatization over moderate, low intensity sessions.
Listen to your body. If a session in the heat really sucks, cut it off. It is better to cut a session short, and be able to train tomorrow, than risk a heat injury. Heat injury could mean missing several training days, or it could mean having a dangerous, even life-threatening incident on the road somewhere. Even in the gym, heat illness can become a critical situation.
To become acclimatized gradually increase training durations, as tolerated. Maintain lower intensities and volumes. End a session if it becomes too hard. Stay hydrated throughout.
Given these pre-conditions, acclimatization can occur within four to eight days.
Once acclimatized, heat training intensities and volumes should be maintained lower than the same training in cooler conditions.
Heat training sessions pay off in two ways. Acclimatization and subsequent sessions allow you to perform and compete better in hot conditions. Also, once the weather cools off, the work can translate to improved overall performance.
Training in the heat is a risky type of training. Like other forms of high intensity protocols, it requires one be diligent about safety, proper recovery, planning, and moderation. However, there are some significant benefits to be had. Additionally, the Summer is a third of the race season, thus properly preparing to train and compete in it is a virtual necessity.