I’m old. And yeah, yeah yeah, your retort to that is: “Age is only a state of mind!” And indeed it is…a state of mind that requires planning and moderation as it relates to getting fitter and staying fit in a long season.
I learned a lot about my aging body this season…much of the knowledge coming at the expense of pressuring myself to get fit again after injuries and doubling up the workload to “hurry up” by putting in additional training I thought I needed. I’d respond to training…then felt mentally that “you can do more…” At the end of the day, I want to be trading paint and laughing it up with my friends every weekend not trying to look WAY ahead in the dusty haze imagining what life is like at the front of the race. So it’s easy to let the head run away with its thoughts to convince you to ‘do more’ and in doing so ‘taking away’ a lot.
So what I sort of learned and experienced this past year about my body, its needs and other ‘feelings’ and ‘sensations’ (in no order) is as follows. I’m sort of thinking out loud here so bear with me…
- “Less is more.” While I had no base to dip into this season, I tried to triple up and hurt myself to feel I was sharp. Problem is, doing that is paramount to the scene in The Hunt for Red October when the sub shoots a torpedo and it comes back to blow themselves up. “You killed us you idiot!” in other words. Relying on the race-yourself-into-shape paradigm…and no more than that….should be the rule of the day in situations like I faced. For many of us old guys, the years of racing is in the legs already. We need to trust it and ‘stoke’ the fires back up in the legs and head gracefully, not radically by trying to pour more on.
- “Listen to the body.” A good friend of mine, Mark Howland, has told me that his experience in being successful as a master is 100% related to listening to your needs. We are not the spry youths who can do 20hr weeks any longer. We need to be smarter and listen to what is needed. Strip away unneeded intervals and other activities that burn matches and save them for the efforts needed while racing. Eat well, sleep well and train well by doing the important stuff but listen to when your body tells you that “the 5th set of intervals really isn't going to do anything. Go home and chill.”
- “Leg-load”. I experienced this odd sensation this fall which was that my legs pretty much always felt ‘swollen’. After a tough race weekend or hard training, it could take 4-5 DAYS until I felt good again…e.g. good enough that I could do work on the bike and feel it was adding value, not subtracting and my legs felt fully recovered and sinewy again. Imagine having legs that feel they’re filled 2x with blood and lactate…even after you wake up from a good night of sleep. Massage moderately helped but LOTS of time off seemed to be the best cure.
- “If you’re not hungry, don't eat.” I mean this metaphorically as I do literally. Metaphorically I mean that I would race even though I knew I had nothing in the head or legs, yet the 'cake’ was there and I couldn’t help myself. Some may say “But dude, this is not your job, just go have fun!” Problem is I put a lot of weight in the fun department on animating races. Moving that aside, literally, I mean that if I ain’t burning calories, I should probably avoid onboarding them. And yet my reach for the darkest, thickest, brownest, bubbliest ale usually wins that mental debate. Need to get stronger…
Again, I am sort of venting out loud here. I’m learning, like we all are, how to get it done and done right with a body that is trying to fight you. For me, understanding how to navigate around and with an aging body and keeping it strong and fast is a huge experiment. One that I am enjoying learning about…as much as I enjoying chewing on tinfoil anyways.
Off to buy Depends and some stool softener. Ciao!