Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

The title of the article says a lot about me, the people I coach and how a race went down over the weekend that I want to share with endurance competitors.

I have had my fair share of obstacles in life to overcome and sports is no different. I have had bad years, good years and great years as an athlete. Recently I would say it’s been a good year for me. I fought through an early season injury that kept me from meeting a major dream goal but I kept on training and racing. I have had less than perfect conditions for racing and have learned how to deal with poor weather. I have had to make equipment compromises due to mechanical failures or cost. I have had to make last minute tactical and strategic changes due to weather and even misinformation provided by race organizers. However I have mostly managed not to let any of these things spoil a good race.

I often get asked, what are the keys to success in competitive endurance sports like cycling and running.

Keep on keeping on

Not giving up is the name of the game when talking about any competitive endurance event or race. The Definition of Endurance is the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions, stamina

Race more learn more

The more events and races you attend and compete in the more you will learn!

It doesn’t happen over night

To become competitive in any endurance discipline takes time and lots of it.

Consistency rules

Being consistent in your training will lead to the fastest possible gains.

Specificity also rules

If you are going to race or participate in a particular cycling, running or multisport discipline then train for it! Don’t start running if you are going to be racing in Criteriums!

Goals matter

With out goals you have no idea how to measure performance and determine how to prescribe corrective actions when your performance is lacking. Just wanting to be faster isn’t going to cut it.

Pretty simple sounding isn’t it? So how does all of this apply to the title of the article? No matter how hard we work to succeed things will get in our way and cause us to doubt our selves and put us in what I like to call the “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” state of mind. This process of second-guessing sports outcomes after the fact is often based in a lack of experience or the inability to separate ego from fact. So this past weekend I headed out to a race not feeling strong, having equipment issues and to be quite honest a bit mentally spent. It’s almost the end of the season and I have a tendency to break my own rules when it comes to training and racing this time of the year.

Rule 1. Train, train, train – but be smart about it.

I actually had backed off of my training a bit recently due to some work. So the outcome is I am tired but actually pretty fresh on the bike. So on top of fitness I have, my form is pretty good.

Rule 2. Get all equipment together the day before the race.

I got all of my equipment together the morning of the race only to find that I could not air up a disc wheel due to a stuck valve among other things.

Rule 3. Do not make last minute equipment changes.

See rule 2 and how I broke it. I had to change out rear wheels and didn’t have enough time to change cassettes. This meant that I had to tune the bike before the race to work with a different cassette.

Rule 4. Do not stress out! Racing is supposed to be fun.

I stressed out! I dropped numerous f-bombs all before leaving the house. No family members were harmed in the blanket f-bombing.

Rule 5. Always have multiple back up plans.

Didn’t need to break this rule as I had a spare set of wheels just for this type of situation.

These rules aren’t something I try to stress over or normally write down. They are just my way of mentally keeping up with what needs to be done to be competitive and not stress myself out in the process.

So I show up to the race and go through my normal routines getting ready. Joking with teammates, talking with fellow competitors and the race organizer. Warm up for the race to get used to the wind and temperature. Come back for the race after the warm up ride to find that some of my fellow competitors did not show.

So I race and I race hard and smart. I have issues with my bike computer and can’t pace like I want so I use perceived exertion, course knowledge and recent race experience to provide a good estimate of effort. The race is super hot but I feel fast. Now the bike is making a horrible swooshing noise. Sounds like the bearing in my newish front trispoke are about to seize. Great, what else could go wrong!?

I was 9 seconds slower but I finished and I finished first overall. It was a moment that seems to have defined everything I have gone through since I started racing bikes, running and competing in duathlons.

My experiences could be boiled down to the following.

  • Show up
  • Do your best
  • Don’t give up
  • Don’t be afraid to do things differently
  • Be prepared for things to go wrong
  • Always forget one item and be prepared to have a back up for the missing item

So I think the title makes perfect sense now that you have the context of the article. It’s also a bit of a shout out to all of the brave and determined veterans that I coach that have served in US Armed Forces. Thank you for your service and showing me what it means to Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.

Until the next article,

Train Smarter Not Harder,

Coach Rob




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