Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Extreme Fondo Hangover: Why do we hurt so very, very much?

If you know where this is, you've been around....
In the days following the Leavenworth Fondo I communicated with my brethren via text and email. We all were feeling sore on the Monday following the Sunday event.  No surprise there. What was unexpected was that we were ALL still very sore the next day as well. It seemed the Fondo took a significant toll on all of us.  This was a pretty deep hurt and among my peers it was universal.   Even later in the week one of our band of merry men described feeling, “empty.” Two of us found that to be the perfect illustration of a feeling that had lingered too long.

By coincidence I had been in a conversation preceding the Fondo about competing as an “older” athlete.  Someone proposed the idea that older athletes might do better because their pain tolerance was greater than when they were younger.  My theory is different. I think that as we get older we have the ability to ask and get more from our bodies than we did when younger.   

My belief is that for a given level of fitness I can get more out of that level of fitness than I could when I was younger.  I’m saying that as we get older we can squeeze more juice out of the lemon. Trying to explain why that is just leads to speculation.  Let the speculation begin!

One tangent of the theory is that by default in our training we find ourselves going harder some days and easier on other days. We simply don’t have the time or motivation to go hard every day.  Thus when the going gets really hard, your body knows you won’t be doing this same hard thing tomorrow and that there will be some recovery.  Our bodies therefore are more willing to dig a bit deeper knowing that tomorrow will be better.

A competing tangent theory is self mastery. This is me telling my poor body to shut up and do something it does not want to do yet for some reason it now obeys my every command.  As we get older (or more experienced) perhaps we just get better at ignoring the smaller aches and pains or have an improved ability to focus when needed.   We can call this one experience.

Another competing sub theory is the fight or flight theory.  Perhaps your mind has wrapped so much around this event that you have a constant drip feed of adrenaline and your body is doing the equivalent of a race car running on nitrous.  Perhaps your body has no idea what is going through your mind and it figures that if you are going this hard then maybe sharks are chasing you and your body figures this is life and death and exerts itself accordingly.  This serves you well until you finish at which time all bills come due and the pain that has been postponed comes crashing down on you.

A final tangent theory is the Whisky Tango Foxtrot theory. This is the idea that you are doing something so hard and for so long that your mind and body just can’t believe you are doing something so extreme and does not know how to react.  You go at a high level of effort because you have trained your body to do so and pretty much every other time you go this hard you stop after forty or fifty minutes.  Then when you are pegged at that level of effort for four plus hours you body is just dumbfounded and assumes you are moments away from stopping.
It was clear to me during and after the Fondo that if you want to do events that go hard for five to eight or even ten hours with any frequency you had better be a young, exceptionally fit specimen.  It was also clear that if you are an old grizzled biker who is willing to pay a higher price before, during and after such masochistic events then those young bucks had better be looking over their shoulders.   

I can still do what those young bucks do, it just takes me longer to do it and the recovery is way longer.

What did come to light following our internal and external discussions was that the ride was our first hot weather ride of 2015.  It was the first hot weather ride for nearly everyone who did it.  That would explain the widespread cramping and general ass kicking that we all experienced.

The body does take time to adjust to riding in the heat and it doesn’t come in a can and all the electrolytes in the world can’t train your body to adjust to heat; they can only help.

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