lalochezia lal·o·che·zi·a (lāl'ō-kē'zē-ə) n. Emotional relief gained by using indecent or vulgar language. (Dictionary.com)
“Shut up legs” is the tagline of Jens Voigt, one of my favorite pro riders. At 41 years old, he’s keeping up with kids that are half his age and destroying them on some of the most difficult terrain in the world. I watched him break away from the peloton last year in the U.S. Pro Tour and hold off the pack all the way to the finish line in one stage. This year he’s just as good and recently won the 5th stage of the Amgen Tour of California.
So, how does a rider of his age overcome the inherently painful demands of top level competition? One trick, according to Jens, is that he swears at himself, scolding his weaknesses and yelling things like, “Shut up legs!”
Lately, as I’ve stepped up my training in preparation for the Death Ride Tour, I’ve become introspective and have been analyzing my own training and performance as a way of searching out new methods of self-improvement in my running, swimming and especially biking. I’ve also been on the look out for ways to help my wife, Charla, improve her cycling so that we can start enjoying longer rides together.
One of the areas that has piqued my interest me is how we both overcome extreme fatigue and pain during workouts.
Over the past week, I’ve had a unique privilege in being able to train and race with Charla. We rode together for the first time in over 6 months on Wednesday, ran a pre-race workout on Friday and then ran the Leavenworth 5 Trails Half Marathon on Sunday. We rarely race together, so I enjoyed the opportunity to run the entire race by her side.
One thing that I’ve noticed about Charla is that when the going gets tough, her mouth gets dirty. She swears, she yells and she gets really, really angry. I used to get frustrated with her during harder workouts until I began to understand that her anger was just how she copes with the demands of prolonged effort. I’ve had to change the way I motivate and give encouragement when working with Char, both to keep her motivated and to avoid having shoes thrown in the general direction of my head.
During my own recent training rides and runs, I’ve experienced “the wall” with a great amount of trepidation. While increasing my cycling mileage, the lactic acid would build up in my legs, my muscles would become fatigued, my back and neck and hands hurt to grasp the handlebars, and then the saddle soreness started to settle in. I knew that I needed to finish these longer rides, to push what I was capable of to the level where I need to be for the Death Ride. When I felt like I was at my limit for pain tolerance, when I wasn’t sure if I could pedal another stroke without toppling over, I began talking to myself. I was encouraging at first, simple words to keep me moving along the road. But soon, it became angry. I yelled at my body, I swore at the road, anything to keep all my parts working together to attain one common goal; to finish.
And you know what? It worked.
I finished my long rides. I climbed the steep hills.
During last week’s training ride with Charla, about 12 miles from the finish, we ran into a solid 15 mph headwind. Normally, that wouldn’t have been much of a challenge, but Charla hadn’t been training with me in the hills and the wind. She swore, she cursed, she ranted and raved, and when I looked behind me less than a mile from home, there she was, still hammering away.
A week later, I looked to my side during the 5 Trails HalfMarathon to where Charla ran, panting, swearing. She was suffering from a debilitating cold and possible sinus infection, but was out there to finish the race, no matter the obstacles. We crossed the finish line together, and I can attest that she ran every hill hard and left a trail of tears behind her where other runners were giving up and walking along the course.
You can call it “hitting the wall” or “bonking”, but it’s all pretty much the same thing. Every athlete, professional and amateur, weekend warrior or Olympic competitor, experiences and strives to overcome it in a different manner.
I’m sure there’s a psychologist or other brain wizard that could explain in detail how the yelling and swearing affects chemicals in the brain which in turn react with other parts of the body and lead to increased output during stress and adrenaline release, etc. All I know is that I’m going to keep yelling at myself until I reach the top of the hill or cross the finish line.
Ear muffs, kids! This might get ugly.
|Hitting the finish line with Charla.|