Chris Davis, 19th May 2019
Having now made the commitment, the next imperative is to train, train and train some more. Choosing kit, studying routes and the like can wait. There is no short cut to endurance preparation – you just have to put in the hours, so don’t delay getting started!
Jim, Enigma’s founder along with his wife Christine, recently quoted the great Fausto “Il Campionissimo” Coppi who replied, when asked why he was so good – “rida ze bicycle, rida ze bicycle, rida ze bicycle”. In other words: don’t overthink it, just bloody do it!
But a little theory behind training is a good thing to help get the best from yourself. There is a large body of scientific evidence to guide our training efforts. If you’ve been at the back of the class, here is a summary for endurance sport. Spend 90% of your time at an easy pace. This will teach your body to use stored body fat as a primary source of energy: training at more intensive effort triggers a metabolic reaction that means your body uses glycogen stored in muscles, but this is only available in short supply. An easy pace translates as training at an effort that feels like you are working, but during which you can still hold a conversation. For the remaining 10%, let rip and go for it! The resulting adaptation this intense exertion prompts makes previous efforts seem that much easier. With patience, this approach means that you’ll be able sustain greater efforts at lower heart rates. Ideal for the oncoming 1440 miles and 86,371 feet of climbing!
But, more important to me is training philosophy. You’ll surely never be able to defeat the demons telling you to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep at 4.40am if you are not motivated and enjoying your training. Personally, this translates as doing multiple sports and taking your time doing it. By going slowly, I can appreciate the world around me – the hedgerows, wildlife, sun rising through the mist, the touch and sound of the wind. Riding recently on Easter Sunday on my beloved South Downs Way, I spotted, and so avoided, an adder sunning itself on the chalk path and had the pleasure of watching it unfurl and slither away into the undergrowth. Whatever it is that gives you pleasure, find it and nurture it to motivate you. I feel we must just make sure that motivation is truly intrinsic, as that is really the only durable form that will withstand the test of time and discomfort that surely awaits such an undertaking as the Pan Celtic.
If you’d like to read more on the combination of science and motivation behind training to get the best from yourself, I can recommend a book called Breakthrough Triathlon Training by Brad Kearns. Another good read that focuses on the mental side is The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steven Peters. Mental strength is perhaps something that is subjugated by physical training, but this should not be the case. My friends Jay, Danny and Chris, who founded Sussex Trail Events (staging ultra-endurance running and triathlon events), each regularly run in 100 and 200 mile trail races and claim that physical preparation, though important, is very much secondary to the six inches between their ears when undertaking these super human efforts.
So that’s my next few months planned out. Lots of slow cycling, with a few runs on the South Downs and swims in the sea adding to the mix, and to make sure I do this with a smile. And to definitely follow the advice of Emil Zatopek, the late Czech runner and perhaps the greatest runner of all time, who swore by beer as the best recovery drink! If it’s good enough for Emil, it’s good enough for me. I’ll experiment with wine too ….