Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
My 2014 A-race was, as ever, LeMans, which was 2 weeks ago. I am still in the recovery process and will likely be for another week or two yet, so its a good time to reflect on the last 6 months…
This is a repost of the post I wrote for the LSST forum:
Race result: 9th in Mens Solo, 380km/91laps.
Lets rewind back a year, or 13 months, more accurately. As everyone rolled around their final laps during Le Mans 2013, I was once again totally inspired by what had just taken place in the last 24 hours, and my thoughts had already turned to 2014 and how I was going to top what I had just done in a great Endurance team. “Solo” was the word on my mind. It sounds crazy, but as Chris and Richard had just shown, crazy things are eminently achievable with the right amount of dedication.
To do a solo with any sort of seriousness, you had better have a really, really good reason for wanting to do so… because finding 15-20hrs a week to train on top of your everyday life for 6 months is a big commitment, and the stress it places on you and those close to you not trivial. To paraphrase the inspirational Timothy Noakes, once you have found your reasons, once you have found your “why” then the “how” becomes automatic, and the long hours of training are not difficult because in your mind you’ve already rationalized it.
At the start of the year I drew up my training plan. I had an A-plan and a B-plan – A was the stretch target (training-wise), and B was the minimum acceptable. I focussed on my fueling and nutrition. I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about endurance sports as I could. In the process I read several books and listened to literally hundreds of hours worth of podcasts. I became very familiar with names from the world of Ironman and ultramarathon running as two of the main types of endurance sports who are really clued up about how to prepare for such undertakings.
Going for the solo means putting in the mileage, and a typical week of training would include 4-5 skate sessions, a couple of hours of running (with an eye on my first running marathon later in the year), cycling – both commuting and turbo-trainer sessions, plus a couple of hours of gym/strengthwork and dryland exercises. I had no idea what others’ training regimes were like, but this might be a once in a lifetime endevour, and so I was going to put everything into it. The weeks and months rolled by, and eventually training peaked, followed by a month-long taper… finally ready for the skate of a lifetime.
On race weekend, I took great confidence that I had trained hard, had a good fueling strategy and a credible race plan – I had done my homework as best any first-time soloist could. My strategy was to start very conservatively and simply keep rolling, picking up as many drafts and pacelines as I could. I had to run my own race, and didn’t care how fast or slow anyone else was going, or how frequently they were stopping. I didn’t intend to sleep – I knew a lot of soloists would take a break overnight, but I wasn’t intending to be one of them; I rarely sleep at any 24hr races even as part of a team! Again, I know myself, and where I have an advantage that I can exploit.
In practice it is hugely difficult to skate slowly enough despite you knowing that it’s a very long race, and my heartrate and pace were certainly higher than ideal for the few couple of hours – I would pay for this in the last quarter of the race. The conditions were, of course, apalling, but I didn’t let that get to me too much – nothing you can do about that, plus it’s the same for everyone. I was ultra-cautious on the downhill; better to give up a few seconds a lap than have your race ended or compromised by a wipeout.
As the race progressed, I made steady progress as planned, and I just wanted to keep it going. There were a few inevitable stops to change socks, apply a compeed, and eat some food, but I think that I must have been on track for a solid 22hrs+ hour of the 24. The race gets harder the deeper you go. Skating all night in the driving rain, along way from home when any normal person would be at home watching highlights of the World Cup…. yep, as I said, you better have a really, really good reason for wanting to do a solo.
At the midway point 12 hours into the race I was still OK, but by the last 6 hours I was flagging quite badly, paying the price for too hot a pace earlier on, and the strategic choice of foregoing sleep. The last 6 hours were as hard as the previous 18 – I concentrated simply on getting around the next lap in once piece and expending as little energy as possible. Keeping good speed and respectable lap time were now very low down on my priority list – I just wanted to keep moving; I didn’t care how slow I was. It wasn’t that I was bonking or had run out of energy, but my Central Governor (ie brain) was now shutting down my body and legs in order to prevent a catastrophic physiological failure – at least that’s the interpretation that I choose to believe. It was only about 22hrs into the race that I began to feel that I was going to make it all the way through and see the finish – when I was reminded that it’s barely the duration of an LFNS left to go. Having come so far, you can always manage a little more when you look at it that way, and in the last hour it didn’t make any difference as I could afford to do 30 minute laps and still not really have it affect my result substantially.
The last few laps were definitely the best feeling that I have ever experienced as a skater – although physically I was a wreck and half dead, I had never felt so alive!! After crossing the finish line for the last time, I literally knelt down with the last bit of mobility that my legs would offer, and kissed the track.
After the race, I don’t know how other soloists and duoists were able to stand, much less walk. My legs seized up pretty quickly and I couldn’t even move. Clearly my recovery protocol needs some work, and even now 72 hours after the race I’m very sore and my ankles very swollen. I don’t know how long it’ll be before I’m OK again and I’m in no rush, but I know that eventually I will be recovered, and all that will be left will be the happy memories.
I learnt so much during my journey; in my training and preparation and during the race, and the experience has certainly crystalised my opinion on many things in life, as well as sports and skating. If I ever try this again I will of course go in armed with everything I know now that I didn’t before…. alas, the demands that it places on you means that I can’t promise that I’ll be back to try it again next year, but I do always like to keep my options open. I will certainly be at Le Mans 2015, in which capacity I will take much longer to decide that I did last time around!
I was very proud of this performance, and it definitely stands as the highlight of what I have done in skating so far. There’ll be more analysis and thoughts from LeMans. I think I did well, but it was far from perfect and I’ll reflect on things to do differently and how I can do better next time.. In fact, this report was one of the things that spurred me to starting this blog as there is so much I wanted to expand upon…. We will get to them all in good time 🙂