Saturday, December 3, 2011

Knowing When to Stop: The Endurance Athlete's Achilles' Heel

Knowing when to stop is not easy for athletes and it can be a serious liability for endurance athletes in particular. If it weren't for a virus my wife picked up, I'd be riding a 200K permanent today. Riding despite some pretty significant pain and mobility reduction in my left shoulder as a result of some yoga and leaf raking I did last weekend. Any sensible person would say, "time to take a week or two off until I'm feeling back to normal," but randonneurs aren't normal. What generally makes randonneurs, and ultra-distance athletes in general, successful is the ability to look adversity, pain and discomfort in the face and say, "to hell with it."

My wife tells a funny story she heard from her doctor about a guy who broke is toe running, yet persisted in asking the doctor what he could expect from continuing to train despite being told to take a six-week hiatus to heal. He was relentless. The only trouble is, I can see the runner's point of view all too clearly. The temperament that leads to our success can also be our undoing.

I was actually very impressed with Diana Nyad's recent decision to end her "Extreme Dream" to swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida after being stung repeatedly by jellyfish and looking at the possibility of DYING from shock if she continued. DNF and DNS particularly nasty expressions to use with an endurance athlete, but sometimes saying no is the best thing in the long run.

So with 27 days left in the month (14 of which I'm actually on vacation), I'm not too nervous about the impact that this day off will have on my R-12 plans, despite the fact that it will undoubtedly be colder and perhaps even snowy when I'm feeling up for my next 200K. Hopefully, though, I'll have enough willpower to wait until my shoulder has healed a bit more from this setback before heading out on a day-long ride.

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