But, larger scale, here's why big races won't be occurring in 2020. Opening things back up at a local level -- forget about larger scale -- will happen iteratively. Using Boston as the example, let's say the city does materially open back up by September 7th. Raise your hand if you believe a week later that 40,000 runners from around the world and about one million spectators will be allowed to congregate. What we are seeing and hearing is a lot of trying to think out-of-the-box to find a way that an event could happen. I commend the effort, but the execution of the ideas presented just isn't tenable.
So, it's time to relax. Stop focusing on trying to remain race-ready for the magical day the world opens back up. Instead, turn your attention back to the basics and be disciplined enough to shore them up. Challenge yourself to let go of what will almost assuredly be the empty promise of a return to racing national and international events in 2020.
As endurance athletes, we’ve largely lost our way, being fooled by very compelling – and expensive – marketing tactics and strategies. We’ve been tricked into believing that by focusing on the shortcuts we will reach new heights previously deemed unattainable. That we must focus on sharpening the tip of the spear. And, if we don’t, then we will fail at our own peril. Think of building a house. The structure itself can be constructed of all the latest-and-greatest materials and have all the modern efficiencies possible. But, if that house is built without a foundation, then it will fall apart like a house of cards at the first strong wind or storm. For example, if you’re not sleeping enough (foundational), then no superfood or magical supplement is going to provide you with more energy or better performances.
And, here’s another dose of reality. For the vast majority of endurance athletes, focusing on the final 1-2% at any time is immaterial. They don’t matter at all. Unless you are already at the top of the athletic pyramid where 0.5-1% is all that stands between winning and finishing off the podium, then obsessing over the minutia does us little to no good. Rather than spend $1,000 or more on the fastest, most cutting edge wetsuit to shave time off your triathlon swim, choose to work on your stroke technique to gain efficiency and log more time in the pool to increase your endurance. Because then the $300 wetsuit will serve you just fine (really, it will). For the same type of analysis on the bike, you can read another article I wrote on the Cost v Benefit of Aero Equipment.
Now is the perfect time for endurance athletes to shift their focus to the structural foundation of what they do – to the 98-99%. In fact, in our lifetimes there has never been a more perfect time to do so. The more solid your foundation, the more you will be able to build upon it.
The biggest challenge is that we exist in a world of immediate gratification. The gadgets and the hacks and the super secrets of the pros are very attractive because they provide us with the promise of shortcuts. Why train multiple sessions a day and put in many hours of dedicated work every week if instead we are promised the same results in less than half the time? Where the argument of the quick fix falls down is that it assumes or even portends that innovation and creativity occur in the absence of a basic foundation, when in fact it is precisely that foundation which unlocks the power of the innovation. The foundation is prior or existing knowledge; the innovation is a potential iteration of that foundational knowledge. See what I mean?
If your diet is terrible, then the best supplement in the world will only start to make up for the holes in your diet plan. It sure won’t boost your performance. If you heel strike and hunch over like Quasimodo when you run, better to work on your form before you invest in expensive shoes. If you ride an ill-fitting bike, then you must first address your position before you slap on a set of $2,000 race wheels. Yet, we are programmed to do the complete opposite. We look for improvements in all the wrong places. Because the investment of money is so much easier to rationalize than the investment of time.
To be clear, nearly all endurance athletes are not at a point in their progression where worrying about the 1-2% makes any sense. You must first master your craft before you focus on becoming the best-of-the-best. It is in that pursuit of ultimate excellence when focusing on the minutia will yield measurable return. Understand the basics and why they are important. Nail them. Come back to them frequently.
This path is very simple to both find and follow – sleep more; eat whole, real food; train consistently and tick all the energy system boxes. The problem is that the best advice isn’t sexy. It’s not sleek and shiny and full of buzzwords. So, it doesn’t sell.
Which is unfortunate.