Friday, August 21, 2015

Looking Out For Number Two

Cheap, performance-enhancing, and UCI-legal!
In high school and for a couple of years after, I tried to turn myself into a runner. But it was fits and starts: I went through several rounds of committing and abandoning. The idea appealed to me more than the reality. I didn’t yet have the discipline I would acquire as a cyclist, that willingness to train even when I don’t want to train.

Rounds of commitment usually included new gear and a new training plan, but they always included new literature. Reading about running was motivational, and Dr. George Sheehan was the guru. His advice ranged from the metaphysical to eminently practical things like “Always compete on an empty stomach and an empty colon.”

Running and cycling aren’t the same effort. I can ride competitively with a little food in my belly and during longer efforts I can even eat while I ride. I’m not special in that respect; cyclists from charity tours to Grand Tours commonly take in calories during their events. But Sheehan’s advice about the empty colon is not just right, it’s almost self-evident. How many athletic efforts have been compromised by some sort of digestive distress? That kind of trouble should be easy to avoid.

For a couple of days in advance of a race, I eat bland. I don’t experiment a lot anyway, but as a race approaches I turn to super reliable things like breakfast cereal, scrambled eggs, pancakes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and other dead boring meals. And what goes in must come out, so I load up on fiber supplement. There’s no delicate way to discuss this topic, but it’s important. Under normal circumstances I don’t have any problems processing food through my digestive tract. So, the fiber supplement is just insurance. It’s part of my pre-race routine, and perhaps part of yours … I can understand why you might not be discussing this. But I can assure you it’s not part of everyone’s. Pre-race nerves and bowel movements seem to be closely linked, and I have seen plenty of guys running for the porta-potties just minutes before their races began. I don’t need that kind of pressure.

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