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  • Edgar S.

The Endurance Athlete: what are they made off

Updated: Apr 11

(photo credits @huntingpedals at theGOATS offroad ultracycling 2023)

What are they made of? What defines them? What skills should come naturally to them in order to succeed in their endeavours? What skills should he develop?

In this article I'm going to take two approaches to giving my opinion on these questions, one a bit technical and the other more romantic. 

In fact, in cycling, endurance could even mean romance or romanticism. Because in its essence it encapsulates unique elements that make everything associated with this word so interesting, rich and vivid in experience. 

Well, let's not forget the athlete. 

What is he made of? 

Of flesh, bones and blood, of course. Morphologically, the most tend to have slightly wider hips, more muscular thighs and everything else, skinny... 

However, it's within them that you find the traits that truly define them or categorize them.

Relax, I'll talk about resilience in a moment 😊 . For now, I'm talking about issues linked in part to what we inherit from our parents and which goes beyond the infamous maximum aerobic capacity as a dimension. I'm talking about a whole muscular structure in terms of its composition, a whole mitochondrial structure on cellular respiration and a super-efficient metabolism. In fact, all of this is directly related to maximum aerobic capacity, with the only thing left to mention being the ability to capture, transport and utilise O2, but I really don't think that maximum aerobic capacity and aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, the latter being metabolic indicators, are preponderant elements for all types of endurance athletes either. Now I’ve complicated this. But are there different types of endurance athletes?

(photo credits @huntingpedals at theGOATS offroad ultracycling 2023)

Perhaps there are endurance athletes who focus on long races and others on extremely long races. I would classify the long-distance ones as those who participate in events lasting a few hours, and the others as those who engage in events spanning several days.

For the former, the metabolic and physiological indicators I mentioned can indeed qualify them in terms of benchmarking, while for the "others," I don't think this is as crucial. It does provide them with greater capacity, but there are many other factors that influence their qualification. I have little doubt that for me, they are composed of a substance that uniquely combines physical and psychological components.

So, the "others" are the endurance athletes in ultracycling, the ultracyclists. They must possess a comprehensive component in the two dimensions I mentioned. They must complement each other, not existing one without the other.

There are athletes who excel in their physiological predisposition but are often incapable of completing an ultra-distance race. They find themselves unable to detach from the mnemonics of other cycling panoramas.

The substance I'm referring to, which I consider to be part of the ultracyclist's qualification, is of great importance when it comes to assuming a realistic perception of what you want to achieve in an extreme scenario. Extreme for various reasons. With this realization, you assume a prepared posture at all levels, a readiness with innate abilities to accept the difficulties of what you will encounter, but also the vision that everything will pay off. You take responsibility for your choices, and resilience is a simplistic adjective to define the ability you have to withstand emotional fluctuations, progression through the night, adopting a strategy that could fail, and many things that could go wrong.

(photo credits @huntingpedals at theGOATS offroad ultracycling 2023)

And many may ask, but why? Why do they do that? Why, that's probably the question that qualifies the "others". They follow without much thought, but they're actually seeking something. We're always seeking something. Personal development, we adopt different forms of meditation and in this essence, we do it on the bike and above all to witness the rawness of the landscapes, the mountains and the people we encounter. Above all, the admiration for those who have made the same choices and are also engaged in the "battle". It might seem melodramatic or cliché, but it isn't!

Therefore, in addition to being physically and metabolically efficient, these athletes must also acquire or possess a mental preparation of equal importance.

When training such an athlete, various strategies must be employed. This includes a comprehensive model that is tailored towards the specific characteristics of each event and all related aspects. Consequently, each preparation phase can differ from another, depending on the specifics of each event.

Anyone who trains an endurance athlete is expected to gather extensive information about the goal(s), conduct a precise and methodical analysis, contemplate the plan, and assemble the elements that form the structure and foundation of the process.

And I must say, it's a genuine pleasure to do so. The endurance method. Trust in the process.

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