Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Grip of Death

Racing can be fun, spiritual and sometimes downright nasty. I have had my share of all aspects of racing from cycling to tri to running. Great days when the course seemed made for my strengths, to days when I have rolled back to the parking lot with a blow-out tube hanging from my jersey pocket deflated (me and the tube). I have been pushed (and pushed back), punched, yelled at, wrecked, trashed talked and almost thrown-up on! Out of all of these aspects of the race the one aspect I enjoy is the Grip of Death…also know as G.O.D.

The grip of death is not exclusive to me, nor can I always pull it off. I've used it mostly in running. It takes a great deal of strength and confidence to get it right. Failure to do so can lead to embarrassment and frustration. Bjarne Riis used the G.O.D. in the 1996 Tour, on stage 16 in the mountains. Here is how the grip works:

If you are in a break away, or mano-a mano with a competitor (best used here) the G.O.D. can be a handy tool. I taught myself to use “The Grip” during 5K and 10K races. It also has worked well on the bike. If you can’t seem to lose a fellow competitor, especially one with the same age group written on their calf as you, I would try this trick. While running side by side start with a little surge of maybe 5% over current speed. I like to use this in the corners as it seems to catch people off guard. Then idle back and let them catch back up. You don’t want to upset them…you want to destroy them.

After about another minute or two, try another little surge. Upping the tempo on a little hill works well. The goal is to not make the surges look like attacks. The goal is to get the competition to think they are fading. This is the “Grip”. If you can put doubt in a competitor’s mind the battle is almost won. If you piss them off…the battle has just begun. I know this from telling a Clydesdale I was impressed with his use of his weight and gravity on a downhill during the bike leg of a tri in Georgia. It pissed him off and for 45 seconds he kicked up into the red zone to chase me down for a mile or so and then did an “M-80.” Oh yeah…he blew up!

So, now that you have a little doubt seeping into the mind of the competitor it is time to bring the “Death” part of the equation. When you have fully recovered from the two surges, drop back a few inches from the field of vision of the competitor. Let him forget you are there…he may think you are the one that is fading. Now s-l-o-w-l-y pull up next to him (a look of ease on your face helps) and lengthen your stride and hold on for a good minute. You don’t have to go into the red but you will be working. DO NOT LOOK BACK! Just keep going. In four minutes or so sneak a peek as you round a corner. If done correctly, the G.O.D. should have been too much for the competitor and he/she will be gone. If at this point your competitor is still in your zip code you have a fight on your hands. Start cooking the corners and making slight gaps. It will annoy the crap out of them.

Remember: gaps=doubt. If you still have company it will probably go to the finishing sprint. Don’t start the sprint from front. Stay at the competitor’s side and wait until they start the sprint. At this point give it all you have no matter how much it hurts. The pain will be gone 45 seconds after the finish. The disappointment will last for hours…or until you get to the nearest bottle of beer.

By the way…if you try to “Grip of Death” me I have another little “something” I guarantee you will not like.

Friday, January 20, 2012

2-Week's Notice

I hope that title is punctuated correctly. I don't want the author of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" to come after me. Anyway, the picture to the left is what it looks like to finish a 50-mile run. I've titled it "Banged" because there's nothing left at the end-you're shot. You're covered in salt, gels, drink and stink! Who wants a hug?

OK - on with the show. In two weeks I should be on a plane heading to Texas to knock out my 3rd 50 in under six months. I'll be invading the Rocky Raccoon 50 with my teammate Davo. It's going to be exciting to hear how he enjoyed his first 50-miler. He's a 3:00 marathoner and I'm wondering how the extra 23.8 miles are going to treat his legs and his mind.

I say mind because it's not all about legs once you get over 3-4 hours of running. You need to be mentally strong (and a little crazy). The little aches, pains and stomach bugs start playing with your head. It's not really fear that sinks in...it's more like desperation. Most people can suffer through a marathon. It's when you have to double the distance that a new level of "spirituality" comes to the forefront. I've seen the faces of runners pulling out 30 miles into a race and they are marked with despair. They've trained and have been dreaming of this day for months and it's falling apart. They would trade just about anything to be able to finish and get that medal.

This is where the bargaining starts in the brain. OK legs...get me up that next rise and I swear I will give you a month off from running. My personal favorite: Come on body-just keep chugging to the finish line and I swear I will stop drinking beer and even stop cursing (not easy for us Irish).

You know, for all the crap Tim Tebow gets for praying as a football player I would like to remind us all of some of the prayers we have put forth.

Who hasn't thought/said the following prayers?

1. Dear God, please don't let me crap my shorts!
2. Oh God, please don't let that be a bear.
3. God can you make this pain in my knee go away for just another 4-hours?
4. Please God please let that be an aid station at the top of this climb.
5. Lord Almighty can you please help me push negative splits to make my PR?
6. Can you give that guy that just passed me a cramp? Just a little calf cramp...

Do any of these sound familiar? Care to add any?