Day 5 of the Tokyo Olympics had me watching cycling again with more commentary from Chris Boardman. This time it was the men’s individual time trial which was eventually won by Primoz Roglic of Slovenia.
Boardman accurately predicted it would take around 55-mins to cover the course, not too difficult maths when the riders are going at 48km/hr and the course is 44.1km long. At just under an hour it’s an event that’s comparable to elite men’s half marathon running, or in physiological terms it’s being run at Threshold. For lesser runners that might be a 10-mile run or only a 10K – it’s applies to whatever you can cover in an hour.
The nugget of commentary that really struck me was Boardman’s description about riding at Threshold. He stated:
“The first five minutes is free, you don’t feel the pain. That’s the bit where you have to use your head rather than your heart and then it becomes self-regulating, you start to get a feel for the pace, the pain sets in and then you manage it”
What he was describing was how, when you begin a race the legs are free of lactate and waste products that eventually begin to make them feel heavy and the effort to keep them moving gets tougher. With fresh legs it’s easy to go off too fast – build up the lactate quickly and then suffer; the ideal is to ration the build-up evenly over the course of the race. This is true at all race distances and even true during interval training.
After co-commentator Simon Brotherton mentioned that there’s a “fine line between pushing as hard as you can but not going too far into the red” to viewers, Boardman responded with more gold dust:
“There’s a constant calculation going on between …
How far is it to go?
How hard am I trying?
Is this sustainable? And if the answer is yes, you’re not going hard enough. If the answer is no, it’s too late so you’re looking for maybe”
What a fantastic piece of commentary. I must admit the idea of maybe seems quite novel to me. I’ve probably always pushed myself into maybe without realising it and just aimed to hang on, but I’d usually coach people to keep in the comfort zone of yes. We like things to be black-or-white, yes-or-no; Boardman showed that the best in world are risking playing on the edge with maybe!
Next time you’re on the start line at parkrun remember these quotes from Boardman and see how they reflect your experience. The great thing about parkrun is you can test “yes”, “no”, “maybe” over the weeks and begin to learn what each feels like.