Pace for success

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Neil Woods
  • 8th Flying Training Squadron
Memorial Day morning while cycling with such greats as Lt. Col. Vinny Lostetter and other cycling superstars from the base and local community, I learned a very hard and very valuable lesson about the importance of training and the right pace.

I have always enjoyed cycling, but only about six months ago did I develop a serious enough interest to start tackling longer, non-stop rides greater than 40 miles. So, in an obvious fit of insanity, I recently decided to quickly ramp up to the 100-mile "Tulsa Tough" June 1. I had been doing my best to ride longer distances on the weekends, in addition to the 14-mile round-trip ride I make to the squadron each day when the weather cooperates.

I had just done a 48-mile ride Sunday and was still feeling a bit spent, but I knew I had to get out and train even harder if I was going to be ready to survive the big one. I planned to do about 50 miles at a slightly lighter pace than the day before, but I also wanted to ride with a group to push up the training curve while taking advantage of a wonderful phenomenon called drafting.

I ate a light breakfast and headed out to meet the group at 6:30 a.m. after a less-than- quality night's sleep. The group was comprised of guys who had ridden multiple 'centuries' in their cycling careers and trained almost daily. I had been learning much from them on previous rides-- mostly how to get left in the dust, but also some great riding techniques to minimize energy output while maintaining good speed. Surely this would be no big deal.

Long story short, 50 miles turned into a 65 mile route I had never traveled. The starting pace was much too fast for my liking, but still, half-way through the ride I was feeling OK. After about 40 miles, my two bottles of water were empty, and my gut was equally empty. On top of that, this was the warmest riding day yet this year and the air was humid. As the sun rose higher, my energy sank lower. I had not prepared properly, not even close.

Experienced cyclists know that rides of that length in those conditions require a full tank starting out-- a lot more liquid and some high energy foods to consume along the way. We were still at least 10 miles from civilization when I felt things start to shut down internally. I talked my riding partners into taking a slightly different route than planned, so I could take care of the body at a quick stop. I managed to make it there, albeit at a loathsome pace, and dragged the team down in the process. Then I waved them on while I downed two bottles of Gatorade and Scooby snacks. Humiliated, but feeling much better, I rode the final 12 miles home.

OK, so what does it have to do with anyone else at Vance Air Force Base? You see, we have this thing called an operational readiness inspection coming to a workplace near you next February, and it's crucial that we don't wait until just a few weeks prior to get serious. We can't wait until the inspectors show up on the tarmac to realize that we haven't done our homework to bring our "A" game to the fight.

Daily training and preparation at the right pace starting now is the key to success next February. Like those riders who are great mentors because they are life-long cyclists, we also have great examples to learn from, starting with our own lessons from ORI 2005 and inspections at other bases. An attitude of "I can handle this--no big deal--my program is just fine" is a sure recipe for crashing at the critical moment.

Pacing is important because we can't expect to be a Tour de France competitor overnight. Preparation is hard work, but if we make it our goal to be in racing shape well prior to the ORI, we won't arrive at the starting line exhausted and prone to mistakes when the clock is running and the judges are watching.

Learn from me. Assess the shape of your organization today and figure out what pace for success you need to go the distance and win!