By Greg Conderacci
During his life, the great Native American chief Crazy Horse found himself pursued many times – by the U.S. Army, scouts, and members of rival tribes. But they could never catch him, despite riding their horses into the ground in efforts to do so.
After his death, a friend disclosed the great warrior’s secret. On level stretches and down hills, Crazy Horse would ride fast. But he walked his horse up the hills.
The lesson for long-distance riders is profound: don’t jam up the hills and don’t coast down them. The chief was no exercise physiologist. But he knew what any of them would tell you today: it’s hard to replace the energy you burn at peak efforts. And the corollary principle, (as Dr. Roger Bannister preached before breaking the Four Minute Mile Barrier the first time), is that a relatively even heart rate will give you the best performance in the long run.
Destroying the Pack – or Yourself?
Yet on many rides, testosterone-infused riders will go sprinting up hills like they’re out to win a polka-dot jersey in the Tour de France. The reason is, of course, is that’s what the pro hot shots do. But the pros are trying to destroy the rest of the pack before they destroy themselves.
On many century rides, long Randonneuring brevets, or 12- or 24-hour races, that math doesn’t work. In those events, there won’t be much of a peloton after 30 to 50 miles. You’ll be riding alone or with a couple other riders that you’ll want to keep to share the drafting duties.
I came by this wisdom naturally – by getting too old to keep up on the hills. To my amazement, I caught riders going down the hills who had dropped me on the way up. Very often, on the longer rides, it took me 50, 60 or more miles to “catch” the polka-dot jersey contenders who often finished many miles behind me.
So, the next time you’re on a long ride, resist the temptation to go rocketing up the hills. To use a metaphor Crazy Horse would appreciate, “keep your powder dry.” You’ll need it down the road.
Greg Conderacci is a marketing consultant and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, non-profit entrepreneur, and investment bank chief marketing officer. In Getting UP!, he brings you the same skills he teaches at a top graduate school and Fortune 500 companies. Lots of people promise better performance … Greg proves it. Using his energy techniques, in 2015 he rode a bicycle across America in just 18 days — averaging 150 miles a day.