36 Things About Endurance Sport (+ Life) for 36!

by | Jun 21, 2023 | Mindset

I know it’s super cheesy, but I deeply love a good list, so for my 36th birthday, I wanted to share 36 things I’ve learned about endurance sport (and life) in the last couple of decades.

  1. Sunscreen. Always sunscreen. Cannot stress this enough.
  2. You should have a big scary goal sometimes—but it’s OK if you don’t have one all the time!
  3. The week before a major race, try to bank an hour or two of extra sleep every night, or add a few naps. Whether or not this helps in reality if you don’t sleep well the night before a race doesn’t matter—you’ll feel better about not sleeping much the night before the race knowing that you got extra the rest of the week!
  4. It’s better to have too many extra layers packed than not enough layers or clean kits packed for a race weekend, especially if it’s cyclocross.
  5. Speaking of cyclocross, even if you have no interest in bike racing, try a local cyclocross race. You will have fun and it will teach you to not take sport *too* seriously (especially if you’re like me and coming to it from a triathlon background).
  6. In any endurance sport, the first 10 minutes are always the worst. Except in races, where the 10 minutes before the start are the worst.
  7. Your health is always more important than your fitness. Take it seriously! (This includes dental, gut health, and all the regular physical stuff.)
  8. Strength training and mobility don’t need to take up much time to pay off in a big way. But spending zero time on strength and mobility will come back to bite you.
  9. What you see on Instagram and Strava might be real, it might not be. It doesn’t matter. Do you.
  10. Figure out your best pre-race dinner and breakfast situation, and stick to it. Make it something that you can get anywhere: Pizza is a common option because it’s readily available in most towns, or worst case, you can just heat up a frozen pizza from the grocery store. Keep breakfast super simple and tasty, especially if you have pre-race nerves. Some people love oatmeal, I find it hard to handle when I’m already nervous. A toasted bagel with butter and a protein shake is my go-to. Sometimes I have coffee, sometimes I sip Mountain Dew. Race day isn’t the time to be thinking about ‘clean whole foods.’ It’s more ‘what’s going to make my gut feel good on the start line?’
  11. Going for a walk almost always a good idea.
  12. If you’re thinking about eating/drinking on the run/ride, do it. Don’t wait. If you feel hungry or thirsty, or are even considering it, just take the sip.
  13. You’re never going to look ~fantastic~ in every race photo. Don’t stress about it.
  14. You can do anything—but you can’t do it all at once.
  15. Injuries and illness happen. Have some hobbies or things you like to do that aren’t about endurance sport or exercise now, so that if you are off the bike or stuck on the couch for a few weeks, you already have something you’re excited to spend more time on.
  16. Your rest day should be a rest day. REST!
  17. If you ever want to do an event where you’ll need to be crewed, try crewing for someone else. You’ll learn a ton and it’ll be much easier to figure out your race day plan.
  18. Heat and altitude will physically affect you, but they’ll mentally affect you even more if you let them. There’s a huge emotional/mental component to how you deal with them, so adopting a positive attitude about them can be a big help. (Bearing in mind that there still is a major physical component—you can’t think your way out of being dehydrated when it’s 110 out and you’re 10 miles into a run where you forgot your water.)
  19. You don’t have to do the same sport or races as your partner. In fact, while it might be fun on occasion, it’s generally much better if you both have your own thing!
  20. If you find a good bike saddle, buy three of that exact model. The same is true of running shorts, sneakers, cycling shoes… anything that fits *just right.* Because they will change it and it will not be as good.
  21. Everyone has the occasional ‘oh god, I need a bathroom now’ situation on a ride or run. Don’t stress if it’s you, and don’t be afraid to ask for the bathroom stop.
  22. Find people to run/ride with who are just a teensy bit faster than you to push you. Find people to run with who are just a teensy bit slower, so you have to do some chill endurance/recovery. Hope for one person who is a Goldilocks-style runner for you, where your paces are Just Right.
  23. Underfueling will always come back and bite you. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow….
  24. For runners: Mostly everyone deals with chafing at some point. Even if your thighs don’t touch, they can still rub on a run. A chafe stick is a fantastic tool. 
  25. It’s OK to have a sport that’s just for fun. I got a stand-up paddleboard earlier this year on a whim and it’s been SO much fun to just paddle around the bay with DW. We don’t go long, we don’t go far, we don’t go fast–we just enjoy playing in the water. And I’m learning that it’s more than OK to have a sport where I’m not worried about the caloric burn or my mile splits, I’m just having a good time. (Seriously, this inflatable board is 11/10 the best purchase I’ve made in a long time—full review coming soon!)
  26. You probably need to drink more water during the day.
  27. You’re probably never going to feel ‘done.’ With endurance sport, there’s always going to be another race or challenge, another “I’ll be happy when…”. But there’s not going to be a magical finish line that will suddenly render you a happier human being. That’s why we talk about the question of “Can you do the work required, and do you want to?” when it comes to picking your athletic goal. If you say yes to the first but no to the second, it’s probably not the right goal for you.
  28. You don’t have to do birthday miles if you don’t want to.
  29. Understand that you’re never going to be perfect, and that’s OK. And every person’s version of perfect will look very different from yours anyway. So stop trying so damn hard all the time.
  30. However, don’t confuse procrastination with perfectionism: Perfectionism isn’t something to hide behind or use as an excuse for not getting shit done.
  31. Even if you didn’t ever think of yourself as an athlete, you can be one.
  32. At the same time, being an athlete doesn’t need to be your whole entire identity. You’re allowed to contain multitudes!
  33. If you’re ever having a really bad moment in a race or training, just reming yourself that it’s good content. (Even if you have 5 followers.)
  34. Try a sip of pickle juice after a really sweaty ride/run. It’s the best.
  35. You will do things that people think are dumb, or that people get judge-y about. It’s inevitable. It still bugs me more than it should, but at the end of the day, it’s not really my problem if people think running 100 miles, or running with a dog in a stroller, is silly. It is, but so what? It also makes me happy. And that’s what matters.
  36. Race results are fleeting, the training and the people that get you there are not. The longer I do this, the more I realize that endurance sport is like Who’s Line is It Anyway? The points are made up, the points don’t matter. Sure, some people get to stand on a podium. I want to be one of those people. But at the end of the day, the year, my life—I don’t think I’ll be thinking about my medal count, I’ll be thinking about the great training run I had in the mountains, or the time I ran 20 miles with DW in the Dogger, doing a run camp with friends, or doing a long hike with Peter.

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