It might sound funny but I actually keep track of when I am most fit. They say that as an athlete you should keep copious notes about every training session and every food you eat but unless you have OCD, this can be a daunting challenge. At the very least my memory can recall long stretches where training had a steady, organized and properly intense focus.
The most fit I have even been was when I was training for a Street Boxing tournament when I was seventeen. It was pretty much what you might imagine, teenagers fighting in backyards with little more than 16 ounce gloves and sheer testosterone. I guess the fear of losing motivated me on those 7 mile runs and countless sessions with the heavy bag. After several weeks of breaking down personal barriers I felt unstoppable. Confident on the day of my fight it wasn't a surprise when I won.
The second most fit I have ever been was just before Army Basic Training when I was nineteen. That's right, I said just before. In order to prepare myself for the rigors of the military I set out to complete my own 7 week course of self-torture. Consistent and measured running, calisthenics and weight training earned me the number one slot in my first Army PT test.
These two top positions have one thing in common, I was a teenager during both of them. Your body goes through a lot of changes over 20 years. I've had highs and lows where my bodyweight and fitness shifted dramatically. There were many times that I thought my past youthful energy and ability was completely diminished, never to be experienced again. I was wrong.
When you train it is usually with a target in mind. My aim is the upcoming Alafia Mountain Bike Race on October 7th where I will attempt to finish in the ultra competitive Men's 30-39 Cat 2 class. Being realistic I fully expect to get my butt kicked. However, winning is not my goal. The longest race I ever completed was only 15 miles - this one will be 20 and at a much faster pace.
Endurance has never been my best attribute. In 2010 I attempted a Cat 2 Mountain Bike race in Rhode Island called the Gloucester Grind. It was supposed to be three laps of a six mile course that was nothing but rocks and mud in 50 degree weather. I tried to keep up with the crowd but my lungs couldn't hack it. I blew up in the first lap, had trouble breathing and didn't finish the race.
With this haunting memory in mind, I learned from my mistakes and trained specifically for endurance. For the past seven weeks my focus, diet and performance have been unbelievable. Endless core training and cycling 20+ mile distances has brought me down to a trim and agile 155pds. My back pain is gone, my energy is high and my body strength is undeniable.
The question is - Have I overcome my past weakness through experience? Will being in the third best shape of my life drive me over that finish line? We'll find out the answer in only a couple weeks time.