We (practicioners) often claim parkour is such a “holistic” and “well rounded” discipline. That it is good for old and young and that it is a great all around training. Sure, I believe so too and I teach it as well.
Over the years I have started testing this believe. The endurance challenge called Night Missions are a sort of test to check if your training has prepared you for meeting a multitude of physical and psychological requriements. But the Night Missions are very close to parkour in terms of what to expect and in terms of how you move.
And in my opinion a good traceur is also a good mover. If you train a lot in a certain discipline. How well do you do in others? – Can a climber run a marathon if he wanted to? Is a swimmer any good in alpinism? Can a weight lifter do basic gymnastics moves? If yes, can they do it “right now”? If no, why? I have a similar thought process connected to parkour. Is my training good enough to have prepared me for a multitude of potential challenges?
Can I run a marathon? Can I climb a mountain? Can I ride my bike from Vienna to Linz in a day? (~200km)
2 years ago I had that question pop up in my mind. Can I ride my bike from Vienna (where I live now) to Linz (where I was born) in a day? I train parkour. I think my training has provided me with a good fitness level. But can I ride the bike in that huge endurance challenge style? Let´s find out.
I basically took my bike a few weeks after the initial idea and set off to catastrophic failure. Well maybe not catastrophic but definitly “challenged failed” for me at that time. After 138 km and 13hrs of pure pain I gave up.
After having failed so miserably I knew what I did wrong and it motivated me the more to try again as soon as possible. The bad news is: what did I do wrong? – EVERYTHING (more on that in a sec.). The good news is: Mistakes can be learned from and corrected.
So what did I do wrong? 2 main mistakes.
- Bad navigation – made me loose a LOT of time.
- Bad preperation – for instance: I took 4 woollen shirts with me. When I sweated I changed them and put the used ones in my backpack. The sweaty shirts added a lot of unneccessary weight. Oh yeah. I carried a heavy backpack – bad choice, put a lot of pressure on my body and posture. – speaking of which: I did not adjust my bike to my body (seat position and height, handlebar,…), and so on…
- Bad equipment – really old bike from the 70s with a gear change mounted to the frame. But the bike was a constant, it was part of my challenge. I wanted to do it with that bike and had no other choice anyway. But if I was to repeat the challenge I would prefer to do it with a slightly more modern bike.
Fast forward to 2 years later. I am on the road for 150km already and I feel great. I have already passed the spot where I gave up 2 years ago. Nothing is hurting, legs feel good, wtf is happening?
What did I change and why wait 2 years?
I think when you suffer as much as I did in that failed attempt you definitly don´t want to hear a few weeks about cycling, because…”Cycling sucks anyways”. But in all seriousness. A mental break is good. Give it a rest. And so I did. I needed time to think and analyse. Then came winter. The following year I forgot all about the challenge and continued training parkour as usual.
When I coincidentally found a great used road bike for sale I took the chance and bought it. I also talked to a work colleague of mine, who I found out was a cycling enthusiast and who has done some great tours in Austria and other countries (including Vienna to Linz). I think I mentioned I wanted to do the Linz challenge (as I call it) and he answered that we should do it together. An idea was reborn. I estimated my chances were good given I had a lot of potential when I would use what my errors showed me last time. Also: we would be a team of 3 people joining forces for the tour this time. The third man on bord was a powerhouse. Performance rower and strong built body type. Cycling for him means a balance to his training routine in rowing. He was in for the fun of it and he too had done the route already.
What did I change effectively?
- functional clothing: biking pants, shirt and shoes with a click pedal system, (the shirt does not get wet when sweating for example) – it really makes a difference
- no backpack but a saddle bag with only the most necessary equipment (spare tube, tools, food)
- adjusted my bike to my body when I could (most importantly saddle height for optimum power transfer)
- the bike had/has a comfortable shimano 105 gear shift and ran smoother/easier than my other one (that I still use for city biking)
- maybe the most important factor: THE TEAM
Our team included my work colleague. Navigation mastermind who provided the best route for us via his Garmin GPS system and who would lead most of the way; a friend who lead our party sometimes and who set an incredible base speed (leading some stretches with 35kmh). Following and having the chance to be paced like that pushed us forward allthough sometimes I had to ask to reduce the speed by a few kmh as I felt like burning out if I continued.
The ~200km flew by in a breeze. The weather was perfect, the wind was good. Success!
Some key stats:
- Overall distance: 197,4 km
- Overall time (netto riding time): 7,5 hours
- Overall time (breaks included): ~9 hours
- Average speed: 26,1 kmh
- Starting time: 05:00 am
- Finishing time: 13:40
- Falls due to inexperience with getting out of click pedals: 1 (yeah lol I was just falling over when standing).
My resume is: I was a fool for going in so blue eyed. It would be the same as when a swimmer would instantly try to free solo the biggest walls in his/her swimsuit. Not happening. But change the swimsuit for basic rock climbing gear, get a great partner to lead the pitches, have some basic rock climbing skills and off we go! (ok climbing might not be the best paradigm but I hope the point comes across).
I am glad to have finished this challenge and I am up for more. 200km of biking is something I can do with my current parkour training and I am glad. In encourage everyone to take their skills to the test, see if their training works for other disciplines too? If yes it is a good indicator for a healthy development and a sustainable training style.