By Christopher Cudworth
Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but one of the biggest growth areas in American business, and likely the world over, is the development and maintenance of sophisticated logistics. Business is all about efficiency these days, because it freakin’ saves money. Money is why business exists. So if you save money on your “flow of resources” between Point A and Point B (and every point thereafter) you can actually make more money.
Logistics puts a measurement on everything and develops tracking systems to manage not only the measurement but the timing of every step along the way.
You can start to see where this is going if you run and ride. Those of us engaged in the sports of running and cycling spend a lot of time getting from Point A to Point B. If you can cut down your time in any way, you get faster.
So what are the logistics of running and riding?
It all starts at your “point of origin.” That can be your house, the gym, a hotel in a strange city or a trailhead where you start your cycling.
In business we think of logistics as a way to get stuff moved around, tracking inventory and planning delivery dates.
In running and riding, logistics is getting ourselves moved around.
That means having the necessary equipment ready to go when you need it. That’s generally much easier for runners, but not always. Some long runs require, in the minds of some runners, water bottles on hip belts, or water set up at strategic points along the way. Some running groups organize these logistical tasks in advance, setting up jugs of water or sports nutrition drinks along a prescribed route. This is a highly effective way to reduce the logistical hassles of a long run. Any run over 10 miles is a good candidate for this approach, but some groups even set up water for 10K training runs.
Immediately I recall the day our college coach brought out a giant jug from his trunk at 10 miles of a Sunday morning 20-miler. As the first few teammates took sips, they spit out the warm lemonade filling their cups. “Warm lemonade? Coach, what are you trying to do to us?”
“Ah, boysz,” he said in his Norwegian accent. “Drink up!”
We didn’t. Most of us judged it was better to run the next 10 miles without that warm lemonade sloshing around in our guts.
So logistics are important. That’s what most runners consider the sign of a well-organized race. Were the water stations well positioned? Were the cups easy to use? Were the mile markers clearly designated and could you hear your splits?
Preparing for a marathon or longer races requires intense logistical knowledge. You need to figure out when to drink, but also to be flexible in your preparations in case conditions get too hot. Wearing the right shoes and breaking them in beforehand can be key to prevent blisters. Marathoning is part sweat and part logistics. Ultra-marathoning, even more.
Logistics. It’s the stuff of PRs and efficient training.
For cyclists, logistics are a bit more complex. Essentially your whole bike is a logistical tool. You put your drink bottles in the bottom tube cages. You set up your cyclometer or smartphone to track your pace and mileage. Then there’s energy bars, CO2 bottles for your tires in case of a flat, extra tubes, tire bars and bike wrench. Some cyclists carry those logistical goods in a combination of their back shirt pockets and a pouch under the seat. You’ll even see some riders with short pumps sticking up from the back of their kit pockets while others would not dare carry their pumps there for fear of a crash and a punctured spine. To each their own when it comes to logistics.
What matters most is how well your system works when something goes wrong on the bike. Flats are the most frequent logistical problem. A well-prepared cyclist can often change a flat quite quickly. A true pro in about 2 minutes or less. Those are some serious logistical skills however. More frequently it takes a journeyman cyclist 5-10 minutes to change a flat.
At the start of an organized ride last year one of our female companions showed up at the race with her triathlon bike. The ride was a hilly affair, and she’d have been better off with her road bike. To make matters worse, her front tire flatted 3 times in the first four miles. We kept changing tires and even the expert in our group grew frustrated by the fact that her bike was wrong and the wheel a mess. She ultimately pedaled back to the start on a half-flat and we moved on. 20 miles later I crashed from bike wobble. Were the two events related? Who knows? You’ve got to know your bike no matter how fast or slow you ride. Transportation is part of logistics. You need to know your machines as well as your mind.
Food is another logistical matter. Some cyclists try to carry it all with them. Others make pit stops on rides of 50 miles or longer.
Fluids are paramount. Running out of water on a hot day can put you in serious trouble.
But so can drinking too much.
We wish it was all so simple. Yet two of the most elemental sports on the planet do require preparation. The logistics of running and riding well demand it.
Anything else just isn’t logical. Or safe. Or smart. Or fast.
Logistics. You gotta love it.