THE COCA-COLA 600 is NASCAR's version of a marathon: a 600-mile race over 400 laps that takes nearly four hours to finish. Apparently, completing it wasn't a strenuous enough effort for Landon Cassill. On May 24 the 26-year-old from Fairfax, Iowa, finished 39th, then swapped his number 40 Chevy for a pair of sneakers and ran 13.92 miles from the Charlotte Motor Speedway to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 1:41:49 (7:19 per mile average). "It's a mental challenge, just like in a race car," says Cassill of his long-distance runs. "We are endurance athletes."
Six-time Sprint Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson, who has run marathons and triathlons, inspired Cassill's focus on fitness. After six months of running, biking and swimming in preparation for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria on Aug. 29, Cassill is feeling the benefits behind the wheel. "There are so many conditions in the car stacked against you while you're trying to maintain focus," says Cassill. "In the car you need mental clarity to make split-second decisions, and in a workout you need it to fight off the pain."
During a race Cassill's heart rate resembles that of a marathoner, hovering between 70% and 90% of his maximum. He prepares for that stress by training six to seven days a week, sometimes in two sessions a day, while still logging nine to 12 hours a week behind the wheel of his car. Cassill's trainer, Jamey Yon, says he creates structured, detailed workouts based on biometric feedback for the 5'7", 155-pound Cassill, who like most drivers is accustomed to monitoring the meters on the dashboard. "Instead of perceived effort, it's based on numbers like heart rate or power output," Yon says.
Cassill hopes to use the devices made to measure running performance to capture data during car races and quantify how fatigued his body is after driving. "You have to manage the car over the course of the race," says Cassill. "I visualize a workout like a race—you just have to manage your body."
Temperatures can exceed 120° inside a NASCAR cockpit, and Landon Cassill could lose up to 15 pounds during a three-hour race if he didn't drink anything. Cassill's trainer, Jamey Lon, offers tips on staying hydrated and how to tell if you're succeeding.
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