Last night I didn’t have time to go out for a ride, but with our tour coming up in about 2 weeks I need to get some kilometres under my belt. And so I signed myself up for the ZTR Thursday night race – my old standby from earlier this year.
I set up my bike, fought with connecting it to the computer and then inflated the tires and calibrated the trainer. Calibration is needed because every tire and bike is different and you need to match up the proper pressure on the tire to make sure the resistance that the trainer puts out is correct. In the end it said my resistance was a little on the high side but in the acceptable range. No time to tweak further, I was almost late for the race.
Finally, with everything in order and 5 minutes to go I sat down and started to warm up my legs while the timer counted down. Finally, the countdown hit zero and I was off. The first 15 minutes or so were good. I was firmly in the middle of the pack. But then, as I went along, it got more and more difficult. I felt like just to maintain the amount of power I’d put out in a warm up was a challenge. The only other time I’d felt this was a few years ago when I didn’t eat enough on a long ride and I bonked. This time was different. I didn’t feel irrationally sad and overwhelmed. Maybe I was only a little hungry – but I had a good snack before the race.
Everyone was beginning to pass me – even the slowest in the group – people who were over a minute and a half behind me before had now not only caught up but I was struggling to keep up with them. And according to my power meter I was putting out barely anything.
And then the the feeling hit: I wanted to quit. I was confused, sad, and embarrassed. How could I, who rode 110 kilometres and managed some personal records along the way on Sunday now be having trouble barely going above a coast. Was I really that fatigued? Did I want to see my name in last place in my division because it had already happened. Maybe I could just quietly quit and nobody would see what a failure I was.
And wait. am I going to be able to do that tour in just two weeks?
As I am putting out everything I have, heart pounding, a part of me weighed my options. I was a good 40 minutes from the end and it was already feeling awful. Then I knew what I had to do. I was going to finish what I started. I didn’t care if it took me another two hours and I was crawling at the end. And as soon as I realized it, the petulant child in me replied “BUT I DON’T WANNA!!!!” I had all sorts of things I could do. I needed to start dinner. Wouldn’t a shower feel great? Maybe I could get another snack. Those ideas never really stopped and so I would just focus on the music I was listening to, pedal to the beat and set goals for myself.
I’ll maintain over 200W for the this whole song:
I know it’s getting harder but I need to keep moving. For all of this song I’ll maintain 180W
And as my wattage slowly dropped, and my lap times dropped along with them (not as much as they would’ve had I not focused on music for cadence) the kilometres clicked over. Eventually I got to the point that the inner voice wanting to stop became less and less effective. I had only 10 min left…5 min left…2 min. And then it was over.
I got off the bike, completely covered in sweat but also really happy to have pushed through it. Training, after all, is as much about the mind as the body. And this kind of training – the drive to finish no matter how hard it is or how much you despair of managing it is important everywhere from the road to work to parenting and all the things in between.
As I was riding in between mental whining, I thought more about it and I was a little disappointed in myself. When did my motivation switch from staying fit and having fun to winning – or not losing? When did taking on something so that I could brag about it – even only to myself become a priority? When did fitting in through competition become a motivation for what I did – or what I didn’t finish? So needless to say, pushing through this was important to me on a lot of levels. If this little discomfort or petty failure was enough to get me to give up, what else was I ready to give up? Something to work on, non?
Finally, when I’d had a bunch of water, and cooled down a bit I hopped back on the bike and double-checked my calibration. The first try it was too tight to even run the calibration. I took a bunch of tension off and it was still too tight. Finally after removing a good portion of the tension I had added before the race, I got back within range. And now we know why they recommend riding for 20 minutes before calibrating. That 20 minutes allows time for the tire to heat and expand. That 20 minutes is also about the amount of time it took for the ride to get really awful.
Who knew I had calibrated the trainer for mental training instead of physical?