Thursday, January 03, 2008

Belief vs Reason

So, kicked off the road season with a basic 'ramp' test to get a fitness/power baseline. No big deal, right? Went into it confident, calm and without qualms. Verify that I understand the process and get started. A little more than 16 minutes later, my power drops and I have to quit. I see the line drop and my entire mental state crashes and an emotional tsunami of failure, disgust, frustration and a general "I hate tests. I hate this computrainer. I suck. I hate it all." It took all my remaining concentration to repress the impulse to explode. Fortunately, a quote I'd read in a small cycling coffee table book helped me keep a lid on it.

"Don't throw your bike. It's not professional."

I can hear you laughing. It's funny now, but at that particular moment I was run right up against what I believe and what I think and how those two things aren't always the same thing and how much more potent the former can be. I realized I believed "tests" were always things to get an "A" on and that I was used to getting "A"s and when it didn't feel like an "A," because I had to just quit when my body failed, I immediately believed I had utterly failed, triggering a hugely negative emotional response.

Marc spent some time reminding me it was just a baseline test, something with which to gauge training effectiveness, and that most especially, a training test is NOT racing. Of course, my head knew all that and a small rational voice had been repeating the same thing in my head, but it took a few hours to come around. But, I think I'll be OK for the next session. First, I'll spend some time mentally preparing myself for it by reiterating to myself what it is and what it isn't. I also know some of the numbers to expect. But probably what will be most helpful in handling my inner hothead is simply knowing what numbers I want to beat. Yes, I know that's not the way you're supposed to go into a fitness test, but I'm not to a point where I can just dig as deep as I got without someone or something tangible to beat.

SO, the reason I'm sharing this with you, is because Marc says it's a common response. If this happens to you, I hope you'll do what I'm going to do, which is to forbid your feelings to determine what you will or will not do in terms of your training. Use science and reason to train, then come race day, top it off with a lot of heart and pop open the resultant can of high-octane whoopass.


Bob Kuhn said...

Most of those tests are short anyway and are designed to have you quit at some point as the resistance gets too hard. Give yourself a break, even as an elite athlete you have limits and things to work on. At least you have the means to get good data and work from it. What an advantage!

oldmanandhisbike said...

Wow; I would not want to know how much I suck.
But more power to you for making the commitment.
That's why you finish 1st and I finish 59th, in Sport, against old guys! :^)

Chris said...

Syd - we all know your results are good and you kick ass. I believe the results more than the numbers.

When I did my fitness test last year for some reason the mask was freaking me out and making my lip twitch. I can't tell you how close I came to jumping off the trainer and tearing that thing off of my face. I hope it goes better this time around.

bryan said...

Last week I did my first hard interval session of the year on the trainer -- and I was feeling the same things. The first one went horribly, making me think about bagging the whole thing and trying again the next day. During the rest period I refocused and hit the next two right on the money.

I think it's always a shock when your body returns to a very heavy effort after some time away from such things. Your body's default setting is 'revolt,' making it a bit more difficult to flip the switch.

Sean Weide said...

I saw a guy get off his bike and throw it during a race.

It ended up in a ditch, wound up in a barbed-wire fence. As you can imagine, it was quite a funny sight seeing him trying to untangle it without scratching the paint.

gravy said...


This post has reminded me to start very slowly when getting back onto the treads... Like getting in a hot tub... Ouch ouch ouch, awwwwww.....

Marc said...

Never throw your bike at least when someones around.

Very well put article. You're learning and that's the biggest part of this to get better or achieve your goals. I hate grades because there is so much potential in a person that a test doesn't show. I searching for a better word for these "tests" that don't make them sound like a pass/fail system. Any ideas from anyone?

There really isn't a certain number you need to achieve. These tests fluctuate through out the year depending on what part of the training process your in. You've come off a transition period and you know those numbers hadn't changed since right before cross natz. You should of loss some form but haven't.

Bryan, usually the first interval is a struggle ( depends on what you're doing). On that second or third interval you'll have a better gauge of what the session is really like. Then if you start to loose form in your intervals STOP. I get in a good warm up that includes some effort of the type of interval I'm going to do then recover.

There's a lot more to bike racing or achieving any of your goals whether it be fitness related or in your non-riding part of your life. There's so many circumstances it's really amazing if you can achieve your goals.

sydney_b said...

@chris, I've only tried it with a mask once and I didn't last 10 minutes before I did freak out and claw it from my face, so those will be some numbers I may never get.

@bob, you're absolutely right, and I keep that in mind.

@all, my good attitude returned when I read Sue Butler was nominated to go to 'cross worlds. It's so cool to see someone you're chasing and have talked to achieve something like that. Inspiring, even. :)

bryan said...

marc -- I was doing 5-minute lactate threshold intervals in TT position (the CTS DVD). It's a 10-minute warmup with a couple of one-minute intensity periods midway through. I did lose my form a little in the first one, which is why that first recovery time was huge for the rest of the workout. After that, I nailed it.