220, 230, 250, 260 watts......... HR 155, 1158, 163........ Come on, come on, come on......... ARHHHHHHHHHHHH Why am I getting slower!!!!!!!!
The above is not a direct quote of what was going through my mind on a recent ride, but is close enough for the purpose of this hopefully short post.
This ride of mine was frustrating due to the fact that, despite relatively solid training (except for the cruise to Mexico that was not kind to the waistline) I was putting down intervals on the bike that were a whole zone slower than what I had been able to do just a month ago.
I got home from the ride frustrated and feeling like my goal for Hawaii 70.3 was slipping away. After a few back and forth emails with my coach about the experience and talking to one of my long time athletes who is a coach in the making, it really began to dawn on me that increased stress was likely the main reason for my lackluster performance on the bike that day.
Another factor that really messed with the training session was that I was so focused and stressed about "hitting my numbers" that when I started missing a interval here and there I knew it immediately. This is a problem because in the heat of the moment, when your heart is pounding in your ears and all you want to do is will your bike to go faster but your body will not allow it, the brain does not take into account, and remind you of all the other current life stressors that are impacting your body.
That is exactly what happened......
Once I cooled off a bit I was reminded of a talk that Coach Matt Dixon gave while I was in Boise in early December. He stated that his athletes know the intent of their sessions and know what is to be executed, then they go out and do it by feel. Then they let the numbers be what they are. Newer athletes can benefit from seeing a specific number of pace or power so they can associate what that exact effort feels like. As athletes progress it is important to be able to go out each session and complete the session to the best of their ability that day without being chained to a given number that causes additional stress and anxiety during the session. Once it is all said and done and the brain actually has sufficient oxygen to think clearly again, then you can sit down and pick apart the session interval by interval. Had I done this instead of being married to my Garmin, I may have saved myself a whole day of heartache and stress. I likely would have been able to look at the session from a more holistic point of view rather than being so myopic as to why the session did not go as well.
Moving forward I plan on changing my approach to most training sessions. I will understand the planned intensity zones and intent of the session, then I will hit start on my watch and only use the timer to keep track of how long I am at each interval. That way the numbers do not stress me out because I am not hitting them, or hold me back from a breakout performance because on that day everything lined up to create something awesome.
Get out there, train smart, train hard, and know the intent of what you are working on. Do not be married to the numbers in the thick of the session. analyze the effort only after you have sufficient blood flow to the brain. Above all else, enjoy what you do with your training. I was reminded of this as I scrolled through pictures on my phone and came across this one of my son. He does not ride for numbers, he rides to see how fast he can go down a hill, to feel freedom, to explore, to feel the wind in his face as he pedals as fast as his little legs can carry him.
Please post questions or email me with your own experiences in this area.