Rumor is that lately I’ve been coaching in all caps. ALL CAPS. You see, it’s testing time. And when it’s time for the swim, bike, or run test you are commanded to go hard, ALL OUT, all CAPS.
I wasn’t always this way. I thought CAPS were ANGRY, MEAN, RUDE. But then I realized in the world of athletics they actually make quite the point. *hard* is not as hard as HARD or even HARD or how about MAX ALL OUT.
I think I just felt my legs just burn.
I blame my coach. She started me years ago with these tests and from her the directions came in ALL CAPS. I started to learn that when she talked in caps she was really trying to make a point.
GO GO GO GO GO
*point well taken*
These phrases in ALL CAPS were things I would often read or hear, things effective in making me realize the workout on tap was no place for hugs, cupcakes, puppies, nor lemonade. No, the particular workout needed to be HARDcore.
In fact it was just the other day my coach electronically shouted at me in all caps - because it was time for my own bike test. I was told to go HARD. To SMASH that old record of watts on the bike lactate threshold/threshold power test.
When you see this test on your schedule, you do think about it all day long. You fret. You worry and wonder how you’ll do. You want to set a new personal best. You figure that months of busting your butt in a saddle will count for something, something that says the Dairyland Dare (I just got the shakes) was worth every hot, hilly mile.
But that is the risk of the test – you don’t know. You could be better or you could be worse. Why? Who knows. User error, fatigue, not enough air in your tires, stuck on a bad song, cramps, or just one of those days.
Last year, I had the most fortunate of bike tests. I improved 20 watts from the previous year. Now that was something to shout about. But even a bike test like that doesn’t let you gloat for too long. Because it will always come around again. And with it comes the fear that you may not have improved at all. A few months later, I unfortunately confirmed this as I had only increased 4 watts.
Months of muscular endurance intervals, repeats, overgearing, up hills, drills, bricks and more and all I got was...4 watts.
So there I was on Friday night hoping, feeling like I could prove the bike test wrong. After all, an entire summer with mega mileage training for Ironman has to leave legs stronger than before.
Finally, Friday after work I am ready for my test. Twenty minutes and my legs are warmed up. Time to start the test. The legs start pushing for sure in all caps and all I can think about is wanting to push more wattage, more power, strong, strong, strong.
For about the first minute.
And then it hits, the burn. Has only one minute gone by? Do we really have 14 more to go? I can’t possibly hold on for that long. But I can. Well, I have to. Because you don’t stop your test. You don’t give up. You just go.
I break it up into smaller pieces. Five minutes to push, three times. Push, push, push. Legs don't want to go (no!), stomach thinks it might be time to vomit (yes!), upper body is holding on for dear life. The last two minutes and I’m sure I’m going to fall over on this trainer. Or black out. Or just shutdown. The last 30 seconds count down in terms of forever and finally I am done.
Exhausted, sweaty, I arrive at the moment of truth. The moment I have been waiting for. The number I have pushed for and let my legs fill with burn just so I could see. I switch buttons on the Power Tap to unveil my average watts hoping to find I have improved not 20 but who knows 30, 40 watts, that I have massive amounts of power in these legs of steel ready to ride. And when I finally read the number I see that what I have done is smashed my last test result by......
Yes, 4 watts.
(moment of silence please)
FOUR!? FOUR WATTS!? This can't be right. There must be a reason why. WHY!? Because this is impossible. Impossible that I am only 4 watts better than I was 10 months ago. How? WHY? I say improper calibration, computer malfunction, bad karma from my competitors. Let me call Saris to issue my compliant for a faulty computer because this power tap is clearly stuck on FOUR WATTS.
Ok. Time to cool myself down. Spinning easy, small chain ring, 100+ rpms, I am grumbling and mumbling about my 4 watts. There had to be vengence, victory had to be mine.
I am unsatisfied so I tell my coach. I want a rematch. I am hungry for WATTAGE and looking for more from myself. Permission granted so next week I’m going to put the legs on CAPS LOCK and push those pedals until the gears quiver in fear and the cranks fall off in defeat.
Until then, I'm keeping my eye on that little yellow computer and it's going with me everywhere. Because it can't be trusted. Who knows what type of calculations and calibrations go on in the basement when I'm not home. And next week when I board the bike again, one thing is sure – I will emerge from that basement with more than 4 watts.
Oh I will.