In continuing with my theme of breaking up the winter doldrums by doing fun training and racing things, I raced an indoor time trial this past weekend.
The first time I did one of the races in this local indoor TT series was back in January of 2002. That’s further proof that I’ve been doing this stuff a really long time. I might have done one earlier but I don’t even know if they kept records way back then. I remember racing at races where there were no timing chips. Just some kid with a pencil, a clipboard and a stopwatch writing down your number.
This really happened.
There’s a local cycling club that puts on an indoor time trial series in a nearby school. Historically these have not been my favorite events. First of all, they really really hurt. Bad. Second of all, they tend to favor a bigger rider who can put down massive power without worrying about carrying themselves up a hill or dissipating heat. Third, it is like performing on a stage. You race, in a bank of Computrainers with 5 other riders with people watching behind you. Like last year when the announcer said let’s see if Liz Waterstraat can bike as well as she blogs. Nothing like a little added pressure. And, fourth, they hurt. I think I already said that but it’s worth repeating.
The night before, I thought about what I was going to do in the race. This is one of those “tricks” that can make anyone – regardless of age, fitness, ability – race faster. THINK IT THROUGH, people! Take the time to write out a timeline with some plans. First of all, you need a plan because when you’re in the race moment, suffering, you need to know what you’re going to do. Don’t leave it to your mind to decide because at that moment you’re body is screaming to your mind: WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME! Have a plan! Know what to say! Focus on things to distract yourself from that pain! This plan becomes automatic, no thinking- just DO! I always include when I need to wake up, eat, what I’m eating, warm up details, time of warm up. And then I write out 3 things I either want to remember or accomplish during the race. I do this for every race, no matter how small! After all, the small ones set you up for having good bigger ones. Use those opportunities! Then, save those notes and review them so you have a record of what works/what doesn’t work to use for next time.
I got a few good tips from Chris and Kurt and then looked back at my notes from last year. This would be a rolling 10K course. Done correctly, my wattage would be well above threshold. Last year, I set my all time personal power best at this distance. My goal this year was to get within 5 watts from that. Taking some advice from Kurt, I knew in the last 3-5 minutes, I needed to throw it into the 53x12, stand and put down as much power as possible. Plan in hand, I packed up and set out.
Well on my way to overcaffeination, I arrived at the school way too early only to have to sit on the cafeteria floor for about an hour suffering through the worst ever assembled playlist. When you have Elvis, polka and Shakira in the same playlist, you need an iTunes intervention. I ate second breakfast which meant my blood was running caffeine and carbohydrate. Time to warm up.
45 minutes later (the harder & shorter the event, the longer the warm up), it was time. First off – get weighed. I haven’t been weighing myself lately because after IVF, I was having a really hard time dropping weight. Not surprisingly, the harder I tried, the more stubborn the weight got until I started to make drastic changes, dropped a few pounds but then got sick. Ding ding ding! The moron bell sounded and I knew it was time to stop weighing myself. Haven’t been on the scale since. So when I stepped on the scale, I said to the girl do not tell me how much I weigh.
Turns out the hardest thing I did today was keeping myself from dropping that card in the next 10 minutes to reveal the weight. It was tough but I nailed it.
I sat around watching the guys before me finish up. I recognized the guy who’s won these things for years. Someone was congratulating him and asking how he did it: I just try to keep my watts up on the downhills. So I listened. Goal: push as hard as possible on every downhill.
My turn. On to the Computrainer. I successfully look away when the guy enters in our weights and instead look around at my competition. I may just be the only one under age 40 here. All cyclists, wearing their designated team kits and riding road bikes. In the entire gymnasium, I am the only one with a time trial bike, the only one not wearing a kit, the only one who does not appear to be tattooed.
This means in the world of cycling, I am a (COMPLETE TRI DORK!) … winner.
Which reminds me, late last night, Kurt sent me an email:
GO OUT AND WIN THE TT.
When I got it, I laughed. I sat down ready to craft some logical response about all of the factors that were against me (I’m small, I’m a triathlete, some Pro 1/2 girl will probably win). Then I realized Kurt could really give a shit, none of those were good reasons for not winning but were great excuses. At that moment, I putting winning in my realm of possibility. Which was kind of a big thing. I never go to these things trying to win. But why not? I’m fit. I’m strong. Why hold back? Goal: go after it and gut yourself.
We calibrate and then get a countdown. I turned up my music. LOUD.
At first I just looked at the screen to anticipate the grades of the hills. Going up, watch your cadence. Going down, pedal like hell. My power was high. In the first 3 minutes I was well, as in 40-50 watts, above threshold. Don’t think about it. Ignore it and keep pushing. I would either blow up at 10 minutes or set a new power best.
Three minutes feels like forever but I notice something happening….I am pulling ahead of the men. I am in fourth position. I get fired up to maintain it, work harder, dear god power is still really high, is this really happening? It doesn’t feel impossibly hard but it’s certainly not easy. But the rising heat in my head tells me that this might have been caffeine speaking. It’s really hard, I’m just not fully feeling it.
10 minutes down, I’m still in 4th and rocking on my saddle. In a rhythm – I LOVE THIS PLACE. This rhythm of hurt I call it. Where it feels like a few watts short of death but you can’t escape it. You don’t want to. You find out about yourself in these moments. Everything becomes very real.
The downhills are getting harder so I give myself 5 seconds to spin easy and catch my breath after each one. If swimming has taught me anything, it’s the ability to recover in under 5 seconds. Any swimmer knows that 10 seconds on the wall is an ETERNITY! I’m approaching the 5 mile mark and realize – a little over a mile to go, watts are still holy shit high but don’t think too hard about it, just keep going after it.
Finally, the hill. I knew my plan: throw it into the 53x12, stand up and put out as much power as possible. The hill gets steeper but I’m stomping out high power, not afraid any more. It’s only .3 miles to go. .2. .1. PUSH IT!
When I hit the 10K mark, I felt spent. One of the workers said that was a violent effort! I’m glad you noticed because it really, really felt like that: VIOLENT! I went into it with no idea what time it would take but it turns out, I had the best time of the day.
I think I was out of breath for the next 10 minutes of cool down. I took a look at my power – 10 watts above what I did last year and nearly 40 seconds faster. I am ELATED. And don’t kid yourself: this was NOT easy. It’s certainly not because I’m doing “magical” workouts. Nor that I’m talented, gifted, lucky….NONE of that. I finally – FINALLY – after 11 years of doing these damn things – decided to GO AFTER IT. Decided to stop reading notes from the races that said need to push harder, need to give it more at the end. Decided to give it an ALL OUT WINNING EFFORT.
Think about that for yourself: what does that type of effort feel (and look) like?
Next up, the three other fastest women of the day went. One was a long time Pro 1/2 rider, another was Jennifer and the last was another Pro 1/2 gal who won the last TT. Poor Jennifer had to go into this race after two days of me trash talking her on Facebook, in texts and finally in person before her race. But it paid off. She also set a new time and power best. Jen and the other woman went within .6 seconds of my time. The other beat me.
I didn’t win – but I know – from what I downloaded from my Quarq, what I felt in my legs but more importantly what my GUT was telling me – I truly did give it my best. Think about that. When you are supposed to go nearly 20 minutes as hard as you can, are you really doing that? Are you finishing with the thought that you could have gone harder? Is it taking you at least 10 minutes to catch your breath? It’s taken me a long, LONG time to really understand what HARD is. It is NOT a number. In fact, if it was, I would have settled about 20 watts lower, right around my last bike test threshold. So was that last bike test REALLY hard? No it was not. This was. Think of how much untapped potential you have sitting in your head and muscles. WHEN are you finally going to use that? It’s a choice. Obviously not in every workout but in these key opportunities, you’ve got to flip that switch, turn it up and go after it – FULLY. 100%.
But no great effort comes without a cost. My back had been sore for a few days. You see, after doing a MONSTER swim and then going back to daily life as superhero mom able to lift 30-pound son in and out of carseat and crib multiple times a day – my back barked back. And when I put my bike into the car, it barked again. In fact, it barked for the rest of the night, waking me up at 2 am in spasms.
A trip to my A.R.T. guy the next day confirmed that muscles deep in my back are tight and inflamed. It wasn’t even from the swimming. It was from rolling out the soreness from swimming and lifting. As you can imagine, when I do something, I do it full force. And I should probably never be allowed to touch a foam roller or TP therapy ball again. I didn’t just roll. I cranked on it. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.
The prescription: no swimming. Yeah, I’m crying chlorinated tears about that. Unfortunately, this thwarts my dreams of outdoor LCM in Florida. Frustrating but resting those muscles and getting the treatment needed is much better than risking something much bigger. In 20+ years of running and sports, I have been injured once (2003: piriformis for 3 months – or the 3 months that Liz spent NOT sitting). I’d like to keep that record going if possible!
So far NOT picking up my son to move him around, especially in situations with a time constraint, has proved to be a little like herding cats. Or, a little like this:
It ain’t an easy job.