Saturday, May 15, 2010

Race Demons, Be Gone

It's hard to honor a commitment to blogging at least once a week when I don't always have something to write about. I don't just want to post my workouts or daily events -- I'd rather write about times I learned something so that someone else might learn from my experience.

Yesterday was one of those times. I needed to have a good workout, but I was dreading it because of the other hard workouts I've done this week to make up for last weekend's race debacle (misfortune?) in Virginia. I've spent a week trying to determine if I did the right thing by dropping out, wondering if I could have finished anyway, and trying not to get discouraged at my slow bike time. Why it was it SO slow? Was it: the marathon 6 days before? not being able to breathe properly? the fact that I'm a crappy biker? When I saw my split compared to others that day, I threw up my hands in disgust, despite the "reasons" for it.

Two days after the race, I ran a hard, hilly 13-miler. Was that smart? Who knows? It sure felt like a release from the constant mental bashing I was doing. Was I punishing myself for dropping out of the race? Probably.

The day after that, I did hard tempo repeats on my bike trainer for two hours. The whole time, my mind was asking the nagging question: "why hasn't my hard bike training paid off?" I've been killing myself on the bike this year, using my heart-rate monitor religiously and making sure I did a prescribed set of muscular endurance sessions and time trials. But when it came to race time, it was like I did nothing at all. My time was 10 minutes slower than last year. Even WITH breathing problems, I still think it should have been at LEAST as fast as last year -- when I DIDN'T have the hard training behind me.

Two more days of running, swimming and biking and then came my long ride yesterday. If the weather was good, I would do my first 100 miler of the year. I had to work in the morning, but on my way home at noon, the sun came out, and I had no more excuses. I prepped my bike and worked out a new nutrition plan alternating Carbo-Pro and E.F.S. Liquid Shot: 250 calories/hour -- I expected to be out there six hours.

The wind was about 15 mph, mostly the west, and I was heading north and west -- so at least I would be with the wind on the way back. The first 45 minutes was all hills (which means the last 45 is hills), and I tried to avoid checking my average speed during that time. By the time the terrain flattened out, I noticed I was able to hold 21-22 mph with no struggle -- something I could NOT do in the race last weekend. Heading directly into the wind for 15 miles, I hit the 50-mile mark in 2:42, something I've NEVER done before. Knowing I would have the wind at my back for the return, I was on target to finish my fastest ever 100-mile training ride on this particular route. I hit 100 miles at 5:25, 10 minutes faster than my "record," and the demons evaporated almost instantly.

Even better, my ride nutrition was perfect -- I felt mentally and physically strong the whole time. And when I got off the bike, I did a four-mile run to get used to the transition.

I guess the lesson is obvious, but I keep having to learn it over and over again, even at my age. One bad day, one bad race, does not define my limitations. As endurance athletes, we must realize the huge stresses we subject our bodies to and evaluate the causes of things that go wrong with logic and not emotion. Easier said than done, I know. Maybe writing it down will force the learning.

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