The last three weeks have been tough. I don't really know how to relay this info without seeming a little weak, because to be honest, my problems are so so minor (come from my own head), and I know that my lot in life is pretty damn good, but just hear me out. I'm talking rough in the sense that my motivation/self confidence had a rough go, and on the other side of a kinda valley in my season, it's probably not a bad idea to reflect on what happened and why, as well as how to avoid or better deal with this kind of thing in the future. I also want to front load this with the acknowledgment that I am very very fortunate to be surrounded by so many encouraging, enthusiastic, kind, loving people who never stopped believing in me, or cheering me on. So thank you to everyone who has been there over the past month, your kind words and encouragement have meant more to me in the past 3 weeks than you probably know.
So I'm a math minded person, studied math in college, taught high school math for 5 years, love numbers and manipulating formulas. I also love data and data analysis. So that aspect of training as a professional athlete is totally my thing. When coach tells me to go do 5 six minute intervals at x watts with the last minute at y watts, I love the idea that I can SEE on my SRM that I am in fact in the 'right' zone, and doing the 'right' amount of work. I love uploading and going through my data and I think I get as much of a feeling of accomplishment from nailing a hard workout and seeing the data as I do from winning a bike race. Seriously, nailing a hard work out is my favorite. I don't care that I'm out in the middle of nowhere, alone, and that most of the time no one will even know about the accomplishment, I still get the same stoked, pumped, hell yeah feeling as I do from racing. And there is another way my math brain affects my training. The reason I love math is because I love that there is usually one right answer. If you do the work right, you will reach that correct answer and it's easy to prove that you in fact know something. BUT all this black and white, math minded stuff has been a huge part of the problem.
In the past three weeks, I've been doing intervals on my road bike with my old power meter. I haven't used the SRM on my mountain bike since my fire road crash, partly because I broke the handlebars and the computer mount, we were traveling and racing a lot... many reasons. So I go out to do a workout and can't quite hit the numbers. It's all good, maybe I'm just tired. A few days later I have the same workout, I dig deep but again can't hit the numbers, and again, frustrated, but not a huge deal. Then the third time I'm assigned the workout I dig really really deep, I give it all I have, and somehow I just manage to eek it out, but it's seriously the hardest thing I've ever done.
At this point I'm already a little freaked that something is wrong with me. Why have I failed so many workouts and why have they felt so hard. I've done similar intervals successfully, it's never this crazy hard!
Then Whiskey, not the worst day on the bike, but I'm extremely disappointed in myself, for feeling so tired and for mentally giving into the pain halfway through the race. At this point I'm having a hard time keeping a smile on my face all the time. I know in my head that life is still really freaking rad, but it's getting hard to be stoked when I am constantly worried something is wrong with me and that I'm getting slow.
And the final nail in the coffin came on Saturday, when I went out to do THE SAME damn workout and failed big time. Like not even close to the numbers.
At the start of each of the 6 minutes I tried my best to keep my mind in the right place, to optimistically think that this time I could dig deep enough to make it happen, but each time was another disappointment. And then I cried, rolling down the hill after attempt #5 I couldn't help myself, and I just let the tears come. I moped all afternoon, and spent Monday dreading what I knew was coming to me on Tuesday morning, that same workout, those same hellish intervals, and possibly another failure.
At some point in all of this I realized that attempting and failing the same workout over and over and over is probably a sign I am really fricking committed. Being beat down that many times and continuing to get back up, head back out and try again is pretty damn resilient. But there was a point, on Monday afternoon when I really didn't want to do it, to go out and be disappointed again, to BE disappointing again. I don't typically dread intervals, but Monday evening I was dreading even waking up the next day.
And this is the point where I explain what I learned from the whole thing (although most of this didn't really sink in until Tuesday afternoon). First of all, it's really hard to stay 100% motivated and committed and STOKED out of your mind all day every day for the whole season. Stuff beats you down, bad workouts, poor performances in races, for me being discouraged because I feel like I need to loose weight... and I think it's just hard in general to keep your mind sharp for 8 months of the year, especially when you aren't seeing great results. But more importantly what I was doing all this time wasn't FAILING workouts, just putting in work to one day achieve a goal (being in those power zones). Going out and quitting halfway through because I was frustrated, that would be failing, but working hard for the prescribed time periods, giving it my best effort, that's never a failure. There is also a LOT of variation in the roads I've been doing these workouts on, the difference between the gearing on different bikes and the way the different power meters read data, so to base my idea of success on these numbers is kinda arbitrary.
So Monday night Brendan spent an hour in the garage while I made dinner working on my bike with the SRM, and on Tuesday morning I zip tied that PC8 computer to the stem and went back out to give it my best shot once again, fully aware that I might not achieve the perfect workout. But guess what... I did it. Each six minute interval was perfectly executed, in the zone I have been striving to reach for so long, still painful, but fully attainable. And when I finished I cried like a little girl. I cried for all the frustration and stress of the past three weeks. I cried for all the hard work I put in, the work that didn't produce results right away, but the delayed satisfaction of wanting something so badly for so long, it made everything that much sweeter. I smiled harder than I have in weeks for the rest of my ride, and was stoked to go out and do my intervals on Wednesday as well :)
I know this isn't going to be the last time I feel frustrated, discouraged and unmotivated in either this cycling career or in life, but I do think it was a pretty fascinating experience (I can say that now that I'm on the other side of it) for a lot of reasons. Maybe I need to feel the lows, to have things kinda suck for a while, in order for the highs to really stand out. I needed to go through this to realize how resilient I am, and to get some perspective on what it means to be successful. And most of all, during the time when I felt the lowest, I had to concentrate really hard on the happy, fun, beautiful and good things in my life as I yearned to snap out of the funk. I appreciated just being healthy, being in nature, traveling to AZ to race and all the encouraging people around me more than I ever have during this time because I NEEDED to focus on the good to get through it.
And that't the story behind the struggles. I didn't try to cover up the fact that I was on the struggle bus for a while, but I got off on the last stop and looking so forward to the rest of the season, no matter what it brings!