Saturday, August 8, 2009

I will gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today

Sometimes when I am training I feel like I am at the top of the world. I am really strong and have prepared well, despite being in a continuum. Then there are those times that I feel like I have been whipped, run over (don't forget the tire tracks) and plowed under. Its akin to the relationship between Popeye and Wimpy, with a little, no a lot, of Brutus encounters along the way. Every morning I wake up trying to decide which of the three I feel like, yet at the same time I try not to let that interfere with that sequence of training.

Thursday afternoon I was on top of my world, I felt like I was really onto something grande. With that, I arrived in Needham, MA yesterday with the intentions of showing off all my hard work. I was going to be riding with a bunch of friends that on a typical day call 19MPH a relaxed pace. As much as I was eager to see what I was made of, there was still part of me that was tentative about holding them back. In this case I am thinking that I should have listened to my head.

We got on our bikes and within 10 minutes of leaving my HR was maxed out. At first, I was thinking I just really need to warm up a bit more and I will settle into the pace. My computer is busted on my bike so I felt like I was riding blind in a sense, all I knew was time, HR, and perceived effort. Fifteen, twenty, thirty-eight minutes in, I am still riding between 85-100%MHR and wondering if its a sign that I need rest, or if I am still way behind in terms of conditioning? All I know is that I was doing my damnedest to keep up, to not show my pain, to not be dropped every single time on the climbs so that at the end I would know that all my hard work has paid off. For the most part, as many endurance athletes will tell you, there is something about that pain that is blinding enough to let you keep going. I knew it was temporary, that all I had to do was hang on for a few hours and it would be over. I was trying desperately not to be dropped to the point of having to be fetched or waited for, because that, is humiliating.

As my battle ensued, it became more about me against my capabilities than me against the boys. They were just riding, not particularly fast either, and I was just hanging on for dear life. I started to think about a conversation that I had with Jon before leaving that morning about tempos, and why on Thursday riding and swimming at 80% did not feel overly taxing. It was because the effort was too short. On this ride I came to the conclusion that I would be cognizant of the point in which my life went from riding a bike at a high effort, to having to really concentrate on that effort to keep it going. I knew that I was averaging 85%MHR. That point came when I was close to two hours in, 1:51:38 to be exact. At this point something in my head said pull back as the GREAT WALL is coming up quick and this time you wont be able to smash through it. At 2:08:00 I was getting pretty close to done, cooked beyond repair. "I've had all I can stand, I can't stands no more!" as Popeye would have said, though no amount of spinach would have taken care of me. We stopped for awhile to look at a kiln, I was so relieved to be allowed to let my HR recover. I knew that we still had a half dozen miles to go, but that could really be spun, as it would just be me and Steve. As he waited for me to catch up at the place that there is a usual sprint for home, my head was light-hearted and wanted to engage in that game, but my legs basically said, in no uncertain terms, F*&^% Y*&^!!!I immediately started to feel like that stone in the bottom of the river. As we rode towards home I spent a few minutes fishing for approval. What I really wanted to know, was I a different rider than last month? I had felt like I had failed to prove myself in any convincing manner. The ego blow was crushing. The improvement over the past month seemed negligible.

As I dwelled on this for the three hour drive home, I rehearsed that ride over and over in my head. I thought about where I was dropped, by how much, where I wish I could have stopped to enjoy the scenery, what I was training for anyway, and why did I feel like I needed to prove myself. I'm doing this for me, and it needs to be what I want it to be and nothing else. I think back to that stone in the bottom of the river and know that the best polishing stones in my studio are the ones that have been allowed to exist on the river bottom for several lifetimes. The time for fetching this stone from that riverbed has not come yet.

So why the title? I have been hooked on these time trials that occur on Tuesday nights and my training has been structured to have them be the mirror I that need them to be, a measure of feedback. I feed on my training all week and pay on Tuesday with my heart and soul. My rationale about the scheme of training is that it ebbs and flows all week as if it is tidal and often the last day in that micro-cycle is the most tenuous, as if a storm is brewing (exhaustion) and its about to railroad the circle. As I sit here this morning knowing that today is my day off, I couldn't ride if I wanted to, I know that I fed myself well this week and on Tuesday it will be a sweet payday!

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