Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Only Way to Get Better

About two weeks ago, I had a huge “A-HA!” moment in my training.  I love it when that happens!

I was analyzing my performance at my last race and working on my training schedule for the next two duathlons in this series, when I came to the conclusion that the only way to meet my lofty time goal would be to speed up on the bike portion.  “But how can I do that?” I whined to myself (and maybe just a little bit to IronHubs), “I’m already going as fast as I can!”  There may have been a tiny bit more whining, but I’ll spare you from it.  “I work hard.  Why can’t I go any faster?” I asked IronHubs.  He replied, “I don’t know. Why can’t you?”

Like so many of his little Zen nuggets, I didn’t appreciate this one right away.  I let it simmer in my mind for a bit and continued working on my training schedule.  In the past, I’ve stuck to a relatively moderate training plan, with two or three days of biking, two or three days of swimming and three days of running, one of which was a brick.  But this time, while I was filling in everybody else’s race days and figuring out how to accommodate my work schedule, I had a little lightbulb go on over my head:  The only way I’m going to get better is to get better.  (Yeah, I know.  Thank you, Captain Obvious.)

The training schedule I ended up posting on the refrigerator is pretty aggressive:  nearly every day is a twofer (bike + swim, run + core work, swim + run, etc.), and every week includes a long run, a long bike and at least two bricks, usually on back-to-back days.  I’ve never included this much biking before.  It’s challenging, but I’m loving it!

I’ve also armed myself with a secret weapon – a new mantra.  That first day on the bike after putting up this training schedule, I went out for a ride with IronHubs’ koan in my head, “Why can’t I go faster?”  (It’s hard to translate the nuance of this question in writing, but I didn’t mean it in a whining or questioning way.  More in a “challenge myself and encourage myself” way.  I can do anything, why wouldn’t I go faster?)  While I was riding, I pushed myself harder on the bike than I’ve ever pushed before.  When I wanted to back off and slow down, I told myself, “Don’t be afraid.”

What am I afraid of?  Ugh, that list is pretty long, but somewhere in there is this strange fear of succeeding.  And the flipside, a fear of trying my very, very best and still failing.  I have always held something back in fear, with the “what-ifs” in the back of my mind.

No more.

That day on the bike, I wasn’t afraid.  I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t have enough left for my run, I didn’t worry that my best wasn’t good enough, I just pushed and gave it everything I had to give.  And it was AWESOME!

To put it into numbers for you:  my average speed on the bike is was somewhere in the 17 mph range.  On shorter rides, I could push it almost to 18 mph and on longer or hillier rides, I usually averaged in the high 16’s.  That glorious day, I cranked out an 18.8 mph ride, just because I told myself I could.  Monday’s brick and yesterday’s brick both averaged 19.7 mph!  Crazy speed.  I was thrilled to discover that pushing harder on the bike didn’t leave me any more or less exhausted on my run.  17 mph or 19 mph, I still have to grind through that first mile of jelly-legs getting off the bike, so why not go 19 mph?

Have you pushed yourself to new limits?

Don’t be afraid.

17 comments:

Running Ricig said...

Sounds like an awesome plan! I love your mantra.

I can't usually push myself, but I'm pretty easily pushed by others. My new running buddy has decided I'm not reaching my potential so he's making me do speed work every week now.

Amber said...

I should try this...I seem to be stuck at a 12 mph average. World's Slowest Triathlete EVER! :P

Matthew Smith said...

Heck yeah! Nice work on the bike. I feel the same way about pushing harder and how it doesn't necessarily mean you suffer more on the run. Good job, and keep up the good work.

CautiouslyAudacious said...

Awesome improvement! I have a similar problem with my running!

RockStarTri said...

It is great that you've upped the intensity of your workouts as I believe that is one of the keys to improvement but, and it is a big but, if you do everything at that higher intensity the likelihood of injury increases. To combat that, you need a wide difference between what HARD is and what EASY is. Most athletes make easy too hard and that doesn't let the body get stronger since you are not providing the healing necessary for improvement.

Biking is something that gives less wear and tear than running which is why most tri plans over bias biking. You've have a eureka momenta and I'm sure it is the first of many on the road to faster!

Aimee said...

Woohoo for the bike speed!!! I think your plan sounds great and I love how you changed it based on YOUR needs! Love it!

ajh said...

Yeah for the bike speed. I am very impressed!

Teamarcia said...

Holy fast bike girl! You inspire me. I'm a mess right now with my new training plan that I don't trust. We'll see if it all comes together.

Alma said...

Holy cow - that is a big increase in speed. Nice job pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, P. I think that's what's been helping me with this RLRF program. Forces me to push harder than I think I can...and I'm seeing the benefits. Train fast, race fast! Way to go!

Colleen said...

I love it... I've always heard "you get faster by training faster" but I too held back, as if to save something for another day. I don't know what it is. But I've learned there are times for speed and times for grazing. And those speed days are usually the ones that feel the best!

And as for those jello legs... they never really go away! :)

The Green Girl said...

Love this. This is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I am pushing myself harder than I ever have before because I am determined to be in the best shape of my life for this bike tour.

Tortuga_Runner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tortuga_Runner said...

I love this post. I do this to myself. I wonder why I am not better when deep down I know why I am not and I too am afraid to do better. How silly is that?! I am glad you had the Aha moment, but I am thrilled you are facing it head on. That is one thing I totally haven't had the balls to do for all the reasons you listed in the fear category, including the fear of consistency and commitment.

Julie said...

Hi P! It sounds like you have it all figured out! Go for it girl!

FYI...I use the bag you sent to me for one of your giveaways all of the time:) Pain vrs. finish time on the intranet! Love it!

Candice @ I Have Run said...

Love the new mantra! I'm thinking it will cross my mind more than once in my upcoming races!! So thanks!

Claire said...

You have an informative blog. I’ve learned something from it. I do have mine too www.claire-fernandez.blogspot.com... Thanks

Anne said...

Fantastic post! Thanks for the inspiration :)