Each week a rotation of cycling events - race, rest, train, train, race, train. Each week, each day, each Event a new opportunity to know myself, to push harder and find someone even stronger inside. Some days tax the brain, others the lungs or the legs, or any combination thereof. Some extra days require rest, and it has taken effort to realize that if I Need to rest, I can do so without guilt. Sometimes life's activities take precedence, and that is Okay. I am accountable to myself. The bike does not judge. Nor does it lie or flatter - it is honesty without apology.
Adding a power tap to the process simply maximizes the knowledge of effort over time. I received this note from my coach:
don't think I didn't notice those new PRs last week... cos I saw them!!! Nice job...Now I have to admit - I don't know Where those new personal records came from. I would have to go dig thru my numbers to figure out when, or on which ride, they occurred. Once I received more details - I found not only did I set new PRs, but I set 6 of them! Of note - my 5s is just two points shy of 800 watts. This amazes me. 6 months ago I would have told you it was improbable or impossible - that it would require 3x the effort than I had time to perform. And yet, here I am - having grown by leaps and bounds over prior years. So when someone asks if Coaching is worth it? Every Penny, my friend. Am I as good as I could be? No where near. Am I as fit as I could be? Am I eating right & sleeping enough? Not nearly. But my balance of effort and results and joie de vivre is very nearly in harmony.
And so on Sundays, I take my wheels to the Velodrome. We warm up, lap after lap after lap. The body wakes up, the mind focuses and relaxes and the body melds with the bike which melds with the concrete bowl. Hard efforts push the mind to challenge just how fast and hard the legs can push. To break thru the barrier of what you Think is possible, and what you can really do. The reward is the taste of iron in the back of your mouth, gasping, lungs nearly heaving out, and fits of coughing. These tell me I've reached a limit - one that Next time will be even further away before I'm spent. That even tho my scalp & extremities are cold and numb against the heat, I can recover and push just as hard again and again. This is simply training, improving, and knowing myself.
Tho the flat circuit at PIR is vastly different from Alpenrose, I take my strengths with me. On the road I can attack or chase, and recover. I can focus my breathing to slow my heart. I'm learning to control the panic, to calm the body, to be comfortable sitting more than 3 places back. I hide from the wind, I ride with wheels mere inches from my competitors. And as I prepare for the sprint, as the pace picks up thru the bell lap, I am just as aware. After yesterday's worship, I know where my limit is, and I promise myself that I will hit it before I let someone beat me. We're racing clockwise, in the final turn (map mark 11), I see a two person attack thru my peripheral vision - I jump out of the line and follow them until their strength fades. This has dumped me into the wind, alone, just before the bridge. Instantly I know I'm alone for the finish. There is no lead out, and slowing is not an option. Out of the saddle, digging for speed and hopefully creating a gap so I'm not the lead out for anyone else. I sit, legs turning over quickly. No one is immediately on my wheel - the finish still very far away.
The wind is strong, I push on. I tuck down, making myself smaller. I will be as small of a windbreak as possible, anyone behind me gets to suffer. And then I am overcome with Calm. My path is straight, my legs turn faster and faster. I'm breathing easily, my focus in front and not an inch of sway in my form. As the finish approaches, crowd noises start to break in. A quick glance left, and I can see two bikes getting closer. I push faster, I hear someone shouting "Throw!" but I've not practiced it at this speed. I just power thru until I cross the line. First. Fairly certain, tho I didn't waste any effort looking over my shoulder to watch it... but confirmed shortly after. I gave it my all, and trust that it was enough. The crush of noise breaks in now - crowds screaming, lungs gasping, legs starting to burn from the effort. I start to slow, make my way over to the grass and stop. I drape my arms and upper body over the handle bars and recover my breathing. That was hard, but it was mine. I did what I needed to do.
I pick myself up, and see my husband - grinning from ear to ear - riding toward me. This is my prize. His joy and excitement, my confidence and accomplishment. This is the momentary payoff. Tomorrow I return to the round, the cycle of training, and the next race. Knowing a bit more about myself, growing, celebrating life thru what I can do. Amen.