As human beings, we all make mistakes. But there is a big difference in making mistakes but knowing better, making the same mistake over and over and making mistakes to learn.
I think we could all put ourselves in one of those categories at various times in our life from training/racing with injuries, saying something you regretted/didn't mean, making choices regarding food, etc. But the best thing about making mistakes is knowing that you are trying and that you can make yourself better in the long run.
I remember a few weeks ago when Karel and I were doing a long brick and after our intervals, we joined our normal Saturday morning ride (which is around 50-70 minutes total depending on when we meet up with the fast group) and Karel was feeling the need for speed so him and a few other cyclists broke away and as the pack chased Karel, he was just ripping the pack apart...he was untouchable and seeing him in the distance, I knew my cyclist of a hubby was loving this suffer fest.....for us chasers. Unfortunately, Karel pushed beyond his IM limits and completely bonked after the ride and wasn't able to run off the bike. He laughed about it afterward and since then, he has stayed within his limits for his IM specific training. Of course, he was smart as to not try to be stubborn and try to run x-miles off the bike and of course, no amount of nutrition is going to help him bike and run at a pace that he didn't train himself to do in training. Just like many athletes, we can swim, bike and run at a certain pace solo but if you are a triathlete, it is knowing how to put the pieces together that really matters. There is something impressive about someone who can individual swim, bike and run fast but that doesn't matter much with endurance triathlon training/racing. Sure, it can impact your fitness but you have to know how to put the pieces together and that is what IM training is all about. Creating new limits but knowing how to stay within them. I take IM training very seriously as there is a lot to learn within the journey. Many athletes get so caught up in the miles and fearing the distance but I believe that we must not rush the journey and recognize how important it is to focus on the key workouts that make up great race day performances.
On Saturday morning, I joined Karel for our 4.5 hour brick. 4 hours on the bike and a 30 minute run. Well, that was the plan.
After I stuck to Karel's wheel for the first hour, we did the most difficult set that my body has ever done....
10 minutes steady, 5 minutes hard....continuous for 1 hour.
On paper, this doesn't look hard but Karel has been peaking and I knew after seeing my watts for the 10 minutes steady that this was going to be a toughy. However, I made an IM-rookie mistake of pushing beyond my limits in a brick workout but I just couldn't help but be the athlete I am inside....I just wanted to see if I could do it.
Pushing watts I have not done in training for the past 10 weeks or so, Karel was impressed that I stayed on his wheel for the 1 hour set and by the time we joined the group ride, I knew I overdid it. I managed to stay on for the group ride but when we were heading home in head wind, I had enough. Knowing the physiology of the body, this was not nutrition or motivation related. I just overdid it and now I had to stay with my mistake. So, for about 1 hour of riding in headwind (talk about a hard way to gather your thoughts), I went back and forth in my head as to if I should run off the bike and within 3 miles from home, my "smart" coach thinking won over my "stubborn" athlete thinking and I decided that since that bike had nothing to do with IM training, it would be best to scratch the run off the bike. However, although the mistake was made, I was still able to think of plan B. Water jog. So I hoped in the complex pool for a refreshing 20 minute water jog as it was much kinder on my body than pounding the pavement for 30 minutes. Karel ended up having an amazing workout for both bike and run and when we connected that evening after he got off work, all was good and I was happy I made this mistake. For it was fun while it lasted but Sat. showed me that like many athletes, you have to respect your own fitness level when training for an endurance event. I love training with Karel but with 4 weeks til race day, the training is very specific to both of our bodies. We can continue to share this journey together but at different paces, intensities and volume.
Thankfully, Sunday I was able to regroup and have an amazing brick workout - 1 hour bike, 13.3 mile run, 2 hour bike. As for Karel, he did his first ever 20 mile run with a 1 hour EZ spin after the run. Success for both of us to wrap up 3 hard, quality weeks of training. Gotta love progress.
So as I was collecting my thoughts after my suffer-session with Karel, I couldn't help but think about the progress I have made on my bike so I thought I'd share some of my top tips for becoming a better, smarter and stronger cyclist. By no means am I a professional cyclist or cycling coach but having been coached by Karel on the bike since we met in 2006 and Karel riding a bike all his life, I have learned a lot about cycling and how to properly ride/train on a bike as well as being more and more comfortable on the bike (since cycling was very new to me when I started tri's and I was very scared on the bike). Most importantly, you can always get better as a cyclist so don't ever give up.
-Train with a power meter
-Learn how to change your gears appropriately
-Learn how to switch from big/small ring while drafting
-Learn how to anticipate changing terrain and adjust gears appropriately
-Be sure your bike is set-up with a hydration system that is easy to access (ex. rear bottle cages) and that all bottles are secure
-Learn what your nutrition needs are for each individual workout
-Learn how to become "one" with your bike
-Learn how to adjust gears before stopping
-Learn how to break properly, especially before stopping or if slowing down in a group
-Relax on the bike
-Maintain good position of your seat bone on the saddle
-Learn how to pedal smoothly
-Learn how to climb based on your size/height (I generally climb in my small chain ring and standing)
-Don't be afraid to ride with others but be sure you are not taking your time away from your own specific training
-Don't ride scared
-Learn how to change a flat tire
-Learn how to anticipate other objects around you, possibly getting in your way (react quickly but smart)
-Learn how to embrace the pain to get stronger (good pain, not injury pain)
-Just ride your bike for fun - get more comfortable on your bike in all types of conditions (be smart)
-Practice scenarios similar to race day - set up your bike, wear clothing, wear HR monitor, stuff jersey pockets, etc. similar to race day to get use to what "it" feels like.
-Be sure to have a bike that fits you - don't buy a bike and then try to fit it.
-Trust your mechanic (or be married to him/her :)) and be sure he/she understands your individual needs and goals
-For most triathletes, there is no reason to be "aero" on the bike with a flat back. Avoid an aggressive/aero position on the bike and get a retul fit by a fitter who is qualified to fit you with the Retul system.
-Know how to dress appropriately on the bike and invest in comfortable shoes and helmet.
-Use your gadgets appropriately. Use a bike computer, separate from a running garmin so you can fix it to your bike and not on your wrist. Rather than being stuck on speed, consider lap times every 10-20-30 minutes so you can better pace yourself.
-Create sets that will allow you to progress with fitness and remember that athletes will peak at different times.
-Do not get frustrated on the bike as cycling is one of the best activities that you can do for a lifetime (like swimming) that is easy on the body.
-Ride safe, wear a Road ID and have fun!