You are never going to be fully ready…or are you already prepared?
Like many Canadians who enjoy outdoor summer sports, I spend some time indoors over the winter getting ready for my ‘season’. My season (it often changes) this year, was to be dedicated to cycling. This has been my plan for a few years now, but for reasons and influences I chose to follow, my cycling season never seemed to arrive. Comically, one of my dearest (and very FIRST) clients theorized that I did not even own a road bike – that I was the Snuffaluffagus of cycling. I’ve always been strong on my bike, but never considered myself a cyclist. I’ve trained with and rode with other cyclists and triathletes over the years but the most I’ve ever given to the sport was a few years of participating in local triathlons (that’s another story!). I have always had sports A.D.D, hopping from one sport to another while the return on investment or learning curve is steep, fast and fun. Cycling, however has always been with me, and part of how I became a trainer and a coach. I had a passion, experience and a philosophy inside of me to share with others.
As a trainer and gym owner you would think we have an easy avenue towards becoming and staying very fit. On the contrary, we spend a lot of time managing the emotions, expectations, timetables and aspirations of others. There are days when there is nothing left for self care or training, so we sneak in what we can. I’m not painting myself out to be a hero, but know that my training times penciled in my calendar are the first to go when someone needs an emergency visit, to re-schedule or a little extra encouragement. This is no different from what many of you experience as mothers, fathers, friends, siblings, managers and so forth. It is what it is!
This spring when my good friend and client Maria asked me join her to cycle in the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau event, I saw it as a great early season challenge to ensure I tackle my training a little better this year. Afterall, I would be coming out of a full winter of indoor cycling coaching and would have (in theory) a solid month of outdoor pursuits under my belt. I did not hesitate for a second to register. I got out my credit card, registered online and sat down with my training template and started to build an AWESOME, well balanced plan, full of specificity and beautifully periodized for a mini peak for this event. It was a beautiful masterpiece, tastefully peppered with hill training, plyometrics, anaerobic and aerobic intervals. I even planned my recoveries and meals around my pursuits.
You know where this is headed, right? Yeah. We’ve all been there. I rode my bike 3x…and only a third of the distance that was required for this event. Yay me. Between rain, business, anxiety and life, my already limited opportunities diminished right before my eyes. The only consistent training that I managed over the month and a bit was participating in my R.I.P.P.E.D and Train2Play conditioning classes (resistance, intervals, power, plyometrics, endurance and dynamics) when my audience was appropriate, and the odd bit of strength work I could get in between clients and demonstrating exercises. I made the best of it without really knowing that was occurring.
Maria is a formidable, amazing person. She is confident, warm and fierce all at once. She recognized that I was thinking of bailing but politely made it clear to me in the most delicate way that there was no such room for a last minute manoever. See, I knew I could suck it up and cycle 70k in Gatineau Parc. She knew it too. What was coming between me and the start line was my own ego. See, going into events untrained – this is a pattern for me…I did it running the Philly marathon in 2008, countless adventure and obstacle races. How can I beat myself up for finishing poorly if I didn’t train right? This is just my adult version of how can I beat myself up for not acing a test if I didn’t study hard mentality. I know this about myself…but here is the thing. That’s lip service for my brain. I did the work every single time – just in a less orthodox way. I climbed Mt. kilimanjaro before Philly. I did 25k trail runs before the OCR races. I did THOUSANDS of squats and jump squats, and poured out buckets of sweat on my spin bike. Even so – I had to tell myself I wasn’t ready. That my training on the bike wasn’t good enough to compete. I should save the embarassment and give my entry to someone who did work hard.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you looked at something you always wanted to do and thought twice despite the fact you have been exercising, eating well and enjoying life? I guarantee you have.
Fast forward to race day. I did that (insert appropriate adjective) race. I approached it mentally in a way that I needed to to get to the start line. Methodically getting my bike, gear and nutrition ready. Getting to the venue, warming up, never projecting any thought forward to the next step. As I lined up with Maria at the start I felt a little nauseated with expectation. The gun went off and Maria took off. I froze. I let a few dozen people push on in front of me, clipping in and pedalling off. I took a deep breath and saw a space in front of me to do so myself. I just went. I had to navigate and find my way back to Maria who was holding back until I caught up. That happened fairly quickly and so we geared up and rode in a sea of cyclists for a few KM’s until packs started to form. We found a nice little pack to paceline with (it was fairly disfunctional) but we enjoyed a little protection from the wind on the flats. When we entered the Parc and started our march to the Champlain Lookout is when things started to get real. I had motivated myself thus far breaking the ride into 10k chunks – the top of the lookout I would be around the 50k mark and the rest, proportionally would be downhill from there. I knew I was in a bit of trouble by the time I reached the lookout. I’d been a little over my threshold on a number of climbs (less than ideal gearing) and the efforts and lack of specificity in my training was starting to present. Most importantly, I had not taken in enough nutrition. Like clockwork as soon as I set out from the lookout, my legs got a little crampy and I could not push the pace that Maria and I had established. I urged her to go on and finish her race. For the last 20k, I could not apply a lot of pressure to my cranks without cramping so I made the most out of the long swooping descents and pedaled gingerly up the rollers, taking in as much electrolytes and sugar I had left. I gave whatever I had left and finished in (mostly) one piece.
So here is the thing – 1) I finished! 2) I gave it my best shot 3) I did not come in last! (not even close) so what was all the fuss about anyways? The best part? I feel the FIRE in my belly to ride my bike, to train and find another event to try once more – to do better! The thing about taking risks and pursuing something even with doubt is that you will end up surprising yourself. Sign up for that triathlon, 10k, Gran Fondo – get it done! Build that confidence. Now my legs have 70 more race Km’s on them then they did last week. Onwards and upwards! We will never feel fully ready to take that first step. If you think your training is falling apart, think again. You’re stronger and tougher than you think. Nobody cares but yourself how you do out there, and everyone is happy you came. Believe in yourself. Honestly. What are you waiting for?
Oh – and I’m no longer Snuffaluffagus! Someone from my classes SAW me riding an actual real road bike! The sighting has since been reported back and has made waves in my little training posse. Thanks Maria!
Coach Meg (that’s Maria on the right!)
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