The Tears of Race Week

We just had our friends Mike and Anna come visit us for the weekend.  Anna mentioned that my honesty about being tired and having rough weeks was very motivating for her during her training.  I mean, we all are real people who struggle and I have definitely struggled.

I am starting to notice that the weeks leading up to a race are when I have most of my breakdowns.  Typically, in the three weeks before any major race, you will have no fitness gains.  This late in the game, you plateau at a level of fitness and any work you do is just to maintain that level and cruise into the race.  I think knowing this fact is where I get my anxiety.  Going into a race pace effort run somewhere in this three-week period and not hitting your pace, or hitting slower than normal swim splits when you feel like you are going hard, or not getting the power you should be seeing on the bike, these are all moments that make you question your level of fitness.  You know it is too late to make any more gains so is this really how you are going to race?

Last week I hit a record.  I broke down in tears during three separate workouts.  And not just little streams of water dripping down your face in frustration after a workout kind of tears, I mean deep gut sobs straight in the middle of a max effort bike interval.  Good thing I was anchored to the trainer because I was out of control crying into my sweat towel.  My dog, Tucker, was extremely concerned as he uncontrollably licked my hands and legs, trying to comfort me.  I almost gave up.  I was so tired.  And not from the workout, but from getting very little sleep, working all day, and trying to fit all of my dang workouts in.  I mean it was 8pm at night, I hadn’t eaten dinner yet and here I was still on the bike.  I decided to stay on the bike and not look at my power meter for the rest of the intervals.  I would just go at an effort that felt hard, no matter what the numbers said.  So, I didn’t hit my power that workout but I finished it with Tucker laying right beside the bike to make sure I would be okay.

Sunday rolls around and I have a semi-long run off of a long bike ride.  Peter did not have a run since he had just raced in the Pike’s Peak Ascent, and since it was 90 plus degrees outside, he decided it would be a good idea to follow me in the car with water.  Seriously, what a great husband.  Turns out he did more than just feed me water.  I took off from the house and proceeded to try to hit my race pace in the first mile when the first mile goes up a pretty steep hill.  Instead of listening to my body, respecting the hill and the heat, and working up to race pace, I burnt all of my gas.  Peter was going to meet me at the first mile mark and by the time he got there in the car, I was lying on the grass under the shade of a tree, crying in the fetal position.  It was too hot, I had just put all of my energy into sprinting uphill for a mile and there was no way I could go five more.  He pumped me with fluid, dumped cold water down my back, made me eat half a gu and said he would be there for water as many times as I needed it…which turned out to be every half mile for the rest of the run.  I felt like I was going to pass out, I had major tunnel vision, and I was half-crying half-choked-breathing but I finished.

The next morning I got up super early to get my swim in before work.  I dragged myself out of bed with my eyes burning from being so tired.  I got in the pool busy with early morning swimmers, pushed off the wall and at that point realized I didn’t have my goggles on.  How embarrassing! This was the point I knew I was too tired.  I ended up cutting a few meters off of the swim and skipping the bike ride later that day.  I needed sleep!  I cried about missing a workout (obviously) but I just couldn’t bring myself to get on the bike.  So I went to bed.

I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm went off the next morning feeling amazingly refreshed.  I hadn’t felt this rested in a while.  Maybe it was the 10 hours of sleep but maybe it was also not pushing it through another workout when I had already hit my limits.

It is now less than one week until the race and my mantra this week has been positive talking and thinking.  I made it through the crying saga of last week realizing that I need to trust my training and the consistency I have managed to maintain despite my crazy schedule.  I am prepared for this race, I will hit my times, my body can take it.  I just need my mind to be ready too.  Each workout this week is easy, it is taper week, just keeping the blood flowing and the muscles moving.  But I am working on sharpening my positive-talk muscle.  My goal is to tell myself how awesome I am doing during each workout this week, look at how far I have come, and remember all of my fantastic training sessions, the ones where I really pushed though and came out successful.  Those are what will show through during race day when I start believing in myself.

So, it is true, we all struggle and we all have a hard time feeling motivated about training.  I love biking but there are times where the thought of getting on that bike disgusts me.  But in the end, I want to come out of this race knowing I gave it everything I had, not just during the race, but in all of my training leading up to it.  There is something exciting about trying to see how far you can actually go against the best competition in the world.  This sunday, we will see.