Got home, stuffed some food down, and rolled out. There were four of us, and Michelle was good about planning our ride, this person rides here and gaps back from this wheel etc, so we would get our work done without tripping all over each other. It was one of those days where you groan, loudly, when you push the first pedal stroke around because your quads are not particularly interested in waking up. But we got going, and I started putting calories down (act of desperation), and then it was time to start the work, so I sat up and soft-pedaled so that I could peel off the back and when I was far enough out of the draft I popped down into my bars and hit lap.
The first few minutes of an interval are always chasing power, first it's 700 and then it's 50 and then back to 700 and it takes a moment to dial in the effort. But once I did, I was inching up on our quarter-mile long pace line, and I didn't really think I was supposed to be, so I stayed glued to the meter and was really careful to not be overly hammering. As we worked through the first one, I crept around and ended up sucked onto Heidi's wheel who was sitting on Michelle's, and there were four more minutes to go, and my power dropped into the basement and there was a literal shitstorm going down in my head. Somewhere along the way, I've been taught that going off the front can be taken as a huge sign of disrespect, and I've ridden with people who have felt the need to say fuck the workout I'm going to teach you a lesson for doing so. But that was crossed with, oh man, my power numbers aren't even close to where they should be and I'm going to get in so much trouble for this (which is also, of course, completely ridiculous, but like I said, shitstorm). Another minute went by and I finally decided that not hitting numbers was the worse sin so I swung out and pushed past, yelling I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry over my shoulder as I went. I spent the rest of the interval wanting to jump out of my skin, waiting for I'm not even sure I knew what I thought might be coming but it felt bad. It ended, I hit lap and sat up into the recovery and a moment later Michelle pulled up next to me and hollered GOOD GIRL!! at just about the top of her voice and I almost burst into confused-and-relieved-head-case tears right there on my bike somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
But it isn't the breakthrough, exactly, that matters. The breakthrough is fun, and that day, on the bike, I rode exactly what I supposed to ride and I surprised myself and something broke, something small but definite, shattered. We got off the bike and ran hard downhill repeats and I surprised myself a bit more, and I'm sure I slobbered all over the place trying to explain to Michelle why I was such a freakin' bag of crazy, but that's not what is actually important. A breakthrough is just one day. And there are a shitload of Nike commercials and instagram quotes that say something along the lines of doing work, quietly, where no one can see it, day in and day out is what builds a champion. What matters is the aftermath. It's what I do with the breakthrough. Do I write it down, chalk it up to an awesome experience, and fly back to Colorado and fall back into all my same old patterns? Because it's easy to shake my sweaty hair out of the bike helmet after a ride like that and declare to myself everything is going to be different now but to come home, to hold myself to that thought, those ideals, day in and day out, when I'm tired and it's cold and snowing (or, all right, 65º in February and perfect sunshine) and I'm not in Hawaii being sparkly in front of my coach anymore, can I still find this feeling?
The first few days, it was easy. Colorado was graced with a magical slice of spring, and it's not hard to be motivated and at the top of your game when you can be running around outside in shorts. But I feel, quietly, a little bit different. My attitude feels different, the work feels different. I'm not drifting towards the future, I'm not doing much wondering about what this will look like in a few months, I'm simply trying to start every day with the intention of giving 100% to everything I do, including mid-ride pit-stop selfies.
I read an article just this morning about expectancy theory. A coach creates expectations about an athlete; expectations influence the coach's behavior towards the athlete; the athlete becomes aware of expectations and adjusts self-perceptions and behaviors; athlete performance falls in line with initial expectations. I find this kind of thing utterly fascinating. And to remove the coach-athlete relationship, and replace it with my relationship with myself as an athlete, there's something fun to chew on. If I believe that I have high expectations for myself, I'm going to be pleased when I perform up to those expectations and unhappy when I don't reach them. But what if I am actually holding myself back with these expectations? This is the shift I'm working on. One of the first hard workouts I had back in Colorado was in the pool, and instead of looking at the send-offs and calculating what I needed to swim to make them, I swam as hard as I thought appropriate and then was startled by the time on the clock. I continued that way through the workout, to the point where I actually adjusted the send-offs down by 10" because it was more than enough. I removed the expectations I had placed on myself and my performance and over the course of an hour, surprised myself over and over in the water. I wonder what in the hell kind of athlete I would be if I could do that day in and day out?
It won't always work out, it won't always be a grand slam. This past Sunday, I was tired in the water, I had a 1K to descend and the 200 split I caught made me snort, stop, and pull on gear to finish it out. But then I got pissed off at myself, I spent 300 yards arguing about why I had done that, returned to my coasting behavior, and I ended up taking off the paddles and descending that motherfucker right down. I had some hard 50s and 25s to swim after that and I know the difference between good enough and the best I can do. And it's just some 50s at the end of a long day that capped off a long week, it certainly would have been acceptable to swim a bunch of 38s at the end of that session but being able to write in my log :35 :34 :36 :35, it made a difference to ME. The same thing happened in my long ride on Saturday, the same thing happened during my hill repeats, this tiny weird crazy argument with myself is showing up all over my training and there's no wonder why as I've been giving into it for a long time.
I work hard, I'm a workhorse, it's what I do. I'll never forget talking to my horn professor in graduate school after a disappointing performance and telling him that I thought I needed to work harder and him telling me, no, you don't, it's what I tell so-and-so, no one works harder than Katie. But I wonder if sometimes I hide in this work ethic. I'm checking the boxes, putting in the miles, but I'm holding back in small ways that sure do add up. When we got off our bikes in Hawaii, Michelle looked at me and said, this is a good thing but now my expectations have gone way up here (imagine holding hand above bike helmet) and that was a little bit scary, but it's what I need. This is why we have coaches, by the way, because someone else standing outside looking in might be able to figure out the tiny little key to unlocking your bullshit and then pushing you up and over the line. So I'm back in Colorado, I'm surrounded by friends and training partners alike, and every day I feel a little bit more like something is rumbling, getting ready to turn over. Different.