The Threshold Test.
Many of you know all about this bit of agony. The goal is simple: to find the glass ceiling of your performance. It takes in to account your Vo2 Max (or your maximum aerobic capacity), your heart rate and your Lactate Threshold (basically, the fastest pace you can maintain for 30 minutes without feeling like your legs are on fire).
Most people use Heart Rate as a gauge of effort when they are at the gym, working out. The problem is that your HR can be impacted by a lot of external variables, which have little to do with your efforts. How much sleep did you get, how much caffeine did you drink, are you sick or stressed, what is your resting heart rate...
Instead, it's a bit more effective to use an actual measure of effort on the bike (watts), and to set those parameters against your actual ability as opposed to some general calculation (the whole 225-your age business).
So, Saturday morning was an all-out sufferfest. I should say that I almost bailed. My head wasn't in a good place. I wasn't having a crisis of confidence, nor was I feeling particularly bad. Mostly, I was working through some unexpected and relatively minor changes to my racing, and I was wrestling with the internal dialogue that asks, How much does this really matter? I guess that's a question that all of us ask from time-to-time. Without getting too weighty, training takes an enormous amount of time from my personal life, and I am often forced to inquire if the opportunity costs are worth the rewards of what I get to do. Sitting in my kitchen, staring at my kids with my shoes in hand and feeling a bit dejected by recent events, I was really settled on finding an answer.
The answer was, This is what I know how to do. This is my clarity. My sanity.
And, you know, when you are going all-out for what seems like forever, you don't have the luxury of thinking too much.
I trotted off to the studio.
I got in a good 20 minute warm up. My legs felt a bit stiff, and I was regretting working out the day prior. At the same time, I was feeling strong, and I was really focused on getting an accurate result. I spent the next 30 minutes doing a Time Trial, bringing as much as I could to the effort. (The key, I think, is the little mantra I keep in my head: You've been here before. No matter how miserable I am in the moment, I know I've visited this space in the past, and I survived it.)
I think I got psyched out a bit by my coach who cautioned me not to start too hard. You need to pull the same watts at the end that you pull this first ten minutes. Pace yourself.
I didn't. I actually erred too far to the conservative end. My watts were lower the first ten minutes, and my highest numbers came the final eight minutes of the Time Trial. That shouldn't happen. At the same time, I feel comfortable saying that I left 95% of my efforts on the bike. I still felt I had some reserve at the end...also something that shouldn't occur.
My coach agreed. Looking at the numbers, they seem a bit low...but not too far off the mark.
I'd agree. Overall, I think I should have pulled about five to ten percent higher numbers across the board. Still, for January, my numbers were solid. My Power to Weight Ratio is sitting just under 4.0, which is where I'd like to be when I race in March. That's totally attainable. I sustained a HR of about 160BPM throughout which, again, is pretty good. And I conquered that little bit of doubt chipping away at my motivation. Better still.
Sunday should have been a nice rest day...but the weather was beautiful, and I still had some cobwebs to clear. I headed out on the bike for a 30 mile ride. The last ten miles were absolutely freezing, but the purpose of the ride was well served. I woke up this morning, back at the studio and ready to work.