All sports seem to involve some amount of pain. Even the most biologically gifted athlete needs to break out of their comfort zone to have success. And how much you are willing to push yourself to uncomfortable places has a strong bearing on how much you can make the most of what you were given.
I don't really like to hurt.
I know, after 2 Ironmans my pain tolerance is all relative. But there's a reason I like the nice steady distance stuff over the redlined sprint stuff. Still, I've garnered some quality experiences in suffering since I entered the world of triathlon (some when I was a runner too but less so...). If I'm going to be critical of myself, one thing I would pick on is my willingness to suffer when it's all on the line. Sure, I'll put in some strong effort in my workouts but ask me to really really push through pain and suffer and...I don't like it so much. There's a reason I fear tests on my training schedule!
That stops now. One of my biggest goals for 2012 is to learn to suffer. To keep the pressure up despite strong opposition from my body. So that when the closing minutes of a race come around, I maintain the pressure all the way to the finish.
I got an excellent start at learning to hurt this weekend. There on my schedule - oh lucky me - a swim test AND a bike test. (Inner monologue: what did I do to deserve this? My coach doesn't even live close enough for me to have shit on her front lawn!)
Saturday morning: swim test. The standard old 10 x 100 all out on 10 seconds rest. I did one of these on December 30th but I've been working with Tim weekly over those 2 months. Time to see the payoff of all this technique work.
Our weather turned for the worse on Friday night and it was cold and windy when I got in the pool Saturday morning. I shivered my way through the warmup, especially any time I had a body part above the surface of the water. And then...it was time to go hard. Note: swimming all out hurts. Doing it over and over with minimal rest just feels brutal. 10 repeats of 100 yards all out. #1 felt strong and good and surprised me with the speed. By #3 I was feeling a little short on oxygen. By #5 I was ready to barf. By #7 I wanted to cry. #10 was just a slow slog with what remained of my arms and core. And then it was done and I sent my total time off to Coach (in the meantime she was off swimming 100 x 100, so what am I bitching about?) and moved on.
The end result?
Best swim test ever. 10 seconds off my 100 free time in the past 2 months. And the sad (scary?) realization that I need to be working this hard in the pool all the time, not just on swim test days.
Sunday morning: bike test. My upper body was still a wreck and my legs weren't exactly feeling fresh. But I needed to just get it done, so after walking the dogs and grabbing all of my get-on-the-trainer paraphernalia (heart rate monitor, Powertab computer, Garmin, headphones, iPhone, Cliff shot blocks, bottle of water/Zym), I turned the fan on high, aimed it at the bike and started my warmup.
I pedaled along, watching the 4th episode of The Walking Dead (yes, I'm still a season behind reality but this is a great show for trainer entertainment), and felt pretty good once my legs warmed up a little. I finished my last last build segment, enjoyed the last rest interval and beep-beep-beep-beep...time for the show. 20 minutes of pedaling as hard as I can. This is NOT my idea of fun. Somewhere around 4 minutes in, you realize just how painful this is going to be. Minutes 7 to 10 were...highly unpleasant. With 9 minutes to go it dawned on me that I might actually make it. 5 minutes to go and my heart rate was maxed out, face red, feeling pretty nauseous. No more watching TV shows, I've switched to upbeat music trying to keep my legs moving anywhere near the cadence of the songs. A handful of minutes left and I just focused on 30 seconds at a time, digging deep to hold the watts, moving my feet around in circles with the stumps I had left for legs. Beep-beep-beep-beep...*slump*...done. A minute to gasp for air and watch my heart rate drop, then an easy spin to finish up.
I threw the data onto TrainingPeaks and headed off to my grandmother's 80th birthday party. Every so often I checked my email, wondering what Coach would say (of course, AGAIN, she had to one-up me and go do some big indoor time trial today), but I knew I'd gained some watts so I didn't think about it too much.
So, there you have it - one weekend, two sufferfests, two wins. I suppose that means I'm left with no excuse not to put it all out there when required. It won't come easy but the best things rarely do! In the meantime I guess I'll go make friends with my foam roller because...OW. My everything hurts.