December 15, 2012

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

After working from home (i.e., the hotel) all day and feeling quite lazy, my friend JP revived me by reminding me that we had discussed going to the last Flywheel class of the day. (I had bailed on the 6am in favor of extra sleep, which was glorious.) Grumbling, I went – arriving only two minutes before class and at the mercy of the awesome front desk staff who signed me up and got me a bike so I could dash in with about 10 seconds to spare. Not an auspicious start.

But when I started pedaling, I felt surprisingly good. I had gotten extra sleep, I had eaten fairly well, and I was taking a class in the late afternoon. Recent studies have shown that afternoon may actually be the best time to exercise – rats who ran on a running wheel later in the day “produced more clock proteins and pumped the protein more efficiently to the rest of the body than animals that ran early in their day.” While I’d rather not compare myself to a rat (although I suppose in corporate America, the comparison is inevitable), I thought it was interesting that my sample size of one seemed to match this study. While I’ve recently become a morning person and honestly have come to love waking up early, this new workout time seemed to agree with me. And so I decided to really push myself. New PR for final score on the Torqboard, here I come!

Today, the music wasn’t my absolute favorite, but I still found I was able to push my body pretty hard, and I was proud of my efforts. When it came time for the arm segment (which I have learned always happens three songs before the end of class), I was at a higher number than I usually am at that point, and I decided to really go for it. I made an extra effort to focus on pedaling while I was working my arms, instead of zoning out and half-assing the pedaling for that song. On the final two songs, I pushed it as hard as I could, reminding myself every time I got tired that today was going to be the day that I crushed my previous record. (It was unfortunate that I didn’t know exactly what my previous record was, but I was still determined to beat it.)

But then after finishing our last song and moving on to the cooldown, I saw that our final numbers still hadn’t shown up on the screen. (The timing of the final numbers is controlled by a timer that puts them up exactly 45:00 after the start of a class; it’s not instructor-controlled.) Our instructor seemed to guess that all of us were wondering what was going on, so he assured us that our final numbers would be up “in a minute or two.” On the one hand, the rest of the class was slowing down their pedaling; on the other hand, I didn’t want to ease up when I had a number to beat. Torn between the two, I brought my RPMs down but didn’t pull my torq down yet – I still wanted to get a few more points in. (Cheating? Probably.)

Then our instructor told us to bring our pedals to a complete stop and start stretching. But the final numbers still weren’t up! He told us they’d appear in about 30 seconds, so I chose to ignore what I was supposed to be doing and just keep pedaling – albeit not as hard as I would have if everyone else were pedaling too. (JP was apparently thinking the same thing as me, and he kept pedaling too.) At last, our final numbers appeared, and I discovered that I had gotten 277. That seemed high to me, but was that enough to be a new record?

I got home and discovered that no, it was not – my old record was 278. (Set with the same instructor, because let’s just be honest, Mark S is awesome.) That said, I wasn’t mad at myself at all for not getting a PR today. Sure, I felt great at the beginning of the ride, and so I pushed pretty hard to try to make sure I’d beat my old record. In the end, though, I probably rode harder than I did the time I got the 278, because I spent the last 2 minutes easing up and pulling back… whereas I remember the class where I scored 278, and that class ran a tiny bit long so we were still sprinting when the final numbers came up. In the end, it was not my effort that kept me from PRing; it was factors outside of my control.

It got me thinking… I pushed for a PR in biking today, and many people push for PRs in their races. Aren’t the two kind of the same? I have long said that your training isn’t necessarily indicative of how you’ll do on race day – you can have good and bad races based on something as little as what kind of mood you wake up in that morning, or what the weather happens to be like that day.

Does your training impact your time? Absolutely, but if you were training to do a sub-4 marathon and your time that day was 4:01, that doesn’t mean your training sucked; it just means it wasn’t your day. We would think it was silly if someone said they were trying for a Flywheel personal best and then they didn’t get it that day. “Try again next week!” we’d tell them. And if someone was training for a 5K PR, we’d probably tell them the same thing. So why is that when someone is training for a marathon and they don’t get the time they wanted and trained for, they leave it at that? Why not try again and see if a different day, a different course, or a different attitude might change that result?

Scientific research has shown that within seven days, the muscles are fully recovered – so what’s stopping us from giving it another shot that season, instead of waiting till next year when you’ll have to go through all that training effort again? Maybe you’re still tired mentally, which is a legit factor, since so much of a marathon is mental. (Unfortunately, there isn’t really a good way to measure how long it takes to recover mentally from such an effort.) But really, I see no reason that we can’t continue to push the boundaries and aim for our best effort multiple times, in hopes of one magical day when the stars align.

So Flywheel? I’ll be back on Monday – we have a score to settle.


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