I began writing this about a week ago, starting with an apology for not writing for several weeks. I was going to share that my training has not been that remarkable, but I am still progressing, albeit slowly. I was going to say that the experience of recovering from an injury and trying to regain my fitness and match my previous level of performance has been humbling...and frustrating. I was going to give an overview of my condition: my foot is basically healed--it does not limit my activity at all; my winter (injury) weight is slowly coming off; cycling is still a struggle, especially the hills; my running performance is improving, getting more consistent. I had been struggling mentally, mostly with accepting that I am unlikely this year to improve on last year's performances--my best ever. I was setting realistic goals and being methodical and thoughtful with my training program, gradually improving, training smart.
This was all true...last week. Then...
Wednesday night I join Quincy Bicycle Club's fast group. I have been out with them four times so far this year. The first three times were a struggle. The third, in fact, was brutal; I was the last one back into Quincy by quite a margin. I got dropped like an Acme anvil. It was a humbling experience. Last Wednesday however, I felt pretty good. We embarked on one of my favorite routes that includes several sprints. I started out easy to save energy for later, but I was easily staying at the front. So, I challenged for a few sprints, winning one and placing second a few times. Also, after nearly forty miles as we returned to Quincy on hilly State Street, I was able to hang close to the front with all but the fastest two riders. I'm ba-ack, I thought. Great feeling! I'd love to say it was my hard training, but obviously that did not happen in two weeks. No, it was not everyone else getting slower and it was not a different group. I bought and put on a new chain. What a difference! I knew my older chain was stretched out a bit, but wow! The new chain was both a blessing and a curse though. I shifted it off the big chain ring twice. Ouch! But, I adjusted everything this weekend, so I should be good to go. The take-home point here is, new chain = free speed. Additionally, I am in pretty good shape on the bike!
QND Raider Classic 10k which, in my opinion, is the toughest 10k course in the area. (Yes, I think it is tougher than the Hannibal Cannibal.) My training lately, as I said, has been going okay. I am hitting my goal paces which I set based on recent performances and I am getting more consistent. I am still struggling a bit with the heat. But overall, I feel stronger than I have all year. Leading up to race day, I was unsure what to expect. I was planning to use the race as a bit of a test and I did not taper much. Of course, I had goals--primarily to beat my course PR from 2010. Fortunately, I know the course from previous events and it is essentially in my "back yard." So, I had a good plan for race day. I started off fast to bank some time since the first section is mostly downhill. Then we start the rollers of Indian Mounds Park where I kept control up and relaxed and coasted down. My average pace was very fast initially but, I started giving time back. I was not worried; I was sticking to my plan. Next, the course goes off-road for a bit and up some stairs into South Park where we return to the road. I was slowing down, but still under my goal pace. The course covers about one half mile of grass which was tough during the final mile. I think I slowed down a bit here. So, as soon as I returned to pavement, I picked up a little speed so I could remain under my goal pace. I knew I was close to the end, so I red-lined it and finished strong. I was right on goal pace and finished about 50 seconds under my previous course PR! The icing on the cake was finishing top ten overall and second in my age group! It was a good day and I think I passed the test. I know I would have been faster last year but, I am returning to my previous level of fitness.
My belief is that the keys to success are to remain consistent and disciplined with training and to stay motivated, which is all mental. You have to keep your head right. Unfortunately, this can also be the most challenging aspect of training. But, what other choice exists? Stay focused on your goals. Decide what motivates you and remember it. That is what will keep you moving when training gets tough.