Friday, June 19, 2009

Speed: is it all in my head?

I've been known to beat myself up about how slow I am. I get frustrated because I work so hard and have very high expectations so it's disappointing when I fall flat. I've decided to reevaluate.
1. Expectations & Comparisons:
This is like a bad word to me. Living in San Diego, I train amongst some of the most talented triathletes in the world. In fact, I saw Kate Major hop into the fast lane at my master's swim class. People from our club qualify for Kona at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country. It's daunting. I forget to focus on myself. I get into trouble when I start comparing myself to others. Although it's natural (we are competitive, afterall), it's a mistake because we can't control how fast others are. I conducted a retrospective analysis, using my race data to see whether I have, in fact, improved since I started doing this 5 years ago. Although difficult, since race conditions vary, and every race was different, I was pleasantly surprised. I was happy to see drastic improvement in the sprint- and Olympic-distance races (I don't have a high enough sample number to evaluate my performance for Half- or full- IMs....yet).

2. It's All in My Head:
I was watching a show about George Hincapie (one of the best cyclists, period). It struck me as odd that he thought of himself as a poor climber. His mental coach simply instructed him to stop thinking negatively, and instead, to think of himself as an awesome climber. Sometimes, I wonder if it's not the self-fulfilling prophecy. I think I'm a poor cyclist; therefore, I am a poor cyclist.

I've decided to stop it. No more excuses. The bike is my limiter but not because I'm not built for it, it's not in my genes, or I'm just no good. It's all in my head. It's also the sport I have the least experience with. I've never done a simple bike race but I've done plenty of running races and even some open water swim events. I'm great at sitting on the bike and going for 100 miles. But speed? Nah. Why? Never worked on it. I lollygag on the bike. Afterall, I've always had to think about a run afterwards. To get faster, you have to go faster. Seems deceptively simple but it actually makes sense to me. I've had it. From now on, I'm not holding back on the bike. It's go time. A few weeks ago, using this mentality, I increased my speed on the bike for a 60 mile ride. I had to push myself to keep up with the faster guys in my group but I did it. For 60 miles. I was very proud of myself. It IS possible.

So as not to get too discouraged, I mapped my bike speed (mph) for the bike leg of different triathlons. Yes, for the most part, my speed HAS increased. Odd that my sprint and Olympic pace aren't too different. This probably reflects my hard work in the endurance section of the sport, but not the speed part.

3. My Strengths are Strengths because I DO Them More:
Seems obvious in retrospect. I've always thought of myself as a runner. Turns out, I've logged countless running races over the years. But much less so when it comes to biking and swimming. My swimming has started to improve because of the work I put into Master's classes. Maybe if I applied myself to the bike, and put in more fast miles, it would show. My limiters are only limiters because I've done less miles at that sport.
Obvious improvement in my swim pace (min/100 m). Yippee! My IM and HIM swim pace is faster or the same as for some sprints. Weird!

Below, shows my running pace for all the different running races I've logged, 5K all the way through marathon. I didn't realize I had done so many half marathons! Because I've worked on endurance so much, my speed hasn't improved that much. This also explains why my half marathon pace is so similar to my 10K pace. I can hold that pace for a longer distance. I just have a hard time holding a faster pace, regardless of the distance (yes, I know, track workouts--if only I didn't have an Ironman fast approaching!)

Finally, on a curious note, I can run faster off the bike in an Olympic triathlon than in a 10K alone. Weird! (5K was about the same speed as the run leg of a sprint tri--also weird). Only thing I can think of is my endurance isn't yet tapped (not until HIM when my run is slower than half marathon pace), and my adrenaline gets going higher in a triathlon, so I run faster because I'm more excited.


Grey Beard said...

I like Hincapie's site. In his first 3 videos he made some good points.
1. Standard rides are excellent training tools which can be used to measure your fitness level
2. Climbing rides are not max effort rides, but medium.
3. To develop max speed and power, and push your VO2max and aerobic threshold higher, do intervals, not climbs.

I agree that the body responds to speed and the sensations of speed by making more speed. Because of your wiry build (at least relative to me) you have the potential to be a better climber than speed specialist, but I still think your appoach is correct. Focus on weak-point training.

Joe Friel's book The Cyclist's Training Bible offers an exhaustive plan for develping your cycling skills. Some find it's detail tedious, but it leaves little to chance.

Best of luck on your speed goals.

SUB6 said...

Great opening photo and fantastic graphs. Very inspiring. I need to analyse my efforts like this ... just for fun :)

teacherwoman said...

Love all the graphs. Great post. I agree, a lot of it is in our head.

Ordinarylife said...

If you lived where I live you would be one of the fastest!

Backpacker said...

Dammit Trigirl! Just when I was going to hang up my smelly helmet and bike shorts, you've reinspired me. I'll just have to start cooking meth ala Breaking Bad to pay for it all.