As I sit here this morning, we sit but 8.5 weeks out from Rev3 Quassy. (Side note: the half is sold out. But the Olympic still has spots, and it is one hell of a race, too!) It's a balmy 29 degrees outside. This time last year, I'd been riding outside for a month and was getting ready for the Boston Marathon.
This year, I'm still to put the rubber to the road on my bike, and instead have put my focus into CompuTrainer efforts and joining a masters swimming group.
One of the things that I've managed to slowly but surely put together over time is that I'm overly analytical. I get so mindlocked that I wind up not performing to potential. I've been allowing my mind to wander into the work, rather than simply focusing on the task at hand.
This off-season has been a lot of focus on, to use a phrase from my coach, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It requires an awful lot of mental focus to want to stay in the hurt locker when your mind is saying, "Nope. I can't do it. Back off."
The best example of what has happened with my mental ability comes from two CompuTrainer efforts in the past month. The first was one of the last Friday Night Fight efforts; the course was a rolling 7 miler. You climbed for the first couple of miles, before having to really lay the power down on the downhill using a pretty high cadence.
It's easy to lay down the power when the course is trending uphill; you simply have to put out more power in order to maintain your speed. But it's when the course flattens out again that you really find out who's got some strength. And then on the downhills, you really need to want it.
On this night, the legs were quite strong out of the gate: pushing about 4 watts/KG the entire way through the flats and uphills. We crested, flattened out, still holding strong. Then the downhills came, and I was still right there.
Until one of my co-workers came in to check on things. I lapsed briefly to look up, see he was there, he tried to issue some words of encouragement, and I said something back.
In that moment, I'd dropped off the pace I was holding on the downhill. It took all I could to get back in the game. I think overall, it might've cost me 5 seconds. Nothing to worry about, right? Well...until the results posted, and I lost out on a position by two seconds.
Mental focus, indeed.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks to the Tri-MANIA expo in Boston. I was down with some friends, family, and got to meet up with Team Rev3. I was entered into the CompuTrainer Time Trial with the Team, so away we go. 6.6 rolling miles of torture.
We warm up, and the gun hits.
I mentally was not letting go of the moment this time. I knew that it'd be about a 17:00 effort, so I focused on the knowledge that I'd hit some pretty big workouts over the past few weeks: 3 x 20:00s in the middle of a three hour brick; 3 x 8:00s at a real high effort, etc. The fitness was there. It was merely a matter of tapping into it.
Head down, do work.
This time, as the downhills came, I made sure the power didn't dip. Stay in the moment. Breathe. Relax.
Finish line sprint.
Boom: 6th Overall. Nipped by a couple of seconds for 5th, and then the remainder of the podium were some pretty beastly cyclists. Can't complain about that.
The difference? Focus. The fitness has been there. It's just letting the mind get out of the way, and instead of thinking about anything but the effort, keeping the mind on the task at hand.
It's this kind of approach that has me excited for Quassy this year. I've been focusing my efforts on where I'm weakest. I finally decided to hop into a master's swimming program. I've gone through two workouts so far and I'm absolutely in love. It's crazy how fast I've been able to make improvements. Whereas before, I'd struggle to hold 3:10-3:20 for a 200, I'm consistently nailing down 2:50. The difference? Head down, do work, and don't lose the feet in front of you. (Or, in the rare case of me leading, OH GOD THERE'S SO MANY PEOPLE BEHIND YOU GO GO GO GO GO.)
I'm also piecing together my nutrition strategy, both in-race and just during training. I'm really enjoying the new PowerBar Energy Blends, which are nothing but pureed fruit and a little bit of sugar. Great for the bike segment to supplement with. Then outside of training, really focusing in on not just caloric intake, but also better foods to get those calories from.
On the equipment front, really looking forward to the Pearl Izumi footwear. Everything I've heard thus far from those running in the EM line-up has really, really enjoyed them. Still love my Tri Fly IV Carbon shoes. Incredibly comfortable.
Overall, the pieces are starting to really come together. We've got 6.5 weeks to really get where it is I want to be. Then it's two weeks to settle on in and get ready for Quassy.
Project All-In keeps rolling on.