Sunday, August 8, 2010

Time Trials

I'm just going to get right to the point. I don't like time trials. I have never liked time trials. The irony is that I often dream of time trials and live my life like a time trials.

Time trials are bike races where you don't get to work with anyone. They send cyclists out one at a time so they can't draft or otherwise see how the others are doing. The only thing that matters in a time trial is the clock and each rider is racing against it.

I have done many time trials in my time as a cyclist. I'm not good at them. I always start with a goal and I generally have a goal that is realistic for me... or so I think. I leave the start line at a pace that will get me to my goal. I feel good about it and I push hard. About the time I am out of view of the start line I start feeling like I'm pushing hard into the wind and my legs start getting heavy. For some reason I think that I'm the only one that feels this way so instead of pushing through it, I slow down. I also tend to think that since I'm away from the start line and the spectators nobody will notice that I've slowed a little.

Pretty soon I convince myself that the headwind is really strong so I slow down a little more figuring that I'll make the time up when the course changes direction and I'll have a massive tailwind. The next thing I know, I'm riding along at a leisurely pace and I realize that I'm not breathing hard. As a physiology major, I know that breathing is how the body gets rid of the acidity of lactic acid. It doesn't take me long to realize that I've slowed down to a pace just slightly slower than a lollygag. At which point I speed up, but I never find a good pace that I can maintain.

My time trials generally tend to turn into interval workouts where the high intensity efforts are reserved (because I think I've found a pace I can sustain) and really slow rest periods (because I've convinced myself of a headwind or hill or being sick or something). I do tend to finish my time trials with gusto. I generally have a pretty good sprint at the end because I haven't expended that much energy on the race. Inevitably, my times are terrible.

I remember the one and only one time trial where I did well. It was 1.5 miles long (I never lost sight of either the start or finish line) and it was uphill (I'm good at hills). Out of the several hundred people that did the race that day, I was in the top 20. This was my kind of race, I hardly consider myself a short distance person, but it was short enough for me to maintain focus and my climbing skills helped a little.

Yesterday when I was out for a ride, I was thinking of racing again (I'm only 2 years away from racing with the masters). As I'm thinking, of course I dream of the glory of winning a bike race. In my thoughts I think of riding away from a group and riding on my own for an extended period of time to victory. What makes me think that I could maintain a strenuous effort when I've never been able to before? What makes me think that I could maintain the training schedule that I've never before been able to maintain?

Sometimes I use the same tactics in life as I do in cycling. I set myself up with a work schedule that I think will get me ahead, but then start seeing that it's not as sustainable as I first thought it was. Then I start making up excuses on why I slowed down as I consider an unknown future where everything will be easier. Sometimes I feel like I'm at a good pace, but most of the time I either feel like I'm at the redline or like I'm lollygagging from project to project. Overall, I don't feel like I'm finishing the race at the pace I am capable of going. I seem to never be satisfied with my performance.