Social media is all pervasive. We plan social events through it, talk to work colleagues, even announce huge life events. Never before have we had the ability to curate ourselves so intensely as now. Don’t like that picture? Post a different one. Looking to portray an image as a particular type of person? perhaps post some motivational quotes and be on your way.
While I probably shouldn’t question anything that allows me to filter a little bit (as I am not generally known for mine), I do question the value in people only ever seeing the best version of others.
But where does reality sit in all of this? It’s easy for someone to come and click on my link or page and think “wow, rides bikes a lot; iron woman!”. That’s a pretty unifocal view. In reality some days all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a glass of wine. Curation vs reality.
We are all products of our parenting, education and life experiences and we all have amazingly interesting, individual stories to tell.
I myself feel as though I have lived seven lifetimes even though I am only thirty (far too much to detail here, wait for the book to come out…but maybe when i’m in my next career). But the value to being thirty is the ability to fully own your past and look towards the future.
The other day I rode to Noosa. It was a pretty recreational ride, just long, about 190km but that included a beer and burger stop at 135km, a coke at 165km, and a couple of other refresh/bush wee type pauses. It was one of those days where I could have ridden hard all day, feeling relatively ‘no chain’.
Bike races are funny things, in the road it’s not necessarily the strongest that wins due to these things they like to call ‘tactics’ (which I am not all over), but inarguably you have to get to the finish and that requires suffering. On the mountain bike it’s about who can be the suffering-est for the longest.
Plan as you may, it’s a rare thing that a ‘no chain’ day lines up with your race. Training and peaking correctly puts you in a good position for having a great race, but it’s often difficult to get all the planets aligning at exactly the right time. I would have loved to save my ‘no chain’ Noosa ride up for an upcoming race, but it just doesn’t work that way.
So what to do? Well training for racing is not just about coaxing the most out of you physiologically, but also about getting comfortable with the deep discomfort that comes along with bike racing.
Just as having time off the bike results in a bit of physical detraining, it also means you lose touch with the sensation of the burn of racing. It’s often said that the first race back after time off is the hardest, but when you’re going full gas no race is really harder than any other. When you’re fitter you just go faster for the effort, and after a few races are better acquainted with the pain.
Given that as humans we are hardwired to avoid pain and unpleasant experiences, it really is true that committing to training and racing bikes is actually a bit mental. The feeling of having a ‘no chain’ ride is amazing, but if all rides were like that we would fail to develop the right skills to deal with the discomfort of maximal effort come race day; and as such we often learn the most about ourselves and have the best mental training when fatigued and sore.
There is a caveat; multiple sessions of feeling fatigued and sore can lead to overtraining and illness so planning out sessions with adequate recovery time is a must.
There are hundreds of different ways to suffer and train the pain station in cycling. Some examples of sessions used in different phases of training programs to have both physical and mental ‘pain training’ elements include (but of course are not limited to):
Anaerobic Capacity efforts.
Being able to tolerate discomfort is a huge skill. By getting through discomfort on training days better equips you for racing ‘in the box’. Enjoy the ‘no chain’ days but remember that out of the comfort zone is where the magic happens.