Thursday, September 19, 2013

De-Cluttering My Head

First off, thanks to all of you who reached out to me personally after that last ugly blog post about my ugly race in Vegas. I really appreciated your kind and encouraging words... more than you know.

I'm climbing out of my hole and getting over myself... trying to figure out what I learned from that experience. The only thing I've come up with so far is that I'm a head case. :) Interestingly, when I look back, I've had some of my most disappointing races when I've been the most confident about my training leading up to the event. What is up with that?? Must be something about expectations being high... Too high to be reasonable? And when I (even subconsciously) realize I'm not meeting them I become some sort of mental basket case and melt down? I don't really know but that's kind of been my experience in the last few years.

When my approach going into a race has been more laid back and relaxed and I have some questions about how it's all going to go down, that's when I've come away with more satisfying end results. So of course that makes me think I should go into all my races with a whatever type attitude and maybe that's just what works for me? So then how do I adopt that relaxed attitude if I actually DO care about the race outcome? Inquiring minds want to know...

One of coach's suggestions has been to ditch my power meter. He thinks it's screwing with my head. He's actually been giving me this advice all year but I've over-ruled him and used it on all my key rides anyway, swearing that I don't really look at it unless I like the numbers... And I did ride without it a lot- on all my easy rides! But that race in Vegas was bad enough to allow me to really open my mind and agree that clearly I am doing something wrong so I finally felt willing to just do whatever coach suggested.

Today my ride was a progression where the instructions said to just feel my way through it, and that it was okay if I blew up. Hmmm. Interestingly, I felt a bit paralyzed to start... like how was I going to know if I was progressing if I didn't have wattage numbers to prove it to myself?? Usually on these progression rides I start off with my own power goals... the numbers I expect to see based on past experience and what I know I can do... and sometimes I adjust those mid-ride depending on whether legs are there or not. Today, without the black and white feedback, I realized that I did not really know how to push HARD without numbers to shoot for. Since all my rides without power have been the easy ones, riding at my limit felt totally foreign to me. But I kept pushing and trying to blow up, which I never really did, but came away feeling like I met the objective of the session anyway because for once I paid attention to what my LEGS felt like instead of what the power numbers were saying on my garmin. It was weird to try to log the w/o too b/c I couldn't say that I nailed it b/c I hit 220W or whatever... I don't know how many watts I was pushing... and I'll never know... but whatever I did was right for today and you know what? I'm not able to judge myself about it.

So there you go. I think that's the big A-HA for me... Since I know what power I have been able to hit in the past on a ride like that, whether I hit it or not today would be something on which I would judge myself. Hit the numbers would make me think I'M ON. Going to have great race! (This is what happened the week before Vegas and we know how that turned out.) If I miss the numbers, I think I SUCK. Neither of those head spaces is one that works for me going into a race. But without the power meter, I can put the work in without judging myself... therefore de-cluttering my head... which (in theory) would put me on a start line with a mindset of not being really sure how it's going to go, which is where I think I want my head to be when the gun goes off. Leave open the possibility that the day is going to go well but not be so overly confident in it that I melt if it turns out I'm not actually on fire like maybe I anticipated.

I've been aware of all this clutter in my head more than ever this past week. Yesterday I was climbing Tantalus and listening to the recent Endurance Planet podcast on HRV (Heart Rate Variability) which is apparently an ap that measures data around how your heart is beating that tells you how stressed out you are and whether or not you're really ready for big training that day or whatever. And no offense Tawnee if you're reading this, but all I could think the whole time I was listening to that was OMG that is exactly the type of head-clutter I'm trying to avoid right now! Too much information can just be stifling. Listen to your body and when you're tired, you're tired and you'll know it without an ap spewing out a highly variable number telling you how you should be feeling. Yikes.

Anyway, I don't want this to come across like now I'm all anti-power meter or whatever. I see a ton of value in riding with/by power! Honestly, as a coach, I love it when my athletes use power because it tells me a lot about how they're actually doing when I'm not there riding beside them and watching... Makes it easier for me to coach them! BUT, if you're a head case like me it's going to screw with your head and you're going into workouts with lots of anxiety about hitting your numbers, or coming out of the session being harshly judgmental on yourself, then shutting that thing off and going back to riding off feel might just be the best route. I'm trying it now anyway. Will let you know how it goes. :)


Katie said...

I think I approach riding with power the same way; and like you, my new coach took focus off power and has me hitting heart rate metrics. It's taken the anxiety out of riding for me and makes riding more fun again.

I'll have the power numbers up when I'm on the trainer, but outside I don't even have my power numbers up on my 500.

cherelli said...

hey Michelle, sorry your race didn't pan out...seems like you are learning a lot about yourself in the process of these races though! Whilst it's been a while since I've been in competition of any sort i know my best squash games were when I went in as the underdog, my best runs when I just "aimed to finish and enjoy the scenery", and my best triathlons when I was feeling dozy and tired just an hour or so prior...I suspect I am wired similarly to you in that regard then!! I guess it's like re-connecting to WHY you started the sport (enjoyment, challenge) in the first place...EVERY time you race...enjoy getting into training again!!

Damie said...

Hey babe- you know I don't use a PM, and a lot of it is for that reason. I have always been the athlete that never seems to be as good in training as I am in races. I think if I had to battle myself in training every day it would get to me. I don't want to know how low my training numbers are. (but I do like using power on the computrainer for training purposes....just not for every ride). So, maybe this will open some new doors for you, and when you do use the PM you will surprise yourself and how well you are riding :) xxoxoxoxoxoxo so proud of you as always.

Iron Krista, "The Dog Mom" said...

i find this post making me happy that I have never purchased a power meter. because we know what a FREAKING headcase I am about numbers.... :)

glad to see you get back in the fun of it and out of your head :)

Tawnee Prazak, M.S., CSCS said...

Great blog, and thanks for the mention, and for listening to EP :) I hear what you are saying, but honestly, I think HRV is one tool that can actually help teach us more about listening to our bodies when we have lost touch with being able to do. I've used HRV to help listen to what my body's saying, and it's pretty incredible how I can now recognize and manage stress when NOT actually using HRV (my BF is another one who's benefitted a lot from it). It's the whole idea of biohacking our way to better health, fitness, happiness, etc... As a side note, my SRM broke long before Vegas and I've been going by "feel" on all my rides (which I'll do in Tahoe) and am loving it. (I don't blame no power for a bad Vegas race either haha.) My HRM also broke... You should listen to some podcasts I've done with Maffetone and Lucho on letting go of the data and getting more in touch with your body. Anyways, long comment here, if you ever want to talk more about HRV I'd be happy to share some more personal stuff with you, just message me or something!

Anonymous said...

I actually had this exact same experience when I first got the power meter. I would get all weird about the numbers and freak out (on either end).

I still do think it's good to have a measure, particularly in longer races, because it's just fact that you want to evenly apply your effort in a TT. But, you definitely need times where you aren't putting a cap or a floor on yourself and just GO! (Of course, after that I always want to know what numbers I did do when I couldn't see. So, sometimes, I put tape over the numbers, so it records the info but I can't see it...)

Dianna Grundhauser said...

Hi Michelle! I haven't been able to comment (Bloglovin' reader doesn't always work, grrr), but I want you to know how much I appreciate your honest and heartfelt posts. You echo many of the same thoughts/feelings most of us have (at all levels) - always wondering if we are the only ones who feel this way. Turns out it happens to more athletes than we think! Not that we want anyone to have a bad day.

Angela and David said...

Me being too cheap to have a powermeter (or spedometer) paid off form me!

What are you training for now?