Monday, January 16, 2017

Lesson Learned: Failure is Better than Success

I had a very rough ride on Sunday. It was the first time in a while I had been able to get out with a large group of my (female) teammates. The plan was to ride a very hilly 50 miles together in Potomac, Maryland. I was looking forward to riding with a group again, although I was apprehensive about things like holding my line and keeping a gap to the next wheel after a season of 'cross and not a lot of team rides.

The first 45 minutes or so felt tense, but then my body seemed to remember how to ride in a pack and it started to get easier. I took a gel about an hour in, and then a Clif bar after another 30 minutes or so. My Garmin told me we were about halfway through; my body told me that I was going to need to slow way down if I wanted to do the second half of the ride.

I communicated with my team that I would need to slow down, and somebody gave me some food (since I'd already eaten all of mine). For the rest of the ride, the team tried to keep me sandwiched so I wouldn't get dropped. I could smell a really strong scent of ammonia coming off of me. If you don't know much about exercise physiology, it's a bad sign when your body smells like cleaning products.

I was able to slow down enough to finish the ride, but the last several miles were really tough. We had brunch afterwards, I took a nap later that day, and I was totally back to normal by the end of the day! Here's what I think (I'm pretty sure) happened: I did a hard TrainerRoad workout on Saturday night. I had a protein shake with half a banana after that workout, but I don't think that was enough carbohydrate to replenish my glycogen stores. Our ride started at 8:30 the next morning, just over 12 hours. My glycogen stores were already pretty depleted, and I blew through any remaining stored sugar in the first hour of our ride by going too hard too soon. I couldn't eat enough sugar to keep up with the demands of that effort level, and the intensity was too high for me to rely on fat for fuel (I'm also pretty sugar adapted right now, compared to my post-Ironman metabolism). The ammonia smell was from my body desperately chewing through muscle and protein (amino acids metabolize into ammonia--not terrific for your liver, but something that your body can process) to meet the energy demands. The only option for my body was to slow down enough to allow for fat metabolism, which is why I had to finish the ride at a dawdle.

Two things, though:

One: in spite of how hard the ride was (mentally, physically, emotionally), it was one of my favorite rides ever. I have never felt so much part of a team--not in football, not on previous cycling teams, not in rugby. Everyone was there to help me through the ride, willing to slow down so that I could keep up. And our team communication felt pretty good, which was so cool! It's hard to communicate and talk when you're all strung out in a paceline! I drove home after our brunch practically floating, because I'm so excited to be on this team this year.

Two, and this gets to the crux of my post: nothing is more motivating to me than my own failure. Today, I taught my normal Monday morning spin class (took it very easy) and lifted weights after, and I have had to hold myself back from doing more training all day long. I can barely stand to sit still, I'm so excited to train more. I know Sunday's ride took a lot out of me, and I need to recover, but I want to go out and get stronger so that I can do better next time! I've experienced the same thing in racing; the races that motivate me the most aren't the ones in which I do well, but the ones where I don't--the pinch flats, the stupid mistakes, the poor fitness, those are the ones that leave me chomping at the bit for the next weekend.

That's how I feel after yesterday's ride. So yes, lesson learned on timing workouts and nutrients; recovering properly and bringing enough food on long, hard rides; properly pacing myself for the effort ahead . . . But my biggest takeaway from this weekend is that failures, big or small, drive me forward. I can't wait to get out and kill this week's training.

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