|Emily never takes me seriously when I get grumpy because she says I look like this.|
This year, I've developed a new warning sign for overtraining: when I'm under a lot of training stress, I get really grouchy.
I've noticed a greater tendency to react negatively and aggressively to motorists (and other cyclists) late in a long bike ride, when I'm tired and hot and hungry. Sometimes I make stupid mistakes. Sometimes I'm rude. Sometimes I grouse in my head and complain to myself for half an hour. Sometimes I have enough presence of mind to short-circuit my responses before they get out of hand, but other times it's not until I'm home, showered, and fed that I realize, "Oh right, that guy did have the right of way!"
This problem is similar to one that a continental pro cyclist addressed in a recent article in Peloton magazine: she was tired on the second day of a tough stage race. Her fatigue led to a poor handling mistake, and she went down with a broken collarbone and concussion. I've had that experience of feeling my handling and decision-making skills disappear over the course of a hard workout, to where I'm scared to ride in a pack by the end of a tough race.
This article is less instructional than observational, but I do have some suggestions for how to cope with this phenomenon. First off, be aware that your mood and reactions can be an indication of fatigue and hunger, and use them as an excuse to take it easier through the end of a ride or stop and have some extra food and drink.
Second, in race or group ride situations, be aware of how your fatigue level may affect your responses. Be slow to swear or yell at other riders or motorists, especially in race situations. If you feel that fatigue is affecting your ability to handle your bike or respond quickly enough to the moves of other riders, move towards the back of the pack to put yourself and others out of danger. Perhaps you can even recover and eat back there, so that you can eventually move back up and into contention. But even if you can't get back into contention, better to finish at the back (or off the back) of the pack rather than risk bodily harm to yourself or others.
You can also practice developing mental acuity when you're already fatigued. I listened to an interview with Ryan Aitcheson where he talked about practicing math problems and critical thinking late in difficult trainer workouts. Choose a venue where you'll be safe, wear yourself down for a bit, then force yourself to think and make decisions.
Finally, be aware of changes in your overall mental and physical state. Have you been extra snarky to your spouse over the past few days? Maybe it's time to take a recovery week and let the stress clear from your system. Be familiar with your base state, and be prepared to skip workouts if needed to avoid making your friends and family members hate you.
That's my spiel for this week. I'm coming off of a week of recovery and going into a taper week for the Tour of Washington County next weekend, which is my A race for this season. It will also likely be my final race as a cat. 4! I'll tell you all about it when I get back next weekend!