Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Surfing The Inner Recesses

A couple of years ago, we were talking about reading, and my friend's cousin says "I hate reading. I would rather stare at a blank white wall and surf the inner recesses of my mind than read a book." Of course the last time I saw him he was about halfway through the great works of western civilization, so people change sometimes.

Anyway, 50% of everything is 90% mental, right? I’m lying on a vinyl covered bench last night, holding two fairly large dumb bells over my face, thinking how in the f*&k am I going to get these things up and down 8 more times. Then my mind starts working, and I’m thinking “ok, I’ve got 8 chances to beat these stupid weights. 8 times when I can win or lose.” Man, that is some powerful juju when you get yourself actually believing it. Plus, you know, when losing to the weights means dropping a couple of heavy ass dumb bells on your face, it’s a little extra incentive.

And that, as much as anything, is what this whole weight lifting thing is about. 3 sets of 20 reps is nothing but 60 chances to get the job done, to overcome the “aw what do the last couple of reps really mean anyway.” Each week, when the weight for each exercise gets bumped up just a bit, it’s a new chance to either say “screw it, what I was doing last week was good” or to say “I’m kicking this sucker in the ass.” Normally I don’t think or sound like such a cement head, but when I’ve got to get some weights lifted, that’s where I’ve got to go.

So that got me to thinking, “how much until it gets easy?” When I do intervals or any kind of hard or even boring effort, I’ve started to do a lot of mental imagery stuff. Basically I pick out a crit course or a section of a race, imagine it and tune my efforts to it. The Reston course is a good one for doing this, since it’s really easy to remember and it fools you a couple of times into thinking you’re going to get a rest when you aren’t. So you do your intervals and you say “okay, the pace just got hard, stick with the front here, it’s 60 strokes up the start/finish straight.” It makes the time go faster, but in my mind it’s never easy. Can it get easy? I don’t think so.

Setting goals is a funny thing, especially now that I’m a powertap geek. Instead of saying this that or the other thing about how I want to ride on this day or in that race, I just say “I want to have this wattage per kg at such and so time interval by this date, and I will weigh x amount then, so this is the wattage I need to be doing by then.” Of course there are other goals that are a lot less quantified. But then you open the book, to the page that tells you “a good cat 3 will have this amount of watts/kg for this interval,” so you think to yourself “if I was able to lay it down like that for all of those intervals, would it even let me have one easy win?” And I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Not unless you can look at that dumb bell that wants to fall on your head and tell it “up you go again, one more time, mother f’er.” You need the watts, and you need the whoop ass.

Bike racing makes you into a freaking weirdo.


Kyle Jones said...

Yeeehaawww!!! Man you are so right about weight lifting. I have hit the wall of lifting the weights and then tapping into it mentally. When I race and times are getting tough I just think one more you little pansy. And I might do that for 30 laps. The same goes for weights. I swear I was middle of the pack of strength in a lot of races but just telling myself to push it works. Normally if I can last to the last two laps I know I have made it. Thats why they say cycling is not a sport of who is just the strongest but who is the smartest. And with both I always feel like vomiting after a real good effort. Good times.

Jim said...

Kyle knows what I look like and can probably testify, weightlifting ain't my problem. Did it for a long time, and the only things I'd think about were balance, form, getting the weight up and down, and count. Of course my sports background (rugby, with all the crap that goes with it) had me lifting weights for ~20 years, so you get pretty well developed, and over the last 5 years it was mostly *very* heavy weights incorporated into nasty multi-joint movements, and sometimes short rest (combining anaerobic work with lactate overload).

But if you aren't used to it, it must be like climbing hills for me, where I can go for a while and then even if my legs hold up, I go slower, and slower and slower as my mind sort of goes somewhere else. Not the pain cave... more like the blue cheese aging cave.

Most of the other riding intervals I do I don't think of much, I just really hurt and then go numb and my mind empties, and I look at the powertap numbers. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff here, akin to 'ugh, me shut off brain to train.'

MRussell said...

I'm not sure who said it, but here goes uncited, "it doesn't get easier, you just go faster."

It might have been Lemond.