Monday, January 26, 2015


This post is more of a rambling thought process than anything. I've done a lot of testing, and it really hit me how important our perceptions of difficulty are.

If we think something will be hard, it most definitely WILL be hard.

This past weekend, I had a bike threshold test.

The week before, I had a 5k.

The week before that, I had a swim TT of 20 x 100's.

Officially, all my testing is done (for the current training block).

I know that there are a few readers who just started running in the past year or two. I also know there are a couple of people who don't train.

I want to explain how/why we test. The rest of you can skip this section.....starting...NNNOOOWWW.

We do tests to gauge our improvement or sometimes identify where we've gone backward (which can happen for a variety of reasons that are not at all bad.) In which case, it's a new starting point. This can be because we took a year off or we had a baby or maybe we decided to focus on something new and different. In other words a slower speed or lower power output is not necessarily a bad thing.

I love the bike test. The reason I love the bike test is because it's only 20 minutes of going all out. As hard as you can go without dropping power or cadence. We get this information from a power meter we put on our bikes.

Power is relative to weight. So someone who is 105lbs will not have the same power output as someone who is 170lbs.

We want this weight to power ratio to improve. It can improve in three ways:
1.) Keeping your body weight static, and you get stronger on the bike.
2.) You lose weight, and your power remains the same.
3.) THE BONUS: You lose weight AND your power increases.

You DON'T want to lose weight AND LOSE power....that's bad bad bad. That means you've lost muscle.

For me, #3 happened. I lost 4lbs since my last test, and my power increased by 10 watts.

I love these tests because, to me, it's all a matter of perspective. I look at going all out as hard as I can for 20 minutes as significantly easier than a sprint race. In a sprint race, I'm going as hard as I can go for anywhere between 30-50 minutes (depending on how long the bike course is).

Don't get me wrong. Doing a bike test is not easy, but I have a huge advantage.

As a sprinter, I am mentally and physically READY to go hard. For many athletes, TESTS SUCK. They do a test every 8 or 12 weeks or maybe less often than that.....they go as HARD as they can every 2 or 3 months.

I'm speaking from experience. Prior to working with Coach Liz, I NEVER tested. Never did a swim TT. I ran 5ks as hard but not hard enough. Never did a bike test. The first time I had to do one, I was really nervous. I had no idea how to handle the stress and pain.

Now, I do that shit every week. Every week on the bike, I go hard. My threshold test came out at 199watts. (DON'T get me started on JUST missing 200w. I'll get it next time.) My intervals range from 225-350w. That's really really hard.  These are intervals that most athletes don't do.

Not testing. Not pushing myself like that, affected my racing and training. In training, I didn't learn how to go hard. In racing, I didn't know how to handle the stress.

Regardless of what your distance of choice is....testing gives you training zones. You don't know what hard is until you go all out. When you go all out, you get your training zones. You don't know what easy is until you have your zones. I can ALWAYS tell athletes who go too hard on easy days and at long course events....and not hard enough at sprints and olys.

For those athletes, training days and races become the same pace....or within a few minutes of each other. I was the perfect example of this. My 10K PACE was only slightly faster than my half marathon pace. A 10K pace should be significantly faster.

But I didn't know what I know now. I didn't know that I should have just plain been RUNNING HARDER....because 10ks hurt....a lot more than I realized. 10ks are the most miserable distance ever created. Then, we had this brillian idea of sticking a 10k on to the end of a 1500m (~1 mile) swim and 40k (~25 mile) bike.

I never had a starting point to gauge my progress. Imagine going year to year without having numbers to compare to where you currently are. Look. We ALL do this for fun. None of us are getting paid. Hell, some pro's aren't even getting paid. Part of the fun is seeing ourselves improve. We have to be willing to take a test to get our starting point. Then follow up with more tests down the road to see our improvements.

It takes time to learn how to manage the psychological side of maintaining that level of pain required to be a successful sprinter and to be good at testing. Mostly importantly, it requires incredible focus.

My advantage is that to me, tests seem easy compare to a sprint tri.....that's because I practice dealing with pain, on a weekly basis. I have learned to deal with the mental of side of holding on as hard as I can when my legs are burning. Pushing through when your body is screaming at you to stop.

You have to go to the edge and stay there, because it's only 20 minutes.