Last week was my first successful week on my "in season" training plan that I hope to keep up through the end of cyclocross. While it might not be ideal, I really don't have a lot of faith in my ability to improve a lot once the season has already started, unless the "race into shape" phenomenon takes place. The sparse early season OVCX schedule, my visitation schedule with Frank, and my mother's annual fall visit are all conspiring to make September and October very light on racing for me, and will likely provide very little chance fore "racing into shape". Therefore my bigger goal is just to maintain and possibly improve general fitness (as opposed to race fitness) throughout the season, so that I have a better base when I start my Death March training in January. Yeah, those plans are being made already.
So the plan is as such:
Monday - easy weight session
Tuesday - recovery ride
Wednesday - intervals
Thursday - slightly harder weight session
Friday - off
Saturday - openers
Sunday - race
Of course, this includes several non-race weekends, so in those cases I'll just do what I can in the context of whatever's preventing me from racing. If I'm in PA, then it might be an underground race or less tortuously climby gravel ride. If my mom's in town, I'll probably just lose those days, and just have to deal with it. This past week, however, I did all the weekday stuff as planned, but the main thing that kept me from racing was the lack of a race within a four hour radius.
I debated between using the off weekend for interval time or social time, and decided social time was more important. I went to Indy for a ride with the Wheel(wo)men, but unfortunately it turned out much longer and harder than I hoped. That broke me a little bit, because I have to be in the right head space, with the right people, and usually on gravel for hard endurance efforts of get dropped, catch up, get dropped again to be enjoyable. September, in Indy, on pavement, with no immediate need for that kind of riding is not conducive to achieving this mindset, either. In the end, it did turn out to be Type II Fun, I got to see my teammates, and maybe it put a little deposit in my Death March savings account for spring.
The other part that made enjoying the longer and harder than planned effort more difficult was that I had only made it to that point in my successful training week at the cost of developing a very petulant attitude towards, well, everything. I did everything I was supposed to do training, eating, and financial-wise, and was left feeling utterly deprived of pleasure by the end of the week. I struggle a lot with the grown-up me focusing on doing what was necessary for my long-term well-being, while my more impulse-driven self got kind of depressed about not having much to look forward to at the end of the day. I'm still struggling with this quite a bit now, although the weekend did offer some relief.
Once again I'm turning to the lessons I learned last winter while preparing for the Death March. I look back on those days with rose-tinted glasses now, because I feel like I was my best self for those few weeks, but when I really think about it, most days during that time period sucked. At best I could look forward to my weekend rides after drudging through a lonely and boring Monday-Friday, and at worse even the weekend would only bring cold, solo rides where the only reward was fine-tuning the route or seeing an improvement in my speed. That was why I made the commitment to blog every week, because it forced me to be accountable when sometimes writing down that I'd had a successful training week was my only reward.
Now, after the upheaval of the past few months, it is time to settle in and start working towards a new goal that's bigger and better, but also further away and less defined than some silly bike race. (And also towards some silly bike race, 'cause I'll be damned if I get knocked out of that precious top-three spot now that I've established my place there.) I've always made up for missing what I really want and need in life by substituting shallow, impulsive pleasure, because I didn't think I could ever have the real thing. Now I know I can, but it will require sacrificing some of that impulsive pleasure, which will undoubtedly make me a little pouty for a while. But for the first time in my life, the "HTFU" isn't just suffering for the sake of suffering or to look tough, nor is it directed toward a goal that deep-down I don't really believe in my ability to achieve (think the Pisgah stage race or any of my previous 100-mile mountain bike attempts).
At the age of 32, I finally saw what it was like to set an achievable goal, put in the work even when it meant days of pouting, or crying, or a million cray cray texts to Kristen, and in the end achieving the goal. So to my impulsive, petulant self I say: It will be okay. You've proven you can win at Death, now it's time to win at life.