I officially have my first bike and run tests of the 2013-2014 season behind me. Testing is something that is still relatively new to me, and that I never did before joining Endurance Nation. The bike test consists of 5 minutes all out, followed by 10 minutes of recovery and then an all out 20 minute segment. The run test consists of a 5k run. Sounds simple enough, but the thought of a looming test gives me nightmares.
There are several reasons to test. The advertised reason is to know where you are at now to set your training zones for the next weeks, and track your improvement. More valuable than this, I believe, is the practice of pushing yourself. As hard as we may train on a daily basis, in the endurance world it is more the prolonged suffering than lying in the fetal position about to puke. And while Ironman intensity is far different than that of a bike or run test, the mental practice of pushing through the pain and not listening to your head telling you to stop is incredibly valuable. Once again, I have a quote to capture this-
“That’s what our training is for, we practice not panicking, we practice breathing, we practice looking directly at the thing that scares us until we stop flinching, we practice overriding our Can’t.” - Kristin Armstrong
With that in mind, I think it is important to judge the success of tests not only on the FTP or pace, but how successful we were at overriding the “can’t.” So how’d I do?
I did the run test last Tuesday, and the timing was far from ideal. I was coming off being sick, the puking your guts out sick, and hadn’t trained well for about a week. It was also a day before my big licensing exam, so my mind was definitely elsewhere. I tried to make excuses for pushing it back all day, but finally I laced up and went. I warmed up for about 12 minutes, nice and easy. Then I was off. While I had my Garmin, I’d also mapped out a route on mapmyrun as I didn’t want to run any extra due to a misbehaving Garmin. I’m not sure the last time I ran fast. It was kind of funny how I just flipped a switch from my just running along pace to pushing it. Fair to say I went out to fast. It felt ok at first. Almost fun or freeing to be running fast. I was spinning my legs, breathing hard but not painful. Then it started to get a little hard. I reminded myself that it would be over soon enough, and just keep pushing. Of course, I said this thinking I was almost to the mile marker, when a glance at my Garmin showed I hadn’t cleared a half-mile yet. Doh. It was hard, but it still seemed doable. I tried to slow down just a hair, thinking I can save it for my final kick. Then I slowed down some more. While I was most certainly fatigued and hurting form poor pacing, it was mental/psychological fatigue that was getting to me. I didn’t like how it felt. I didn’t like how my legs felt, my lungs, my overall comfort. I even walked a few steps. I kept telling myself this is to practice pushing through, but I was not strong enough to listen. So in that respect, I failed.
In terms of the pure run time, I ran in 24:16. Definitely not something to write home about, as while I have not run a 5k in a while, I know this is significantly slower than what I was capable of just over a year ago. However, it could have been a lot worse. I finally have an honest view of where I am at, and I think it incorporates both my physical ability and my mental. Getting stronger in either will result in a better test next time.
Due to traveling last week and being sick, the bike test didn’t happen until Monday of this week. I hadn’t ridden the trainer since last April, and was reminded of how annoying it is to set up initially- changing to a trainer tire, changing the skewer, centering the wheel. This year I was using TrainerRoad with my PowerTap, so I can’t really compare to last year. I was also inside on a trainer tire, making it different than outside. Therefore, I had no idea where the FTP would fall.
As soon as I started warming up, I saw that my numbers were going to be low. I think I therefore went into the test a bit disheartened. The five minute test saw a rapid decay as I immediately realized my initial effort was not sustainable. The good thing about the 5 minute test is it really will be over soon. Then came the 20 minute test. It just goes on and on. I did do a good job of pacing overall, as no major decay in the power. It felt hard throughout, mentally and physically, but I whole-heartedly believe I could have pushed harder. Again, mental toughness has a ways to go. Interestingly, my cadence was high- 94 for the 5 minute, 98 for the 20 minute test. I always thought of myself as a low cadence rider, even lower inside. The test ended in disappointment. I never thought my FTP would be that low, and while I don’t have a true basis to compare, I am sure I am deconditioned. I had false expectations that the OutSeason would just be building on what I had- I forgot I first have to regain what I lost sitting on the couch. Well, as I’ve said before, no where to go but up!
An area I struggled with in both tests was not having a clear expectation going in. This made it difficult to both pace myself, as well as motivate myself. Going into the next tests, I will be able to formulate a stronger plan, as well as have a benchmark to compare myself to. Something I knew I did before and can therefore do again, but this time, better.