I am lucky enough to be part of a really friendly Triathlon club. In the winter they run a series of weekend training rides, with groups arranged by the average pace of the group – so there are a number of seeded groups. One of the ride leaders very kindly volunteered to take me out for a ride last night to see how I might be able to cope with the pace of her group.
And an amazing thing happened! Progress.
Exactly one week ago today I rode Bike Oxford and was really pleased with an increase in my average speed. It was at 19.2kph or 11.9mph.
Then last night I went out and increased my average speed to 21.9kph or 13.2mph!
I cannot say how pleased I am with that progress – it makes all the early morning interval sessions and training and zone1 work and planning worthwhile. It means I’m getting somewhere.
And when you compare last year’s riding speeds to this years, the progress is even more significant.
I am edging towards that green line, slowly but surely and I’m considerably closer now than I was last year, and I have another year to get there so I feel, for possibly the first time, that I stand a chance.
What struck me about this performance is that every time I set a new average speed I say “I can’t go faster than that” because I’m always working really hard to do it. I can’t see how it’s possible to push any more, to work any harder, to go any faster. Great example, just on Friday The Trainer told me that I needed to change my interval workout so that instead of 500m hard 500m active recovery I needed to start doing 750m hard 500m active recovery. I nearly laughed out loud at him! The equal intervals at the moment nearly kill me and I have to push so hard to get the distance to turn over to the 0.5 mark which means I can recover. Sometimes I think my breathing will never settle down and I usually think that I can’t possibly make the next interval.
The thing is – when The Trainer set the first interval pattern in the first place I didn’t think it would be possible, but I gave it a go and learned that I could do it – even though I doubted that even in the midst of the session itself!
And when I set 19.2kph last week I thought I could never go faster or work harder. Then just 6 days later I did just that.
And now I honestly don’t know how I will be able to go faster or work harder.
I think I’m at my limit but then I realise I haven’t reached it yet.
It’s an exhilarating feeling to now know when or how it will happen, but to be sure that I’m not at my limit yet.
The group lead who I rode with yesterday was kind enough to be honest with me and tell me that she thought I would struggle in her group. Yes, I achieved the advertised pace for an hour but her rides will be 2-3 hours long and I would be at max the whole time (at least for now!) so I agreed that it wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience.
Some old familiar, habitual thoughts did pop up. Not good enough, failed, marginalised, excluded.
But they didn’t stay around.
She wasn’t saying “You will never fit into my group”. In fact she agreed that I would be ready pretty quickly, and she didn’t even know about the immense rate of progress I was showing at the moment.
And being accepted into a certain group doesn’t make any kind of statement about me as a person, about my potential, about anything really.
I’m not doing this so that I can say I fit in this group or that group. I’m not doing it to say I’ve completed that event or this event. I’m not especially doing it to lose weight or get toned or fitter – though of course they are important side effects that I am pleased with and are really important.
Mostly, I’m doing this for me. I am at the centre of this journey because it is my journey. I’m doing it because I want to, because I like it, because I can.
I’m part of a local cycling group and whilst their distances tend to be longer than I need to do for the focus of my training at the moment (I’m going for speed, endurance will come later), they are flexible and I will start with them and do only part of the full routes. I’m OK with that. So it’s not like I don’t have a group to ride with.
I don’t fit into her group. Nor do I fit into the beginners’ group. I am where I am right now, which is exactly and precisely where I should be right now. And as long as I keep working hard and as long as I keep seeing progress I will soon be exactly where I should be at that point too.