Friday, December 11, 2015

It's more fun to be a sports car than a tractor

Subtitle: Develop your Gears!

One of the most important tools for training and racing is gears. I don't mean the gears on the bike (although they are certainly handy) but our own personal set of gears. These are the gears that allow one to back off, to push, to regulate, to maintain. Have you ever watched some little kids on a fun run? They have 1 gear - FAST - and then they quickly smolder.

At one swim session, after having worked through a range of our "swim gears," we were talking about our success on this day hitting the particular paces. (For me one example might be something like 1:40, 1:35, 1:30 and sub-1:30 for 100y.) This being semi-rural Appalachia, Coach Tom used the analogy of "you wouldn't want to drive a tractor with just two gears." Not that I have a LOT of tractor driving experience, but it was one of those light bulb moments where I finally appreciated what he and Coach Jim on bike/run have been working to develop in us -- GEARS!

What we are learning about is how different paces feel in different states of fatigue, how to maintain technique and form in various gears, the mental focus required, and the physiological cost of each gear.

It's the same thing in my running and biking. Aside from easy aerobic rides and runs, Coach Jim provides considerable structure that constantly moves me between gears - lower/mid/upper aerobic, lower/mid/upper tempo, and threshold. He incorporates interval workouts, track workouts (fun), and will provide particular goal paces, wattage, heart rate, or perceived exertion.

Gaining confidence in my gears in training helps me call on them in racing, even as racing uses a much smaller range. Racing is a constant state of physiologic monitoring and gear selection. While on the course, I work in tiny "half-gears" and I hear my brain say the words back off half a gear, or move up half a gear.

Racing is about pushing, regulating, and staying just this side of blowing up. It's a bold yet controlled effort.

I credit my my coaches with helping me develop my gears and move beyond a tractor - something that would not have happened without their guidance and feedback.

As Coach Tom said, "it's more fun to be a sports car than a tractor!!"

If you are not working through your full range of gears, now is a great time to start! Find your inner sports car!!

If you don't know which sports car you are, take this scientifically verified Internet quiz: Which Sports Car Are You?