Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.
– Yogi Berra
Quite a few times this year I’ve climbed on the bike to do a “2×20” interval workout — de rigueur for someone training to ride time trials.
The workout consists of a warm-up, then 20 minutes at or near 40km TT effort, a 5 minute rest, then another 20 minute interval.
The first 20 minutes usually isn’t too bad. It’s the second one, once you’re tired, that requires a fair amount of “HTFU” (google it). Having a power meter makes it worse. The power meter doesn’t lie. It tells you how many watts you’re putting out, regardless of how hard it might feel. It has no problem telling you that you’re slacking.
More than once I’ve started that second interval and said, nope, I cannot maintain that effort. Actually I think I could but choose not to because it’s just too hard.
I’m convinced that it’s largely a matter of motivation. Do you have a good enough reason to suffer?
Starting the last lap of the state road race championship, we’d been in a 5-man breakaway for over 40 of the race’s 64 miles to that point. It was hot. We were tired.
In a non-race situation, if you then told me to go do a 20 minute solo interval at threshold pace or above, I’d say “are you serious?”
But that’s essentially what happened. When I look at my power data from the end of the race, I see that I was able to ride alone for 20 minutes at pretty close to my 40km TT threshold power. No way could I ever do that after 64 (hard) miles in training.
The obvious difference was motivation.
I knew there was a group chasing. I didn’t care to hold back and save something in case I got caught. If I didn’t win, it didn’t matter if I got 2nd or 20th. I know that you do not get too many opportunities to win a big race, and that you regret not taking full advantage of those opportunities. I was still kicking myself for not finishing off the Tour de Frankenmuth a couple weeks earlier.
My conclusion is that with sufficient motivation, you may just find that you can exceed the limit of what you thought possible. No guarantees of course. It could have turned out differently in this case. But even if it had, there would have been no regrets.