The last 10% is most of the problem

I think that we don’t fully appreciate the magnitude of separation between “good” and “great”.

In absolute terms, it doesn’t seem like that much. People ask me how close I am to where I was before I got hurt. I estimate 85% – 90%, based on numbers I’ve seen on the trainer. Only 10-15% off. That doesn’t seem like that much. I can do 4-5 hour rides and 15-hour training weeks.

But what we don’t appreciate is how big that last bit is until put in a racing context. It’s huge. It’s the difference between making it and not making it

As I rode over to the Shootout ride in Tucson, I considered it would be the first real test of how far I’d come. I also acknowledged that it was a milestone to even be there in the first place, riding in a big group of fast riders. Being able to ride in a group was a test itself: I still have some lingering psychological effects that keep me from being completely comfortable on the bike.

The real test came when the ride passed the traffic light after which it is “on”.

I was OK for a while, following wheels near the back. It was so familiar, even though last April was the last time I did it. I knew what to do — my body knew what to do. It felt good to be going harder than I had since last May.

I glanced at the number my power meter was reporting. It was way above anything I’d been doing. That was encouraging, but there was no way it was going to last. Eventually I would have to sit up and let the main group go.

85-90% isn’t good enough when the real stuff happens. If it’s me, last year at this time, I’m up there with Shawn and Aaron in the group, no problem. That last 10-15% is the difference between being there and being off the back. It wouldn’t seem like that would make such a difference, but it does.

I was told — get some perspective, you had a serious injury.

Intellectually, I know that. But being there, in the mix, with fast guys around me, it’s like the body knows and remembers what it was able to do, and it still wants to do that. And that just doesn’t turn off because the mind knows something.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The last 10% is most of the problem

  1. Jim

    My comparison with reality came on Lookout Mtn in Chattanooga last year. I was there with Smart Stop and rode up the climb with the guys once. I say “with” because, like you, I came unglued trying to stay with them, and they were not going hard. Then they decided to do it a second time. I started the climb and realized how stupid this was. Came back down and waited for them to ride back to town. The idea of actually racing up this climb 4 times?? Not in this life!
    Hard to imagine how much better they are until you try this.

    • Brian

      I was thinking that while riding up Mt Lemmon also — how hard it would be racing up that. And then Todd Wells came riding by on a road bike, chatting with 2 guys on MTBs. Normally I would have tried staying glued to their wheels … but again, I am just not at a place (yet) where I can do that

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