At least once every training cycle, I'm surprised by my progress. I'm not talking about anything that is necessarily measurable to other people (like faster times), but the stuff that happens on the inside, like how I feel. Every time this happens, I'm surprised by it. You would think that by now I would expect it.
I was convinced that my brick workout this weekend was going to be terrible. As the week went on I got more and more tired, to the point that I didn't do my second workout on Friday because I had taken two naps (yes two!) and could still barely carry myself though my bike workout. In the interest of not getting sick and actually being able to complete my brick workout, I decided to skip swimming.
When I woke up on Saturday morning I had slept later than I wanted (which I apparently needed) and was having a very hard time dragging myself out of bed and downstairs to my bike. I decided that I had no other goals for the bike part of my workout other than to complete the time. My legs have been feeling completely shot, so I figured that biking for 2+ hours on tired legs and not necessarily pushing myself would accomplish enough. So, I got on my bike and made it happen. 2:15 (that's two hours and fifteen minutes) on my bike. The whole time I kept waiting to hit the wall, but I didn't. It wasn't easy, but it didn't feel as impossible as the workout from the day before. I barely made it through the last 10 minutes (I'm having seat issues), but I did it.
Then I hopped in the car to go meet a friend who is training for the same race to do our run. I figured that I'd feel ok for the first hour and then it would be a wild card. So, off we went and I felt pretty good. We do our long runs based on her heart rate (zone 2), and usually it works out. Sometimes I get a little excited and try to run faster, but then her watch beeps and we slow down. This week, we just kept trucking along. At one point I looked at our pace, we were holding an 11:15/mi (not particularly fast for either of us, but faster than a lot of our recent long runs) and I wondered how long before her watch beeped and told us to slow down. It didn't, until we hit a hill.
We circled back to the car at an hour to drop off her dog and then headed off in the other direction. Which was mostly downhill. And we were cruising. At that point I realized that this was going to be one of those runs where I can actually feel the effects of the hard work I have put in. I was running 15-30 seconds per mile faster than I usually do for long runs and feeling pretty good. My legs were screaming a bit, but I could still carry on a conversation in full sentences. I thought for sure the wheels would fall off when we turned around and had to run uphill. They didn't.
This was a good reminder that chipping away at those daily workouts have a cumulative effect over time. It seems so simple and obvious when I say it, but when I'm lying in bed at 5am trying to convince myself to get up to get on my bike or go run, it's hard to see.
I'm a huge advocate for measuring things (paces, times, etc.) in order to see progress, but getting caught up in those numbers is not a good thing. Sometimes taking a step back and focusing on how you feel can be a better indicator of progress. If that correlates to faster paces, then great! But feeling better or different or stronger can make a huge difference in your mental game, which is equally as important (if not more important) than your physical ability.
So, I leave you with this. Do the work and trust the process. It sounds cheesy and silly, but it is 100% legit. Also, please understand that I am a solid mediocre athlete. So when I talk about these things, I am not talking about being fast enough to win races or qualify for anything. I'm simply talking about being better than I was yesterday or last week.
Linking up with Amanda.