November 20, 2023
On the fly
I could feel it as soon as my feet hit the bedroom floor at 4:44am. Calves, hamstrings and glutes, they didn’t so much as hurt but I know that I had worked them in the days prior. My second morning check point to gauge my readiness to train is always the stair case and how I feel coming down it in the dark, today felt pretty good. Check three which is something I added back around 6 weeks ago is using the HRV4 Training app that measures my heart rate and heart rate variability. As I lay on the couch for the two minute scan I can feel my HR is up. The screen confirms it at the end of the test, 41 opposed to my norm of 36/37 beats per minute. HRV is down, recovery is not good. 2 out of my three morning check-in’s tell me today must be easy.
Of course I still wanted to go out and do the session I had planned. My start time coincided with sunrise which has been beautiful the last few days. I was going to be in the desert on my mountain bike alone as the light came into this new day. Perfect.
One part of me is not overly proud of what I am about to share. My coaching mindset should have overridden my heart and told me to go for a walk and enjoy the same day break. My heart won. I got on my bike and straight into a headwind across the sand. I can not not smile. Legs were heavy and to be honest slightly painful. But I was riding directly into the sunrise. It was unreal. No one around aside form an Arabian Deer that for the first time in my life allowed me to get within about 5 meters of it before it decided it had seen enough of me. Rare and special. I was meant to be here this morning.
I continued to ride and admitted to myself I was not in great shape but in doing so came up with my revised plan for the morning. I would ride my bike as hard as I felt ok doing so and take it easy if that felt ok. The planned run off the bike I would do. How? I would cross that bridge when I came to it. More headwind, then crosswind, then soft sand and for the most part ruts and corrugating on the gravel, before finally 6km of tail wind to get me back to my car. Talk about mixed bag.
I thought a lot about a race I have been looking into this week for 2024 and every time I did I felt happy. I asked myself if I would enjoy training for it in these conditions, on this terrain. I could visualise it, it felt so right. It pushed me until it hurt a bit and then I pushed less as I had agreed with myself. It wasn’t so much “magical” but I was having a great time and with each passing kilometre my legs felt better and better.
Hungry, “I am hungry,” I thought as I neared the end of my ride. So strange, I rarely get hungry during my morning training, 80% of which I do fasted. Of course I had a bar in my bag in the car which I treated myself to half of as I changed up my bike shoes for running shoes.
Setting out on my run my legs hurt more, I wasn’t going to fight it but I thought I had been presented a nice chance to train my mind and I wanted to run, so I let it flow. Flow v fight, maybe a topic for another piece another time. It was a beautiful morning! Those words kept rattling around in my head. It was the truth. My initial run plan was 40 mins or 8km whichever came first so nothing hectic. I looked at my watch and thought I was moving too fast so took it easy and of course got a bit more geeky and saw it as a chance to train a negative split. It was after all a great opportunity to do so, why waste it. 1km I felt a strange wave of disappointment that I only had 7km to go and as I turned at 4km to make it the 4km back my legs felt good. Why not challenge my legs and my mind I thought? Another KM passed and the increased pace feels nicer, only 3km to go, “that’s nothing” I think as I dig for more and find it. The pace is irrelevant to me now, it’s a mindset, how much can I push? What am I looking for? Where is the feeling? In asking the questions I mentally pause and realize what I am looking for is happening right now, this is the feeling, it’s unreal, it is the best I have felt all day, I am in an insane moment, complete flow. My heart rate continues to climb, my breathing is more laboured but my legs are free.
I think about Iten last week, I think about Mum. Before I know it I only have 600m to go, I feel everything and nothing. And then it is done. I am gassed, “tomorrow has to be easy” I think. You could argue I should have listened to my body and the data on my morning check-ins, but today I think I listened to my heart instead and in doing so went somewhere pretty cool. I made plans on the fly and finished happy.
What a beautiful day to ride a bike and go for a run.