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Mental Toughness vs Fitness

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Mental Toughness vs Fitness

Old 07-25-17, 05:22 PM
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ntnyln
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Mental Toughness vs Fitness

After what amounted to two spotty years of riding due to life, I've gotten back to focused training and racing this past year. My fitness is as good as it's ever been but, like most, can be better. I won my way to my 3, but now what I'm finding is that in critical moments, I don't have "it" and I end up coming in right off the pace in a lot of races. That 5-8 spot.

More training and being stronger is always the simple answer and that is happening but you also have to be able to get the most out of what you have. Whether training or racing, when do you say "I could have done more" vs. "I just got my butt kicked by a stronger/smarter racer?" What do you do when the answer is "I could have done more?" or more specifically, how do you train your ability to suffer or develop/regain your confidence to just stick your nose in there and go for broke.
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Old 07-25-17, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by ntnyln View Post
After what amounted to two spotty years of riding due to life, I've gotten back to focused training and racing this past year. My fitness is as good as it's ever been but, like most, can be better. I won my way to my 3, but now what I'm finding is that in critical moments, I don't have "it" and I end up coming in right off the pace in a lot of races. That 5-8 spot.

More training and being stronger is always the simple answer and that is happening but you also have to be able to get the most out of what you have. Whether training or racing, when do you say "I could have done more" vs. "I just got my butt kicked by a stronger/smarter racer?" What do you do when the answer is "I could have done more?" or more specifically, how do you train your ability to suffer or develop/regain your confidence to just stick your nose in there and go for broke.
do that often enough until you stop worrying about it.
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Old 07-25-17, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
do that often enough until you stop worrying about it.
OP did not state age or other stuff, but I think there are mental changes having nothing to do with toughness based on age and dependents.

I mean, he could have twins or something.
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Old 07-25-17, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Doge View Post
OP did not state age or other stuff, but I think there are mental changes having nothing to do with toughness based on age and dependents.

I mean, he could have twins or something.
Ha, no twins or anything to worry about. I work and ride at this point in my life. I am 48, but didn't start even riding until I was 38. I do think one of the mental blocks is that I broke my collar bone on the Spectrum ride a few years ago when I lived out in the Bay Area. That's also about when the rest of life started closing in with things like apt burning down, company going bankrupt, being unemployed for a year, moving back east. You know a bunch of ankle biter stuff. So I never really had the opportunity to get right back on the horse and get over it.

I know Ygduf is right, I just have to do it. My confidence has gotten better over the course of the season to where I'm able to mix it up at the end, but it's that last hurdle I can't get over. That moment of hesitation going into the last corner or turning that switch off until you cross the finish line no matter how much it hurts.
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Old 07-25-17, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ntnyln View Post
More training and being stronger is always the simple answer and that is happening but you also have to be able to get the most out of what you have.
Besides being strong, I think there are two other major factors that result in racing success: 1) when to use your strength, and 2) when to take risks, and how much risk to take.

For #1: most road/crit races don't necessarily come down to who's the strongest; it's who's the most rested. This is why you shouldn't sit in the wind when you don't have to, etc. Don't chase every single break, etc.

For #2: are you willing to squeeze in to that gap that is quickly closing? Fight (physically) for that wheel in the last few laps?

Then there's also the ability to push through the pain, also a huge factor. Combine all that with fitness, and you can win ****.
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Old 07-26-17, 05:26 AM
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It sounds like you made it to Cat 3 more through fitness than guile. By being better about making efforts and decisions (like sitting 5th-8th is pretty unimportant until the very end of most crits, and I actively avoid the top 10 for most of my races) you can arrive at "critical points" much fresher and with much more reserves. I think this is a missing thing in 90% of the racers I've seen over the last 30+ years, the knowledge/patience/skill/planning to shelter until it's time to go, whatever time that might be.

I have yet to figure out how to download my SRM data off my new PC7 (USB drivers with outdated computers and no driving desire to figure it out) but I can tell you that my last Zwift ride, where after an hour and change ride I was so toasted I inadvertently fell asleep immediately after the ride, my "weighted avg" was 154w (actual avg lower I'm sure). The power numbers were fed to Zwift from my SRM so that's a real number. That's 5w below my avg at two races in 2015 where I got 3rd in each one (
and
). I rarely hit 200w avg (haven't since I don't know when) and

Zwift ride from the other day:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1096188512

I'm not going to say I'm a really solid Cat 3 anymore (2016-17 definitely not) but I can hold my own in less selective races, even though I only hit 70 hours for the year yesterday. That 70 hours is overstated a bit less since I Strava if I'm out with Junior (he's 5) and he's running around a lot, but you get the point.
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Old 07-26-17, 01:50 PM
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Great videos. The bridge in the first two is about the point where I usually lose my chance to win (or podium) the race. You move forward and I hesitate and either follow a wheel or just get swarmed and then it is too late to regain ground. Very frustrating!
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Old 07-26-17, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
(first video)
I tried to change my user title to "a steadying influence in this chaos" but it's too long.
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Old 07-26-17, 02:58 PM
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I am so glad I stretched out my position...
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Old 07-26-17, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by ntnyln View Post
Great videos. The bridge in the first two is about the point where I usually lose my chance to win (or podium) the race. You move forward and I hesitate and either follow a wheel or just get swarmed and then it is too late to regain ground. Very frustrating!
You have to save your gas for when it counts. Too many racers use up their reserves during the races, leaving nothing for the finish. If it means sitting 50 riders back then so be it. I prefer to sit at the back. You can tell when I'm nervous/scared/expectant because I'll be 10th-20th wheel, which I think is the furthest forward I can sit without expending stupid amounts of energy. Even sitting on wheels you'l spend a lot of energy sitting, say, 5th or 8th wheel. You want 2-3 riders across in front of you, 2-3 rows of rider in front of them. This way you are actually sheltered.

I'm not sure if it comes across in the videos but I'm struggling to hang onto wheels for that second race (July Limerock). The first race, in May, I was still training and I felt good on the bike, so I was waiting for the end of the race. I was saving, saving, saving, waiting to make my efforts. I also realized early on that I could make an effort on the hill and be okay to sprint at the finish, since the two events would be pretty far apart.

In the second race (July) I was struggling. By then I'd basically stopped training for a month, I no longer felt good on the bike, and I started the race wondering if I could make it more than 3 or 4 times up the hill. At about 4 to go I actually stopped pedaling to quit the race but then decided to "see if I could go up the hill one more time". I was doing everything possible to hang on, to save energy, knowing that every lap I might get shelled on the hill. Therefore I was approaching the hill like it was the finish of the race, meaning I was focused on having the most reserves going into the hill.

That latter part is key - if I was racing recklessly (tactically speaking) I might have closed a gap unnecessarily, drifted out into the wind for an extra 3-5 seconds, not bother moving a foot over to get out of the wind, etc. All those minor things would have pushed me over the edge and gotten me shelled. For many years I had to set concrete goals for myself in order to focus. One of them was to see a max of 60 seconds of wind during a crit, typically in one hour of racing. I didn't count the last lap but if I went into the wind for anything except the sprint I was usually cooked. So 60 seconds of wind for about 58 minutes of racing. I think many racers don't even realize they're in the wind for many crosswind sections, based on how much shelter I find in races. For me my 60 seconds of wind usually took place in 10 second chunks. I basically never closed a gap, but then again I never let one open either. I never attacked, never responded first. It may not sound sexy but you don't see a Kittel or Cavendish or Froome or Bardet ripping out attack after attack. They're saving it for the selective periods of racing. Until then they're waiting.

Likewise the riders who were willing to sit in the wind, who sat on the wrong side of the rider in front (inadvertently offering me shelter), etc, I didn't see them at the finish of either of those two races. I was probably one of the weaker riders in the July race but I was only beaten by two spectacularly strong riders. One was a rider who sheltered for the whole race except for a little test effort (he actually acknowledged following my advice after the race, saying that's basically what my videos/posts said to do) and did one hard 60 second effort to win the race. The second placed rider stopped pulling in the break because he felt the field would catch them in the sprint and he wanted to have a sprint left. Indeed he did and I couldn't catch him in the sprint.

In that second race I knew my race would be over if I couldn't make it over the hill, so I went 1000% to stay on wheels and such. You can see that I'm further and further back as the race progresses. Eventually I'm almost off the back. I tried to use my "strengths" to get me back on - I am good at sitting on wheels, if I am slightly recovered I can do a massive short effort to bridge a small gap, and I typically have better aero/mass than most people (so I descend like a rock and I'm fast when I go hard on the flats). I wait for others to close gaps because I'm totally redlined at those points, unable to do anything except stay on wheels.

Keep in mind that I had to make some big efforts. It's not like I was going easy, although my numbers aren't very high. Some of my in-race efforts were 400% of my FTP, and I did many 300+% FTP efforts during the race. Those are big efforts for anyone, but combined with a lot of zero watt time (soft pedaling but not keeping up with the cassette, or flat out coasting which isn't as effective) I managed to average a very similar power number. In the end I was about 70-75% FTP average. I hit 550% my FTP in both sprints I think.
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Old 07-29-17, 03:55 PM
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What kind of races? How big are the fields?

I will assume crits and 50 to 60 riders. Sitting near the back of a huge field is just pack fodder.

I like carpediemracing's advice to sit in as much as possible no matter what your strength is. Unless you have some sandbaggers in your field that can make and sustain a break with a couple of their friends it should stay all together for the meat of the race. This is the opposite of a Cat 4 racing where you need to stay up front because there might be some "short timers" in Cat 4 that are way stronger than the field average and you have to be near them when the feces hits the fan. And also to avoid the inevitable pack carnage.

Then it becomes a matter of your strengths as a racer versus the other strong guys. Some are probably good sprinters, but fewer are great at that than they think they are. If you are in the mix for the sprint and always end up fifth to eighth, then maybe you are not a natural sprinter. Those other guys are. It could be that you consistently follow the wrong wheels, but more likely it is that you are one of the wrong wheels. This you have to figure out. And there is nothing wrong with not being one of those natural sprinter guys. You just have to figure out another way to win.

Some strong guys are better suited for the long attack from 700 m to 1 km out. If you are one of those guys that can ramp it up to a high speed and hold it for a while, then maybe this is the way to race the end. Such attacks work better from a bit further back in the pack so when you hit the front flying and the sprinter guys are looking at each other you are suddenly well off the front. And if you do this when well rested all the better.

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Old 07-30-17, 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by ntnyln View Post
After what amounted to two spotty years of riding due to life, I've gotten back to focused training and racing this past year. My fitness is as good as it's ever been but, like most, can be better. I won my way to my 3, but now what I'm finding is that in critical moments, I don't have "it" and I end up coming in right off the pace in a lot of races. That 5-8 spot.

More training and being stronger is always the simple answer and that is happening but you also have to be able to get the most out of what you have. Whether training or racing, when do you say "I could have done more" vs. "I just got my butt kicked by a stronger/smarter racer?" What do you do when the answer is "I could have done more?" or more specifically, how do you train your ability to suffer or develop/regain your confidence to just stick your nose in there and go for broke.
It's a good, honest question. I usually think I could have gone harder, and in some cases that's where looking at power after the race helps we determine if it was an off day/bad brain or I was just max'd out.

The point about being a natural sprinter is a good one too. I've been racing UK 3/4 races going for my 2 this year and I've been able to get 4th to 7th place pretty "easily" in sprints, even though I'm not a natural sprinter (through positioning). If I thought I was a sprinter, I'd be disheartened.
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Old 07-30-17, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Yep View Post
It's a good, honest question. I usually think I could have gone harder, and in some cases that's where looking at power after the race helps we determine if it was an off day/bad brain or I was just max'd out.

The point about being a natural sprinter is a good one too. I've been racing UK 3/4 races going for my 2 this year and I've been able to get 4th to 7th place pretty "easily" in sprints, even though I'm not a natural sprinter (through positioning). If I thought I was a sprinter, I'd be disheartened.
If you're getting 4th-7th consistently then I'm thinking that saving a bit more will get you into the 1st-3rd spots. I helped one rider briefly who had problems keeping himself under rein during races. The first race after I suggested he not make efforts until his planned time (he was a good sprinter but could TT as well) he ended up off the front. He had missed an earlier break but I think he got 3rd?, well clear of the field for many laps. He was super happy with his effort, a much better showing than an anonymous field finish after countless fruitless attacks.

He moved to Europe and again had problems breaking into the top places. His best was 6th I think, before he asked for some help. I reviewed some race videos (same course used for many races), offered some suggestions based on wind and his power profile, and he promptly won a race. The final km basically unfolded just as I described, he went longer than I thought possible, and he won.

Ironically his biggest weakness was that he was really strong. This meant he could make a bazillion mistakes a race and not really get punished for it, meaning he wouldn't get shelled. Instead he only got softened up for the finish. When he made fewer energy sapping mistakes during the race he could make the big moves, whether it was to get to the winning break or to do a better sprint.
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Old 07-30-17, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
Ironically his biggest weakness was that he was really strong. This meant he could make a bazillion mistakes a race and not really get punished for it, meaning he wouldn't get shelled. Instead he only got softened up for the finish. When he made fewer energy sapping mistakes during the race he could make the big moves, whether it was to get to the winning break or to do a better sprint.
Reading through everything and thinking about my races, this is an issue for me. Not the really strong part, but strong enough to do what I want in most races and not get shelled. Riding without at team at the moment and not really knowing any other racers, I tend to stay way forward while covering too much and mixing in my own efforts to get away when it seems right. I need to get better about sitting just a little further back.

My power profile is definitely shifted right at the moment because I had to spend this season regaining the overall fitness I had lost, so as Mollusk pointed out, I'm not a good wheel to follow and just don't have it at the end to go head to head. Taking this fitness into next season, I plan to spend more time working on that.

I do think I still need to also work on the mental part, whether you call it toughness or confidence, I feel like to never fully commit to the finish. Maybe that's me reading too much into being a weak finisher, but I'm trying to cover all my bases.

Great feedback all, thanks for the input.

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Old 07-31-17, 04:54 PM
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Race not to lose, and you'll seldom win. Especially if you're racing against 45 or 55 1/2/3 folks in this district. A lot of good poker players here abouts.

The toughness parts comes into play when those moments come in a race where you either let something go hoping it'll come back, or you risk visiting Offthebackistan to hang on. Sometimes it comes down to who's willing to hurt more.

Another bit of mental toughness is self awareness. If you're not the best sprinter in the field, you can either settle for that 8th or throw yourself into breaks and work. It's tough to be in a 6 moves that don't work and be done when the field sprint starts. It takes mental toughness to finish 25th when you might have been lower top ten.

The final bit is training to build the tools you really need, not just training to the stuff that you like or that's easier. Most races are won with 0-5 minute power, emphasis on the short stuff. All the FTP in the world isn't going to help you if you can't answer when people start attacking.
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Old 08-01-17, 07:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
Race not to lose, and you'll seldom win. Especially if you're racing against 45 or 55 1/2/3 folks in this district. A lot of good poker players here abouts.
I think this is a really important point.

Watch any sports team play on the defensive, and they give up ground. I liken it to mountain biking. You look where you want to go, not where you don't want to go. If you're racing to not lose, you're already thinking about losing and not winning.
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Old 08-01-17, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
Race not to lose, and you'll seldom win. Especially if you're racing against 45 or 55 1/2/3 folks in this district. A lot of good poker players here abouts.
this is true, but in aggregate people who race to win also seldom win.

I don't think there is anything wrong with either approach and both probably appeal to different people.
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Old 08-01-17, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
Race not to lose, and you'll seldom win. Especially if you're racing against 45 or 55 1/2/3 folks in this district. A lot of good poker players here abouts.
Agreed. I find that when I'm not getting the results I want, getting in the single digits is a moral victory and I begin to race to preserve that rather than risk getting 20th or worse trying to get the win. The balance is trying not to go overboard and balance opportunities with risk. I'm not afraid to try. This season I've done everything from sit in to being off the front solo for 25 min in a crit only to get caught on last lap. I just always question if I "suffered" enough or if I was going for that moral victory. I guess, ultimately only I can answer that but I think I can suffer more if I'm comfortable with the possibility of placing in offthebackistan.

The season is so short here and is pretty much winding down for the year already and I'm just trying to figure out my mojo so I can roll into next season better than I went into this one.

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Old 08-02-17, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Ygduf View Post
this is true, but in aggregate people who race to win also seldom win.

I don't think there is anything wrong with either approach and both probably appeal to different people.
OP seems to want to rise above his current level, so that's where I directed my comments. I'm pretty respectful of folks who race regardless of what their motivation or end game is.

Probably ought to discuss the curse of winning at some point.
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Old 08-02-17, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
OP seems to want to rise above his current level, so that's where I directed my comments. I'm pretty respectful of folks who race regardless of what their motivation or end game is.

Probably ought to discuss the curse of winning at some point.
We pretty much agree. OP seems like he could improve by finding himself some top-10s by hanging in and hanging tough, too. Then once he's got that down he can start taking risks from good positions to try and win.

It's all good. Racing sucks. Too hard!
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Old 08-05-17, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
Race not to lose, and you'll seldom win.
+1000

Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
Another bit of mental toughness is self awareness. If you're not the best sprinter in the field, you can either settle for that 8th or throw yourself into breaks and work. It's tough to be in a 6 moves that don't work and be done when the field sprint starts.
Even better is if you watch break attempts 1 through 5 fail and then go all in with attempt 6th that sticks. You have got to keep your wits about you.

Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
It takes mental toughness to finish 25th when you might have been lower top ten.
And who really cares if you finish 25th rather than 9th. I never did. If I was out of the money I let they other guys sprint for the line. Why bother.
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Old 09-25-17, 04:52 AM
  #22  
Falchoon
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I find I draw from the weakness of another rider. If say I'm sprinting against another rider and we are even and if he weakens/slows slightly that gives me a mental edge to dig deeper. Sorta like an anti-kryptonite! Hill climbing is better because I'm better at that than sprinting and a lot of people are the other way around.
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Old 09-25-17, 08:07 AM
  #23  
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Never been a racer but know of one and can relate to what he said. You only have so many matches to burn in a race and you have to be careful not to burn too many in the beginning. Good luck


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Old 09-25-17, 09:27 AM
  #24  
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if a leg is cramping, doesn't matter what my brains thinks, I have to get off, rest, stretch & massage
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Old 09-25-17, 10:16 AM
  #25  
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For me, the more I train with groups the better feel I get racing altogether. You just get a vibe on how to be optimal, and more efficient. Some of that has to do about being comfortable and not worrying about external things. I recall during a training crit I had people touching elbows on both sides and it wasn't even a thought. Only after had I realized if that were a year prior I may have went down, or best case panicked myself out of the race. You can also get a read on things better.

The best racers I've seen just that this next level bike handling ability and they can do more with less. Some guys can make it to the front of a pack with 75% less pedal strokes than the average racer, its really a thing of beauty.

For me, that's where its at. The times when you didn't 'dig deep enough' or the other guy 'had more heart' is just who had more energy left at the the end. It has nothing to do with desire or willpower. That person inside you screaming to stop is an internal response that you're already popped.
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