Oh boy, you guys. Yesterday's training was not so good for me.
I took Pepe to VisionQuest, to meet my team. What they do there is they put your bike on this computerized trainer, so you get to ride your own bike, but it's immobilized and hooked up to their fiendish machines. Here, it looks like this (not my picture, I just grabbed it from the ever-generous internet):
Then there are these big screens in front of you, which show everyone's progress along the course. They load up a cycling course, you see, and the computer-trainer (aka: computrainer) controls the resistance on your wheels and simulates the course conditions. It's like some virtual-reality thing. Or like Wii. Except Wii is never this hard, unless you're playing Cooking Mama, when everything is unreasonably difficult. Hey, maybe that's a good analogy: this whole thing was like a game of Cooking Mama, where you try and try and in the end all you can do is wail "But why is it so hard? It shouldn't be so hard!" And then you just want pizza.
My point here is: I was by far the worst. And I really wouldn't mind that, it's not being the least skilled that bothers me, because I've never had gears before and trying to figure them out is very difficult and seriously slowed me down. There were all kinds of reasons for me being last, and it's really okay. I am totally having a healthy attitude on that, okay?
The really upsetting thing is that I could not go fast enough. I've been trying to focus on my cadence, because my natural preference is to go at a leisurely pace. I need more speed, and that generally means moving my legs faster. It's not a race, but going like 7 mph is unacceptable, as it would mean the ride would take me like 16 hours. So I've been doing really well (I think - by my calculations, anyway) and just on Friday I challenged myself at the gym, to get on the stationary bike, put it on a not-easy, not-hard hill course, and to keep it above 12mph the whole 40 minutes. And I did - I averaged 14mph, and never let it fall below 12mph. It was wildly exciting! This faster cadence felt totally natural to me at last. Hurray! Right?
Yeah, well. For a day, it was hurray. Then Pepe and I went to the bike-borg place and it was a struggle the whole time - on hills large and small, on flat land, and even on downhills - to get anywhere near 10mph. Once it dawned on me that I couldn't do it even with my gears in the right place, even trying my hardest, even without any hills, I was rather inconsolable. It was pretty bad. I was just pedaling in my little corner, honestly trying not to cry. You know when you can feel it coming on, and you're trying no to blink for fear the tears will spill out? That was me, the whole time. Just trying not to completely melt down. It was not pretty.
This is an impression of me, looking at the stats/progress screen:
Imagine that dog on a bike, and you have what my yesterday morning looked like. Everyone told me not to be discouraged because it's a very hard course. I get that. But I had the hardest time by far. Not just against everyone else, but against my own past achievements.
At this time, I'd like to take a moment to feel sorry for my coaches. Not because they have so much coaching to do when it comes to me (though there is that), but because I am really, really, terribly, horribly, unbearably bad at being coached. My mind, my character, my motivation, my psychology - none of these things react well to any coaching technique known to man. So part of the problem was how very encouraging everyone was. How twisted is that? All the coaches (there were like 5 or 6 there) kept coming around to check on me, give me advice about shifting gears, encourage me, ask me how I was doing, etc. And after a while, it just made me want to cry more.
I am nothing if not super-expressive, so when I am asked how I am, I have a tendency to reflect for a moment and then find a polite way to actually say how I am. A parade of relative strangers asking how I am and me trying to just say "Oh, okay, I'm just trying to learn the gears, it's coming along" - when the real answer is that deep inside I am staring deep into the otherworldly face of Despair and Woe - just really makes everything worse. And it's not their fault! They are doing everything right! They are coaches, this is what coaches do, they check on you and encourage you and stuff! It's just me and my own bizarre nature. I feel awful. I am not built for this particular dynamic. I am not so good with optimism and positivity, in general.
Another thing that I struggle with is just the general issue of being athletic-ish in a group. We're a team, but it's not really a team sport - we're just all doing the same thing in a group. Everyone's very friendly and talkative and it's wonderfully welcoming. But I am by nature the kind of person who likes to do a lot of things alone. Working out in a group is really hard for me. I don't want to talk, for the most part. In fact, talking while exercising generally annoys the living hell out of me. I also like to learn things by doing them myself. So you can see how various people talking to me and explaining how it's done and just standing next to me the whole time I struggled along (seriously - the whole time, I was never alone) really, really set me on edge.
Why I really feel bad for anyone who's supposed to coach me, though, is this thing I discovered about myself yesterday.
Whenever someone tells me I am going to be fine, I do not believe it. It doesn't make me feel better. It actually can send me into a bit of a panic and convince me that it won't be fine. How can it be fine when it's this huge thing and everyone acts like it's no big deal? Because it IS a big deal. And it's rather useless to tell me not to worry, because I will worry. Here's the real key and the thing about my anxiety: it's useful. If I didn't worry, I would never show up at training. I don't envy anyone who has to try to convince me of something which is the opposite of what I already believe. Because I am one stubborn chick. Years ago, in an old job, we went on this retreat and the mediator had us fill out this personality test. As she looked at my results, she just paused a minute and finally said "There's really no working with you if you don't want to be worked with, is there? No one's talking you into anything."
And that really sums it up.
So yesterday, everyone kept telling me "You'll be fine" and I feel really bad because after about the 20th "You'll be fine", I kind of snapped. I can't explain it, there's something so dismissive in that phrase, so glib. Plus, if you say the same thing over and over and over, I'm automatically suspicious. (It's like if everyone said that Soylent Green isn't people, everyone knows that, it's true because everyone says it!) So the last person to tell me I'd be fine was this poor woman - not a coach, just a fellow team member - who finally made me snap that really, people need to stop saying that now, it's a little like protesting too much, you know? I feel awful. She was just trying to help. They all are. It's not their fault that I am riddled with anxiety and have insufficient quadriceps.
But she said the best thing then, the only thing that worked. She said, "Okay, let's not say fine. Let's say it will be a lot of hard work ahead. That's the truth. You need to work hard."
And that was such a huge relief, to me. Because it is something I can definitely believe.