A few years back, I rode in the Charlotte Motor Speedway Time Trial series. After one of the rides Coach Sarah looked at my workout graph and referenced the “crisis of faith” I had on lap 5 of 7. I was a little puzzled, and surprised, that she could identify this crisis from a quick look at my graph. I wasn’t even aware I was having a crisis at all.
In case this phrase is a little fuzzy…allow me to paint a picture. My apologies if you want to poke your mind’s eye out after reading this.
Crisis of Faith: That moment when you are trying to remove a sweaty sports bra and find yourself in the vice grip of the super strength material used to make the “High impact” variety effective. All at once, as if by some dark magic, your arms are above your head, bra wrapped like a tourniquet around your shoulders and neck. Your arms are about as useful as the tiny arms of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and you fear you will be found in this predicament by the unfortunate member of your family who will be arriving home next. Motivated by the traumatic impact this might have on said family member, you summon all your Houdini powers and manage to make one last ditch effort to free yourself of your captor.
As I have been making my way through my Iron Journey the term crisis of faith has become a fairly regular part of my vernacular. I’ve had more than I can count and they have come in so many variations it would be cumbersome to list them all. However, they are common in pattern – at least for me:
Set out to conquer or achieve something hard – big dreams, big setbacks, big obstacles
The hard thing starts to feel impossible – you’re tired, overwhelmed, the end is so far away
Doubt sets in -Negative Nancy gets chatty She’s a real BiAtch, you’re tempted to forfeit your dream, aim lower, give up
Boom – you have a crisis of faith on your hands.
I’ve learned it’s what you choose to do in those small moments of crisis that determine the outcome. The crisis ends either way…it ends when you give in and let up. It also ends, eventually, if you decide to push forward. I’ve learned that regret is more painful than whatever is causing the crisis to begin with. Likewise, the feeling of satisfaction from pushing through and fighting leaves you feeling like a very tired superstar. As a bonus you get the added strength that’s earned from resisting the urge to give in to the crisis and find an easier path.
Early in my training with Leigh Ann, she had me perform a 5 minute power test on my bike. The goal is to ride as hard as you can sustain for 5 minutes. This particular workout was such a huge learning experience for me. I reflect back on it regularly during hard training days as it taught me how often my brain creates limits of what my body is actually capable of doing. I was at a place in my training where I wasn’t really sure what power numbers to shoot for. My training peak notes from that day always make me smile as it was such a visceral lesson for me.
“I had no idea what target I should shoot for during the 5 minutes so I had thought in my head that 250 might be reasonable. I used the 5 minute build trying to figure out what 250 would feel like and what gear/cadence combo would be best. When the 5 minutes started, I was a little surprised that my power was around 280 and it didn’t feel horrible. So I tried to decide really quick if I could hold that. I decided it was only 5 minutes and I’d rather shoot high than be disappointed that I hadn’t tried hard enough.”
I LOVE that I made a decision to “shoot high”. Be fearless! However, in these brave moments it doesn’t take the brain long to start trying to pull you back to safer ground. Enter….Crisis of Faith!
“After a few minutes I really started doubting myself and thought I had made a terrible mistake because this felt really hard and maybe 250 is what I should have started at. I think at that time my average was around 275. So to salvage it I thought maybe if I lowered my cadence I could still hang onto something close to 260. As I was adjusting gears and trying to figure this out I had the thought that I was being dumb and why not just try to hang on to 275. I had to remind myself that it is supposed to feel this hard and I could probably work this hard for another couple of minutes. So I dug in and held on the best I could. “
My take away from that particular workout:
- My actual physical limit was 272 watts for 5 minutes not the 250 watts my brain told me I could hold. To me that’s a significant gap.
- Once past the crisis…the work is still hard and often painful. Deciding to push doesn’t mean the work gets easier, it simply means I was willing to embrace the struggle.
- I felt like a super star!
My favorite part of Leigh Ann’s post workout notes:
“Dare to Fail”