It’s Tuesday. I know whats coming. My alarm goes off and I hit the snooze button. My bed feels extra warm and cozy, but I know I have got to get up or I won’t make it to my day job by 9. It’s dark. I reach deep into the depths of my mind, and find just enough motivation, hidden under a few layers of sleep and comfort to my drag my ass out of bed and get my gear on in a fog. I know it will feel good at the end, but damn is it ever hard to get moving knowing the pain I’m about to inflict on myself. I stuff some peanut butter and banana on toast into my mouth and grab some water. I pull my bike off the stand and turn on my GPS. Click, click, beep, as I clip into my pedals and start the timer. Warm up starts now, and will end too quickly. I spend the next 20 minutes going over the set in my head. I know exactly how long I’ll be pushing, how long I’ll recover in between, I know my target heart rates, I know the cadence I’m trying to hit, I know how my legs and lungs are going to feel. Today, the ride is very calculated, and heavily monitored. There’s always a moment of procrastination, where I try to convince myself I should do 30 minutes of warm up instead of 20, but I know I only have a certain amount of time to get this done. The countdown starts, I can feel butterflies in my stomach. I don’t know why I get nervous before intervals, but I do. 3,2,1, deep breath, and go. I push hard. My heart rate accelerates along with my bike. The first one hurts the most, but I quickly find a rhythm and settle in. I focus on my breathing, I focus on keeping pressure on the pedals. I try my hardest not to watch the clock, but inevitably glance down again and again. My legs burn, but my brain has been here before. It recognizes the pain and reminds me my body can handle it. Shut up Legs. I keep the pressure on, knowing sweet recovery is coming soon. I start the countdown to finish the interval with 30 seconds left. Counting in my head keeps me moving for those last few seconds. As the clock hits the mark, my thumb hits the shifter and my legs spin easily. 1 down, 4 to go. I relish in the moment I have to catch my breath before the clock starts ticking again.
The efforts don’t get easier, but feel more manageable as I get into them. I’ve done one, I can do another, then I’m halfway through, then only a few more to go. The suffering starts to feel satisfying. I start to feel determined. I have a purpose, a goal. I push little bit harder than last time. If I feel the urge to quit, I remind myself I’m getting stronger, faster, that this is going to make riding and racing even more rewarding. By the time I get to the last effort, I feel like I could keep going, so I lay it all out there. During the countdown to the end this time, my muscles are screaming, and I can hear an audible groan escape my mouth, but I stand and hammer even harder for the last 10 seconds if I can. I collapse into the handlebars as my thumb hits the shifter hard one last time, and I take a huge breath in. I made it.
I should turn around, because I’m out of time, and I hurt, but I know if I go just a little farther, I can take the fun way down. So I keep the pedals moving. I’m spent for the ride home, but it’s a good tired, not the groggy tired I woke up to. I feel grateful that I forced myself out of bed as I cruise down the singletrack.
By the time I get back to the garage, I’m red in the face, a little bit lightheaded, sweaty, and my legs ache. It’s just how I knew I was going to feel, and a little secret part of me likes it. 20 miles of dirt for breakfast, any way you slice it, is not a bad way to wake up.