Friday, August 17, 2012

On Plateaus

Many aspects of life tend to to become plateaus reached. Really, in many ways, a plateau signifies stability. Health and well-being are good examples where you hope to attain and then maintain a steady, healthy plateau. Relationships are another where, despite the good and bad that goes with all of them you strive for stability.

There is at least one aspect of life though where you fear and dread the plateau, that being in performance. We always hope to be improving. Unfortunately, that just isn't realistic in many ways and especially over a long period of time. As such we tend to set ourselves up for disappointment when the inevitable day comes that the performance improvements stagnate and we reach a plateau, or worse, we start to decline. The cold hard truth is that for the most part, you can't always be improving at any given thing. There comes a point at which you reach the end, when your journey meets its destination.

For athletes dealing with athletic performances, tailing off at some point is doubly eminent because the bottom line is that physical strength, recovery and overall capacity will diminish with age past a certain point. As many of us 'middle aged folk' will attest to, those are not the only physical and mental aspects that diminish with time, but that's a whole different story.Despite some recent health setbacks, I've been having a pretty good year this year all told. My strength and fitness is in my personal assessment as good as it has ever been. I use 2009 as my benchmark and my overall performance seems on par.

The really telling statistic that I'm going by is in the time trial. For years and years Cathy and I have been doing the weekly Charlie Baker Time Trial in Concord, MA. I've got data from that stretching back six plus years so it makes a good gauge. I set my best time ever in 2009. I've been unable to come within 10 seconds of that mark in the years since. That is until this summer where in the past three attempts I've been 3 seconds, 6 seconds and 3 seconds off from that mark. When I set the number in 2009 I did it exactly once and wasn't within a half dozen seconds of that mark on any other attempt that season. Each of the attempts where I was within a few seconds had traffic issues that cost me a second or two each so I'm pretty darn close to the best I've ever done despite being a few years older and arguably no wiser at all.

Cathy and I spent some time with Armand at the SMART wind tunnel a couple months back. Although I was a prime candidate for some aero tuning since I cast a horribly large shadow on the bike, we really couldn't get a whole lot of hard improvement on the current bike. I contest part of it is simply that the bike fits me terribly. What we did do was drop the bard and narrow my elbows up a bit. I also slammed the saddle all the way back such that it basically runs a standard road bike seat angle. This stretches me out some and gets my back a little lower. With the seat back I can ride the nose which allows my hips to open and my legs to rotate cleanly. This is similar to the position I used to use but migrated away from over the past few years looking for more power.

Anyhow, I'm using the fact that I'm hitting what I personally consider good numbers on a regular basis as a sign of good form. Half the battle is mental so if you believe it's true you are a good way toward your goal. Now if I can get the RA back in check I'm thinking good things may be on the horizon. The meds finally arrived yesterday and I'm hoping to see a positive effect pretty quickly, similar to the start of the initial treatment in 2008.

Note: The pictures are taken from a trip we took with our niece this summer to the Stone Zoo, one of the DCR maintained parks located in Stoneham, MA.

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