Good news: You're not really tired, you just think you are

Snarky comments aside, this is a pretty interesting read. I’m sure we all know that we can push ourselves so much harder than we think. I know I’ve done it time and time again. The mental aspect of training and pushing your body is fascinating to me.


In one of Friel’s WKO4 webinars he mentions that breaking sub-threshold work into intervals is basically just to relieve the cognitive load and make it easier for an athlete to get their time in zone. Thinking that way during workouts has really let me push myself much further than I thought possible in tons of cases. Your body is way stronger than your brain is willing to admit.

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thats kind of the way it is with everything. You don’t just jump into F1 racing and win. You need to adjust to speeds timing plus learn and build.

The riders doing ultras like RAAM and Trans C etc say stuff like their body just tells you to stop after a day or two and it feels like it’s totally broken down. If you can motivate yourself to keep going your body seemingly magically just gets back into gear and stops trying to shut down.

Does anyone know more about what this is, why is it, any how you might test it yourself?

I know from experience that I can train many days back to back and the power just noticeably keeps dropping off. There will be a day in around the second week that I’ll be on the bike feeling like ass as literally struggling to turn a recovery pace.

Clearly I rest when that happens and rarely let it get to that point, but what would happen if I did keep riding each day after that… would my body stop fighting against me and start producing power again?

I feel like this experience/knowledge is a major advantage experiences ultra riders have over someone racing for the first time - they know not to drop out, even though both feel like they should…


This has all been shown and described in great detail in the books: How Bad Do You Want It, Endure, The Brave Athlete and Let Your Mind Run. I’ve read all of these in the past few months and have been on a long deep dive into “brain training” and “mindfulness”. It has definitely stepped up my training and certainly helped me at the end of last race season. I’m hoping to build further on that come this race season.


I have on more than one occasion posted my fastest lap time in a CX race on the final lap. It’s the motivation to move up a spot or defend a placing that I believe is the reason for this. There is a mental motivation to go faster. In theory I should be more tired on the final lap, one would certainly think, but often that is not the case.

I just did a VO2 workout and was repeating “you’re not tired” over and over again. Who knows if it helped. I know @Jonathan has mantras.

What do you do to push past that feeling of hitting a physical wall?


Out of the four books, which one would you recommend for a beginner cyclist (1 year in)?

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Mantras are great motivators. My favorite is “I can do anything for one minute!” I use it all the time, especially during the hardest intervals (especially when they’re longer than a minute, this also helps break it up a bit).


No, I really am tired


I did TCR in my second year of cycling and relatively untrained. It is amazing how hard you can push yourself if you really want it (see my TSB score below), but this doesn’t mean you can keep smashing out high power figures day after day; most people are probably averaging 100-130 for TCR. The body also has a few tricks to protect itself - e.g. after the 3rd day my HR never got above about 120BPM even on alpine climbs.


That’s properly amazing not just doing the TCR in your second year but to even have the balls to consider doing it as a relatively new rider. Massive kudos!

HR suppression is the first sign for me too after a few long days on the bike or if I’ve been cutting calories too hard.

Did your HR bounce back at any point though is what I’m wondering? Did you start to feel stronger again later in the race?

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Endure is awesome for the science and examples, but the Brave Athlete has more practical suggestions depending on which aspect you would like to tackle.


I would read them in this order:

  1. The Brave Athlete (it’s entertaining, useful and practical) Audio book version is great!

  2. How Bad Do You Want It (good mental training and realization of mind over body, mantras, building on brain training and helping you understand that ”you have more than you think you do, if you’re willing to go after it”. Builds well on what you’ve learned from The Brave Athlete.

  3. Endure (more science/study based and not as enjoyable read as the first 2 books). But still really good and plenty of info. It builds on first 2 books. If you’re more nerdy and like the science approach, you could read this book early. I just found it less motivating and had less direct takeaways.

  4. Let You Mind Run (another good audio book if you prefer to listen over reading. It’s enjoyable and less science based, but builds on the power of mental strength). This book is different than the first 3 books as it’s a personal experience of one athletes growth. Plenty of good takeaways and a nice change of pace after reading the first three books. The first three books cover that topic in depth, so this book furthers your brain training without being repetitive of what you’ve already learned.

Pro Tip:
When reading/listening to these books always be looking for information that resonates with you and taking notes. Highlight the text and then make quick short notes in your phone that you can refer back to. For instance, I have Note Categories based on my goals. I refer to my Pre-workout Notes prior to a hard workout that I may be a bit stressed out about because it will be brutal or I wonder if I’ll be able to finish as prescribed. Then I have Motivational Notes if I’m lacking motivation, stressed out a bit or not in a good headspace to train. Lastly, I have Race Notes to read before a race that direct my focus and goals.

These notes serve as a quick reminder on what to be “mindful” of during that workout or race. Maybe it’s a mantra, or maybe it’s a phrase or mindset to get my mental rhythm aligned. What works and what’s needed will change from workout to workout and week to week. So taking a couple minutes to read my notes is incredibly useful.


Are you sure your TP ftp settings are correct? Those CTL settings are ridiculous even compared to WT pros.


Perhaps just stupid. But the thing I like about this type of event is the mental game is so important that it evens out the field. It wouldn’t have even been worth me turning up for a crit race, but riding slowly with a heavy bike across a continent is anyone’s game. As it happened only about 50% finished and 35% inside the 16 day cutoff, but sleep deprivation, heat stroke, mechanicals and psychological strain far outweigh physical conditioning in deciding who finishes. Obviously a bit different at the pointy end.

I started out telling myself I would ride myself fit by day-5 and it would get easier from there. But it doesn’t work out that way (and didn’t notice my HR bouncing back at any point) - 16hrs+ a day on the bike, 4hrs sleep in a bus stop and gas station nutrition isn’t great for recovery. I also got food poisoning in Macedonia on Day 12 which made for a very tough finish with an extra 2 days crawling along at 16kmh in between vomiting! But I made it just by being stubborn and refusing to stop.

Doing TCR again this year and hopefully I will be a bit better prepared (with the help of TR of course:).


I think the settings were correct, but it was based on hrTSS during the race so definitely room for error. I haven’t tried to compare with anyone else’s data but for reference I started at 90CTL and it was 15 days x 14-16hrs a day moving time and 40,000m climbing with a loaded bike weight of 18kg. So inevitably quite extreme data.

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Ever considered blogging the whole experience or too much extra hassle on top of it all?

The Brave Athlete also has extensive worksheets to help you put what they talk about in the book into action. There is a pdf download for the audio book in case you want to enjoy Lesley’s colorful narration.

Thanks for elaborate reply, sure helps!

@sarafxds thank you as well :slight_smile:

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Yeah, didn’t get around to it last time but maybe this year. Will be interesting to see if the experience (and hopefully fitness) gains result in a quicker finish.