Time to get serious

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

There's a branch of psychology that deals with something called cognitive bias - this is basically all the unconscious things that influence our decision making on a day to day basis. We have biases because without them we would be overwhelmed by all the decisions we have to make in our lives, so our brain takes short cuts. I have been interested in them for years because understanding cognitive bias helps you understand how and why people make decisions, which is pretty important if you work in marketing and you want to influence how those decisions are made. (Stick with me, I am getting to the point shortly). Most of us are familiar with a fair number of these different biases even if we don't know the names for them e.g. the frequency illusion where something you just became aware of starts to appear everywhere - like the roads are full of Eddie Stobarts trucks. Hindsight is also a form of bias - 'I knew Geraint Thomas would win the Tour de France' last year. [you bloody didn't because neither did he]


The trouble with biases is that they often cloud our decision making. Think of a political debate that is dominating the news right now. We could argue that many people are suffering from a bias known as the backfire effect - when people reject evidence that contradicts their point of view, even if they know it's true. Or the recency bias where we tend to believe the last evidence we were presented with rather than rely on older information.


I share this because I have come to the conclusion that I have been suffering from a bias for the past 8 weeks: the planning fallacy or the tendency the underestimate how much time and effort it will take to complete a task based on previous knowledge. I have been trying to con myself that if I train the same way as I did last year then I will be absolutely fine to complete the Coast to Coast in a day and the Etape. But training to ride 100km a day back to back for days on end is nothing like trying to ride 225km in one day and I have finally come to accept that in the past week. 'If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got'. This is not a bias, but is in fact what one of school teachers used to say to me about my inherent lack of revision for exams and she wasn't wrong as my shit preparation led to shit exam results all the way through to university. She was wrong about my ability to play the lead in Midsummer Nights Dream though and that's something I'll never get over. Oh and the humiliation of leading the school debating team and having a total meltdown on stage. Come to think of it, the woman was a total cow.


Anyway back to the point of this post: in other words, If I train like last year then I will only be able to match last years results. Something has to change.


All of this thinking came crashing into my head after I finished riding in a local sportive called the Rawlinson Bracket last weekend. It's 95km with a 1,000m of climbing. I rode round in a group of friends from Lanterne Rouge CC and I didn't enjoy it one bit. I felt under stress the entire way and was struggling to hold any wheel in front on me. This kind of ride only gets harder when it seems like everyone else around you is smashing it and having fun. It was a grim experience really despite the supportive words and encouragement of those around me and this was less than half way around the C2C and less climbing.


I cheered myself up by going out again the next day, trying to convince myself that this was a great indicator of my fitness. Well, it's an indicator of some level of fitness, but it has very little to do with riding further and climbing higher than I ever have before in one day. I needed to stop kidding myself and get serious about training for the C2C.


This morning marked the 16 weeks to go countdown to the C2C. It has also been the day I picked up my new smart trainer (an Elite Direto from the lovely people at Giant Leamington) , because just riding how I feel, when I can, is not going to cut it. I need to follow a proper structured training plan so the smart trainer and a subscription to Trainer Road have been purchased and I started this evening with a ramp test to measure my FTP (Functional Threshold Power). I need to drop the easy social rides and the habit of meandering down the Warwickshire lanes with a stupid grin on my face and focus on doing the things that will make the C2C possible. I also need to get serious about riding hills and going longer. These things will be factored into the new 16 week plan.


I will try and document how that goes and avoid another bias that you've never heard of, but almost certainly have experienced or witnessed: self-enhancing transmission bias occurs when people share their successes more than their failures. This leads us to a false perception of reality and an inability to accurately assess situations. Witness our carefully curated lives on social media.


Final thought: there are tons of other people training for the C2C or for Velo Birmingham and other big challenges. We don't have to do all this training alone. We can help each other. As much as I disliked last weekend's sportive, I still got around and the encouragement of others kept me from listening to my inner voice and dropping out.

Finishing my ramp test

* Don't bother telling me to tidy up my garage - you know who you are.

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