I got a flat yesterday. This hardly a new experience for me. While I have many flats, the cause of each flat is never quite the same as any other one. This time, the tire on my front wheel ripped and the inner tube burst through with an exciting explosion.
I have noticed one trend, however. Before I flatted, I was about to set a personal best pace. This is the third time I have flatted while going “all out.” I get flats plenty of other times as well, so it’s not a perfect trend that would satisfy the geekiest mathematician in your life. But still, about 10% of the time when I am flirting with some sort of personal speed record, I flat. Compare that to a failure rate of less than 1% on all other rides.
Then there’s running. I’ve had all sorts of injuries while running (who hasn’t?) but I’ve noticed a similar trend: I tend to get most of my injuries when I am pushing myself very hard. This is especially true for my troublesome calves; almost all of the initial calf injuries (not the reinjuries, mind you) have occurred when I was pushing myself as hard as I could go. Since I tweaked a calf muscle last June, I’ve dialed back my pace quite a bit and I have pleasantly improved my distances without injury. I don’t want to seem overly optimistic, but I might just finish my marathon in two months.
So, what does all this mean?
We hear maxims about the joy of suffering and the goodness in striving until the very last ounce of energy is spent. There must be a certain amount of truth in that, or this wisdom would not be handed down over the ages to us. But perhaps there is another side to that coin. Perhaps there is value in simply going 90% most of the time and leaving the 100% effort for very special occasions.
Unlike the previous three installments of this series, I am afraid I don’t have any grand conclusions to pass on to you. I realize that this will come as a shock to regular readers, who have grown accustomed to my pronouncements based on little or no information. What I know is this: pushing yourself and your machine to the limits may have goodness in it, but it may also break you (or your machine).