I always race far better than I train. There are many reasons, of course, including fitness gains from prolonged training, stored energy from taper and race day adrenaline, but there is also another reason: people are watching me. They are waiting for me at designated spots with estimated times, or tracking me online. Knowing this makes me pedal a little harder and keep running when I'd really love to walk.
I have logged some pretty epic training over the years for my four Ironmans, but I definitely don't put the same level of energy into most solo workouts. I recently hired a personal trainer for this reason and I've accomplished more in four weeks with him than I did in six months on my own because he stands there and makes me do the hard work.
Last weekend I joined a friend late in his long ride and halfway through my short ride. He is so much faster than I that I wondered if I'd even be able to keep up, but I gave it a try regardless. It was only my fourth outdoor ride of the season and my first longer ride in weeks due to travel. I had to ride near my max HR for over an hour to even keep him within sight, but I managed to do it. Could I have done the same on my own? Not likely. But if I could, just think how much better my races would be.
For this reason, I recently switched to a local coach after having a remote coach for three seasons. My coaching is private, but I will have access to group training if I want and he monitors my weekly progress on Training Peaks so I feel far more accountable. He also happens to be my personal trainer, so I have two hours of one-on-one time to chat about goals, plans and progress while I'm being tortured.
It's still early, but I'm feeling good about the season and can't wait to see what's ahead for me.