Mindful Engineering (Update)

The implied psychological fitness that comes with competitive cycling can be incredibly frustrating; if you’re going at it alone. This learning curve makes me wish I spent more time building a bigger mental threshold and a little (but not too much) less time on physical fitness.

Yesterday, in the wake of my cabin fever I decided to go on an early morning run. Not because I had hoped to take up triathaleting, but more of a mental test:

  1. To see if I could physical do it (physical fitness.)
  2. To see if I could do it at a brisk pace without stopping (mental fitness.)

I was attempting to duplicate the dark and painful thoughts that come around during the final laps of the races and tough group rides. My goal was to get to that point, then press on my acknowledging the discomforts, then dealing with them appropriately. If you asked me why I did it, my short answer would be to see how long I could stay in the zone for.

Long story short, I finished the run without stopping. I managed to travel 8K in under a hour. Need I remind everyone that I cannot remember the last time I ran for an extended amount of time. I can remember a time about five years ago when I played tennis seriously for the first time. I couldn’t sleep that night because the cramps in my leg muscles were so bad. The end of my run reminded me of that time.

Today as I made my way to and from my bike for the morning ride, I looked like a baby giraffe fresh out of the womb. Muscles were aching due to the more direct contact with the ground. Small blisters were starting to form in between my toes due to the friction during the run. But hey, thats what you get when you decide to go for a run out of the blue; in the rain, in boots, and jeans.

Needless to say my goal had been achieved. I managed to keep the same brisk pace for the entirety of my route, and managed to throw in a sprint for the final 200 meters. I had proved to myself that I had what it took to gain the mental strength I wanted.

Today’s goal was to try and work on that same focus in a more practical, two-wheeled setting. Instead of racing, I decided that it would benefit me more in the long run if I focused more on focusing about the simple goal at hand when the going got tough. Plus I didn’t want to do any further damage by racing and letting all that testosterone distract me so soon. The ride was civil but fast and needless to say I managed to stay focused and was the first one up the hill when things began to speed up. The cool thing was I didn’t even throw in a last-minute acceleration. I just kept my pace and out-rode the other riders. I have to admit that things got pretty dark towards the end. I wanted to back off and save this opportunity for another time (as I usually do,) but with the momentum I already had and the abscence of distracting thoughts I stuck with it and pedaled through the pain. What I realized after the climb was finished may sound silly but helped build a foundation for the future:

  • I did not lean over and die
  • I was able to control my breathing
  • The pain in my legs was not as bad as I had imagined

I would be lying if I said that this feeling of being in the zone wasn’t addicting. When you’re at a mosey of a pace you think to yourself that you’re just going to take it easy for the rest of the ride. But when you start to wind up your pace, that all too familiar feeling comes and it’s right then when things get exciting. I think of it as a sadistic game to see how long I can keep a hot pace (without the distractions that may want to enter your mind.)

That sums up my weekend, with a little real work in between. I’ve included a recap of my route today for all the Strava users out there. I have a new book I plan to finish by the end of the week. I really feel like this new level of focus is the missing link to my inability to achieve results that I feel are worthy of my talents. Once the physical and mental fitness are at their desired levels, I cannot fathom a reason as to why I won’t be on my way to a long career of successful racing with many wins along the way.




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