The Mental Part of the Race

After this morning’s training ride for Old Pueblo (5 hours of riding on less than 4 hours of sleep - great training, or just being irresponsible, take your pick), my normal pithy writing style might be slightly impeared. That being that case, I’ll apologize up front in case this post gets out of hand.

Last week I mentioned the mental aspect to my win at Gallup. Granted, the field was small - only 3 racers, but I was on the other end of the field in Cloudcroft when I was 3rd out of 3 - but it was my first XC win and I think it came down to mental preparedness for the race. Here’s why…

I knew up front they were seperating the Pros and the Experts. One of the caveats of racing in smaller races where there’s not a lot of pros is that they tend to put everybody together. Doing that leaves the Experts to battle for 2nd, or 3rd, or sometimes even 4th as was the case in the 30 -39 in Cloudcroft. I go into a lot of the races knowing up front that a win at the race is out of the question. I might pull in a 1st for points, but that doesn’t mean my name’s going to get called when they’re announcing the winner. But since I knew Gallup was different, I went into this race knowing I had a chance.

Early in the week I did some TTs to see how I was progressing during the year. I blew away my previous PRs - 6% on the mountain bike course on an hour lap and 14% on a 15 minute minute road bike climb. I knew I was getting faster. Those early successes in the week set me up for the weekend.

Knowing how I had progressed, knowing that I’ve ridden well at Gallup before, knowing that the Pros were doing their own thing, I went into Gallup knowing I was going to win.

A book I’ve read and listened to on numerous occasions over the last few years is The New Psycho-Cybernetics. Orignally written in 1960 by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, it was the first self-image book. Dr. Maltz was puzzled at a phenomenon he witnessed time and again as a plastic surgeon. One patient would have a defect removed and become a ”new” person, while someone else could have a comparable surgery performed and still outlook that was based on their “deformed” appearance. It wasn’t that the problem still existed, but in their mind, they knew it still existed. The mind was still perceiving themselves through the lense of their old self. No matter how perfect the corrected nose, reduced ears, or any other defect, their mind still thought of themselves with the defect, therefore it became true in their reality.

Since it was determined the “I think, therefore I am” really was the case, Maltz set out to determine if you could change your reality, the way you perceived things, but changing the way you thought. He landed on what he called Theater of the Mind; basically imaginative, focused day dreaming.

Now, back to Gallup. I didn’t sit on my couch for 30 minutes a day every week imagining a win at Gallup. I didn’t need to. Because the progress I had made and demonstrated to myself was enough of a confidence booster, I didn’t even entertain the idea that anything else could have happened.

I went into the race knowing that a Sport racer who had managed to pass me at the previous two races we had both been at upgraded to Expert for this race That gave me a minute of doubt. “Well, at least I’ll get second.” Once we got hooked up on the course and were actually racing against each other in the flesh, he asked for a pass. The course was too twisty to let him pass at that point, but once it opened up and I got back into my rhythm I told him he could and he answered by saying that was ok, I was setting a good rhythm then. That was all the boost I needed to quit thinking about him beating me. From there on out, it became a matter of who else could I catch and how high could I finish in the overall race.

This is the first XC race I’ve gone into feeling really positive about what was coming up. I knew I had a really good shot at first, and know that regardless I was going to have a good race. I pulled off the first, and had the best race of the year so far. So that’s my rambly story on how positive thought won me my first race.

The last race I had that I was this mentally prepared for was the Chupacapbras 100km in 2003. I had focused the whole year on that race though, and had spent a lot of time mentally preparing for what it was going to be like. I think the fact that I was able to put together a race like Gallup this early in the year means I’m going to be a good shape the rest of the year. Now it’s a matter of keeping that mental focus, the positive attitude, training right, and then letting the chips fall where they may. Hopefully there’ll be a few jerseys involved once they hit the ground. :)