I just returned from an amazing week in Ketchum, Idaho which included competing in the US Mountain Bike Marathon National Champs. It reinforced with crystal-clear clarity that the mental thoughts dictate the physical outcomes.
I entered the week with injured ribs and sprained right hand and fingers - my first mental opportunity to overcome adversity.
I had the luxury of riding the course - which consisted of an approx 20-plus mile climb and 20-plus mile descent. Descending does not top of my lists of skills - as I don't have bunches of time to devote to the mountain bike. The Ketchum trails are world-class and the race course was mind-boggling beautiful. However, the technical aspects of the descent toyed with me - trying to insert seeds of doubt with its ripping hour of twisting, turning, undulating single-track, intimately bordered with trees and hard rights with shear drops to the tiny town of Ketchum below.
My pre-race mental prep and visualization focused heavily on how I wanted to ride the descent. My mental challenge was intensified by the fact that my currently injured ribs had resulted while mountain bike racing on a very similar, intimately tree-dotted descent. So I mentally had to hunker down - sweep away those negative hooks and replace them with the positive of how I wanted to ride the descent.
Race day was picture perfect. I started the race with calm and composure - following my race day game plan. Until - one of my fellow-racers, hit the throttle, setting a pace - that was not exactly comfortable. I found myself falling in to a slightly frantic state, inefficiently struggling to keep pace. But I mentally gathered myself - regained my calm and composure and reminded myself to lean on my preparation and training - and trust it. My mind went to training sessions of hill intervals at sub to threshold and SFRs - working on pedaling efficiency - staying engaged in the trunk - and driving the linear force from my hips through the legs in to the pedals - maximizing efficiency and minimizing energy leaks. I also focused on find smooth, symmetrical fluid rhythm.
I put my mental blinders on, settled in to my pace and rode my race.
Before I knew it - I had passed my speeding-bullet, fellow-racer. As I passed and rode by, I kept with my game plan focusing on my race, trusting my preparation and not looking, or "thinking" back.
Now I was on the descent - and it was an absolute dream - I floated with perfect relaxed, rhythm and timing. It exceeded my visualization expectations!
I value the opportunity for these competitive outlets for self-challenge and resulting growth, confidence and empowerment. I especially appreciate my fellow-racers, who raise the challenge-bar and help me bust through self-imposed limitations - allowing expression of full potential.
Seize the Day!