Saturday, September 28, 2013

Driveway, State, and finding a winning mindset

There are many aspects to racing, a lot of attention gets put onto training and equipment, and rightfully so. They are both major determinants of performance. However, the mental part of racing is huge as well. Bike racing is painful, you have to push your body to your limits to succeed and that makes an enormous amount of mental strength, and the right approach. This is always been something I have struggled with personally. (not just in racing but other stuff as well, I have a tendency to quit when things get hard) When the race gets hard, I question myself "can I do this?", "everyone else is better than you, you should give up" . Often times big races make it worse, racing against good competition makes me more likely to believe that maybe they ARE better than me. Training better/smarter/more makes it better because it is easier to believe in the foundation you have built, but sometimes it is not enough. Lastly, I know that pushing up against my limits makes it better, learning that there is more. Knowing how hard you have gone and having a harder hard to compare everything to pushes the limit of what causes you to quit. At Killington this year I suffered from this quite a bit (as well as equipment malfunctions a nice double whammy) and drastically underperformed, at Chappell Hill I kept trying to fight back but the voice eventually won at about 5k to go when I told Nate I couldn't do any more work and at 3k to go again when it told me I couldn't follow his wheel. I'm determined to beat that little bugger though.

After Chappell Hill I looked back at my best results and tried to think of what my mindset was at those. Ultimately I realized it was believing in myself, believing that I  could win the race, but NOT that I should win (this breeds under performance as I tend to feel entitled to win and won't go hard at all).  Every time one of those thoughts comes in, I first recognize it and then remind myself of what I've done in training and that if I go into deep dark places, and race smart I can win the race. This is something that I generally have believed when I won races in the past, no questioning my ability. Just need to put the effort in, the smarts and it can happen. I first purposefully applied this at the Driveway on Thursday. I was doing the 1234, which it might be somewhat foolish to think I can win. But I believed it. It was a slower race than usual but every time I was in the wrong spot, or in a spot of bother I just reminded myself that A) most of the others are hurting and B)If I got through it, put myself in the right position I could win. Don't let it get in my way. I didn't win, I failed to be in the right spot at 2 laps to go but I was one of 20 people in the final group.

So now on to state. This is the type of big event I would normally screw up. Nerves, knowing everyone else was in good shape. When the going got hard I would be defeated. Not this time though. I put myself into the front early on, out of trouble. I looked out for dangerous moves or opportunities for me to make something happen (instead of trying to force the creation of an opportunity). On the way out from the start line along the rolling hills I kept in the front third of a very large group. Careful to not slip back so far that it was hard to move back up. On our way back down towards the finish straight we had a head cross wind, a potential opportunity. I attacked a couple times but it was clear that it was not enough of a cross wind. Riders could sit back and get an easy ride which left lots of fresh legs able to counter moves. So I filed back into the first third. When we turned right onto the finishing straight I could see that the group was tired, people were scattered about a bit we had a nearly 100% cross wind. I moved up front and put in a little dig. I quickly caught up to a guy a bit up the road and I had him slot in. He didn't seem to be able to force the pace too much, but I didn't want to be alone. 1km later I looked over and saw TC Porterfield and Jake Lanoux bridging. Reinforcements and good ones. We got into a echelon and drilled it. (No power numbers today guys sorry... zero offset was definitely off and lots of power drops). The next 2 km we kept the force on. We turned right through the feed zone, now with a predominantly tail wind. We could still see the group and kept force on. Unfortunately everyone in the group wasn't able to keep the tempo on pulls, we weren't going fast enough on the climbs by a long shot and just barely maintaining on the downhills. Group behind was motivated. Near the top of the first big climb Vince Dietsch came past our lead group. I thought I was hurting but kicked it up a gear, got right on his wheel then looked over my shoulder and saw most of the field.  I sat up (Vince kept going solo and was caught about 10 miles later). Off the front for about 25 minutes.

Problem now was, that was a hard effort and I was hurting. I had thought that with TC, myself, Jake and Jacob Shofield who had also bridged at some point we would make it. Good move, good timing, but others had other ideas. The groups efforts to bring us back had taken its toll though, looked like maybe 1/3 of the 98 (I think) starters were left. The effort had hurt me though: I battled within myself, the voice said "you are spent you can't win anymore" but I overpowered that voice. I was capable of winning still, I still had one solid effort in the legs just needed to manage carefully the rest of the way. I sat in, allowing myself to recover as much as possible, drank (I actually drank almost all my liquids this time, yay me). On what is the second big climb of the course I started to cramp, but I managed it. Shifted back in the seat a bit and made it over the top with the group. Shook out my legs, and over the next couple miles noticed that it seemed most people were doing similarly. It had been a hard race.

As we got ready to turn onto the finishing straight I put on my game face, moved to the front. At 4k to go the group was looking at each other, sitting up. Who was going to take up the drag to the line. I considered attacking, but wasn't sure my legs had it in them and if people shut it down, could I reload for a finish? A Dallas Bike Works rider DID attack, people didn't jump on it... they looked at people to chase it.  The obvious answer (too me) was AustinBikes, they had 3-5 guys in the final group still. (there are two austinbikes affiliated teams and it is confusing because they will often block for each other, sometimes work together but also sometimes don't). Didn't happen though, State Championship on the line perhaps all racing for the title, I dunno. Chase was sporadic and as such it proved to be a brilliant move, he won. But there was still second on the line. I stayed up front but never ever pulled (I don't like racing for 2nd instead of first, but pulling would be racing for no place for me) I manged to jump groups of trains as people revved up and down. I belonged up there, I could do this. At 800m or so to go, sitting 3rd wheel I  went. I knew I had less jump than usual left. 100m in I sat down, everything was cramping I kept going though. Low and error... motor. Glutes, quads, calves, hamstrings every single one felt like it might explode but I was in second. I pushed through the pain. 200m to go (such a LOOONNNNGGG feeling 200m). I came through 2nd, 5 seconds behind the Dallas Bike Works rider and a half second ahead of a King Racing rider.

I will train hard this off-season and carry this mindset over. I also pushed harder than every before there, something that will help me to defeat that little voice in the future.

2nd Place Trophy, pretty neat trophies