I write this from Vida at OR Tambo International Airport. My flight from New York landed hours ago and my patience is being tested by the frequent announcements of the future departure time of my flight to Durban. I am in need of a good shower and a home cooked meal. But sometimes these inconvenient situations force one do some useful things.
You can go read about my third place at the recent World Cup round in Windham, New York on any cycling forum, so I’m not going to bore you with a race report. What I do want to share is a bit more personal – how I got onto that podium.
The World Cup journey so far has been all about understanding and learning how to win. You cannot win if you don’t know how. And the only way to learn, is through experience. It’s a process in which you find the keys to each lock one by one. And it can takes years. One of my most recent and valuable discoveries has been learning how to approach a race in the correct mind space.
Anticipation or fear – that’s the choice you have before every race and I believe this choice ultimately determines your results.
Fear causes you to race with a defensive mindset. It prevents you thinking clearly before and during a race, causes poor tactical decisions, prevents quick recovery and contracts the muscles causing poor blood circulation.
For me then the best outlook is anticipation and excitement. This allows you to attack the race, instead of being defensive. When you’re filled with anticipation, it means you are competing with an outlook that says ‘I can’t wait to get out there and show them what I can do’ – while fear makes you think ‘what if I don’t win – what will my coach, friends and family think?’
But how do you just punch fear in the face when it is such a reality? One way is to emotionally pull back from the race. Being too emotionally attached is fatal. You spend so much time and energy obsessing about winning your race, that you actually throw away any chance you have of achieving your goal.
Instead, whenever you are off the bike, focus a little more on some other aspects of your life. Realise that this race is simply a part of your life, not all of it. This helps to put it all into perspective and shows that it really isn’t life-or-death! This takes some pressure off you mentally and allows you to race with more aggression and clarity of mind. This brings medals.
Bending your reality a little can also take some pressure off. As I always say to myself and others: ‘just pretend.’ Allow yourself to pretend that you are the favourite to win. Then race like you are. Or better yet, pretend you are the ultimate underdog and ride the socks off of everybody. Playing mental games with yourself works.
Focusing on the fun aspects of a race can also help, rather than worrying about all the things that can go wrong. Focus on the very reason why you race in the first place – because you enjoy it! See racing as a chance to reap rewards of hard work, not as an ordeal. We generally succeed at things we enjoy and fail at things we dislike.
Turn fear into anticipation, the scary ordeals into fun challenges to be conquered get perspective and bend your reality to better suit yourself. Your results will steadily begin to show the difference.
I’m looking forward to the next few weeks in South Africa in preparation for the Olympic Games. Keep reading for more adventures.
image: Chris Hitchcock / www.photobay.co.za