I’ve been reading Coach John Hughes’s e-article titled “Gaining a Mental Edge: Using Sports Psychology to Improve Your Cycling” and recognize right away the wisdom of his suggestion that spending time developing mental skills is just as important as physical training.
I’ve always loved cycling, but somehow in the last few years, I’ve developed a level of anxiety about my performance in randonneuring events that stops me from riding as strongly as I could. If visualizing riding well and finishing in plenty of time can really make it happen, then worrying about getting stranded on a back road or climbing the hills too slowly no doubt has the same effect as adding a brick to my already substantially loaded trunk bag. I need to dump the brick this year. As my friend Chris points out, I carry enough stuff in that trunk bag to rebuild a bike on the road side if necessary. Enough is enough.
So with my early season training this year, I’m starting again, doing lots of shorter rides that are enjoyable and require almost no planning or packing. “Fortunately,” the weather in February and March has been very helpful–longer rides have, for the most part, been impossible due to snow, ice, and cold. I’ve taken the opportunity to ride lots of hilly roads around my home…not doing so many miles yet, but climbing lots of hills with a pretty good pitch to them. If I can climb Tower Rd, Carl’s Hill Rd, and Henningsville Rd, I can climb any hill on a PA or NJ brevet.
Nigel Greene’s “30 Days in March” challenge has also been an helpful training tool; I must get on my bike every day for at least one hour (if I want to finish on the A Team), but there are no other requirements. It’s a low-stakes challenge allowing me to give myself a pat on the back every day that I ride at least one hour. And I’ve had to be creative and/or determined on a few days to get the job done. One day I rode in circles in a Walmart parking lot, in areas that the salt truck was covering, so I would not to slip on ice. 6 miles in 60 minutes with temperatures in the teens—but I did it! Then, the day we flew to Portland, I made myself put my Bike Friday together as soon as we checked into our hotel and then got out on the city streets before travel fatigue won and I opted for a nice afternoon nap instead. This morning, with snow predicted to start at 6am, I was out on the road at 4:45am to get the hour done. Not so surprisingly, I’ve enjoyed this month-long challenge the most on the tough days because I’m proud of myself for persevering.
That’s a good lesson to remember. Another good reminder: the photo of me on my tricycle when I was about 3. I’m in my Sunday-best dress and someone has clearly asked me to stop for this photo. There is a hint of impatience in my expression and a determination in the way I’m gripping the handle bars. Now, at 60, I just need to remind myself that I’ve always loved being on a bicycle.