"When the little guy doesn't know he's the little guy, he can do great things."
I was riding up Mt. Tam yesterday, when another cyclist blew past me. I shifted up some gears, accelerated up to his rear wheel and kept pace with him for the next 10 minutes. Then, it started to hurt. When I looked down at my HR monitor and powermeter, the numbers were NOT good 175+ bpm/380+ watts. Then I started thinking, I can't hold this pace for the next 20+ minutes uphill. But right before I was about to pop, I remembered what my Belarusian coach, Vlad, said to me in his heavily accented voice, "Steve, you think all WRONG, what happened?" You say you can NOT when you must say I can."
He's right, something happened to me after getting my ass kicked in during the world cups. I began focusing on my limitations, rather than my strengths. It's like I put on bright neon lights on these limitations and it flashed in the forefront of my mind. And when the racing/riding got hard, I've been backing off b/c I was too aware of my limitations and honestly, I was afraid.
During my first world cup at Sydney, I recall meeting up with all the big guns and was so excited for the first race. I couldn't wait to announce my arrival at this top level. I had no history, no past to base this high expectations. I only had my imagination, and I guess I was a bit creative. When the racing actually started, I didn't perform as well as I imagined I would. The point is that, after I was brought back down to reality, I seemed to dwell on it too much. As Osho said "We die to the past everyday. But it's the past, let it be." Beat it and bounce, right. But somehow, the past sticks to me longer, and as said above, I hold on to it closely.
So, back to the ride up Tam. Right when i was about to pop, I shifted up some gears, accelerated and rode in front, and picked up the pace. I was dying but I wanted to see if the other rider will blowup first. When I looked back, he was way behind me. He blew up. I looked at my HR - 185bpm/400watts. Technically, I should have blown up too, but this time I refused to have the performances of the past dictate how I'm going to perform at the moment and going forward. I rode up Tam with a new pb time - 3 mins. faster than I have ever done.
So much of training is physically focused. But, the body can handle just about anything, it's the mind that really needs the training. As athletes we just need to be more conscious of how we register the memories of successes, failures, and challenges. Specifically, the successes need to burn brighter than all. These memories makes us better, and no doubt, much happier.