A New Mindset for New Challenges
Earlier this year I posted a video outlining the races and events I want to do in 2019. As I’ve the attention span of a goldfish and can’t help flitting between bikes, disciplines and locations, the events include several fixed gear crits, various kinds of mountain bike racing and new for me this year – gravel and unsupported endurance racing. I’ll be racing the best gravel races and bikepacking events of 2019: Tuscany Trail, Gritfest, Grinduro Scotland, Nova Eroica and Eroica California.
Sadly, Red Hook Crit isn’t happening this year, which means I’ll be racing fewer fixed gear crits than in 2018, but seeing as I had disappointing experiences at both the Red Hook Crits I attended last year, I probably need a break from the series. I’ll still be racing both editions of Thundercrit, some of the Minet Crit series, the Nocturne, possibly Mission Crit and likely one or two others so I’ll still get my ‘fix’…. (see what I did there?)
I really love fixed crit racing and naturally, I’m looking forward to those events. But what I’m really excited about this year is gravel racing because it’s brand spanking new to me. My first real experience of a gravel event was just last year at Toros de Gravel and I just loved it. Hopefully I’ve not been too spoiled by that experience for I’m sure not all of them include drinking wine and swimming… or maybe they do? Guess I’ll soon find out!
Whilst some might say that gravel riding means riding off-road on the wrong bike and on-road on the wrong one too (meaning a mountain bike would be better for the former and a road bike improve the later), I really like pushing the limits of what you can do with a bike and despite having a whole stable of bikes specific to certain kinds of riding, genuinely enjoy heading out with a one-size-fits-all machine and seeing where it takes me.
As I’ve been riding mountain bikes a fair old while now (indeed racing mountain bikes!) in theory I should be pretty well able to handle a gravel race and certainly, the parts that other people didn’t like at Toros – the rocky, steep, techy parts – were the very bits I found the most exciting. The only problem, as I see it, is the length of the races – gravel events tend to be looooooooong.
Photo by: Kyle Kelley. See The Radavist for more of his shots from Toros
So why can’t I race long events? Well, it’s not that I can’t, it’s that I mainly race ultra short, ultra fast races that require a high output for less than an hour, so that’s what I’ve become comfortable with. And being comfortable or confident is a big deal when it comes to racing.
When I think of racing longer distances, I worry that I’m going to run out of beans, way, way, way from the finish and be unable to complete the event. I wonder if I’ll appear weak or slow, despite telling myself that I’m doing it for me and it doesn’t matter what other people think. Actually, it’s not even about what other people think – it would be more accurate to say that feeling weak or inadequate makes me feel bad about myself because I like pushing my boundaries, surprising myself and feeling strong. I enjoy being good at things… to the extent that if I don’t think I’m good at something I won’t even do it (see: bowling)!
Endurance stuff is SO outside my comfort zone that I keep telling myself I can’t do I even though I want to do it and I bloody well can! So as an exercise in shutting up that annoying little voice on my shoulder a.k.a. the Very Loud and Irritating Chimp) I wrote a little piece about mindset for Velovixen.
The power of positive thinking is something I’ve been musing on a lot recently after watching some documentaries (Heal, for instance) and doing some very casual research. I also recently read Endure by Alex Hutchinson and it was interesting (though not entirely surprising) to discover just how much mind and body are intertwined.
I’ll leave you to read the piece on Velovixen, just summarising quickly here why it’s important to make a concerted effort to quieten the inner voice or learn how to deal with negative self-thought:
If a placebo can have physical results because you believe it works, why wouldn’t the opposite be true? If you place your faith and belief in something bad happening, in failure or in that fact your body will let you down, why couldn’t your mind influence that happening too?
Do you suffer from anxiety or self doubt? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below.