" Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical" - Yogi Berra
Now I realize Yogi is no Chris Carmichael , but putting his atrocious math skills aside, I have really come to appreciate this quote when I apply it to cycling.
You know the moment: You are cruising along, feeling great. You come to that hill. You begin to climb that hill . I am climbing strong today! Then it happens. You get passed by someone on that hill. Hey, wasn't that the wobbly dude I screamed by on that flat stretch a while back? Okay, keep peddling, don't freak out. Pass number two, the older woman in the leopard print shirt, who you thought was in the B group. Damn! Keep peddling, don't freak out. Pass number three, the guy that looks like the host of Man vs. Food, his creaking crankset and all, floats by you. ^%$%#^!!! I am freaking out! Suddenly, I feel exhausted, grunting and breathing spastically, like I am doing a voice over for a bad porn video.
Several years ago, a moment like that would have devastated me to such an extent that I would have probably dismounted, and in a fit of despair, thrown my bike into the woods. But on a recent Sunday ride, when the same thing occurred, I was much more calm, did not freak out, and after the climb, steadily worked my way back to the group. Hmmm. Which leads me to my next quote: "Free your mind and your ass will follow" - Funkadelic
Why the change in reactions? I guess there are several answers. First, I have been training with people who are younger and stronger than me. Nothing like repeated ass whippings to strengthen one's resolve. Second, I have been riding with several different cycling clubs, with a wide variety of riders. Important lesson here: Just because someone does not look like Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contatdor, does not mean they do not posses the skill/genetics/training/desire/ etc. to crush you at any given moment on any given ride. The quicker you come to this realization, the less the need for a session with your local sport psychologist. Third, and most importantly: Remember why you are out there in the first place. You LIKE to ride! In this wondrous age of technology, it is easy to fall prey to the seductive allure of all manner of digital instrumentation in the hopes of gaining that edge. Next thing you know, you are hunched over your laptop at Starbucks, poring over a spread sheet, looking for trends in your wattage output. That guy on the ride that ran into the back of a parked car with his Pinnarello was probably trying to sync his altimeter to his HTC Droid in order to upload it to his PC. T.M.I., as my daughters would say. (Too much information)
Remember why you are out there in the first place. You LIKE to ride. So every once in a while, ditch the cyclometer and head out for a ride. Enjoy the scenery. Give your body AND mind a recovery day, and the next group ride, when you get dropped on that hill, don't freak out. Relax, get on up that hill, and rejoin the group.
Free you mind, and your spandex covered ass will follow.