I am a new person every time I stand on the start line. This season, I was blessed enough to stand on some pretty incredible start lines. It was an outstanding season, filled with new experiences, bigger races, stronger finishes, and as always, lots of learning.
This weekend I lined up for my final race of the season, the PanAmerican Cyclocross Championship. Despite how amazing this season was, I had left everything out on the trails. I pushed my mind and my body to a point further than I knew possible multiple times. Through much perseverance I stood on podiums, earned a title, endured crashes, and even survived a car accident. My body had come to the end of its rope. When I lined up for the race on Saturday, I knew I was at the end of the rope, but I hoped my body would surprise me.
On Saturday evening, my body did not surprise me. After months and months of giving, I felt empty. My legs were pedaling backwards. Words like ‘exhausted’ were flying through my mind as my legs and body cramped. With 3 laps to go still, it was all I could do to continue around the course. When I crossed the finish I felt distraught. I only had 23 hours until the PanAmerican Championship and I had to turn this feeling around.
It was time to employ the village. I spoke with my coach, friends, and family, expressing my feelings and putting my emotions out into the world. Finally, I spoke with the Clif Team Manager and he reminded me to turn lemons into lemonade. Nothing in my legs was going to change within 24 hours, but my mind held all the power that I needed.
I stood on the start line on Sunday, once again a new person. My mind felt contained to one place, the place of “I can.” I had no room for extra thoughts. I employed the sport’s psychology technique of “thought stoppage.” “I doesn’t matter.” This simple phrase allowed me to push my body past its normal limits. This phrase is often confusing to people because the LAST thing it means to me is that the race doesn’t matter. For me, “it” are all of the uncontrollables in the race. The uncontrollable are the temperature, the lap numbers, my start position, the competition, how I feel, the discomfort…all of these things do not matter. Once I am able to eliminate all the unnecessary worrying I can focus on all the things that do matter.
Studies have shown that humans can only effectively focus on one thing for 20 minutes. In races that last quadruple that amount of time, most cyclists are asked to focus and refocus multiple times throughout an event. By eliminating unnecessary stressors I found my mind clearly focused on the task at hand. Who would have thought that simplification is actually the biggest challenge and creates the best results. The less thoughts we have, the more in depth the thoughts we do have, become. Simplification for intensification.
On Sunday, my body was still struggling, but my mind was on point. I rode my way to 13th in my first elite (non-U23) championship event, the CX PanAmerican Championship. This is a result I am proud of because I once again overcame. I experienced the power of the mind.
Thank you to everyone for an incredible season. Thank you for the encouragement and for following along with me on this amazing journey. Now it’s time for a little time off, and breaking into the off-season and preparing for 2018 racing. I will keep you updated as the weeks roll by. Let me know if have any topics you want discussed in a post. The off-season is a great time to address new and old questions.