baptism of fire
1. A soldier's first experience of actual combat conditions.
2. A severe ordeal experienced for the first time.
Hmm. My trust in the mtb kind is a little sketchy these days. When I first learned of the Landahl race, I asked around to see if it would be good prep for Ouachita, to which I was already committed and nervous about. Everyone said, "yeah you should go." No details. No nothin', even when I told 'em I was new at this sort of thing. As the date neared, a couple said, "it's a little rocky." I thought, ok, a few rocks, I can do that. THEN, Friday nite when I arrive at Rob's shop to pick up the Badger, he asks me if I've ridden Landahl before.
I say, "No. I told you I've never done this kind of thing. I've done two mtb races and I rarely ride any trails." And, do you know what he says?
With a big ass grin and shaking his head, he says, "Oh man, you are gonna die." You can imagine how confident I felt at that moment. (But seriously, what else would you expect of a Texan who spent his youth hunting up team ropin's and bike races in close proximity?)
By about 9-10pm he and Josh finished putting the bike together and I rode it across the yard and off the curb. First time I'd experienced shocks. Wow. And then it handled like nothing I've ever ridden. It just felt immediately as if it were an extension of me and small bit of confidence returned. At that moment I thought to myself, "It'll be ok. I'm gonna wear my helmet. I probably won't die."
The next day we arrive at the course and it's cold, windy, and cloudy. Yuck. Some folks who know me from the 'cross season say hi and it cheers me up. I then pump Rob and Josh for info on such basics as how does it start? What do you do when you come through? What do I need to carry with me? And all sorts of things they do without even thinking about it. Then Rob and I rode the first tiny non-rocky bit of the course. Not too bad. Gave me a much needed illusion of doability.
The start was one they call "
So yeah, if you heard me being chatty, the technical term for such activity is called self-talk and is a well-researched learning and performance strategy. Children do it naturally and as we age we take the self-talk into our heads.
When I saw the rocks for the first time, not only was I shaken from the first spill, I was scared, so I knew positive self-talk ALOUD was maybe the only way to get myself through it.
"OK baby, you can do it. Just relax. Keep your weight back. Focus on where you want to go. Good. Good. You did it." The only thing missing was the type of hand clapping you might give a small child. Laugh if you want, but this will save you when you're scared and stuck with what seems an impossible task because it helps to initiate positive neural nets (the interconnected synaptic paths of your long-term memory) which leads to confidence (expectation/belief that you can do it), which improves the liklihood that you will have a successful outcome. I'm not making this up. I've spent a lot of time in grad school. ;)
Anyway, I finally caught up with Roxy, who does this sort of thing a lot and so I followed her close and tried to learn. When she got to this thing called "Perry's Revenge" or somesuch, she dismounted and ran her bike. If I coulda taken my hands of the bars, I would have bopped myself on the head. DUH! Use your 'cross skills! If it's too nasty looking, get the hell off the bike and use your ability to run and lift the thing. DOH! Sometimes it's so hard to see the obvious. So between that and Marc's suggestion to use the hills and the more open spots to make use of the power I've developed with the roadie training, I finally regained my spot and managed to eek out a win.
I should let you know however, that I had another endo that really slammed me hard and bruised the heck out of my left thigh, took out a dead tree, and had numerous bar slams into other trees, and multiple instances of not so positive talk during the race. The laps showed steady improvement tho and laps 6 and 7 were pretty clean.
I was told that Ouachita won't be as bad, although it will also have some 'rocky bits.' Do I believe this? Not really, but so long as it isn't too much worse, I'll be able to finish and I'll just ride what I can ride confidently as fast as my energy will allow, then slow down or even get off for the rest, and that will have to do. After all, you can't even place if you don't finish. And to finish, you really need to keep the tire side down. :)
Oh, and the Perry Lake Spring Road Race the subsequent day was nothing really to write home about other than I had to pull up towards the end of the second lap. We came around the corner and Catherine and the leading masters men put on a little power and I stepped to do the same and felt where I hit that left leg send an alarm. So, I backed way off, rubbed it a bit, then slowly cranked it up again to a level I thought I could sustain for the rest of the race and got a good workout. I know, some of you might say I should have just dug a little deeper and done it anyway, but I'm telling you I've spent a lot of time following a carefully crafted training program and I'm not wanting an injury to biff it up when the important races are yet to come.