Monday, March 19, 2007

Landahl - Baptism by fire




baptism of fire
n.
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 "lemond" "LeMans" (see oldmanandhisbike's comment for origination) style, which apparently means you run in a 50-70 yard circle, pick up your bike and pedal like mad for position on the single track. It's to spread out the racers at the start. Because running is one of the things I'm not half shabby at, I got a good start and it was at least 20 minutes or so before I blew it and had my first wreck. Upon going down, I drug my bike and myself off the trail and watched oodles of people go by. The racer in me hurt something fierce, but the brain kicked in, reminding, "you're not here to race today. You are here to learn to ride the bike." Then my dad's voice in my head, "slow down and be fast." So, I started talking to myself -- out loud.

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.

22 comments:

Neve_r_est said...

Landahl is a good place to learn all the skills that will make you fast in the worst conditions. I never said it would be easy, just good training ;) And I did warn you before the start.

Ouachita. More climbing, less beating. Your strengths will make you even better suited there. Theres even a couple road and gravel sections. There are a few places you will have to dismount, but everyone will be dismounting there. Just look for the ribbons in the trees, lol. I hope you are coming down Friday so you can get a feel for it on our Saturday fun ride.

Did you do the road race Sunday?

DG

Chris said...

Your body knows when you should push and when you shouldn't. I am sure you did the wise thing.

Maybe you are an MTB natural. :)

3p0 said...

congrats syd. I knew you'd do fine...

you got skizzils..

I'm glad to hear ouachita won't be as rocky... I'm not glad though it will be more climbing... oh well...

you won't have much to worry about, I'll be behind you in case you need anything...

(uh, I'll be behind you all year...)

sydney_b said...

neve_r_est, that's true. You never said it would be easy. Nobody did, but neither did they say there would be hideous poking rock narrows to to mutilate my legs, or that pointed rocks like half footballs would jut up from the earth in attempts to flatten my tires or even impale me.

I don't know about that, Chris. The subsequent day's road race .... every time I felt crappy I thought, how smooth this road is..how lovely...how fast...how safe. ;)

You know, cvo, its your cheery can-do attitude that partly got me into that .... one of these days...

Andy said...

Never saw you during the race, you must be too damn quick. And Dennis it right, Landahl is definetly harder than Ouachita. The rock sections aren't all rideable and definetly don't forget to look in the trees when you can't see the trail, Dennis is right about that too. And talking to yourself, it is weird, but I've been doing it since I was little and it definetly helps. Good job and good luck in Arkansas

Neve_r_est said...

Now who in there right mind would show up to a race described like that?

....and then do a road race the next day....

Welcome to the club ;)

DG

sydney_b said...

DG, i think you're calling me some kind of nut, but not to feel upset cuz i've found a whole passle of like nuts. I can live with that. In fact, I kinda dig it. :D

Actually really looking forward to Ouachita now.

VeloCC said...

Syd, welcome to MTB:))) I am peoud of you!!

Cornbread said...

Syd you were doin' great when I rode with you for a bit. You're catching on quick. Wilderness is a great place to learn cuz you can rail it. I highly suggest it.

Anonymous said...

Good Going, Syd. Enjoyed the way your described the trail. Kinda like the rodeo crowd...they don't lie to you, they just tell it a different way. *LOL*

Always remember it's a contest, between you and you...don't ever beat yourself.

Dad

Neve_r_est said...

...especially not over the head with a rock...

DG

ok, i gotta go build something.

bryan said...

Great ride, Syd. That's gotta be exciting for the first time out.

Squirrel said...

Syd you should be stoked...you rocked that course even if you crashed a few times thats part of the MTB learning curve. Just don't think...just ride & flow. When I was behind you, before I said anything I was watching you....insert funny kinky smile here....your ass off of the seat letting the bike flow under you, keeping your center of gravity above the seat....useing your upper body...FLOWING LIKE ART IN MOTION...shit girl I would have never known this was a 1st,2nd,or 3rd trail ride...you rocked it:) Ride with those who have skillz & mojoe, mimic that body english & enjoy:0

Peace

MG said...

great story syd - i'm stoked for you too, because you're already this good, and you're only going to get better with time and experience.

and squirrel's right -- you've got great instinctual bike handling skills. remember the first time you and i rode wilderness together (on a tuesday night ride last summer)? remember how nate, you and i were flying through the trees on the way back? yeah, you were feelin' it, and you were railin' it too. use the force, syd.

everyone, myself included, has bruises all over their bodies from hitting trees, rocks, the ground... whatever, during the race. that's just how it goes in mountain bike races. it's just a different type of adversity you have to overcome (when compared to a road race).

congrats again syd. you're an awesome competitor.

cheers,
mg

cyclingdave said...

way to go.

i think 'slow down and be fast' is a perfect description of 'mojo' & 'the force.' look where you want to on the trail not where you don't want to be.

sydney_b said...

Thank you all for your encouragement and advice. You can't imagine how helpful it is. When self-doubt tries to rear its ugly head, or I don't know what to do with something coming up on the trail, invariably one of your voices speaks in memory and I make it through.

You've got me looking forward to Ouachita and mtb events with enthusiasm. Because, I must admit, there is something exquisitely pleasurable about zipping through the trees when the flow is a flowing.

:)

nicol said...

Interesting read, Sydney, and great job! :) Liked the part about your positive self-talk while riding the course. It must work!

gravy said...

If you dig any farther, you're gonna reach China real soon.

monkeygirl said...

well done Syd.

Cornbread said...

You've got me looking forward to Ouachita and mtb events with enthusiasm. Because, I must admit, there is something exquisitely pleasurable about zipping through the trees when the flow is a flowing.

Bingo! We have a winner! Now you're a mountain biker.

oldmanandhisbike said...

Congrats on your first place finish. Though you did it by beating our hometown favorites, it was pretty impressive for your first MTB race.
P.S. The start is called "LeMans style" after the French Grand Prix 24 hour race where the drivers have to run to their cars at the start. Although, I like your spin on it with LeMond. Cyclist, Lemond, LeMans, French Grand Prix, Tour de France; pretty funny!

sydney_b said...

Thx for filling me in on where "LeMans" comes from. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what folks were talking about there at the start or what a start like that would have to do with Lemond, but what do I know. :D thx again!