Lets face it when you are racing at your limit time is not normally your friend. You are counting down the miles and minutes before the suffering ends. Even on a great day you might be just trying to hold off your arch rival until the end of the race.
Imagine if you could change your perception of time? Imagine what a powerful advantage you would have if somehow you could escape time for the last 5 miles?
It is absolutely possible, and I can give you a few examples that have happened to me.
Before you starting thinking I’ve been training in Boulder and visiting the dispensary, what I am talking about is being so deep in the zone that your perception of time alters. It’s almost a trance like state where you become so hyper focused and in the moment that your sense of normal time disappears.
This is called “flow” or “being in the zone” and here are a few real world examples I’ve experienced…
The first example is music. When I was young I was a pro drummer that also sang. Of course the drummer is responsible for laying down a solid steady beat or groove. When it’s fast and you are hitting hard it’s not easy. Yet there are those magic nights that the music just flows from you. You are not conscious of the timing, the words, the rhythm the past or the future. The music just flows from you. It’s a spiritual and euphoric feeling.
When I was playing well with great musicians this happened fairly often. But this gift only came after many years of practicing and performing.
In sports this zen state is harder for me to find, but I do seek it, and when it comes it’s a blessing. Often it just a few minutes but sometimes it has lasted almost an hour.
My most memorable cycling “zen race” was competing in Sutton Quebec for the Masters Cycling North American Championships. And the experience became obvious because of “missing laps” that bookmarked the experience. This race was a late afternoon criterium which the 3rd stage of a stage race.
We had to do something like 40 laps on the technical and fast course. At one point we were blasting down the highway at 30 mph, then diving into a tight corner with a hill on it. The first few laps were ripping fast. I was near my limit and recall coming by the start finish and reading 28 laps to go and thinking how the hell am I going to hang in that long.
Once we got on the back straight there was an attack and I sprinted flat out to get in the move and everything started flowing. I was so deep in the moment I wasn’t thinking, just flowing with the move. The next thing I knew was heard the bell clanging for the last lap! And I recall being shocked and thinking, how did that happen!
It turns out I got boxed in right at the end and finished 5th. But on that night top 3 was a very real possibility. And I can say for certain at the level of racing, on that night, that was only possible by being deep in the zone.
Again I can’t make this happen at will but there are a few things that seem to be common when it does happen:
It is possible that my DNA makes me more susceptible to finding the zone. I am a notoriously right brain driven (creative vs. analytical) and I often live in the moment and trust my subconscious mind to guide me.
That said I suspect everyone could benefit by finding the zone from the time to time.
Here are a few good books and articles about this elusive place.
Breath deep, let go, and let this happen!
With all the cancelations due to the coronavirus virus it looks like I will have some free time on my hands.
I want to stay productive and have decided to start a new blog.
I've been lucky enough to help out and coach a few local athletes so this blog is really a format to share some of the lessons I've learned over the past 40 years of racing with them and perhaps a few of others.
Fair warning... I think there is a lot of misinformation written about cycling and triathlon and some of the more important things aren't even talked about, so some of my topics may seem controversial. But that is exactly the reason I think they need to be said!
I guess the best place to start is how the blog, and my coaching, got it's name.
From 1999 to 2015 I owned Bethel Cycle in Northwest Connecticut. We had an awesome cycling and triathlon team and were part of a vibrant cycling scene. My shop was in the hometown of Cannondale and we raced all season in the Industrial Park where Cannondale was located (that just reminded me of a another cool story about Cadel Evans).
There was a local hotshot bike racer about 15 years younger than me named BeeJay. We became friends and he worked in my shop part time. BeeJay could suffer an insane amount and then pull off a monster sprint. I started bike racing late in life, and I think Beejay saw some promise in me and was good enough to show me the ropes and give me some solid advice.
One of his funny sayings was "the more you race the more stupid you become." And it was true! What he meant is that bike racing is so hard that you almost have to do it all the time to go numb to the intense pain. It only starts working when you can go on autopilot and not think about it too much.
Anyway one late summer day BeeJay and I and a few others were out ripping up in the Litchfield Hills. We were all super fit from a hard season of racing and at some point the ride turned from a training ride to an all out throw down. I remember being in pain and looking at my power data. I was on BeeJay's wheel and was cranking out 420 watts on Route 7 along the Housatonic River! It was as hard as any race I did that year. I jumped for the Cornwall Bridge Town Line and BeeJay yelled out "Pelican you are putting me in the pain cave!"
Soon after we stopped to refuel at a country deli. And we got in a little argument. I said "why are you going so hard?" He said "Pelican you put me in the pain cave." And he was right. There is a knife edge point when competition changes from being really hard to a flat out fight where your animal instincts take over.
That place is called the Pain Cave.
I'm not suggesting that every training ride turns into a race, there is a time and a place. But I do feel the natural reaction is to back down, not go harder when you get to this point. And if you want to win you need to cross that line not only racing but in controlled training sessions.
Have you visited the Pain Cave lately?