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!