Challenge, the most fun part of life?

Isn’t it funny how we often seek the easiest path even when we know the tougher path will be more fun and more rewarding? If we look back at our life the easy victories are not the moments we remember and cherish it is then moments when we were challenged that stand out. After failing at climbing the “widow maker” in Grand Junction at least five times and walking it each time over two years it is the time I finally climbed it that I can remember like it was yesterday. Lets face it, anyone in reasonable shape can walk their bike off a tough climb but riding it is much more rewarding! So go out and challenge yourself on your next ride. Go 10 feet further on the widow maker climb, shave 2% off your fastest lap time on your favorite loop, clean that step up maneuver that keeps intimidating you, ride 4 mile or 30 minutes longer than you ever have, push yourself a little harder. You will thank yourself and feel better after meeting a challenge head on and conquering it.

I returned to Bromont, Quebec for the first time since 2002 for a race last weekend and nearly chickened out! The course was steep, rocky, with a fair amount of rocks, fun to ride and little scary to go race pace on. Then it rained! The steep sections were now an inch deep in mud and I was scared, “will I be able to make the steep turns in this muck? Will I be able to slow down? I am getting older, I don’t have anything to prove, maybe I should just take this weekend off…” was running in my head. I had to stop for a fallen rider in my first practice run in the mud and was scared to restart with muddy tires on the steep off camber rocks so I went a round. Well, that didn’t help my confidence, so despite being soaked and cold I took a second practice run and made it down slower than when it was dry but I made it down clean! Well by the time my race run rolled around 3.5 hours later the course had been torn up by over 150 riders and when I hit the steep section it looked really ugly and fear hit me again but the enthusiastic fans (I love racing in Quebec, quite a few fans braved the rain and mud and had hiked up to the toughest sections of the course) urged me on and I dropped in and railed the steep, muddy and off-camber section! Wow, that felt good! I haven’t been that scared of a downhill course in years and it felt great to look fear in the eye and go for it again! I am not recommending you do something over your head (which even if you make it you will just feel lucky) but go out and challenge yourself.

What good are skills if you can’t use them under pressure?

I just received this email from a student:  “Hi Gene,
I’ve really started to feel the effects of your camp and my technique has got a hell of a lot better, when I’m racing i feel so confident and fast in practice

But then when it gets to seeding and race runs this all goes out of the window and i just end up falling off, I’m not riding outside of my limits and i know that i can ride well enough to be threatening the top spot in my category but i just seem to not be able to manage the pressure and the mental side of things.

Any tips on race mentality etc??”

This a tough thing for many racers and as I mentioned a few times in
my camp, what good are all the skills if you can’t use them when
needed?

You need to toughen up your mental game. First, remember there is
no difference between a race and a practice run, same track, same
racer, same bike, same goal.  The only difference between your race
run and a practice run is the pressure YOU but on the run. Treat your
race rub=n as another practice run (especially if you are doing timed
practice runs using a stopwatch)  then read these two blog posts:
http://betterride.net/blog/2010/are-you-tough-part-1/ and
http://betterride.net/blog/2010/are-you-tough-part-2/ and most
importantly ready, study, practice, master one of these books from
your homework assignment:

The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental, Emotional, and Physical
Conditioning from One of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists
by James E. Leohr, Chris Evert, Dan Jansen,

Excellent book with work sheets to help you practice what it teaches.

The Mental Edge: Maximize Your Sports Potential with the Mind/Body Connection
by Ken Baum, Richard Trubo,

Excellent book with work sheets to help you practice what it teaches.

Body Mind Mastery: Creating Success in Sport and Life
by Dan Millman,

Really, really great book that goes a little deeper into why you
compete in sports and helps you integrate sport and life (helps you
see and create balance in your life so the sport does not take over
your life).

Most importantly have fun!  That’s what keeps Steve Peat and Minnaar on top.

Wow, more excited emails from students, then one about a blog post.

This blog post (the  number 1 thing holding you back post) could not have come at a better time! And it is so true. XC Ontario Cup #3 is on May 30 and I’ve been stressing myself out since my first preride on the weekend by telling myself that I’m not good enough to do this race. The race is combined as a Canada Cup race – so it is a lot harder than I’m used to for an Ontario Cup. I have one really weak skill in XC – log overs on a steepish climb (or on any climb depending how big the log/roots bit is). And the course is just littered with them. Steep climbs with big roots/logs. Even logs on flat ground trouble me if they are big enough (and there’s a few biggies on the course!). I constantly smack my cranks against them or have no momentum because I’m scared if I go faster, I’ll just crash harder (happened a few times before).  I spin out, stall without the momentum I need, or I just put my foot down in defeat. And to add to it – the Canada Cup start time schedule is different – so now the Senior Sport Men are in our start time too instead of later in the day. I’ve never had a pack of those fast guys on the course at the same time as me before! Combined with all the tough spots on the course…well….I’ve been telling myself all week that I can’t do this race. That I’m not good enough for a Canada Cup.

My Elite racing friend took me on a preride of the course and watched me conquer similar sections and spin out/stop on other sections. He gave me some advice on body positioning and technique but told me that my problem wasn’t the skill, it was psychological. I’m so used to telling myself that I can’t do it, that I’ve spent so much time NOT doing it. I went to the local forest yesterday for a 3 hour enduro ride where I started from scratch on the skill and worked my way up bigger and bigger logs/roots-on-hills. I can lift my front wheel better and I can now get up and over things I wasn’t getting before. It’s a start. But your blog really hit home this week! I do admit I am still nervous like heck for the race on Sunday and I’m still battling the voice of the mind!
More than my fitness or anything else! It really is true …”Fear is the mind killer” -Dune.

Thanks Gene!

Cheers
Laura

Check out this email! Andy Loves His Job Too!

It is emails like this that make me love what I do.  It feels great to have past down my coaching techniques to one of my long time riding buddies (and racing nemesis! Andy is faster and smoother than me).
Gene,
I’m still “coming down” from the excitement of attending your mountain bike skills camp. Exciting because I have been “winging it” on a mountain bike for the last 20 years. There are no more “gray areas”, it’s now black and white. I will be practicing and implementing the skills that I learned, for the rest of my mountain bike life.
I’m sure that you have heard this before, your head coach Andy W. is perfect. Besides his obvious experience he has the natural ability to pass on the essential material. His instruction was polished combined with his people skills and communication skills. When it comes to constructive criticism, I can’t think of anything that could have been improved on and have nothing to add.
This was a priceless experience that I will never forget.  I’m amazed at how much better of a rider I have already become. With your skills that I learned, I definitely accomplished my goal to become a better and safer mountain bike rider.
The camp location was a 8 hr. drive for me and well worth it.  For people that you have that might be “on the fence” about attending one of your camps, tell them that no matter what it takes (time and money), attend a skills camp ASAP. It will pay dividends every time they get on the bike.

Thanks, Rich Schmit.