I’m sure we’ve all heard “we all have to face the same conditions today” countless times when you show up to a race. It is only when we stop for a moment to dive deeper into the mindset aspect of this to see one’s true human potential. Those that handle the most adverse conditions the best, have the best mindset.
If we could have a perfect weather day handed to us on race day every time on silver platter, more and more would show up and one’s true potential will never really be seen. Mother Nature must always be respected, then fought back to the best of one’s ability. The glory of bike racing, triathlon, running, and most solo sports, is that the athlete’s will all face the same conditions in the moment. Knowing the weather ahead of time and facing it is a mindset game. If you go in with a good attitude and have positive self talk, you can tell yourself you are tougher than others and that only your best effort today matters. No one else matters. No one else’s negative talk on the weather matters. You facing the conditions knowing you are going to out-suffer, out-wit, and out-last your competition is what matters the most. This does not mean to be stupid stubborn… Being underdressed in colder temperatures is not what I mean. Rising up and fighting Mother Nature back by being prepared with clothing and strategically dressing/undressing is an art, to be perfected. If you are not good at this, facing the cold weather and dressing appropriately is the next practice step for you. If you are able to face these conditions and conquer them, then you will have that experience forever that makes you stronger.
Whenever I need a mindset check to appreciate the moment, I look back to some of the worst days of the ride from Florida to Alaska and back. Riding in 33 degree rain going 10mph into a headwind in the Bush-Forest of Manitoba for 4-hours on highway 10 heading towards the town of The Pas was not an experience that made me weaker. I’ll never forget as the freezing rain flooded our tent in the rock-bed overnight and after wolfing down cold oatmeal, we had to frantically pack up to get going on the road. As much plastic bags we put all over ourselves to stay dry, the freezing water slowly trickled down to completely soak our feet and froze our feet. With a car passing on average every 30-45’ on the barren highway, my mindset was that at least I’m not climbing Mount Everest and end up freezing to death with no one to help… I had read about these experiences from Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air from my high school senior research project. At absolute worse case, we could put ourselves in the middle of the road and hope a stranger will slow down (and with the blinding rain, hopefully see us to slow down for help). It was bad and we were suffering more than ever. Our mindset became, while it could be better, it could still also be much, much worse! I told myself, one day I would look back on this with great appreciation and respect for mother nature. I knew there was no getting out of this present moment. Quitting was NOT an option. The Florida to Alaska and back journey would not end here. Better days will come. Looking back, a real mindset check now is that I am thankful to be able to pedal my bike, as that is a memory my Uncle that I could not repeat right now. I can walk, and can wake up and I do not have to do what I do, I am ABLE to do it. One day, the memories and stories can be passed down to inspire someone to never give up and never put their dreams on hold. More over, one day, you may not have the opportunity that you have RIGHT NOW!
After you know what you’re up against weather wise, fight back, and rise to the occasion. At yesterday’s time trial, times were slower across the board by 45-75” for most riders. It can be discouraging knowing your fastest time and effort compared to what you are doing when the wind and weather is least favorable. If your mindset is in the right place, you race your guts out, remain nonchalant, then you ultimately have nothing to lose for that day. Aerodynamics, dressing properly, and knowing that the one that can tackle the conditions the best is what brings out the best performances of the day. Those that endure and are there in the present moment and get the job done, will then find a greater appreciation going forward from the experience. Consequently, you may one day be blessed with Mother Nature being in your favor, which is where the real epiphanies arise.
The day that comes once in a decade where the wind blows in your favor, pushing you to a record you never though was possible. For me, this came on 6/9/2015 at the Orlando Airport Time Trial. It was my 24th birthday and a storm came that was intimidating on radar and hit in the middle of the race. I did not back down and the thunder and light show in the sky amplified my drive to go for the personal record. The storms exhilarated me and I was embracing the present moment, as I have no clue when this might happen again. The storm front shifted the winds part way through the time trail and boom, after a 33.0mph outbound leg, I was coming back at 32.2mph for an 32.6mph overall average speed for the 7-miles. Everything aligned right that night in which I will never forget, and it has not ever hit since. Those that rose to the occasion therein where then able to FIND THE CHAMPION WITHIN!