Friday, April 20, 2012
I love sprinting on my bike. It's such a rush. The speed, the adrenaline, the comments from neighbors as I wizz by their houses, the somewhat objective measure that helps me gauge how good a shape I'm in. I just love it.
But it does strike a measure of fear in me and for today the question is this: why? Two answers.
First, when I was a kid, I loved riding my bike--BMX--and had several pretty bad wrecks. One time I was flying down this series of 10-12 foot drops offs, there were probably 4 or 5 of them in a row interrupted by 100 yards or so of level ground (dirt). One of the drop offs took me by surprise and I ended up unintentionally doing the "superman" which didn't end well when I hit the next drop off! In this awkward position, I couldn't reach my brakes and thus hit the next drop off at full speed with no control and--ouch! I ripped the skin entirely off my upper right forearm. Oh I can still feel the months of "itchy scab" to this day.
On another occasion, I was jumping my bike over some concrete medians in our neighborhood. The curbs sloped upward in a diagonal fashion making for a perfect launching pad, and to make it even more enticing there were two of them in a row. So you'd jump the first one, land and pedal hard so that you could clear the second one, and jump again. One day, things didn't go according to the plan. After the first jump, I pedaled hard, the chain broke, and I flipped over the handle bars at full speed. I hit the back of my head on the second curb which knocked me out. When I came to, I got up and started pedaling home--boy did I feel woozy!
Someone stopped to help me, they seemed almost panicked. I didn't understand. It turned out that I was bleeding pretty badly, in fact, the entire back of my shirt was covered with blood. They got me home, my dad giggled and so did I, my mom nearly passed out--literally! Went to the hospital, got some stitches, I was just fine.
I could tell other stories but I'll stop there. The point is that I have memories from my childhood--10-16 years old--of some pretty bad crashes and to this day it makes me gun shy when I stand to crank the pedals as hard as I can at full speed. I can still feel the feeling of flipping over my handle bars, and now that I'm 45 rather than 12, I'm thinking it wouldn't turn out quite as well for me! So the first source of my fear is past experience.
Second, I'm a logical person and I can see the variety of circumstances which would land me on the pavement as I enter into a full out sprint. It's probably only a 5% possibility but I have so much responsibility in my life--I live to serve others to the glory of God--that I sometimes wonder as I begin to sprint, "Is this smart? Is the price of a crash really worth paying at this time of my life?" But the adrenaline junkie in me says, "Deal with it!"
I've been thinking a lot about this over the last few days, and I think these two things summarize well the sources of my fear. So what to do? Three thoughts:
First, care well for the bike so that I can trust the equipment I'm using. Of course, a chain can break on a fluke but that's exceedingly rare. More often than not, they break because of neglect. So if I care well for my equipment, and replace it when I should, then I can relax and put that out of my mind.
Second, I need to keep completing the form sprints workout every week so that I get more and more comfortable with body positioning and technique. Practice makes perfect. Repeated efforts produce muscle memory and instinct so that we think less and act more naturally, and aggressively.
Third, I need to spend more time visualizing, dealing with my fear, imagining wrecks--the worst case scenario--and imaging success--the best case scenarios. That is, I need to deal with the psychology of this off the bike more than on, I think. I've spent lots of time visualizing in the past, and found it very fruitful, but that's had more to do with producing speed or whatever, not dealing with fears. So I'm going to try visualization as a means of dealing with this fear and we'll see what happens.
Right now, I'm focused on completing a half marathon in three weeks (May 12 in Maple Grove, Minnesota), after which I'll focus more intensely on cycling. I hope to hit 30 mph in a sprint by the end of May and then reach my goal of 32-35 mph sprint by the end of June. Thanks for reading this long psycho-blog! I'd love to hear any feedback.