Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mental Toughness

During a conversation about race strategy last summer, a very talented racer & coach told me “The mind will tire before the body”. Her advice was to keep the mind fresh and the body will follow. After yesterday’s training ride I think I need to have this quote engraved into my stem so that I never forget it.

I could invent a number of reasons why yesterday’s ride was hard but the bottom line is that I simply wasn’t mentally “into it” from the beginning. This was to be my big ride for the week and I had planned on a solo 6 ½ hour road bike ride at a steady aerobic pace. I did end up riding 5:45:00 and a little over 100 miles but it required way more mental effort than it should have and I basically “survived” the ride.

On one hand, I am pissed that I didn’t complete my planned ride and struggled to finish a ride of this length when I already have several big rides under my belt this season. On the other hand, I am happy that I was able to salvage the day and complete a decent ride when I really wanted to pack it in early. Knowing myself, had I turned around at the two-hour mark when I really wanted to I would be very grumpy today.

I wish I could say that mental toughness was one of my biggest assets but the reality is that I often fight with my inner demons during a long ride or event. Hopefully as I gain experience and confidence I will be able to rely more on my mental toughness as a strength.


Geoff said...

the interesting thing about mental strength is how much it can change from day to day as compared to physical strength. physically our bodies are almost always going to perform within +/- 10% (provided you're in similar physical shape from one time to the next). mentally though our performance can so easily flucuate by 25% or more. and then once the mental strength drops drastically it brings our physical output right along with it. also though, with an exceptionally high mental output we can get our bodies to physically do some pretty amazing stuff. the point is: you had one bad day in which your mind brought your body down a few notches. this doesn't mean you're mentally weak, it means you're human. i often find that within a few days after a day like this i feel better than ever. hopefully it plays out like that for you.

Doug said...

I struggle with mental toughness quite a bit. After three years of intense training and road racing in the late 70's (including one trip to National Championships)I called it quits. The mental game drained me. I was burned out. It took me ten years before I rode a bicycle again. Then it took me another 10 years before I could enjoy just gong out for a ride without every ride being a "training ride". That's when cycling became fun for me. Then along comes the Arrowhead 135. It was really mentally tough putting in 8-10 hours of riding on the weekends in November and December. There were many days I just didn't want to be cold. In the end, because I started that race, I'm tougher mentally then I ever have been.