By: Collin Daulong
Recently I was riding at one of my local favorites in CT, Huntington State Park. This place is rocky, pretty flat and lacks flow; the anti-environment of where my hardtail is at home. I love riding there because it opens up a lot of challenges to an xc hardtail race bike (compared to my full-suspension); it brings me back to the beginner phase of riding and keeps my mind sharp and present. It is one of those places that if you let your guard down it can sneak up on you and kick you in the teeth, literally.
My goal when I ride there differs vastly from when I ride Kingdom Trails. At kingdom trails i go for speed and distance, where here I go for cleaning as many sections as I can smoothly. In the winter and shoulder seasons an extra level of challenge is presented with leaves, ice, leaves on wet ice and ice on rocks. Regardless, when I complete my rides and clean things I am usually proud of myself and excited.
There is one section that has been a crux for me since getting my hardtail, it is a stream crossing followed by a hard 90 degree up hill turn with a big rock in the way and with the entry and exit littered with leaves. I usually go into it trying to balance line choice, being present, with momentum, power and stability. Also, with my bike lacking a dropper I do not have nearly as much mobility on top of the bike as I usually do.
Yesterday I was riding there with my friend Paul who was riding really well that day and I was not. I had stuffed down a caprese sandwich, a shot of espresso and biscotti right before the ride leaving me with the sensation that all those things were going to come back up for an encore. Beyond that my knee started feeling some sharp pains on technical climbs. I was out of it in every sense of the word, basically felt like a bobbly head figurine on the dash of a sports car driving down a bumpy road.
The lack of fluidity that was happening during the ride left me pretty uninspired by the end of the ride but we were approaching my crux move, something that I always give some forethought to before I get there. Paul and I were talking while riding to it that I need to visualize and do some positive self talk in a sarcastic manner (even though I do this sort of thing all the time in my personal, professional and athletic life)
We pull up to the feature and Paul is first; he goes for it and does not make it. As he comes back up to try it again I begin to roll in jokingly saying “I have climbed this, I make this no problem, this is easy” along with visualizing what it would look like to ride it out. Next thing, wouldn’t you know it, I get to the section and execute it perfectly. There was no dabbing, hesitation, tire spin or anything. All of the parts of the equation were balanced and left me feeling grateful and ecstatic.
Now, earlier I said that I practice positive self talk and visualizations for our business, my personal life and for my sport so there should be no reason why I am stunned by the results of applying it to this situation but I was.
What this particular example showed me is that you have absolute control over your actions with your thoughts which can dictate whether you succeed or fail. And even in the state that I was during this whole ride, I took a moment to reinforce positive thinking, then remaining present and executing to achieve something that on my best days can challenge me.
Now what made today different….I like to think that I primed the system for success. Usually when I roll into this section I have these preconceived notions of how it will go, that it will be difficult, my tires will slip because they are slick and so on and so forth (all of which are true in some regard). So even though I am not actively thinking “I am going to fail” I do fail myself before I even get there with those thoughts. Now on this ride I took action and verbally blocked out those thoughts with actively speaking the opposite of what they were.
Now this probably sounds like some kooky shit but it is not. We as people fail ourselves so often before we even really give things an unbiased and whole-hearted shot.
This may be easy to say but what I would challenge you to do is find anything that gives you difficulty, (it doesn’t have to be biking) and before you go and do whatever it is, bombard yourself with detailed positive self-talk, visualizations and do the best to create the reality that you want prior to doing it.
I think if you can genuinely do this you will surprise yourself with the results you achieve. When you do it you have to do it with all your heart, you need to yell these things, talk it out or do whatever to get your head in the right please, just get there. And you may think…man people are going to think i’m crazy, well yes some may, but I guarantee once you achieve what you want to you they will not anymore. (And even if they do, who cares! You have achieved your desired result.)
If you go out to try this let me know how it goes!