Who can forget when Neo just begins to discover he really is “the one“, when Morpheus utters that simple line, “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”, in the movie The Matrix (1999 [1999?!])?
So it is with cycling and speed. There’s a difference between knowing fast and cycling fast – actually doing it. The tone of this post should not be taken as one of braggadocio, but of humility. In cycling, the phrase there’s always someone faster was ever thus and shall always be. I am a very small fish in a very big pond… but I’m a small fish who also happens to be decent with a keyboard – and we are a rare breed, indeed.
First, I’m going to be straight up here. If you try to push your limits, you’re going to get dropped every now and again. You’re going to spend some miles crawling back after you’ve popped. How can you learn to pass your limit if you don’t know your limit in the first place?
Next, and this is a big one, you have to shove aside that negative self-talk and doubt bullshit. I know people near as strong as I am but talk themselves into hurting when they’ve got gas left in the tank. They’re miserable and struggling and I’m just cruising along. If ever there was a saying to embrace in cycling, “this too shall pass”. When I’m feeling a haggard, I know it’ll pass and I’ll feel at least a little better before long. There’s an ebb and flow to cycling at higher speeds. Try to concentrate on the flow a lot more than the ebb. In fact, let go of the ebb.
Save your good legs for the big days! If you’re one who lets a lack of confidence gnaw at you, for the love of God and all that is holy, good legs for good days. You don’t go out the day before a big ride and go hard. We mere mortals have to pick our battles. Of course, you don’t take a day off either. The day before a big ride is perfect for an active recovery day. You’ll want to be slow enough that you get a little antsy about whether or not you should be trying a little harder. If ever there was a day to take a few pictures along your route, the day before a big day is it. Chill out and ride on the bar-tops a bit.
Eat, but don’t be all crazy about it. Carb-loading is great and all, but you can only store so much “carb” before it becomes “fat”. An extra slice of pizza? Great. An extra pizza? Not so much. If you feel like crap when you clip in, you’ll be thinking about that extra pizza weighing you down. Cue confidence train wreck and you dropping off the back, dejected. Don’t do that to yourself.
Now, finally, repeat after me: I am a badass. I’m a horse. I am fast. I am strong.
Now get out there and hammer it out.