Updated: Dec 21, 2018
Joe here - learning how to go further has many elements to it.
Sure you have to ride longer, ride differently. You usually have to change your position on the bike. You have to figure out how to fuel yourself hour after hour. You have to confront your mind or your mind confronts you when you start getting into really long hours.
I train my mind just like any other muscle. If I don't it becomes the weak link and a mental weak link is just as damaging as a physical one.
Training the mind requires the same discipline as training the body. You decide the direction of improvement and you apply pressure in a consistent way. Over time you become stronger.
This is much more than positive thinking. This is rigorous application of thought that over time becomes self-belief.
Let me give you an example - there comes a point in every endurance race where thoughts such as , 'my body can't do this anymore'....' I don't have what it takes'...."my opponents have me on the ropes'...'he's stronger than me'.....'I need to stop. I need to sleep'...'I am falling apart'....'I am going to blow up'....appear.
If those thought patterns are left unchecked you start finding evidence to support them. You feel a pain in your back or neck that you perhaps attach to 'I am falling apart'. You then feel a twinge in your quad or calf and the 'I am falling apart' gathers momentum. Before you know it you actually are falling apart.
Of course there is effort and discomfort, that's racing, that's the journey.
The rigorous application of thought I am talking about goes like this - at the first sign of 'I am falling apart' you have a multitude of responses, such as .....'I know I'm capable'....'I will find my way through this'....'If I'm in trouble they're in trouble too, stay steady'.....'I've trained for this'.......'gearing or speed, what can I alter here?'
And then start looking for evidence that you are in fact finding your way through it. Look for data - heart rate, breathing, comfort level. That evidence, however small, is critical because it starts to feed your mind, your self belief and as your self belief grows your physical performance improves. Bit by bit. Remember, an endurance race is long.
Like any training sometimes you have to go to the point of failure to stimulate growth. Think of resistance training in the gym or high intensity interval training. You are looking for that beautiful point of failure. That's the point that tells you adaptation and improvement is on it's way.
I have found that self-belief is no different. Sometimes you have to push to the point of failure. You fail and that can be turned into adaptation and improvement. ( I am thinking here of my End-to-End-to-End Record attempt this summer).
Failing on the Record attempt set me up perfectly for the category win at Silverstate 508. After going to the point of failure I allowed the necessary adaptation and improvement, kept focused on my mental training and got right back onto the road.
Was it easy. No. Not in the slightest. It would have been easier to find evidence to support the 'I am a failure' thought pattern. Instead I found more evidence, with the vital support of my team, to show how very capable I was during those 23 hours and 38 mins.
This is the discipline. It comes from experience - a point of failure can foster remarkable improvement. Not only did failure from the Record attempt foster a win in Silverstate, that win has put Team Joe Barr in pole position in the 500 mile UMCA World Championship. More to come on that.
Our minds can be our greatest ally or our greatest critic. Train your ally. They will come in handy when it all goes pear shaped.
Happy riding and I will see you on the road.
Interested in learning how to go further? Check out The Endurance Workshop and spend the day with Team Joe Barr