Mt. Shasta, California. False summits? Look at that cruel ridge up the center of the picture.
Climbing a mountain is not unlike riding a bike or running. Your legs and lungs burn. This can go on for hours. It takes physical strength to climb for sure. But it takes mental strength too.
In the years between climbing and triathlons I lost a lot of that "mental strength". A year ago a 10 mile bike ride was pure torture. And I would make it worse by counting the miles down while obsessing about the distance ahead. But I wouldn't necessarily finish the ride physically wasted. I was letting my brain trick me into unnecessary drama.
I've been working on getting my mental game back. Yesterday I rode south down PCH. I had a tail wind and was flying - the computer showed a max speed of 27.8 MPH at one point. This is a thrilling feeling for sure. But I couldn't keep a little dread from sneaking it's way into the bliss. Eventually I would have to turn around and ride home.
Soon enough that tail wind was a head wind. And it was brutal. But really, what where my choices? I had to get home. So I decided that for the 11 miles back I would not worry about speed and just spin it out as best I could. I also decided I wouldn't look at the computer either. I would just ride.
So I settled into aero and started pedaling. I made up a dumb song that I can't remember just to keep a cadence. I didn't obsess on any landmarks in the distance. And I didn't look look at the computer until I got home.
And you know what? I was pretty fast. Not 27 MPH fast, but I averaged about 20 MPH back. I managed to avoid the head games. It was a bit of a "light-bulb over the head" moment.
Tonight was the Thursday night swim at Corona Del Mar. I've been going to the pool every week to work with a swim coach and there is no doubt that my stroke is getting better. But CDM had a rare 3 + foot swell on the go and after 100 yards I realized that tonight was not going to be the night where my pool work was going to get a fair test in the open water.
Add a 3 foot swell to this picture and that would be CDM today.
So I made up another dumb song I can't remember and kept swimming. I'd get 6, maybe 8 decent strokes in and then I'd rise up on the crest of a wave and my form would go out the window. But I refused to stress about it and kept going until I was done.
When I came out of the water I literally felt sea sick. But when I looked at my watch, guess what? I didn't loose any time due to the conditions. I was surprised, but pleased that I found enough of something from somewhere to get it done.
Maybe I was a little slow on the uptake, but it's nice to be able to bring a old piece of the puzzle back into the mix. Though it's early days with putting the mental stuff back in for triathlon, it was undoubtedly an essential part of climbing.
For me, it comes down to putting myself completely into the task at hand. I have to remember that I love what I am doing, because otherwise I wouldn't being doing it. And I have to trust that my hours of training will be there when I need them. With luck it gets easier over time.
What techniques do you use?