Earlier this summer, my buddy Fred gave me a hill-climbing tip. He said to simply go light on your pedals and you'll spin right up the hill. He swears by it.
Now Fred's a smart dude. I'm quite sure he's aware that this pedal lightness/uphill paradox is in dire conflict with the general theory of relativity. Though skeptical, I tried it anyway, and to Fred's credit, having a lightness-on-pedals mindset seemed to help get up that hill faster. There might have been a stiff tailwind that day. Who knows?
Lately, I've been training my mind to cope with the challenges of cyclocross. Here's something that works for me: mentally picturing the next feature before arriving there. When I'm on my 'cross bike, 80% of my focus is on the here and now, and the other 20% is scanning my memory of what's up the road. If for nothing else, it allows me to be prepared for a snarky feature, a needed gear shift, some wheel-rubbings from Shim, etc..
Cyclocross is an obsession. To be good, really good, requires a single-minded focus on the sport. It can consume you, if you let it. When in season, I can make a cyclocross connection to almost anything.
Take this as an example. On a recent taco ride, I randomly pulled this can of coke from the cooler:
A "Soulmate" is something that Richard Bach wrote extensively about in two of his novels: Bridge Across Forever and One. Finding his soulmate was his obsession. But before that, Bach wrote a short story about the titular character Jonathan Livingston Seagull. In it, Jonathan (a seagull) is obsessed about the art of flying. His preoccupation with flying, and not doing other seagully things like eating, ultimately gets him ostracized from the flock. He wanders for a bit before eventually finding other gulls who are equally consumed with the passion for flying. It's there where he meets his mentor, Chiang. Chiang then takes Jonathan under his, uh, wing --
-- Timeout. I just realized that Richard Bach missed a golden opportunity here by NOT stating that Chiang simultaneously took Jonathan literally AND figuratively under his wing. I mean, this is quite possibly the only place in all of literature where one could argue the case that literally and figuratively are both plausible at the same moment. Pfff, what a shame.
Back to our story. Chiang then enlightens Jonathan with super secret knowledge that will enable him to fly ludicrously fast, so fast that it enables him to instantly travel to any point in the known universe. The secret, Chiang tells him, is to "begin by knowing that you have already arrived."
Now the other day I was practicing my cross skills at Roberts park. There's this hill that isn't particularly long, nor steep. But because it's immediately after a speed-scrubbing, off-camber turn, the hill demands one's respect. On approach, I pictured the sweeping turn-hill combination. My brain then called up a motivation routine. It was Fred's, "light on the pedals uphill" program. I shifted weight towards the back of the saddle and leaned into the turn. But just as I was going to go light and easy on the pedals, my mind jumped to Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I had a vision of Chiang, and he was speaking these words directly into my soul: "begin by knowing that you have already arrived." I did just that, focusing 100% of my brain into believing that I had already arrived on the hilltop. At that moment, a flash of searing white light engulfed me while I felt my atoms scrambled and reassembled from the every point in the universe. When the veil of light receded, I was cresting the top of the hill.
Now here's what really happened. Before I even took a single pedal stroke uphill, Lucas came around me and dropped me like I was standing still.
Cyclocross is difficult, my friends. There are no short cuts. Just grit and cowbells.
Now excuse me, a bowl of steel-cut oats and a cup of black coffee awaits at the breakfast nook opposite of my soulmate, the exquisite Ms. Katherine.
Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.