An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Racing, the mental switch

I see a lot of threads on the BeginnerTriathlete and SlowTwitch forums discussing the minute differences in drag between various bikes and wheels, helmets, which wetsuit is the most slippery in the water... Discussions will go on and on about what's the "best" frame, wheel, handlebar, or whatever doodad and who-haw.

I race on a round-tubed titanium standard diamond frame with a Renn disk in back and a Hed H3 in front, Wolf TT fork, older Profile aero bars with bar-end shifters in friction mode changing over an 8-speed cassette. I have a Rudy Project Syton Open helmet. My wetsuit is a Nineteen that's about 4 years old, sleeveless. And I do just fine, still finishing at the pointy end of the AG field.

My point? Well, I'll start with what my point is NOT: I'm not trying to say that there isn't benefit to gram counting when it comes to drag; I'm not saying that being a retro-grouch is the be-all end-all of the spirit of triathlon. But I think that a lot of attention gets paid to this, and it gets relied upon for race performance.

I believe that race day is when it all comes together (or not, sometimes), that there are things that happen mentally and emotionally because it IS a race that bring out the best physical performance that you can put out on any given day. Far more than just a hard workout. The mental switch that, when flipped, allows you to transcend yourself.

I race on the things I do NOT because they're the best things I can afford (yeah, I could "upgrade" to a carbon wunder-bike through the bike shop where I work part time), but because it helps me to flip that mental switch -- it helps put me in race mode mentally, and I go faster.

In the movie "Over the Top" (a movie about a truck driver who enters arm-wrestling competitions), Sylvester Stallone delivers a line during an interview where he talks about turning his baseball cap around, and it being a switch that turns him into "a machine". Race day equipment should do that. 

All the extraneous stuff dies away when that happens. Everything focuses on the physical motion of getting to the finish line as fast as you possibly can. Putting on the race wheels, strapping on the race helmet, slipping on the wetsuit with the race-supplied cap, putting on the Body Glide, setting up the transition zone, ALL do that -- put me into race mode, and I become a machine.

You see it as "race face". I'm in the zone then. I may break out of it enough to say something funny, laugh a little, but I'll be back in it within a few seconds.

I don't laugh at the uber-wind-cheating bikes and wheels as I pass them. In fact, during the race, I don't even notice what the other people are riding.

My point: The mental switch has been flipped. And I believe that is FAR more important for race performance than the few grams of drag saved by tucking the brake cables into the frame.

1 comment:

Christopher Morelock said...

Good read, Although I'd argue that for some of us (me) nitpicking over those 1-2watt gains is what gets us in the zone.