Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Three Tenets of End-of-Season Mental Focus

It's that time of year where bike racers are forced to start thinking a little, maybe stepping back and getting really deep in thought.  Asking existential questions such as, "what does it all mean?" and "what's the best way to remove the stench from my handlebar tape, or at least make it tolerable enough my wife doesn't complain about it when I shove it in her face?" (solution:  mask the smell by soaking your tape in English Leather).

There are tree tenets of end-of-season mental discipline:  indulgence, omphaloskespsis, and distraction.

I. Indulgence
In August, bike racers start anticipating how they will finally let loose.  A big one is the Golden Corral's Chocolate Wonderfall.  I know you've seen the commercials, as have I.
If you've seen these beautiful images, you will agree--Golden Corral's Chocolate Wonderfall™ is a treat for both the eyes and the gullet, what Golden Corral itself calls the "eighth wonder of the world".   Einstein may have been a genius about physics, but he was an idiot when he said that compound interest was the eighth wonder of the world.  It is not that amazing, especially recently.  When you default on loans, as we all have (or are about to do) it really ceases to be a wonder, and becomes more of a pain in the ass.

Thus, in the wake of the financial crisis, we spurn Einstein and side with Golden Corral.  The Chocolate Wonderfall™ is truly the eighth wonder of the world.  No superlatives should be withheld from an invetion  that expands the physics of making chocolate first melt, and then flow down a many-tiered system of plateaus, defeating gravity in an endless tribute to 21st century fluid dynamics, and that  provides the following for dipping:

  • Delicious strawberries with detritus removed
  • Handspun marshmallow niblets
  • Genuine Hawaiian pineapple morsels
  • Severed meth-head fingertips with chipped nailpolish
Suck it, Einstein.  

And this is just one of the indulgences bike racers look forward to following a season of complete focus on familial neglect, blog writing, and vigorous drug testing debate and gang warfare.  

Follow your heart on this one.  The transition to indulgence is a bit tricky.  Some folks don't jump directly from racing into the Chocolate Wonderfall.  They may move there in steps, by way of pie at the Amish Century, or by way of easing off of the manscaping for long enough to let things get itchy.

II. Omphaloskepsis
Just as important as goal setting at the beginning of your season, assessing your season at the finish provides you with true insight.  Those who don't understand their mistakes, as they say, are doomed to repeat them.  Take a moment to not only understand why you are a failure, but to list all the reasons for your failure.  Remember that everyone else is on drugs, and, if you are on drugs, you probably aren't on enough of them.  That's the only explanation for why you didn't dominate.

If your goals are team oriented, think about how you did well or poorly as a team.  What could be done with the interpersonal, intrapersonal, extrapersonal, and other elements of team dynamics?  Instead of attacking each other with allegations of doping and excessive reliance on skinsuits, attack them with trust falls, as shown below:

Congratulate yourself on your achievements, if any.  Keep in mind that no matter how fantastic your results as a team and as an individual have been this year, my team won at Intercourse.
Here's the picture to prove it. It's the only win we've gotten in three years, but we win at the things that matter.  

Also congratulate yourself on surviving.  If you did crash, congratulate yourself on the manner of your crash.  For instance, this past week, I went down in a training race along with a teammate, but we can congratulate ourselves (and you should congratulate us as well) on only destroying each other--in an act of incredible selflessness, we locked arms and leaped off our bikes and dragged each other on the pavement for thirty yards, exfoliating our entire bodies and breaking bones--BUT,  we did not injure or otherwise impede other riders (unless you count the complete neutralization of the race and the nullification of Custer's solo breakaway).  

You're welcome.

It may not be much, but you owe it to yourself to find or fabricate these kinds of self-adulation.  Pat yourself on the back!  

III. Distraction
A lot of people think being distracted is actually a bad thing, and it often is, like, when you're trying to read and focus on the incredibly awesome child exploitation captured by Toddlers and Tiaras, and your boss keeps calling your Blackberry and asking you why you've not shown up for work for two weeks.  

At this point in the season, you've spent months simply focusing on things like power numbers, and how to pin on your number, and the order of your race preparation.  For instance:
10: Don racing vestments
9: Visit bathroom and remove vestments, empty bladder and bowels
8. Apply "shammy butt'r" and English Leather 
7. Insert nose, ear, and other plugs.
6. While in parking lot engage in race visualization.  Lust after the god-like bare-torsoed R Muoiuouiu.

5. Inject horse tranquilizer and insert cucumber in crotchal area.
4. Put on shoes, hire henna tattoo artist to draw race profile on forehead.
3. Mount GAU-8 Avenger on bars.
2. Gather team for strategy session, pre-race stepping (ONLY with authorization from the National Pan-Hellenic Council) or haka, as desired.
1. Undo 10-2, make incredibly fast and frantic visit to bathroom; do 10-2 again, go to race line late, dejected, and needing badly to go to the bathroom again.

You need a break from this kind of rigorous protocol.  Get the family and friends in the car.  Take a visit to the Golden Corral.  See the 8th wonder of the world, the Chocolate Wonderfall. Recover from your wounds, physical and mental, and...the final type of end of season rumination...

Treasure the time left
But remember, the season is not yet over.  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, the poet said, and that's what you should do, here near--but not at--the end of all things.  Maybe hold off on seeing and eating the 8th Wonder of the World.  Focus for a bit more on the 10 steps of race preparation.  Steady.  Steady.  Visualize R. Muoiuiouiuo's perfect torso.  And, race!

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