Elite/expert racers of pinkbike...what is your mindset when racing. How fast are you going?

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Elite/expert racers of pinkbike...what is your mindset when racing. How fast are you going?
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Posted: Aug 15, 2022 at 13:33 Quote
I've been pondering this for a while. I've been racing for 8-9 years but I've always felt that I'm lacking that killer edge when it comes to racing at full attack. Ive been working on my skills relentlessly for years and I feel like it's never resulted in much faster times.

Ive been racing enduro for the last 7 or 8 years I always finish in the top 80% of riders. But I never ever feel like I'm going crazy fast or at my limit. I feel like I could do my race runs over and over again without crashing all day long. I can't remember the last time I crashed because I was going too fast. Its always well within my comfort zone. It rarely feels exciting or on the edge.

So what is your mindset when racing? How does it feel when you are attacking for the win or just pushing for the best tesult you are capable of?

Are you thinking of just what's in front of you or are you thinking of what car you will get next or where you will go on holidays mid race run like me? I feel like I could go much faster and ride much looser if I was actually fully focused on my riding. I'm assuming my mind is wandering because I'm bored and not challenging myself but I don't know how to break out of this rut.

Is riding fast more of a mindset thing at a certain level? Should I just forget about skills work and ride with faster guys all the time? When that's not an option how do I push my limits when there are not faster guys to ride with?

Posted: Aug 15, 2022 at 18:21 Quote
Not a racer, however I can categorically say that riding with guys who are better (and even much better if they will put up with you) will definitely make you a better and faster rider. My game has been upped at least a 1000x from the guys I've ridden with over the last four years.

Second best is a group of equally matched guys to ride with, but you all have to push each other every single ride. Those guys that are much better than me - yeah they push each other hard every time we hit a downhill.

Posted: Aug 15, 2022 at 19:08 Quote
Sounds like you have the skill, but not the will. If you have time to think about anything other than what is ahead of you & how fast you can get to it, you are participating, not racing.
To me that is the lure of racing, full commitment & nothing else on your mind.
I used to race cross country moto a fairly high level, & when you are "in the zone", everything just clicks.
I'm not knocking people who enter races & never do better than mid pack. Without them the sport would die & I commend their dedication.

Posted: Aug 16, 2022 at 3:56 Quote
If you have time to think about things other than riding you’re not pushing hard enough. However, all the advice I’ve gotten from expert racers is that you shouldn’t be pushing hard enough to get loose a lot. You should be pushing at 70-80%, so that if you make a mistake you have room to correct for it without crashing. It’s faster to have a clean run and be a little slower than be on a heater and crash. You should be working on your skills to the point where the speed comes effortlessly, and riding fast is just like breathing. Another thing I’ve picked up is really intentional goal setting in your training. Every run you do in every ride you should have a goal for things you want to focus on or improve skills wise.

Posted: Aug 17, 2022 at 1:42 Quote
Just go faster.

Posted: Aug 17, 2022 at 5:56 Quote
> Is riding fast more of a mindset thing at a certain level?

On a philosophical level, yes. Your will and intentionality are tantamount to achieving the desired outcome.

Which leads to a somewhat depressing conclusion: you might be too old to go really fast. Not so much physically old, although any age related physical shortcomings are certainly a factor.

From your description, you have the physical ability, but lack the will. Perhaps your experience and wisdom weight against the risk factors that coincide with pushing the envelope.

This natural decline is evident across most racing sports. The rookies lack the wisdom but make up for it with sheer will and infinite courage. The veterans have seen and done it all, both the glories and the tragedies, and as a result, tend to play it safe.

The good news is that the mental state can change regardless of age. The vet can become hungry again. The rookie can apply more discipline. Easier said than done though, and usually involves making big changes. People tend to keep their momentum unless some external force is applied.

Posted: Aug 17, 2022 at 6:58 Quote
leftypumpkin wrote:
Not a racer, however I can categorically say that riding with guys who are better (and even much better if they will put up with you) will definitely make you a better and faster rider. My game has been upped at least a 1000x from the guys I've ridden with over the last four years.

Second best is a group of equally matched guys to ride with, but you all have to push each other every single ride. Those guys that are much better than me - yeah they push each other hard every time we hit a downhill.

Second. Going on challenging rides with riders who are better than you can be really good if you feel complacent or stagnant. This is a fun way to improve.

The "competitive edge" you mention is worth paying attention to as well. How committed to taking a win or better time are you? What are you willing to give up or risk to get there? Maybe make some targeted training practice for specific skills... focus on attacking your weaknesses. If you set goals of perfecting weaknesses, this will up your game a lot and you will progress.

Posted: Aug 17, 2022 at 16:39 Quote
This question is easy. Youre obviously not focusing. As soon as you stop thinking about what your going to do for dinner, start thinking about ONLY your lines you've chosen to ride. Think and anticipate what obstacles are coming up and here's another big one, BRAKING POINTS, be thinking about trying to time your braking points perfectly for each section of trail.
Frankly, Im astonished that someone who enters a race can not be thinking about racing while on their run. Lol it makes no damn sense but very interesting. Maybe figure out how to use that to your benefit...?

Posted: Aug 17, 2022 at 17:12 Quote
There's a big difference between participating in a race, and racing to win.

If your physical exertion is anywhere near your limit, you're unlikely to be thinking about what you'll make for dinner, etc.

Same goes for traction. If you're right on the edge through the corners, your focus will be on your riding.

Nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone, you'll avoid a ton of crashes and have a lot of fun. But competing at the highest level isn't about being comfortable.

If you really want to up your race runs, it's going to take focus. Your body and mind will find every excuse to revert back to "comfortable" as your default, in training and racing.

Edit: Just noticed the comment above mine, makes this a little redundant...

Posted: Aug 18, 2022 at 17:08 Quote
Thanks for the replies guys. Much appreciated. Yes it seems obvious now that not concentrating = not performing my best but I've always had trouble concentrating (I have actually been diagnosed with ADHD but I don't really buy into the whole adhd diagnosis/medication psychiatry. Anyway thats another story...)

I think I am pretty committed relative to my life situation. I stay fit year round and I dedicate quite a lot of time to riding but maybe I've been focusing on the wrong things too much.

Too old to go fast? I don't think so yet anyway Smile

Tonight was very interesting though. We have a club league going now and two of the riders would be very fast including a bronze medalist at this years national champs u21 level. We raced a new to me trail tonight although most of the others knew the trail. I really did make a point of concentrating as much as I could and just trying to stay focused on all of the trail and not get bored on the "easier" bits.

I smoked both of them by 10 and 15 seconds over a 4:30 minute course. If I did that in the national races I'd be competing with the elites week in and week out. You could see they were pretty surprised but it didn't feel anywhere near out of my comfort zone, I just felt I was riding well. (Actually the way I focused was by saying "don't f*cking brake, don't f*cking brake" on repeat to myself!

I did notice one other thing though. We didn't know the results until after we were finished the rest of our ride and we did ride a bit more so I followed the two of them on another trail assuming they were faster than me. I was keeping up easily but then I started noticing how easily I was keeping up and how I was faster. Then I started making a lot of silly mistakes as I a) started congratulating myself on how great i am and b) really seemed to be paying more attention to what they were doing than what I was doing. My riding became tight and awkward and I nearly binned it twice wth really silly mistakes. I have a habit of riding very wild/tight when I'm following or leading other riders that i think might be better than me and then making really silly mistakes. Maybe I'm lacking a bit of confidence in my own ability and I should try to relax because it never happens when I'm riding with someone I know I am faster than. I definitely feel more confident in my abilities after tonight's results though so I'm going to try to grow from here a bit.

Posted: Aug 18, 2022 at 20:08 Quote
Some people are busy with inner monolog

Make a point to change that monolog Crank, brake, turn, decreasing radius, crank, rut, hop.

Help you stay focused

Posted: Aug 19, 2022 at 4:59 Quote
Mental strength is not so different from physical strength, it gets stronger if you practice it. Best thing is you can practice without using your body. I bought a book on sports psychology when I was 18 and it helped me a lot.

Some basic things you could try are:
Practice a run you know well in your head. Go through the entire thing just the way you would want to in real life. Every time your mind starts to wander, go back to the start. It's not about being bored. It's actually about having an untrained mind.
Meditation is something else you could try. Meditation is not about thinking about something, it is about thinking about nothing, or more specifically not thinking at all. When people practice Meditation they unfocused their vision so they see everything without focusing on anything. Their mind is the same, as soon as you start thinking about something, you aren't meditating. Seems like a weird thing to practice but it really helps with mental focus.

What you are doing now is called a mantra. It's a common way to help keep your mind focused. It's good in a way but it means you aren't as mentally flexible as you are only focusing on what you are saying (like your mantra not to use your brakes).

In terms of confidence. It sounds like you got a boost from your recent event. Psychologists have shown that you can't tell the difference between brain activation of someone acting happy or sad and someone who actually is happy or sad. When you are racing and have some bad corners or make dumb mistakes, if you can act like you are winning your mind will think you are and you will perform better. Think of a tennis player who misses a shot. If they walk back to the service line shoulders slumped looking down at the ground the mind picks up on thos body language and starts to feel sad or dejected. Another player walks back head high and chest out and although they know they just made a stupid mistake, their body language tricks their mind into being more positive. Practice this. When you make a mistake and hear yourself say" shit Goddamit" immediately focus on what you are doing, get your elbows and hips high and act like the rider you want to be. Your mind will take cues from your body language.

If you aren't training your brain/mind to be as strong and sharp as your body, you are missing half of what you need to win. Lance Armstrong used some drugs sure, bit so did everyone else. If you ever watch a tape of him compete, his mental game was incredible. He never showed he was tired even when every Part of him was probably crying out. In pain. Train your brain dude

Posted: Sep 4, 2022 at 15:28 Quote
Well, whatever "it" is I do not appear to have it. Final national race of the year today and more of the same. I just don't seem to be able to put it all together in big races.

The two guys from my club obliterated me and the guy who came 4th in all our club races but a long way behind the top three ended up beating me. So basically the other three all maintained their level of performance relative to each other while I fell way back. I wouldn't say I was nervous or anything but I just don't really know how to set myself up before race runs. At the start of every stage I do something different. No routine or anything and easily distracted. I rode okay between mistakes but not on the edge or anything. I would say 1 out if the 6 stages was decent but the rest were not good.

I just can't seem to focus when it comes to these multi stage races like I can on our small club races where we just do a couple of runs after work. The amount of stupid mistakes and blown out corners that I made today was so frustrating. I really don't know if I'll ever break out of this rut to be honest as I seem to keep repeating my old habits.

I feel like I've the fitness and skills to do better but I doubt I am doubting whether I can achieve anything more without changing my mindset massively. I don't really think there is much point me trying to get fitter or improve my skill level as I've improved that massively over the years but my race results haven't. Maybe there is something to the adhd diagnosis after all....I certainly struggle with keeping my mind on the task at hand.

Posted: Sep 5, 2022 at 7:31 Quote
I would surrender and be committed to do whatever is necessary to put yourself in a favorable mindset. Maybe be open to "changing my mindset massively." It sounds like you have spent a lot of effort improving your skills and fitness; you could apply a similar or greater level of commitment to improving your psychological game.

Maybe you could seek out the help of experts to that end. I found reading books on this topic helpful. If you could attack this mental deficiency and make it a strength, it would improve your game immensely. It is hard to know directly what your issue is based on this forum discussion, but you are at good point to really invest in how your psychology affects your racing.

You need to assume more responsibility for your race results. I don't mean to be harsh, but I respect your sincerity and want to be honest. Sounds like you have the bike skills and fitness, but there is more to winning then just these components. Being a champion involves a holistic approach. If you commit to developing these mental skills now, you may not see improvements overnight, but you will see improvements with sustained commitment.

In terms of the ADHD, I suppose you could buy into that as much as you want... but in my (limited) experience, almost nobody can focus on any one thing for minutes or more. Your focus is like a muscle; the more you strengthen it through regular use, the stronger it can get. Meditation is helpful to that end. Best of luck, Sir.

Posted: Sep 5, 2022 at 9:41 Quote
Biking is such a fitness deal, especially racing. I used to woods race dirt bikes for fun. I think about what it would be like to race a bicycle when riding and how hard it would be to maintain because of the demanding fitness it takes to maintain for that duration. My input is that if you are being obliterated by the 3 above you, that is not just a mental difference, they are much ahead of you physically. With physical fatigue comes mental fatigue. I follow professional motorcross and you can see this play out, especailly in the finally this past weekend at Pala, at the highest level.

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