Getting a handle on your nerves
If it hasn’t happened already, the “what if’s” are bound to creep into your thoughts as the Empire State Ride quickly approaches. “What if I’m too slow?” “What if I have to walk a climb?” “What if…..?”
Unless you have experience doing multi-day rides, the Empire State Ride is all new territory. While the ride is what you make of it, the logistics – food, lodging, aid stations – are all handled for you. While this makes the ride itself less stressful, sometimes it means you have too much time to think. Each and every one of us has been victim to our own negative thoughts.
First, acknowledge them. Let the thoughts wander through your head. In fact, take out a sheet of paper and make a list of everything that you are nervous about. Then, one by one, walk yourself through the list. This exercise is not to discourage you, but rather to put everything into perspective.
Rather than letting your nerves get the best of you, it is much healthier to acknowledge them. Even the best athletes, in the most extreme sports, are fearful at times. The difference in how they handle fear is that by acknowledging it, they are then able to focus on other aspects of their sport. As with all thoughts, if you dwell on them, they grow and grow until they are unmanageable.
There are a few things you can do to temper the “what ifs.”
First, realize that there are only so many things you can control. The route and the weather are two that you cannot.
For instance, if you have been scouring through the route profiles and are getting progressively more nervous about the elevation gain, realize that the elevation profiles always appear worse than they are. Sixty to seventy miles is compressed into a small three to four inch chart so the climbs look almost Everest-like. They may look disconcerting to even the most experienced rider. But, they are all part of the ride, so there is no real reason to worry about them. Every rider will be riding the same route.
Second, remember your mantras. These are those key phrases that help to center you, whether you are climbing, riding into a headwind or just plain tired. Some riders like to tape mantras to their handlebars or top tube so that they are readily visible. Type up a few before you leave, grab a roll of tape and have them in your bag …just in case.
Third, try to channel nervousness with imagery. While this is not the same as mantras, it does work hand in hand with them. Mantras are the words, imagery is putting yourself in a place where those words become action. If you are riding into a headwind, for example, you might be saying, “pedal smoothly, pedal in circles.” Imagery come into play when you actually feel yourself becoming smoother by relaxing your body and feeling strong in the face of the wind.
Finally, go into the Empire State Ride with your primary goal being to finish. Create micro-goals along the way such as: Don’t stop while climbing Bear Mountain, or Keep a consistent pace for the entire ride. Be sure these goals are big enough to inspire you and yet not so big that they are not manageable. And remember, your goals often fall to those things you cannot control. The more mini-goals you set for each day, the more successful you will feel.
Once you have written down all your fears and acknowledged them, throw them away. Focus on what you can control and the fun that you will have while meeting new people and riding for a great cause!