October 6, 2004: The mental alchemy of cycling

I decided that even though my "season" is over as far as dedicated, targeted training goes, I have not been doing enough hills lately. Sometimes I can fall into a rut of convenience and not do the hard work required to be a quality rider.

The obvious choice for an after-work hill ride is the Quarry. But it's getting dark around 6:30 now (fog factor) and I hate the Quarry after dark. That damned spooky Eucalyptus forest drives me crazy. The trees are always making all kinds of noises, and there's critters scurrying in the underbrush, and it just has a malevolent feel to me. Additionally, I have, on more than one occasion, seen some sketchy characters in there around dusk. Negative energy, especially around the actual quarry.

So I get to the Quarry in the heavy dusk and start my way up the steep, steep hill. It starts early. As I pass through the quarry, I start to hear the voices. Every time I'm in this forest, I swear I hear voices: people talking, shouting, screaming. But when I stop to listen, there is nothing. Tonight, there was a strong wind blowing and the tree branches were swaying, and rubbing against each other, cracking, snapping, and generally making all kinds of racket. There seemed to be many sets of voices all talking at the same time. I felt like a telepath trapped in a group therapy session. I hate the haunted euco forest of Quarry Park.

Adding to my anxiety was the heavy carpet of trail litter. Eucos are notoriously messy and with the heavy wind, I was worried about getting brained by a falling branch. This thought became especially poignant after one particularly loud craaa-ccck! about 50 feet above me. After losing some momentum on one of the steeper sections because I was giving half my attention to the potentially falling sky, I decided to go fatalistic on things and throw myself upon the mercy of the Ents.

They listened. I made it to the top and back without incident and headed north on a backside EG up to Inspiration Point. I tried the Crack at night for the first time in a while and didn't do well. In my defense, it was dark, and very foggy, and I had to try it without my glasses. I made most of it on memory alone, but couldn't make it through the most difficult part at the top. Visibility was about 15 feet, and without my glasses, I felt like I was looking through a fishbowl. I never had a chance.

End game atop the Quarry
"Towel boy!"
The Blair Bridge project

From there, I bombed down to HMB on the coastal bikepath, then boomeranged back up to Princeton before heading home. Blasting down the bikepath at 20 MPH with 15 feet visibility was pretty exciting. Shapes just appeared at the side of the path out of nowhere as the path itself twisted this way and that through the soup. Like a video game. When I got home, my arms and legs were covered with a thick sheen of water from the fog.

This ride was significant because I might have latched on to a mental technique that could be extremely beneficial. You know how sometimes that lactic acid burn can actually feel good. I mean, when you're in the middle of a long sprint and you're just hammering, and it burns, but the cranks are turning and you can feel your legs just pumping out the energy. The burn seems to fuel that feeling of power. So, during my ascent of the Quarry today, I tried to focus on channeling the pain into power. I thought of the claymore scene from Platoon, where Chris is relieved from watch by Junior, who falls asleep, and then Chris sees the VC coming in the moonlight, but then he forgets to click the safety off of the claymores, and that one guy gets shot and he's screaming bloody murder and then Barnes comes over and claps his hand over the screaming guy's mouth and orders him to "take the pain." "Take the fucking pain" I told myself. I tried to make myself think of power every time I felt pain and then made the crucial jump of trying to equate pain with power in my head. Feed off that pain. Pain is good. Pain equals speed. The more pain, the better. This would be a nice thing if I could train myself to think like this on the bike. Stay tuned.

I saw one deer today in the Quarry. I was flying down a steep section and it was on the trail in front of me. It was taking giant, bounding leaps down the trail, but I easily ran it down before it veered off into the bush.


Mileage: 20.36 Time: 2:00:33 Avg: 10.1 Max: 32.5 Weight: 174

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