I watched my son at his school assembly the other day - playing his cornet (solo) by way of serenading in the other Year groups at the beginning and end of the assembly. I was struck by his confidence and poise and by the similarities with my early years, trotted out regularly as performer at school, due to an above average application and ability for music. I remembered well, though my performing days are long behind me, that curious feeling of excitement and dread that live performance brings, whether performing in an orchestra or solo as I did on many occasions.
Fast forward 20 or so years and I am experiencing that same feeling of excitement and dread in advance of the weekend. More accurately, significant emotions related to pressure and achievement as my season sportive goal approaches on Sunday - the Fred Whitton Challenge. http://www.fredwhittonchallenge.org.uk/
But while there are similarities between the two activities of giving concerts and riding challenge events (application and practice leading to a final performance), there are subtle differences too. Back then musically, I was confident, meticulously rehearsed and practiced, especially when performing solo. i'd done the work and it was going to be a good show. For a 2 wheeled exploit like the Fred it is more complex.
For sure, I've trained harder than at any point in the last few years since coming back to cycling. I have worked on threshold, tempo, brisk and any other type of effort the cycling press implore us to undertake. I've had a recce and my bike is unusually well serviced. I've even managed a few long rides to get rid of that nagging doubt that a maximum of 2 hours rides gives in preparation for a 6 hour+ ride.
But the feelings of under-preparedness, of unpredictability, won't go away. The changeable weather, the dangerous descents, punctures, other riders, crashes - all of these close in to crowd out any feeling of confidence, the same confidence I had musically when I knew what I needed to do and how.
Mark with his background in personal training told me to zone into a positive mental state. He's right of course, but the temptation to interpret that as getting hammered on Duvel and Delerium Tremens wasn't that helpful to the overall goal. Luckily before long I realised that it was my insistence on perfection that was doing me down - wanting to get into the right group, wanting an immaculate pacing and nutrition strategy, wanting to ride up Hardknott at all costs and above all, wanting to get an Elite sub 7hr time.
Time for a realilty check. Undue pressure leads to undue stress. A quick mental 'reframe' later and I am out for a 1st class, not Elite time, will ride as I want to and above all get round and enjoy the day. Time to put my money where my mouth is in relation to previous posts looking at what drives me (and others) to ride.
So here's to a relaxed and enjoyable Fred Whitton, full of satisfaction at getting the job done and being part of one of the great Sportive events out there.
(I still want to get up Hardknott without putting any feet down though..........)