Three things happened yesterday that reminded me that racing is all about finding, and keeping, your flow:
1. I was swimming in a 50 meter pool, relaxed and beautifully. It was my pace and something I felt I could hold and slowly build. Then, someone in the next lane swam up and started passing me. I lost my concentration and either consciously or subconsciously tried to keep up with them. I started breathing heavy and lost my flow. The swim was sunk.
2. I have been building back slowly because of a sore Achilles, and yesterday was time to stretch my run for the first time in a while. I felt good out of the gate and it set me free. After a couple miles, I thought, “I’m back!” I slowly picked up the pace, pushing to beat my imaginary competitors, and by mile 6, my Achilles was starting to scream. I had a solid run going, but pushed out of my comfort zone, and lost my flow. I was four miles from home and, instead of walking back, I decided to manage my pain by staying inside my box. Inside my limits. It turned out to be a tad painful, but I regathered my flow and it was a good lesson for how to stay in my zone.
3. After my run I wrapped my ankles in ice and watched the replay of Tour de France. Jack Bauer, from New Zealand, led from wire to wire. He spent nearly 5 hours in front of the pack. With 900 meters to go he had a 16 second lead and the race appeared to be his. But the Peloton, fronted by the world’s fastest sprinters was closing in . . . and Bauer felt the pressure. Even the announcers thought it was his race, but Bauer kept looking over his shoulder at the pending carnage. He kept looking back . . . again, and again, and again, his bike swaying back and forth instead of straight. Ten meters from the finish line, he was blown away by 9 other riders.
I’m not trying to pretend I know how to win a stage race, but it looked to me that Jack lost his flow. His mind was reacting to others instead of trusting what got him there. Protecting the lead instead of owning the win. It was a heartbreaking finish, and I wonder if the outcome would have been different if he just put his head down and found the fastest rider inside of himself.
It’s easy to lose track, and once again all of these things reminded me of something that is ultimately the secret to endurance, and frankly life. You will always have competitors, but the ultimate battle is always with yourself. Believe in what you do, and trust your flow.