June 15, 2011

Face your fears - the downhill

de·scend   /dɪˈsɛnd/   verb (used without object)
1. to go or pass from a higher to a lower place; move or come down: to descend from the mountaintop.
2. to pass from higher to lower in any scale or series

This weekend I will be facing my biggest fears on the bike and hopefully coming out alive on the other side.  Kind of like "shock therapy" I am heading up to Lake Placid for the 2nd time this year to hit up the course and get some more miles in on the bike and run routes (while probably swimming a few loops in calm Mirror Lake as well)

I made the trek up to the North Country a few weeks ago and did a grand total of 3 loops on the course over the Memorial Day weekend and did okay.  My nerves have really been wrecked since the accident in 2009 and I've had some big troubles mentally with downhills that I cannot see the bottom of. Most of the hills around Rochester I've gotten fairly confident on because as I head down them I just internalize my thoughts of, "you're gonna be okay, this is fine, just keep the bike in a straight line"

Now, I've gotten fairly good about not riding the brakes at the hills around here and even on our standard loop around Canandaigua Lake, I've gotten okay with just sitting up and coasting on the descent into Naples, NY.  However, that hill is only a fraction as long as the descent in Placid and I've been able to mentally push thru the few minutes of discomfort and made it down in one piece.  Mainly I've realized that the reason I'm able to handle some of these smaller type hills around here is being able to pedal on the downhill sections and that makes me feel more in control of the bike and not so squeamish on it.
But, when up in LP a few weeks ago, I hit the downhill signs my hands start sweating and I automatically tense up at the sight of those awful yellow diamond signs.  The hill is so damn steep in some sections that you cannot even pedal, you just kind of spin out and that causes me to freak out.  The first time down the descent, I actually dismounted my bike along the river section and made sure that my skewers were tight enough because it felt like my bike was freaking jello underneath me (not the feeling you want when going 30mph downhill).  I was wobbling all over the jagged shoulder of the road.  I think each time I went down the hill, I rode my brakes, got a speed wobble that was controllable and took longer each time I made my way down.  I mean I came out at the bottom and I had cramps in my hands from squeezing the brakes so hard...
So this weekend is my shock therapy. I'm heading back up to Lake Placid for another large training weekend and will be boarding my bike immediately upon unpacking the car and heading over to the 7 mile downhill section on the bike course.  I will be descending as many times as needed until I feel comfortable on the course.  I've researched some methods that should help me to stabilize the bike (lean a knee against the top tube, stand up a fraction on the pedals and get your butt off the seat to lower your center of gravity on the pedals instead of keeping it high on the saddle, etc) and I will be conquering this downhill.  I'm going to be followed by a car to block traffic around me and hopefully that will simulate race like conditions.  All in all it's just an exercise to get me more comfortable on the same area that scares the bejeezus out of me on that course.  I WILL get this...it's my last weekend to before race day.  Oh and I've got some massive training to do while up there, but I'm not too concerned with that, that's the fun part.  First priority is the downhill...

So, I'll write back with a report after the weekend, but keep the rubber side down my friends, I'll be doing my positive visualization exercises of me zipping down the hill with no problems up until race day comes (and maybe even after!) but get out there, scare yourself and do whatever it takes to get it done.  Cheers.

1 comment:

Nick Brodnicki said...

My matra on the hills is "be brave", then I start singing pop songs to get me through decents! Ha. I've not crashed on a decent like you've had the misfortune of but I'm tense none-the-less man. I've hit every major descent around WNY I could make it to this spring in the pouring rain and sunny and dry. Hit 54mph the other day as a flippin semi passed me... I've never been more scared in my life. The decent into Keene is of top priority for me this weekend as well. You might get some company there!