Saturday, 2 December 2017

Finding the Performance Zone

Occasionally you find yourself in a very special zone. Depending on the circumstances, you may feel totally connected with the internal and external environment. It is a zone where everything physically and psychologically just seems to merge as one. It is effortless.

It is a state where your senses are heightened, where everything around you feels like it’s moving in slow motion. You notice everything.

There are several situations where such an experience may occur.

It may be a business meeting where you have all details at your finger tips and your powers of communication are such that complexity is explained as simplicity.

It may be a presentation you are giving, where you can feel the engagement of the audience and the follow up questions enhance the event as you answer with authority and clarity.

It may even be the dinner party you are giving. The menu is perfect, food preparation is exactly as it should be and the dinner conversation demonstrates the mix of guests is intriguing and complementing of each other.

Often “The Zone” I refer too comes at the most unexpected time or in response to an unusual event.

This was my experience today.

I am writing, sitting in my room in the Snowy Mountain town of Jindabyne. It is raining, as it has been for much of the last 24 hours. The wind has died down, unlike for most of the last 24 hours.

Earlier today, I participated in the 2017 edition of L’Etape Australia, a 127 ride through the Snowy Mountain region which from its name, can be assumed to include a lot of downhill, and equal amounts of uphill.

Recreational cyclists tend to avoid wet weather riding. As a result, we have little experience in such conditions and skills are honed from a text book rather than practice.

I had been nervous about starting the event from the Ski Chalet summit of Crackenback. Starting at Crackenback meant a 15 kilometre decent on water washed roads much of which was exposed to the wind.

The night before, I was unsure if I would subject myself to the risk.
When I loaded my bike on to the transport truck, and loaded myself in the bus at Jindabyne at 4.30 am for the commute to Crackenback, I was still not sure I would start. I also had it in the back of my mind that if I did start and felt uneasy, I would slow right down on the decent and pull out after 24 kilometres as we went through Jindabyne.

We received information that the rain was easing and it did appear to be doing just that.

With this in mind, I rolled out of the start zone in group 4.

Of the 3500 entrants in the event, 900 were allocated group 4 and it was fairy obvious that quite a large number had decided not to start.

With my plan in place to corner conservatively, feather the breaks and avoid road paintwork, I set about the decent. I was also intensely concentrating and focusing my vision as you do when riding a motorbike.

Coming off the mountain was a relief but I felt good and 10 kilometres later shed leg warmers and gillet.

All but a small section of the event was conducted in rain, and some of it was very heavy. But I was in the zone. It was a day when it felt like I was one with my bike. We picked good lines and legs and pedals combined perfectly and almost effortlessly.

It was a day where despite the weather and the challenges and dangers this presented, I was acutely aware of the countryside, the views and the spectators on the roadside.

It was a day when despite the rain, hills, wind and water, I did not want the ride to finish.

The secret is to discover how to replicate such a feeling at will.

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