Yesterday, I went for my bike ride. Now, I don't know how much I've mentioned it, but one of the things I'm working on the most is hills. We're not talking how to get up them. We're talking how to get down them, without throwing all that free speed away into the brakes. It has nothing to do with fitness, but rather bravery and comfort on the bike.
My route yesterday was a perfect route to work on going down hills. It was a completely straight road, with constant rolling hills. So, after working my way to the top of each crest, I had a hill to test my gumption going down. There was also an uphill on the other side of the down, which I could use to make it easier mentally.
What I would do is choose a point to which I needed to stay off the brakes until. The point I picked was always a point when I would start going up just slightly. It was a mental trick - once I got there, I'd be going uphill, and therefore unlikely to engage the brakes at all. Then, I'd go down the hill. Spinning at first, but then usually coasting the rest of the way and holding on... and talking to myself.
I was doing just that on one hill. I'd marked a darker spot of pavement as my allowed braking point, and I was talking myself through it. Now, I must admit that I talk to myself a lot during training and races. Sometimes it's in my head, especially if I'm working particularly hard. Sometimes it's out loud, and while going down hills, sometimes it's just plain loud.
"Alright, here we go. Stay loose. Stay off the brakes. Let the hill carry you," I told myself as I picked up speed. "Don't lock those elbows, stay off the brakes, relax," I was getting faster and starting to reach the threshold where I get nervous. "NO BRAKES! STAY LOOSE! NOT UNTIL YOU GET TO THAT POINT! YOU'RE ALMOST THERE!" The drill sergeant came out and I picked up the final jolt of speed.
Then I hit the point where the downhill changed to an uphill. Seconds later I reached the point where the dark spot of pavement was designated as my allowed braking spot. But, I was going uphill now. A bit of my speed had already been given to the hill, and there was no doubt that I would very soon have to work to get the rest of the way up.
"There, see, now you don't need to brake."
And, just at that point, two cyclists came past me and said hello. Had they heard me talking to myself? Yelling at myself? Yeah, I think so. The smile the first guy gave me seemed to be encouraging though. They were obviously experienced, and they could have laughed at me, but didn't. That's not to say they didn't still think I was crazy though...