Earlier in the year I complained that I felt kind of "blah" at races. I figured that if I felt more amped to race, my blood would be coursing with adrenalin, and I'd be racing better. I didn't think much about this whole adrenaline thing afterwards.
In fact, I never even got an "adrenaline rush" when I fell. It was more an "Oh, man, this is gonna hurt" kind of things when I was already pretzeled into the ground, other riders thumping into me.
I think one of my misconceptions is that adrenaline is good. I used to get massive adrenaline rushes before a race, sometimes unable to sleep, quivering at the line with pent up energy. I thought that I wanted that, even needed that. But I got those rushes because I was nervous, unsure of myself.
I think that it's more accurate to say that motivation is good. With it comes some other related factors. Competence ranks high on the list. Motivation is great, but if you can't perform the task, forget it. Put me on the end of a Columbia leadout train and I'd be psyched until they rode me off their wheels. Other factors include being prepared. If I show up with a poorly maintained stuff and it breaks, well, I can wave any leadout good bye. Finally you need luck of some kind, either no bad luck or a bit of good luck. You can't control everything, so you have to have faith that things will work out in your favor.
When I won the final race at Bethel in 2005, I was extremely motivated for all sorts of reasons. I had good team and friend support, I had good equipment, including a whole bike in the pits, and a touch of luck. That led to being totally amped and stuff, but the key was the motivation. The amped feeling was internally driven, not externally forced. The rest of it just kept me in the game, kept me from getting knocked out of contention, but these other factors didn't win the race for me.
I can use cars to relate to this whole motivation versus adrenaline thing. When I get motivated in the car, and conditions allow for larger safety margins, I push hard. This leads me to be just that much more precise or quick or whatever. I'm thinking specifically of attacking well known corners or exit/entrance ramps in the fun blue car, the "high performance" one.
I don't necessarily feel adrenaline rushes, but it's engrossing. However, when I get out of the car, my back may be soaked in sweat, I may be breathing hard, and my heart may be pounding. I even get that metallic taste in my mouth. Very intense.
Adrenaline? Yeah. But internally driven, not a reaction necessarily. My body has reacted to my own motivation, to my desire for action. It does this by, among other things, basically "amping" my body.
On the other hand, in the red car, my winter car, I may get adrenaline rushes (especially in snowy or icy conditions), but for the wrong reasons. It's spontaneous, these rushes, not something I instigate through motivation. For example, if I'm going down a snow and ice covered road and suddenly the steering wheel gets very light to the touch, I know my front tires are sliding. Suddenly I get an adrenaline rush, as a reaction to the possibility of crashing. I feel all sorts of emotions - fear being the main one - and my mind races as I think of what I should do next. Brake? Steer? Gas? Nothing?
One can live without those kind of adrenaline rushes, a rush caused by stress that overcomes your comfortable world. I don't go and slide down hills enough in my car, so it's not natural for me. I mean, yeah, I try and left foot brake in turns to get the back end out, and that makes a little sideways drifting normal. But down hills, well, I've never had a "more safe" way of practicing that, and therefore any time I start sliding down a hill, I get that adrenaline rush.
When I first went to the track recently, in 2008, I was pretty nervous. I don't have a good place to ride a brake-less bike around here (still don't), so I had to learn in the parking lot at the track. Yes, I went to the track back in 1992 or something, but I only did two days on the track. That was my prior experience with riding a fixed gear bike outside.
It didn't help that I almost endo'ed trying to ride to the bathroom, or that I'd try and coast and, well, almost endo too. And they started off with flying 200s, and I literally almost rode off the track at speed, desperately trying to slow down before I disappeared over the banking. Luckily I only went half way up the track, and I went fast enough to surprise a regular.
You can believe that I had a LOT of adrenaline rushes that day, virtually all of them unwanted, spontaneous, and forced upon me.
A year later, I went back there and it seemed a lot more casual to me. I didn't almost endo through the portapotty door. Instead I could roll up to it, hop off, and look somewhat competent doing it.
I had the best night of racing the last night I raced there this year, August 4. In the Keirins I won that evening, the Miss N Out where I almost won but got 3rd, I felt extremely motivated. I didn't get that adrenaline rush, but I don't think I need to feel it. It's there, just buried underneath all my tactical thinking, my focusing on what I needed to do. I didn't have to worry about the basic stuff, I started worrying about the actual race.
The same happened at the one Plainville I did this year, when I went there to help SOC protect his teammate's third overall. I knew what I had to do, and I did it. I worked harder than I did at Bethel, yet I never exploded, never got blown out the back. I even tried to do a big leadout, and although my work benefited the wrong guy (you're welcome Doug), it didn't matter. I felt great after the race.
So I've realized that it's all about motivation, less about that "adrenaline rush" I so carelessly mentioned a while back. I'm typing here sitting in wheelchair, really anxious to finally get back on the bike.