Pushing your limits

"The fears you don't face become your limits.  And the doubts you don't deal with become your walls."  ~ Robin Sharma.

Much has been written in the field of sport psychology about the mental side of athletics.  For many, the mind gives out before the body.  In a race situation, you add together the layers of self-imposed pressure, the excitement, the spectators and...  we sometimes don't live up to our own expectations.

And the opposite is true.  Consider the words of Gwen Jorgenson, Olympic gold medalist in triathlon, "There is power in what you tell yourself and for four years, I’ve said I aspire to win gold in Rio. I believe I had that great performance this year because I conditioned myself mentally to achieve it."

Just a couple weeks before the Olympics, her coach told her, "All you have to do is what you’ve already done.”

That in itself is an interesting statement.  When I first read it, I thought that he was simply telling her to win, like she has already done many times in the past.  That's likely part of his point.  But it appears that he's also telling her to trust in her training, do what she's already done - including her mental preparation.

Even before I found my way into duathon, I had an innate curiosity about testing one's limits.  Public speaking in front of hundreds - or thousands? - of people?  Sign me up.  Jump off a building in Las Vegas?  Check.

This summer, I wanted to face two of my fears: descending on the bike and, well, bees.

There is a lot of power in watching others who aren't afraid of a particular situation and learning from their mindset.

For years, I've cycled north of the city and climbed a sharp hill that spans across Warden Avenue and Kennedy Road.  This ridge always made me nervous to descend and I couldn't imagine doing it in my aerobars, despite it being located on a relatively quiet stretch of road and being devoid of turns.

This summer, while out riding with fellow duathletes Kevin and Liyang, I watched them descend - in their aerobars - and actually try to go faster.  That's pretty different from my normal tactic.

So I decided to descend, in my aerobars, while at least soft pedalling.  I did it and hit speeds I hadn't yet reached on my bike.  And it was an absolute blast.

Sebastian Kienle in action.  I haven't quite reached this level of comfort on hills. 

My fear of bees, arguably a mild form of melissophobia, stems from a childhood incident when a hornet landed on my face and crawled across my lips.  To this day (knock on wood), I still haven't been stung and seeing as I'm allergic to several animals, I imagined I might be allergic to bees too.

In late summer, Rob and I visited friends for a weekend outside of the city.  Those friends raise bees and have built several hives over the last couple of years.  The mere thought of it gave me shivers - at first.

I knew I needed to visit the beehives and in doing so, I listened to my friend Brian describe the industrious, methodical little insects.  He said their buzzing was such a beautiful sound.  I had never heard it described that way and I decided to open my mind to that possibility and to a change in my attitude.  I approached the hives and stood, rapt, listening and watching.

My comfort level shifted significantly from that experience.

Looking ahead to the 2017 duathlon season, I will continue pushing my limits on the bike, working on building my descending and cornering skills.  I also want to smash through previous running PBs by getting myself back to where I was pre-injury and building from there.

In sports or elsewhere in life, what fears or limits have you faced?