If you’re an endurance athlete, you have to be comfortable in your own head. I think this is why endurance sports have such a big mental component to them. I mean, all sports do, but endurance sports are a little different. Four or more hours on a bike—it’s a long time to be in your own headspace. When you get off, get home, talk to other humans again, you’re—well, you’re weird.
Or at least, I am. It’s a bit like being on a boat for a long time and then having to find your land legs again.
But the truth is, I like it. Because I’m a writer, I’m already a little off in that way. I’m used to spending a lot of time alone, and I’m very comfortable in my head.
What I’m finding with the long workouts (the rides and swims, that is; not the runs, because sad little 5k’s don’t have this effect on me) is that I zone out. I’m concentrated on what I’m doing, but there is a part of me that just . . . disappears.
Usually this starts out purposefully. I’m thinking about my manuscript—or about someone else’s that I’m editing. I’m thinking about the landscape I’m passing. A song gets stuck in my head. Somewhere along the way, my body goes on autopilot and it’s as if I’m not really doing anything.
Admittedly, this might be because my pace is slow. I’m not breaking any speed records on these workouts. But when you can fall into a steady rhythm without realizing it and just keep moving forward, it’s a nice place to be. It’s also probably as close to meditation as I will ever get.
But it doesn’t last long enough. Eventually, on the bike at least, my triceps start reminding me that yes, I am doing something, and they happen to think I’ve been doing it for too long, and can we please stop?
My aim is to extend the mindless autopilot for as long as possible before the physical complaints begin.
I’m curious to see what sixteen hours of racing will do to my headspace. You might not want to be the person greeting me at the finish line. I may not remember who you are.
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