Overcoming fear is essential in bike racing. The mind is a powerful machine that shapes the ability to succeed. Whether to will yourself to push harder and grind up a hill when your lungs and legs are screaming to stop and the blood is boiling in your veins or even learning to hold back and be patient for the right time to attack.
For quite a long time (years) I have developed a pattern of fear based on experiences and negative thoughts that have taken hold and are triggered by sensory feedback when I am descending, cornering or riding fast in a pack.
I won't list them all here, but over my years of racing, I have held onto personal experiences with danger and injury as well as internalizing what I have seen or heard happen to my fellow racers. This build up of mental negativity has become a disability for descending and cornering in packs. Willing myself up a hill has been the easy part. My wiring has become a bit backwards to the traditional biker thinking (I only go uphill for the downhill on the other side).
Over the past year or so, I have been more seriously paying attention to the mental aspects of riding and racing. I've worked with Carrie Cheadle on learning to control my flight response by reconditioning my response to the sensations of going fast (feeling the wind; hearing the wind in my ears) as well as working with my coach on the finer points of technique.
Yesterday, I was able to successfully focus on the FUN of descending fast and working on NOT defaulting to using my brakes on a fast descent. Coach B was a big part of the success for helping to talk through what to focus on when I feel the fear response coming on. Thinking about a time when it IS fun to go fast and I don't worry about falling...snowboarding! Perfect- while snowboarding, the wind in the face and rush of sound is exhilarating. My mantra for descending has become "skiing fun" when I notice the response coming on and think about what is causing it, I repeat to myself "SKIING FUN" and am able to relish rather than retreat. :-) Small steps, but my speed yesterday on descending Madrona hill was much improved and I forced myself to keep my hands from hovering the brakes most of the way down the hill. Wooo - good feeling. Lots of adrenaline - keeping the focus on the fun. Rewiring the response. That's what it's all about.