The Power Of Negative Thinking

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We hear so much about the power of positive thinking that I wanted to write this to put a case for the other side, based on a recent experience of mine.

Now Father Time is no friend of mine (or anyone else’s I surmise) and so I have been wanting to do a few things just to see if I still could. You know, that horrible feeling you get as you age, when you haven’t tested yourself for a while, and you start to think that you aren’t up for some of the things that you used to do. Especially when you have been enjoying more than a healthy share of food and wine and not enough exercise!

Well last year I set myself a goal to do a 100km cycle before June this year. I also had a goal to cycle to Mt White, just north of Sydney. I measured the round trip from home to Mt White cafe and although it had a lot of hills it was only a bit over 80km so these had to be two separate goals. (Damn! twice the work!).

I went into training – softly – just doing regular cycles around home and getting things moving in the right direction physically. However, I then had a little setback. One of those annoying little injuries one can get which aren’t much at the time, but which have the potential to completely derail your plans if you don’t pay them due attention.

So I stopped cycling, and any other form of exercise for a few weeks. Then I had a trip to New Zealand for about three weeks. Shortly after returning I did a three day cycle from Bright to Wangaratta via Beechworth and realised that this 100km cycle was not going to be easy, even on the flat, and I pretty much gave up as I was getting niggles from the old injury.

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Anyway the end of May was racing around and Sydney was blessed with some truly nice weather. I decided that I would try to cycle to Mt White as I didn’t want to get to the deadline without even having tried to reach one of my goals.

I even convinced myself that cycling to Mt White would satisfy BOTH goals as the expectation when I set the 100km cycle was that it would be reasonably easy going (ie flat) and the cycle to Mt White, as any Sydney-sider knows, is anything but easy for cyclists.

I was so convinced that this was going to be a disaster that I even put the bike rack in the car and gave my wife instructions for a rescue and asked her to stay by the phone. In my mind I was fully expecting to be struggling to make it to Pie In The Sky cafe (about 25km), but I really needed to try, just to keep some self respect.

I was so concerned about my ability to make a respectable distance that I went slower than I normally do. I set off on a foggy cold morning just before 7am taking it very easy. Even getting to Hornsby was a drama, with steepish hills (though short) and a lot of traffic (it was a work day). My thighs were already feeling the pinch and I’d only just started.

My fear about failing too soon, prompted me to take it even slower. Up some of the hills I was down to little more than a walking pace and these were the babies.

For the less experienced cyclists out there you will appreciate that when you engage the very low gears (the granny-wheel) there is an apparent compulsion to spin the pedals faster as if there is a direct link. Whenever I caught myself doing this, I backed off and forced myself to slow down.

Before long I was at Cowan, feeling pretty good, and so I stopped to have a break and a drink. My plan had been to stop at Pie In The Sky (PITS), a bit further on, but I was concerned that it might not be open. Sure enough, when I went past at 8:45am it was not yet open, so I thanked my good decision and just kept going.

From PITS there is a massive downhill followed by a steep climb for 10km up to the Mt White Cafe. I coasted down from PITS reaching about 44km/hr and then started the real ride. Using my slow technique I was doing only between 5 and 6km/hr over the steeper sections. I even stopped for a while half way up.

By the time I got to the Mt White cafe I was still feeling so good that I just sailed right on past thinking that I would get extra kms under my belt before I stopped. Once they were done there was no taking them away. If I left them to do once I had returned home it never would have happened. If they proved too much, I still had the car pick-up option.

Anyway, I cycled out until I reached about 51km, just to give me a little margin. I was so elated that I pigged out on a toasted sandwich, chips and a coffee when I returned to the cafe.

After a good feed and a break I headed home again, sticking with my slow strategy as there was still the climb back to PITS and several other hills too. The descent was steep – I got up to 57.5km/hr, just coasting.

The day had warmed up by now and home beckoned, but I resisted the urge to push and go faster. PITS was another welcome rest after the climb up, and I treated myself to another coffee and feed.

Ultimately I arrived home just before 3pm, feeling pretty good still. My average speed whilst cycling was 16.8km/hr (I guess those fast long downhills helped with that!). The entire trip took 8hrs with a total of 101.7km! I not only had cycled to Mt White Cafe, I had also reached my other goal of cycling 100km. Even the next day I felt pretty good with my bum being the only sore spot.
So this story is an example of how (at least sometimes) negative thinking can help. I was so sure of failing that I went extra super cautiously, and not only achieved both my goals in one go, but did it in style in that I was not physically devastated for the next few days.