Confidence is something I get as the result of a lot of miles. Little by little, I push out the borders of what I consider possible and "probably not a good idea". Actions become ingrained and automatic, tolerances for certain sensations are increased, and the belief in one's own skills and fitness deludes you into taking chances and pushing the envelope out further and further.
When I get off the trainer and back on the road, I usually have fitness but less confidence. This is probably a good thing, because early-season road conditions rarely inspire it. Spending months on a fixed platform doesn't reinforce bike-handling skills. The ground doesn't whiz by. Potholes and gravel aren't a problem. The sensations are different and the consequences for errors aren't as severe.
Hours and hours on the road later, I gradually have built up a tolerance and a willingness to fully commit. Of course, it's not always a linear progression. Sometimes I get whacked.
Last year's wreck at the Tour of Fairbanks was a good example. I dove in and it didn't go as planned. It took me quite a while before I was mentally prepared to put myself in that position again and roll the dice. Having a short memory and probably more than a couple traumatic brain injuries over the years helps speed up the process a bit, but it's still a process. I still need miles to rebuild the confidence.
When I was ski racing regularly, the more I skied fast, clean turns the more I pushed the barriers out. When my mind was saying go, my body was forward and charging and things seemed to click. I was acting instead of reacting, and I was faster as a result. This never happened without a lot of time on the hill. Maybe the difference was only one percent, but in a sport measured in the hundredths of seconds, that's a huge gain. Maybe the layman couldn't tell the difference without a clock, but I certainly could.
For me, that's what this time of the year is all about- lots of miles. This season I have the added task of rebuilding the physical along with the mental. We'll see how that plays out.


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