Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Racing, Fight or Flight, Part 1

There's a fable where a karate beginner notices that the black belt of his master is so old and faded it is almost white.  And so the student asks his master why he doesn't replace it with a new black belt.  The master replies that the best teachers have mastered the art of learning. They are in fact the best students and that as a master, he must never forget he is a student.  His faded, nearly white belt is symbolic of his desire to never lose the curiosity of a beginner and to always learn more.

I was thinking about this on Sunday during a local training race.  My body was pretty banged up from a heavy crash the day before so I was out there to be hyper-safe first and race second.  In this, I committed myself to intensely study the dynamics of the race on a rider by rider basis.  The idea here was to predict the individual behaviors of everyone in the race regardless of their position in the pack or their general racing acumen and also pay less attention to the tactics of the race as I normally would.  

At first glance it is almost impossible to see what riders are thinking (planning or reacting to) especially if everyone is simply rolling along all bunched together.  But studying this on the bike, in an actualized environment I noticed there is greater 'predictive index' going on in the 'drive response' of an individual rider than in their physical strength and race experience.  Yes, while every race has riders capable of dictating the race in different ways, just under the surface there is personal 'Fight or Flight' mechanism/driver germane to each rider that puts them into either a Fight or a Flight category.

The fight or flight (run) response is a catch-all phrase describing the body's response to stress.  To me this means it's a person's drive response.  It's what drives them.  Basically there are two choices when facing danger/stress.  You can run or you can fight but in either case the body prepares itself to expend the same energy!   There are fighters and there are those that take flight.  But make no mistake, neither is stronger than the other. They are different but they have equal strength and both rider styles can be lethal.

There are complex nuisances to this, of course, (I'll talk about these in Part 2) but once you define a rider's 'drive response' you can, with accuracy predict their acute and subtle race behaviors, which in turn will equip you with insights on your fellow riders that make for safer and more successful racing.

Fight or Flight response is pretty primitive stuff.  As I thought about it more my next thought was that of an epic stone aged Serengeti Mammoth Hunt, which was sort of cool-interesting.  The imagery of it is not unlike a bike race to me.

Peace and roll strong.


  1. In reference to your comment "that the best teachers have mastered the art of learning"

    A cycling Koan:

    A Zen Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, "Why are you riding your bicycles?"

    The first student replied, "The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!"

    The teacher praised the student, saying, "You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do."

    The second student replied, "I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path."

    The teacher commended the student, "Your eyes are open and you see the world."

    The third student replied, "When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo."

    The teacher gave praise to the third student, "Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel."

    The fourth student answered, "Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings."

    The teacher was pleased and said, "You are riding on the golden path of non-harming."

    The fifth student replied, "I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle."

    The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, "I am your disciple."

  2. Whatever gets you there. Like.