A year ago, during the Greece Retreat, in order to facilitate a sense of protection during the vulnerable act of writing, I invited everyone to imagine a protective bubble around their heart. This bubble has some density so that hurtful things, like doubts and fears and the unkind words of others, can slide right off of it. It can also absorb and disperse things that need processing, allowing us to mindfully consider our responses, as opposed to having a knee-jerk reaction, which can often send us into a dysregulated state. This protective bubble
I further asked us to imagine a larger bubble holding all of us. And that within this larger bubble, the group was protected. The group was safe. And seen. At the same time.
I could not have predicted the profound impact this imagery would have on participants, and myself over time. I was compelled to share it in Switzerland and again on our Virtual Retreat. “The Bubble Story” evolves every time I tell it and it has become a part of my daily practice and is integral to how I prepare for anything that I may be feeling anxious about.
In the past, in preparation for racing at Worlds, I have been known to go down rabbit holes, looking up stats on the competition, judging, assessing and comparing myself to them and deciding the probable winner before the race even began. In the past I have gotten myself worked up, put on my ‘race-face’ armor and played a lot of mental gymnastics in order to psyche myself up, only to find myself in a flurry of forgetfulness and frantic energy.
After the win in 2019, I learned, *again*, that the numbers don’t know me. The numbers don’t own me. The numbers have no idea how powerful I am or can be. And neither do I.
And yet, while you may hear me say this again and again, I too need to be reminded. There are some lessons we need to relearn again and again.
And that is ok.
This year, with the long road of recovery and getting on the bike again, I came into the season accepting that I was starting from zero and would do my best, whatever that turned out to be, without judgment or opinion. I would ride and train and race for the joy of it. And I would do it with an attitude of curiosity. I would practice determination balanced by detachment- knowing that my best is gold, no matter where I stand on that podium.
I wholeheartedly believe that managing my self-talk in this way allowed me to have a successful Nationals. What made it successful was that I enjoyed it. That was the win. That was the gold. Setting our age group record for the Team Pursuit was icing. Achieving a time within range of my standard time on the 2K Individual Pursuit, hugely surprised me. I attribute this to the work. The words Work.
All of this translated into a moment during the Points Race when my legs were on fire and I began to fear I couldn’t push any harder and the words came into my head, right on cue, “YOU HAVE TO WANT THIS.” And I tapped in. I locked my focus on the rider ahead of me and I found the fire to pedal faster and I passed her.
I did not win the race but hell, I won that moment- against my own self-talk. And that is what matters in the long run. And that moment fanned the fires of determination a little higher as I prepared for Worlds.
I started showing up earlier to practice (I was usually late)! During my warm ups, I pictured my bubble. I am safe. I can be seen. I will ride for the joy of it. I do empower myself to pull out if I feel unsafe. I then dug deeper, pushed harder and believed bigger and now I feel as ready as I can be. I know that I have worked on my self-talk fitness as much as my physical fitness. They are inextricably tied, after all.
Feeling ‘ready’ does not necessarily mean I feel confident about winning any races. It means I know I have done my best to prepare. That’s the bubble.
And today, as I write this, less than a week away from leaving for Worlds, I practice the bubble. In that bubble, I can hear myself and calm myself. The idea of the bubble helps me to remember to BE PRESENT.
Take this and run with it. Imagine your bubble. What things would you do if you knew you were safe? How would you do those things, if you knew you were safe?