Visualization helps me out quite a bit. I like to think about the Club Drive section of the Poolesville course, breaking away on the slight downhill just after that little nut buster hill at the three legged turkey farm (a topic trifecta - bike racing, seasonality and politics - huzzah!) and gutting it out from there. There's a ride I once did in Vermont which included the west side ascent of Middlebury Gap that I often ride in my mind. Mostly I like to visualize going down it, but that's not a very helpful visual when you're trying to convince yourself to keep going uncomfortably hard. There are also a lot of miles out in WV that do a mental stand in for some of the more boring miles I do.
A guy who was a senior when I was a freshman at Tufts (who, incidentally, once prevented me from losing my virginity the fall of my senior year in HS while he and other members of the team were staying at my house for a regatta at King's Point, for which I will never forgive him - you can not believe how fast two kids can get dressed when someone turns the handle on the basement door after you thought everyone else was asleep) won the college singlehanded sailing championship that year. He physically practiced exactly twice because he was pretty snowed under with school work, but won almost every race of every regatta he sailed, including nationals. He said he spent an hour every day in a quiet and dark room visualizing himself sailing absolutely perfectly, in all conditions. It probably works better in a heavily technique oriented sport like sailing rather than cycling, but if you can win nationals just by sailing in your mind, there's got to be something to it.
So that's kind of visual visualization, but then you also have kind of spiritual visualization. A visual cue that gets you amped up. Maybe it doesn't amp you up. Perhaps it connects you with an ideal you'd like to reach, like Thor Hushovd taking that uphill sprint at the Tour last summer. Maybe it gives you a touch stone for getting out the door and turning 'em over longer than is sane, as happened this weekend. Saturday was pretty balls cold, as many of you already know. In NJ, where I was, it was blowing about 25. Nasty. The wife and her whole family went to the gym, but my many workouts recently have included precisely no cycling, so I wanted to ride. Jay's article of last week gave me all the motivation I needed. Pounding it out, getting ready. Rocky in Siberia. Nobody sees it (well, except in Rocky's case, where about 250 million people have probably seen it), no one else is out there. The experience exists almost entirely between your ears. The music slightly accentuates but doesn't provide the isolation, which is nearly complete. You can see your heart and lungs working, watch the veins in your quads swell. Tires on pavement. Getting it done.
Then getting thoroughly pissed with my brother in law later.