They say that the clothes make the man, and I’ve always tended to disagree. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? This weekend, I was proven partially right and partially wrong, during one particular ride.
I’ve been really lucky lately, reviewing a lot of women’s clothing (check Issue 21 for a good chunk of them, and read about some of the goodies from Mavic and Rapha that we’ve posted online). Of course, that means most of my training is done in those review pieces, so I haven’t had a lot of time to test out my new team kits. Even when I did an Xterra triathlon out in Vegas a couple months back, the team order wasn’t in yet, so I raced in a plain black tri suit. Shouldn’t make much of a difference, right? It’s what’s on the inside, the drive and passion.
So, Saturday, I finally had the chance to test out my new Colavita tri suit from Castelli. I’ve liked the Castelli kits that I’ve been reviewing. In fact, a lot of what I’ve tested has been really great. But when I put on that one piece suit, the first thing I thought (aside from, “Oh, crap, I’m a triathlete,”) was, “I look fast.”
I headed out the door. I probably looked like the biggest dork in the world: tri suit with only a small pocket, my giant saddlebag (it had to fit my phone, pump, tubes, etc.—stuff that would normally go in my jersey pocket), PowerTap wheel without the computer attached to the bike … Yeah, I was the epitome of cool. But I felt wicked fricking fast.
In my head, I wasn’t doing the loop that I do over and over during the week. I was in the middle of a race, out in front, going hard. Flat sections were terrorized, hills were pulverized, descents were smashed. In reality, I probably shaved about 15 minutes off of my normally 2:45 endurance-paced ride. Not a ton, but still … I felt like a bike racer. Maybe, somewhere in my subconscious, my body wants to do triathlon. That would explain the eight mile run that came after that ride. But I’ve ridden in my plain tri kit before and never felt that psyched. I think, more likely, I was psyched to be in kit from my team, the team that has been super supportive even when I made the announcement that I was going to race more triathlon. The team that doesn’t mind me racing MTB and road and ’cross and tri and the occasional running race, choosing my races with athlete ADD. It wasn’t that my fitness had improved overnight.
It was a mental thing: wearing team clothing instead of review clothing gave me a new perspective. I wasn’t thinking about the chamois, or how to write about the length of the shorts. I was thinking about racing for a team, being a racer, and that made all the difference in my mental outlook.
We’ve heard it a million times: what makes great racers great isn’t their gear, it’s what’s inside. It’s a mental game as much as a physical one, and if we can tip the scales with some persuasion of the psychological variety, well, that’s fantastic. I know what I’m wearing on interval days from now on.
So, does kit make the racer? Maybe, maybe not. But for me, when I am wearing my team kit, I definitely feel just a little faster. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!