Flow Interview – Homero Diaz – Redbull Enduro Rider
Roaring around on a motorbike since the age of four, Mexican Enduro rider Homero D ¡az has built a whole life around the world of off-road, two-wheel racing ever since. HeÔÇÖd already won his first race by the time he was eight and is not only a three-time National Mexican Enduro Champion, but also a three-time Latin-American title holder.
We had the chance to interview him and know more about he gets into flow:
Cameron: I guess we start off with what might you know about flow, and whatÔÇÖs your experience is to date, and then maybe go into questions you might have around the state, and then go into a little bit about what we can do in the future, and the rest of it. Sound good?
Cameron: WhatÔÇÖs your current understanding of flow? Can you explain a flow experience that youÔÇÖve had?
Homero: Well, IÔÇÖve been thinking a lot about this since the first message that I got from you, andÔÇª I think it relates to that momentÔÇª Well, I guess the connection we have, you and I, is because of the sport I practice, right? So, I think the main thing about flow is that that moment when you stopÔÇª when you stop seeing stuff and you start feeling stuff. Like, in my sport itÔÇÖs during a special test or a track or whatever, and you feel moreÔÇª Like, the way you enter into a turn, or the way the bumps feel, or the jumps feel, or the ~rides~ or whatever; itÔÇÖs more about feeling than seeing I guess, and it also translates into being on a slow motionÔÇª I guess everything goes in slow motion, but it doesnÔÇÖt mean youÔÇÖre going slow; it just means that youÔÇÖreÔÇª it comes into your brain really, really clear, that it makes you comprehend it really well. That wayÔÇª I guess thatÔÇÖs the reason why you feel everythingÔÇÖs coming in slow motion, because you comprehend it really, really well and so clear.
Cameron: Yeah. And can you explain a moment or a previous experience that you might have had, either at a tournament, or just youÔÇª your biggest or best ever flow experience?
Homero: Probably whenÔÇª It comes up a bit more as a surprise when youÔÇÖre starting to become a better rider, and all of a sudden you start figuring it out. Now with more experience itÔÇÖs easier to get into that flow, but when I was starting to become a better rider, close to 2003 and 2004 when everything started, when I was racing ~the Worlds~… It would have been like on a very, very long special test during an enduro race, where it was [03:00] probably a 12- or 15-minute special test, which in our sport is a really long special test; a 15-minute special test is a really long one.
When you get out of the special test, and you say ÔÇ£Oh man ÔÇô it went through reall fast!ÔÇØ or ÔÇ£It went through really easy!ÔÇØ thatÔÇÖs when you understand that something happened. At that time I didnÔÇÖt know what had happened, but now with more experience I know that I had gone into a really good flow or a really good sense of concentration, and now I can get it really easy. But it takes time, itÔÇÖs not easy, itÔÇÖs not an easy process to get into that state of mind. So, probably during those stagesÔÇöusually I remember that the Scandinavian races were the ones that had the longest special tests all the time.
Like, a really short one was eight minutes and the really long one was a 15-minute special test. That took us about, I donÔÇÖt know, about 12-15 minutes to ride on the motorcycle. So, being on the same level of flow from the beginning to the end of the special test is really hard, and usually I used to get it from the mid-point on, but when you start getting it from the start to the end, thatÔÇÖs when you know that things are happening the right way, you know.
Cameron: Yeah, for sure. And what helps you get into that space? Is there anything specific that you focus on beforehand, during, after, or you kind of manage in your mind the motions, or externally?
Homero: Well, I guess being relaxed, and trying to focus on that exact moment, although what I like to do is just think on that precise special test. I donÔÇÖt try to think about the whole picture, I want to focus on that moment only, and then from that special test, when itÔÇÖs overÔÇª
Well, in our sport we walk the special tests before, and weÔÇÖre not allowed to use any vehicle. Like a bicycle, we cannot use a bicycle to walk the special test ÔÇô it has to be by foot. So, when I get to the special test now on the motorcycle, I like to focus on what I walked, what I saw, and then try to use little pieces of that special test, and then connectÔÇª Like, if it was a 10-minute special test I would probably remember the first three minutes, and then from then on I would remember the second three minutes, and so on.
Because sometimes itÔÇÖs just too much information to learn right away, so when you know how to divide a whole in fractions, itÔÇÖs really easy to become one with the track and one with the motorcycle, and that way at the end you start flowing more and more. You know, as I told you before, itÔÇÖs hard at the beginning, at the beginning of a sports career, but then with more experience you learn how to connect each and every dot with more accuracy and more speed.
Cameron: So you break the course down into small little steps, remembering each one. Do you visualise whatÔÇÖs your perfect route between it, and then the next bit and then the next bit, and then add them up as you go along? Is that what youÔÇÖre saying?
Homero: Yeah, exactly. And the way I do it is I try toÔÇª I try to relate little things which can make me remember the whole course. I donÔÇÖt know, letÔÇÖs say if I was walking the test with one of my buddies and he started all of a sudden talking about the party he had a few years before or one week before, I say ÔÇ£Okay, this is this straightaway where we talked about the bar or the party.ÔÇØ you know, and then weÔÇª I relate that session to memorise the next thing. And then we say ÔÇ£Oh, look at that tree ÔÇô it looks like a bird!ÔÇØ or whatever, and then I say ÔÇ£Okay, okay ÔÇô this is a turn right before the tree.ÔÇØ and then we see whatever, or we hear a sound ÔÇ£This is the downhill right before we heard the sound.ÔÇØ
You startÔÇª ItÔÇÖs a bitÔÇª ItÔÇÖs a bit hard to explain, but once you start connecting all those little things that happen, all of a sudden youÔÇÖre going to remember a 12-minute special test; exactly where you need to break, where you need to ~stand~, where you need to accelerate, what kind of obstacles you need to avoid or what obstacle you can use to increase the speed on a little section, you know. IÔÇÖve done many, many races all over the world, and I know how to relate to make it easy to remember.
Cameron: What do you do just before the race starts? Are you focusing on those small little chunks and visualising your way around the course, or what are you doing? Because obviously the heartÔÇÖs beating, youÔÇÖre getting aroused. What allows you to plug in?
Homero: WellÔÇª Usually we talk about before a race as like 30 minutes before or so, but I like to talk about before a race the night before a race, which is one of the most important moments, because the way you sleep is going to be the way you race most of the time. So, when I go to bed before a race I try to remember all the little things that I saw during my ~walk out~, you know, and thatÔÇÖs the way I fall asleep. I close my eyes and I start remembering the whole track or the whole course, and if I fall asleep before I finish the track thatÔÇÖs good, thatÔÇÖs no problem.
But you have to start getting into your racing mode before the race, and that way the next day you wake up and youÔÇÖre starting to get more ready and more ready and more ready. ItÔÇÖs like going into a room, getting ready. When you start getting closer you start feeling it; every step you feel it more and more, and you need to be more concentrated. I mean, most of the riders that I know, the professional riders, we get into a sense thatÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know, itÔÇÖs either you get more serious, or you get louder, or you smile more… It all depends on how you approach your race.
For example, I just getÔÇª I mean, IÔÇÖm aÔÇª Outside the races I like to be very smiley and a very funny guy and everything, but when the race goes, when IÔÇÖm starting to get close to the race itÔÇÖs racing mode, and you get really serious, and thatÔÇÖs whenÔÇª I guess thatÔÇÖs sometimes when the people know you, they know you when youÔÇÖre racing, and they say ÔÇ£Oh, this guy is really cocky, and this guy is really serious, or this guy isÔÇªÔÇØ Because thatÔÇÖs ~our office~, you know, thatÔÇÖs what we do for work. IÔÇÖm going to work to the races, and IÔÇÖm just being serious, because I take it really, really serious. And thatÔÇÖs a state of mind also, because thatÔÇÖsÔÇª WeÔÇÖre used to getting serious when itÔÇÖs time to work, you know.
Cameron: That kind of leading up toÔÇª so maybe from 30 minutes until before you start, do you have any kind of preparation? Do you try and listen to music, do you try and zone out, do you try and have a laugh, do you just try and relax, or you focus on doing your equipment? Would you have aÔÇª
Homero: No, IÔÇª Most of the time I have rubber bands hanging on the canopies or the tents on our team, and I start warming up, doing a lot of moving. I usually start from the bottom up ÔÇô ankles then calves then knees and so on until the neck ÔÇô and IÔÇÖmÔÇª I donÔÇÖt know, I have this idea that I need to start sweating before the race starts, and thatÔÇÖs how I want it, thatÔÇÖs how I want it to be. It helps me get in the mood a little bit easier. IÔÇÖm already having my muscles a little bit ready, my heart rate is a little bit up, and then everything starts to click in, and thenÔÇª You know, when I get toÔÇª We put our bikes in [~3, 13:27] or the impound, we impound our bikes 30 minutes before, so we have those 30 minutes of free time to warm up or do whatever we want.
So, from the moment we impound I start doing all my warm-up, and I prep my goggles and everythingÔÇª I prep all that just to have something to do during my free time. And then once the race starts itÔÇÖs justÔÇª I mean, again, go with the flow, you know, whatever happens happens. But I try to concentrate on every special test, you know, I take it easyÔÇª Like, when I go to special test one I remember special test one ÔÇô thatÔÇÖs it; I donÔÇÖt have to start remembering about special test two. Then when I get to special test two I remember only special test two. I like to divide everything by fractions. And then if weÔÇÖre going to be doing at the end of the day 16 special tests, you know, itÔÇÖs just that; just remember pieces, little pieces of the whole thing.
Cameron: And what do you do in the last 30 seconds before the lights go on, or youÔÇÖre ready to go? What are you focusing on, what are you preparing?
Homero: Well, I have aÔÇª Like, every single time right before starting a special test I put the bike in neutral, and then IÔÇª Let me show you what I do. [laughs] IÔÇÖm like this, and IÔÇÖm likeÔÇª I do my hands like this and I rub them, I rub my hands to create a little bit of energy that way, and that way I canÔÇª Like, you know, if you start thinking more about energy and becoming one with your own self and all that, and especially whenÔÇª I was taught by my dad that when you do this you cannot be sad, you know. Like, if you go like this you always smile, and you create energy, so thatÔÇÖs one of the things I do. I clap my hands, I clap my hands really hard, then I rub them, and then I start. And youÔÇÖll see me do that in every single special test from 2004 to today.
Cameron: Yeah, nice! Perfect ÔÇô thatÔÇÖs a really good cue!
Homero: Yeah. [laughs]
Homero: ThatÔÇÖs myÔÇª ThatÔÇÖs my secret! [laughs]
Cameron: Yeah ÔÇô awesome! Have you ever tried to feel that energy? So, when you rub your hands, and then you keep rubbing them, and then just betweenÔÇª Can you feel like almost as if youÔÇÖve got two different magnets pushing against each other?
Homero: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Cameron: Can you feel that?
Cameron: So then do that, and then try and widen it and get it kind of bigger, and you might need to push in to feel that resistance, so almost you can feel that energy. Can you feel that?
Homero: Yeah, yeah.
Cameron: Yeah? And then try and get it big so itÔÇÖs like a football.
Thanks Homer for this interview