I thought that I would share my experiences with regard to what I have learned from racing a lot. When I say a lot, I mean 39 races done since July 1 of 2013. I am currently in the tail end of a season where I committed to racing 52 races in 52 weeks.
So here are some of the things that I have learned along the way.
1. Your emotions, that comes along with racing, can be controlled….sort of. Pre-race jitters are a very strange thing. They effect your ability to eat before the race. They make unbelievably long port-a-potty lines. And they cloud your mind before a race. This is the case for most racers because these emotions are usually ones of stress or nervousness. This is a very negative emotion. It is much more powerful early in the season or when you are at the start line of a big race for the season. This negative emotion is very self-defeating and sucks a lot of energy from your body. I have toed the start line over 40 times in the past calendar year. Having done this so many times in such a short period of time has helped to keep my emotions more under control. My mind and body know what is coming. That has helped me tamp down the nervousness and stress that comes along with racing. And when I am really lucky and really on my game I am able to get my mind to think about the positive things that are about to happen. I start building positive energy as opposed to being slowed down by negative emotions. So, as best you can, even for an early season race, try to remember all of the other times you have toed the start line and successfully made your way on through to the finish. Those memories will help you control your emotions.
2. Don’t race scared. I know this is easier said than done at times. However, as I have made my way to the end of this epic season I am getting increasingly more nervous that some fluke accident is going to jeopardize my completion of the last 13 races. Some small crack in the road is going to send me down on the pavement. A misplaced foot fall on the run course is going to turn my ankle. Any number of things can go wrong out there that can ruin my goal of reaching 52 by the end of June. This thought consumes me and effects my decisions as I race. What does this do to me? It slows me down. I don’t know how much but if feels like a lot. Early on in the season, when I knew I had time to make up for lost races, I didn’t notice then things that I notice know. I believe this slows me down because I am more cautious and because I am not focusing on the positive things..but rather I am consumed by the negative. Read #1 above again if necessary. I don’t think that I am going to be able to shake this as I get closer to my goal. I somewhat expect that my final race I will doggie paddle the swim, put training wheels on my bike and take a walker on the run course. Nothing silly will ruin this for me. However, for those of you out there that are racing like a normal person, as best you can, race with passion and without fear. Race smart just not afraid. Clearly there are times to peak the level of caution to make sure you don’t seriously injure yourself…but for the most part we are racing…so race hard..race fast…race free.
3. The person in the back of the pack is working as hard as the person in the front. This has held true for the most part. Every once in a while you will see someone in the back that is simply enjoying the day. But most often it is a person that is new to the sport or that is fighting a weight issue that has decided to give this sport a try. To say that this is brave would be an understatement. This is an intimidating sport to break into…what with all the in shape racers, carbon fiber everything and spandex suits. They are working back there…we should always encourage those racers. We need them in the sport. We want them in the sport. So, next time you blow past someone on a mountain bike remember to do it respectfully. Don’t cut it close. Don’t glare at them. I once heard that it doesn’t get easier…you just go faster. I think that is true. The last place person at most of the races I have attended during this journey truly looked spent when they came across the line. They are brave for what they do. Congratulate them and welcome them into this weird sport that we find ourselves in.
These are just a few of the hundreds of things I have learned along the way. I think these are the ones that are most applicable to all racers. I hope that they help you along your way.
If you are interested in learning more about my journey you can check out the blog that I am maintaining to document the whole thing: www.52races12months.wordpress.com