Measuring Success in New Ways

10:49 AM

I successfully skipped a race this past Sunday.  It actually took quite an effort to not race in the Single Track Attack out at Hillside.  The race was the next in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series, and having a DNF from the week before put more emphasis on this week if I wanted to maintain my series points.  I’ve also started to really enjoy riding out at Hillside – the technical nature of this course is more exciting than scary now, and I am more confident attempting (though not necessarily completing) the more sketchy stuff. 

Clearly not a professional photographer...
But to not race required quite an effort.  First, I had to tell myself constantly all week that I wasn’t going to race.  More than this, I made it known to anyone who would ask that I wasn’t going to race (I’ve heard that if you tell others your goals it helps keep you on track).  This helped to solidify my new reality of not-racing, but I knew I needed to do more. So Saturday I went out mountain biking with a group of guys and worked my tail off to keep up with them, thus ensuring that I would be very tired on the day of the race.

With all of these preparations I still found myself vulnerable to a last minute change of heart on Sunday morning (even when I woke to rain and the possibility of a mud-fest…I hate mud-fests).  So I capped off my not-racing campaign with a very heavy breakfast and a viewing of the Olympics women’s road race, which ended after I would have to leave for the race if I wanted to make my start time.

Aside: the women sure do know how to put on a great race!  Loved seeing Marianne Vos charging at the end and getting the gold!  Too bad Shelley Olds had the flat at the end – she definitely would have given Marianne and Lizzie some competition for the top spot.  And I suspect we will see a lot more of Lizzie Armitstead (and hear less about team infighting) in the future…

It all ended in an odd morning of being very excited about the Olympic race, and a bit deflated at my own meager accomplishment of not racing.  I’m not a person who changes plans easily, and when I set my sights on the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series earlier this spring I saw it as a commitment to my first real competitive mountain biking season.  I had visions of this amazing summer where my skills would rise to my level of ambitions, where I would charge up hills and float over rocks, laugh at logs and learn how to manual on my bike.  For the most part I have had a great season – some strong finishes, and an excellent place in the series overall – but the last few races have made it clear that I need to step back a bit.  Maybe some overtraining, maybe some unaddressed health issues, and definitely too much emphasis placed on racing my mountain bike and not enough on enjoying my mountain bike. 

I did make it out to Hillside on Sunday – the Spouse’s race always goes off two hours after mine – so I was able to see the end of what would have been my race.  It wouldn’t have been a mud-fest as the rain cleared up quickly and left the trails only a little wet, but it was very hot and humid with an extraordinarily high dew point (I never race well in a sauna).  I had to fight those feelings of regret, because I know any race I did would have left me wheezing, tired, dirty, and finishing farther back than I would want. 

Instead I got to cheer on the Spouse and other friends, read a book in the shade, and take (bad) pictures of the racers as they came by with my severely underpowered point-and-shoot.  I’ve discovered that while it is easy to regret not racing, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right decision after all.  The true poison of regret is that you always imagine what could have been in a much more rosy light than what, more realistically imagined, would have happened.  Better instead to focus on what is gained – I now have a couple of weeks to gather myself, re-focus the close of my cross country racing season, and prepare for the best season in the year: cyclocross!

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