Well, last year at this time on was on my way to what I thought was going to be a pretty good season; I dare say even my best. Then things happened and the wheel fell off the cart so to speak.
It is funny how certain things matter more to someone; even things that arent that important in the grand scheme of things. I mean, I could lose my job, and yet it wouldnt be as bad as not finishing a race as well as expected. Sure, it would suck for a bit, but you move on. Now you may say that my priorities are outta wack; maybe so, but to me a job can be had at anytime, maybe not one that you would consider palatable, but a job none the less. Cycling is what makes up who most of us are-at least cyclists anyway...duh. I mean, every january you cant wait to get going and start training and pushing your body beyond what you ever thought was possible. You dont get up monday morning and treat your job the same way you would approach your cycling goals for that same day-be honest. We live to ride... literally. I am fortunate enough to work doing the thing I love to do outside of work.
There are days were I sit and think long and hard about racing and what it means to me and is it worth the effort every year to push myself to get better even as I get older. Yes. Do the jitters every go away as I line up with guys that are younger and faster than me? No. Is it worth it to go out at every race and try to hang with these guys knowing that some are in better shape than myself and push even harder than I should? Yes. Is it worth it at the end of every race knowing I raced a great race and proved I can still do this and do it reasonably well? Most definitely. Is it worth it to go and push myself against guys half my age and beat most if not all of them? Hell yes!
I dont like to lose...period, but even finishing 3rd or 5th is not losing; you finished-and trust me, some races you win if you do just that. I see mountain bike racing differently than most do I think, though. When I go to race, I dont ever go with the assumption of winning. I know, "Why the hell do you go then" you say. Here is my take. Mountain bikers are unique in the fact that, unlike most roadies, it isnt about cut throat tactics that are meant to demoralize ones efforts. It isnt about how expensive your ride is or even what you wear. Mountain bike racing is about pushing yourself to the limits of pain you cant imagine. When you pass someone or get passed, they hurt as much if not more than you do. It comes down to who can tolerate the pain longer.
When I race, I go to beat me...thats it. I dont care what anyone else is doing or has done, I go knowing I trained hard and if I did everything right, I will place in my usual top 3-5 (with a win sprinkled in here and there). I have learned in the past the hard way that if you spend too much time wondering and scoping out the competition, you end up going down a long path of disappointments. I am fortunate to have a wife that digs me but doesnt care for racing-but she is there every race and that makes all the difference in how I race most of the time.
Now, I am not saying that you should ignore what everyone else is doing, you have to peak in every once in a while, but dont get caught up in the logistic stuff; worry about you and everything will be fine. My goals at every race are to exceed my times from the previous year. So far, I have done that and more. I know at some point in my life, that aint gonna happen as much, but I will ride the fun coaster until it derails.
So, somehow that went more to the racing aspect of riding than I originally planned, but its my blog. In a nutshell, get out and ride and sometimes ride hard and if Joe Hammertime shows you up, thats ok. Just ride your ride.