"Meet yourself where you are today without judgement" ... And remember to fight like hell for a better day tomorrow"
Three years ago, I got my first bike. Two years ago, I started racing bikes. Having grown up knowing nothing about fitness as a self-proclaimed "couch potato", I was shocked how quickly strength came to me. I was even more shocked to land the top step in my first ever cyclocross series in December 2016.
In my mind, it's been pretty much downhill from there.
In my personal life, I struggle a lot with maintaining a positive mentality and upholding lofty goals that I make up for myself. As an athlete, these mental games become even more challenging as I make the choice to constantly compare myself to others through competition.
I focus so heavily on results. I find myself constantly checking up on my competition to see how long their trainer ride was, what Strava segments they PR'd, and what core work they're completing. It's silly, but I can't help it.
The 2017 - 2018 cross season was rough for me. It started with a severe drop in base training at the beginning of 2017. By the time that the panic of "race season is quickly approaching" set in, it was already too late. My competition had been training relentlessly all year. This was also my first season in the Elite 1/2/3 field.
I had a handful of races where I placed better than expected, mostly due to the technical aspects of the course and my handling skills having improved over the year, but most races were DNF'd or completed with excuses already running through my head. Mid season, I decided to stop making excuses. If anyone asked "what happened" in my race, I just laughed, shrugged, and said that I did my best. This was my first honest attempt at PMA.
Some days, I managed to convince myself that I truly did do my best, but most, I walked off the race course feeling frustrated at myself and my inability to just do better.
In the second to last race of the season, I was faced with a course that played to all of my strengths : tight pinwheels, technical wooded areas, and lots of mud. Despite flipping over my bike backwards while attempting to ride an optional run-up, I went into this race feeling real stoked.
Halfway through the first lap, I was in the front pack. The leaders who usually are out of sight from the moment the whistle blew were still within reach.
And then I crashed.
It was the type of crash that I didn't see coming and the impact of the ground took me a minute to comprehend exactly what had happened.
By the time I was up and back on my bike, the pack was gone. After such a rough season, I was more angry than anything, so I chased as hard as I could.
This was my second real attempt at PMA. By the end, I managed to catch and pass two other women.
After the race, I limped my bike over to my car to sit alone for awhile. I remember that this prompted me to text my husband that I didn't want to do this anymore. I had convinced myself that I was done racing and had a good, frustrated cry. I allowed myself to feel sorry myself for longer than necessary. This pity party led to a conversation where my husband pointed out that, had me two years ago crashed on that course, I would not have gotten up. And I sure as hell wouldn't have gotten up and chased.
Side note: I also ended up with a gnarly scar from this day that now takes up the majority of my left leg (neat!).
This race was the turning point for me. I realized that, early on, I had accepted that this wasn't gonna be my year, but I was excited to see what I was truly capable of when up against some of the fastest ladies in the GA cross series. I spent the first half of the season getting my ass kicked, but learning from every mistake. By the end, I had learned all that I wanted to. I had a list of all of the things that I needed to work on between now and next year. Now, I was just getting my ass kicked.
The season has since passed. I have since focused my attention on other lofty goals and set myself up for a gruesome training season.
Even with the realization of my mistakes and the excitement of tackling these goals head on, it is still hard to not feel frustrated with myself. I feel as though I am building completely from the ground up all over again.
But this year, I am focusing on my personal progress. Although I probably won't stop checking in on what other racers are doing in preparation for the upcoming season, I'm focusing on shrugging it off a lot easier. I'm learning that everyone is going to train differently and progress differently and experience difficultly with their own things. I'm learning to be patient with myself. Muscles have grown before, they can grow again. Bigger and stronger!
And I definitely do not share this for anyone to pat me on the back and say it's okay. I'm really not looking for comfort or reassurance in any form, because I know that outside opinion really doesn't matter for me. I have to make myself believe that I am getting stronger and faster and that I truly did do my best.
Many people openly shared with me that they believed I would stop racing cross after last season. But I'm just planning on coming back with an all new vengeance and stoke for the 2018 season.
I share this in hopes that it helps give solace to anyone else who may feel this way. I also share it just as a personal diary of growth to look back on in the future once all those new muscles have grown in.
**All photos by Ross Monckton
** Not sure the source of the quote above, Ellen Noble shared it once and it's been floating in my head ever since