For those of you that know me, you’ll understand that I’m competitive. I’m not keen on coming last in things, almost as much as I dislike missing out on top spots. But that’s pretty much been the story for all the sports I’ve done (and I’ve done a few).
I’d like to think that it’s not because I’m not capable, but more because (in all brutal honesty) I’m lazy. I’m a cruiser. I make excuses for why I’m not achieving when the stark reality of it all is that I don’t even try.
So after 3 years of racing on the Downhill MTB scene it’s clear I’ve made improvements, but my ‘cruising along’ and inability/unwillingness to take a step back to learn key skills and train resulted in a few broken ribs, smashed fingers and a few more close calls than I would have liked in my most recent season. Results wise? Let’s just say that ‘3’ was definitely the magic number for 2016!
What these last three years have taught me is that you certainly need courage to just attempt, let alone complete, the courses that are put in front of you. Every new race I did was exhilarating. Steeper terrain, faster bikes, bigger jumps. You can’t deny that god like feeling you get when you manage to conquer a particular obstacle, the rush of adrenaline, the advancement up the ranks of awesomeness when compared to mere mortals.
But I began to see my immortal attitude was starting to put me in some seriously dangerous situations.
“BUT THAT’S THE POINT! STOP BEING WET!” I hear you say! And part of me agrees with you.
The thrill of danger is what makes it exciting. But with every steeper drop, bigger jump, faster running track across ricochet roots, I realised that it wasn’t my amazing skills that were getting me through the courses (and let’s be honest, my skills were few), it was pure luck that I hadn’t hurt myself sooner.
Come the end of 2016 I was tired, a bit broken and definitely feeling that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I had cruised into 3rd places throughout the season which pleased and annoyed me both. Pleased I had gained a podium spot at all, but annoyed at myself for expecting more from trying so little.
The girls who were beating me were well deserving. They were fast from years of experience and understanding the sport better than I ever could have done at the time. They were able to read the trails with skill, negotiate the terrain and obstacles, picking routes that I couldn’t even see and this is ultimately why they were faster. It didn’t matter how hard I pedaled or how much ego I injected into my head, I just didn’t have the required skills.
The choice to not compete in 2017 was hard, more so when the season officially kicked off. When 90% of your friendship group was created through the racing scene, and you’re the only one not racing, the world gets very lonely very quickly.
But the reasons behind my decision were well founded. Skills and fitness cannot be ignored when you’re ultimately seeking results. I mentioned before how anyone can have balls to pedal like a loon at a new technical drop, but not everyone has the skill to approach it well and land it safely whilst carrying good speed, that takes practice.
Never let yourself get so caught up in the race for podiums and sponsors that you forget to practice the basics and ultimately forget to enjoy the ride, after all, skids aren’t just for kids.