I’ve gone through more than a couple attitude adjustments over the four cross seasons I’ve raced. I’ve gone from just happy to be here to racing near the front to learning how to race to racing at the front to pack fodder. While the bottom line is personal fitness, your attitude is what will let you make the most of the fitness you have.
My last two races last season were the USGP stops in the Pacific Northwest where I raced in the 35+ 1/2/3 race. At the Steilacoom race on Saturday, I was nervous, excited and just wanted to put forth a good effort. The result of that thinking was that I stacked it up through the barriers on the second lap, twisted my shifters around (requiring a field adjustment) and never made up for that momentary lack of concentration.
The Steilacoom race had been warm and dry and I was hoping that the rain would hold off until after racing then next day at the Portland race. However, it was raining pretty good when I awoke and it continued to rain throughout the day. It rained when I signed in. It rained when I tried to warm up. It was going to rain while I raced. The course was a quagmire of slop.
After signing in, I stopped by my team’s tent where they had a fire going and I was reluctant to leave the warmth. I went off to “warm” up and it started to rain harder. I was not in a racing frame of mind.
However, while I was tooling around on my own, I stumbled on a moment of zen. I was just ready to race — and by ready, I meant mentally ready to line up and do whatever I could to finish in front of as many guys as possible. When we staged, I fet loose in the starting grid. I started strong and settled into my pace. I kept churning through the mud and pulled off a great race.
I have a hard time explaining how my attitude flipped 180 degrees in the blink of an eye. One possibility is that I decided that this was just a race rather than the culmination of the races that had come before. Instead of dragging along baggage from the season (and previous seasons), I was out to race right then and there. Also, the conditions were terrible (some might say great) and the absurdity of racing through that mess and trying to warm up with a rooster tail of cold water running running down my butt poked some fun into my grim demeanor.
I hope that I can find that attitude this season. I need to keep things in perspective. Every race isn’t going to be great. There are lots of guys faster than me and they will beat me most of the time. I need to line up, stay loose, and be aggressive in the race. When I cross the finish line, I need to understand that the race is over and while I can learn things from my performance, I can’t dwell on the negatives. I need to enumerate the positives and go into my next race thinking about what I will do rather than trying to avoid doing something dumb.
It’s like riding past an obstacle; since you tend to ride where you look, if you stare at the spot you want to avoid, you are more likely to run into it.