With racing, there are good days and bad days. What no one ever tells you, though, is that there are also a hell of a lot of “other days” that are neither totally good nor totally bad. They just kind of are. And this past weekend in Aspen, I had two stunningly mediocre days. They weren’t bad, perse (although there were a few bad moments), but they sure as hell weren’t great. I felt tired. I felt like I was getting a cold. I failed to hydrate. But it wasn’t a bad race — it was a weekend of other days.
Pro racers, I’ve noticed, are obsessed with talking about the “highs and lows” and sometimes it makes it seem like we exist on a kind of spectacular bike life roller coaster where we’re either in the ER getting sewn back together or standing on top of a podium. I’m guilty of this — if you read through the race posts on this blog, most of them are either “yay awesome race” or “hey this totally catastrophic thing happened.” This year there has been more of the latter, unfortunately.
But despite what this blog might suggest, most of my racing days are not catastrophic. Disastrous races are easy to write about, fun even, depending how ridiculous the circumstances. Good races are just fun in general. Most of my races this year (and in my entire racing career, let’s be honest) have been, well, somewhere in between. I have performed about how I thought I would, given the circumstances, and that has been vaguely disappointing. On some level, I’m often aware that I raced well — I know I performed my best, I know I’ve improved since last year, I know I hit the lines I wanted to, I was mentally strong, etc. But yet, results-wise, I’m not where I want to be.
And, damn, that can be really hard to deal with. Way harder, to be completely honest, than smashing your head into the ground going 30mph or breaking something major on your bike.
I know people who have some catastrophe in every single race (or at least, they think they do). Something on their bike exploded. They crashed and got stuck in a bush. They rode off the trail. Someone wouldn’t get out of their way. And you know what? I get it. I totally totally get it. It is so much easier to fail because of some epic misfortunate than to fail because you aren’t that fast. But I’m trying really hard to not be that person, because if you always have an excuse, if every single race is a catastrophe, you never really accept where you stand — and you can’t improve if you don’t know where you stand.
After Sun Valley, where Macky had an unfortunate mechanical and I acquired a concussion, we had the following conversation:
Me: Honestly, it’s pretty amazing that you were fifth with a flat.
Macky: Yeah, I’m pretty happy, considering. (Editor’s note: he didn’t sound that happy).
Me: Wouldn’t it be fucking nice to just ONCE, not have to say “considering?”
To just once, have that perfect day where you didn’t have to put any spin on the situation to be happy with it. No “what ifs,” no “considering,” no “I should be happy with this but why aren’t I faster.” Just a perfect day.
But most days aren’t perfect. Most days you don’t even have an excuse. Being happy with a race “considering” takes a lot of strength, I’ve realized. I used to let results completely determine how I felt about a race — if I was last I would curl into a ball and mope for days. Now, results are still a factor, but I’ve learned to recognize what I’ve done well, and what I can do better — in general, I try to be more objective.
And I’ve accepted that the vast majority of my races will be somewhere in between a high and a low, and that’s okay.