You have to race in Angel Fire. You just have to be ready for Angel Fire. This is what I’ve been telling myself for the past five weeks as I sat around on the couch nursing my bum knee. Skip this, skip that, take another day off, just be ready to race in Angel Fire.
I love Angel Fire. It’s my home mountain. I’ve wanted to do well at this race since it was announced back in February. Of course, shit happens, and spending a month off the bike is not really the ideal way to set yourself up for a podium. I rode my bike on trail for the first time six days before the race and that was when the enormity of my lack of preparation hit me. Like, seriously, I felt like I was dying on a 20 minute pedal. It was ugly, and I was tempted to bail entirely on this weekend. Because, if I couldn’t perform at my best, why bother? Mostly, I was afraid of an abysmally bad performance. I was afraid of failing. And I knew it would feel like a cruel sort of humiliation to fail so badly somewhere I was supposed to do well.
What I’m trying to say is that I was not so on top of my mental game leading up to this race. Ultimately after some tears and a lot of stress, I made myself a promise — I would just do the best I could under the circumstances. And I would accept (and forgive myself) if my best wasn’t actually that good. To me, doing my best doesn’t necessarily mean not crashing or not blowing corners — it just means not freaking the f&8k out and/or beating myself up. Which is often harder than it sounds.
I made plenty of mistakes this weekend, which meant plenty of opportunities to suck it up and keep going. I try to think of “doing my best” as a kind of revolving door. It doesn’t expire. You don’t lose when you screw up once. You just have a new set of circumstances to deal with.
I was fairly disappointed with my result (9th) after day one. I wasn’t upset, necessarily, I just knew I wasn’t racing at my potential. But I still think I did the best I could in that moment. I’m fairly confident that if I could have done better, I would have. Racing came as a bit of a shock to my lungs, my legs, my mind and my body. I had forgotten, while I watched from the sidelines, just how hard this racing thing is. And that’s okay. That’s what happens when you take time off.
Day two provided plenty of more entertaining (read: frustrating) circumstances. I managed to crash on my warm up and smash my bad knee (before I put my knee pads on, CLASSIC). I almost lost it here. I was so, so, so annoyed at myself. If it hadn’t been my bum knee I think I would have laughed it off, but I was so scared that even the slightest impact would cause a setback, and I just couldn’t believe I had done something so incredibly stupid. Here was clearly a case of not doing my best — I hadn’t been paying attention, I hadn’t been wearing my knee pads, etc. It was dumb, dumb, dumb and hopefully a mistake I won’t repeat. That said, I’m pleased with how I handled the situation after the fact. That’s the revolving door part. Yeah, you fuck up, but you can still deal the with the fuck-up well, and you can give yourself some credit for that. After a few moments of frustration and arriving at the start of stage one in a total flurry, I got my head together and told myself “at least you’re awake now.” Sometimes putting a different spin on something is all it takes to prevent it from negatively affecting your race. And my first stage ended up being one of my best. And my knee seems okay this morning, so no harm done.
I also encountered some mechanical havoc midway through the day, which resulted in a very bouncy run down the rockiest trail of the day with 40 psi in my rear tire. I don’t recommend this from a safety perspective, but it is a fairly effective way of getting down a mountain quickly with a slow leak. Instead of going slow to avoid a flat I just kept telling myself “you’re not racing against the other women now, you’re just racing against the decreasing pressure in your tire.” And that worked. I went extra fast to avoid having to walk down the mountain. So, whatever works, right?
I finished the weekend in 7th, moving up a couple spots and accomplishing most of my goals for the weekend. I’m happy with my performance, but also aware that I have more in me. It might take awhile to eek it out, but I know it’s there, and that’s a good feeling.
Now, on to the next one.