Wow, how quickly things can change. The Trans-Sylvania Epic (TSE) is, after all, a seven-day stage race on some of the most technical trails I've ever ridden. As my teammate Vicki [Barclay] reminded us earlier in the week, one day you're in, one day you're out.
I'll cut to the chase. It's been a rough two days for me. In yesterday's enduro stage, I tried to have some fun, ride conservatively, keep air in my tires and keep it upright to protect my GC lead. I nailed three out of four of those objectives.
I took a pretty spectacular endo in one of the rock gardens and hit the deck hard. It wasn't a section that was over my head; I just took a bad line and messed it up. After looking at the photos and video, I'm feeling pretty lucky that I am just covered in bruises and bumps and wasn't significantly hurt. No negativity, no regret. I tried and it just didn't work out.
And then there's today. I'll spare you the details of how we all did it and why (the top four in the women's GC did it with a group of other racers), but I missed a turn 45 minutes into today's stage that cost me about 30 minutes of extra riding. 22 minutes of it was a super steep climb back up to the missed turn. It was lots of extra work on an 85-90 degree day. A super duper bummer as it carried the extra burden of knowing that it was my own fault. Marked or not, solo or in a group, staying on course is always the racer's responsibility.
Here's where I get to pat myself (lightly) on the back. I didn't let my spectacular crash or detour get to me. Over the years, I guess I have just developed the most important skill a stage racer can have: resiliency. Some of you may know, but I completed a Master's degree in Sports Psychology last year.
Resiliency is something I studied from many different perspectives in many different sport settings. I had a degree of it before I started my graduate work, but it is something I worked very hard to develop as I have learned from both textbooks and my own racing experiences, good and bad. Was I pissed that I crashed? Of course! Was I bummed when we collectively realized that we had in fact made a wrong turn. Yup! But I moved on from both my crash and wrong turn almost immediately. That's resiliency. And that's why stage racing is so rad. You have the immediate opportunity to move on the next day.
Athletes have a finite amount of mental energy or space. Sort of like a mental bank account. You may as well make mental withdrawals in the name of energy that can help you. The way I see it is the crash happened, I'm fine, it's over. Time to move on. I experienced the same thing today. The wrong turn happened. Bummer. Move on and get back to work. If I lamented the fact that I got lost, I was making mental withdrawals from my energy bank getting angry about something that I couldn't change. My energy could be put to way better use by focusing on the task at hand. Riding harder, riding smoother, and going really, really hard.
Crashes, mechanicals and wrong turns only take on the power you give them. Let issues get to you and they will get to you. Over the years I have developed a big bag of racing tricks, but I do have to say that resiliency is probably my best.
Today, resiliancy enabled me to absolutely empty my bank account into pinning it for the rest of the stage, trying to minimize the damage. I finished pretty spent and at this point still hold the yellow jersey by 10 minutes. Phew. All three of my Stan's teammates missed the turn as well, so we are all unfortunately in the same lost time boat together but all their GC places slipped.
I'll approach tomorrow's stage with the same attitude as all my previous days. Have fun, race hard, focus on what matters. Like we all keep saying here at the TSE, #(*@ happens. Derailleurs rip off, flats pop open, frames crack and crank arms fall off. You can cry in your beer or you can pound it and pour another. Life is too short and mountain biking is just too much fun to sweat the small stuff.
Tomorrow is a new day and it also happens to be the "Queen" stage, Tussey Ridge. Time for the real fun to begin!
Thanks for reading
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elites