What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror? I’ve been asking myself this lately. Do I see an individual who my younger self would be impressed with? Do I see an individual who has hope that one day she may live up to her potential? For an athlete, these are questions worth investigating. Racing bikes is not easy. It’s full of ups and downs, and it doesn’t always work out the way one may expect. It takes time, it takes effort and it takes passion. In essence, it is a process. I’m realizing that I’m just getting started with, and learning the balance associated with, this process.
“Protect your wheel... keep pushing, you’re fine, you can do this, STAY FOCUSED!” It’s a cold, February morning in Tuscon, AZ , and I am in a large pack of cyclists with skinny tires. I’m nervous, I’m completely out of my comfort zone, and I’m riding with some seriously fast and accomplished athletes. The group rolls past a stop sign and, in a flash, the first attack is made. My nerves are going haywire as I attempt to hold on. Not five minuets later, I am off the back, struggling hard to catch up.
This was my first attempt at the famous “Shoot Out” group ride, and I immediately realized that my training program is in its infancy, but the process has definitely begun. It was an eye opener for me. I rode the remaining miles that day with a couple of guys who pushed my limits, and I’m thankful for them. Hours later, looking at myself in the mirror, I saw a tired girl who was proud of her efforts and who was excited for future improvements.
“One minute ladies!” As the announcer at the Cactus Cup in Phoenix, AZ called over the speaker, all I could think about was how I knew I would do better this year. “Three, two, one... go!!” We take off in a cloud of dust as the small crowd of onlookers offer up screams of excitement. Within five seconds, I am in last place. I immediately decide that I should work on my starts as I pedal hard to get around a girl. Dust is in the air as the pack moves towards the single track at the north end of the venue, and I am out of the saddle working hard to pass another girl.
While training in Tucson, I focused on changing my mental attitude. Often, I struggle with negative thoughts during hard workouts and races. During the Cactus Cup 40 mile, I worked hard to keep the negative thoughts away. Despite my bad start, I worked my way up passing several more girls and kept a positive attitude throughout. I finished this year with a faster time than the previous year. At the end of the day, I stood in front of my mirror and saw a girl who was on her way to conquering one of her demons, but was still a far cry away from achieving her goals.
The sun is shining on an early March day, and I’ve been riding my mountain bike for at least four hours through some of my favorite trails in Moab, UT. I’m riding technical terrain that I never mastered in the past, and I am feeling strong. I approach an obstacle that scares me, but I try it anyway. I fail. It’s a tight corner with a few chunky rocks, making the line that I need to ride difficult to see. As I walk my bike around the corner, I have a change of heart. “Try it again,” an inner voice encourages me, and I do. I make it up and around the tight corner feeling relief and satisfaction. An hour later I wreck over an obstacle that I would have done in years past. Both my Garmin and ego are shattered, but I finish the ride. That night as I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw a tired girl with sore muscles who was reminded of the triumphs and defeats that will inevitably happen during her training process.
Before I know it, I will be at the start line of my next race, the Whiskey 50 in Prescott, AZ. I know that I will arrive at this race with more experience and a better attitude. I also know it will tax both my mental and physical fortitude, and I will need to call on my past training to see me through. I have learned a lot through my process these past few months, but there is one more bit of wisdom that I choose to glean from. Living in Southwest Colorado, I am influenced by the local Navajo culture. The Navajo word for beautiful is Nizhóní. This word does not necessarily refer to an outward beauty. The idea behind Nizhóní is that beauty is a sense of being, comprised of harmony and balance within.* I’d like to try and emulate this idea while I race. I want to be aggressive, but fair. I want to be both strong and feminine. I want to race with passion while still being level headed to accept all outcomes. And in the end, when I look at myself in the mirror after each race, I want to see Nizhóní.
As always, super thanks to the Amy D Foundation for their ongoing support!
Super thanks to Pearl IZUMi for always keeping me comfortable and looking good on the bike!
Super thanks to Lazer Helmets for keeping my brain safe.
Super thanks to CarboRocket for helping me dial in my nutrition.
* Source: https://navajowotd.com/word/nizhoni-beautiful-navajo/