by Lindsey Fahey
2013 was the first year I decided to race my bike, heck it was the first year I really RODE my bike week in and week out and “trained”. I learned a LOT………………..I learned about myself and my limits, both mentally and physically. I developed a huge amount of respect and appreciation for all of my teammates and the extremely strong women I competed against. I learned a ton about my bike, how to handle it better, how to ride it faster and how to take care of it. Best of all I made some great friends, met awesome people all along the way and had a LOT of FUN (duh that’s the point).
It was the best of times………….it was sometimes the worst of times. I cried, I came in DFL, I DNF-ed, I DNS-ed, I stood on the podium (and won A STATE CHAMP MEDAL!!!) I cried about that too. I got my ass kicked, but I also kicked some ass. I got horribly frustrated but had some amazing successes. Sometimes I hurt badly, but I consistently got stronger. I fell off my bike, I got filthy dirty, I got really banged up, I sometimes smelled bad, I terrified myself……but I also smiled like an idiot……and I waved……..I pushed myself harder and dug deeper at times than I ever thought I could………..and it sure was FUN!
For all of you folks out there thinking about racing, I am no expert by ANY MEANS, but I survived my first season and this is what I learned:
1. You will never be ready to race your bike…………you always could have trained harder or more, or not got sick last week, or slept more last night, or not eaten chipotle for lunch (num num num), or maybe you don’t have the right gloves or clothes or your bike is a hunk of junk. You have to, as Nike says, Just do it. If I waited until I was “ready” and all the stars aligned and I felt perfect I wouldn’t be writing this now, I would have never pulled up to the line.
2. NEVER underestimate anyone. That girl with the down tube shifters and the REALLLLY heavy bike? She just might be able to destroy you and be one of the fiercest competitors and best athletes you have ever met. (Lauren Wissman! I am looking at you!)
3. If you want to train, train with people faster than you, they will push you. Have a plan and a goal.
4. That said, burnout is for real. And it is awful, rest is your friend. Sleep is your friend. Riding slow is your friend. If you don’t feel like racing or even riding, don’t. Just stop. You don’t get fast overnight. You won’t get slow by missing one workout…….or a week of riding.
5. There will always be someone better, stronger, faster than you………but you will be better, stronger and faster than someone too. Focus on yourself and don’t compare yourself or your progress to others. Focus on your small successes and incremental (or huge) improvements and keep moving forward. Don’t dwell on your mistakes or failures. Maybe have a good cry or a small (ok large) temper tantrum in a bush, but then move on. Don’t throw your helmet…or your gloves…..or your bike.
6. Pick something to work on every single race. It can be tiny or it can be large, just focus on something. Learn something from every single race. This could also be applied to every single ride as well.
7. Have a pre race routine, no matter how stupid it seems. It helps you get focused and tune out all the stuff around you…..(its hot, its cold, everyone is negative around me, or excited around me, I forgot a bra, I need to use a pit wheel, that guy is hot, where is my mom? why do I have to pee……..AGAIN?) You can let distractions happen and roll off you and continue to focus on your race. You can be nervous on the line but you did your routine, so you are READY. May not be for everyone but it helps me to do the same thing at the same times before the race, especially in cross since you race at the same time each week.
8. People do weird shit when competing and the pressure is on, both before, during and after the race. Let your teammate’s have their space to do their thing. Some people get really nervous or crabby or silly or hyper. Not your concern, you are in your routine remember? Focus on you. People do and say stuff in the heat of competition that they normally wouldn’t. If you say or do something mean or crappy go apologize to the person after the race. Usually you will get a good laugh out of it.
9. Always bring your own water and lots of it. Port o potty water is not for human consumption.
10. Bike racing is expensive and takes a lot of stuff, stay organized and double check you have your stuff the day before, check your bike the day before, in fact make it part of your routine…….see #7 above
11. Racing is definitely physical, but also very, very mental (at least for me). I’d go as far to say 80% mental. You need to figure out how to get your head in the game, if it’s not, you have no chance and are just riding, not racing. Winning is even more mental. You have to WANT to win and believe you can win and know you can win. Or you never will. Some people just go in knowing this and accept nothing less (Sarah Rice), I am still learning about this.
12. Focus on what is happening in front of you, ignore everything behind you. Harder than it sounds.
13. Beer and bike racing go hand in hand…….because racing is fun and people who race tend to be fun……and fun often involves beer (which is fun). You will get to know how to intertwine the 2….….some people can do both and just race hungover (Peter Monko). For us mere mortals you sometimes have to make the fun vs. doing well trade off decision or at least know your limit OR just accept you are going to suck the next day and keep the party going. We don’t get paid to do this after all.
14. But if you DO want to do your best and are targeting a specific race be nice to yourself……you are asking a lot out of your old bones. Lay off the sauce, eat well, sleep more, train hard and stick to your plan………you probably already know this drill if you are not still in college or Monko, in which case drink your face off and race your ass off!
15. It will be hard (it’s a race remember) and it will push you to your limits and beyond, you might even barf! Or cry! Or fall over! Or run into a garbage can! Or win! No matter what happens out there you will be stronger and let’s face it, the pro photog shots of you racing are pretty sweet!
16. Above all, if you raced 3 times or 30 times this year, finished last or won every race, IF YOU ARE NOT HAVING FUN YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!
Great season Spidermonkeys! I am so proud to call each and every one of you my teammates. See you out there next year!