“All you need to do is chill out,” Allan Cooke, the Juliana-SRAM Pro Team’s ‘doer of things,’ says as he looks me in the eye on the morning of race day and tries to bring me back to earth. “You live here. These are your trails. Scale it back and get through the day and you’ll still be in a better spot than people who don’t ride here all the time.”
I hadn’t slept at all the night before the Whistler EWS stop at Crankworx. Any tiny little sound or movement grated on my nerves as if it were scratching my eyelids. It had rained in Whistler the two days before our race. My teammates were sweating it and I kept telling them that it was still too dry here to really impact the trails…it would be fine. But I didn’t truly believe it for a second. Training had gone really well all week with Kelli but I couldn’t shake the overwhelming nervousness and the skyrocketing expectations I had built up for myself. This was my hometown. I ride these trails all the time. I had the advantage…
April through July had been spent doing so many things. I had to try to recover from my stupid shoulder injury sustained in New Zealand. I had two big media projects to complete. I finished two races and did pretty well in them. I had to fit training in on my trails at home, and I had my full time job at Arc’teryx. I could take a longer trip to the excuse factory about why I felt so out of sorts racing at home, but the reality is that my mind got the best of me out there.
When we all arrived at the start of Stage 1 on race day in Whistler, I still didn’t feel right. The typically 45-minute climb was stretched out to take a bit more time to save our legs – I was properly warmed up. As we waited for our start times, I dumped out water from my pack. I messed with my goggles. I fretted the little things…What the hell was going on in my head and body today?
One crash compounded into two crashes over the course of the morning. Then three. Then a big one. Then a bigger one. I kept dusting myself off after each crash saying to myself “scale it back…” But after crashing in every stage, I was losing the confidence…the sense of humor…the wherewithal to just roll with it and keep having fun. I started to properly fall apart at the seams.
This is where that little detail of experience comes into play, and I’m learning (with experience) that we all need it to be good at anything in life. I still have such a way to go to learn how to calm down when shit goes sideways out there. A person needs so many experiences standing in the start gate at their hometown with the world watching to realize that the only place that the intense, suffocating pressure is coming from is within. When I look back, I can see now that every gnarly, otherwise month-ending crash I had on race day in Whistler happened when I got greedy to go as hard as I could even though I knew that the conditions absolutely didn’t allow for it. Moving forward slowly is way faster than lying on the ground, immobile.
As I uploaded for the final stage of the day in Whistler, I chatted with my gondola buddies – Anka and Isabeau were relaxed and we were laughing about mishaps of our day. I asked if anyone had looked at results and Isabeau was the first to chime in that she didn’t care about results at that point (little did she know then that she had just won the first EWS stage of her career). She was having “so much fun on my bike today and it doesn’t matter”. Anka agreed. These races are the only times in my life that I can remember when all worries and stresses have disappeared completely and everything is about living in the moment of the race. This is such a gift and it’s why I want to keep doing these races. Trying hard at something that we love for hours at a time with athletes who inspire is such a lucky thing to be a part of.
I was bummed to see my results at the end of my day, but I’ve come to terms with it now. The best part of needing experience is that the only way to get it is by trying again and again and getting better from it every time.
In the meantime, if you haven’t seen my Dirt Diaries submission from Crankworx, check it out! A huge amount of work and emotion went into this – Jasper and I knew the judges might not get it because “funny” isn’t what we do – but we wanted to create something meaningful for the community of Whistler and I think Jasper hit the nail on the head…
On to the craziest month of the year! Retallack…Interbike…Spain and Italy!