Motorsport is popular around the world, and the USA is no exception. With many different series around the country, often taking place throughout the entire year and in all weathers, the US boasts some on the toughest races on the calendar. I spoke to Kaitlyn Vincie, a reporter and broadcaster in many of these championships, […]
“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
The longer you wait to do something, the harder and more burdensome it becomes, but I finally returned to CrossFit after years of hibernating and recovering from injuries.
I debated even coming back at all, with all of my neck, shoulder, wrists and ankle injuries, but after all of the pressure I’ve been putting on myself to get another pro podium, and all of the guilt I experienced for not even finishing my last race, I needed something to shake things up. It was a crucial decision that I should have made a long time ago. In the two months since I joined, I reached my goal of attending three classes a week among record soreness (and embarrassment.) It’s humbling, being the high-achieving perfectionist that I am, and intimidating being the weakest link having to scale routines, but it forces me to ramp up slowly and focus on my form. “Trying to make something perfect can actually prevent us from making it just good.”
Never yield to remorse, but at once tell yourself: remorse would simply mean adding to the first act of stupidity a second.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Over the last week, I’ve had the opportunity of looking at last Sunday’s event at Interlake State Recreation Area in hindsight, and it got me thinking about regret. I pride myself on not having many, if any, regrets in life, because everything happens for a reason: “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”
But I regret quitting, especially since I finished just one check and still managed a fifth out of nine – only two completed all five checks.
There’s power in regret: using it to do things differently the next time I want to quit when something I encounter doesn’t meet my expectations, and rain falls for days leading up to the race and turns the tacky course into an iceskating rink.
From the moment I crossed the starting line and my tires skidded around the first turn, I felt trapped and cold, both my bike and my body uncomfortable skating through water-soaked ruts, and I was terrified of going fast, crashing (check), getting stuck (check) and losing my gloves, goggles and grip (check). Once that happened, I lost focus completely and couldn’t get out of the fog of fear, (nor did I want to), so I pulled off after the first checkpoint. Looking back, I should have pushed through my fears and faced them head-on. I should have just said, “Bring it on,” “I love fear,” and “Fear sets me free.” I should have turned against my fear and pushed back with confidence in my skills and my equipment, regardless of what I was experiencing on the outside feeling unprepared. I should have considered it a learning opportunity, since I rarely encounter knee-deep underwater conditions, especially when it’s cold, wet and raining.
So, I’m learning to live with it, and I imagine going back and making a different choice. Next time, it will be easier to keep going, and I will be less scared, because I’ve learned that fear is not absolute; it’s relative to the direction you’re going, and if you move toward your fear over and over again in life, you’re less afraid.
Plus, nothing bad would have happened had I forged on (most likely) so I was actually fearful of a situation that did not even exist and more worried about my times at each checkpoint or others’ perception of my finish. When, in order to be fully myself, I should have shoved my fears aside and maintained the stance that I was going to give whatever I had to give, instead of hiding from myself and my inexperience as a mud rider. After all, the only thing that will actually improve my mud riding skill is mud riding.
Too bad I only discovered this truth in hindsight.
“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” – Henry David Thoreau.
Heading into this weekeend’s enduro, I’m thinking about the fruits of my labor since the last one, and what I will experience over 60 miles of the never-before-seen trail. I visualize focusing on getting to reconnect with my motorcycle and enjoy myself in nature, pushing through the day’s challenges and attempting to ride calm, cool and confident even when my bike misbehaves. Best case, “she” may even impress me. Worst case, it’s a cold, rainy day, and I have plenty of tear-offs.
The crowd is the gathering place of the weakest; true creation is a solitary act. – Charles Bukowski
A 1987 New York Times article – “The Racer’s Edge: A Strong Psyche” quoted an issue of Psychology Today magazine: “There seems to be no slowing down our on-going love affair with the car,” and it’s the same way for me and dirt bikes. I’ve had “an enchantment” with motorcycles ever since I can remember; it’s how I was drawn to my profession and one of the many reasons for so many miles on my truck.
The article quotes study after study of what it takes to be a champion “things far greater than time, money and desire … and much more than a lucky break,” and the distinct psychological strengths necessary to drive competitively: “a champion driver is easily distinguished by his mental and personal characteristics, testing higher in such categories as self-sufficiency, calmness, intelligence and emotional stability.”
Another study compared the mental differences between novice drivers and nationally licensed sports car racing drivers at the Sports Car Club of America driving school – “The licensed drivers had higher abstract ability, more emotional stability, more highly developed consciences, more boldness, more self-assurance, more tough-mindedness, more resistance to emotional stress, more creativity and higher leadership potential. These differences are all the more remarkable because the novice driver trainees possessed an almost identical profile, differing only in terms of degree on each of the traits.”
You don’t need a study to tell you that championship enduro racing does not appeal to most people, (mainly just the 800 riders who pre-enter every race months in advance.) Enduros are long and tiring with unpredictable conditions and a huge amount of alone time, which is precisely why it suits my nature.
Lately, I’ve found myself opting out of group rides in favor of a solo session. After all, I don’t need anyone to ride my dirt bike for me anymore (except in Colorado); I know where I’m going, and I’m in complete control when I’m by myself as far as speed and distance are concerned – sometimes, riding with others becomes more of a burden, especially when I only get one on-the-bike training day per week; either I’m in the underdog situation, or I’m barely breaking a sweat.
In Florida, the pros of riding by myself in the woods outweigh the cons. Unlike in the mountains where I won’t ride solo for fear of falling off of a mountain never to be seen again, the biggest problem with riding the Florida sand by myself is having to pick my own lines while avoiding the four-foot-deep whooped out quad trails. This search for the smoothest, fastest line, I’ve noticed, makes me feel like I’m in race mode when I don’t know what to expect around each corner. When I’m training behind someone faster than me, I can naturally settle in and let my focus be on my line choice behind the leader without wasting energy determining our direction. Out front, I’m forced to lead (and believe in) myself.
“…many are probably wondering if they could do it. No doubt some of them could. And no doubt they are special and few.
It’s been a whirlwind month since I posted, from competing in my first Supercross race to covering the Atlanta Supercross live from the press box inside the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium after the NEPG cancelled my enduro, I’ve been getting some much needed seat time in the rider’s seat. There’s a certain “meditative aspect in the classical relationship between man and machine,” in that “You’ll feel much better if you get off your ass and go ride a motorcycle. Even better if you do it well.” – Ride Apart
The goal of the mindful rider is to reach the level where the precise action at the right time becomes second nature, the right move without thinking about it. – Meditation by Motorcycle – Finding Nirvana in a Curve
For my first-ever Supercross Amateur Racing event at Raymond James Stadium last month, even though I only completed less than 5 miles in 15 laps and burned ~200 calories, including one practice, one heat race and one main event, it was one of the hardest, most daunting tasks I’ve ever encountered, when I’m used to racing 60+ miles straight.
Out of my comfort zone on the supercross track, most of which taunted me – think: turn, jump, turn, jump – from the peaky triples to the hard-packed whoops, the obstacles forced me to dig deep over all of the jumps I was rolling. It’s like Malcolm Stewart sending it over the quad at the last Supercross; it’s the last thing he was thinking about: “Let me give it a little bit more gas and see what happens.”
“After I did it, it was kind of like one of those things that you do something you’re like man that was kind of sketchy, but then somebody else starts doing it and now you’ve opened up a can of worms where now you have to do it, so i wasn’t too stoked on it … probably if i didn’t do it, no body would have done it.” – Malcolm Stewart on PulpMX
Sitting on the starting gate inside the same stadium where I watched my childhood heroes battle back in 1998 and, years later, watched many of my college’s football games and looking up at the Raymond James Sign that 40,000 people saw the night before, my chest swelled with pride knowing I was capable of more than I even may sometimes be aware of – from cornering to passing in traffic. When the gate dropped, I felt no pressure to perform and tried my best to combine all of the techniques I’ve learning over the past (gasp!) 29 years of riding, knowing I would soon have to return to my everyday life and put it all behind me, even if it was just to wake up and run a 5K the next day.
“Among men who rise to fame and leadership two types are recognizable — those who are born with a belief in themselves and those in whom it is a slow growth dependent on actual achievement. To the men of the last type their own success is a constant surprise, and its fruits the more delicious, yet to be tested cautiously with a haunting sense of doubt whether it is not all a dream. In that doubt lies true modesty, not the sham of insincere self depreciation but the modesty of “moderation,” in the Greek sense. It is poise, not pose.” – B.H. Liddell Hart
Before the underdog Eagles took home the Super Bowl win, I took home a third-place trophy in the Women’s Elite class at Round 1 of the National Enduro Series in Sumter, S.C.
Ray Newton Photography
What a day to remember. Turns out, waking up Monday morning after celebrating my accomplishment of feeling like one always feels after racing a 60-mile enduro – if you don’t know … – I actually finished fourth even though I was recognized on the podium with a third-place trophy the day before.
Oh, well. I’d achieved my goal of a top five finish, and that alone motivates me to put in more effort for the next one. See, you learn a lot about yourself racing a 60-mile enduro, like how I need to do more squats and lower back exercises, and the vice grip machine I bought to use at my desk worked wonders on my grip!
You learn a lot before and after the race, too, from how many snacks and bottles of water to bring, to what muscles will start cramping first and which part of your body will ache most the next day. I wondered what it would be like to NOT be sore after a race as I dreamed of riding my motorcycle for a living one day and training on the bike more than once a week.
Throughout the race, I challenged myself to stay tuned in to the world around me without letting my mind wander off like it did exactly 365 days before when I broke my arm there last year. The track was made up of generous pine rows that were so tight in spots I struggled wiggling my handlebars through. I benefited by staying calm and focusing on my surroundings and body positioning on the bike, trying drastically to move high up on the seat and force my front end around the tight corners. The course provided a variety of obstacles for me to become more competitive in multiple areas, specifically soaking wet log crossings, which will make a huge difference once mastered at speed.
This time, my mindfulness-like attention training helped me to stay connected and balanced on the bike, which made me more confident in my riding ability, and rewarded me with that short-lived third-place* finish, and only one giant crash of the day.
*Even though I ended up fourth, I impressed myself with my ability to stay calm and not overthink, especially in the midst of a cold, wet and rainy day. I was honored by my pit crew’s support; enduro spectators only get to see their rider for about an hour total across the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. contest.
With a month until my next race, it’s time to dust off the ol’ pedal bike, after my dad reminded me that mountain biking is how he “got fast.”
For me, I got fast by training with someone faster; with seconds between our times at more than one of my five checkpoints, I’m full of gratitude and especially encouraged to stay as close as possible and finish out the rest of the 10-round season successfully.
Throwback to my summer ride in Colorado with Seat Time Adventures