For the Race, For the Adventure

I’ve been racing mountain bikes for a few years, in different disciplines, and mostly locally. This year I started to venture further afield and concentrate on Enduro. Looking back each race has had a different goal and take away. I’ve stood on the podium a handful of times, but the rush of standing up there isn’t what keeps bringing me back.

It was actually the realization that I’m not going to be the fastest (without some serious training and dedication) and to find my own achievements, and goals from each event that led to a better performance. The net result was seeing my name move up the ranks.

Here are a few things I’ve learned, and a few tips I have picked up along the way:

Fun day at Hot On Your Heels
Fun day at Hot On Your Heels
  1.  Sometimes it’s not about the race day, it’s the chance to explore a new area and meet new people.

Riding at a new place is always a lot more effort than your own backyard – hence the value for money a guide can be. You don’t know what trails are good/fun for you, you don’t know how to get to them, it’s easy to get lost…we have all been there. You don’t want to waste the effort, time and money it took getting to your destination on getting lost or let down.

This year I did a few stops on the BC Enduro Series. My partner was doing them all so it was pretty easy for me to tag along. My reason for doing them – go ride new places and meet new people. The great thing about an Enduro race at a place you have never been to before is that someone who knows the area is planning your route for the day. It’s also a great opportunity to meet a group of like-minded people, who are a similar skill and fitness level from different regions. At first, I was a bit nervous that I would spend the whole weekend chasing my partner (who rides in pro class) around. Whilst we enjoy riding with each other, race practice and race day are a whole different matter. For the sake of our relationship, we went our separate ways and I found a new group. As a result this summer I’ve made friends with a group of amazing lady rippers who I would never have got to meet and ride with, and who have inspired and driven me, and made each event even more fun.

All smiles post EWS
Happy racers post-Enduro World Series Whistler
  1.  Set goals that are not about your time.

We all analyze our times, working out where we could have taken a few seconds off here and there, but sometimes it’s more constructive to find other goals and takeaways to help with your development as a rider, not just a racer. 

For me it was about getting clean – my name is Kate and I crash. A lot…Especially during races.

Crashes cost time, energy and confidence. For my first race this summer, the Pemby Enduro, I set myself some different goals – the main one was to have clean runs. I concentrated on being smooth and hitting my lines, trying to put the clock to the back of my mind. The net result was a more enjoyable day, less frustration AND also a faster time!

By shifting my focus from just trying to go as fast as possible I made fewer mistakes, wasted less unnecessary energy and most importantly had more fun! Carrying this lesson to the next race my confidence was higher and my lines choice advanced.

Having no fun at all...not
Having no fun at all…not
  1.  Don’t take yourself too seriously

Racing is stressful – we all get the nervous, the adrenaline, the elevated heart rates. However, for a large chunk of the field at local races the only real thing on the line is our pride. We enter events for achievement, fun, and thrills. It’s important to remember why you entered an event in the first place and not get wrapped up in the competitive element.

This was highlighted to me during this year’s EWS. After the Arbutus Routes mechanics had done a fantastic job getting my SB5c race ready, they added a finishing touch to my top tube for a bit of fun (they know me very well so this was a bit of playful banter and a running joke); they added a sticker of a piece of males anatomy…I decided to keep it there for the race as a reminder not to take things too seriously: who could take me seriously with that on my top tube. And it worked a treat. Anytime I got flustered or nervous I just looked down and giggled. And it wasn’t just me, a few racers commented on it… and I replied it’s so I remember not to take it all too seriously, how can I with that. It seemed to resonate and lighten other racer’s moods too. Now, I’m not saying we should all stick graphic images on our bikes, but I do suggest having a reminder in regular view that helps you keep balanced.

Ok - winning does feel good
Ok – winning does feel good
  1. Bike maintenance

We all know we should do a bit more bike maintenance, and this normally becomes even more apparent just before a race and whilst practicing. It’s obvious, but don’t leave it to a few days before the event to get stuff fix/serviced.

Two reasons: One – it’s an extra last minute stress that you don’t need, and normally that one part you need isn’t in stock.

Secondly – you want to be practicing on the same bike you are going to race. Making changes the night before can easily lead to the bike feeling different or ‘off’ on race day or in hast something not getting done up right or tight. Obviously clean and give your bike a once over the night before (shiny, clean bikes clearly go faster) but if it’s not broken don’t fix it…

All day smiles at Charlie's Angel race
All day smiles at Charlie’s Angel race
  1. Treat yourself

If you are going to spend time, effort and money to do a race/event you want to feel your best. I’m a sucker for the placebo effect of new things. Even if it’s just new socks. I find having something fresh lifts my spirits, and can hit the reset button. If you’re nervous or need a quick pick me up, a little bit of retail therapy does wonders.