The Nerves, The Grin, The Satisfaction – My First CX Race
Written by: Caitlin Lovelace
Early mornings are not just apart of race nerves, but apart of the sport. Thankfully, I already enjoy waking up early with my 2 cups of coffee, sitting at the kitchen table, and reading my ipad. Race day is no different; what can I say, I am a creature of habit! Keeping a set routine calms my nerves especially on race day.
Keep Calm and Race On – easier said than done.
I arrived at my first weekend race in early fashion. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to pre-ride the course and to see what nonsense I got myself into. The air was crisp and the sun had not greeted us with its presence yet and I was cold. However, I knew it would warm-up fast with a high of 94 degrees in September nonetheless! Who would have thought? By attending my CX practices I learned the importance of pre-riding the course, so I strapped on my helmet, placed my sunglasses on my face, and slid onto the saddle of my bike. I pedaled onto the course and did I mention how nervous I was? I was nervous because I never rode my bike off the road before until 1 month ago! As I pedaled through the course, I came up to the first punchy hill and right away I told myself “ You can ride up this” however, my nervousness took over and I ended up walking my bike up the hill. At the top, I realized what goes up must come down! I stood at the top of the hill watching rider after rider tackle the hill in different ways. Cyclists rode half, rode the whole hill, or simply ran up entirely, but everyone I observed rode down the hill. I let my anxiety get the best of me and started to shake. I was doubting myself. I was letting negative thoughts take over.
Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game – Babe Ruth
Support and encouragement is everything! After my first lap of the course, I rode up to my fellow SQUARE1 Cycling teammates. We proceeded to ride the course together and talk through the technical parts of the course. They could see all over my face that nerves had taken over my ability to ride. In my mind, I was scared and was upset I wasn’t able to ride difficult portions of the course. With a little encouragement, I was talked off that point of no return. I needed to hear that I can do this and I will do this! I needed to hear that it’s okay if you can’t ride the technical sections and it’s okay to get off the bike and run. It was also helpful knowing that I wouldn’t be the only one running sections of the course.
Your mind is your biggest limitation!
I rode up to the startline, in shock of what I was about to do. Strategy is the name of the game, roll-up to that startline with a plan. Having a plan of what I was going to run, what I was going to attempt, where can I pick-up speed, and what was I going to learn from this race was key for me. I stood at the startline, with a whole new outlook on this race and having a strategic plan calmed my nerves and I told myself “You can do this!” As fast as I told myself those words, we were off in a hustle to get up and over that first hill! I did not have a very good start and on that first hill I got caught in the mess of things and had to dismount and run-up the hill however, I committed to my fear of descending and hopped back onto the bike and down I went. I made sure to focus on what I need to do at every technical portion of the course and I noticed I was not nervous at all. Maybe it was because I was focused on the task at hand or maybe it was the adrenaline that took over pushing me to conquer this course!
There’s always a reason to smile.
During the race, you can hear friends, family, teammates, and even other spectators cheering for you every step of the way. Hearing their voices of encouragement put a grin of pure happiness on my face! Surrounding yourself in a supportive community such as SQUARE1 has made the world of difference for me. This collective group of women is what we need more of in the cycling community. The selfless teaching and learning from my fellow peers has motivated me to continue on this challenging journey with a smile.
Sometimes the advice you tell other people is the advice you need to follow – my tips for myself and you.
First, practice is key. The more you do something over and over the better you get at it. Practicing with friends makes the difference! They can help you jump over barriers… LITERALLY! Secondly, always make sure to pre-ride the course. It’s never a good feeling to go into a race blind. Knowing what is coming next on the course can help you prepare a plan and help reduce stress/anxiety about the race itself. Lastly, remember to have fun and enjoy each obstacle, each practice, and each race because there will always be things to take away from each experience.