This last weekend at the Missoula Pro XCT I made another step forward. I’m learning and growing in each race. I’m making improvements every time I chamois up to get on the bike. I made it on the podium in 5th in the XC and 5th in the STXC.
It takes 1000 steps to become a professional athlete and then probably another 1001 to be the best in your sport. Somewhere along that journey you hit the “in-between.” My question is “Why is no one talking about this?” It’s such an exciting time in an athlete’s career. It’s the time when you honor the process, when you improve steadily, and when you start to dream really big. It is a time to celebrate and honor.
I’m not the best. I took 5th this weekend and any competitive athlete will tell you that anything short of 1st always leaves a bit of frustration, but that frustration drives us and pushes us to be better. I’m so happy to be on the podium and I’m even happier to be improving and growing so much in this sport.
I think it’s time we start talking about this, this ‘in-between.’ In any sport, we look up to the world’s best. We google, and read on wikipedia these success stories that leave us inspired and thirsty for more. Usually the story starts at the beginning, it depicts a person in a sport getting last in their race, getting cut from the team, or being denied a chance to try. As the paragraphs continue you read that this person is now an Olympian, World Champion, or an all-time record holder. There in that story on the internet is a small detail that is often read over. The statement “10 years later”….These success stories don’t happen over night. They are born each day with sweat, tears, and believe it or not a whole lot of 5th place finishes. So when I look up to the athletes that inspire me today, I’m not only inspired by their success, I am inspired by the decade ‘in-between.’ The decade where they didn’t give up. The time when they fought harder. The first podium they ever won. The time when they were so close they could taste it. That is what inspires me.
All of that said, I find myself in that time. A time when improvement is steady and when 5th place brings a smile to my face. I have a plan though, a plan to rise, just like those who inspire me.
On Saturday, in the XC race, I found myself calm off the line. I looked around and wondered to myself if the starts are getting slower or if I am getting faster (surely the latter.) I continued this calm feeling throughout the race. As we went around the first lap I kept waiting for the pain to kick in, but I managed to hold it at bay. I raced in this calm state through the 3rd lap. The group was still close together and within sight of each other. This is one of the longest that I’ve held on in a race. As I slid off the pace in the 4th lap, I felt what it was like to be within arm’s reach of the position that you really, really want. I climbed strong, and my confidence climbed as well. I crossed the finish line in 5th.
On Sunday, in the STXC, I decided to burst off the line and demand my spot in the group. I found a good position early and rode in the top 3 for a good length of the race. Eventually, a small gapped formed and I was fighting with another girl for 4th. I led in front of her with 5 to go. You could tell we were both trying to make tactical decisions. With the mounting suspension, as we wondered who had more left, the finish line approach, 4, 3, 2, 1. Even with 1 lap to go we were still neck and neck, she bested me on the final climb and I was forced to settle with another 5th place podium.
These small successes, these little goals met, are what fuels the fire of the future. I can’t wait to see what the Epic Rides in Carson City has in store for me this weekend..you can bet I’ll be out there fighting.