Stand Up For Yourself.

I know I can't speak for all women, but dang, I have found it incredibly easy to discount my successes during the 2016 year. This is unacceptable.

There are a great number of folks out there who go to events, participate, and are completely happy with what they accomplished.

They might not make the podium, but they knew that they did as well as they could and are proud of that.

Regardless of who you are, what bike you ride, what event you participated in, or what you DNF'd- you are awesome.

You are going out there and doing something you are passionate about...something you care about. It gives you strength, you grow as a person, and it challenges you on many levels.
You may train rigorously or you might not have the time to do so (like myself) but either way, you give it the best shot you have and you are a winner because of that. Doing your best in the moment is all you can do- allow yourself to be proud.

Several times this year I looked at the Time Trials win I had and wondered "Did I really deserve that?" I rode the hardest and fastest I felt I physically could, falling a few times in an epic manner, and covered myself in slick mud. I went out early in the running, which was something I was completely afraid to do- but it worked out well. I felt that I cheated. My bike was a fatbike set up as 27.5+ which was an advantage due to the clearance I had for mud buildup. My bike wasn't as heavy as a full fatbike, so when I had to hike it didn't completely suck. My bike didn't make up for sloppy handling and it got war wounds because of it (as did I, mainly bruises.)

I crossed the finish line, and was so proud. I didn't expect first place- but I got it. During the first while I felt like I had earned it- but I took a look at the advantages I had. Tire size and the time I went out- the course become sloppier as the race went on. Does having an advantage take away the fact I busted my ass off? Does it take away that I could've had a larger, more substantial fall at any time and lost my place? Does it take away that I had handling skills well enough to handle the conditions?

Like any event, from my stance, I feel it can be part strategy, part luck, and part skill. Sometimes stars align and other times they don't- for me they did. I should accept it.

Chequamegon 40 was another event that I did pretty darn well at. I didn't have any idea whatsoever when I went into it on how I'd do. I had a goal "Please, please make top 10 in my age category" and I did. Was I disappointed that I didn't place better? Well....sure. I think because I'm always looking ahead to the future and not focusing on the present. It's a fault of mine.

Getting 10th in my age category for a race I barely trained for was huge. I had a handful of training rides, and could only do a long ride once or at most, twice a week. Bonus- I had forgotten to use my inhaler! I had started from the last gate and ended up passing folks who had been ahead of me. I had compliments on my climbing, too, which made me proud. Especially when I told them I was from Iowa (the non-flat Iowa!)

I was told recently that another attendee said that several racers had stated it was the worst Chequamegon trail conditions they had experienced to date. I laughed! I, apparently, can do pretty okay when it comes to crappy trail conditions. I thrive on pushing thru- because I want to be a person that said "Yes! I did that!"

PertNear 20 was stupendous, and I surprised myself- I felt more confident on where I was going than the year before and I kept myself going at a steady clip. The only time I stopped was to get my Clif Blok situation under control. Climbing skills came out for the win, along with my working thru doubts of my riding capabilities. During awards, the guilt started to creep in about my win and I actually started to feel bad for winning. Because I continued to doubt my abilities as a rider.

Why is there so much doubt?
I feel it's because I'm still challenged with mountain biking enough to feel that I shouldn't be good enough to place well. I end up feeling like a fraud because I haven't "earned" my victories with years and years of experience as a seasoned rider.

Who says I didn't earn it?
My first season of off-road riding was riddled with challenges, failures, and successes. I had sweat, blood, tears, and bruises for my efforts- same thing the second season. To get better, I had to work hard. I had to be determined enough not to quit, and with that, I will say that I most definitely "earned it."
I still have a long way to go with my riding; there are trails to learn how to ride better, and endurance yet to be built. I am declaring to make 2017 my year of overcoming challenges. I want to work on being the best damn rider I can be, accept myself as the rider I am in the present moment, and embrace the growth I've had over the seasons. I don't just want to...I'm going to.

It's okay to put attention and focus on growth, but remember to embrace who you are in the present:
The rider you are today is the rider you are meant to be right now.
The rider you are tomorrow is the rider you want to be.
Stand up for yourself.
Be you.