There Will Be Days.

Ron Plinske and Touch the Sky Blue
"I will embrace what I cannot change. That doesn't mean it will be easier to accept."
I thought those words as I was participating in a fatbike race, knowing full well that the expectations that I had set for myself were lofty and likely not realistic.

I think the reason behind those feelings are due to my surprising myself at several events. From a shocking 3rd place finish at my first Decorah Time Trials to achieving 2nd at my second ever fatbike race on trails that were new to me. Add to that, a couple wins under my Camelbak (haha!) in 2016 had me feeling fairly confident in myself.

As I continued on with my race, feeling completely humbled, I came to the conclusion that I simply had to embrace what it was. A race that wasn't going to be done with my A-game, and I had to accept that it was okay.

I look at cycling as something that defines who I am, after purchasing my bike in 2012 it has become a huge part of my identity. Participating at events was something that scared the crap out of me, but once I found out I didn't do terribly, I became more confident. I was hooked with the idea of testing my limits.

My very first race will be something I will always remember- because I had my ass handed to me! I was frustrated that I was DFL, because my pride was too big to handle the idea that it didn't matter nor did it reflect anything about me as a rider. It was my first race on barely a season of snow riding let alone a full season of mountain biking. Conditions were the main issue and I found myself falling and fumbling more times than I cared to admit.

I was encouraged to go for my second lap, given time to eat and collect myself- seeing people supporting me even tho I was the slowest was humbling. I felt inspired! Why not? I had a plan of attack for a couple tricky areas and spent most of my time walking my bike than riding it. In the end, I rode a portion of trail that hardly anyone else could ride and finished as 2nd place female (but still DFL.) I didn't care about being slow and inexperienced anymore, I was elated that I did something that I never thought I would be able to do and THAT, my friends, is why I decided I liked racing.

Fast forward 2 years later and I'm having an experience that started to remind me of my first snow race. This time with a few events under my belt, I had developed expectations of myself and what I felt I could do. First race, you have absolutely nothing to go off of so don't have solid ideas of what you may be capable of. As I said, I've had some really awesome experiences at events in the past year+, thus I felt I knew what I was capable of.

Sometimes, even tho you know what you can do, doesn't necessarily mean that is what will happen. That is the reality of event participation- go in and expect your best, but keep an open mind that you will not always get the results you want. Mechanicals can happen, courses can change, and even if you felt like you trained pretty well for it- maybe that day you just aren't feeling it. That is the beauty of the situation, it can change quickly and even if you aren't ready to embrace it- it's there. It's happening. You roll with it and do the best you can. Maybe that means you don't place where you hoped, and for some it may mean a DFL or a DNF. Some may feel disappointment and frustration, because that's normal, but they do not let those results define them. They know it doesn't change the fact that they love going in and giving it the best shot possible- it's motivation.

It gives us something to work towards.

I'm unrealistically hard on myself and I'm also a perfectionist. I suck at taking my own words to heart, even if they hold practical and good advice. I hated myself for a moment, because I felt that I wasn't having fun- and that was the whole point of doing the race. To. Have. Fun.

I'm not one to hide feelings from myself, because I feel that doesn't help you process them and heal; I was legitimately feeling down. I told myself that I had to make the most of my situation- what is the one goal I know I could do? Finish.

By the time I finished, I was still disappointed but I wasn't overrun with frustration. I was relieved that I was able to cross the finish line and stoked that I finished in under 2 hours, even with all of the challenges the first lap threw at me. I was relieved.

Remember, every ride and race is as different as it is similar- some days will not be the best and others will feel like you have transformed into a super hero. There will be days that you feel strong and other days where it feels that it requires monumental effort to make the bike move forward. Races can be fun but they can also be challenging, sometimes conditions are fantastic and other times you're riding in crap. What makes the perspective different is how you approach the situation- smiling truly makes things seem less frustrating. I forced myself to smile a few times and in doing so, it reminded me that I was outside doing something I absolutely LOVE. I was another woman out on the trails riding her bike- which there needs to be more of. I got to be around an inspiring group of people, even if it was for a short period of time.

Time Trials, 2015
Photo Credit- Raina Barloon
Take a challenge as a lesson to learn and grow from. Know that it's okay to have expectations of yourself, but remember that sometimes situations may not play out quite like you had hoped. Even if cycling or whatever sport you enjoy, has become a large part of your identity- it's okay to not do as well as you hoped. The experience plays a large part in your growth in sport as well as simply being human.

If we never had an opportunity to grow further, then what fun would our sport be?

There will be days, and know that no one will judge you as harshly for your "off" days as yourself. So allow yourself to feel what you're feeling, but take it as an opportunity to re-discover the power of believing in you and what you can do. You'll have more opportunities to show yourself (and others) what you're capable of as long as you keep embracing the challenges that come your way.