elisa jones mountian biking

Bike Bash

“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
― Mario Andretti

“That which you manifest is before you.
The visible becomes inevitable. Your car goes where your eyes go.”

― Garth SteinThe Art of Racing in the Rain

Please read THIS.

I think we get far too wrapped up in races as evidence of our own physical prowess. Last year when I won first place women at the Moab Xterra I was thrilled, and yet it felt false to me. I’m not an athlete. Non-athletes don’t win really freaking hard races like the Moab Xterra. It should be someone who was on their high school swim team. Or did track. Or runs marathons. I don’t know- but it’s NOT a mother of three, band-teacher, book-addict, LotR nerd with a total of one year mountain  biking experience about to graduate with her MBA! And yet, there was my name, and my time; 5 minutes ahead of my nearest competitor. That’s a HUGE margin!

That’s when I stopped racing for real. Because here’s the thing- I was proud of myself for one reason: I had slaughtered my time on the same course from last year. It didn’t matter where I placed. It didn’t matter who I beat in the competition. Because someone like Georgia Gould could have totally kicked my trash.

A few months later when I went to race in Monticello I was still in good form. Once again I took the first prize in both races. By minutes. There was no competition. It’s all so relative. So subjective.

On to today.

I’ve been sick. Easily the sickest I’ve been in a year. My lungs were infected. I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t talk. I had questionable Chinese food for dinner, got to bed quite late, was kept awake almost the entire night by the noisy residents in the room next door, only had time for gas-station nutrition pre-race…. I was a mess.

The point? This was not going to be a true test of my fitness, or my skill, or even my ranking against those of my similar skill/fitness/age-level.

We were to race 3 laps of the course I had ridden yesterday. Lap one I made a great show- started in the top 5 and passed at least 3 women in my group. But I couldn’t hang onto it. I was too sick. I had no strength, lacked endurance. I was suffering.

Lap two I woke up to my predicament. Not for the first time in a race I had to calm my brain and acknowledge the two choices open to me: finish or DNF. Since it’s not in my nature to quit, I chose the former. I was going to finish. I would be weak as a baby kitten, have pushed myself beyond my physical comfort level and emotionally embrace a train-wreck, but I was going to finish. So lap two was about the mental hump; survival.

By lap three I had given up on placing in my age group. I had caught the younger ladies who had started before us, and I put on my coaches hat. I was in control of my body, so I used my scratchy voice to encourage those around me. Each woman with the strength to pass me became my student to coach, uplift, encourage. The climbs, though I was caboose in the train, held back by the level of riders in front of me, saw me schmoozing the camera and shouting, “We can do this ladies!”

There were two women in my age/class that I played leap-frog with. They could catch me on the climbs, only to see me pass them on the DH and flats. Back and forth, back and forth. And each forth I encouraged them on. The final stretch of the last lap, I let them both pass, and sent them forward to fight it out between themselves. I’d already proven to myself what I needed to: I could finish. And had I been prepared and in good health, I could have finished quite well. That was enough.

It was great to have Dave and Melinda there cheering me on, encouraging me to push a little harder. When I finished I was done. Roasted. Burned. I was physically gasping for air and emotionally wrecked- the happiness of having finished, encouraged others, embraced this experience, fighting out between the tears.

I took time to find those two women and clasped them in congratulatory gesture. Their smiles made my suffering seem so opaque.

I will race again. Probably too soon, and again, unprepared. And I will continue to remember that it’s more about using the excitement, enjoying the moment, embracing the camaraderie. You know- FUN.

This woman encapsulated the event- pushing her bike, with one kid on her arm and the other next to her. Mommies race, too!
This woman encapsulated the event- pushing her bike, with one kid on her arm and the other next to her. Mommies race, too!

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