I have never considered myself a very competitive person. In primary school I stayed clear of anything that involved sports and a prize preferring to stick to book learnin' which I was far more comfortable with. High school and university I played some basketball and soccer and started running by myself for fitness. In university I met my future husband who allowed me to tag along when he went bike riding and for the last 10 years I have been slowly catching on to this biking thing.
Last year to beat the winter blues I entered mself in a running group that was training for the Whistler half marathon. I got a lot out of the training and race prep - improved fitness, better eating habits, new running skills. It really got me thinking how having goals in our sports can help push us to new skill levels - and through that new levels of enjoyment.
This year, I decided to lady up and race in the local downhill MTB series. I live in Squamish, BC so the toonie races are run by the amazing Squamish Off Road Cycling Association. Every two weeks, they pick a different local trail to race, and have a BBQ social afterwards. Not a high stress race environment, but some of the tracks they race are deliciously gnarly. It has taken me a couple of years to muster the courage to give it a go.
So why chose this year to race? Number one - bucket list. I am turning the bg 3-0 this year, and I am trying to celebrate all year long by doing fun and challenging new things. Racing DH fits right in to that category! Number two - I had a great riding season last year and I finally feel I am confident enough on my bike to give it a go. Number three - I got my first ever DH bike. Everything is falling into place!
Of course, everytime I point my bike downhill over challenging terrain there is the potential for injury, and adding the need for speed into the mix can increase it. I choose to accept that risk, and to do everything I can to minimize the chance of something happening - I will ride within my limits, take time to look at the tracks beforehand, keep fit, wear appropriate protection and make sure the bike is always in good working order.
My goals this season are to ride smooth and ride in all the races, even the more challenging tracks at the end of the season. We are now two races in, and already I am kicking myself for waiting so long. We have a great group of girls turning up to race, everyone friendly and there to have fun no matter what bike they are riding or what their skill level is.
What I am really enjoying is spending time getting to know one track really well. For the first two races I have I have spent time pushing up, observing sections and riding them over and over. I think analysing the track, trying different lines and practising tricky sections over and over are going to improve my riding in the long run. It also gives the opportunity to watch other people ride and learn from how they tackle technical sections.
So far my results are pretty good - second and third place. I even find myself thinking 'I could have shaved a second here, could have added a pedal there!'. I am certainly no Ann Caro - but I am really enjoying racing DH. I encourage you to get out and have a go at a race in whatever your chosen sport is. You might not win, but you may push your skills to a new level. And remember to have fun- social racing is , after all, an excuse to hang out in a beautiful forest, talk with friends and play bikes. Everybody wins!