Some days your head just isn’t in the game

A week ago, I pulled out of a race.

I wish I could say I had a technical disaster, so I had to stop the race.

I wish I could say that I cramped up badly, so I had to stop the race.

I even wish that I could say that I crashed out, so I had to stop the race.

But I don’t have a “reason” for stopping my race.

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The trails were new, but beautiful. The trail was challenging, but not technical. The morning was cold, but bearable. The atmosphere was upbeat, as always. My legs felt fine, yet I wasn’t feeling it. I have gathered the nickname smiley on my bike, and during every race, and after every race, the smile on my face is impossible to remove. On Sunday, I wasn’t really smiling. I didn’t feel it, my head wasn’t in the race, I just wasn’t connecting with the day, with the feel, with the trails.

I managed a couple of laps. I could have pushed on, I could have made myself continue the laps, and perhaps I should have. Maybe I wouldn’t be feeling as negatively towards myself if I did. But I also ran the risk of completely hating the day. I’ve had a fickle relationship with riding and there are times when I push the enjoyment and training too far and it becomes a chore. So, if I continued to race, despite my feelings, then I may have come out worse off. I didn’t want to hold people up because I wasn’t in the game, I didn’t want to cause an accident or have one because my mind was not focusing on the trail.

I felt embarrassed to finish my race prematurely. I felt a bit like a failure for not pushing on, but I think there is a legitimate reason at times to call a race early, rather than push it and risk a negative outcome. At the end of the day, I love riding and I love racing for the challenge it gives me. I’m there to compete with myself, compete against myself. I’m there to do my best, and if there is a time when I’m not into a ride, when pushing it may end up worse off than better, then I think it’s fair enough to call it.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we aren’t feeling it and pushing through is the best option. The beginning of a ride when the legs feel a bit dead, when that first climb really knocks it out of you, when you aren’t quite feeling the groove and those corners and obstacles are jarring and off line. I am happy to give it a while, get those legs to wake up, that groove to settle in, and it’s all good. Some days, however, that doesn’t happen.

This race was one of those days. I’m not going to beat myself up about that. I’m going to give myself some space to breathe, I’m going to let go and relax, and take the trails when I want them and focus on the flow, on being outdoors, on being fit and capable, and leave the mind games, the blame games, the shame games behind me.

I’ll ride another day.

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