The 2011 mountain bike race season has come as close to closed as the mountain biking season can get. The last local race went down in Hot Springs at the end of November, and the yearly state champions were crowned. Yes, there are good races going on in select parts of the country, and yes, some people are racing them.
However, most of us that have already spent way too much time training, racing, and traveling have decided that it is time to take a break for a little while and enjoy the "other" things in life. You know, spend some time with the loved ones, get reacquainted with the scores of friends that have been ignored and forgotten all year, eat some shameful foods, drink a little too much, all the things that normal people get to do on a regular basis. We get one month (if you're lucky) to squeeze all this stuff in. Truth be told, I don't know which is harder, the race season, or trying to accomplish 12 months worth of life in 4 weeks.
2011 was a tough season, a good season, but a tough one in all aspects: physically, mentally, and spiritually. I'm not getting into any religious speak here, don't worry, but at times, it can be tough to keep one's spirits up and stay happy and hopeful when things aren't going as expected. Now, don't get me wrong, this was a wonderful season with lots of new experiences, new things learned, new people, new places, and a happy ending; but that doesn't mean it was a fairy tale 100% of the time. There was a good deal of frustration, a touch of anger, and a whole lot of "why the hell am I doing this". That being said, I wouldn't change a thing if I had the chance. I learned from every bad experience, I gained patience every time I became frustrated, and every time I got angry, I realized exactly what first-world problems are.
My bike ride went poorly today....roof over my head, dinner on the table, running water, electricity, a great job, the internet in my pocket, reliable vehicle, people that love me. I can handle a bad bike race.
I think everybody that knows me knows why I had a tough season, I don't think I did a single "big" race that ended, or even started, the way I would have liked it too. Major mechanical trouble seemed to follow me wherever I went. If it wasn't a broken chain it was a slashed tire. If it wasn't a slashed tire it was a blown fork. It was just the way it was going to be last year. I didn't get the results that I really wanted. In fact, my 2010 results were better than my 2011, and I was in no way a better rider in 2010.
But, just as we can not focus solely on one race without being sorely disappointed at some point, we also can not focus solely on one year of racing. It's just not smart, and not healthy. Even though my results were less that optimal this year, I am a better racer than I was a year ago. I'm fitter, I'm stronger, I'm smarter, I'm more patient, and most importantly, I'm more experienced. And in that experience, I have found that the races you dominate don't really make you a better racer. They may make your race resume look good, and they are good for the ego and the spirits, but honestly, it's the real shit races that make you a better athlete. The races that break you down, beat the crap outta you, make you cry, and force you to finish. They make you tougher, smarter, better; not just as an athlete, but as a person. I did a lot of growing this year as both an athlete and a person, and I don't think I would be in the same place if I were able to cruise, problem free, through this prior season.
2011 was an amazing year, I'm glad I was able to take part in it, and grow in the many various ways that I have. I ended the year with the following gains: better eating habits, a successful on-bike nutrition regimen, better fitness, higher wattage output, a smarter approach to racing, and a state XC championship.
Thank you's are officially in order to several people.
1. Sarah Miller - for everything, especially never letting me quit. Ever.
2. Shaun Taylor - for coaching/advising/teaching/encouraging
3.Family and friends - for allowing me to pretty much blow you off all year, and then being there when I need you.
4. Chainwheel - even though I am no longer with them, they played an integral part in my life the last decade, and allowed me to be where I am now.
5. Spokes - Great people, great place. Thanks for the support.
6. Orbea - Both supportive and encouraging. Thanks for the opportunity. Oh, and great bikes.
That being said, training for the 2012 season started about a week ago (only a few hours per week, the real training starts after the holiday) and things are looking up. So far, I have more going for me this year than any year previous, and it's not even officially 2012 yet. I don't want to spoil all the fun, but let's just say that both good things so far start with the word "pro".
You know what, screw it, one is a racing license and the other is a sponsorship. You'll get the details later.