Anna Beck looks at just some of the life lessons that bike riding and racing has taught her.
Well here we are, still, heading towards 2021 like a freight train but still with restrictions in place. For some of us, racing has opened up again, but the forced break from pinning a number on has meant that we have had plenty of time to reflect on previous experiences.
I frequently find parallels between the everyday challenges we face in life, and those posed in the height of battle… or pedal. So, in the absence of experiencing these challenges and important life-learning in the red-mist of racing, I thought I would revisit some of those learnings here.
It ain’t over until it’s over
A good one for determination and the importance of cultivating a never-give-up attitude, the old adage ‘it ain’t over ‘till it’s over’ is equally important in a race situation as it is in everyday life. I knew an athlete who sprinted for the win on the fifth lap of a cross country race. He won the sprint, but failed to win the race (it was a six lap race!). Similarly, resting on your laurels in everyday life is a risky attitude to have. Get that deadline done, finish that task. Just because it can be knocked over in the knick of time doesn't equate to completion. Celebrate only when the task is done!
Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance
As the old military adage goes: failing to plan is pretty much analogous to planning to fail. Whether this be in terms of fitness (training in the lead-up to an event, or neglecting key sessions), or the immediate planning around racing (registration, warm-up, nutrition, hand-ups), not having a plan increases your chances of failing substantially. Same thing goes for life. Want the job? Research the position and be ready for the interview. Want to make good sourdough? Get cracking 24 hours before. Simple.
Practice makes progress
Well it used to be ‘practice makes perfect’ but then a whole generation got a perfectionism complex so we decided it was better to settle for progress, which is–let’s face it–a heckload more accurate. Very few of us have the ability to ride like Sam Hill, but with practice we can improve whatever skill it is we seek to master. We can take the need to continually apply ourselves cognitively to the practicing process in order to improve in any aspect of our lives. Learning an instrument? Practice. Struggling with tie-dye patterns? Practice. Hate public speaking? Practice.
Growth happens outside the comfort zone
This is one I have to remind myself about often; the local trails become a little mundane when you follow the same lines each time, and you can easily stagnate. But maybe there are options where you can grow, even riding the same trails? Is there a sneaky gap line or a few small sections that you know you can go faster on but require a bit more commitment than you’re used to? Well, I’ll tell you my friend; the place where apprehension becomes commitment is where the good stuff happens. Perhaps you’re stuck in a job you’re not happy in, but it’s comfortable and pays the bills, or a relationship that doesn't work but is more trouble than it’s worth to leave; perhaps it’s time to become uncomfortable and seek alternate options, you never know it may lead to growth?
You are stronger than you think
This one is a development of point 1. and 4. but people seriously underestimate what they can do. People literally ride thousands of kilometres in bikepacking events, and slide wildly down super technical descents with no more than an aerated ice-cream container on their head in World Cup XCO; so I reckon you can sign up and enter that race, work on the local challenging trail, or even get through that tough pregnancy. The trials and successes of riding really mirror our strength of character; and strength built on the bike can allow us to be stronger people and deal with adversity better off the bike.