When the mental tricks don’t work Nerang XCO June 2018
Last Sunday I raced in the elite women’s category of the Queensland State Mountain bike cross country series which was held at Nerang. Nerang is very technical and challenging with steep rocky pinches, narrow trails with tight corners and steep descents. I have previously raced at Nerang and have ridden there socially. I find the trails push me out of my comfort zone and improve my technical riding.
On the day I purposely arrived early with my friend in tow to practice the course. On the practice lap, I struggled to get up a couple of the rocky pinches and found the downhill part to be very sketchy, steep and rocky. Although the downhill part was scary I managed to go down competently albeit a little slow.
I did the warm-up as per my plan and was feeling ok until I was riding around the velodrome before I started and became very intimidated by the other girls I would be racing against. Due to feeling intimated I think I backed off and had given up before I had even got to the start line.
The start was just after the elite men and before the remainder of the male field. My start wasn’t the greatest and I ended sitting behind the rest of the females, watching their moves and thinking I will try and keep onto the back of them.
Then the chaos started unfolding around me as I became swamped with the under 17/19 men and all the male master's categories. Dangerous passing techniques were made by a some of the field overtaking on the left, right, requesting that I allow three or more men through at the same time, on narrow pieces of track and down the steep rocky descents. I was scared to be out on the track but I was determined to finish. Due to allowing all the men through I lost sight of the female field and ended a long way back from them.
Normally on races, I employ a mental technique to allow me to race at my best. I normally visualise a great rider in front of me choosing the right lines and riding with confidence and I try to stay on the imaginary person’s back wheel. This reduces my stress levels and I am more relaxed I keep my focus and ride much better. The fear of racing decreases as I follow my person who I have named Scout Bex. On the race, this technique didn’t work.
I then tried another tested technique which I have used in the past which has helped me race at my best. This is having an alternative personality which in my case I imagine becoming Scout Bex. Scout Bex is not afraid of anything, is never intimidated by the class of women she is racing against, will never allow herself to be bullied off the cross country course by the men and races without fear. This technique also didn’t work and I was stumped.
Normally by employing one of the above techniques I feel my brain switching to race mode. This feeling is one of determination, grit, focus and commitment to racing the best race possible. I could not find the switch in this race. I was riding along thinking of the recent Marvel Avengers film I had recently seen whereby the Hulk character could not get the big, green hulk to appear. I could not get my race mindset to appear.
After the second lap I was crying coming through transition I felt I had let myself down as I was coming last. I realised I had two choices to quit or to finish the race and I opted for the latter option. I decided that I would attempt to have a clear run of the course with no mistakes. On the 3rd or 4th lap I can’t remember I rode the entire course without putting a foot down. Previously I have not managed to ride a couple of the rock gardens but I seemed to float up and over them realising that if I looked up, kept my weight forward and just kept pedalling I could clear them. On the downhill sections, I gained a little confidence and managed to ride them a little quicker. On the final sweeping downhill turns, I even managed to do a couple of little jumps. I don’t have the confidence to do the massive rock jumps but I was happy with the way the rode.
Overall the race did teach me more about myself and does fit into the picture in the bigger scheme of my competition aspirations. l learnt what I am most passionate about and this does not include short cross country style races, racing aggression in the shorter races which is not evident in the endurance races, jumping off massive obstacles and spending an entire day away from family for the sake of an hours racing. I am passionate about endurance racing, spending time with family and friends and racing at a competitive level at a distance which I excel at and enjoy.