Saturday, July 14, 2012

3 for 3

If I could transmogrify my last three years worth of results at US Mountain Bike Nationals into a blackjack hand, I'd be winning.  Three of a kind, all 7ths.

As in blackjack, these last three attempts at national glory, I have been actively involved in determining my own success, or failure, based on negotiating a series of typical challenges, not limited to: steep hills, rocks, roots, mud, dust, heat, switchbacks, drops, etc.  Unlike blackjack, of course, mountain bike racing is more dynamic. There may not be any mathematically-proven formulas to indicate the best decision in any given event, but there are simple equivalents to 'hit', 'stand', 'double', 'split', or 'surrender'.  Once you get down the basics, that's when you understand why so many say that it is more mental than physical.  At Sun Valley this year, I played a good hand on the physical test, but a weak hand on the mental test.  

I've got to say, standards and expectations change, and this third consecutive seventh was more frustrating than glorifying.  The 2012 Nationals Championships in Sun Valley was arguably the hardest and fastest in recent years (on account of it being a big Olympic year), but I was keen on something better.  I hit my mark, but was looking for another breakthrough.  A quick look back...
The breakthrough, Nationals 2010 - Granby, CO - 7th place

The confirmation, Nationals 2011 - Sun Valley, ID - 7th place
Leading the first climb in 2011

The..."enough of this business, where's the top-5!?, Nationals 2012 - Sun Valley, ID - 7th place...again

Three 7s is still a solid hand, but not good enough for me to cash in!  Consistency is good, but I definitely feel that I am overdue for a stellar result.  After burning so many matches chasing the World Cup this year (not just the racing, but the travel and logistics), my engine is strong, but my mind is in need of that boost that comes with riding at the front of a race, that gratification of stepping onto a podium...more leading, less following!  In some ways I feel I have delayed this opportunity by jumping into the deep end of the pool after only minimal preparation with the water-wings.  At Nationals I felt myself racing somebody else's race, racing on the defense, following, and it held me back.

One week later, after an invigorating work trip to San Francisco and recovery from the Nationals Weekend, I'm back to business in Missoula, MT for the penultimate race of the 2012 Pro XCT Series is in Montana this weekend.  Time to ante up!

Awesome and inspiring to see friend and contemporary Sam Schultz take his first National Championship title - the first championship title of the "new guard" - way to go, Sammy!
My wonderful, ever-supporting parents journeyed out to Sun Valley to check out the race
Kona purple haze on the rock garden mid-race

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