The night before

“Hey, this race predictor thingie doesn’t look bad, I’m predicted at 10th, so maybe I’ll shoot for a top five. And I haven’t seen this course yet, but maybe tenth will give me a first-row callup!”

The preride

“Hmm, woah, this course has a lot of turns in it! The terrain is this weird, loose, loam-ey type stuff. This will be really good cornering experience for me, especially so early in the season, but I’m totally going to fall on this stuff. It reminds me of NBX, and that went terrible. But stay on the bright side, eh? I mean, it was a genius decision to do the file tread in the rear and the Grifo up front - yeah, the front will help me carve those turns and bring the file tread right through.”

The call-up

“Oh hey, everyone is here already…[waits]…okay, the tape is being removed and it’s time for call-ups…wait, what? There’s no call-ups, it’s just a mass start with whomever in front getting to start in front?! How did I miss this?! Was it on the BikeReg page? This is really terrible, I’m way back here in the third row, with about twenty people in front of me. This is a disaster.”

The first lap

“We’re starting! I’m sprinting well, but the guy in front of me isn’t, and all these people are passing us. I’m going to have to go hard if I’m going to meet my top five goal. I’m going to start passing people ASAP, even though we’re going into single-track woods.”

“Oh yep, I just put down way too much power over this rooted section and yard-saled all over the course! It’s good that my adrenaline is so lit right now that I can’t feel anything! Just get back up and keep fighting, there’s plenty of racing left. But I wonder how much further up the race-leaders are. Will I be able to catch them?”

The second lap

“Um, what, my front tire is flat? The tubular I glued last week? Fuck. I should probably quit now before I damage myself or my bike more. It’d be for the best, right? But the pit just happened to be right here in front of me, and I did put some spare wheels there, so I may as well swap a wheel and keep going. I can’t quit, that’s not me. Yeah, my goals for today are out the door, but I’m not a wasteful dude – I can just turn this into another awesome learning experience. But also: Is cyclocross just something I’ll never be good at? Should I take up badminton instead? And what about all these long hours of training I’ve done – why am I in the back of the race? This is so unfair.”

The finish line

“Wow, I made it – and those last two laps felt pretty comfortable. It was like I stopped thinking everything except what was right in front of me in the present. That was so much easier, and it was fun, too – I slowly passed people one by one, but I didn’t make silly mistakes because I was too anxious to pass more. So how can I start focusing on the present from the race start?”

So yeah, racing cross, it’s all mental

Sure, I’ve read it a zillion times in books, but after today it’s never been more clear that competition is mostly mental, and that life in general is pretty difficult when you’re not living in the present moment. I can see that one setback – not being placed for an ideal start - led me down a path of worry and anxiety. It felt good to air it all out on here though! And that last question – how can I start focusing on the present from the race start – I don’t know the answer, but I’m going to find it.