On a whim, I decided last fall that I’d compete in a cyclocross race. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a bit like racing through an obstacle course on a bike.
To say this was an impulsive decision is an understatement.
I found out about the race on Wednesday, signed up for it on Thursday, and raced on Saturday of the same week! I had absolutely no idea which of the 17 categories to register myself for, and ended up just going for the only one that was for women aged 35 and older.
Inner trash talk before the race
On the morning of the race, I biked to the start – which conveniently was only five miles from our house. My triathlon coach Cindi tells me: “the shorter the race, the longer the warm-up.” So the ride there was a nice race prep and a great cool-down afterwards.
As I was riding to the course, my mind was all over the place. Anxious thoughts hit me from all directions:
- “You have no idea what you’re doing!”
- “You don’t even have a proper cyclocross bike.”
- “What happens if someone laps you?”
- “You’ve never competed in a cyclocross race before!”
- “You don’t have the right shoes.”
- “You can give up now and go home. No-one will know except Cindi!”
I dealt with these thoughts by using a technique I call the “Pause Pinch,” which is where you focus your mind on the present moment by pinching your thumb and forefinger together on the bit of skin between your thumb and forefinger of your other hand. Having Paused, I recognized that my thoughts were the familiar handiwork of Little Miss Perfect Pants.
However, just because I was having sabotaging thoughts didn’t mean I needed to act on them. So instead of turning around and going home, I chose to Endure through my anxiety and just go and have fun.
I arrived early to scout the course and was thrilled to see my coach and some people from my triathlon team. They were super helpful in showing me possible ways to navigate the logs, hay bails, and other technical obstacles on the course. I learned that sometimes you even have to get off your bike and carry it around or over the hurdles. (Yes, it’s as intense as it sounds!) I spent the next hour practicing the more technical spots before my wave began.
Nevertheless, even 10 minutes before the race, I was still nervous. To be honest, I was worried I might finish last. Or worse, not finish at all. But I decided to just embrace my conscious incompetence and go for it.
More fun (and more painful!) than I was expecting
And I’m glad I did. The race was a blast. I felt exhilarated afterwards! It was also super hard. Here is some footage if you’re curious to see what it was like:
There was one particular spot the organizers warned us about beforehand: a hill so steep they offered a detour to make riding over it optional. On the first lap, I decided to go for it and surprised myself that somehow I actually made it up and over. Coming down the slope on the second lap, however, wasn’t so smooth. I saw a young girl who had taken the detour instead of the slope. At that moment, I was on a direct path to cycle right into her on my descent. I made a split-second decision to crash instead, and received a nasty gash on my arm and leg for my troubles.
But I persisted and finished the race. While I came second to last, covered in dried blood from my crash, I felt on top of the world!
What obstacles will you Endure through today?
I’m telling you this story to illustrate the value of Enduring through difficult times. It’s so easy to succumb to your inner trash talk. We all have it, regardless of how successful we are.
But if you’re able to identify your anxious thoughts and find the resolve to move past them, who knows what your life might start to look like! Perhaps you could finally take that evening class you’ve been meaning to. Or you might get that scuba diving certification you’ve had your eye on for a while. One thing’s for sure: you’ll certainly have a lot more fun than if you act on those sabotaging thoughts!
Just like physical fitness, becoming mentally fit isn’t something that happens overnight. You wouldn’t expect to develop strong core muscles merely by doing sit-ups for two days in a row, right? It takes daily practice, and developing your mental core is much the same.
So why not take the opportunity to try this core workout?
Pause: The next time you feel anxious or stressed out, try the Pause Pinch, and allow your mind to focus on the present moment.
Think: What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best thing that could happen?
Act: Have the courage to take a step that’ll get you closer to your dream, even if it’s hard!
What are you going to try this year? Let us know how we can support you. You can do it!