Tuesday, April 26, 2016

On Self Confidence

Maybe that's what I'm talking about, maybe there is a better word for it, but I'm going with confidence.

Adam Pulford has been big on the 'push the bad thoughts out, focus on the good ones' mantra lately. At the start line he's said something to this effect to me, when I'm in that moment of kinda losing it with nervousness and need to redirect my focus. It's something I definitely need to work on because the voices in my head aren't always very nice.

Sunday morning I watched the first round of the World Cup on Redbull.tv, because that's what you do when you can't be there yourself. I think watching races is kinda educational because I'm still very much on the beginner side of this racing thing. There were several rock gardens and gap jumps in the race, and as the riders navigated technical, tricky, bumpy rock gardens, powered their way up rocky, rough climbs with tight switchbacks and nailed the 'Rodeo jump' my brain went straight to the negative self talk.

'You couldn't have done that anyway.'

'It's a good thing you didn't waste money on the plane tickets and everything just to go and crash or walk those rock gardens.'

'You definitely would have crashed on that gap jump.'


Yeah, lots of negative thoughts. And they stayed with me all day. A kind of stale 'you aren't good enough anyway' feeling.

Then Sunday afternoon I went for a solo mountain bike ride in Laguna to fulfil the 3 hour moderate ride coach prescribed for the day. I was tired from Saturday and the previous week of intense intervals, and motivating myself to get up the first climb was tough. I'm alone though, so I can choose any route I want, and that's what I did. I hit a rough, techy descent, climbed a heinous steep trail out and then hit the next gnarliest descent in the vicinity. Somewhere in the middle of that second descent, when tricky rock situations are constantly popping up and I'm loving the challenge of riding them on an XC bike with full seatpost, I realized something; that trail was more technical than the rock gardens in the Cairns  World Cup! I just rode some really challenging, gnarly trails by myself on my XC bike because I WANTED to ride gnarly stuff. I choose these descents over the smooth boring ones... what on earth was my brain thinking when it said I couldn't handle Cairns. If I choose to ride this on my XC bike, I could ride any World Cup course!

After a gnarly rock garden in Mount Sainte Anne. 
There is a trend in World Cup XC courses, where they are getting more and more technical, so the rider with the most raw power is no longer favored over the rider with technical skill. I've never considered myself as someone with technical skill, so this trend makes me nervous and triggers more negative self talk.

Rock garden in Windham, NY
But on Sunday afternoon, as I continued my ride, continued to choose techy, rocky, fun trails (mixed in with some fast swoopy ones as well) I decided to push the negative thoughts out and focus on the positive ones. 'I just cleaned that super hard section with the crazy rut in it! I freaking LOVE this sketchy rock slab descent! Look further ahead, yeah, YES, I did it!' I decided to not compare myself to riders on a video recorded version of a race, and just focus on being the best I could be in Laguna for the afternoon. Those negative thoughts weren't doing me any favors. They weren't helping me progress, make decisions about where I am going with my career, using my time and energy to get me to where I want to be.

I'm going to continue to struggle with this, as I think many female mountain bikers do. But I'm going to do my best to recognize when I'm having negative thoughts in the future, and to replace them with positive ones. I don't always realize when I am cutting myself down with my self talk, but I'm going to try to be more conscious of it. Starting now, with this hard interval workout on tap for today. The one that I've been getting oh so close to nailing but haven't succeeded at yet. I can do this :)


  1. WTG GIRL! All MTB racers have two arms and two legs and they all have room to improve and they all have good days and bad, good luck and bad.