Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You're Only As Good As Your Last Race (if you measure success in races)

You’re only as good as your last race.  Not sure where I heard that phrase.  It could’ve been in a different context all together such as: you’re only as fat as your last pepperoni pizza, you’re only as pretty as your last trip to the salon or your dog’s only as cool as the last Frisbee he catches.  I’ve been thinking about that “only as good as your last race” thing.  Half of me sees some truth, but merely a personality trait or a sliver of motivation.  The other half is convinced it's total bunk.  Here's why sucking is all in your head.

I’m sure there was a NASCAR driver that crashed out at Dover over the weekend, don’t as me who, but I’m sure they were a pretty stellar driver.  Phelps took 2nd in a recent race; he’s still the man in the pool.  Yet, I beat myself up mentally over the past few months, holding on to memories of my last great race and getting lost in the number plates, bib tags and other mementos hung around my office.  Before this Sunday’s nice showing (18th of 147) at the Mohican MTB 100k, I clung to a vivid memory of a 7th place showing last year at the John Bryan Masters 1/2/3 cyclocross race.  Between then and now has been an exercise in mediocrity.  Over the past few years I can literally count two crowning all-time bests: an 18th at a UCI elite cyclocross event in Detroit where I weighed 158, lined up behind Jeremy Powers, and made the payout cut; and winning the Kenda Ohio Off Road Sport Series with a win at the Wilds in freaking 2002.

Are you really only as good as your last race?  Of course not.  You’re just not thinking straight.  Remember all the little things in between: hanging with the Skeletor looking guys on the last climb of the weekly group ride, recovering from two knee surgeries, dropping a usually fast friend on the weekly trail ride, feeling really good on that January 4-mile run while on vacation in Puerto Rico, going for the salad instead of the salami, coming back from the separated shoulder, getting in the breakaway that almost stuck but toughing out a top 10, helping your dad move into hospice care, moving up from 22nd to 19th to 15th in consecutive cyclocross races, grimacing through training with a messed up thumb, finishing that 5k with a time that made your running friend say, “nice job,” taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, winning a few bones with a lame but nonetheless 7th place in the Hyde Park Blast bunch sprint, doing your exercises 4 times a day like your physical therapist told you to.

Here's the truth, you’re only as good as your last race if you measure your success in races.

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