When playing with my kids at a school park near our house the other night, we spotted the white outlined track on the grassy field. Zoé and Nico immediately got excited about racing each other and myself around the lap as well as several times down the 100m straight away. They were quite the challenge to my dinner filled stomach – whew! Kids love to run!
Then yesterday was Zoé’s first school track meet. In the morning she grumbled and whined about not wanting to go. However, when she got off the bus at the end of the day she was beaming with pride. She couldn’t wait to show off her two blue ribbons, give the play by-play of her races and recount the day she spent at the track with her school friends. It also brought back fond memories of my first and early days racing around the track in late elementary school.
When I see my kids eyes light up and race around the field with complete abandon, it reminds me of the true spirit of racing, of going as fast as you can while having fun doing it. Unfortunately, sometimes as we grow older our self-consciousness, performance anxieties and fears get in the way of that total abandon.
I was reminded this past weekend of that ‘I can’t wait, let’s get going already!’ spirit while watching the replay of the UCI cross-country women’s mountain bike world cup race in La Bresse, France. And that the childlike excitement of racing doesn’t need to disappear when we’re all grown up. The 2015 world champion, Jolanda Neff, a 23-year-old from Switzerland had missed the first two world cups of the season. While most others on the start line were doing some deep breathing with their serious game faces on, Jolanda could be seen in the second row, literally bouncing up and down with a smile that said ‘I can’t wait to get started!’ (pictured in centre below – as if its not obvious, ha!)
And once she was out of the gate, as she always does, she raced full-out, charging up and down every hill with sheer confidence pushing the limits of control, along with a spectacular crash midway through the race on one of the narly, rocky descents. After a flat tire change on the last lap and some excitement battling our amazing Canadians Catharine Pendrel and Emily Batty, she won the race.
Of course we could argue that’s its easier to have fun, and go for it full of confidence when you’re the current world champion and you’re at the front of the race most of the day. But we also know that winning, being the one everyone is chasing after, and staying on top consistently is often harder and can feel more pressure filled than being the underdog!
My high school friend, Kiara Bisaro, a 2004 Olympian, who also competed for Canada in mountain biking, was known for her constant smile while racing (and off the bike as well). Whenever I have felt fearful or nervous on the bike I still think of Kiara and her smile. When I remember to smile, it relaxes me and reminds me to just have fun and let things roll. As grown ups sometimes we mistakenly believe that to perform our best we need to be super serious or hyper focused.
However, when I think of my kids saying, ‘c’mon lets race!’ its a great reminder to get out of our over thinking, often stressed out and pressure filled adult heads, to just go for it and have fun going as fast as we possibly can for as long as we can. No matter how we feel on the day or where we find ourselves in the pack, a race is a race! It can be that simple.