"If a man does his best, what else is there?" George S. Patton
Yesterday, while I was coaching for the Crested Butte High School Mountain Bike Team, the other coaches and I were preparing our athletes for their last race of the season, the State Championships. All of the kids have been pushing hard all season. Many of them are at the top of their division, consistently finishing in the top five. For some of them, it is the last race of their high school career. All of them are tired.
As we spun on the trainers to avoid the raging weather outside (which I was selfishly glad for, so I could ride with them- sitting up and spinning with my arm in the sling), we talked about goals. We went around the room and each athlete told us his or her goals for the coming race. They have learned about making ambitious yet realistic goals, so that they set themselves up for success. Each one of them had goals based on results. A few of the kids said their goal is to win- very realistic as they have been on the second and third step of the podium recently and they are close.
As we went through our recovery spin, we went on to talk about different types of goals. There is nothing wrong with wanting results. There are times I have won races mostly because I rolled up to the line honestly believing I could- and setting myself up throughout the race to do just that. You have to believe in yourself or you will never get to the top step- anywhere.
One of my kids, who got second place for the first time in his previous race after fighting his way through the pack due to a bad start position, told me afterwards that he was surprised, that he didn't think he could actually win. Maybe that's why he didn't. I have been there- so close but didn't believe it was possible, so I didn't give that little extra bit of effort it might have taken. The wonder and growing confidence in his voice when he said yesterday in front of the group, "I really think I could actually win a race!" was nothing short of inspiring. So were the cheers that came from all of his teammates- some who are also his competitors. Now that's sportsmanship.
One of the kids, a very fast little junior who had consistently been finishing top ten early in the season, has been feeling burnt out and has been disappointed with his results in the last few races. He hasn't been meeting his goals, and has been really bummed out. When it came his turn, he said simply this: "I am going to do my best." Wise words, little dude.
When we focus all of our energy on a race result- or any "result" in life, really- we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Sometimes we accomplish that result and we're thrilled. Other times, we don't, and we beat ourselves up for it. There's nothing wrong with having a specific result in mind, something to strive for. There are certainly good lessons to be learned in failing to reach our goals. But if we remember, above EVERYTHING else, that our primary goal in every moment should be to always do our best, and we do that, we can't really fail.
My best moments in racing have come when I have dimmed the focus on a race result and just focused on racing my best, on riding my best- cornering smoothly, flowing over technical sections, pushing hard on the climbs, always staying on the gas even just a little whenever possible. When I ride my best, and believe in my abilities, having a desired result in the back of my mind but not making it my focus, good results happen. When I narrow my focus too much on a placing, I can get anxious and screw up.
I have certainly mastered this concept much more successfully in bike racing than I have in life. The past week and a half since my surgery has certainly been trying for me. I have spent many frustrated moments beating myself up because I haven't been organized enough around my house or with my schedule, because I haven't gotten back to work as quickly as I would have liked, and even for bigger-picture things like my financial future or my contribution to the world's environmental problems. Ugh.
A timely conversation with my boyfriend and this coaching session with my high school athletes yesterday brought me back to reality. Just like I tell my athletes: all I can do is my best, and my best will change when I am sick or injured as compared to when I am healthy. Sometimes my best will net me a top spot on the podium. Sometimes I will race my best for DFL. Most times, it will be somewhere in between. More often than not, "my best" over the past week has resulted in a lot of naps, slow Cody walks, and focusing on work and housework when I have the energy.
Yes, it is frustrating to my Type-A, overachiever, high energy personality. I won't say that I will never again get frustrated with myself- it happens to everyone. But if I am going to be a good example for others in my life, especially "my" kids, then I have to live what I teach. I will tell myself the same thing I tell my athletes: Do your best, with what you have, where you are. Right now.
And, of course, don't forget to have fun. :)
note: Thanks to my good friends Timmy Duggan and Alison Powers (also my coach) for instilling this important lesson in me so that I can pass it on, and my boyfriend Donny Roth for listening and talking some sense into me when I need it most.