Mountain Bike Marathon Nationals

Posted by Christina on May 19, 2018 at 9:45 AM

From Christina Gokey-Smith:

I strive to teach my clients not to give any special treatment to a national title race. It’s another race and the focus is still on the process. Focusing on the end result derails us off the path we work so hard to stay on. It’s the daily work, the daily grind, both physically and mentally, that these athletes work on. Success means sticking to the process. Every. Single. Day. I understand life happens and gets in the way at what seems to be the most inopportune times. As an athlete myself, I also know the benefits of staying true to the process. We don’t make a big deal out of it when things happen that are out of our control. We look at the situation and figure out a solution. We don’t wait until things go wrong to practice this. We establish a strong habit of positivity. We are always learning and growing and practicing an attitude that will lead to success. Here’s a brief race recap from a few of my athletes that have learned this perspective on racing.

Race Recap by Sheree Tomba:


We all know there are a few things we have some control over leading up to race day: how much sleep did I get, is my nutrition dialed in, have I put in the work on the bike, is all my gear organized, is my bike turned up and in good working condition. Then you get on the start line and you get to deal with the realities of the race. Jen Ragan-Marlowe, Kim Chance and Leigh Anne Robertson were three of the many Cycle Smith athletes who tackled this year’s, mountain bike Nationals event at the Iron Mountain Trail in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The physical training was there, but it was the mental training that allowed them to keep going when the unexpected challenges hit. There was no shortage of riders who took the dreaded three letters “DNF” next to their name in the results; whether it was due to crashing, flats, broken bikes, over heating or just overwhelmed from fatigued.

Jen trained hard leading up to Nationals, putting in lots of hours on the mountain bike at local trails, as well as several rides on the race course. Unfortunately, she was sick two weeks before the race and had only just started to feel better leading into the race weekend, so she knew her fitness was compromised. However, she had done plenty of six-hour mountain bike races in the past and knew that her legs could go the distance even if she wasn’t 100 percent. The rocky trail with long climbs and descents was tough coming from the comparatively flat trail options in the Dallas area. Jen’s hand became to cramp as the muscles attempted to compensate for the unfamiliar terrain. A hand cramp may seem like a minor annoyance, but for those of you who have done longer races, you know how those little pains and discomforts can drive you mad over the course of several hours. As the going got tough, Jen reminded herself of the things Christina always coaches on, “you have to be tough mentally and focus.” She used positive thoughts to continue to propel herself forward all the way across the finish line to claim a spot on the podium in her age group.

Kim was returning to nationals after racing last year. She was prepared with a new bike, a Camelbak that could hold more water and a plan to go steady from the start. Things didn’t go as smoothly as she hoped and despite a steadier pace, she still found herself struggling with heat and fatigue. One of her teammates gave her a word of encouragement as Kim passed by on the start of her second lap; “Kim, don’t quit, keep going. So many people are pulling out. You’re in the medals, just keep going.” Kim was just starting to fade but focused back in, pushing out the temptation of quitting. “You can do it,” she told herself, “stay steady, keep moving, don’t quit.” When the cramps started to set in all over her arms and triceps, she had another opportunity to use her mental toughness, praying for the evil cramps to go away and leave her alone. Even with a slightly slower time than last year, Kim took 2nd overall in her age group.

Leigh Anne had to work with adversity that she’d never experienced before in a race. She found herself vomiting all throughout the first lap and as soon as she got some relief from the stomach problems, cramps set in on lap two and never let up. Working with Christina as a coach has really transformed the way she looks at the mental aspect of racing. Before working with Christina, “I had no idea what it meant to be in the moment,” shared Leigh Anne. However, after reading some of the books Christina recommended, things started to click. She’s been amazed at how working on her mindset and focusing on what she has to do in the present moment, has helped her in all different areas, whether it be clearing a technical trail feature or obtaining a better race result.

Leigh Anne used a tool from one of her favorite books, “The Art of Mental Training,” to help her get through the grueling race. Her letter for race day was “F.” Every time she found her mind filling with bad thoughts and focusing on the suffering she would change it with “f” words: focused, fast, flow, finisher, fierce. As she rolled those things through her mind she was able to distract herself from the negativity. While she was hoping for a better day physically and a better result, she was extremely proud of herself and her effort, knowing that she gave it everything she had that day.

These athletes are able to continually push themselves to the next level because they understand the important role played by their minds in conquering physical challenges. Despite having tough race days, each one of them is already thinking about their next event and looking forward to getting back on the bike.

Categories: Training, Racing, Results

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