Quitting a race/anxiety

So I quit a cx race at the weekend.

My first race of the season (2 weeks ago) didn’t go as planned. I finished 2/3 of the way down the pack, despite excellent pre-race numbers achieved in training. However, I’d had a good couple of weeks training, had worked on the bike handling, knew this course, and I was quite confident about this one.

I got a good start (about 5th/6th) into the first corner, but got steadily passed at the lap went on and finished lap 1 in about 17th-20th place (out of c.50).

We then hit a climb, and for whatever reason, my head wasn’t in it. I knew I’d gone out hard, but physically I was ok. I just had an overwhelming feeling that it was all a bit pointless, wasn’t enjoying myself, and wanted to stop.

Now I’ve been battling fatigue this week, and have been experiencing significant off the bike stress, too. I’ve had bad leg days before as well. But I’ve never before had the ‘I just don’t want to be here, doing this’ sensation.

It was odd and a bit scary – almost like a mini panic attack.

I’m now at a real quandary. Do I have another go, or do I accept that maybe, at 41, my racing days are behind me (mentally, if not physically)? Somehow, I struggle to go as deep in a race as on the trainer, and while I know some pre-race nerves are normal, I’m not enjoying the intense anxiety that I’ve had prior to the last two.

Ok, that’s enough confessional. If anyone’s been here before and has any words of wisdom, they would be hugely appreciated. Thank you.


@RecoveryRide Age really should have nothing to do with it. Do you like racing and is CX the right sport for you. If so shrug off the experiences, make some notes about how to refocus and keep going. If not, make a change. Be sure to categorize your races - A, B and C. That can take the pressure off and allow you to just work on a few things during a race without feeling too much pressure.


41 is not too old to race well and have fun.

But it’s all about perspective and enjoyment. I’ve always enjoyed the training more than the racing. I liked both, but as a middle of the road cat 3 rider, the racing was never going to be about winning. It was more participation, having fun being part of the scene and digging deeper at times than I would in training.

Very few racers are going to be at the pointy end of races competing for the win, so need other motivators to stay in the race game. If those other motivators don’t work, it could be time to reprioritize the racing part and focus on other aspects of the hobby. Only you will know when and if that is the case.

Your race description, sounds like you just went out too hard and blew up. Understand that in CX races folks want to establish a good position early. But if you go out too hard and get passed rapidly, then it’s not the right strategy. Perhaps you need to go out a bit easier and then be one of the guys passing others as opposed to being passed? Different approach might yield a better result.

It sounds like you worked hard before the season and have confidence in your fitness. I would change race day strategy but stick with racing for this season. Post season you can reflect on goals, objectives and outcomes and make a plan for next.

Good luck!


One regret I have regarding racing is listening to those saying I was old at 40. Such BS. Unless you are a former pro, you probably have many yeas of performance improvement. Perhaps peak potential physical performance is in your 20’s but, that’s always unlimited time, resources to reach genetic peak. Most of us never reach it and have so much room to grow “later” in life.

Stick with it.


A 53 year won the last cat 1 mtb race I went to. I was middle of the pack. I’m 33 and been training hard this year. So my takeaway is being older is only an issue if you decide to let it be an issue. And certainly 40s is a non factor in amateur racing.


Peter Horsnall thinks his racing days may be over; he’s 92 or 93

OK I TT but that has been the story of most of my race season, probably because I cycle too much. I’m 47 next year (still no age when I compare to folk who whip my @ss but I still go to events mainly for the social interaction.

If you compete, sometimes you’ll have a bad day. It is just as much of the life of an athlete as doing well. If you want to keep racing, you need to be mentally resilient and not let a bad day get you down. That does not mean you should not do a dispassionate analysis of what happened with an eye to reduce the chances of it happening again but dwelling on it and beating yourself up is very counter productive.

It gets beaten into up not to make excuses but the reality it that in some situations you need to find an excuse/explanation so you are not just left with “I suck” as your only post race conclusion. And, even if all you do have is “I suck,” its important to make that “I sucked today, I will be better next time” if you want to make progress.

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FWIW - aside from raw physical talent, the single biggest differentiator between a high level athlete and the average Joe is the pros know how to suck it up and still do their job even when they are feeling like poop.


My ex coach was a pro (UK level, so not the highest) and I have been out on a ride with him a few times I he would quit when he felt like poop so he could bounce back quickly for another day.

It seems like you have enough self awareness to know it’s the process not the outcome. But. If you’re not enjoying it you’re not enjoying it. I’d consider one of two options.

Either take a clean break and wait to see if the itch comes back then wait an extra race and really see if it comes back.

Or commit do doing one more, not focus on the build up or taper. Take all pressure off, train what you like when you like and go there with no other expectation than to enjoy the course.

Maybe sand bag. Find someone else you think you can hang with and have a mini race with them. Mid pack back of pack who cares.

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It’s easy to get down on yourself in these situations. I like to take the pressure off myself by giving myself a different type of goal. For example my goal for the race might be to 1. Finish 2. Get into a rhythm on the coarse (without worry about placing) 3. Work on a certain technique like mounting/dismounting. When I was competing my first handful of races were all about easing into the season without worrying about results. Once I had several races under my belt I felt way more relaxed at the start of races and I knew what to expect in terms of how hard I could push myself because I had a lot or experience under my belt. Good luck and take it E-Z.

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This sounds like burn-out to me.

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Listen to Darth.

One can race at any age. But lets break down @aarondeutchman post a little. Some people are simply elite athletes like the 53 year old in the example. The fastest rider in my old club was a 55 year old ex cat-1 road and mountain biker. But even he could never beat the Italian professor ex-cat1/maybe ex-pro that lived in the next big town over who won every big masters race and fondo in the state.

Let’s face it, racing is a genetic pecking order. You do the training, hopefully enjoy it, and find your limits. Take satisfaction in that. Enjoy the process. If your mind is filled with podium finishes and you don’t have the engine to back it up, you are going to always be disappointed.

I raced for 7 years and never won a big race. I had a hundred top 20s, lots of top 10s, a few podiums but never a win in a big race. My only top podium spot was in a training crit. In the end, it was a lot of fun but I was never going to be the top cat 3 winning everything on the way up to cat 1 and I was never going to be pro. End of story.


I race and also battle clinical anxiety (I’m on medication and in therapy). I had to pull out of a 12 hour race I was doing this summer after 1 lap because the anxiety was bad enough that I was dealing with fairly significant nausea as a result in addition to a feeling of panic. That was the start of my summer racing getting derailed by ongoing struggles with getting my anxiety back under control (changing medications, etc.). As some others have mentioned, changing the focus of your goals can help. I also have found that taking the step back and taking care of your various needs can reignite the fire a bit. You mentioned you’re dealing with off the bike stress, so potentially taking a step back from racing and just riding for fun while dealing with that will reignite the fire for you. For me, I ended up not racing at all this summer and just riding for fun when I had the energy (fatigue is a huge issue for me when the anxiety is bad because I deal with insomnia) while I dealt with trying to better manage my anxiety. I had no desire to compete. It’s still an ongoing process to get my anxiety better managed, but it has improved and that desire to race and compete has come back too.

Whatever you choose to do, I wish you the best of luck. Most of us here do this for fun, so don’t lose sight of that!


First off, I’ll say that at least once per race I start questioning why I signed up and consider just quitting. And I will say that there seems to be a correlation that the harder I go out at the start, the more I contemplate quitting. I think I just bury myself and get in my head. The races where I’ve felt like I start too easy, I feel better and pace better and have more fun. So maybe you went out too hard and blew up.

This. I’ve had problems in the past where I mentally make every race an “A” race and put way too much pressure on myself. And if I do poorly, I get really down. This has improved as I’ve picked some races to just go out and have fun, regardless of how I place. So sign up with no expectations. Just have fun. Ride in the mud. Take a beer hand up. What made me fall in love with CX is that I felt like a kid again, just riding in the mud and getting dirty. Find that.

All in all, I’d say take a step back and ask yourself if you still like racing. Take some time off if needed; maybe you’re just a bit in the hole or burnt out.


Don’t tell Valverde or Van Vleuten. Certainly don’t tell the group of racers hammering at any given Masters race.

dude…it"s CX. it is Freaking hard. dont worry about it. have fun or do something else.


I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve struggled through that feeling, came back, and managed to take a decent finish. The mental challenge is as much an accomplishment as the physical. If you can convince yourself to just push through one more lap, 10 more minutes, or one more climb/obstacle/turn, you’ll be on your way to do it again.

Good post, and you can really remove the CX part and just change it to any endurance event.

If you’re not having fun, don’t do it - life is way to short to press towards goals that only give you heartburn and have fewer rewards.

I’m 40, and I’ve raced triathlon for 22 years now. I’ve done pretty well for an amateur (won AG a couple times at IM branded full IMs and 70.3s, won overall at smaller races, etc). Over the past 3 years I’ve raced less and less because the anxiety and nervousness isn’t offset with quite as much internal pride in racing well as it used to be. It’s also been offset with the realization that literally, nobody else cares in the least. The people that you care about and that care about you only care if you’re enjoying yourself - nothing else.

@RecoveryRide , If I was you I’d give it another race or two and then make a call to just train and only race when/if you feel like giving it a rip in a few days - no worries about a build towards an event or anything. You may surprise yourself. My IRonman PR was done off of only base training for around 8 months (what the TR folks would call traditional base) because I didn’t really feel like hurting myself/being uncomfortable in training at that time. I did nothing but easy rides and runs (still put in volume) and let it rip with the only goals being 1. Finish, and 2. Finish in a state where my stomach could handle one or 10 post race beers —- checked both boxes and turned down a Hawaii slot.

Also, your racing days may very well be behind you, but that doesn’t mean sit and get fat - you can still do a ton of training and just enjoy it. Racing has a shelf life for all of us. I don’t anticipate doing it in any form for more than a couple more years, but I’ll absolutely still put down the training volume because that’s enjoyable for me.


Had that feeling before. Coincidentally 41 as well.

I think it’s worth taking everything going on outside of cycling into account, as usually that’s a huge factor. I suspect you have bigger fish to fry in your personal life so in the heat of an intense effort you can stop and ask yourself, “why?”.

I wouldn’t read too much into it. I’d simply take a break and stick to the stuff you’re currently enjoying, and roll back into it if you miss it.

I agree with the people that say age doesn’t matter for racing, however it’s pretty common to be questioning your life priorities in your early 40s.