I’m really struggling with this decision so would appreciate a discussion on it.
I’ve raced mtb, road and cx for around 10 years now. My peak was around the age of 42/43 (I’m 47 now), when I achieved a couple of top twenties at National level cx, 15th at mtb xc Nationals and was often on the podium at regional races.
I trained really hard with a coach, putting in 500-800 tss weeks with tons of brutal turbo work as well as real life race training. I got as fast as I’m ever going to get but it really burnt me out.
Took 2 years off from racing then returned to it around age 45. My enthusiasm was high but whilst still quite good, I was a little off the podium battle.
Now at 47 I’m not even making the top ten regionally and I’m not prepared to put myself through what I did to try improve my situation. I still ride loads and train to a degree, but I’m not going back to that place of deep fatigue and suffering. I just don’t care enough anymore.
Which leads me to think; what now? I could continue on. I love the people, I love the courses, but I often feel rather flat after a half hearted battle for 15th place.
I could quit completely, but I’m scared to even think of that. Major fomo.
I could focus on aspects of the sport that I’ve never done before, where just completing is enough. For example I’m doing a 6 day mtb stage race in June. Excited for that because it’s 2-3000m climbing a day in the Alps. Just finishing would be amazing.
I also want to do some more non competitive long distance rides.
So I’m not short of things I want to do. My question is whether to keep trying to involve xc and cx racing into my year or properly put them off the table for a few years? They’re good training and I love seeing my race friends, but I’m not sure it’s good for my moral falling out of love with the actual racing.
Incidentally I’ve been a major part of putting on cx races over the last couple of years and get a real buzz from that, plus it keeps me in touch. In fact we were the promoting club for this weekends National Trophy cx.
Don’t quit, just take a break.
Do races and events that sound fun. Instead of dreading that battle for 15th, go into races knowing you don’t care about the result and enjoy that battle. Race course you don’t like? Don’t do it. A random race pop up that sounds fun? Go for it! Fun group ride on Saturday that will kill you but also a race you want to do Sunday? Do both!
That’s what most of my racing is. I race up a class higher than I should because I enjoy battling for near last place more than finishing near or at the top of the podium every event. I recently went to Sea Otter and did three races in a row, with the last one the one I cared about the most and I destroyed myself all three days without caring. Because the races were about the participation, not the result.
Carry on doing the things you want to do, see where it takes you. You might find the desire to try and win, (or even to scrap tooth and nail for that 15th place!) comes back again at some point, maybe in masters events, but if it doesn’t that’s OK too. I’m a year behind you, still get a buzz out of pinning a number on. Have done some participation events which are more about finishing or getting a good time. Some races where I’m primarily helping club mates. Some where I can still compete myself. And some where just finishing in the front bunch and not getting dropped is an achievement! Can definitely see more gravel and masters racing in my future.
Only do what you enjoy doing and if racing doesn’t tick the boxes anymore then don’t worry about.
On the other hand, just accept where your fitness is. If people only entered to win, then there wouldn’t be any events to enter because the top step would only apply to a select few in each category.
How about trying to beat those around you? If rider ‘x’ beat you by 25 seconds and rider ‘y’ by 15 seconds then make those guys your target at the next round.
I think think the essence of the problem is that I used to have fire in my belly, I wanted to see how far I could go in the sport.
Now I just see results as rather pointless. If you win a race it was just because no one better was there. If you think you’re doing well then you just need to look at the next level to realise you’re a nobody.
It’s not exactly the mindset of the winner.
Conversely. I love racing a bike flat out. There’s a real buzz in that. And I sometimes love a mid pack battle. However the one podium battle I’ve been in this season reminded me of how much more energy is at the front of the race. Everyone gives more.
There’s a huge difference between:
- Competing against other people and
- Competing for an outcome
Anything that has a placing (first, fifth, last) is against other people.
Anything that has a “just to do it” or “just to finish it” is an outcome.
This is a big part of why I’m riding/racing XCM next year. I don’t really care where I finish. I’m not trying to beat somebody else (I spent 20 years doing that). I’m just interested in the events, and XCM is generally much more about the ride than the relative placement.
- Ride the events that look interesting.
- Ride with people who are fun to spend time with.
- Ride so that you can visit a country or state/province/region that you’ve never been to before.
Dave. In reply to your point, I know a lot of the guys I’m battling with for 15th. Sad thing is it’s the same guys I used to fight for the win 5-6 years ago. I think we all feel a bit flat about it to be honest.
I agree with that. Unfortunately xcm in the UK is really lame. Generally the longer races are just going round a 30min lap for hours. I’ve done that to death.
I’m doing the Alps Epic in June. That is so far out of my experience that it should be fantastic.
It’s what to do about my regular, regional racing I’m not sure about. I might do 20 races a year, that’s a big part of my life. But it has become a bit same old, same old.
I am about the same age as you, I spent all my younger years competitive at golf. Life it too short, now I focus all my time on triathlon.
I keep thinking that sometime my desire to be competitive at golf will come back, it hasn’t yet, don’t know if it ever will. I still don’t miss it and its been 13 years.
Life’s too short, do what inspires you, adapt to something else when it doesn’t
I quit racing 30 years ago. I was on a lower level - mostly pack fill cat 4 on the verge of cat 3. I have a few podiums, many top 10s and hundreds of top 20s. I was one of the top dogs on my local club ride because we didn’t have any real hot shots. I primarily quit because I was spending 10-15+ hours a week training and 10+ hours a week attending races on top of working full time. I had zero life but working, cycling, and driving to races.
Sadly I quit completely and then hardly rode afterwards for many years. I wish I would have transitioned out of sanctioned racing to doing 5-6 centuries, fondos, or fun rides per year.
Maybe there are other ways to stay in the scene? What about coaching or mentoring some juniors? Help organizing races or events?
Agree with others. I think you just need a change in focus/mentality in terms of expectations.
Race XCM stuff, preferably technical stuff that still gives you the challenge. Don’t even pay any attention to the placings and just look at your time and how you can improve it.
You don’t have to go from competing to completing. You can still get a terrific challenge in pushing yourself for your best performance
Fortunately I still love riding. I’ve plans for adventures that really motivate me.
I also run a weekly cyclocross training session for the kids and adults in our club. We have tons of laughs. Furthermore we’ve become serious race promotors. Getting experienced now at building cx courses and we put on one regional race each year. I was also involved in building and then marshaling last weekends national cx race.
Lots going on!
In short I’ve got a lot I still want to do. It’s whether to keep thrashing away at the usual stuff? There’s plenty I enjoy about it but it’s essence has been diminished through repetition.
Liam. Trouble is in the UK, there’s nothing on the xc, xcm scene that I wonder if I could finish. I know I could put up a capable performance at any event. I think some of the Scottish national xc races could be technically exciting but the stuff in England can be awfully easy tbh.
Last xc race I really enjoyed was the 2018 xc Nats at the track used for the 2012 Olympics. That was brutal and a bit scary in places. I was so chuffed with myself because I took all the a-lines. That course, sadly has been decommissioned now.
I think consensus is pretty clear - stop doing the stuff that you don’t enjoy doing.
What I didn’t realize until later in this thread is that you have plenty more stuff that you enjoy doing. So keep doing that!
Taking a few years of “Ride what you want to ride” will lead to finding your next thing, if it’s not what you already have going on…
I appreciate this. Writing it down and reading your replies really helps me out so thank you.
Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it.
I’m just scared of saying goodbye to that part of my life for a while and also it’ll be hard when I hear my mates talking excitedly about the latest course or race.
It only seems obvious when you look at it from a certain angle. Glad you’re taking the time to look at it from several angles before making a choice.
Just race for the handups…seems like you have plenty of skill and fitness to just show up and not embarrass yourself and still be a part of the community without any goals
I live for goals and structure. I love routine. I love training, just not night after night of hard turbo sessions.
My goals need to be exciting though. Training to slow the steady decline into obscurity is not the most audacious ambition.
That’s a huge shame they got rid of that track. I thought it was a launching platform for a MTB park for everyday riders.