I am often asked what is the most common personality trait of a successful athlete. Many attitudes come to mind that are conducive to performance but I have rarely committed to one trait to be crucial for success. It is something I have spent some hours ruminating on and researching. Recently, I had a minor revelation while visiting some trails I used to ride as a teenager in north west Sydney.
As a mid 30s rider donned out in all the gear, on a full XTR bike, using the best suspension in the business and with 23 years of MTB experience under the belt I arrogantly thought I was going to fly through these trails I had not ridden in close to 20 years. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s most ‘MTB trails’ were either fire trails or bushwalking tracks that were usually pretty technically challenging. Especially on 26inch full rigid machines. My high school commute would take me (with trousers tucked into school socks and tie tucked between shirt buttons) on a 10km ride on road, fire trail and 2km of aforementioned singletrack (walking trail). I rode a Diamond Back Sorrento with sweet 7 speed Shimano gears and 26×1.75″ tyres, flat pedals and 0 suspension. I used to shred that singletrack imagining I was Cadel Evans or Miguel Martinez. With a back pack full of school books and usually a detention awaiting my tardy arrival at Pennant Hills High, I was always in a rush to get that singletrack dialled.
So heading back to the same trail in 2021 I thought a similar type of performance on this trail would be a given due to my wealth of experience and equipment. Although in 1999-2003 there was no Strava, keen riders like myself would keep a ‘training diary’. A hand written journal remarking on the rides of each day. In my training diary I would note times recorded on segments of my school commute from my CASIO watch and remark on the conditions of each ride. Wet, Sandy conditions, new Hutchison tyre, extra textbook in backpack. All these excuses and notes would sit beside the times for the school commute including the seperate ‘sectors’- fire trail section, road section and singletrack section.
Alas, despite my enhanced equipment and ego after my 3rd unclip on this trail I realised that high school me had mid 30s me covered! The key factor that was missing in 2021 was ENTHUSIASM. Although I still love riding and racing my bike, that willingness to grit, to suffer and the feeling that the cycling world is at your fingertips is increasingly absent as a Masters 2 aged rider. In my early teens I was convinced that anything was possible provided I worked hard. This was a healthy attitude for that time of life and I have since devoted a good portion of my life to encouraging other young people especially those whom deal with a challenge like T1 Diabetes to commit themselves to such an outlook on sport and life.
As we get older finding that zest and zeal for life can become somewhat more clouded in the midst of everything else that life throws at us… Work, business, mortgage, family, kids, insurance, tax… the list goes on. Yet this does not mean the zeal is no longer there. We might just have to work and dig a bit harder to find it.
In my capacity as a coach I always encourage athletes young and old to choose and commit to goals that INSPIRE them! It does not have to be the high profile event that someone else puts value on. It just has to be a spectacle FOR YOU. Inspiration comes from so many different aspects of riding, once the inspiration is found then the motivation and enthusiasm naturally follows. A lot more balancing is required as an older masters rider, but rest assured it can still be found.
The inspiration is the spark then the motivation/ enthusiasm is the fire.
Have a look at your riding life to see if there is some fuel for your fire!!