Don’t Forget Your Good Days
By Kristabel Doebel-Hickok
As I start my base training with Ron Peterson and my bodywork with Mark Payares, my focus has shifted to looking ahead to 2014. There are countless lessons that I learned in my neo-pro season with Team TIBCO, but there is just one more that I would be remiss if I did not share: don’t forget your good days.
I was warned that when making the jump to NRC/Pro level racing, it could be a bit of a mental shock. You are no longer riding away from the field to take the win solo. You might be struggling at the back, a bit lost mid-pack, or on a good day in the lead group. So, I was prepared to be crushed by my idols that would now also be my competition. I was mentally ready to cope with not winning, not even being in the lead group, because the other racers were just flat out better or because my role among the team didn’t have that in the plans. What I wasn’t prepared for were my bad days. How it would feel if I couldn’t do what I needed to for my teammates, if I couldn’t climb like I usually can, if I struggled to handle my bike even as well as my limited skills allow. I was prepared to suck in comparison to the Olympians and National Champions that I would race, but I was not prepared to suck in comparison to myself.
With the transition to Team TIBCO and NRC racing came many challenges. And some of those I didn’t handle in a way that would have had me racing the best that I could have for the team. After my first race as a pro, Road Nationals, I was crushed. Totally and completely crushed. Never had I hurt so much, fought so hard in a race, and yet performed so terribly. I understood what I needed to do in the race, but I simply couldn’t. I hadn’t taken care of myself as well as I could have while adjusting to all the new dynamics, and it showed on the bike. My director doesn’t lie, so you can bet he told me something along the lines of “you have to do better than that, you have to work on…” but he also told me “you ARE better than that.”
For every time that I was told that I didn’t exactly nail something, I was also reminded of my good days. I remember hearing “don’t forget that you DO have what it takes, you CAN race with the best.” People never let me forget the climbs that I flew up with the lead pack, the races that I cornered with relative ease, the wins at the regional and personal level. They never stopped believing in me, so I never stopped believing in myself. That, combined with working on my weaknesses, allowed me to have more good days at the end of the season. Those days still showed room for improvement, more mistakes made and more work to be done. But those days also make me continue to trust my coach, mentors, teammates, DS, and the many others who help me believe in myself.