Your actual haul from Nationals is the experience.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”  – Coach John Wooden

 While reflecting upon road nationals, it is easy to get hung up on placings and whatnot.   Completely understandable.   There are jerseys and medals and published results.    1st is better than 2nd.   49th is better than 78th.

In a crit and road race in particular, you should understand that the placings matter, but they also really don’t.   The whole game is a moving chess match, and sometimes the board is facing one way, sometimes the board is facing another.  Sometimes the white rooks are working with you.  Sometimes they are against you, even if on the same team.   On some teams there are assigned “domestique” rolls, and on others they may have only one rider.  Some riders execute their roles better than others, whether it is due to ability, understanding, dedication…whatever.  Tactics and strategy are different for different folks.  And then there’s the fact that it is junior racing, so even the best laid plans can go sideways because another rider or team wasn’t playing to a script at all.   Sometimes one team is playing checkers instead of chess, and no juniors really have a lot of experience of race tactics.  It just is what it is.

 All you can do is the give the best effort you are capable.   In the context of your team, it means being as prepared as possible and then executing as best as possible the role you were assigned.   If you are on a team structured such that you are finding your own way in the races, then this still applies…you do the best you can with what you got on the day and at the time.   That’s it.

 That’s all there should be.

 Nationals is an opportunity to try to get all the pieces in the right place at the right time.   Get geared up for it.  Take it seriously.   Go for it like you mean it.    But then let it all go when it is done.

 We’re not curing cancer.   The winner isn’t necessarily a better person than you.  They just placed higher in a bike race on the day.   On the Monday after nationals, you had the opportunity for having the best Monday post-nats possible.  I hope you took that opportunity.  Maybe it meant you were packed up and ready to travel.  Maybe it meant you took a recovery day and didn’t ride.  Maybe you rode but were supposed to take it easy.   Maybe you went to the water park and did nothing cycling or training related whatsoever.    No matter what you did, you should have gone after it like whatever you were doing is what mattered.

 If it didn’t go well, make a list of what exactly you are feeling didn’t go well.   And then make a list addressing those things with ways you can make it go better next time.   Similarly, if something went well, understand why it did go well.   Actually write out this list.

 That’s how you sleep easy at night.  That’s how you keep this stuff from being stressful to the extent that it is unhealthy.   It is how you get better and develop.

 But here’s the secret (just between you and me)–   What you actually take away from an experience like nationals is the ability to do something on a big stage, and then adjust so that you can improve upon that the next time, or allow yourself to let it go, so that you can file it away as something you did when you were a kid.  Nobody will remember your placing, even if you win.  Sure, the winners will be remembered longer, but eventually it is forgotten by everyone.   We will all have to look it up on the internet to be reminded.    Nationals will be what you were able to take away from it as an experience.

That’s all junior nationals is.  That’s all it should be.

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