If you haven't seen it already, there's a great blog in Bicycling (http://www.bicycling.com/blogs/fitchick/be-your-personal-best) by Selene Yeager on maintaining perspective while racing. One particular line really resonated with me "It’s about handling adversity not just with power, but with grace."
Two weeks ago, at the Schoolyard CX and Feedback Cup CX races, I witnessed actions by two of our local junior racers that have really stuck with me. One of them lost a pedal during his race--as in it actually fell off--but continued on, pedaling one-legged like he was doing some sort of crazy mid-race drills. The other got the hole shot then immediately washed out on a corner, nailing his knee on a rock and dropping his chain. Nonetheless, he stayed calm, ran to a wide spot then stopped to put his chain back on and finished the race, holding his knee and grimacing in pain.
Both of these boys are usually found at the front of their races. These mishaps pushed them to the back of the field. Many of us may have just thrown in the towel at that point, waiting for 'another day', or maybe even gotten off our bikes and thrown a tantrum! These boys aren't even 10 years old, but calmly handled the situations with grace, setting an example for all of us.
I love the fact that we've seen such growth in junior cycling as there are so many great lessons to learn: training, nutrition, commitment, dedication. But perhaps especially in cyclocross, where things can and will go wrong in a race, the greatest lesson may be overcoming adversity. When the inevitable malfunction occurs, whether mechanical or physical, will we throw in the towel and quit, throw a fit, or lash out at our fellow riders, or will we find a way around it and keep going like these boys did?
They'll run into issues in 'real life' too--we all do--and they'll be better prepared for it now. I'm not trying to make cx a metaphor for life, or any more important than it is, but everything helps build the foundation for the future and you're never too old to learn. I feel like I got a reminder from these two boys that weekend.