Greatness, 2022 Edition

Our head coach and I stood in a parking lot after a 14 hour day at the races and shared stories of some of the incredible things we saw and heard throughout those long, dusty, sometimes frustrating hours. The head and assistant coaches hear about all sorts of amazing things, but the rest of the team generally doesn’t enjoy the benefit of the same perspective.

Type A personality, lawyer, dude–whatever the title, it’s probably a little disorienting to see me standing on the side of a trail weeping at the greatness I’m privy to witness. The resilience, compassion, and greatness these modern teens display give me a glimpse of a hopeful future.

These stories deserve to be memorialized–to recognize the greatness in kids who are doing their best but perhaps not meeting expectations, who realize there is more to life than race results, who have perspective and wisdom and goodness beyond their years. So, here are some of the many things I’ve seen this year as a NICA coach–I’ve seen more, and yet more have gone unnoticed. These amazing humans don’t ask to be recognized, but they deserve to be recognized even if simply on some obscure blog with little traffic.

Snowbasin Race Report, Sept 2022

Snowbasin is, perhaps, our most challenging course–at elevation, steep, rocky. Most of our kids dread the course, and most of our coaches dread the course more than the kids do. Our team saw a few podiums today (two JD women and a single HS woman). I didn’t spend as much time ugly crying as I did at Price, but many on our team achieved greatness.

– Pre-race nerves aren’t uncommon for E.S., and there are few things she hates more than racing a bike at Snowbasin. But she raced anyway. I couldn’t have been more happy for her than when I saw her on the upper dirt road, looking much stronger than she expected. E.S. did something difficult and unpleasant and became stronger for it. We should be more like E.S.

B.C. has scant interest in MTB and had no interest in racing. But when he heard a friend express concern about the difficulty of the course the night before the race, B.C. decided it was time to race his bike for the first time to support his friend. Not only did B.C. support his friend, he finished strong and had a great result. We should be more like B.C.

N.C. was still unable to race (see the Price report, below), but he again spent 14 hours at the race course cheering on teammates and would-have-been competitors. He again returned home more hoarse than most coaches.

I.T. came sprinting through the finish when two competitors from another team pinched him out and took out his front wheel. I.T. landed face-first in the gravel, but he wouldn’t let that keep him from finishing. He picked up his bike, ran through the finish, and went directly to the medical tent. He needed more care than the first aid staff could provide, so he was rushed to the hospital for stitches and gluing. Despite the pain and rush, he took time to reassure and motivate his teammates and appoint a deputy captain to act in his absence for the remainder of the day. We should be more like I.T.

– A newer rider on the team struggled with his first team practice as he worked to learn the basics of how to balance a bike, how to pedal, and how to brake–it took a while before he was ready to advance to mountain bike trails. We coaches were content to have him on the team, but we didn’t have any expectation that he would be interested in racing a course like Snowbasin. He completed the Snowbasin race without the need for any assistance (and had a good result on top of it)–something that wouldn’t have been possible without his hard work! He developed grit and resilience through MTB. We should be more like that.

G.P. is a freshman racer whose goal is to qualify to race at state champs. As he was making his way down the descent on his first lap, a competitor made an unsafe pass, causing G.P. to crash and his pedal to gash his shin. Despite the pain and frustration, and having another long and arduous lap in front of him, G.P. kept racing and had a great result. He wouldn’t let pain and disappointment derail his goals. We should be more like G.P.

D.B.‘s result at Price (see the Price report, below) meant he started last at Snowbasin. Despite starting last, which is even more difficult on a course like Snowbasin, D.B. had a great result. When his race was over, however, his race day was not done. He gathered teammates to travel back to the course to cheer for racing teammates. We should be more like D.B.

L.C. had a worse starting position than he’d have liked (see the Price report, below), but he pre-rode the course nearly a dozen times and was ready to race. He moved into 6th place at the top of the first lap, catching a former teammate as they made their way down the descent. L.C. hit a root, went over the bars, had the wind knocked out of him, cracked his helmet, and lost too much skin on his shoulder, back, hip, and arm. After laying in the dirt for nearly three minutes, he got back on his bike and finished his first lap, continued to his second, and finished his race. L.C. finished in 16th place–not what he was capable of, but losing only a single spot from where he started. “I wanted to quit after my crash, but I remembered what you said after the Price race.”

– We had an unreasonable amount of kids stick around to watch the last race of the day and to watch our single HS podium qualifier stand on the podium. They’re true teammates.

We’re in the midst of greatness.

Price Race Report, Aug 2022

Price is a dusty, shadeless, sunbaked town, and the race venue is not an exception. Our team didn’t see many podiums today, but greatness was on display.

– Our team’s pitzone was overcrowded all day. Kids didn’t come for their race and leave afterward–they spent the day as a team celebrating, commiserating, and encouraging. We also had larger than normal group of kids stick around until after everything was taken down and cleaned up to watch our one racer stand on a podium.

– I stood cheering for our high school female racers, and not far from me I saw another team’s racer crash right in front of X.X., one of our new racers. Rather than making her way around the racer and seeking her own result, X.X. stopped; cared for her competitor; encouraged her; waited for her to regain her composure; moved over when the competitor’s teammate rode by; and refused to restart until after the competitor restarted. X.X. was not done–she rode behind the competitor and encouraged her. She sacrificed her own result to build and lift someone who needed encouragement. We should be more like X.X.

D.B. did not ride as much with the team this year as he has in years past, but he came to race and encourage his teammates. Within the first few seconds of his own race starting, a rider crashed into D.B. and sent him to the ground. D.B. still had three full laps in front of him, and he was now at the back, with the closest racer several minutes in front of him. D.B. did not quit — he rode all three laps, alone, in the sun, on one of the hottest and dustiest courses in the league. He finished dead last, but he finished. He refused to let a miserable experience deter him. We should be more like D.B.

H.C., a Varsity racer, had some pedal/cleat troubles before her race, and a quick fix was unsuccessful. Although unable to clip into her pedals for almost the entirety of her three laps, she did her best and finished in the top 10. She refused to let circumstances dictate her result. We should be more like H.C.

O.M. crashed when a rider tried to unsafely pass. O.M. quickly found himself at the back of his group, in last place, with a lap and a half to go. But O.M. did not quit. When the crash later resulted in a mechanical failure on the race’s most significant climb, O.M. did not quit. He knew he would finish last, but he headed out on his final half lap and finished anyway. He refused to let anger and frustration keep him from finishing what he set out to accomplish. We should be more like O.M.

M.C., a teammate of O.M., is a very competitive pre-teen. Nevertheless, he stopped his own race to ask O.M. if he was okay after his crash and would only continue after hearing a “yeah.” We should be more like M.C.

– A course marshal mistakenly shortened the race for a portion of the intermediate 7th grade boys. The league’s resolution was to have that portion of the group re-race their lap. Long after they had cooled down, and adding an entire lap after they had completed a half lap more than their competitors, the boys readied themselves and raced their best, even if their best wasn’t what they were capable of thanks to unfair circumstances. We should be more like those boys.

N.C., a Varsity racer, spent hundreds of hours in the offseason training and racing to earn a spot in Varsity. Ten days before his first NICA race, he crashed and broke three bones in his hand and tore a tendon in his wrist. N.C. was undeterred by his circumstances and spent 13 hours on the race course cheering on teammates and competitors and friends with whom he could not race. He came home as hoarse as any coach.

J.R., a Junior woman, is one of the team’s best bike handlers, but a rock abruptly sent her over her handlebars. She wouldn’t let that slow her down — she hopped back on her bike, continued her race, and finished in the top ten in her category. We should be more like J.R.

J.R., an 8th grade racer, neared the finish line, hearing cheers from other racers and “encouragement” from his dad. But when J.R. saw a competitor carrying his bike and running toward the finish line, J.R. let the competitor have his day–J.R. soft-pedaled his way to the finish so that the competitor could finish ahead of him. J.R. was willing to sacrifice his own result to lift a competitor. We should be more like J.R.

M.C. and J.P. are Junior Varsity racers who weren’t feeling well once their races started. The heat and effort finally got the best of them and they found themselves puking on the side of the course’s biggest climb. But they weren’t done (puking or racing!), and they continued and finished their races despite misery. We should be more like M.C. and J.P.

L.C. is a freshman racer who had a top 5 call-up for the race. Despite an 80′ weather delay and a two lap race being shortened to a single lap, L.C. was moving fast as the race started. An unsafe move by another racer sent L.C. and several other racers to the ground, not even 20″ into the race. Two of the racers’ days were immediately ended (broken arm and dislocated shoulder make MTB racing difficult!). L.C. was run over three times, including once across the neck/throat, but despite finding himself at the back of the field of nearly 60 racers, L.C. chose to resume his race. With less than one lap to go, L.C. recalibrated his goals, broke the race into manageable chunks, and began riding as fast as his sore body and disoriented mind permitted. He began passing riders, one by one, and increased in speed as he made his way through the course. By the end of the lap, he had passed over 40 racers and finished 15th. The result isn’t what L.C. is capable of, but he never complained, never placed blame, and never showed resentment or anger. The same cannot be said of his father, but his father couldn’t be more proud of L.C.

I guess by some people’s standards, today wasn’t very successful, but I couldn’t be more a more proud coach.

Offseason for NICA Student Athletes

Congratulations on an amazing season!

I am impressed with your progress over the course of the season–every one of you exceeded my expectations, whether that was completing a hard practice, completing a race, or standing on a podium.  You had positive attitudes, showed resilience, and improved greatly.  Compare where you are today to where you were at our first practice in June — you’re a different rider and person!  Thanks for your hard work, and thanks for putting up with me barking at you about riding harder, or doing another interval, or whatever else.

Races just ended–what should I be doing?

With the race season behind us, and the next NICA race nearly 9 months away, it’s time to start thinking about how the next several months will look compared to what we’ve been doing since June.  First and foremost, it is time to have fun!  There is no reason to be doing VO2max intervals, race starts, or anything of the sort.  So, for those of you who feel like you need it:

  • You now have permission to have fun
  • You now have permission to ride (run, hike, whatever) just for the experience
  • You are now forbidden from doing intervals 🙂

This doesn’t mean you have to stop riding, but use the fitness you’ve built over the course of many months and do what sounds fun to you.  Hike Mount Wire.  Ride Mormon Pioneer.  Trail run on the BST (much different from riding it!).  Swim.  Do whatever you want (or if you haven’t taken a break since the season ended, consider doing nothing at all for a week or two).  Taking time now is a good mental break, lets your body recover from the considerable fatigue we’ve built up over the last several months, and will have you feeling more fresh when it’s time to get back at the suffering.

I don’t want to start over next year–what can I do to be ready to go in April/May?

There are many ways to answer this question, but I think the answer is: “It depends.”  You might be inclined to stay indoors, keep warm, and not think about your bike until March–that’s okay.  You might be inclined to try to not lose any fitness and keep up a strict training program until our next race at the end of August–that can be okay as well (although that would give me some concern, to be honest).

My preference would be somewhere in between the two extremes, maybe:

  • Ride a bike 3 days per week
  • Run, hike, snowshoe, nordic ski, swim, ice skate, or something else 2 days per week
  • Core work 2-3 days per week

(Those are just examples, not prescriptions!)

Generally, try to stay active 5-6 days per week, but take a break from intensity/structure.

If you would like more structure to your training, you might consider a coach-prepared off-season training plan from TrainingPeaks, such as plans created by Lynda Wallenfells (a Utah-based professional coach, and a coach with the Dixie High MTB Team), such as this plan, for example.

What if I just want to have fun?

Having fun is not only acceptable, I highly encourage it!  Don’t spend time worrying about training and keeping your fitness.  Fitness comes and goes–you can’t be in race shape all year long, so don’t worry about having a lull in the winter before you start rebuilding in the spring.  In fact, not only don’t worry about it, but expect that it will happen!

Here are a few things that, regardless of your goals, you should try to accomplish this fall and winter:

  • Work in some long rides.
    • Notice how our rides back in June were longer, lower intensity than our shorter, high intensity rides since August.  The off-season is when we work on longer rides at lower intensities.
    • So, do some 2-4 hour rides, whether on a mountain bike or a road bike.  Pick some new trails you haven’t ridden before, or plan a road adventure with a parent, and just go ride.
    • If you are so inclined, you could do a mini-camp in late January or February where you schedule 2-3 days of as much riding as you can fit in (with a recovery week afterward).  These can be a great way to build your aerobic base and impress yourself with how much riding you can actually do (especially if you eat well!).
  • Work on skill building.
    • At our early team practices, we had skills clinics, sessioned features at Trailside or Round Valley, emphasized bike handing at Bob’s Basin, etc.  Skill building took a back seat to race fitness as we got closer to race season.
    • The offseason is a great time to work on bike handling.  Go ride trails that we can’t/don’t ride at practice–do a few Bobsled laps; ride the Roller Coaster; spend a day or two on Gooseberry Mesa.  Working on bike handling in the winter is a great, low-intensity way to become a better bike racer.
  • Build the bike riding community.
    • Introduce a friend/family member to riding.  Take a younger sibling on a ride. Tell a parent it’s time for them to see how fast you’ve become.  Invite a friend who has a bike but isn’t on the team to come ride with you and see how much more fun riding with a friend can be.  Intensity isn’t our focus in the winter, and that should make us more pleasant riding companions!
    • Find a trail maintenance opportunity or another way to help build the community.  Hate a particular rut on the BST?  Reach out to the Salt Lake City Open Space Program and ask about opportunities to help with trail maintenance.  Want to see more kids on bikes? Contact Free Bikes for Kids about helping to repair donated bikes that will be given to kids at the holidays.  You’re fortunate to have a bike to ride, free trails on which to ride that bike, and coaches who donate hundreds of hours per year to help you.  Use that fortune to help others.
  • Don’t be afraid to race!
    • Racing is a skill that only racing can help develop.  While our fall and winter training generally leans more toward the low intensity/high volume variety, racing can be a good way to work in some high intensity training while affording plenty of time to recover.
    • Maybe it’s a Thanksgiving 5k. Or maybe a cyclocross race in Nov-Dec along the Wasatch Front. Or maybe an XC race in Vegas in December. Or maybe a spring road race or ICUP race.  If NICA is your priority, then using off-season (and even non-mtb) races as training for NICA races can be a great way to get some intensity in your schedule and build some racing skills without worrying about results.


What about the team?

NICA rules prohibit us from practicing, racing, and formally meeting as a team, or even using TeamSnap or our website to organize events as a team during the offseason.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t ride, run, hike, ski together–and you SHOULD seek opportunities to ride/run/hike/ski together.  Grab a group of teammates (and include a friend) and go on a ride this week while the weather is nice.  Grab a teammate and plan a family mtb trip to Moab or Gooseberry in the next couple of months.  If you happen to be in St. George over the winter break, President’s Day, or spring break, chances are pretty good that a Crockett or two will be looking for someone to ride with …

At the end of the day, any aerobic activity you can fit in during the offseason will have you in better shape and ready to get back to formal training when our season begins.  So don’t do too much (we want to avoid burnout) and don’t do too little (you’ve worked too hard to lose all your fitness!), but get outside, have some fun, and be ready to go in the spring!

Finally, if you are targeting any spring racing (March-May) for results and would like more specific direction, please let me know (this would be especially applicable for anyone hoping to petition for a category upgrade).  Early season racing means your winter should look more focused than if NICA races are your primary concern.  (I still recommend spring racing, but for the experience and skill building rather than for the results.)

I’m always happy to help, so please don’t hesitate to email (crockettj@gmail.com) or text (614-580-1411) if you need anything!  Otherwise, I look forward to seeing you on the trails and slopes!


He Has to Pee in a Cup?

“He has to pee in a cup?” And, later: “Really? He has to go in a cup?” Miles, the six year old, thought that was a weird part of the defendant’s sentencing this morning.

She’s spent countless sleepless nights thinking about what she would like to say and what she would like to see for the defendant. Over the last few weeks, she’s written, scrapped, and rewritten her statement enough times that we’re out of paper. She has read it aloud to herself more times than she can count (granted, she can’t count very high). I rescheduled my 8th annual trip to Ohio (to see my Buckeyes take on #10 Nebraska) to be there when she delivered it. We arranged for someone to watch Liam, and the rest of us dressed in our Sunday best and drove to the courtroom, all the while the three older boys wondered what the rest of their classmates were doing at school, whether they were at lunch yet (at 8:15 in the morning, before school even started), and we made our way to and through the courthouse.

I’ve been in court a handful of times, but never as a lawyer, and certainly never as a victim. We sat through a few hearings, only picking up bits and pieces of the happenings as the court was full (a docket of 80 cases this morning), and if you’ve ever been in court you know that it’s not at all the typically serene and silent place it’s portrayed to be on TV.

Finally, it was time for the State of Utah v. Jeffrey Summers. Not until that moment did Ali know what the defendant looked like, what his family looked like, who he was as a person, or how he truly felt about the situation. His attorney asked for him to be punished, but in such a way he could keep his job with the postal service. His union representative was there to ask for the same. Then the court called for Ali.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Michelle Obama. Laura Bush. Some of the most graceful women I’ve ever seen. I think Alison Crockett should be added to that list. She stood before the court, in all its commotion, and she held court. I’ve never been in a room with so many people from so many different backgrounds and circumstances and been so struck by the silence. The defendant, other lawyers (a characteristically unemotional lot), and people totally uninvolved with the case wept.

The defendant and his attorney were called back to the stand, and the attorney stood for a moment without saying anything. His first words: “I’d like to thank Ms. Crockett. That was a type of grace we rarely see.” Attorneys stopped her in the hall afterward and said the same thing and that they were choked up by what she said.

You see, she didn’t ask for the maximum penalty possible. She asked for the minimum, with conditions. She offered forgiveness. You can read her statement here.

The prosecutor had different things in mind. The judge did as well. He reduced the sentence thanks to Ali’s words, but reiterated that the defendant is extraordinarily lucky to have the outcome that he did. At the end of the day, a sentence of up to 5 years in jail, suspended with credit for the day already served, and 74 days more (that will certainly cause the 57 year old to lose his job), in addition to restitution, fines, additional rehabilitation, and a laundry list of other items, including peeing in a cup.

We did not expect the defendant then to be handcuffed and sent to jail. He blew his wife a kiss (without hands, because, again, handcuffs), and we left to talk with the prosecutor. It’s not over, but it was a huge step. I’m amazed that Ali was able to do something so gracefully that I don’t think I could do under even the best of circumstances.