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.