Good things come to those who... get absolutely pissed on en route to the start line, don't bring enough layers to warm up and probably shouldn't be racing because of a head cold that hasn't cleared.
I managed my first proper win this month at a 3/4 race at Bovingdon Circuit. The incredible feeling of crossing the finish line first can only be explained by how strong the desire is to feel it again. I definitely don't have the magic answer on how to do that, as I'm pretty sure mine was 90% luck, but here are a few personal learnings:
1. Perfect form doesn't exist in your mind.
I 110% convinced myself I was in shit form - don't believe everything you think.
2. Comparing is the devil.
I still have a terrible habit of not feeling good enough when looking at others. The infamous 'shut up legs' should be changed to 'shut up mind'.
3. Have a game plan and stick to it.
For once I had time to breathe and figure out a plan. Even if it doesn't turn out how you envisioned, 'never mind' is a much more positive force than 'what if'.
4. Know your strengths (I don't have many so this is easy for me).
Use them rather than kicking yourself about things you're not so good at.
5. Surround yourself with the right people.
The advice and encouragement I was given on the day was much more useful than the words I was telling myself.
6. Keep going.
The shit ton of hours in the saddle which don't feel progressive or the races that are too fast to grasp are just stepping stones not obstacles.
Even on a scrap piece of paper. I genuinely try to follow the rule of three and often have three things I'm working towards to keep me busy. And that doesn't just mean: Gin. Tonic. Cucumber.
8. Race to race. Not for results.
When your parents used to say 'winning isn't everything', it turns out they were right. Don't wait for a first place to feel content. And don't wait for a win before a celebratory gin. It's cliche but it's true - turning up to race is amazing. Results only tell half the story.
9. Fake it till you make it.
I still feel like I'm turning up to a party I've not been invited to. The outsider who didn't get the dress code or laughs along at the wrong jokes. Belief doesn't come easy to a lot of us. Force it so your mind and body eventually follow.
10. The real winner...
was the girl who brought a down jacket for before and after the race. I looked on at her with such envy as I depressingly looked on at my shivering arms.
The £20 prize winnings will be framed. Not as a reminder of the good times or a reminder that I did actually win a race once (probably won't happen again for a while). But as a reminder that even when you win a race, you're still a loser if you cross the finish line with socks like this: