No matter what discipline you are interested in, no matter what sport you play, even what activity you enjoy, everyone has a favorite place — a favorite loop to run or ride from your house, or a favorite skate park, or a favorite lookout hike.
My favorite place is Jungle Habitat. I ride there probably four times a week. I even helped build the place along with all of the other JORBA volunteers. My father had a major hand in laying out many of the trails in there. Getting to Jungle Habitat takes me five minutes to get there by car, 15 if I ride my bike.
As you can imagine, I know the place very well.
Every year, Team Town Cycle runs a cross-country MTB race at Jungle. No matter what conditions or physical shape I am in, I always seem to do well there.
This year I have redirected my focus to enduro racing, which requires a different type of training than XC racing. Needless to say, my XC results this year have not been on par with last year’s results (though I have to say I feel great on my enduro bike). I have not been consistently on the podium in XC racing, so when I raced at Jungle a few weeks ago, I expected a similar result.
And I got 3rd in the Pro/Open class and very, very nearly got 2nd. I was able to catch CCI Racing’s Mikey Jaworski near the end of the final lap, then accelerate up the finishing straight with him to the line. We both lunged at the finish and he got me by .085 seconds. With a solid 3rd, I had beaten guys that had destroyed me in the previous few races.
After the race, I was wondering, How was I able to do that? I hadn’t suddenly gained months of fitness in a week. I didn’t feel any faster than I had in the previous races. I came to the conclusion that I did well because I know the park so well. As Mike Hoek, owner of Town Cycle, wisely put it, “You’re a Van Wart, and it’s Jungle.”
I was able to do well because my intimate knowledge of the park enabled me to use lines others may not have seen, or go through rock gardens smoother because I knew every single rock in them. As Ken and I have been preaching in the Wednesday clinics, smoother equals easier – which in turn equals faster.
Instead of spending energy on the technical sections, I could put every ounce of my energy into spinning my cranks around.
So next time you feel like you aren’t doing well, race somewhere that you are really good at. Who knows, maybe you’ll surprise yourself.