When I think about my favorite race, I have a lot of options to choose from. Whether it’s CX, MTB, or road racing, I’ve had some pretty good results. But if I were to try and write a full race report about any one of them, I’d have a pretty hard time coming up with more than a paragraph. Of course, I could look up my results, and probably come up with a few things that happened in the race, but that’s not what I remember most about races.
Take, for instance, Nittany Lion CX weekend in 2014. I remember the brutal heat. I remember being in a group off the front for most of both days. I remember grabbing two pretty unexpected top-10’s. But my races are not what I remember most about that weekend. I remember showing up early to watch some friends racing. I remember pre-riding the course with teammates. I remember the nerves that come with a front row call-up with over 100 eager racers behind me waiting for that whistle to blow, getting the first races of the year under way. But that 45+ minutes, from the time that whistle blew to the time I crossed that line, are not what I remember.
I remember Jenny telling me about her epic battle and how she landed on the podium. I remember listening to Runnette heckle like a pro, as always. I remember hearing about Mandy WINNING! I remember wanting to pass out in the MTBNJ tent 15 seconds after my race and having people offering me water and Gatorade. I remember hosing down bikes with Ken and Sean. I remember running into all the folks I hadn’t seen since Limestone the previous year. I remember cheering like crazy for Barbossa as she totally crushed it in the Elite field. Post-race on Saturday, I remember Ken talking me into staying at his hotel. I remember hitting the local bar and grille for a proper recovery meal, lol. I remember running into the MTBNJ crew in the lobby, just talking shop for a few hours.
When I try thinking of a favorite race, my actual races are not the first things that come to mind. What makes a race great, to me, is the atmosphere around the event. It is being out there in support. It’s cheering on friends and seeing them leave it all out there. It’s grabbing someone’s bottle or clothes at the start line. It’s being that encouragement and friendly face when someone’s had a tough ride. That’s why I race; it’s not the results or the competition. So when I think of my favorite race, it’s the days where I had the most fun not racing that come to mind. And these days, these favorite days, with this group of people, they could fill up a book.