The aftermath of what happened on the weekend still hasn’t really sunk in. Is this real, is what just happened true. Was I standing on the podium at the first World Championships that I have raced in 6 years? At my first race in 2 months due to yet another injury.
We arrived early in South Africa because the racing in Whistler was done and dusted. We had two weeks to spare before the World Champs. Arriving early was good because it means that we could get used to the horrid jet lag that was about to come upon us. The time change was completely opposite to that of Canada…. We were in for a shock.
Our Dad arrived on Sunday, the start of Worlds week. It was really great having him around, his advice to us in invaluable and irreplaceable. No one understands Mick and I like he does and no one has the mentoring skills that he is gifted with.
The day before practice I accidentally slept in ’til 11 am which didn’t set me up well for a week of early starts. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how practice would go since I had hardly ridden my bike. I changed frames completely and did just a few days of runs in Whistler a week earlier.
The night before practice, it turns out I was absolutely nervous as. I was excited, anxious and awake all in one. It was sure that I wouldn’t be sleeping for a while. I had finally fallen asleep what felt like 5 minutes before my alarm went off. It was time to begin a week of epic downhill racing which I hadn’t done since the World Cup in Val Di Sole at the start of June.
What an amazing feeling to be back on the bike, back where it all began, back on the dry dusty track that I love so well. 1 foot of dust and a mask for breathing. I felt so comfortable, so relaxed. I came into this race with so much knowledge. I spent the previous 2 months being injured walking the tracks and watching the last 2 World Cups. I felt like out of all my injuries I learnt the biggest lesson from the last one. I came in to the 2013 World Cup season with so much fear, and stress. I had a fear of crashing and injuries and I was stressed because I felt I needed to prove myself, I needed results so I could keep my name at the top of this sport. After breaking my collarbone yet again 2 months ago I took a step back, and asked questions about what is going on, why is this happening and what can I do to take the fear away but cope with the injuries. I feel like I learnt the most watching the 2 world cups that I would miss out on. I walked the tracks everyday for practice, I watched how people rode, I learned what was going on in their lives and where there at. Realising that racing downhill is more than 50% mental was the best knowledge I could’ve ever wanted. I do not regret my last injury because I learnt so much.
All week I had a big smile on my face, I had learnt to relax and finally I could use it in reality. I had taken away all pressure that I should feel and decided to enjoy riding as much as I love riding. When I can enjoy the bike I ride my best.
It was the morning of timed runs, the problem was that practice started at 715am with just a 30 min window. I decided to skip the practice and make the most of time to warm up for my timed run which would be just 1 hr later. As dad taught me the key is not to think to much before your run and decided at the right time what you will do. I rode that run so relaxed like it was another practice run, I pedalled here and there but it definitely wasn’t a race pace run. I got to the bottom among the first few riders so I waited for the top riders to come down with their times. Finally everyone had gotten to the bottom with their timed runs done and my time sat me in 2nd place for the day.
If there is anything that gets the butterflies moving its seating yourself in 2nd at the World Champs timed training. I spent the evening thinking about what had happened and decided not to worry about it and I reminded myself that the goal here has always been to relax, build confidence back on the bike and feel no pressure since the past few months haven’t gone so well with injuries and racing.
So I got up race day morning excited to practice and feeling ready to race. My practice went so well, I just love the speed that you carry on this track and the challenging sections through the top. I finished practice after 2 runs then I spent the rest of the day relaxing ready for my race run at 2:04pm.
It took a lot to control my nerves and not get all stiff. As soon as I’m nervous on the bike its a big fail. I warmed up on the trainer for what seemed like hours and finally it was time to go. I sat in the gate feeling really nervous so I didn’t think, the timer counted down and I waited for the feeling, finally my last words in the gate were ”yes I want to go for it “. I smashed out of the gate and down the track as fast as I could. I was sliding and drifting everywhere, the track was a lot drier than practice that morning. Onward I continued and made it to the pedal, it was so painful, for a moment I sat down and then I said “no stand up and pedal, we’re almost there”. I raced as hard as I could the rest of my run and came down with a time just in front of the girls already in the hot seat. From then I sat in the no #1 position for the next 12 riders until just 2 girls kicked me off and I ended up on the podium at World Champs in 3rd position.
I knew that I had trained and I knew that the track suited me, but after the year that I’ve had I was really happy with the result. It had been 6 years since I’ve raced a World Championship race and I am so happy. On top of my own result Michael took the silver medal in the mens final which meant we both stood on the podium. Just awesome. Thank you so much for your support no matter the ups and downs. To my fans, my friends, my family, the mechanics, thanks to Mick for always being there, my sponsors and can’t thank enough my team Hutchinson UR!!!
**This content was originally posted on www.traceyhannah.com and republished with her permission.