The past weekend, I and Martin participated in the yearly event Skibotn Stifestival. Skibotn Stifestival is a cheap (1000 NOK for two people including camping), perfectly sized (about 80 participants), and completely unpretentious mountainbike festival located in paradise (i.e., some 100 km east of Tromsø).
I’ll willingly admit that I had some fairly non-modest expectations for the weekend: I did expect to ride some new mindblowing north Norwegian trails, get to know some new bad ass Tromsøers, and drink a lot of crazy steep Norwegian beers. But I didn’t expect the weekend to be revolutionary. As it happens (as presumptuous as it may sound), for me, I think it actually was.
The main reasons for this little revolution of mine were 1) that I for the first time in my life raced and actually RACED, and 2) that I to got meet a bunch of ass-kicking chicks who inspired me to become a much better rider.
Because the racing and seeing other girls kick ass meant so much to me, I’ve decided to not write a post about the terrific trails that Skibotn has to offer, even though there are plenty of those.
Instead, I will write a post about the race that took place during the weekend, and about the girls that participated in that race.
When we arrived to the camp in Skibotn, I didn’t know that there was going to be a race during the weekend, but as soon as I found out that there was, I surprised myself by being one of the first in line to put my name on the list. Suprised because as I have written about several times before, I hate racing. When I race, I never focus on the roots and rocks underneath me. Instead, my head is completely clogged up by thoughts of how embarrassing it will be afterwards if I underperform. This of course makes me ride like shit. In addition, it makes me feel like shit, because instead of thinking about what I should do to get better, I indulge in self-pity and self-blame. Racing makes me hate mountainbiking.
Or at least that is how it used to be. Because, some time ago, I read an article about overcoming fear when climbing which gave me an epiphany: I will never be able to enjoy racing (or to race well) unless I focus on the here and now instead of the after, or if I keep thinking I will fail. Ah! In other words, I should focus on rock’n roll rather than EMO. That sounded a whole lot more fun, so this time, I was EAGER to race and put the theory to the test. In addition, 9 (!!!) other girls had also put their names on the list. Wooah, this was going to be a proper race!
On the way up the mountain, I had to use all the energy I had left after riding my bike down epic trails all day to keep my old shitty thoughts in chains and focus on the trail: Which lines? How should I approach the cruxes? How good are the others? Will I fail? NO you will not go there! Roots, rocks, rock’n roll god damnit!
At the top, my head started throbbing with negative thoughts. I started scrutinize my competitors. Evaluating what place I should end up in to not underperform. But I pulled myself together, put my full face helmet on, and visualized nailing cruxes on the way down instead of how I would make a fool out of myself.
As I heard the starter saying GO! and started charging down the trail, I had no thoughts what so ever about the big horrible after, instead my head was completely filled with, Pedal! Pump! Push! Pull! Jump! Don’t brake! Brake! Puuuump! Pull! Pedal, pedal, pedal!
I can’t say that I did a perfect race in any way. I used my breaks too much and played it a bit too safe, but as I came across the finish line my thighs cramped from exhaustion. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had given it all I had during the race. That made me feel so happy that I just wanted to jump up and down (which I couldn’t because of the cramp). I had no idea of how I had actually done during the race, but I didn’t really care. I was too high on adrenaline from charging down that mountain. All I wanted to do was to cheer at my fellow riders, drink beer and be merry.
Later on that evening, while drinking crazy steep Norwegian beers at the local pub (and apparently health studio), I found out that I had actually won the women’s race. It was extremely tight at the top, Julie Appelkvist was merely one second behind me, and Maria Aasheim one second behind Julie, but I WON! Damn, rock’n roll is good! 🙂
The next day, I got a chance to go riding with some of the girls I had raced against the day before.
Now, I’ve met a whole lot of women who ride and ride (really) hard (kicking my ass badly). But the girls in Skibotn really made an impression on me. Many of them had just started riding their bikes, but how they rode! God damnit! They charged down those mountains seemingly without any fear. They attacked cruxes that I hesitated to try, and many times, they nailed them.
At first, I took their striking ability as a sign of my own incompetence. But then I started thinking, if these girls had managed to get this good in such short time, why shouldn’t I be able to become better if I work hard? I shouldn’t pick at myself for not being better, I should get inspired and become better. Just like them.
Cecilia Thomasson, Enduro queen and MTBO champion, once posed the question: Where are all the girls? I think I have the answer: in Norway :). I am so extremely happy that I had a chance to participate in a festival and a race with so many other girls. You rock my world.
So what about the rest of the weekend? Well…
It was a very (VERY) good weekend. To finish it off, I got to ride home with MTB gury Aslak Mörstad. And I finally dared to ask what I should work on. The conclusion is, that i should get to work. I’m very eager to do so.
Big thanks to Sjur Melsås (Terrengsykkel.no), Marius Lund and of course to Martin Stefan for letting me use their photos, and huge thanks to the organizers of Skibotn Stifestival, I really look forward to come back year to race Hengen ned and pass on the trophy!