This article first appeared in print in the October/November issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
From 20 feet in the air, he threw it all away. Josh Bryceland was on a scorcher of a run at the 2014 Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships and, with a sizeable lead over his competitors, he was headed for gold. But with the finish line in sight, Bryceland launched the final jump that everyone else had taken conservatively and, upon landing, shattered his left foot. Although he managed to finish his run, he lost precious seconds and, consequently, the title of World Champion. It was a costly mistake that highlights how sometimes the key to success lies in finesse.
As they say in the world of downhill racing; jumps for show, corners for pros. While Bryceland’s famous leap may exemplify this quite literally, the underlying concept is that ragged riding and pizzazz, no matter how exciting it may be to watch, won‘t win any races. The pros who regularly step onto the podium ride with a precision and pace that isn’t the result of just letting the brakes go and holding on, rather it comes from the calculated process of gradually building speed. They craft a smooth race runs one rock, one root, one rut at a time. And in this case, what works for pros, works for Joes. Learn to ride smoothly and let speed come when you‘re ready for it. In the words of the indomitable Steve Peat, “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”
This concept of slowing down to go faster also rings true beyond the downhill track. In the world of endurance sports, rest and recovery are key elements to ensuring that your strength and stamina peak at the appropriate times of the season. Even the most elite athletes, with their machine-like decimation of the most grueling tests of mettle, will break down physically when the demands of training exceed their ability to recover. Some typical symptoms of overtraining are a higher resting heart rate, performance plateaus, loss of appetite, negative thought patterns, lower energy levels, and greater perceived exertion. When these start stacking up, it may be time to give your body a rest so it can recharge and come back stronger and more capable of tackling the goals you’ve set.
Even Mother Nature gets it. If the cold, dark, and rainy conditions of Autumn don’t seem like a perfect excuse to take a break from training, then you may need that break more than you think. Unlike physical overtraining, mental burnout can be harder to recognize and often manifests itself as a lack of motivation or a general disinterest in goals that seemed so important just months or weeks earlier. Make some time for friends and family, take a class, tackle that list of neglected home projects, or just sit on a tropical beach with a Negra Modela in hand. When the time is right, you’ll find renewed vigour for athletic pursuits, or perhaps you’ll broaden your horizons and move on to something new. Either way, you’ll find what you need.
Josh Bryceland made a full recovery and returned to professional racing for two more years before realizing his heart wasn’t in it anymore. As a professional freerider, he’s currently sending jumps and getting ragged like he was always meant to.