Defeat is a state of mind, not a state of being. My dad has always told me to never quit. He pointedly explained that nothing is gained from giving up, and if you don’t pursue [it] to the end, you will never know what is possible. If there was ever a man with endless quips of wisdom, he is that man. From these quick lines and lessons, I have built a strong mind and have lived a well thought out 23 years. With his words of encouragement, and the general continued support he and my mom give me, I truly feel capable of any achievement should I work hard enough and want it badly enough.
These are not just empty cliché words that I am hacking out for the sake of filling up lines of text, I am very serious. In my racing career, I have only DNF’d one race: the last Whiteface 5K race, and it was due to a flat at the top of the course. I found a course marshal, told them that I was out, and I walked the whole rest of the way down (with my parents funny enough, who were spectating on the day). It was a terrible feeling, giving up, but at that point I had nothing to gain by trying to negotiate 4.5K of race track with a flat rear tire. As it is said, “Discretion is the better part of valor” – a well-known idiom my dad shared with me once upon a time.
What is there for you, the reader, to gain from my personal tales of having not given up but once? Well, in racing and riding, and you will not always win or even come close to winning on some weekends – you will fall, your bike will malfunction, etc etc. But putting the bike away, or getting angry will do you no good. You will only learn a bad habit of quitting when times get tough. Instead, get back up (if you can obviously), and keep going. Many races back when I was a Jr.X racer were still won, “with a crash” – both by myself and my competition. It is said that winning is an attitude, and I think that definitely worth consideration.
I always look to the Big Guns, the Pro riders of our sport, for inspiration when I’m faced with a trial or tribulation in which I just want to thrown it all down and wallow in self pity. If Brandon Semenuk had quit after he went down at Joy Ride this year, he wouldn’t have gone back up for a second run and won, with the highest score of any win to date. Look at Steve Smith at the Canadian Open! He had just about the worst run, but he didn’t quit and charged to the line, and WON. Getting back up and trying again is the only way to improve. Learn from the mistakes made, adjust, and give it all you have on the next try. I see too many people these days who are unwilling to put in the effort of trying, just to be better than they were before. Progression is a part of us as a specie, that is why failure, or the appearance of failure is such a terrible feeling that sits in our gut.
Watch the crash reels of the edits and bike movies available to you. The riders we look up to take some horrible slams. They don’t stop though, they either dust themselves off or heal up, and then get right back to it. If you love what you do, you’ll stop at nothing to keep doing it. It’s a tough sport we’ve all chosen as a life partner, the going will never be easy. But the risk versus reward and associated feelings we get from the ride are hard to ignore. The next time you are feeling down and out, just remember that it took Steve Peat seventeen years to with the title of World Champion.