It's been a BIG season for Sovereign Cycle team rider Jillian Thatcher! Not only did Jill finish her first ever Enduro World Series race this year in Whistler, but this weekend she WON the 2017 overall of the Canadian National Enduro Series in the open women's category! Go Jill! We are very proud of all that she has accomplished, so to celebrate a fantastic season we've asked Jillian to reflect back to Crankworks and share her opinion about racing, specifically why she thinks that everyone should give it a go at least once.
This August I raced my first Enduro World Series event in Whistler. That’s right, my first EWS event and it was the infamous Crankzilla! By now I’m sure you’ve seen the race highlights and read the race report…gnarly, long, and brutal are all words used to describe the 7th stop of the EWS in Whistler. Five long stages of the most aggressive terrain that pushed all of the racers to their limits, both mentally and physically. I could relive my race experience with you, but chances are you have already watched race recaps of the pros and heard about how everything went down. Instead I would like share my perspective of why I race and why I encourage other people to make the transition from rider to racer, even if it’s just for one race per year.
I started racing mountain bikes last year after I moved to North Vancouver, as I am a goal-oriented person and needed something to keep me motivated, but more importantly happy. Initially my goal was to improve my fitness, which I did as I tried to ride my bike as often as possible in anticipation of my first race. Once I started racing, my goal became trying to challenge myself to ride all of the gnarlier trails out there. Many of these trails or features I would not have ridden because I was too scared, but because they were part of the race courses, I found the mental courage and pushed through. Sure enough I COULD ride those trails! My technical skills began to improve quickly as I entered more races and rode different and increasingly challenging terrain.
As I traveled to more and more, races I was able to visit many communities throughout BC that I would not have otherwise experienced. I became friends with many of the other racers as we would pre-ride and then race the courses together. These race weekends became more like adventure weekends with a group of friends shredding new trails all over BC...I was hooked!
After my first year of racing I was excited to keep going and further challenge my fitness and skills as well as continue to see more of the mountain bike communities found throughout BC. In June I found out that I had qualified for the EWS race in Whistler. Prior to this I had been racing local BC Enduro events and Canadian National Enduro Events. This made me excited, but nervous as I registered for one of the biggest enduro races in the world!
My goal for the EWS Whistler race was to ride clean, avoid mechanicals and most importantly...finish. My goals were not result-oriented. In fact my goals have never been result-oriented at any of my races. For me the past 2 years of racing has not been about the results but the process. The transition from rider to racer has made me a better rider just by exposure to such events. I push myself mentally and physically much harder at a race than I would during a typical ride. I have also made many incredible friends along the way, whom I continue to share adventures with. We ride together and improve together. As my skills and fitness improve I am becoming more competitive and will soon aim for a podium spot, as I am a competitive person after all. But for me the most important aspect of this transition from rider to racer was the journey and the skills I acquired along the way. These are things that any rider could benefit from and why I encourage everyone to race, at least once!
So next time you consider a race and then don’t enter because you “don’t think you will do well” reconsider, because it’s not about the result, but the process. Two years ago I would have never anticipated racing an EWS, but now here I am ready for the next one! You never know what you are capable of until you try.