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If you follow professional mountain biking, you probably know the name Jolanda Neff. Jolanda is a mountain bike world champion who at the age of 26 is regarded as the best female mountain biker in the world. Recently though, she did something very special by entering the pro cyclocross circuit.
With cyclocross, there are call ups with the top riders getting to start in the front and those with less points in the back. So, the mountain bike world champion was forced to start in the back of the race. Race after race, Jolanda worked her way through the pack getting to start closer to the front each week. Recently, her persistence paid off as she took the lead and beat the reigning cyclocross world champion in her own sport.
This is an awesome story, but there are many great lessons for you and me. Oftentimes, we choose to play it safe in training and racing. We choose races we know we can win or that play to our strengths. In training, we find sometimes spend more time doing the disciplines at which we are the best, ignoring those that we need the most. We choose instant gratification over long-term gains.
It is time to throw safe out the window. This season choose training and racing that challenges you to new levels. Right now, in the off-season, identify your weaknesses and use this time without steady racing to improve what you need most. If you are a runner, this might mean needing to focus on hills, speed, building a bigger volume base, or technique. If you are a triathlete, this might mean spending a block focusing on your weakest discipline over the others. Regardless, make sure you refuse to play it safe.