As a family, we race in both the Kelso Mountain Bike (MTB) summer race series and the Kelso Cyclocross (CycloX) fall race series. Both series have grown tremendously in popularity, with the MTB events having as many as 300+ athletes competing across all 4 levels of competition this past season, and the CycloX had over 120 athletes register for the entire series.

After an amazing MTB series, the kids decided that they would race in at least a couple of the CycloX events for the experience but with the races going late on Tuesday evenings and with school back in session, participating in all 8 races would result in workload conflicts.  No matter, the two races that the kids did take part in offered more experience than anyone was anticipating.

In case you are not familiar with CycloX… races are held on closed loop courses usually 2.5 to 3km in length which athletes repeat 5x or 6x. At Kelso, the Beginner & Novice categories race on a shortened course for roughly 35mins with athletes completing between 2 and 4 laps; whereas the Sport & Expert categories last about 45minutes with the top Expert athlete completing 5 laps. Unlike MTB events, CycloX doesn’t include long uphills or downhills, no rocks, nor sections of exposed tree roots. CycloX courses do vary in terrain from grass, to dirt, to gravel road, sometimes even paved road, and are renowned for challenging sections of mud, sand, or both. Courses typically have a section of obstacles – as in a series of 2 or 3, 12 inch high wood planks – that athletes can either bunny hop over or dismount and run over. Hills on these courses are short, steep, ‘punchy’, and can be so muddy that athletes have to dismount, and either run up carrying their bike over their shoulder, or for novice athletes, walk up while pushing their bike. Its an entirely different sort of race, with its own set of skills, but its just as much fun as any other type of bike event.

The Kelso series is held Tuesday evenings in Sep&Oct with races starting @ 6:45 and 7:45 which explains the darkness. In the video, 2015 Provincial CycloX Champ Erik Box demonstrates overcoming obstacles, and cornering. Erik set out this years course, and raced weekly in the series typically taking the podium.

In Race #2 of the Kelso CycloX series, my son Mark managed to get out into the lead pack of Sport category riders but on lap #4 where the course takes an ‘S’ curve to transition from gravel road back onto the base of the ski hills he wiped out.  No damage done to Mark, but the bike… well that’s a different story.  It wasn’t until he remounted and started pedaling that he noticed something missing, the rear gear shifter was missing.  Mark looked down, saw something bouncing around at the end of a cable out in front of his bike. What’s that? Oh, its… my rear shifter!

Value of Sport – Point #1

As a parent (and coach), this is the exact situation you want to happen… a monkey wrench is thrown right into the path your child (your athlete) is traveling while engaged in an activity they truly enjoy. Why? Because this is a life lesson that children (and athletes) all need to experience, not once, but repeatedly because the applicability of the lesson to life both inside and outside sport will serve them time and time again.

To say that Mark enjoys cycling, on road, off road, is an understatement.

To say that Mark enjoys competing on his bike is also an understatement.

So, as a parent – who just happened to be a few seconds behind Mark at the time he wiped out – I had a front row seat to witness how my son would respond when adversity hit him right where and when it counts. What will he do? Give up? Quit? Sit by his bike and pout? Or what…

Happy to say… we have already gone through the quitting, crying, and pouting, so this time it was a test of whether prior lessons would be applied, and they were.

Mark was back on his bike in a moment, realized that his rear shifter wasn’t working and without wasting a second was back into the race. Not sure exactly how he managed to ride and change gears (when two hands were needed anytime he wanted to change a gear) with over a kilometer of grassy terrain, up and down the lower portion of the Glen Eden ski hills which included an hairpin corner which marked a transition from a few fast berms into a short steep incline, but he did.

Mark not only finished, but finished in 10th out of 45 athletes. The finish is not what was impressive (it was, but it wasn’t the most impressive part)… it was his attitude during adversity. It wasn’t going to hold him back from what he truly enjoys… cycling.  Rear shifter or not… Mark was going to ride, and ride he did.

The fact that Mark ended up on the ground, had to get up and going, and did so without a rear shifter… is imperceptible in his lap splits. Now that’s impressive: have a setback, but not let them see you sweat while recovering.

Value of Sport – Point #2

It didn’t take too long for life to come around and give Mark another bit of adversity… but this time it wasn’t in sport, and it wasn’t in something that was as fantastic as biking. This time the challenge came in Grade 11 Physics. To say that Physics presented Mark a challenge is an understatement.

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”
General George Patton

It was not an easy go for Mark… that is to bounce off the bottom that Grade 11 Physics presented.  A new attitude towards learning was required, a new approach to asking for and receiving assistance was required, and most importantly, Mark had to apply lessons he learnt in sport, into life. He bounced. Just like he bounced off the ground and back on his bike at the CycloX race, he bounced off the dismal tests and assignment scores he received at the start of the semester.

Hence, the value of sport.

The ribbons, the medals, the podiums, the personal bests are fantastic, and should be celebrated, but the bottoms that sport creates, and typically in greater quantity than tops – as in the lack of a podium, the lack of a new best time, the lack of qualifying for a team or a specific competition – that is where the true value of sport resides. But to extract that value requires a coaching philosophy and a coach who sees these points not as memories to be deleted, not as instances to reprimand, but moments that must be examined, evaluated, explored, so that the experience can be extracted, the lessons gained so that they can be applied later back into sport, and more importantly into life (outside sport).

We will all run into bottoms in life… in our health, in relationships, in our finances, in our careers and businesses.  Question is… how will you bounce? If you cannot answer that question with confidence, with experience and memories to draw from, to stand upon, empowering you to recall that you can bounce because you have bounced before, then maybe you, maybe your child are in need of sport with coaching alongside that will help develop the skills needed to excel, to succeed.

I truly believe that Gr 11 Physics, just like Race #2 of the 2017 Kelso Cyclocross series will be memories that Mark will stand upon through out life, reminding himself that he has had times of adversity, he has hit bottoms, and he has bounced, and bounced high.

Congrats Mark.

P.S.  Would like to use this opportunity to thank Mark’s Gr 11 Physics teacher Mr Colterman for communicating with me so that we could tag team to help Mark out. Its wonderful that there are teachers out there willing to take the time to reach out, connect with parents in hopes that the trajectory of a student can be turned around. Thank you.