Sometimes setting goals is easy. Look at performances from last year and strive to improve. Make the jump up a step on the podium or ride a course even faster. Those goals seem so simple and are what most people consider traditional goals. I've made my fair share of those types of goals over the last few years. Then there the finisher goals - to just make it around the course without concern of time. When approaching something challenging even before factoring in a finish time, those are the best goals. But it's still all big picture goals - and mostly time related. Focusing on the big picture is good, but it can take away from the purpose of sport. If it's all about work and time and power to weight, the fun quickly vanishes. Setting out for every ride with just intervals and no time to enjoy the ride will make you faster - but it won't make you more skilled. And mountain biking isn't just speed and power - there is plenty of skill required and that can become free speed in the end.
Balancing the need for speed and the desire for fun is the ultimate goal. Letting go of the time goals and focusing on riding smoothly is hard in such a time driven sport. There's no style points along the way to the finish line in racing, so the empahsis on skills frequently get left behind. I've been just as guilty as the next person - eyes on the data, selecting the easiest trail or line when riding alone instead of testing myself. Part of that is for safety - crashing hard when I'm alone because I wanted to "show off" is pretty silly. But when I'm riding with Nick, I have no excuses. He's showing me the bigger lines, spotting me thru the obstacles. And when I practice with him, it gives me the skills to try the medium lines on my own. Something I need to keep working on...
So one of the "off season" goals will be to challenge myself on the bike. Not just with the workouts, but the trails after the workout. If I have time to play after the intervals, it's time to look for something a little more challenging the Chutes. Or if I do take the Chutes, find the flow and the smoothest body positioning. When I'm outside of Stratton, look for rocks to practice the skills on - the little bunny hops, popping the rear tire over things. I should be better at that then I am - but those basic skills continue to elude me. Like many things, there's a progression with skills and if I can't master the basics, then the big lines Nick has been working on with me will be even more challenging. It's not just about going fast in a straight line.
There are two rock gardens in Cheyenne Mountain State Park - one on Blackmere and on on Cougars Shadow. I can take the easy line through the one on Blackmere, but not the big line. And there is no easy line on Cougars Shadows. Between now and next year, me and the Stumpy are going to spend some quality time there. Increasing VO2 and FMP is great, but I also need to address skills!