Every athlete knows that to be the best you have to be on the edge. Sometimes you have to go beyond that place that is familiar. Anything that you want to be the best at requires you to go to the edge and past it at some point. If you don’t someone else will. It is the same for all sports. To be the best you are operating past that zone that is familiar to you.
You are operating in the No-Zone. You know that it is risky but you know that just that little bit extra speed, effort or movement can reap great rewards. Just as you are on the edge teetering toward the zone, your mind is calculating the risk, you make a decision to push just that tiny bit harder to that zone. Once you are in that zone you are committed. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not.
For most athletes the calculating area crossing into that zone is probably very small, they have been competing for most of their life and their experience during their life has made that space, that calculating area, before you cross into the No-Zone very small. Athlete’s that have less experience to draw from have a bigger area before that zone.
Take the Soccer player that is being pushed to the limit from all directions because he is known by the other team as one of the players that will cross into that zone. He has to move and dodge with precision and agility to get to that perfect sweet spot at the right moment in time for the incoming pass from his fellow teammate. He is at that place just before the zone. The opposing team has players that get in this zone also and they are closing fast. His instincts tell him to hesitate for just the smallest bit of time then re-accelerate, dodging and weaving, his canter is timed perfectly and he meets the ball with just the right amount of force to launch it just out of reach of the goalie but just inside of the goal. A goal is made. This was in double overtime and his team wins.
My story is about a race that I entered and made the decision to cross into the No-Zone. I have been there before and have crossed into that area many times. My calculations told me that, what there was to gain, out weighed the risk to me and I wasn’t compromising the safety of other racers or spectators.
I was racing at Washougal MX Park in Washougal Washington. There were several contenders racing for bragging rights in this class. One other competitor and I had been racing all year and going back and forth for the points lead. If you know Washington and if you have been to Washougal, you know that it is wet and a lot of trees. Our race was an hour long and we were about ¾ of the way through it. The off road part of the course was tight and winding between trees, stumps and large rocks twisting up hills and down steep slopes. One section of the race weaved around a ravine that had been dammed up to form a pond on the right and dropped off on the left into a steep ravine, blackberry bushes, brush and trees. This section just past the pond was a wider area of the course and you could make a pass if timing was just right.
I was in second place behind my friend and competitor, hot on his tail, flying through the single track course. I knew that to stay in point’s lead I needed to pass him. We were in the second to last lap and there are not a lot of places to pass. Up ahead is more single track course tighter than most areas and passing would be out of the question for awhile. I knew that it would be now or never. So, I am going to the No-Zone, I am inches behind him. I have raced with him a lot and know how he races. We trusted each other so being that close was not a problem. I needed to be there if I had any hope of passing in the next section.
Imagine if you will flying uphill in forth gear and revved out, inches from the rear of your competitor, ready to click it into 5th gear as you pass. You look ahead and the course makes an ‘S’ to the left and then back to the right. On the right is a hay bale marker so you won’t run into the trees and rocks and just into the right part of the ‘S’ is a pond filled frogs and moss. Directly across to the left is that steep drop off into the trees, creek, blackberries and rocks. Just ahead is that wide spot in the course. I know it will be close and I am pushing him to his limit. I decide to cut close to the hay bale in order to straighten out the line a little. The course is very narrow here at the dammed up creek.
My right front tire touches the corner of the hay bale just barely but enough to flip my quad up into the air. I am flying through the air as well then hitting the ground and tumbling directly for the drop off. That is the last thing I can remember. The next thing I know I am face down waking up in the blackberries and bushes. I hear a voice yelling “Are you OK?” I lifted my arm letting him know that I was OK and I heard him speed off. I must not have been out that long.
It took me awhile to get untangled form the berry bushes and then climb back up to the track. Thank God for protective gear. Several people stopped and asked what happened. I told them I was OK and just crashed and to send a vehicle to recover my quad. I had no idea where it was. I thought that is might be in the pond. Searching for about 15 minutes I finally walked down the ravine past where I had landed and the tall trees, down at the creek about 150 feet from the roadside. There my quad was, upside down in the bushes barely visible.
Eventually someone came and winched it out. I broke a tie rod in the frond steering assembly but I did limp the quad back to the pits. I didn’t finish the race but had this worked out, I would have made the pass. Who knows if I would have won.
Getting to that zone is easier than you think. But you don’t plan it. It comes when you need it and are ready. Regardless of the outcome I am not sorry that I push myself to that zone and I think most competitors would agree. I will do it again. I need to do that to be alive. That place, just before the No-Zone is different for everyone and is wider for some than others. As long as you can get back all is good.