Since I returned from the Mountain Bike Orienteering World Championships in Hungary, the number one question I’ve been asked is the casual but curious, “so, did you win?” I think most people were trying to be funny, but perhaps a few thought the sport was niche and undeveloped enough that I stood a chance..
None of us on the first ever USA Mountain Bike Orienteering Team had actually been.. mountain bike orienteering before. Sure, we were mountain bikers. We were orienteers on foot. We’d been in adventure races that required navigation by bike. But there are seldom any pure mtb-o events in the United States. So we ordered Checkoslavakian map holders, plane tickets to Hungary, and did the best we could..
I’m proud to report, that we got totally steamrolled! Now, that sounds funny– to be proud of finishing in the bottom 10, but picture this:
Imagine that you were a pretty good cyclist, a solid runner and had some swimming skills. Now imagine an opportunity appeared to represent the USA at a newfangled thing called “triathlon” at none other than the world championships!
You’ve never combined the three before. You’re not really sure what people do about changing clothes between sports. Your friends haven’t heard of “triathlon”, but it’s pretty common in other countries. You’re the best shot your country has got, and this new sport sounds fun, so why not?
You show up with some equipment you had to order off the internet, like “aero bars” and a weirdly shaped bottle that fits between them. You’ve watched videos of ‘transition zones’ online. You’re hoping that you look legit.
Now, imagine that you CRUSHED it. You’re a total noob to the sport, but you throw down and show all these other countries how to do the sport they invented. You wouldn’t be impressed. The “world championship” would feel like a congregation of amateurs, not elites. You just spent $2000 on a plane ticket to try a European hobby.
No, you’d want to GET CRUSHED so that you could be impressed and inspired. This new sport should present irresistible new challenges.
Of course, that’s how it went down for us. We got completely, utterly, totally crushed– which was a remarkably, perhaps ironically, inspiring experience. Our finishing times were consistently double, once triple, the winning time. The performances of the podium finishers seemed superhuman. We compared our split times to them like a triathlete might compare mile splits in the marathon leg of Ironman, and we were left in total awe. How did they do that?
So when people asked, “so did you win?” it was with great pride that I told them, “no, I got crushed.”
And I’m ‘Hungary’ for more.