I put my foot down.
I go back.
I try again.
Or, I don’t.
Sometimes, I call it.
Re-focus. Reset. Find clarity once again.
I put my foot down.
Choosing a line in mountain biking means sometimes getting off the bike. Figuring out angles of least resistance or ultimate challenge. Can I do it if I do <insert myriad of technique>? How about if I roll over it? How about if I simply walk it and get it the next time? Or the next time? Or the other next time? Faster. Sharper. Or not at all. I don’t judge myself. I don’t judge you. I am not less of a person, a rider, a coach because I choose not to do something. Neither are you. Because we all get there, wherever “there” is in our own time; in our own way.
Fake it until you make it. I used to hear that a lot in my old life. Bravado.
I remember watching so many folks over the years talking and talking with all the accepted buzz words, with a forced confidence, taking up air and head space. I understood it at the time—hopeful to be noticed for career gain, hopeful as leaders that their flock would follow because they were supposed to have all the answers, hopeful that by simply acting momentum would be gained and solutions solved. Pretend until you’re not pretending.
I put my foot down.
I am not ashamed. To not know. To not be the fastest in the pack. I dab in corners, put my foot down before nasty descents. And think about things. I slow down. I walk.
This summer I had a series of cycling adventures. On paper, none of them really ended well. Snowed in on the Cascade Skyline bikepacking trip, snowed in on the MacKenzie Pass, nauseated with every pedal stroke on the Oregon Outback (lingering nerve damage from the Steens Mazama race last year), and loads of aborted road rides. Yet, I found all of these adventures deeply satisfying. Trudging through miles and miles of snow on the Cascade Skyline to be rewarded with awesome camping and good company. Re-visiting a town on the Oregon Outback trip that had scared the bejeezus out of me last year when I had ventured through on the Steens Mazama race on my own. But the crown jewel goes to that moment on the Outback trip when I decided to part ways with my riding companions and circle back to the Crooked River. Bags packed and secured to my bike, I said goodbye to my friends and meandered alongside the river, taking in the stark landscape and lush greenery alongside the water.
I’ve been wrangling a rodeo of reflections over the last year. Experiences and emotions I didn’t know I still had to solve for rose to the surface during the Steens Mazama race. Riding for hours in the sun after you’ve had the last drink of water will do that as it turns out. If you know me, you know how easy going I am, so I was pretty damned angry that 1) I was angry, 2) I could no longer sleep through the night without violent nightmares, and 3) I was going to have to figure it out. I won’t go into the details—it’s not interesting or helpful, but flash forward with me if you will: after a year of introspection and time to discern mental chatter from solid grievance, I found myself alone at the Crooked River, with my bare feet submerged and a warm breeze tugging at my sweaty body. For the first time in a very, very long time, my mind was calm and the soothing force of gratitude was with me again.
**---> Outback Photo Courtesy of Dave Anolik---->>
Last weekend, Peyton and I were in Ashland hosting a GRiT (Girls Riding Together) event. We met up with the super cool Rebeccah Bieri (she’s the head coach for the Rogue Composite team) for a pre-ride Friday afternoon. Hot and dusty, Peyton wilted a few minutes into the ride up to the trail. Uh oh. Are we ever going to make it up the mountain? It was a job that needed to get done. There was no turning back. Rebeccah very kindly grabbed Peyton’s bike and started pushing it, while Peyton trudged upward by foot. It would be easy in this moment to get fired up, to berate and scold, to push. Instead, we recognized it for what it was: a brief moment in time that didn’t have enough calories or hydration to do it up right. We eventually made it to the top…and to the bottom. It wasn’t pretty, but we did it. And then the next day on the actual ride, I watched Peyton crush the climb, following Rebeccah’s lead and offering encouragement to another rider just as Rebeccah graciously did for her.
You can’t be what you can’t see.
Do you see me?
I am putting my foot down and doing this thang as honestly as I can.
Do you see me? I am not faking it.
It is for you, Dave, Peyton and Justin. It is for you.
It is for me.