It’s hard to believe ‘cross season is over and it’s already the end of January. The past year has been full of ups and downs, gains and losses, and strength building (both emotional and physical). Last weekend’s NCCX finale was full of so many emotions, and the end was bittersweet. So happy to take a break, but sad to see a part of my life come to an end.
Saturday was cold as balls. I wasn’t looking forward to yet ANOTHER day of pearly white toes and numb fingers. My decade-long ski industry career ruined my hands and feet, so every cold ‘cross race was an insult to injury. I swear I’m not a pussy…I just have crappy circulation. At any rate, my 11:30 race had an expected high of 19. Not stupid cold, but cold enough.
It was the first time I came to the line with zero expectations. I was lining up with Allison Arensman and Sarah Tussy. just to name a few. It took most of the season, but the pressure I put on myself to stay with these girls had faded. The only person I had to race was myself. If nothing else, I wanted to see how long it took them to drop me. It was balls out from the start. Human rockets. I did what I could to keep up, but I was dropped after the runup. It this point, it was MY race, and all I had to do was give it 110% for 45 minutes.
A lot of stuff can run through your head when you’re left hanging in no-man’s-land. I thought about quitting. I thought about my new favorite song. I thought about Kim Bailey’s voice, and how it made me pedal harder. I thought about my friends cheering for me as I suffered. Knowing you have people that actually give a shit means a lot. When you’re struggling off the bike, the feelings you get on the bike can be overpowering. I did the best I could to funnel everything into the will to keep pedaling.
And race 1 of 2 was over.
Was I last? No. I was second to last. Did I care? Not really. I had finally accepted my place as a new cat 3. Was I ready for a beer? Yes. Beer tastes really good after two months off and 45 minutes of hell. The recovery drink of champions.
I spent the rest of the day with my ‘cross family, and did the best I could to ignore everything else. I was mostly successful.
I have never felt more exhausted after a ‘cross race than I did on Saturday night. My body was giving up. I was ready for Sunday’s race to be over.
Sunday. Pre-ride. I was buzzing around the course with Jordan, taking note of his smooth lines and working on my technique. There was a section dubbed “The Barn Drop”, because it was, well, a bit of a drop. It had a few sketchy lines and a lot of people got hurt the day before. I rode it like a boss on Saturday, and had been doing just fine in my first few warm-up laps. No big deal, right? I approached it again, checked my speed, and dropped in. As I transitioned into the run out, something caught my wheel, and my bars quickly jerked to the left.
All I heard was a gunshot. I immediately felt like someone hit me in the head with a baseball bat. Someone drug me out of the way. I tried to stand up, to give the illusion that I was ok, but couldn’t. I heard a loud ringing in my right ear, and thought my teeth were going to pop out of my head.
What the fuck happened?
With the help of a friend and about 15 minutes of trying not to cry, I stood up, brushed the dirt off my shoulder, and carried my bike up the stairs to the top of the drop. I knew if I didn’t conquer my fear of crashing, my spirit would fade. In skiing/snowboarding, we call that a “day ender”. The crash that sends you immediately to the bar.
I circled the top for a few minutes and dropped in. Nailed it. The day could continue.
The race was simply a last stitch effort to crush my legs one last time. Everyone was cheering and in my face every lap. The crowd made me GO HAADAH. I went as HAAHD as I could, almost to the point of throwing up. As I crossed the finish line, I put the last 12 months behind me.
It was finally over.
And my helmet was cracked in four places. D.O.N.E.
This season was a testament to all the hard work I’ve put in. Even though life took a few nose dives, I somehow had the courage to swing my leg over the seat, and ride again. I learned so much this season. Tactics. Technical skills. Patience. ‘Cross has taught me a lot about life in general.
Sometimes you have to be patient, even if you don’t want to.
If it hurts, you’re doing it right.
Pain is only temporary.
When you’re struggling to keep your head above water, dig a little deeper. You’ll survive.
It’s hard to suffer on the bike and feel sorry for yourself at the same time.
Take chances. When you fail, you learn. When you succeed, you learn. When you stop taking chances, you stop living.