Sit back… this is a long one and it’s taken a lot of time to write….I’ve actually hesitated a lot with even posting it, but life has its up and downs and it’s not always about sunshine, rainbows, and flowers or whatever. What I have learned in my 32 years is that life goes on and you can sit back and feel sorry for yourself or you can take what you’ve been given, embrace it, learn from it, grow from it and keep on moving. So with that here goes nothing….
The Bad: It’s been a rough month (well actually a few) over here in bits land; from riding to my nutrition (I’ve shifted to whole foods/vegan) it’s all been meh. It always seems like I have a huge moment or moments of growth and then get my feet knocked right out from under me and I’m sitting there with no explanation of what happened. I end up holding on with everything thing I can possibly muster up and then feel like I’m worse off than before that so-called moment of growth. Yeah, that’s where I am now and it sucks. My confidence is trashed, the joy I had riding is dwindling, and I can’t ever seem to do anything right. The odd thing is when you stick me in front of a group to teach a clinic or I teach a lesson, something clicks and BOOM, I’m back to the “normal” me and you’d never know the internal struggle that I’m dealing with. I can coach people though and demo the very obstacle that when I’m out riding on my own I hesitate and biff on. It’s almost like my brain goes “ok, you have been trusted to safely guide someone though this trail, you know what you have to do and you know you have the skills to do it” and I do. Then there’s my solo riding; it’s now to the point I don’t even recognize myself or my riding. I walk things that I normally wouldn’t even second guess, I hesitate and bail on stuff that I normally dominate, I can’t get up a climb, or I freak out on a downhill. What gives?? Who is this person and where can I find that other one? I need directions stat.
The Ugly: It seems that lately I’ve been stuck in my head on every single ride and can’t for the life of me just “ride”. Judging the line choice I’ve made, talking myself out of stuff, and calling myself a coward for using brakes. I judge myself for having a “race bike” and putting flats on it, (which btw has totally jacked up riding clipped in), for having my bike fit aggressively so it puts me too far forward, blah blah blah. The list goes on and questions arise. Why; why do I do this to myself? Why do I let this stuff get into my head, move in, and then dictate my ride before it’s even begun? I’m setting myself up for failure and the ride hasn’t even begun. Yeah that’s a good way to start…. not. It seems like the entire time I’m getting ready to ride, my brain goes, wonder what you are going to mess up on today. I’ve become so hard on myself and it’s frustrating and it’s led to me losing most of the confidence in myself and my riding. How and when did it start? I’ve been asking myself that a lot.
What and how does one “deal” with this kinda crap? It’s been rough to put it mildly. It’s been a process of riding up to something freezing, going back, trying aging, freezing again, and the cycle repeats, until I finally muster up the courage to just ride it and half the time so nervous I’m physically shaking. It’s been reading old sports psychology books (which I haven’t done nearly enough of), reminding myself constantly that I do have skills and I can ride. It’s shutting out literally everything and everyone while I’m riding alone and sometime even in a group. So if I’ve come across “rude” or “cold” at the trail head or on the trail, I , been very caught up with creating myself again and preventing anything negative that may come my way. From dissing my bike rack, to my pedals, or even my garmin- negativity from the outside is not needed, I’ve got enough on the inside thank you.
So, let’s add to all the above with the fact that I’ve spent three years racing A LOT and then all of a sudden, I don’t have time or energy to race. Man, do I miss my consistent racing. I’ve done 2 actual races Mohican and Brady’s Run. I don’t count Barry Roubaix at this point, that was survival not racing. 2 races and it’s now August. Don’t get me wrong though I love teaching and instructing, but I also love and crave racing. I’m now so far behind “training” wise that any chance of a decent year is gone, but my plan is to suck it up and go out and race the rest of this season. Yeah, I’ll probably finish dead last, but I’ve got to rebuild myself and I get to do it in the expert class. Go me! Then there’s cyclocross- yeah I do that too. I didn’t race much at all last year and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I missed cx season. Cx and mtb racing is what drew me into cycling. I like having to dig deep and push myself to see just how far I can go. Physically pushing myself hard, but mentally even harder.
The Good: Ok, so getting back to racing…that I can do. Getting out of my head, I can do that too, although not nearly as easy as just showing up for a race. I have a feeling this is going to take time and patience on my part. Oh, yeah, I’m not very patient with myself, this will be a good experience in dealing with my own self and my stubbornness. Then there’s this whole thing about balance. Finding the balance between work, teaching, racing, riding, and a personal life…. this is where I struggle and where I need to work. I know next year it will be a necessity to find a better balance and I’m hell-bent on doing that because I refuse to get to where I am right now. That place where I’m ready to throw the bibs, jersey, baggies in the bin and call it quits, but I won’t, that’s not my style and I will push though this lull.
I am also in desperate need of time away, getting lost in the mountains, where I can refocus and just “be”. While I am very “scheduled/planned” there is a definite part of me that is drawn to heading out, no plan, no goal, no idea what the day has in store and just going. That is what I desire right now. I need to have those moments of beautiful scenery, meltdowns on the trail out of sheer frustration, moments of amazing riding trying to get out of my head. Things are shifting internally and externally, life is very unstable, challenging, and changing right now, but that’s ok. I’ve learned to hold on, dig deep, stand on my own two feet, be my own strength and never ever give up on myself. For me, a life without anything to work on would be boring and meaningless, through struggle comes growth and I better be growing here.
So, what does all this mean? It means that while I will still continue to teach, lead clinics, and progress my skills, I will try to not let that consume me and my riding. I will race the races I want and can race. I will try to ease up on myself and actually try to have fun riding. Constant negative people will be temporarily (or permanently) removed from by world. It also means that I will stand up for myself and fellow riders in the moment and not after the fact when being haggled. No, not everyone can ride a every trail without brakes, clear an entire rock garden every time, or clear a table top jump. It’s called staying within your limits, staying in control, and being safe on the trail. If that makes me an unskilled, coward of a rider, then so be it. However, that’s not how I see it. I will embrace the mess that is right now, grow from it and learn from it. I will try to stop doubting my ability and live in the moment.