There you are, sailing smoothly down the side of a mountain with the wind in your hair. You’re in your happy place. The crunchy fall leaves almost sound if they are cheering you on. Just as you start to feel comfortable and confident, you find yourself in a rut. You try hard to fight it, but the negative force is too strong. In a split second, you’re on the ground with an injured ego, a sore neck, and another cracked helmet.
“The Rut” can expose itself without warning. It never reveals how long it plans on staying around, and can disappear without a trace. The Rut doesn’t care how old or young you are. It doesn’t care about your plans. The Rut is relentless and will strive to change you. What you change into is entirely up to you…if you commit. COMMIT TO THE RUT.
When I was in college (the 2nd time), I thought I had my life planned out. I was getting ready to graduate, go out into the world, and land my dream life. I was going to find my dream guy and get married. I just knew I would get my dream job and become financially secure. And I got all those things…in my dreams.
I recently celebrated my 34th birthday. THIRTY FOUR YEARS OLD. When I was younger, I wasn’t sure I’d even live this long. I spent a lot of time thinking about where I am, where I’ve been, and who helped me get here. I have to admit, this was one of the best birthdays in 5 years. Birthdays stopped feeling special when my mom died. I spent my 30th birthday missing her, missing California, and missing out on a lot of my life. Time just sort of stopped, for a while, and I wasn’t sure how to get it started again. I wasn’t sure about anything.
This ‘cross season started out better than I could have imagined. I exceeded my expectations in New England, and I felt the glory and satisfaction of all the hard work I had put in over the summer. When I smashed my head in Clemmons, I lost a part of myself, and I’m not just talking about the short term memory loss. I lost my edge. I lost my motivation. Most importantly, I lost the spark that kept me excited about racing. I was afraid of crashing. I was afraid of taking chances, and my entire life was built on taking chances.
And then it started to encompass more than just racing. I started second guessing EVERYTHING.
Head injuries are a bitch, bro.
I opted out of racing for the next month, with the hopes of keeping form and rebuilding my psyche. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever feel “it” again. I didn’t know if I’d ever get lost in the “white noise” again. I wanted to sell all my bikes and start over. I know that sounds ridiculously dramatic, but fear can make you do crazy things. Fear changes you. I fell into The Rut.
I finally decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, and attempt to find my confidence. In pure Archer fashion, I picked one of the hardest races I could…Mars Hill. This race has historically proven to be the root of my demise, having DNF’d the past two years. Last year was especially demoralizing, and I needed to redeem myself for a million reasons. I needed to feel the spark again.
Pre-ride was an absolute nightmare, with memories from last year looming in my head, as well as flash backs from my crash. I couldn’t make myself hop the curb, which looked 100 times worse through my injured eyes. I couldn’t clean the entry into the single track, despite a huge increase in my strength and fitness from last year. I found myself grabbing handfuls of my breaks on the steep descent out of the woods. I got too far into my own head, and wasn’t looking forward to the race at all.
Zero expectations. I just wanted to cross the finish line.
When the whistle blew, I immediately flowed into my pedals, stood up, and had one of the best starts of my life. I got the hole shot, something I’m actually good at, but just knew I’d blow up before the end of the race. Two women passed me, and I kept waiting for the rest of the field to follow. We climbed the run-up, and I started to feel anxious, as I knew the curb was coming up. I couldn’t bring myself to dismount, knowing I’d lose a lot of time, so I forced myself to ride it. As my friend Alex cheered me on, I yelled, “Shit, that was easy”. Confidence-1. Megan’s fucked up head-0. On to the woods.
We had a bit of a hang up on the first lap, but I stayed on my bike and clumsily made it through the trees. I knew I’d get dropped on the exit if I didn’t push myself. I pushed myself right out of my comfort zone, fearing I’d crash again, but I didn’t even flinch. The light finally came on, and the girl I used to know started driving my bike. I was back.
I continued to get stronger as the race went on. My legs felt amazing, as I was able to pop out of every corner and give hard efforts. I took all the good lines. I made the step up my bitch. I was fluid through the trees. I was able to pass 3rd place, and fought very hard for 2nd. I didn’t lose my focus, and I even got lost in the white noise again. I missed suffering. I missed suffering a lot.
As I ran up the staircase, I realized I would take 2nd place if I could stay upright for a few more turns. I could feel tears forming in my eyes, and an extra thump in my heart. I didn’t win the race, but I beat myself. I told my fears to fuck off. Most importantly, I finally finished a Mars Hill race.
Bikes became awesome again.
This all seems so serious, right? It’s just a bike race, but it’s so much more than that. I wish everyone could feel what I feel, because it’s awesome…even when you’re in The Rut.