No.

I don’t like hearing the word “no”.  It’s a characteristic I’ve possessed since I was in diapers.  If mom said no, I’d ask dad.  If my teacher told me to stop talking, I’d talk more.  When my parents didn’t have the money to send me to college, I took out loans.  When guys told me they weren’t interested, I said fuck ’em, and did my own thing.  Don’t tell me I can’t do something.  I’ll turn myself inside out trying to prove you wrong.

I recently decided to put crit racing on hold to focus on getting to the bottom of my cycling “injury”. Injury? I don’t feel injured. I feel silly calling it that, but my leg IS injured, so I guess it’s an actual INJURY. I finally realized the quad wasn’t getting any better, and I started seeing damage in other parts of my leg. With the most important ‘cross season ever coming up, I figured it was time to suck it up and stop trying to play through the pain.

I DNF’d Dilworth, and DNS at Belmont. A lot of time and money wasted. A lot of sads.

I’ve started seeing a chiropractor and a physical therapist. I recently started dry needling sessions, and I’m getting more pain relief than I ever have. There’s so much injury after a year of ignoring the symptoms, and I have a gazillion muscle imbalances, so there’s lots to do. I’m basically relearning how to pedal a bike, replacing my 53/39 road crank for something smaller (holla if you know where I can find a cheap one), and trying to build back a fully-functional lower body. I am equally disappointed and motivated.

It’s a funky time of year, as I’m coming up on the 5th year since my mom died, and Wednesday is her birthday.  She went in for her first chemo treatment on her birthday in 2010, and we spoke on the phone for the final time that day.  I’ve healed a lot since then, but my cover is always blown in the Spring. Small bumps in the road can have a huge impact on my day, and I spend most of April and May in a bizarre head space.

And just when I needed it most, a door cracked open, and gave me a way out.

Oddly, my mountain bike doesn’t cause me much pain. I can ride it for hours, and even raced it in a 6 hour duo two weekends ago. The mechanics of my mountain bike are so much different than my road bike, and the extra gears enable me to pedal more efficiently. I got the green light to race mountain bikes, and put all my fears aside to run through the door before someone slammed it in my face.

So, as most of you know, I’m racing XC and endurance this summer. I’ve always loved mountain biking, but never really had confidence in my ability. A couple tough crashes made me timid, and there were people who told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t ride stuff. That hurt me. Actually, it really pissed me off. It’s been my goal to race mountain for a while, but I never jumped. My injury gave me a chance.

I don’t have control over much in my life. I can’t make an employer hire me. I can’t make a man love me. I can’t make my dog younger, so he can run like he used to. I can’t bring my mom back. It took me a long time to let go of the things I cannot change, but I think I’m growing into that person. I can’t make my quad do what I want (yet), but…

I can make it do something else.

I can step outside of my comfort zone.

I can improve my technical skills.

I can continue to make physical gains in fitness.

I can ride with my friends.

I can finally get to know Pisgah, even though it scares the ever-loving shit out of me.

I can prove myself wrong.

I can be happy.

I can still race.

I’m fortunate to have the physical ability to pedal, and I know so many folks who would give anything for that freedom–I’m respectful and sensitive of that. I’m embracing my own personal struggles, and using them for positive motivation. I’m dedicated to making my life the best it can be, for me, and you can’t tell me no. I’ve heard “no” my entire life, and I’ve always found a way to make it YES.

“Anything worth having is worth working for.”- Carolyn Archer

Advertisements

Solo is the New Yolo

I used to hate riding solo.  Nothing gave me more anxiety than the thought of riding alone.  It’s funny to look back on how much time I wasted sitting at home being butt hurt, rather than embracing time with myself.  Time is precious, ya know?  Solo time is life changing, and builds you into a better version of yourself.

Then the magic happens…

I spend a lot of time riding by myself now.  I still very much enjoy riding with my friends, and am always looking for buddies, but it’s not what motivates me to ride anymore.  I don’t need outward sources to get me on that bike and out the door.  It’s not always awesome, and I’ve spent a few rides crying alone in the middle of nowhere, but I wouldn’t be where I am now without solitude.

One day last summer, I decided to ascend Mount Mitchell for the first time. I knew it was going to be hard, and I thought I was prepared for it physically, but my mental game took a big hit. On the way home, I lost my shit within 10 miles of my house, and wasn’t sure if I’d make it back. I rode 90 miles that day, with an ungodly amount of climbing. I was officially cracked.

My Mount Mitchell experience pretty much sums up the past year, not only on the bike, but life in general.

This past weekend wasn’t any different. I raced 6 Hours of Warrior Creek- my first endurance mountain bike race. I haven’t raced my mountain bike much (2 XC races last year), and I was nervous about not being able to pull my weight. I was on a coed duo with my brother, and I wanted to make him proud. He’s been racing and riding bikes for over 20 years, and he’s the one responsible for creating this monster (me). I let him take the first lap, because I was too scared to put myself in the “dumpster fire” that is a mass mountain bike start.

My brother came around after the first lap, and I got ready to go. He said he wasn’t feeling well during the transition, and I told him I would do 2 laps if I needed to, but he said he’d feel better after I came back around. I took off like a scalded rabbit. I rode hard and actually felt pretty good. I was gonna make my brother proud of me. My first lap was 1:18; not bad for a 14 mile loop.

As I rode towards the car, my brother said he didn’t feel any better. I know what that’s like. There’s nothing worse than feeling horrible and knowing you have to get back on your bike. I decided I would take one for the team. “I’m going to do one more lap”.

And I busted out of there like I was being chased by dogs.

As I came through again, I decided to go around for a 3rd time. I had already surpassed my max number of mountain bike miles by 5, and figured 14 more wouldn’t be so bad. I hated myself by mile 4, and rag dolled though all the rock gardens. I was exhausted and it showed. I overshot a switchback within the last couple miles, and took a pretty solid digger. “What the hell have I done?” I’ve ridden for 6 hours on the road, but nothing prepared me for this.

I managed to make it to the finish, missing the “last lap cutoff” by 20 minutes. I was actually kind of relieved, because I didn’t know how I would make it another lap. I managed a 1:18, 1:20, and a 1:30- a little over 4 hours of mountain biking at race pace. I don’t know how you endurance racers do it.

And then my body told me to fuck off. It was a pain I’d never felt before. I kind of liked it.

Some days you’re the nail, and other days you’re the hammer. I just happened to be the hammer that day and I took advantage of it. I knew if I could just get myself past the point of no return, I’d have no choice but to exceed my expectations. When you ride alone, there’s no one to bail you out. The work is yours. No excuses.

I don’t know what kind of effect my experience at Warrior Creek will have on me, but I’m sure I’ll reap the rewards when I least expect it.

And I’ll figure out a way to top it. Solo.