The Last Day of Summer

Cindy stripped the ball from the other team’s point guard, and I started sprinting towards the other side of the court as hard as I could. We knew each other’s style so well we didn’t even have to lock eyes to know what was about to happen. I put my hand up and she threw the ball in my direction. I saw it spinning towards me in what appeared to be slow motion, and I knew I would only have a second to get it up in the air. Desperation three-pointers are one of the most beautiful things, and even more glorious when you hit bottom. The crowd noise dug deep into my gut, and I felt the adrenaline rush over me with a quickness. In that moment, every single thing I had experienced up until that point was worth it. At the time, this was simply high school basketball, but I have learned this experience applies to almost everything else in my life.

Yesterday’s race was my desperation three-pointer. I made a promise to myself that I would stop racing for a while if I couldn’t figure out how to move past the traffic jam in my head. I spent the week involved in something that resembled the training I used to know, and I put a little more energy into getting where I want to be in many different aspects of my life. Since day one, cycling has been something of a paintbrush for me. It’s been a way to express myself in a manner that few people relate to. Racing has always provided me with two things; enjoyment and the expression of spirit. When all of those things are no longer present, that’s when you have to  take a step back and reevaluate.

The start was narrow and slow, and allowed me to hold back my excitement for a change. This course was very much a mountain biker’s course, and I knew I had the ability to demonstrate a somewhat flawless performance if I could stay out of my head. I wasn’t comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, but my body seemed to be working in my favor. My leg pain was kept at a minimum, and my lungs were pacing along nicely. I felt the flow off the bike, and seemed to float through the barriers. I never got in a place I couldn’t recover from, and I always had enough juice to get out of the saddle coming out of every turn. It was like watching Larry Bird score 43 points against the Cavs in 1986.

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As I rounded the final turn on the last lap, I felt the adrenaline rush come over me. I couldn’t stop grinning, and quite surprised I didn’t get teary. The battle I had been fighting with myself for the last few weeks was over, and I had solved all the world’s problems with 45 minutes of pain. A well-earned 2nd place in an amateur bike race seems trivial to normal people, but as a friend recently pointed out, bike racers are not normal. I can attest to this.

And what’s better than one great race? TWO GREAT RACES. My girl Kelly was able to take the second step in her race after a long vacation from the ‘cross world. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my favorite thing with one of my favorite people.

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I love being inspired. I find inspiration in so many things, and it’s always such a joy to discover it in places you never even imagined. I thrive on seeing the beauty in situations, even when they’re ugly and dark, and bike racing offers these gifts so eloquently. I wish more things delivered inspiration the way a bicycle does. This vehicle drives social change, personal relationships, foundations for living, and does so much to transcend the art of pedaling. Even road racing, with it’s often tarnished and damaged reputation, is a beautifully choreographed ballet demanding our utmost respect. It still moves me.

You have to embrace these moments, whatever they are. I’m sad for people who don’t get inspired often, or at all for that matter. Hope doesn’t keep things alive for me; inspiration does. Even if it’s something as small as watching toddlers ride Strider bikes on a pump track, let that shit inspire you. It’s even inside YOU. You can be the source of someone else’s inspiration. You could be the ah-ha moment in another person’s life, and there is no greater connection than that. We are all in this together, and you can choose to be silent, or be a source of joy and light for others. Which will you choose?

Since we don’t race on Sundays in Utah, I typically use this day to tend to myself. This often has different meanings from week to week, but I generally make time for a head-clearing bike ride to get me fresh for the impending doom of Monday. I love mountain biking, but adventuring on a ‘cross bike just does something to me that I can’t quite put into words. Today was one of those days, and the inspiration certainly made itself known. You can’t bottle it. You can’t put it in your pocket for later. You have to grab it when it’s there. These moments are precious and real and no Instagram is capable of capturing that.

I hope that you found some inspiration today.

 

 

 

 

 

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Eva Bandman Part Zwei

My first big cyclocross race was the 2012 USGP in Louisville. I was a fresh cat 4 with very little fitness and even fewer technical skills. The course was unlike anything I had ever seen. Racing at Eva Bandman was the perfect way to spend my 32nd birthday weekend. I was desperately in love with cyclocross, and couldn’t believe I had lived my entire life without it.

I can’t remember how I placed that weekend, but I do remember being nearly dead last. I am fairly certain I spent too much time running rather than riding. I was about 25 pounds heavier, riding a borrowed bike, and I had no idea how to get myself through the course. I gave it everything I had. When the race was over I dressed up in butterfly wings and made people laugh. I started an amazing collection of friendships and acquaintances that weekend, and felt like I had finally found my place in the strange land of adulthood.

A few weeks later, I found out the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships would be held on US soil. After the amazing experience I had racing in Louisville, I was elated to hear I could potentially see the world’s best racers compete in my own back yard. We immediately orchestrated a plan, reserved a hotel room, and made costume arrangements for our return to the place that stole my heart.

We arrived in Louisville a few days before the big race. My friends and I participated in the Raleigh Single Speed Derby, where I had the pleasure of learning what it was like to push a 42 x 16 and run through flaming barriers. The special events were only the tip of the iceberg. Nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming sensation that followed as we walked into the park on race day.

Growing up in the SEC provided me with many opportunities to experience the emotion of competitive sports. Aside from my own athletic endeavors, being amidst a fiery crowd at a ballgame was nothing short of a religious experience. Walking into Eva Bandman pulled at my heart strings and ignited old memories. You could hear vuvuzelas and cowbells everywhere. The air was frigid as the baby snowflakes fell into the fresh mud from the rain the night before. I was wearing a Captain America costume and a blue wig. The vibes in that place could have easily been felt on the moon. I thought my heart would explode.

The European fans were delightful. You could see Americans posing for photos with Belgians. I saw a group from Switzerland dancing with Canadians. This place knew no barriers. We all had this eloquent example of bravery in common, and no political agenda could break those bonds. I remember two gentlemen from Belgium asking my group to pose for a photo with them. We were all dressed up for what seemed to be the world’s biggest Halloween party, and they didn’t speak a lick of English. I remember not being concerned and somehow connecting with them on a different level. We hugged and high-fived. Bicycles can do that, you know?

I distinctly recall the light bulb going off that day. What had started as a way to be competitive in adulthood just four months earlier, became a new way to see the world. Bicycles had inspired me in a way no basketball or volleyball ever could. The seed of passion had been planted, and what would follow changed the trajectory of my life forever.

As I pedaled out onto the Louisville course in November of 2015, I thought back to my first big race in 2012. I noticed a stark difference in my abilities on both a physical and mental level. I was faster than ever. My technical skills surpassed anything I ever thought to accomplish in Louisville, and I had developed a robust mental toughness. I celebrated my 35th birthday with a top 10 that weekend; my best race to date. My connection to Eva Bandman continued, and my love for the sport of cyclocross flourished.

2016 has been an intense and challenging year. I’ve learned more about life and myself in the last 9.5 months than I have in the past 36 years. I now truly understand just how short our time on this earth is. I know people don’t always stick by your side like they say they will. I have learned that success is measured in many different ways, and your success isn’t necessarily someone else’s. Do what makes you happy, but more importantly, do what makes you great.

The seed planted at the World Championships virtually saved me. I was in a place both personally and professionally that I didn’t like. I wasn’t happy with my job(s) and I couldn’t imagine making a career out of any of them. I had high hopes for my success, but no real path to follow. I wasn’t getting any younger and I felt like the world and her opportunities were passing me by. Bicycles came into my life at the most appropriate time, and I think Worlds was simply the medium that allowed me to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. I took it to heart.

I’m coming up on my 36th birthday next month, which puts me closer to 40 if you look at my racing age. I still feel immature. I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of experiences, even though my life resume seems shiny and full. I’ve passed up opportunities because of fear, because let’s face it, failure is a hard pill to swallow. But you know what? A life worth living to the fullest doesn’t work like that. Bravery has many faces, and you can’t let a fear of failure keep you from reaching your potential. Pretty heavy stuff for a Sunday afternoon, but epiphanies wait for no man.

I made a spirited decision this weekend. I decided to embrace my fears and experience the thing responsible for getting me into the business of bikes. I sold my mountain bike last week, with intentions of replacing it with something bigger and better in the coming months. Having felt the need to check things off my bucket list, I opted for a more ballsy choice. I wanted to get back to where it all began, but I knew the same old thing wouldn’t do. So, I bought a plane ticket to Luxembourg for the 2017 Cyclocross World Championships.

YOLO.

Charlie Day, producer of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, gave an amazing speech at Merrimack College in 2014. He said, “Don’t wait for your break. Make your break. Go make it happen for yourself”. Cycling and bike racing have taught me this lesson more than anything else in my life. You don’t get results without the work, and success doesn’t just fall into your lap. You have to make your own way. He ended his speech with this:

You cannot let a fear of failure, or a fear of comparison, or a fear of judgement stop you from doing what’s going to make you great. You cannot succeed without this risk of failure. You cannot have a voice without the risk of criticism. And you cannot love without the risk of loss. You must go out and take these risks. None of it comes easy. And people will tell you to do what makes you happy, but a lot of this has been hard work. And I’m not always happy. And I don’t think you should do just what makes you happy. Do what’s uncomfortable and scary and hard, but pays off in the long run. Be willing to fail. Let yourself fail. Fail in the way you would want to fail. Fail, pick yourself up, and fail again. Because without this struggle, what is your success anyway? Look, as best we know it, we have one life. In it, you have to trust your own voice, your own ideas, your honesty, your vulnerability, and through this you will find your way. You do not have to be fearless, just don’t let fear stop you. Live like this as best you can, and I guarantee you will look back on a life well lived. You are capable of greatness in your profession, and more importantly, in your quality of self. Stay hungry. Stay young at heart. Take those risks. You are going to change the world around you in big ways and in small.

I think Charlie was on to something.

The Birdsong 500

I don’t remember how or why I decided to play sports. I was incredibly young and a minority in the 1980s athletic world, but I can still remember the first time I felt the buzz of competition. I loved the game, but the fire that burned inside me was kept alive by winning. I felt like every practice was the battlefield and every loss was personal.

As a mid-thirties amateur athlete, accepting the fact that my childhood mantra might be flawed was a daunting task.I was an out of shape has-been when I decided to pick up a bike. I had been running in hopes of becoming a marathon athlete, but my body had a way of shutting that idea down. I wanted to race. I wanted to feel the rush of success run over me like the gravy on a pile of southern baked biscuits.

The last few weeks haven’t been very awe-inspiring, and I took a week off the bike to clear my head and readjust my attitude. I started running again. Yeah, I started running again and I LIKED IT. I was tired of losing at bikes. I was tired of getting close to a breakthrough and being stopped by this, that, or the other. I was bummed to start my 5th season of ‘cross as a cat 3, B-level racer after getting destroyed in an elite field for 3 years. It just didn’t add up and I decided I was over it.

Like getting in a fight with boo, I came crawling back after a few days of being pissed and stuffy.

“Hey bike, can we maybe start training again? But only if you promise to stop pissing me off.” The bike didn’t respond, obviously, but we started hanging out again this week. We have a real complicated relationship.

I watched Mara Abbott’s TEDx about her fourth place finish in Rio, and she said a million different things that really hit home for me. She mentioned giving herself the opportunity to experience the potential she had been building throughout her life. That’s what makes me toe the line every weekend. I may not be a pro cyclist, but I feel like a lot of the reason I take racing so seriously is because I secretly want to win. Well, it’s not a secret anymore. And let me be the first to tell you I don’t see myself on the top step anytime soon. I’m a realist.

My heart breaks multiple times a week, on any given day, for any given reason. I’m also an empath.  Intuition is the filter through which I experience the world. Racing bikes has pushed me to the highest peaks and buried me under the heaviest, most soul-crushing rubble, and I keep coming back. I would honestly give up cycling if the fun factor was missing, because the emotions that come with losing are exhausting. As Mara said, “It’s an earned privilege, this sort of a broken heart.” I didn’t go to Rio and my problems are small in comparison, but my defeat is a gift. I need to embrace that.

I missed the lunch ride today after a meeting with an angry pothole, so I was forced to squeeze in a training ride after work and before the sun faded. After a week of bicycle mishaps and missed chances, followed by a week of the “Second Lap Blues”, I finally had a moment of clarity.  I felt good for a change. All my body parts were working in silent harmony. The white noise came back and the thoughts disappeared. It was fun and I was flowing. The sun hit the East Bench like a mimosa bar day buzz and the vibe was phenomenal. After I reached the top of my final interval this evening, I looked over my shoulder and felt my heart skip a beat.

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Asleep at the Wheel Volume II

“It doesn’t matter if you’re sprinting for an Olympic gold medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you’re missing the essence of the sport” – Scott Martin

Bike racing is a fascinating thing that often stirs up a mixed bag of emotions on any given day. I like to compare it to dating. Sometimes you meet the most beautiful soul with all the attributes you’ve been searching for your entire life. The fairy tale romance is almost too much to believe, but you just know you’re going to be with this guy forever. You’re in love. So in love it hurts. But then one day you wake up and there’s a note on the table. He’s gone, and the only thing you have to remember him by is a deep dark hole in your heart, and an ache in your soul. Sometimes, for me, that’s what it feels like to race a bike.

I’ve never been a quitter. My dad raised me to start what I finish, and never let me storm out of a ball game or stop playing in the middle of a season. I had a stubborn mother who showed me how to be strong in the midst of pain and anguish. I remember my coaches were always impressed with my gut-busting determination and hard-headed tactics. Quitting was just never an option for me. It’s a gateway drug. If you quit once, you’ll most likely quit again. So, I just didn’t do it.

Coming to terms with a DNF is something I still haven’t learned how to manage. I’m a grown ass woman racing a bicycle in a circle, right? Shouldn’t be rocket science. Shouldn’t be such a big deal. Shouldn’t be, but it is, and I’m not going to apologize for it. At the end of the day, no one actually cares if you quit or not. The only person you have to answer to is YOU. Your friends don’t care. Your dog doesn’t care. Your bike doesn’t care. But none of those comments help me care less. In fact, I care more now than ever.

So how do you recover from the swarm of negative emotions that fall after a soul-crushing performance? For starters, I cry my eyes out. I’m sure there are better ways to cope with a bad day, but my go-to emotional relief is crying. And if you are a crier, don’t be ashamed. It’s not the worst trait you could have, and it is scientifically proven to help bring you relief. I’m like a tea kettle. When the heat builds up to a certain point, I have to let it out. I cry when I’m happy, too. I’ve finished many a bike race in tears of joy. Those are the best tears.

Realize some things are out of your control. Having control freak-like tendencies makes this one a challenge, but after the dust settles, take some time to reevaluate why you felt the way you did. Take mental notes and move on. Tomorrow is another day.

Use defeat as fuel. Quitting a race is a total shit feeling, and remember how it felt the next time you want to pull off and throw in the towel. Don’t let this drag you down. It’s okay to swim around in your pity party for a little while, but make it quick and get over it. This is not the end of the world.

Figure out why your body hates you/hurts/doesn’t respond well/etc. Are you eating right? Are you drinking too much? Training properly? Not training enough? Do you have an injury that tends to flare up in certain situations? Get that shit taken care of. Figure out a way. Be nice to yourself. You get what you give, and if you don’t give much, you won’t see any gains. We are machines. Temples. Beautiful beings that deserve love and self-care. Treat yourself like the princess (or prince) your daddy thinks you are.

Surround yourself with other racers who are positive, and show them love and support when they are giving everything they have on the course. This is crucial. What do you love about them? How can you emulate some of their positive traits? Building yourself a race family can make all the difference in the world. It’s easy to feel alone when you actually are alone, so do your best to spark relationships with others, and remember you’re not the only one who’s ever felt sad, embarrassed, or gutted after a shitty performance.

You’ll have plenty of folks who tell you to stop racing if you get so worked up about a bad day, and you have to take those people with a grain of salt. Yeah, we’re just racing bicycles. Yeah, life is hard enough without getting so serious about how well you did in a race. And yes, we do this because it’s fun, but bike racing transcends that for many of us. Know that you are not crazy for taking it more serious than someone else. You’re driven and that’s a beautiful thing. If someone wants to shame you for taking bike racing serious, you can politely tell them to go fuck themselves. Or not. Either way, you keep doing your thing and they can keep doing theirs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Just like beauty, bike racing is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t change what it means to you for someone else, and remember there will always be another race.

See you next weekend.

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Photo: Capture Happy Photography

The Curse of the Athlete

I’ve been racing ‘cross now for 4.1839 seasons. I still get nervous the night before, and my heart still races well over 100 bpm on the start line. I still go out of the gate like a scalded rabbit, although I’ve learned how to tone it down a bit. My footwork is still ugly and I can’t remount properly on hills and sloping off-camber sections. I’m a forever cat 3, and who knows if I’ll ever see those shoulder numbers outside of a master’s nationals race. I haven’t given up, though, and this past weekend was a testament to my stubborn determination.

Utah is an interesting place for many reasons. The ‘cross racing is no different, and the UTCX season opener made me lust long and hard after a two-stroke engine. The race was held at Rocky Mountain Raceway, boasting a drag strip start, a lot of loose turns and a deathly downhill. Being the new fish in the pond didn’t help my pre-race jitters either. I felt like I might throw up during the entire hour-long drive that morning, and getting dressed for course inspection almost had me in a cold sweat. Ok, I’m being slightly dramatic here (who, me?), but I was definitely feeling sketched out before I even saw the course. Typical Archer.

First lap was a rude awakening, and offered similar feelings to my first mountain bike ride in Utah. It was loose and scary. I’m used to mud, rocks, and roots. Where was the slop? I wanted my Limus tires in a bad way, but those were things of the past. I made it to the logs and remembered the last time I tried to ride a triple log barrier section. I decided I wasn’t 100% certain that I could clean it 100% of the time (Thanks, Adam), so I ran it. Shew…made it. On to the run-up.

Solid run-up, guys. The ankle deep dust on crust made for an interesting threshold interval, even at a course inspection pace, and I thought about how bad it was going to hurt at race pace. The descent on the other side was even more of a challenge. I stood at the top, failing to commit for three solid attempts. Hard left into a hard right, down an off-camber pseudo sand pit. WHAT THE HELL? I watched a couple folks go down on mountain bikes. It was like I was standing at the top of a chute, waiting to drop in on an avalanche path. I can be so overly excited about things I can for sure accomplish, but my fear of commitment is ridiculous on so many levels. So I did it. Almost crashed. Made it. Next.

I’ve never said this, ever, but I was so happy to see pavement. Here I am, the girl who always got excited for technical courses because it slowed the crit racers down, AND I’M EXCITED ABOUT LONG STRETCHES OF PAVEMENT. Since moving to Utah, I’ve discovered this thing called POWER and these things called LEGS and they move much faster than I remember. So yeah, the pavement was my savior. A couple more laps and I was ready(ish) to line up.

The start was literally the longest, straightest paved section I’ve ever seen in a ‘cross race. It was longer than Derby City Cup by a gazillion miles, and I kept thinking “DO NOT GO OFF LIKE A ROCKET”. Let’s face it; I’m so damn good at getting the hole shot. I’m also really solid at blowing up after a lap. I decided to stay steady with another woman who also went off like a rocket, and I let her take the first turn. We both wanted to hit the dirt before the rest of the pack, though, because West Coast dust clouds are not to be fucked with. Into the motocross track we went…

Whoops on a motorcycle are easy. Whoops on a motocross track, on a ‘cross bike, racing with other people on bikes are hard. I got pinched in a turn and ended up going over the bars in a deep moon dust pile, and I watched the small field leave me in that cloud of moon dust. “Well, shit. You’ve got to be kidding me?!” I thought. I got up and noticed both hoods were pointing towards each other, but decided it was time to learn how to ride with both hoods pointed towards each other. I finished out the whoops while beating my hoods into submission. I turned myself inside out to pick people off, and ran through the barriers so fast that I nearly tripped and knocked out my teeth. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to get left in the dark, so I did what I had to do. Would it stick? Would I blow up? I had no idea.

The run-up was painful, as they always are, and I could hear myself audibly wheezing as I reached the top. I hid my fear and grabbed the drops like it was my job. I surfed the turns and managed to make it to the bottom of the hill without taking out any course materials. WIN. “Cool, so now I just have to pedal back around to this part a couple more times and I’m golden.”

I managed to catch up to 3rd place during the 2nd lap, and we fought each other over the next lap and a half. I generally use pavement to recover, but I knew I could make up time if I got up out of the saddle and pounded the concrete as hard as I could without blowing up. I came pretty close to shutting it down a couple times, but those weekday lunch rides have whipped me into a bit of a big gear machine. This is something I’m definitely not used to, but I really enjoy the whizzing noise a bunch of watts make.

It was over 90 degrees and I don’t race with a bottle cage. I was wearing a skinsuit. I had no place for water. A friend of mine was sweet enough to give me a handup, but my dumb ass missed it the first time. I watched that water bottle drift off into the depths of hell in slow motion as I passed through. I’ve never been so sad about a drink of water. I caught it the next time. Lesson learned. Get better at this.

After 48 minutes at an average heart rate of 178 bpm (yeah I’m a nerd), I managed a 3rd place finish. Considering the crash, all the footwork mistakes I made off the bike, and the fact that I am most certain I saw Jesus standing next to a bright white light, I think I did pretty okay. My fear had turned to heartburn and my nerves had been burned to death in the hot sun, but I was so fulfilled and happy. I lost my voice and probably had the black lung from all the dust, but the opportunity to spend a day doing the thing that I love the most was enough to make all that worth it. I live in Utah and I’m racing cyclocross. How can you feel sad about that?

Alright, so I had the second lap blues pretty bad. Whatever.

I love seeing progression. I love feeling powerful. I love feeling good about myself. The curse of being an athlete can be beautiful when everything lines up. You feel me?

 

Bro.

boy

I remember the moment I realized I was a competitor. I was five. I played in a basketball league at the elementary school every Saturday, and I was often the only girl. It never occurred to me that I was different. I got bloody noses just like the rest of ’em, and I scrapped for that ball like it was the only thing that mattered.

The next real competitive memory I have is playing in an all-girls basketball league a year or so later. I was still a firecracker, and you would often find me sacrificing life and limb to steal, strip, or layup some action. I became a pretty darn good basketball player over the next 13 years, but it came with a price. I learned this at a much later age, and saw all the lost opportunities after it was too late. Would I change the trajectory of my life? Not a chance. Competition taught me a lot and there’s no shame in that.

I’ve always felt a need to compete with the boys. We used to scrimmage the boy’s basketball team in high school, and I can tell you I rarely walked away from those without a drop of blood somewhere on my body. Even as an adult (I use that term loosely), I find myself getting into situations that make me just as much of a chest puffer as any boys club. Yeah. Chest puffer. I do that sometimes. Figuratively of course. I just rolled my eyes because I admitted that to the entire internet.

Gonna keep doin’ it.

There’s a balance in being a female athlete. I don’t know if anyone has a recipe for it, but I know there IS a balance somewhere. I find myself not wanting to stray from my roots and upbringing, though I realize another person’s perception can make or break you. I spent my summers at the motocross track as a young girl. I ripped a 3 wheeler around while my brother raced. His friends taught me my first curse words. How do you change something you’ve always been?

I find myself out of balance often. I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I’ve scribbled out my mental notes when something didn’t work out. Working on ski patrol was one of the most challenging and beautiful times of my life. I experienced a lot of the same hurdles I did as a young child, always having to fight for my place and prove my worth. Or did I really have to prove anything? It depends who you ask (and I didn’t ask you for your opinion, thanks).

I always struggled with what I thought I was supposed to be growing up. I didn’t spend a lot of time dating like many of my female counterparts. I spent summers at sports camps and running suicides during off-season ball practice. I asked guys out and they often told me I played too many sports to make a suitable date. My daddy would say the boys had nothing to woo me with, and they were intimidated by my outgoing demeanor and athletic abilities. I just thought I wasn’t good enough.

And that thought followed me to adulthood.

I had an identity crisis in my early twenties. Instead of taking care of myself and allowing my strengths to flourish, I infected my body and mind with copious amounts of booze. I thought if men didn’t accept me for who I was on the inside, then I needed to change who I appeared to be on the outside. Sadly, the only thing I gained was raging hangovers and a few pounds here and there. I hated myself. No one respects a sloppy drunk, and that’s exactly what I had become. I quit school and looked to adventure to fill my soul. The next decade would teach me all I needed to know about where society thought women belonged.

You know what? Women are awesome. We put up with a lot of shit from both ourselves and the outside world. We sometimes find ways to cope with how others view us, and often give in to stereotypes and opinions. We second guess ourselves according to how you think we should act. If we wear a short skirt, you think we are slutty, and if we keep up with you on a bike ride we’re just one of the dudes. We are fucking awesome and we still can’t win.

So, I’m here to tell you that we CAN win and we WILL win and no one is going to stop us.

Be competitive. Be formidable. Be all the things you’ve always been and make no excuses for it. If you want something, don’t be afraid to work hard for it. Demand respect. Show the naysayers that you belong here. Show up to the group ride, even if you’re the only woman. Don’t be afraid to show off your talents, and don’t be ashamed if you don’t perform at the same level as everyone else. Never apologize for being a woman. Don’t you dare say I’m sorry. You deserve to be here, no matter what anyone tells you. We’re gonna change the world, even if it takes us forever.

I think we are sitting on one hell of an opportunity. More women are taking control of their lives and following that big beating red thing in the middle of their chest. We are infiltrating the workforce, and doing what we love. We no longer make excuses for being smaller or slower or not as “good” as the men. We’re not taking that shit anymore. We are paving the way for the young girls of the world to grab life by the horns. I hope the men are taking notice, because it’s only getting better and we’re gaining momentum.

WE ARE COMING FOR YOU.

Ladies, we have an opportunity here. Don’t be afraid. Don’t hide. Embrace your passions and work towards your goals. I never once thought I would be sitting in the middle of the Wasatch mountain range, working for one of the most incredible companies in the bike industry…but here I am. I’m living proof that you really can do anything. It’s not easy and you’re probably gonna sweat a little, and you’re MOST DEFINITELY gonna cry a little…okay, I cried a lot…but you get my point.

Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like less of a person just because you’re different. You are beautiful and amazing and worthy of love and respect. You deserve the opportunity to reach your goals, no matter if you wear a skirt or not. Stop apologizing. Don’t settle. You are a bad ass and nothing can stop you. Try and free yourself from that baggage of the past and nourish those dreams, girl. Life isn’t slowing down, and you shouldn’t either.

 

 

 

Adventuring. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past few months. Unemployment is always an interesting way to pass the time, and new life opportunities tend to occupy each and every precious second we’re afforded. I walk Chico with a cup of coffee every single morning and still catch myself whispering, “What the hell am I doing?”. I don’t think I will ever know.

I pinch myself daily.

If you know anything about this journey, you know leaving Mammoth literally broke my heart. It was such an overwhelming and intense experience. Transitioning back into the mystery of the West has sparked so much inside my little brain. I miss my family terribly, but knowing where you’re meant to be is a gift you should always give yourself 100% of the time. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that our lives are far too precious to waste on hopes and dreams. Before you get all upset about that comment, just think about it for a minute. You owe yourself more than a dream.

Utah is pretty much more than I could have asked for. When I stood on that ridge in Little Cottonwood Canyon back in 2004, I giggled in amazement. I was about to drop into my first pow run EVER, and my boyfriend at the time was generous to share his most prized possession with me. I remember thinking how rad it would be to live there. I continued visiting for the next few winters until I moved to California, and never looked back.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss Asheville and those sweet little green trees. I miss dirt and mud, with torrential downpours and hypothermia. I miss wet roots and The Lucky Otter. I miss Taco Tuesdays and Asheville Cyclocross. I miss my pretentious coffee shop and 100 mile solo rides. I miss Pisgah and all her misfit toys. I miss 12 hour days in the rain forest. Hey Asheville, I miss you. Thanks for keepin’ it rad.

And then that whole racing thing…

I’m still forming an opinion. And I’m sure you’ll be waiting in anticipation, bruh.