Riding with intention. Grand Junction, CO
Ever since I can remember, people have told me I need to "slow down." There are many things I love to do, and my tendency has always been to plunge full steam ahead with as much energy as I can throw at everything I am doing.
This has been both good and bad for me. I have had many incredible experiences in my short thirty years that may have never happened if I had not been so ambitious and if I had not pushed so hard. But I also tend to leave a trail of chaos behind me, as I have written about previously- ending an amazing race season flat on my face with three broken ribs. I have realized that if I want to consistently build the life I want with racing, that leaving chaos in my wake in the other parts of my life is not sustainable.
So when Bree, one of my best friends, and my roommate last year, told me sometime in the middle of last racing season to "slow down," I blew her off, just like I had done to everyone else who had ever told me that. "Maybe you would rather slow down, or others, but not me," I said in my head. "I am a bike racer, I need to go fast and push hard to get what I want. The only place slowing down will get me is off the back." (Yeah, I can be a little stubborn.)
Early this winter, I started to realize that despite what I had learned at the end of last season, that I was starting to get in over my head again. I was doing too much. But all my introspection paid off. This time, I actually listened to the flashing red lights going off over my head. I was starting to feel overwhelmed with all of the commitments I had made, so I started cutting things out of my life that no longer served my current purpose. I created time for the things I considered most important, and committed to working on doing those things well.
Sometime around the middle of January, Bree and I went for a hike. We were talking about our lives and the ways we experience the world. The subject of me slowing down came up again, as it had many times before. But this time Bree worded it differently. She told me: "You need to move with intention."
Somehow, this struck a chord in me. In that moment, I finally understood what she and others, including my coach and my boyfriend, had been telling me for a long time. Not necessarily that I had to stop being ambitious or pushing toward my dreams, but that I needed to do it with intention and awareness. Not just covering my eyes and sprinting blindly towards my goals- regardless of if there might happen to be a 200 foot cliff directly in my path. The bigger my dreams, the more intentional I needed to be in charting my course.
For better or for worse, I have gotten a lot of practice in that this winter/spring. In early February, I got mono. I spent six weeks barely getting through the day with my patients, and coming home and falling into bed. I would get on the bike to train, but was completely ineffective with lead weight legs. When I finally went to the doctor and found out what was actually wrong, I was upset. No, more accurately, I was pissed. Really pissed. What shitty timing, right before racing season. I had missed nearly two months of hard workouts, and my first race ever as a pro rider was in three weeks. I whimpered on the phone with my coach, and I stormed out the door of my house on my way to work in the morning declaring to my boyfriend that I was quitting (while dragging my mountain bike behind me, of course). I spent a few days feeling quite sorry for myself.
Then I pulled my head out of my ass. I realized that I was really lucky that I had something that would eventually get better, not something that I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. My doctor told me that I could train on days I felt good, but to rest on days that I didn't. She said that I would have to get extremely good at listening to my body, getting lots of sleep and eating well, being honest with myself, not wasting any energy, and making everything I do very intentional.
Today is my first race. I have had only three weeks of being able to tolerate hard training since the beginning of February. I will roll up to the starting line knowing that I am not "at my best," but I will still do my best. I can't change the fact that I got mono. I can only control how I deal with it. I can't blame it or use it as an excuse for my performance or for not racing. Despite what is going on in my life- whether it's mono, a stressful week at work, a fight with my boyfriend, or a night of little sleep- it doesn't matter. I will still line up for the race putting the past behind me, ready to do my best, whatever that may be on that day. And I will carry the awareness of moving with intention with me wherever I go.