“There is strong shadow where there is much light.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As I sit at my tiny desk in my tiny studio writing these words, my previous “home” of Boulder, Colorado is washing away. They are in the throes of a hundred-year flood; something unthinkable in this arid state. In a matter of days, however, the clouds will finally dry up, and what remains of the once vibrant and energetic city will be left crumpled on the ground, battered but not broken. It will realize it still has some life left deep inside, and that the small but insistent flame that burns at the heart of the community has not been drowned. It will be faced with the task of slowly getting up, brushing itself off, pulling itself up by the bootstraps, and beginning the long process of rebuilding.
I started this website early last winter with the intention of it being a place to share stories and insights into my world as a rookie professional bike racer. Well, my season has come and gone, and hardly a word has been written. For this, I apologize. It passed like a tornado, in a whirlwind of events and emotions. It could best be described like this: intense, beautiful, terrifying, wonderful, heart-wrenching, inspiring, demoralizing, humbling, gratifying, and brutal. And this wasn't even the racing itself. The racing was the “easy” part.
Now, I’m not saying that the step up into pro racing from the amateur ranks was easy- not by any means. But the story and the struggle of the past season is in the end, surprisingly, not really about the racing. The reality of throwing my entire being into chasing this dream for the past two years, the hard and valuable lessons it has taught me about the world, my place in it, and most importantly about myself, has challenged me in every way I could possibly imagine. It has taken every ounce of physical, mental, and emotional fortitude I possessed in my body, mind, and soul- and then some.
And here I am at the end. My season started slowly, struggling through mononucleosis which put me flat on my back for two months from mid-February through mid-April, and ended abruptly, with a violent crash at the national championship race in July that left me with severe bruising of my pelvis and abdomen, and a badly torn left shoulder. I finally had to accept that for once my resilient spirit could not push my broken body past its limits any more.
So here I sit, feeling rather disheveled and wrung-out after the storm, looking around at the pieces of my whirlwind season. It was a tough one, for sure. But there were certainly some highlights. I had some great racing in May and June, an unanticipated surprise in the form of my first podium finish in a professional field, and one race with a chance meeting that quite unexpectedly altered the course of my life as I jumped on an opportunity that, while scary as big changes often are, was full of possibility and wonder.
I uprooted my comfortable and happy life in Nederland to move further into the mountains to Crested Butte, to a new adventure full of the unknown, but with opportunities in life, career and racing too tantalizing to pass up. I have been here for a month and I won’t lie- it hasn't been easy. It’s been a struggle, at times seeming so hard and insurmountable and at times so wonderful and inspiring. I am happy, but I am broke- financially and physically. I feel like I have lived enough highs and lows in the past season to last me a lifetime. I have some new scars, but I also have some great stories. I have learned some important lessons that I will share in the coming months. It is time to rest.
In three weeks, I will go into surgery to repair my torn shoulder. I am nervous, but determined. As a physical therapist, I know that I have a long road ahead of me. As an athlete, I know that my biggest challenges will be mental. I will be nearly incapacitated for six weeks, and extremely limited for the better part of three months. It will be hard to stay focused and not lose my marbles. I also have the best surgical and rehabilitation team in the world, a wonderful coach, great sponsors, an extremely supportive boyfriend, friends, and family, and a very cute and cuddly dog who never fails to make me laugh. And, of course, a sea of inspiring mountains and trails right out my door. I have no doubt that with a lot of hard work and discipline my strength will return, and I will be racing at full capacity again in the spring.
Though I will be resting my body over the coming months, I will certainly not be resting my mind. The valuable lessons I have learned over the course of this season will not go to waste. I have learned the importance of diligence, patience, foresight, longevity, self-restraint, prioritization, and balance. Mental toughness has always been one of my strengths. I am stubborn and I don’t like to quit, and I have always had the ability to push through difficulties. Now, out of the storm of this past season, I am also slowly and steadily building mental acuity. To me, this is the ability to be fully present and aware, and to make intelligent decisions in high-stress and high-risk situations. Being tough is not always the answer. Sometimes being smart is better. I didn't have awareness of it before, but there is a huge difference between these two things. Having heaps of the former and not the latter can land you in the operating room.
In contemplating my rebuilding process, I have also been seriously questioning my motivations. Why do I put myself through all of this? If I quit racing my bike right now, I could likely forgo shoulder surgery. I can do most normal daily activities. I just cannot race my bike for four plus hours or ride over very technical terrain. I cannot lift my bike over my head or onto my back. But otherwise I can live a pretty normal life. So… why?
A couple of weeks ago, sitting alone, high on a mountain outside of Durango with my bike, not wanting to ride but not wanting to go home, the wind whipping violently and thunder rumbling all around me, I got my answer. Without bike racing, I would not be the person that I am. And I will certainly not ever be the person I aspire to be. It is not the racing itself that inspires me to keep going. It is the virtues that I have built, and continue to build, through the pursuit of personal challenge.
The patience, discipline, tenacity, resourcefulness, resilience, acuity, intention, and balance in my life would not, and will not, come without a price. I have to explore and experience the world, and myself. The bike is simply my preferred method of travel, and racing is my preferred method of challenge. The human desire to better one’s self is certainly not limited to professional athletes. This is something that we all share, and something that can make us more connected as humans if we encourage this growth in each other. It is the challenge, the connection, and the learning that inspires me. This is why I ride, and this is why I race.
I have survived the storm. It is time to rebuild.