Just stop.

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Yesterday I set out to do four hours on the first part of the Laramie Enduro course.  Hoping for a smooth go at it as a kickoff to three days of endurance rides, I ended up getting lost for a good 30 minutes and doing a lot of unnecessary climbing while blindly following mountain bike tire tracks that were not going where I wanted to go.  I got frustrated at having to stop and fiddle with Google Maps to find my way.  Then I kinda realized it…

I’m caught up in a world of numbers and expectations.  This many hours without stopping.  Maintain this, do that, don’t stop here because it’ll mess up the segment time.  Keep focused on the numbers.  Pedal pedal pedal.  Go faster.  Try harder.  Don’t stop and take a deep breath and look around.

Yesterday I did just that – stopped and looked around.  The scenery was gorgeous.  The prairie is still green, uncharacteristic of this time of year.  The sky was deep blue, wildflowers were in bloom everywhere, and a cool gentle wind blew.  I don’t remember these views as I miserably raced the LE in 2013.  Too much pedal pedal pedal, keeping eyes focused on the trail up ahead.  Yesterday I looked up.  I let my speed slow and I pedaled at a steady pace that made it easy to breathe and just look around.  It’s been a crazy three years… going from not touching a bike for fourteen years to diving rather recklessly into competitive cycling.  Traveling, training, racing.  From the nervous newbie who had never ridden a mile without stopping toeing a line at a beginner race to lining up with my pro mountain biker hero behind me on the start line of an open/pro race in three short years.  My parents are right when they say that I don’t get into something unless I’m going to put 110% in and perfect it.

Dirt forest service roads leading essentially nowhere, just me and an overstuffed Camelback and my mountain bike.  And goodness, my phone to keep me from getting lost.  I stopped, checked the map, took photos, just stopped for a breather.  I live at a rather frantic pace and it’s been wearing me down the past few months… on the bike, off the bike, in a shitty career situation, in personal relationships.  With the countdown to the Leadville 100 rapidly approaching as summer slips away (ever the pessimist I am), the already frantic pace gets more frantic.  But holy crap, when did riding a bike become a full time job that I work a real full time for that drains money, energy, time, and life from me when I’m far too old and not talented enough to actually get paid to do it?

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I churned out just shy of 34 miles in about four miles with twenty minutes of stop time.  Oh lordy, twenty whole minutes of stopped time?!  I mean, who cares that it involved almost T-boning a moose coming around a blind corner leading to a staring contest with the large beast as my heart pounded out of my chest and I thought about how much it’d hurt when it attacked me.  I had twenty minutes of stopped time, argh!

I use to always take photos on rides… road and mountain.  It rarely happens now.  I see stuff – cows, llamas, pretty sights – all the time, but never stop.  Must keep moving.  And I miss it.  When did riding a bike stop being about silly experiences and photos and just enjoying myself?  Yesterday I took photos.  I stopped and chatted with horseback riders that could not believe I was on a 30-odd mile ride on a mountain bike.  I forgot how much normal people find these mundane rides that do not impress anyone in the cycling world absolutely amazing.  I took a few selfies.  I stopped and caught my breathe on Headquarters as I cleaned the climb up perfectly for the first time, though at 3mph.  I stared at a moose staring at me.  I looked at wildflowers.  I looked at the mountains.  I felt blessed to live under these gorgeous Wyoming skies.

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Life hasn’t been easy this year.  I struggle with the balance of this fledging semi-pro mountain bike racer thing and life and happiness.  But the past few weeks I’m working towards positive changes.  I’m leaving my current job position and returning to bedside clinical nursing… leaving a position I always thought would be my dream job that instead I only found to cause me a lot of stress and depression in my life.  I’m learning I need to balance my expectations and goals in cycling to maintain a desire to keep riding.  And dammit, I’m going to start stopping and taking more photos when I ride.  Especially of llamas.

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I’m not sure how Leadville 100 will go on August 15th, or hell, even the Laramie Enduro on August 1st.  I know the unexpected that is out of my control could ruin the day, but I can’t let that ruin my life if it happens.  My self worth is not hinged on a single day on a mountain bike, nor is the summation of all my race results.  Have I trained enough or in the right way?  I don’t know.  But I’m slowly evolving into the mindset that I have the physical capability and strength to finish the race.  I’m finally figuring out my nutrition, I’m learning a pacing balance, and I’m finally getting excited!

One thing I promise myself:  when I make it to the top of Columbine Mine on that day at 12000+ feet, I will stop, dig out my phone, and I will take a photo.  🙂

 

 

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