Monday, July 30, 2012

Montana: Land of goats, sunburns and epics

There is something about chasing goats around in the brush and getting sunburnt while building a fence line that is incredibly refreshing after spending the past 6 months with my nose to the grindstone. Riding with juniors on CX bikes (and getting dropped), finding myself lost in the mountains of Montana, running out of food and water with good friends on epic MTB rides, and elk tacos all also seem to bring me back to my roots and stir my motivation.
We all have different things that inspire us to get out of bed in the morning and motor along with our days… for some it’s their kid’s futures, for others money, but I think for the majority of us its a little less tangible… because we have some sort of visceral desire to contribute to society in some way, and find pleasure in the ways we go about our routines. I know personally I lost sight of that over the past 6 months. Or maybe I didn’t loose sight so much as I lost the feeling that what I was doing was somehow contributing to something larger than myself, and I know that I wasn’t always finding pleasure in my routine while living abroad. Even with phenomenal teammates and support from BMC,  because many of the things/people/ideas that enrich life were halfway around the globe, living in Switzerland, living to train and race, started to feel pretty unrewarding at times. I know that probably seems kinda ridiculous to someone who works in the real world… but when a passion and escape become the means to a paycheck, a lot of things get pretty muddled up. And when that passion is all you invest your energy in, well it means it can no longer be an escape. And that’s a damn stressful way to live. So after getting sick in MSA, riding like shit at Windham and Nationals, spending a week on antibiotics and sleeping, I’ve been trying to find a more healthy space to for training and racing to occupy in my life.
Two weeks chasing goats around 10 acres at Allen’s house, building fence, clearing brush and getting sunburnt was my first step in that. I took 10 days off the bike, took some antibiotics, and used my body in a way that it wasn’t used to. I was bug-bitten, sunburned, scratched and sore, and I haven’t felt so good in a while. Once I started to feel healthy again I decided to go exploring with Pete and Lydia on mountain bikes…. And did we explore! We were totally lost as we headed up toward Elkhorn Pass southeast of Big Sky, but somehow amidst what seemed like dozens of unmarked game and horse trails we ended up on the right one. We climbed and climbed toward the wilderness, and away from the rest of the world. We found some amazing descending and then by chance, nearly 2 hrs into a ride, a sign that showed us the way to our own mortality. As we climbed up a muddy, horse wrecked Buffalo Horn trail to what I think was Porcupine Lake, we all decidedly ran out of water and food. It was one of those days where you pass through hunger and into exhaustion and come out on the other side stronger than you were at the beginning. Your body finds a way to make itself go… it’s a transcendent feeling. At the end of an hour-long, Star Wars descent down Porcupine trail, we all seemed to have immense smiles on our faces and ample energy for high fives, wheelies and stoke. I don’t think I’ve ridden anything that cool in a long, long time. The ride took us no less than 6 hrs and the only people we saw had backpacked in from a much closer Tom Miner on the other side of the Gallatin Crest, and gave us strange looks. It was brilliant…
Since then I have slowly started to get back into a rhythm on the bike and in my day to day life. Coffee, goats, breakfast, ride, nap, town, BBQ with friends, goats. It feels really damn good. And I finally feel healthy and strong again. My legs aren’t the hollow shells they were 3 weeks ago, nor do I carry the mental fatigue that plagued me at the end of May and into June.
I also had the opportunity to go up to Helena and hang out with a bunch of super talented Junior CX racers at a USAC camp run by Geoff Proctor this week. I have a lot of confidence in the future of US Cycling after that. It was humbling. Those kids are fast… and they work hard. They are all so much further along in their development and the opportunities that have been presented to them than I was at their age. Some of them are already killing it over in Europe and are only 16 or 17 years old. I didn’t go to Europe until I was 18, and I had my ass handed to me over there until last year when I was 22… I know we all have a different trajectory, but no matter what, those are the kids who will soon be earning the US medals at World Cups and World Championships. It was inspiring to see them riding so hard, and having so much fun doing it. If we could all hold onto that as we grow in this sport, powerful things could happen. I’m going to try by continuing to put off building up the SLR01 that showed up on my doorstep the other day. Proud to say that over the past 10 days of training, I’ve ridden single track each day… and I’m better for it!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Taking the long way home

I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep at all last night... it wasn’t for lack of trying however. I went to bed at a little after midnight knowing that in an hour or two my teammates would come home from the post-world cup party we were at and proceed to wake me up. So of course, once that seed was planted I didn’t sleep. And then once things did quiet down around two, I laid in bed awaiting the sound of my alarm set at three. Yes, your math is correct, that means I was in bed for about two and a half hours. On the bright side it meant that I arrived in Albany with Marc and the US Devo kids with plenty of time to catch the earlier flight to Newark from Albany; an opportunity for fifteen or twenty minutes of sleep. And I surely slept on the hard, dirty, carpeted floor of the C-Terminal at Newark International airport for at least twenty more minutes during the eight plus hours I just spend in that godforsaken airport. I’m currently somewhere above Indiana I think... en-route to my other least favorite airport, Chicago O’Hare... Where I hope I don’t get to spend the night. My itinerary has changed twice today... not to mention delayed a dozen times or more. I hope my bags show up sometime tomorrow... Its not like I expect to be awake at all though. It’s a little comforting to know that my competition this coming weekend at US Nationals is all going through the exact same thing... Sounds like Sam might get to Missoula tomorrow. Not that I wish this on anyone, it's just good to know I'm not the only one living in airports today. I’m kinda proud of how cool I’ve kept through the day to be completely honest. I’m not sure if I am somewhat admirably coming to realize that there are much more important things to worry about (normally I’d be throwing internal temper tantrums if I was sitting on the tarmac for two hours) or if I just don’t have the energy. I’m kinda thinking it’s the latter. Perhaps though it’s just a comic and fitting way for the universe to get me home. My final destination is a couch in Bozeman, and after nineteen weeks (yes, that’s like four and half months) of being away, what is six more hours really going to do? Nada. It’s been the story of my season up to this point; long drawn out fights getting where I want to go. Whether that means the Olympic selection coming down to the final World Cup and a completely discretionary selection... or examining where I am (physically and emotionally), what I am doing and where I am going... Finding value and substance as I enter this new phase of my life... assessing how to use my energy... All of these and more have been good fights, but none that have come easily this spring. But now as we enter the Dog Days of Summer on this July first, I am in different place than I was when I left cold Montana all those months ago. Its come at a high price but, just as the snow has likely melted off the Bridgers, I feel like some heavy things have melted away into my past too... I feel like there is some clarity. I’ve got a better grasp on where my roots have grown... what’s keeping me upright. I had a pretty miserable reintroduction to North America the past ten days. I bounced off a lot of trees and did some penguin slides in the mud in Mont-Ste-Anne, and after being sick all week in New York my legs decided they didn’t want to go go go like I wanted them to. After two laps I saw the writing on the wall and pulled the plug with eerily little hesitation. Time will tell what happens at Nationals and at the Missoula Pro XCT. I know I have it in me to make some crazy good things happen... but maybe this whole Visa overstay is a blessing in disguise, because it means that instead of going back over to alonely apartment and bouncing off trees at the back of a world cup, ill get to take some time off the bike, backpack a little bit and then spend 4 weeks training at home, at altitude for what its worth, before making a final push for the final couple BMC Cups in Switzerland and World Championships. The way I see it, no matter what, amazing can happen both on and off the bike. That is clear too.