Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Figuring it out

This time I am not writing from an airplane… I am watching the road stretch out in front of me instead, along the Colombia, headed back to Bozeman after racing Marathon National Champs yesterday in Bend, OR. It was a fitting place to bring my season more or less to an end (I may still try to go race Ice Man in early Nov). I was back in the sagebrush and Cascade mountains where it all started for me (in eastern Washington) all those years ago, road tripping, surrounded by family and good friends. Although my Dad wasn’t able to make it down, it brought me back to my roots. Wrenching on my own bike the night before the race and searching out generous souls who were willing to drive from one feed zone to the next for me out there. It was reminiscent of a time when everything was new… this being the first time I have ever done a Marathon race, I had no idea what to expect, no idea how to approach the race. This brought back memories of my first WIM races, first Sea Otter and first National Championships. This trip came at the end of a season where I breathed this sport, not always out of passion, but because it was my job… and as I’ve mentioned before, a lot changes when your escape becomes the means to a living. A lot of the purity in pedaling gets obscured. This season I was distanced from all those things that made this whole endeavor resonate for me in the beginning, which at times broke me completely… and although I know the experience will serve me well in the future, it felt good to be home racing simply because.
As I sit here reflecting on what I experienced this season I am humbled and oh so aware of what a lucky duck I am. I am beyond grateful to all the people who helped me get to this point, and though my first season as a professional. My parents and innumerable amazing friends and family in Bozeman, Wenatchee, Colorado and around the world, David, Alex, my teammates, Julien and the Taramacaz family, everyone at BMC, Marc and all those USAC people who believed in me and helped get me to this point… Jason, who told me 8 years ago I could do this and be one of the best (I don’t know if I believed him then, but I do now)… the cycling communities in Washington and Montana. None of us could be successful in what we do without these essential networks that support and inspire us. And I think over the past few years, I don’t know how many really, with so much focus given to school and cycling, I didn't always demonstrate my appreciation for all these incredible people in my life. Thank you, for all you all do. I hope I can make it more personal to each of you soon.
This season was so challenging because I was away from all those people… and with this seasons chapter closing, what I am vastly more aware of is that it isn’t necessarily where you are but who you are with that creates valuable experiences (only in some semblance of solitude was I able to really understand that). Reflecting, my most cherished racing moments are road trips with my dad to the next event, bonking with Gian Dalle on Blewett Pass, blasting Daft Punk in Northern Arizona with Mitch on the way to Bonelli and Fontana, eating cheep Mexican food with Lydia in SoCal, riding with the National Team in Kirchzarten, and winning Nationals with my friends and family waiting at the finish line. What stands out are not the places or scenery or results, but whom I was with. I think back about the moments that I will carry with me after this year, and likely waking Keegan up at 2 am after being gone for 5 months will stick with me more than being the top American in Houffalize. Because what is a victory or ‘success’ if you can’t share it with those closest to you?
By saying all this, I realize I am putting myself at risk of being called a hypocrite, as I am sure I take off for another long trip or move to a new town at some point in the not too distant future. But I guess I’ll have a better idea of what I need to hold onto and look for when I make those choices, and I’m more aware of the perspective I need to maintain in order to keep this pursuit rewarding and fulfilling. That feels good.
Keeping all that in mind, I am really looking forward to next year... I think not only do I have some of this big stuff figured out, but I have a lot of the little stuff worked out too. Where and how to live, what I need around me, cell phones, bank accounts... all the details that make it click. I know the dynamic of our team, and I am looking forward to racing with Julien Absalon next year. I enjoy the people I find myself around, and look forward to spending my time in Freiburg instead of Valais next year. But for right now, I need some time to rest my weary head, and I think I can find that in the mountains of Montana and Washington. 

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