This is a story about the ebb and flow of life. This is more importantly a story of the main protagonist understanding that life itself ebbs and flows. Those reading this fairly predictable ‘page turner’ are willing the protagonist to desperately understand this as he fumbles about in his own existence…willing him to learn that life itself is designed to do ebb and flow so that the most open-minded in the universe can feel this and learn from the constant peaks and valleys. Life with a constant progression…even a positive one…is a boring existence. It is a meal with no flavor. A song with no de-crescendo. A race with no drama. Anyone can see that. And so, I need reminders of this as the story will tell.
Saturday – Alpha Cross, Arapahoe Park
Pulling myself out of the mental dumps from having an accident has been challenging. I will not lie. The reality is, I put so much mental capital into the sport that I love, it’s often hard to withdraw some of that precious capital when it needs to be channeled….and rightly channeled…to more important places in my life. Saturday’s race in Centennial at Alpha Cross and my ridiculousness that followed would be a prime example of this.
Pinning the number on in the cold morning air I was feeling motivated. Everything felt perfect. The equipment was dialed and my pre-ride of the course found my legs seemingly feeling pretty good, even if I knew the course would be pretty difficult for me. It combined long straight grass slogs with some technical off camber sections. I predicted a yo-yo kind of day and good for training…but my yo-yo unraveled and found me all caught up in my own personal string.
The first lap saw me go from my 3rd row call up to top 5. I was happy and the picture I had in my head was to sit in and just re-coup some points. My teammate Brian and I worked super well together for laps 1 and 2 and my flow through the off camber was pretty dialed. I ran Typhoons at super low front and normal in the back as I needed to hook up on the hillside which was becoming greasy but needed the stiffer rear to push hard on the long slogs. And then…it just came undone.
By lap 3 I am gapped. Hogan bridged and yelled at me to stay with him but couldn’t. This happened again and again and again. Literally my dear buds…fellow racers!…would say to me as they bridge to me: Keller, c’mon man, just dig in and stay on. But…nothing. I simply shut down. I pedaled in circles. I found my mind drifting to anything but the race I was in. I even thought I felt a cavity in my teeth my mind wandered so much. I will never pull out of a race unless I am bleeding or a bone is protruding where it shouldn’t…yet I came extremely close yesterday. I rolled in for 20th. My teammate Tim Faia crushing it for the win. The bitterness in my performance began almost as soon as I rolled over the finish tape.
After any race, all the boys always hang out, talk, revel in the funny occurrences of the race and then we all hi-five, pack and leave. I don't think I’ve ever left a venue faster. I simply don't know who I think I am…but these are my FRIENDS! I just packed and jet from the scene…and sulked. The hour-long drive home had me worked up into a lather. Coming home I was ‘angry dad’. Not saying much even while my boys…who haven’t seen me all day mind you…simply wanted to play. They don’t care if I win, or flat, or come in last. They just want to play with their dad.
My selfishness was at it’s peak. My youngest, Seamus, would refuse to give up on me…trying to get me to play. To engage with him. Aiden had long since recognized his dad was being a dolt since coming home from the race and decided to just put a big distance between himself and me. Seamus hasn’t learned these nuances yet in character (or the lack of it). He kept approaching me…
“Dad, look what I found in the closet! It’s a model of the Wright Brothers plane! Let’s build it!”
And I’d say ‘no, not now, Seamus.’
Seamus needed me. He wanted his daddy to do this with him. to spend time with him. And so he pursued. And pursued. And pursued.
“NO SEAMUS! NOT NOW!! Put it away!!”
I actually had the audacity to raise my voice to him. My own absolute pettiness injected itself right into everything that is dear to me…took control of me…spewed out of me.
Seamus proceeds to open up the box and says: “But daddy, your daddy wanted us to build this.”
And my world stopped.
Seamus hands me a card that was inside the model box…which was sent to me ages ago for me to build with my boys. It’s what he and I used to do together. My dad’s own handwriting on the card saying “…keep the faith. Love Dad.”
At that moment it was as if this amazing force ripped through me…enlightening me. What is WRONG with me? Why do I take this all so seriously? I kissed Seamus and apologized and just sat with him. Explaining everything…well, everything that a 6 year old needs to understand…in a way that he knows I was being a poor loser and not a good sportsman…and by extension not a very good friend, father and husband.
This helped us all considerably. There would be tomorrow. There would be another sunrise and yet another chance to be a sportsman, a friend and most importantly a daddy and husband.
Sunday – Cyclo-X, Union Reservoir
I spent that night in bed restless. Happier, yet still restless from being the antithesis of who I was less than 24 hours earlier. Waking up I felt lighter however. More grounded. More focused on going back out, pinning on a number and simply being with my FRIENDS. The venue was totally new to all of us. A pancake flat venue which featured sand, barriers and a BMX pump track! It was as if some hobbits made this course for me personally…knowing I needed to rip and combine elements I am good at.
Leaving Boulder for the venue it was 47 degrees. By race time it had dropped to below 30! People were complaining but for some reason I was warm and content. Some of this was due to the Northwest Knee Warmers embrocation, but mostly was that I felt the need to absolutely uncork one.
From the whistle I shot off like a bullet. I took the hole shot and just pushed. Michael Robson and Mike Hogan staying with me. During warm up I had taken the sand section in a way that I thought I’d run it. Coming into the beach in the lead, I did my 'practiced thing’…dismounted and ran yet I watched Robson and Hogan take a line that I NEVER would have seen. They gapped me and from then on, I re-traced their line riding every lap as it was WAY faster.
I ripped in 3rd place for most of the race feeling fantastic. Smiling even. Coach Frank yelling his guts out at me. By the closing laps, Mark Wisner and Ward Baker bridge to me. We are all three flowing awesomely. I had a bobble in a section and Ward could see this. What does he do? Not take advantage but pulls up next to me, leans into my face and YELLS at me “You are not going to get gapped! This is your race!” He pushes me so hard from behind it was like a rocket pack lighting up.
This is how we do it in Boulder. This is the quality of the men who pin up every week motivating each other.
In the bell lap Ward is now in 3rd, Wisner 4th and and I am right behind him in 5th. We come flying into the beach section one last time. I totally buy it in the sand, get up and again fight back from the gap. Baker is now on a tear at about 5 seconds ahead. Wisner comes in super hot into a critical section and burps a tubeless while an amazingly strong JP Boylan bridges to us both. Mark puts in a hard effort and JP attacks and I follow…we come blasting into the last few sections of the course and James gets a tiny gap and is able to hold it for 4th, me 5th and the Wis, 6th. Robson wins with a smooth Hogan 2nd and of course the amazing Ward Baker 3rd.
I feel redeemed. I helped make a race. I put in efforts I knew I had in me. I let my body just do its thing.
On the drive home I thought about the weekend and all the themes I experienced woven through it. I kept gravitating to this meme…
Give and receive. Not give and take. The selfishness that can consume us all is dangerous. It can erode amazing relationships you have in your life…even the most sacred of them: your family. I do this for fun. For the love. For what it gives me. I give so that I may…give. Not as a pre-requisite to receive. I receive as it is quid pro quo between amazing people who feel generally lucky in life to be able to do this. The receipt is the byproduct and being ‘open’ to life. Truly understanding what makes us beautiful…and what makes us ugly.
Do not give to receive. Give to give even when you need to dig deep to find the strength to suck up your own personal drama and be positive. At the end of it all, no one really cares. Your drama is precisely that: yours. It is not any greater than anyone else’s…which we all face in this life.