We're in it now, folks. The meat of the season. Bodies either feeling good or feeling smashed. Equipment is beginning to show some wear and the need to stay focused and push through to your end goals is front and center. I am looking at the coming months while trying not to forget my here-and-now with some of the widest eyes I've had in a very long time. Staring down some basic truths that I've needed to embrace so I can get back to enjoying my sport, being a crazy supportive daddy and generally keep on keepin' on. They're simple truths about myself, my racing and my 'real' life. "The balance", remember? Like all y'all face every season I'm sure. I'll weave all this in as I digest the last couple of weeks of racing...
Sienna Lake brought out the first real test of 'crossers resolve. The day started off calm and overcast for the early AM categories, but by mid-morning would produce a maelstrom of intensely crossy weather...challenging the racers skills and fortitude. Especially the little ones.
Both my little men raced but the limited imagry was due to the extreme lack of spectators! It was simply too crazy to be standing outside on the course tape. Seamus came to the race not well, but decided to jump in and participate with his BJC teammates. He rode super well to a 3rd in the 8-9's.
By the time Aiden's group raced, the weather was becoming evil. The precip turned to ice and hail and came from all directions. The crew got off to a clean start (there's always that panicked moment at the start of a junior 'cross...waiting for the pile up.) and began to challenge themselves on the icy, slimy course.
Photo by Ralph Hart
The kids got after it, flowing super well. Proud of their absorption of all the lessons they've learned from practice. They truly look great at what they do....and all are so nerded on cross and ripping on these courses it's infectious.
Photo by Ralph Hart
My oldest Aiden was riding fantastic until a mid race mishap that had him take a dirt nap on a loose downhill. He scraped up his knee but got back on it to finish in the top 10. In tears, shivering but the hot cocoa afterwards turned that frown upside down.
35A and Men's Open Races...
My racing at Sienna was an encapsulation of my personal goings-on as of late. By that I mean harried, un-focused and leaving a lot on the table so to speak. The 35A race took place before the kids races (above). My pre-ride was fantastic...everything felt good: bike, body, course, etc. It was Pete Webber's course from last year and super fun. I had a 2nd row call up (I seem to be slipping backward each race....d'oh!) but got off clean an in 3rd place by the finish of the start shoot. Right where I wanted to be with Robson and another rider off the front. We came into a section I knew had some dangerous sidewalk lips that you needed to float, versus come at straight on.
I lost focus. You can't lose focus....
I heard the rim case the lip of the sidewalk...yeah the one I knew was there...and within 20 seconds I started to lose air. I'd broken the rim and pinch flatted my sew-up. I rode/ran to the pits, was able to get on my other bike but was already at the back of the 2nd wave of racers (35 Cat 3's) that it was impossible or me to catch up. So I pulled myself which is something I absolutely do not like doing.
I needed more. I really wanted to race as I'd had a total of like 6min of racing and wanted to rip. I stayed in my chamois all day, trying to stay warm and the engine revv'd for the Open event. I had no call up and just wanted to set my sights on a good clean race with super hard efforts. Literally practicing in the foul weather as we'd had none so far this year. I'd race from the back to 15th of 32 guys, again riding in such a fiercely developing storm it was epic. The entire metal start/finish structure blew over in gale force winds...while folks were racing! Indeed epic.
Photo by Dejan Smaic
I got back into my work week kind of bummed...letting my hobby penetrate my mood in ways that doesn't make me super proud of myself. I have trouble insulating one side of the teeter totter from the other...my work and family life suffering for my moodiness over my inability to achieve goals. It's what separates me from the guys who can maintain focus it seems....or maybe what it is, is my being telling me that other parts of my life are needing me. My employees, my wife, even my body itself.
At Wednesday bike practice I felt phenomenal. Like I wanted to train and go and scrape to the bottom of the depth I needed to in training. So while I was able to dig super deep and the body didn't totally strike out against me, it came at a cost again. Lost focus....and loss of skin...
I'd smile and self depricate with my buds...ha ha, look at me the mope on the ground. But in reality I was just frustrated. At myself, my inability to step back and look at what is having fun versus what is chasing windmills and generally began to take stock. I'd give it one more shot on Saturday...
The Valmont Bike Park 'South' race used a new course. Different than Pete Webbber's classic pain cave course. This one was hard, but ridiculously fun. In my view, it was a pretty well thought out adaptation to the courses we've raced in the past. Again, the warm ups were great, bikes and equipment felt awesome and all my buds were there. Game on!
From the gun I had 'the good legs'. We had a selection fairly immediately. 10 riders and by the first turn into the pits, I stayed focused and listened to my gut which said: STAY WIDE into the pit corner. Everyone else took the inside line, slowing to a dead halt but my gut was right and I flowed int the top 6 with one move. I rolled with Baker and the front group in a perfect position. I planned on staying conservative and let me feel how the two hills would sort of work for me or against me. Lap 2 came and I had another momentary lapse of focus. I washed out in a hard right/uphill turn. Mellow crash but needed to find my glasses on the ground before they got run over, remount and go. I remounted and literally spun the crank when my foot engaged: chain dropped. Off the bike and I am thinking how calm Sven Nys is when he gets into mishaps. I try this...then can't get the chain out and freak out. Ha! I have to yank the chain as it is caught in a mess by my bottom bracket and I'm yet again well off the back. So, I lock my brain into: OK, man, do your best. Finish and train hard. Again. I do this to end up in the top 30. Awesome.
Photo by Terri Irsik Smith
So what's the whole story here? It's all me. All the classic me that I struggle with for so long. Converging waves on all sides of my brain from family life to work life to bike life. None of it working very well at the moment but all if it in perspective. This past week I've lifted my head above all of this, looked back and assessed. I know this: I want to be 'one of the fast guys' but I wrap so much of my emotion and self worth around these needs....it's just not healthy. Yes, I man up and stay in the hunt in races to simply finish, but I am scared that my crustiness may be sending the wrong message to my kids and everyone else in my 'ecosystem' that I may be alienating them. Trust me, my whole being is aware of this and I am stepping radically back from it all. Stepping back from the racing, the placing and the need for some some sort of 'feedback' from it. I am used to winning in the proverbial sense. Business-wise and sports wise...life-wise so to speak. But the last 4 years or so I will admit have been tough n a variety of levels and I keep slamming my body and soul forward in unatural ways in desperate pursuit of this 'feedback'....and with it, like morphine, the feelings I am trying to recall that come with it. I race to blow the demons of my business side out every weekend and simultaneously I push hard in my business life to validate my cerebral side. Type A. My family so often caught in the middle....and there they are, my wife especially, as strong as an iron girder supporting my brittle ego.
Childish yes. Modifiable? Absolutely, yes. It has to be. I am breathing a lot these days in many senses of the word and verb. In truth, I'm really learning to breath and feel its calming depth. I'm doing that as I write this in fact. Purging the 'bad', which in reflection and as I exhale is comically 'light'....1st world problem-ish in the grand scheme of things.
It's time to smile, get rad and move forward. We're spending the Turkey Holiday with best friends riding mountain bikes in old stomping grounds in Marin and it will be the perfect mental elixer I have be so looking forward to. A reset button I am about to press in 3....2...