So Jefe…was it life changing?…was it a life changing experience?”
To answer the question in regards to my 2015 Colorado Trail Race, yes, yes it was life changing. It is very hard to describe in words the gammut of emotions and thoughts I experienced out there surrounded by spectacular vistas and billions of vibrant wildflowers. To be honest every ride, every race, every CTR leaves me a different person, yet this one was very special.
I went into this years race without my usual razor sharp focus, I more or less decided to line up a couple weeks before after two great rides that boosted my confidence and left me wanting more. I just haven’t been training, mostly working, riding casually and hiking with the pups. I also didn’t have huge expectations for what was to come, I simply wanted to race my Ripley, have some fun, take pictures and try not to embarrass myself. Thus I was already feeling a bit removed from the crazed madness that usually drives me to crush myself.
Not to say I didn’t try to go fast, I did, but on day one I decided that I was not going to go all night, I was not going to attempt to chase down Jesse. Instead I was gonna sleep when I wanted, walk when I needed to and do my best to forget what else was going on in the race. Normally I would ride way way past exhaustion, pushing myself constantly, wondering where everyone else was, freaking out about every mistake and basically making myself insane.
It wasn’t easy, I fell back into the old form at times, stressing out about my splits, looking over my shoulder to be sure I wasn’t gonna be passed. Yet when I resumed being calm and removed, I found myself smiling. I was happy. This was a profound moment for me, all these years I have been hell bent on proving myself, pushing myself hard and accepting no excuses. Sure that was fun at times, it was, I learned much about myself and what limits we humans have. Still I got obsessed with wining, I have gone into these races prepared to sacrifice everything, fearing almost nothing except not going 110% and crushing myself in order to be on top.
Those four and a half days I spent hiking and biking my way along the CT, I pondered all of this and more. For so long I have been convinced that all I have to offer the world is as described above, to push limits, to suffer, to punish myself. While I am proud of what I have tried to do, there is just too much else out there to stay on this page. The ticking of the stopwatch must go away. The incredible stress of whipping myself is over. If I chose to race in the future it will only be when I can forget about everyone else, when I no longer check my watch every 10 minutes, freaking out about minutes and hours. No more refusing to poop cause I do not have time, no more shivering inside a plastic bag to save a few ounces. Only when I am able to simply ride, happy, alive and wanting only to see what is around the next bend or atop the next climb, maybe then I will line up again with all them crazies.
For now there is so much to fill in the gaps. There are trails to build and maintain, there are a few crazy puppy dogs that need training and exercise. After years and years of passing up amazing places with that damn clock ticking in my head, it is time to slow down and do some exploring. So many adventures await, some not even on the map yet, endless ideas pop around my head for bikepacking, backpacking, camping. Best of all is I have a very wonderful, fun loving person to share them with and that is such an awesome feeling.
After my adventures and races a friend would ask me that question, “was it life changing?” I truly believe that everyday has the potential to change your life, your thinking, your outlook, or attitude. For most of us, deep down inside we simply do not want to change, preferring to stick to our old ways even when they hurt us and or hold us back from becoming a better person. While I am super stoked on the adventures of the past, I am more excited to see what lurks around the next corner, what world exists over the next pass, what sort of flowers will pop behind that storm cloud. So much beauty and wonder in this world and I now finally feel like I am ready to slow down and enjoy it. Happy Trails!!!
You found balance you were longing for. The calm to remain in the moment. I am so proud of you. You are an inspiration. And dang thank goodness Rachel showed up to help you find the calm!!!!
It sounds like we had a similar experience. I knew I had to love being out there for all 4+ days or I was done with any of this bikepack racing. It was seeing the pics of all the smiling faces from the TD that made me realize I needed to be one of those people and feel that way inside. I’m glad you found balance and peace out there!
This post is one of your best. It’s a perfect blend of discoveries, those of nature and those of a personal nature. Not only is this profound and insightful, you also give us a glimpse into the mind of a champion. It was fun following your blue dot across the map as well. Well done!