This year has definitely been one of growth for me. Truthfully, this was the first year that I actually trained and committed to racing. Unfortunately, it was a season wrought with immense suffering, dumb mistakes and a little bad luck. I did have some joyful successes and I gained a new perspective of bicycle racing, and for that, I am grateful.
My last mountain bike race of the year was a time trial. I rode to support my community and have fun, which is why I arrived to the venue dressed up in a Wonder Woman costume. My goal was to not take it too seriously. I should always know myself better; if there happens to be more than one cyclist on the course, I'm in race mode. Realizing that my competition was one of the fastest ladies around, I quickly lost the 'fun' vibe, and found myself at the start line, in a Wonder Woman costume, with those well known pre-race jitters. In true time trial format, I started two minutes after her. It was difficult to not focus on where she was on the course, and if I had caught up to her two minute lead. With this as my focus, I missed a turn, got off course and had to DNF. As I rolled into the finish line, my first thought was, "well, this is the perfect end of a not so perfect season."
After the race, I was lucky to get a chance to talk with Olympian Ruthie Matthes, as well as my good friends Lauren Hall and Brad Huff. They, each one an accomplished cyclist, all commented on what I knew was true. I had focused on someone else during the race instead of my own performance. We also got to talk about my purpose in the sport of cycling, my goals and desires; all thoughts that I had been ruminating on lately.
The self reflection and thoughtful rumination started for me while on a bike packing trip with my husband Ben. With the 2017 mountain bike season basically finished, and having successfully coordinated a charity ride for cancer care (Ride of the Ancients - my biggest success of the year, in my opinion), we decided to get out of town and try something new.
We chose a route near Bears Ears National Monument. Camping under the stars, riding through amazing country, visiting Ancestral Puebloan dwellings; it turned out to be a trip to remember! My most cherished memory is our visit to Moon House Pueblo.
It was during this experience that the idea of sonder occurred. Now, sonder is not really a word in the dictionary, but I submit that it should be. According to the Urban Dictionary, sonder is "the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own." We felt the idea of sonder while we explored the ancient sites, realizing that these people had complex lives, that they loved, lost, had children and experienced relationships.
What does sonder have to do with bike racing? Well, for me it is the knowledge that my opponents have just as much invested in their performance as I do. They too have a desire to win, and to have value in the cycling community. In the end, bicycle racing is an inherently selfish pursuit, and that's okay. Two of the most important factors that I can control in a race are myself and my feelings. All the rest is out of my control, therefore I shouldn't worry.
One last realization that I have stumbled around through my difficult season. What is my purpose in riding and racing bikes? It's to bring people joy and encouragement by getting out there, having fun and riding hard. And who knows, maybe I'll win a few races too. ;0)