Above: I’m shown a few times in this video but the best is near the 7:00 mark, wearing optic yellow, riding then dismounting to cross a stream.
Last year’s Swank 65 in the Pisgah was my last race. Not my last ride, nor the last time I would enter a race, but … my last race.
My body was probably in as good a shape as it had ever been. But after 8 years in the saddle as a cat-2 it was getting old and I couldn’t motivate myself to train on the same roads for another season.
Life Has a Way of Changing Things Around When You Are Busy Making Plans
When I raced the first time, back at Razorback in Reddick, Florida, in 2006, I wasn’t even a dad. Now I’m the father of two: an 8-year old and a 4-year old. As their school schedules and after-school schedules came to the fore life really became about them.
On the practical side, shepherding around two kids didn’t leave much time to train. Training windows were getting shoved into smaller and tighter windows until it became nearly impossible to find any time at all.
And on the other side it was time to set my dreams and desires for my kids’ dreams and desires.
So I let my coach know I was hanging them up.
Race Like It’s Your Last Race
You here that old axiom a lot, “Race like it’s your last race!”
But I never raced like it was my last race. I always raced like I didn’t want to to get cut, like if I didn’t make Xth place I wouldn’t ever get to race again.
I raced every race like I had to qualify for nationals. Too fast, too loose, increasingly on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
Every race was tunnel vision. I only saw what was in front of me.
During the Sun Valley Nationals one year I took the gondola up to the top of the hill to practice for the Super D. I’d already ridden the course a few times as a cross country racer and I couldn’t reconcile it.
I didn’t remember the drop offs, the rails, the ledges. I didn’t remember the incredible beauty of the trees.
What I remembered were corners and hucks, the loose dirt and cutting shale at the top, hills and the rock wall. The other details? The sky was blue, the woods brown and green.
“How is this possible,” I thought to myself, “that I didn’t notice this? It’s so beautiful…”
And then I raced my last race, and it was a revelation.
Riding In Beauty
The Swank 65 hosts an open field of 200 riders. To tell the truth, probably only 20 of the riders were actually racing. My coach, Tristan Cowie, won it the year before (2012) and wasn’t competing this year because he was competing in a national level cyclocross race. The riders actually racing for the title in the 2013 version were a who’s who of local and national mountain bike ringers.
The rest of us, we were riders only for this race and we had no apologies at all.
And I rode, and I watched my breathing and my pedal stroke. I stopped to drop my saddle before I bombed the downhills, and then I stopped again to raise it for the climbs. I was blown away staring up at Looking Glass rock and reveling in the slow climb past it, just so I could look at it over and over again.
I took every second to enjoy the incredible beauty around me. I soaked it in. I saw each and every tree. I noticed the grade, the variations. I noticed the trail and how it romped along through the forest like the leaps and bound of a playful dog.
I was riding in beauty. Finally, and finally.
See Strackacobra’s mountain themed T’s at Strackacobra.com.