It's not often I find the same smile on my face for more than a day but after this past weekend it's still there so I figured I'd mention it. I notice now more than ever when I smile, maybe because of this Winter. I have always believed it very hard to experience true happiness unless you've lived in the opposite direction and been immersed in a dark place. To emerge from such a place **better** can bring a sensitivity to all things good. As Fall ended and the the chill of winter took hold, the events of months prior left the following questions for me; Can you be as critical of yourself as you are of others? Can you handle and deal with an honest look inward? Can you let what you see change you? Can you become **better** ? Tough questions. I'm an honest person. "To a fault" so I am told. But that is who I am and something I find value in. I'm an artist plagued by a need to create and tormented by a willingness to share. My answers to those tough questions I thought worth sharing.
Through a dark winter of painful introspection, personal growth & learning,
impossibly long & suffering workouts,
I spent quality time exploring the depth of who I really am
Because sooner or later we all have to face ourselves, the decisions we've made and the consequences of them. Without accepting the responsibility of our own actions there is no way we can be a true person & without truth, why bother?
From feeling burned and angry, hurt and humiliated, I let go of others' beliefs & opinions, and looked deep inside myself. I found what good was there - it had never left, only been in shadow. Self pity can be a dangerous drug and for a chemically-driven person and I knew I was indulging in the hollow darkness of loathing. I spent time with my demons giving them a bit too much power. Now the time has come to take that power back.
What 'Power'? There's an unshakable strength found in taking what you fear most and holding it close, getting to know it. I can say that to some extent, what I dreaded has become my sanctuary. I took the opportunity of the new and the fear of uncertainty and wrapped both arms wide around them and I haven't a need to let go. I've taken the worst that my fears had to offer and made it my comfort. It's like training - you can cheat all you want but come race day that cheating shows up fast. This Winter I explored my full ability to suffer both on and off the bike. I went as far as I could into pain and hurt and horrible feelings. I did not blame, I did not bitch and moan - I took any criticism the world had and heaped more on. I asked those closest to me what they saw as my weaknesses, some offering more than I wanted to hear. I didn't get defensive I just took it in. I asked myself where was I dishonest, what had I done wrong and why? What could I do better? Hard core questions with bare and raw answers. No one on the planet will judge me more than I judged myself. And when I could take no more, when there was nothing left to tear apart, when my legs had stopped screaming but instead simply shut down ... I emerged. Now I have the strength of something those fears will never know - I have truth. I am finally getting to know myself from the bottom up, all things good and bad. I'm not hiding, I'm not lying, I'm not putting up a facade for the world to see knowing what's behind it is cowering & scared or shallow & weak. My weakest links have been stanchioned.
When you enter a race - something which on the surface can seem very trivial (who gets there first is what compared to who gets there last?) it helps to know why you are racing. For years I've raced and for a lot of that time I don't know how sure I was as to why. This past weekend I raced with a single purpose, knowing damn well what my goal was and why I was there ... I raced to win.
It has taken this cold Spring, long Winter and maybe the last few years of my life to know more than ever I was there to win. To give everything I could without holding back. To have no doubt of self. There's the tie-in. To feel as I lined up at the start it was earned. A world champion mountain biker once told me "You will never win until you know you deserve to win. Until you know you have worked harder than everyone else there. And that knowledge comes from the work. If you don't put the suffering into the bank, you cannot ask to withdraw a win. Only you know when you have earned it but even then - will you take it from the others who feel the same?"
The Poolesville Road Race is known for it's mile + section of dirt/gravel road pitted with holes and bumps, not something you typically find in a race for road bikes with skinny tires. But I love this race and looked forward to it. The rains held off and we lined up. Coolest plate in the parking lot, foreshadowing
Conditions were perfect and while I had no team mates I was happy to ride with the Coppi guys who I've raced and trained with all Spring. We did what we could to split things up but the pack was tight to the end. The sprint started late and only with 200m to go did the rules allow for crossing the yellow line and enough room to move around slower racers in front. My attack went up the right side but another racer in front of me had the same idea and I was diverted into the grass. I got back on asphalt but there went the sprint - 12th. Not the result I wanted but I was still happy about the day's efforts and having worked hard at it. in the parking lot a guy came up and told me how much he loves the films I've helped make - said his entire family loves them. That was great, a smile emerged. Eluded by a win I took out my "I deserved that" frustration at the Vie de France Bakery. Oh hell yea I earned this...
Sunday I was signed up for 2 races at the Mabra Crit Championships in Leonardtown, MD, the 35+ cat 4/5 and the cat 3/4's. A new race for me I traveled there solo, taking in the green fields and small towns along the way. I arrived early, warmed up properly and lined up with many guys I had worked with the day before. I hoped they felt pain in their legs as I did. The advice I got on this short loop was get to the front and stay there - with 3 corners the first being very tight and in a 'down to up' dip I took heed and dove into it first.
I went hard the first 2 laps then backed it off as there were 27 laps to go. That's when Chas from District Velocity went past, looked back at me like, "C'mon let's go" and I didn't respond. We both had worked hard the day before and I questioned his move so early in the race - a mistake I won't again make. So much of racing is knowing your competitors. In this photo notice the lines on the wall in the background - it's not been shifted, he's that low. Impressive.
2 more laps later he was joined and the win was in jeopardy. Another view of the divot-turn
When an ABRT rider launched ahead I joined him and we worked together to bridge the gap.
But the gap was too big for us both, we were caught with only a few laps to go. The pack slowed a bit when they caught us, typically another attack would go away but none did. I didn't have it in me to continue pulling and asked the boys to come through. A couple did and Tony from District V gave me a welcome push on my back - the guy is first class. I got back into the draft and took a few deep breaths before the bell lap began.
The guys in the break battled for 1st and Chas didn't have the kick so he took 2nd. We rounded the last corner really fast and I took it tight so I could get around the 2 in front of me. In a split second that little voice of doubt asked, "So do you deserve it?" and my legs screamed back "Yes!"
It was only for 3rd but that sprint was not easily won. I made it to the line first but a half second past it I was passed not knowing for sure who took it. The guy who passed me, a very nice guy from Syn Fit said I had it. Results were posted and the smile sank in. I think the best part however, was the slow lap we took after finishing and chatting with the guys. Everyone seemed really stoked, I got a few pats on the back and a couple handshakes. At races, there is generally only one guy who doesn't have room to complain but it's so nice to not hear a string of excuses or negative energy after a race. Everyone but that one guy has a part of them unhappy for not winning but racing with seasoned guys you start to realize half the fun is being part of it - racing. Most guys at 40 spend the weekends screaming at the tv shoving loads of garbage into themselves and talking about their good 'ol days.
I had to bail on the 2nd race of the day tho I'd have liked to see how I would have fared. Instead I raced home to join friends old and new on a tour of the White House led by my old friend and team mate Iggy who works in the presidential food service. I was joined by my good friends Mark & Sara from East Of Maui Annapolis, Stephanie and a couple other friends of Iggys.
I guess they used to have some short folks working there...this is Iggy emerging from a halfling-door.
His office is in the old Executive Building.
This is where Iggy parks his ride.
I found the stairs visually stunning.
As well as the skylights.
And the paintings & sculptures
Snipers are always cool
They don't let you take photos in the White House like they once did so not much to show there. But it was nice to be on the inside of this door.
As the amelioration process continues, I find myself paying more attention to the positive things in life and learning (tho it's not easy for this kid) to let go of the negative. I've always appreciated my friends & family and worked hard at keeping them close but perhaps now I'm focusing on giving more positive back to them. It's not easy to change old habits, to break free of one's self in an effort to build a better one. However I am learning, working and trying.
Life is challenging, like a bike race. It's not so much about who gets there first, it's so much more about how you train for it, how you prepare. Then on race day how you handle yourself through all the shit that is thrown at you from the moment you line up to the drive home and after. Will you point fingers and shout blame at those around you for mistakes you know you made? Or will you give credit to those who beat you on the day and wait patiently for your success to come? Will you lie about the answer you gave when that little voice of doubt asked "can you?" Or will you take the good with the bad and learn from them both to grow better? I believe the answers are what make up each and every one of us.
I am becoming a better racer, a better team mate, a better friend and a better person. For those close to me, thank you for your patience. It's taken a while but at 41 years of age I'm getting to know truth, happiness and I think finally - the self I want to be.
(and thanks to those whose photos I poached)