Six months ago, my hands were calloused and I had belongings scattered across three states. This week, the majority of my material possessions reside under one roof (an unexpected relief) and my hands are soft and pink. I’ve watched the signs of my time as (what? a nomad? a “climber”? a non-contributing member of society?) fade with mixed feelings. They’ve been good times, and I know other seasons will be dedicated to struggling once more in high places. Just not this season. This is the season I got back in the saddle.
I think there was something weirdly personal for me about coming back to cycling; a kind of grudge I felt I had to work through, and the only way I could figure was to throw myself at the sport, flat out, as hard as I could. For a couple months there I was a simple kind of girl, who wanted nothing more from life than to get as tired as I could as often as I could. The hope (I suppose) being that somewhere in the bits of clarity that come with getting truly worked, I’d rediscover whatever spark once made me love this stuff so much.
It wasn’t pretty. I accidentally-on-purpose missed half the events I planned to do, and randomly showed up at ones well beyond a reasonable person’s calendar. I barely kept track of my workouts and flat out refused to use a heart rate monitor, which is not to say I was slacking off. I was riding. A lot. Probably too much. I figured the events I payed attention to were simply the ones that demanded my attention, and my workouts felt best when done for myself. I felt very zen, but I rode mostly like crap.
My first big try was Tour of the Gila, during which I camped in a van and raced with the flu. On a whim, I then headed up for a butt-kicking at the Teva Games. A few weeks later I raced the Winter Park Hill Climb- and logged my first two century rides commuting to and from the start. At the ProXCT in Missoula I got my first concussion, and two weeks later I did my first marathon mountain bike race in Breck. When I wasn’t doing big races I was doing small races, and when I wasn’t doing small races I was doing stupidly big rides. It was all very hard, and I got very tired on a regular basis, just like I wanted.
…But that was it. And then suddenly July was over and my grudge-match of a season had slipped by without much of a fight. No lightning bolts of realization; no signs from the universe- I’d had a lot of fun with friends and family on bikes, but all in all my whirlwind tantruum against the sport I love amounted to little more than a gasping puff of thin, high-altitude hot-air.
And what did I expect? It’s a sport. You cant settle a grudge with a sport any more than you can settle a grudge with a mountain, or a rock, or a lake. We will ultimately play no part in the existence of these things- but if we let them, they just might play a part in ours.
So when I was given the opportunity to do maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, I accepted not with any more scores to settle, but with curiosity, excitement and substantial concern for my personal wellbeing. As far as existence-altering experiences go, this one might be the real deal; The Breck Epic is six days, 240 miles and 40,000 feet of already high-altitude climbing, all with a bunch of other hooligans who do this for fun. I have no idea how to survive something like this, let alone race it. Yet here I am, one day already in the books, and all I can tell you is that I’m psyched. It’s beautiful up here and I’m about to get really, really tired.