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thedirtfield TSA must require that I be hungover for all flights out of O'Hare.
- Worth A Visit
So I got an email this morning:
I understood the TRL reference, but I did have to Google it to figure out how one does a TRL-style shout-out. Apparently this is what it means to be old. Next I will be confused about The Facebooks and then start asking people to chew my food for me.
I wanted to fulfill her request, but needed a picture to go along with the post, so I Googled her name. A Twitter handle popped up (@MsJuliaSteele…NSFW) along with an assortment of related results.
And WHOA. THAT IS NOT MY SISTER-IN-LAW. My sister-in-law would describe herself in many amusing ways, but it is likely that none of them include the description “ASS WORSHIP QUEEN OF ATLANTA!”
But because she is my favorite sister and because she joined me in laughing recently when our waiter described a steak preference as “warm and pink on the inside”, this may have to come up in a toast at her wedding.
My cycling career began seven years ago today. It was the second race of the Wednesdays at Wakefield mountain bike race series, but my first race ever after only owning a mountain bike for a few weeks. Clipless pedals still freaked me out. I distinctly remember the race not being very fun; it felt like taking an activity I enjoyed and adding urgency to it. Why would I want to do that? Life is urgent enough; why do I have to ride fast too?
But then the results were posted and it turned out that I’d finished 3rd in the beginner women field. WHOA. I placed, which meant I was actually decent (!), but also that two women had ridden faster than me. I collected my bronze medal and free water bottle and then went on to let cycling take over my entire life and now I ride professionally.
It’s been a wild seven years. I can barely remember life before cycling; if you told me eight years ago that I was going to walk away from law school, become a professional athlete, and purposely blend spinach into my drinks every day, I would have laughed in your face. But here I am. It both scares and thrills the crap out of me to wonder where I’ll be in another seven years.
I’m still the treasurer of Potomac Velo Club, the group that puts on the Wednesdays at Wakefield series, which means I drop by the races every summer to distribute prize checks and collect registration fees. While I was there tonight, I handed out medals and water bottles to the three women on the podium for the beginner women’s race. All I said to them was ‘congrats, nice job, good work,” but what I really wanted to say is, “This could be the beginning of the most wonderful thing you’ll ever do with your life.”
There have been a lot of things that have gone wrong this season. I’ve struggled, cried, freaked out, and lost my head a few times, but in the end, I have come to this: I love to race my bike. It is easy to love racing when it is fun, when things are going well, when your results and your physical health are glowing. It is another thing entirely to come to the brink of quitting, to fail repeatedly and be totally broken down, and then claw your way back and decide you still love racing.
I still love racing. Love training. Love riding. I am still here.
Some people will probably remember me as the fragile person that imploded for several months this year. The rider with the eating issues who cried at race starts and backed away from challenges. I can’t change everybody’s minds. You can’t win ‘em all.
But hopefully more people will see that to fall apart and then willingly rebuild is an awesome thing. To nearly walk away and then decide to come back and embrace the sport fully feels to me like a deeper, stronger love than what I felt when everything came easy. I know now that I can love bike racing even when I suck, when I am afraid and weak and publicly humiliated by my failures.
Each race start since Philly has helped to reconstruct the foundation of the racer I used to be. I suffered, swore, gritted my teeth, even cried a little from pure exhaustion, but I wanted it again. To be part of the action, to work hard and support my team and be in the race. When I came home at the end of last weekend, it was with genuine excitement that I found and registered for a race for this upcoming weekend. There was a time a few months ago when I didn’t know if I’d ever feel that way again.
To my teammate Olivia, I want to say this: Admittedly, you can be kind of a bicycle dictator. I wasn’t kidding when I told Tayler that you scare me a little. But you have also been such an inspiration recently, because no matter what, you always show up and race your heart out. The fire and passion you bring to every race start has made me realize that we are so lucky to have these opportunities and we should make the most of them all. We joke that every race is your favorite, but I honestly feel like there’s some truth in that. You find a way to love each one and fight through it 100%. I want to be like that. While you have your scary moments, I am learning to appreciate them as you pushing me to be the best I can. Please don’t stop. It’s finally working and I’m so grateful.
I like bike racing again! It didn’t happen overnight; rather it was a progression from the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic through the Air Force Cycling Classic to the end of the North Star Grand Prix. But that’s a story for another post (which is code for “unmotivated to write about feelings at the moment”), so instead here are some photos from the weekend. I would put them on Instagram, except that I am making a point to never have an Instagram account since it seems to really bother a lot of people that I don’t. Sorry. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, and Gmail will have to suffice. Oh, and it is not true that “bitches love Pinterest” because frankly I am ambivalent. Foodgawker, however, is another story entirely.
Anyway. Photos from Philly: