On 303Cycling: Life After Racing

In my second article on 303cycling I explored what happens when a cyclist transitions away from competition. I’ve been fortunate to have gotten to know quite a few former elite athletes the past couple years, and from talking to them some common themes kept coming up when it came to discussing life after competition. Yet I didn’t see much written about the topic. I think more of the racing community experiences this to a degree than people realize. Even if you’re just no longer racing at a level you were accustomed to, there’s a sense of loss for the person that you used to be and the things you used to be able to do.

From what I can see, based off the social response and numbers, the article has been very popular. That’s both relieving and exciting. It’s an article about cycling, but I think the themes and ideas here can be helpful to anyone who can no longer participate in any sport to a level they once did. I know that I personally experienced a rough adjustment when we moved from the mountains back to “real life” in Boulder and we couldn’t ski or ride (snowboard) like we used to be able to. Snowboarding had been this huge passion of mine, but suddenly it was just thing that frustrated me and pissed me off because it wasn’t what it used to be. I hated sitting in traffic, standing in line with all the other weekend warriors, and not having the confidence that comes from being on the snow every day. Finally I just pretty much stopped skiing altogether, and while that was great because I got more serious about mountain biking, also made me sad because snow was such a big part of who I was before this. So talking to Shawn and Carrie and writing this was actually a cathartic process for me as well — in short, I took a lot of their advice to heart personally.

The other thing I love about the fact that this piece was so popular is that, without screaming “THIS IS AN ARTICLE ABOUT WOMEN’S CYCLING!!!!”, the article stars two impressive, kickass women — mental skills coach Carrie Cheadle and former pro cyclist Shawn Heidgen. In particular I loved being able to highlight Shawn’s extensive racing and coaching experience. I’m excited that the post has proven to be relatable to both men and women, yet showcases the experiences of a highly accomplished, tough-as-nails, fierce competitor and experienced coach — who just happens to be a woman.

I can’t thank Shawn and Carrie enough for so generously (and bravely) sharing their professional and personal perspectives.

Here’s the full article on 303cycling.

An Acquired Taste

Sometime in early August I was up in Winter Park attempting to pre-ride the course for a XC race. I was turned around somewhere between Winter Park and Fraser, having gotten my printed directions out for about the 7th or 8th time, and I had backtracked along a steep forest service road 2-3x already looking for the next turn onto singletrack. Suddenly, I was just…tired. I felt like I had spent so much of my summer like this. Lost in the Colorado backcountry on my bike in the middle of some 6-hour solo. Getting rained on or hoping not to get struck by lightning up at over 9,000 feet. Hiking up some loose rocky forest service road that I sucked too much to ride. Etc, etc. I more or less bailed on the next dirt road I saw after that and rode out the rest of my day feeling kind of defeated. The next weekend I rode our local trails from Boulder to Lyons and I was happy to ride these straightforward blue squares. For the time being, I was tired of struggling on my bike.

Yesterday was the first time in a few weeks that I did a longer ride in the high country since the Stinger. There was lots of rocks and lots of climbing, and not very much oxygen at 11,400 ft. I crashed hard and hit my head on a root once (thank God for helmets). There were impossibly tight switchbacks and some creek crossings I had to walk my bike over. There were a couple long grinds where my mind went numb. In short, it was like how I’d spent a lot of my summer.

And when I woke up this morning all I wanted to do was be back out there. To ride through dense aspen groves and grind away up lung-searing climbs while the valley opened up beneath me, making my jaw drop from the exertion and the beauty. To feel the satisfaction of either maneuvering my bike over some big rock or root or acknowledging that for now this was above my level, and getting off respectfully to walk it. To ride for five or six hours straight and never stop feeling at least a little bit lost. I thought of riding the smooth, buffed out trails around town and felt uninspired. They seemed safe, familiar, predictable.

***

I think I finally get that adage, “If you’re not hiking, you’re not mountain biking.” I guess anyone who spends enough time riding dirt eventually grows to fall in love with the struggle, and well they should. Because it just comes hand in hand with the adventure.

Vitamin M

I’ve spent a bit of time in the mountains the past several days. During the week, I stayed with a friend up in Coal Creek Canyon who had just had surgery. She and her husband are both ex pro cyclists and they live in my dream house perched up at 9,000 ft. The only way I can really describe it is that their house is what it looks like when two people have spent years together being in love with the same things about life and each other. I found myself hoping that one day I’d live in a house like that too.

For the long weekend Steve and I had plans to get away to Crested Butte, but it looked like rain so about 3 hours into drive we decided to just stay put where we were – in the funky, artistic little town of Salida, well off the path beaten by our fellow Labor Day warriors. We pitched our tent in an aspen grove and rode straight from camp to the trail. We slept in and enjoyed slow cups of coffee in the morning. We talked for hours by the fire, and though we live under the same roof it felt like we were old friends catching up after months apart.

When you’re in the mountains, it is easier to remember how big the world is. It’s good for perspective. Good for the soul.

300 days of sunshine and short stories.

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