Cindy stripped the ball from the other team’s point guard, and I started sprinting towards the other side of the court as hard as I could. We knew each other’s style so well we didn’t even have to lock eyes to know what was about to happen. I put my hand up and she threw the ball in my direction. I saw it spinning towards me in what appeared to be slow motion, and I knew I would only have a second to get it up in the air. Desperation three-pointers are one of the most beautiful things, and even more glorious when you hit bottom. The crowd noise dug deep into my gut, and I felt the adrenaline rush over me with a quickness. In that moment, every single thing I had experienced up until that point was worth it. At the time, this was simply high school basketball, but I have learned this experience applies to almost everything else in my life.
Yesterday’s race was my desperation three-pointer. I made a promise to myself that I would stop racing for a while if I couldn’t figure out how to move past the traffic jam in my head. I spent the week involved in something that resembled the training I used to know, and I put a little more energy into getting where I want to be in many different aspects of my life. Since day one, cycling has been something of a paintbrush for me. It’s been a way to express myself in a manner that few people relate to. Racing has always provided me with two things; enjoyment and the expression of spirit. When all of those things are no longer present, that’s when you have to take a step back and reevaluate.
The start was narrow and slow, and allowed me to hold back my excitement for a change. This course was very much a mountain biker’s course, and I knew I had the ability to demonstrate a somewhat flawless performance if I could stay out of my head. I wasn’t comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, but my body seemed to be working in my favor. My leg pain was kept at a minimum, and my lungs were pacing along nicely. I felt the flow off the bike, and seemed to float through the barriers. I never got in a place I couldn’t recover from, and I always had enough juice to get out of the saddle coming out of every turn. It was like watching Larry Bird score 43 points against the Cavs in 1986.
As I rounded the final turn on the last lap, I felt the adrenaline rush come over me. I couldn’t stop grinning, and quite surprised I didn’t get teary. The battle I had been fighting with myself for the last few weeks was over, and I had solved all the world’s problems with 45 minutes of pain. A well-earned 2nd place in an amateur bike race seems trivial to normal people, but as a friend recently pointed out, bike racers are not normal. I can attest to this.
And what’s better than one great race? TWO GREAT RACES. My girl Kelly was able to take the second step in her race after a long vacation from the ‘cross world. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my favorite thing with one of my favorite people.
I love being inspired. I find inspiration in so many things, and it’s always such a joy to discover it in places you never even imagined. I thrive on seeing the beauty in situations, even when they’re ugly and dark, and bike racing offers these gifts so eloquently. I wish more things delivered inspiration the way a bicycle does. This vehicle drives social change, personal relationships, foundations for living, and does so much to transcend the art of pedaling. Even road racing, with it’s often tarnished and damaged reputation, is a beautifully choreographed ballet demanding our utmost respect. It still moves me.
You have to embrace these moments, whatever they are. I’m sad for people who don’t get inspired often, or at all for that matter. Hope doesn’t keep things alive for me; inspiration does. Even if it’s something as small as watching toddlers ride Strider bikes on a pump track, let that shit inspire you. It’s even inside YOU. You can be the source of someone else’s inspiration. You could be the ah-ha moment in another person’s life, and there is no greater connection than that. We are all in this together, and you can choose to be silent, or be a source of joy and light for others. Which will you choose?
Since we don’t race on Sundays in Utah, I typically use this day to tend to myself. This often has different meanings from week to week, but I generally make time for a head-clearing bike ride to get me fresh for the impending doom of Monday. I love mountain biking, but adventuring on a ‘cross bike just does something to me that I can’t quite put into words. Today was one of those days, and the inspiration certainly made itself known. You can’t bottle it. You can’t put it in your pocket for later. You have to grab it when it’s there. These moments are precious and real and no Instagram is capable of capturing that.
I hope that you found some inspiration today.