We continue our series of posts from Salsa sponored riders sharing their gratitude for moments from 2016. -Kid
Winning (after trying over and over again)
It was 8:00 a.m. and I hadn’t stopped yet in the 24 hours of this small but contested race. On top of being in the lead, I was on pace to challenge the men’s record, held by Kurt. Half choking on a Nature Valley bar, I gulped down a can of sugary-milky-coffee-drink and steered my bike, no hands, down Route 66 while waiting for my phone to turn on. Once it did, I called Kurt.
“Kait!” he exclaimed into my ear.
“I’m doing it!!!” I cut him off, unable to contain my excitement.
“You’re ahead of Hunter! Don’t stop and he won’t be able to catch you!” he replied.
I had last seen Hunter at 1:00 a.m. sitting by the side of the Verde River. I had no idea where he was behind me, but it didn’t matter, my ride was going smoothly. I couldn’t control where he was; I could just keep going.
Eight hours later, I sprinted down the bike paths of Flagstaff to close the 250-mile loop in just under 32 hours - the second-fastest time on the route, ever. I was beyond thrilled, and Kurt was beaming. For the rest of the afternoon my face was stuck in a perma-grin as Kurt chattered on about how proud, impressed, and excited he was, how he had told me so, and so on. I half-listened and mostly relished the feeling of all the little pieces coming together for a smooth, fast ride; a ride that finally, after a lot of trying, reflected what I was capable of.
Earlier in the summer, I had announced to Kurt I was done trying to race ultras. This announcement came after a string of DNFs resulting from a plethora of problems that will squash racing attempts – random respiratory problems, crashing, mental-work-exhaustion. Maybe I would just go bikepacking and stop setting ambitious goals and do what I’m already good at doing. I even suggested that the universe didn’t intend for me to race. In response to my declaration, Kurt replied, “The universe has no plans for you.” Typically, in these conversations, the ones where I get hysterical and emotional, Kurt looks bewildered and offers consolation. This time, his response shut me up. He was right. And with that, I filed all the ultra-racing-attempts-gone-unsuccessful away as growing pains. I told my friends I was taking a break from goals. They laughed. I went running, instructed a river trip, went backpacking, and didn’t let myself worry about what I was trying to achieve. Instead, I patiently waited for the drive, inspiration, and focus to return. And it did.
When the group start of the Coconino arrived in mid-October, I held nothing but confidence. I knew how to do everything within my control to execute a clean ride. I also knew that there is an inherent level of uncertainty that every racer/adventurer must accept when setting out to reach an objective. And the thing is, on the Coconino Loop, I wasn’t graced with perfect luck. I had my share of weird hiccups but chose to meet them head-on and keep moving forward. And my body, head, and heart all showed up to play.
2016 challenged me at every turn. Some people would say that is because Saturn is in the same position in the galaxy as when I was born – or, Saturn Returns. In this case, the why doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I continue to show up to negotiate the challenges with grace. Ultimately, how we respond to challenge becomes a part who we are. The challenge itself isn’t our identity, but rather, how we greet it and do or don’t take it on, is what becomes a piece of us. I think there are times we need to hit “pause” and reflect or take space before carrying on toward a goal or risk losing focus of in what style we are trying to achieve goals, and why. My Coconino finish is the cherry on top of this lesson that I am grateful for in 2016.
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I have shaped my life around exploring remote and wild places by foot, rope, raft, ski and mountain bike. I would rather be sweating than sitting, surrounded by trees than walls, and lost in a canyon than navigating a freeway. As I spend more than half the year sleeping outside, I’ve come to believe that life's full potential can be realized through seeking, enduring and relishing adventure.