Thursday, October 20, 2011

You're Either IN or You're Out.

(Crossing the line as the all female amateur National Champion: IN)

In the cycling world
you’re either IN or your OUT.

I’ll admit that I’m a Project Runway fan, I watch it when I can and I enjoy seeing the art form of the fashion world. The main saying in the show is “in the fashion world; one day your in and the next day your out.” While we all know this is true with fashion, think about how more true it is with cycling. If your not out racing or taking part in cycling... your considered out.

Sure, your legend may live on and people may remember your name, but you’re only as good as your last race and the second you fall off the pace... well, you fall off the pace. The cycling world moves on, there is no art work or piece of clothing to carry you on, just the sport itself, it rolls on to the next hopeful just like the circles keep rolling on down the path.

I know I always stress that cycling (bike racing) needs to be done for self fulfillment. I always try to represent that to others and always remind myself that goals for racing, although we race against others, need to be based on personal standards. I think the above fact even stresses that more, if your looking to be a legend to others in cycling... that is a rare thing and you may find you feel a bit empty in your later years if that was what you were hoping for. But if you ride for yourself... not matter if you race, retire, or get a little setback from a injury your always IN.

So every year I make a little fall trip to Brown County Indiana with my Mom. The trip this year was loaded with emotion and some reflection as you can imagine. For the past 4 yrs. or so we scheduled this trip around the Blooming cross OVCX race, as we did this year. I was all set to make a ovcx race appearance, until a nasty flu bug decided that I better wait for that until a later time. Bummer. I was out again for that one. It’s hard to believe, but that the last ovcx race that I did was last year’s B’town race after breaking my ribs at Harbin Park just before that. It has been a series of unfortunate events for me it seems for the last year (or the last 4 years really). I know it seems like I’m “out” of the cycling world to most, but I never really felt like I left, I enjoy the moments I have on the bike even more even though my moments may have different purposes from time to time. I’m very much “in” in my opinion.

We were also here about 4 months ago. We came down for me to get in some hilly training miles and also do the Dino Brown County mtb race. We had a great trip, I won the race, and I was super focused on getting in some good training for this cross season. My mind set at the time was to enjoy the moment, but I was also full of excitement for the fall for cyclocross. Well, one week after that trip events changed my life forever, and my mindset 4 months later is a bit different than what I thought it would be. Instead of tackling the cx season fully fit and ready, I am taking life day by day and making the very best of the situation and the time I have here on earth. I still have the intention of returning to racing someday at a high level... because I enjoy it. It’s just a bit interesting how different my intentions are this trip compared to the last one, yet I’m still loving every minute of it. I was fortunate to get in a sweet, crisp road ride around Bloomington the first day we arrived. Yesterday, I ended up with 4 hours in the saddle on the mtb. It wasn’t so much that I was excited about “training” for 4 hours, it was that I was ABLE to ride for 4 hours and take in so much sweet single track and beauty around me. It felt so good to feel the flow of the singletrak below me, to feel the thrill of the mtb roller coaster, and be IN the woods with the fall trees surrounding me.

Today I’m all set for a rainy road ride. Rainy rides have a greatness all themselves, especially in the fall. Embro, shoe covers, apres velo coffee, and a rain jacket. I love it.

I’m a bike racer that isn’t racing right now, but before I was a racer I was a bike rider at heart and that will always be IN me.

IN me till the day I die.

Are you IN?
Or are you OUT?

That’s really your personal choice.

(And still IN doing a small Kisscross race in Michigan)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lord Don't Move My Mountain!

All I ask is that You give me the strength to make it up it!

That has to be one of my favorite quotes as of late. I've never been shy of a good challenge. I've climbed the mountain, been knocked down, climbed it again, and repeated that routine several times. I have to admit that sometimes I wish that maybe I didn't fall so far down sometimes and a good long break at the top would have been nice to enjoy the hard work and resulting success I've worked for... but I really do like the journey up the mountain and I enjoy the challenge, so I'm in a positive mind frame to make the best out of getting knocked well below sea level this time.

How many times do you get knocked down before you give up? It's like watching a boxing match and seeing the guy get pounded hit after hit and he still stays on his feet and tries to put up a good fight. Some hate to see the beating and wish he would just lay down and lose, some are amazed he fights on, some just don't understand and step out of the arena. The fighter doesn't know any other way but to do what is so instinctive to him. He keeps fighting. He may not like what is happening, he may feel defenseless, but he keeps on until he recovers or get knocked out.

I won't particularly say I "like" where I'm at today. But I'm HERE and I'm doing the same the boxer would. I just keep fighting, it's the only thing I know. I know a few people think I should just "settle down" and quit fighting, some just don't understand the drive to move on, but it's all I know how to do. It's just who I am. I can't just take it away. Some days still feel really bad, but some days feel really normal, some moments are back to how I used to feel. Everyday I keep looking up at the peak and know I can make it back up there again. It's just that the ascent is a bit more rockier this time. One of these days I'll get knocked out... I won't make back up the earthly mountain. I am very much aware of that more than I would have ever thought possible, but for now I will carry on.

So on those notes I am slowly noticing my endurance is getting better the last couple weeks. It's been almost four months now and by all accounts of the medical experts, they are amazed at how I'm progressing. A longer day at work isn't as exhausting. I can even do other things after I get done with work instead of come home and sleep for hours and hours. I still require a minimum of 10 hours of sleep a day to function... but now I know to adjust my life for this. Not bad considering I was too sick to take my trash out 2 months ago!

(Thank goodness the barriers still felt like second nature to me.)

I've been able to ride the bike a bit more too and even snuck in a Kisscross "race" this past weekend. Sure, I did the "B" race and sure I could only go one steady speed, but I somehow won and even beat a few guys in the process. It just felt so good to get out and be in a competition that didn't involve me fighting for my life. Talk about a lot less pressure!

(My friend Anne's 14 yo daughter also did her 1st cross race... and won!)

I also got to run my first race for my new team, Bob's Red Mill Cyclocross. I'll be racing for the raddest food company I know all cross season and look forward to representing at some bigger races later in the season. For now, I'm just getting back out in the mix of things. Don't be fooled and think I plan on being super competitive for a while yet, I still have some major recovery to do. But at least I'm heading back up the mountain!

(Felt so good to line back up on the start again)

Go live your life to the fullest everyday people! Don't be afraid of the mountain. Embrace it. Take it on! Enjoy the journey and the amazement of your accomplishment as you make it along the way.

As a special note:

I felt one of the most difficult parts of being in the ICU was knowing my parents and loved ones had to face the real truth that their daughter may not live. I can't even begin to imagine that pain and they are still greatly affected by that.

It's been especially hard for me to have known someone my age that shared the same love as cycling as me since I've met him when I was twelve, recently pass away from an accident. I was so, so very close to not being here myself and it brings up all those emotions of dealing with all the aspects of facing my own illness and near death for me and my parents who also knew him.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the family and loved ones of a great guy I grew up racing BMX with and someone who I always felt lived life to the fullest. Please pray to help them cope with their recent loss.

(Robbie doing some rad single speed work, building my IF along side a young I. Neff)

Robbie Gast