The End is the Beginning

Buffalo

(final post for Red Lantern Cyclist)

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I want to tell you this ends with me having some sort of enormous victory.  I want to tell you this ends with a race and a podium and a lifelong commitment to racing.  I want to assure you that the world always makes sense, that B always follow A, that triumph follows defeat, that things that are messy get cleaned up: fresh, new.

However, this is not the case.  I have decided to stop racing.

After taking my final Functional Threshold Power test and improving five percent (miraculous for me!), I have realized that I love training, but do not love racing.  I started to feel a sense of dread in thinking about all the races I would have to do this season.  I know this disappoints my team because it was lovely to be united.  I know it disappoints my coach because he has specifically made a sweet bike for me that I could have used for racing, but will now use for simply riding.  I know that with this decision comes a sense of “quitting.”

However,  I have realized that I am not good at racing.  I have been writing this project for over a year and a half now and it has always been important to me to encourage readers to do what they are not naturally good at.  I do believe this.  I believe this to be true, but I also believe something else.

I read my class a poem by Edward Dougherty.  It is about how a young persona quits football and expects his father to be mad; however, the father says, you have many gifts to offer this world and football may not be one of them.  This is how I feel about bike racing.  I do believe I have many gifts to offer this world.  I’d like to take the time to concentrate on some other writing projects I am doing for my MFA program.  For this, I have signed up for a printmaking class.  If I raced this summer, I would not be able to take the class.  When I read this poem to my class, one student responded that she didn’t believe in “quitting” but rather “rearranging.”  I completely agree.  I have rearranged my life to concentrate on the true gifts I have to offer the world.
Racing has absolutely given me gifts however.  I write this from Intelligensia Coffee in Chicago.  I have a new ring on my finger and I sit next to Vincent, who has a new ring on his finger too.  I asked him to marry me on the plane ride here, the rings, with the longitude and latitude of where we were born, stowed in my pocket.  I may not be a courageous racer, but I feel I am a courageous human being.  When I asked him to spend his life with me, my heart raced.  I started to cry, but I managed.

Cycling has empowered me in so many ways.  Two years ago I stood in the pub talking to Ethan, the owner of Campus Wheelworks.  I started to cry while speaking to him.  I said, “I’m not married and I haven’t published a book.”   He assured me that it didn’t really matter.  He conveyed that I was doing a good job, just as we all are.

He and the entire Buffalo bike community proceeded to envelope me into their arms and make me feel that this truly is my home.

After that conversation, and much reflection, I realize, we are all simply doing the best that we can and no one basically knows exactly what they are doing.  We are all lost salmon in the river, finding our way back home.  We are all always changing, always becoming new, always searching for our truer selves.

I have found my way back home in this cycling community in Buffalo, but I have also found something else.  I have found a strength inside myself.  I may have given up races.  I may have lost so many times in those races, but life itself is essentially not a race.  It is a messy, lovely, drunken, misstepped dance.  It is not a competition of who is better than who, but rather a celebration of you for you and me for me.

I may have given up racing, but through Red Lantern, through cycling, through racing, I have found something quite significant: I have found my voice.  I have used this voice in many ways, but the most recently being to ask someone to believe in me enough to spend his life with me.

I will continue to use my voice and the courage I have gained from simply riding a bike down paths, up hills, around and around and through.  I will continue to ride, to discover, to test my ability and my strength and to claim this courage that I have fought so hard for.  There has been much beauty in being the Red Lantern Cyclist and I have appreciated every moment of it.

Thank you for your readership and your continual encouragement in this entire project.

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Enter a New State of Mind

Winter Training

“When you go through the door of pain, you enter another state of mind.”–Marina Abramovic (from the film, “The Artist is Present”)IMG_0410

I have gone through the doors of pain.  I have pushed through a season of sadness, of hurt, of being dropped, of disappointment, of defeat after defeat after defeat and I have arrived to another state of mind.  I have entered into the room of hope, of power, of muscles moving, of legs remembering, of me this moment now, transcending all of the before.

This is what winter training is for me.  I am a new person.  This often happens in my life, where I arrive again, but I feel it here with bicycling.

I have found a winter training facility that I love and I go there and I practice.  I don’t just practice cadence and going at least 90; I practice my breath; I practice calmness; I practice strength.  My muscles are beginning to remember what it means to go fast, to dig deep into the well that is inside me and to pull from it the essence of myself: optimism.

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I know I can do this.  I can train hard.  When I am on that bike at the training facility, I am not only in that room, I am in those moments.  I am kinetic energy.  I am there happening.  My mind is clear and focused.  I see the television and I see the bike riders in France and I am there occupying my body.  I have trained three times this week and I hope to continue at least this much throughout these cold winter months.

This morning I trained at my teammate’s house and I got to be around my team; I felt energized and inspired.  I felt ready.  We are all in this together at all levels.  I didn’t know if I would be invited back on the team again this year, but I was, amazingly.

IMG_0412I realize on the bike that I am creating my story and I am the narrator of my story.  This is a story of getting up at 7 am on a Sunday to go ride on a trainer in a basement and sweat through my hat and my shirt and my pants and to feel the muscles in my body burn.  This is the story of connection: of mind to muscle.  This is me on a bike.  This is me redefining thirty.  This is me one pedal stroke at a time.  This is me training for something bigger than myself.  This is a story of triumph.

Failing can be Winning

Uncategorized

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For my art class, I had to make a postcard from my current self to my future self.  I chose to write to myself in March of next year.  This is when I will begin racing again and when I will get my custom bike from Nickel City Cycles, my team.  I am naming this bike “Athena” and for my art project, I used a photocopy of an owl I have from Athena’s temple in Greece.  The funny thing is that when I wrote the date on the postcard I actually wrote March of last year, so without consciously being away of it, I was sending this postcard to my past self.  I realized I am already the future self I intended to be.

This blog is supposed to be about failing.  Well, that’s the thing.  It’s supposed to be about failing, but I’ve come to realize: it’s not about failing at all.  It’s about winning.  It’s about succeeding.  It’s about doing what I can do and pushing myself out of my moments of comfort.  It’s about being the person I want to be.  It’s about biking, but it’s about so much more than biking.

Since I have started this biking blog, I have lost over and over again.  I have never set foot on a podium.

But.

Since, I have won a fiction award, I have gotten into a fiction and poetry MFA program and I have gotten to write for a professional cyclist’s website.  This, to me, is not failing.

Since I have started this biking blog, I have been hit by a car but continued to bike.  I have joined Nickel City Cycles.  I have competed in road, criterium and circuit races.  Since starting this blog, I have gone mountain biking.  I have ridden at night in the dark.  I have climbed hills at cyclofemme.  I have biked from Amherst to Wilson, NY by myself.  This, to me, is not failing.

I am writing to you to tell you to risk something.  I’m writing to you to tell you to try something that you think you’re going to fail.   I’m writing to tell you that you will fail.  In so many ways, you will fail but there will come a time, when you will realize, you have gotten something so tremendously wonderful out of this experience and this will nearly make you want to cry and in this way, you will know, that there is very little you cannot do in this world.

I don’t know what I think of the blog as a form of art.  I think in some ways it is kind of strange, but in other ways, it is so perfect.  It is me writing to you and you writing to me.  In the course of this journey, people have actually started following this blog.  I have gotten all sorts of comments from people.  From a professional cyclist in France to a woman whose son has Autism to many people who seemed to be interested in motivation and hope.   I have also received numerous comments from my own community here in Buffalo, New York.  These comments are, quite honestly, what have kept me going.

My friend the other day told me, “You haven’t written for a post in a while.”  This seems to be the biggest motivation of all: someone is actually reading what I am writing.  They actually seem to want to read more of it.

My next step in the next few months will be to chronicle my winter training ups and downs.  There was a moment in this last month which I thought I might stop this project, but I have decided to keep going.  I need this in my life.  I need to document this experience.

As a writer, I mostly write alone and send out my work and then wait for the rejection letter.  This, it seems, is part of a creative lifestyle.  This blog to me has immediate response and encouragement.  It is completely different than all other writing in my life.

So, to anyone reading this now, thank you.   Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read these thoughts.  When I hear from you, I feel that the world is a little closer, a little more comfortable.  There is order.

Thank you for reading.  I am so excited to continue to write this journey.