AKA a day to celebrate the most impressive people on this planet: moms. And my mom really is impressive. and kind. and beautiful. and inspiring.
Happy Mother's Day. I've always thought that Mother's Day was a weird thing to celebrate, not because it does not deserve celebration, but because it's only ONCE a year. I think it's silly to have one day a year that we are supposed to be overly appreciative of our mothers, rather than being appreciative and grateful everyday. And I say this because I'm guilty of falling for the Hallmark trap. I know that I don't show you gratitude and appreciation every day. I take you for granted often, because you have always been there for me. I've never known a time that you haven't been there for me, that you haven't had my back. But that's totally flawed on my part. So here's a very cliche, and very sincere letter of appreciation for you on Mother's Day.
Melanie and Beth told me a story about when they first met you, and how they searched endlessly "to find a flaw on Janey." They told me the only thing they could find was your ankles... which is pretty damn impressive, especially considering how well you wear heels. I know you have flaws, like that you work too hard, and you're a perfectionist, but it's only because you're running the world. To me, you are perfect. The other day when we were out shopping you turned and laughed at me and the smile on your face and in your eyes will be stuck in my head forever. I look at you and aspire to be as amazing as you are. When people find out I'm your daughter, they smile and tell me some story about you, about how much respect they have for you. And it's because you have done so much good, because you have worked hard for so many people-friends, family, employees, students-because you stand up for others, and because you care.
With that, I'd like to thank you. I would like to thank you for everything you do for me, and dad, and Jake, and Grandpa, and everyone else in your life. Thank you for working so hard to give me everything I've ever needed, wanted, and more. Thank you for always loving me, unconditionally, no matter how much of a brat I may have been (or may be in the future). Thank you for always supporting me, letting me chase my dreams, and following beside me. Thank you for keeping me grounded and for not letting me get my head too far up my ass. Thank you for pushing me, for challenging me, and always reminding me that life is a beautiful gift. Thank you for letting me cry when I'm tired, or stressed, or upset. Thank you for being a wonderful and inspiring role model to me and so many others.
I could write you pages, but I know you know how much I love you. So I trust that you will go do at least a few things for yourself today, even if it's only working out and getting a pedicure, because you deserve it today and every day. I'm going to try to not waste your money by passing my EMT practicals.
I love you to the moon and back.
As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today, an article posted over at ZGiRLS titled, "Glitter, Ribbons, Bulk, & Braids: Being a Girl in the Masculine World of Sports" caught my eye. It was a great post and you should click the link and read it for yourself. If you're too lazy to read it yourself, my shortened version of the story follows below.
It is the undeniable truth that the world of sports is dominated by men. We idealize these men because they are strong, powerful, confident, and aggressive. No one cares how big and broad shouldered a professional football player is. No one cares how big Aksel Svindal's thighs are. Why? Because their build is an asset to them in their respective sports. We don't make rude comments about the size of the clothing or their insane muscle definition. We don't care how much they weigh. We don't care that they are confident and aggressive (for people who are not professional athletes we call this "cocky"). Yet, none of this holds true for the opposite sex. If you're a woman with a strong, powerful, muscular build, you apparently no longer look like a woman. Despite your hair, makeup, soft face, and boobs, you look like a guy. What?
The article goes in depth about criticism of Lindsey Vonn, Serena Williams, Rhonda Rousey, Misty Copeland, etc. and how they are labeled as manly based on their builds and their attitudes. For some reason, it doesn't matter that Lindsey Vonn's legs are strong enough to carry her down the steepest, iciest, gnarliest downhill course in the world at 75 mph, or around a corner pulling 2 G's. What matters is that she isn't a size 4. Who cares that she WILL break the all-time wins records (86)? Psh, not me. All I want to know is why she was ever dating Tiger.
That's ridiculous and it's mean and it's disrespectful. I know, because I can't tell you the amount of times I've been told, straight up or in a round-about way, that I'm built like a guy. I've learned to laugh. I'm 5'10, I weigh 150 pounds. When I was ski racing I consistently weighed between 160 and 170 pounds. I have hardly any body fat. What I do have, is a set of incredibly strong legs and a butt to match. My shoulders are broad and my deltoids and biceps are definitely bigger than Adriana Lima's. I am a product of sport. I am a product of 10 years of training. I've worked damn hard to be as strong as I am, so piss off.
Those comments don't bother me, and they sure as hell don't bother Lindsey (an Austrian coach once made a comment that the only reason she was faster than all the other girls was because she's fat... right), or Serena, or Misty, or Rhonda. Who those comments might bother though, are young girls, or women looking at getting into a sport. That bothers me. Please imagine for one moment that you are a 12 year old girl, you love skiing, and you want to go to the olympics. In the next few years you'll start spending more time in the gym, you'll start lifting a lot, you'll get really strong, and because you're a girl, you'll grow faster than the boys. You're taller and generally just bigger. Now you're 15. You're a great ski racer. You're strong and powerful and fast and determined. But you're bigger than all of your friends and you start to hear comments about how weird it is that you're so strong (especially from silly 15 year old boys)--except they won't say strong, they'll say big. At this point in your life, you just want to fit in. You stop conditioning as much, you're skiing suffers or you get hurt, because you wanted to fit it and be normal.
I know this happens, because I've been there. I was the little girl in the gym at 12 years old. I could squat twice my body weight at 15. I was stronger than I have ever been at 18. It didn't matter that I was built the way I needed to be to be a competitive ski racer--I was poked fun at all the time. Thankfully I had a solid head on my shoulders and coaches to reassure me, otherwise I may have ended up being the girl that quit at 16 so she could fit in. Even now, I'm much slimmer than I was and I train for a completely different sport, I still get told that I'm "pretty heavy" for a mountain biker.
If I were a guy, that wouldn't be an issue in my discipline. Strength is equally as important as endurance. But, I'm a woman, and it's weird. That has to change. The stigma around female athletes needs to disappear. Women have to be strong like men to be SAFE and COMPETITIVE in their respective sports, yet women are criticized for being strong. BUT women also get criticized for being feminine in sports. Don't be too pretty, or you'll be deemed a barbie doll. Don't be too proud of that body you worked damn hard for, and don't even think of showing it off, because you'll be blamed for sexualizing your sport. And this isn't just a guy thing. Women feed into this just as much. Shame on us.
Ladies, be proud of your body--size 2 or size 10, 5'0 or 6'2. Work hard and be healthy. Be strong so you can be safe. Be strong so you can be competitive. Encourage other women and young girls to strive to be strong, not stereotypical.
A verb or a noun, depending upon the context. To be balanced is to be steady; mentally and physically. To be balanced is to be in a position to react. Balance is having the elements of your life in the correct proportions. Balance is something that can be natural, but often balance is something that you must find. Balance is something that must be maintained, because it can slip away, sometimes without you realizing it.
Lessons in balance often come with lessons in gravity--learning how to sit yourself up, how to crawl, how to walk, run, ski, or ride a bike. Lessons in balance can be coupled with time management--balancing school with sports, friends with family, work with play. Balancing a check book. Eating a balanced diet. These are all things that require conscious thought and effort. But what about the balance that is effortless and subconscious? I don't know if that's the best way to describe it, but it works for now. I'm talking about that natural balance in your life that is achieved by simply following your instinct. It is a balancing of the mind and body that only comes by following your heart.
Recently my mind and body have been a little off balance. My body has been so pissy and my mind has been all over the place. Who knows the exact cause--stress with school, not enough sleep, not eating the right foods--probably an amalgamation of all of these things. Regardless, it's frustrating to feel crappy. I would be feeling great and go out on a ride and have my legs fatigue faster than a tourist could ask me how to get to the vortex. Then I would beat myself up about feeling tired or weak. So I decided to just push harder because surely I could get over the hump if I just worked through the pain and fatigue. Of course I know that is total BS, I've tried that before. But I'm stubborn so I did it anyway. On one ride a few weeks ago I was so miserable all I could do keep myself from having a mental breakdown was to repeat out loud to myself, "keep pedaling, you are not weak. Keep moving" over and over. That afternoon I walked into the gym and I didn't have to say a word. Gary looked and me all he said was, "listen to your body, Alex. Take a break."
To my benefit, I listened. I took a break. I did nothing but let my body recover. I've hardly ridden since then. Partially due to the fact that Sedona has been a sloppy mess for a few weeks, and partially because at this point in time, I don't want to ride bikes. Right now I want to ski. When I wake up in the morning my feelings are to go outside and breathe thin, cold air; to bundle up and put on ski boots. It is effortless. I quit ski racing in April of 2013. Between the last two winters I only skied 15 times due to injuries. I think I've already skied 15 days this year. I almost forgot the way skiing makes me feel. It brings me such deep rooted happiness I can't even explain it. Subconsciously, I knew that I needed to feel that easy, stress free, light-heartedness.
I'm finding my balance again. My body is healthier and my mind is happier. I have accepted the fact that I need to take time away from my bike, so that I will be balanced when I'm ready to start riding and training again. I'm not worried about missing training days or miles. All I care about is the width of the smile on my face. So for now, I'm going to keep letting mother nature decide whether I'm riding my bike or skiing.
My life is beautiful. My life has been beautiful since the day I was brought into this world. Since April 22, 1994, I have been surrounded by amazing people who care about me more than I can comprehend. I was born into a world where I already had life-long friends. I was born into a world where I didn't just have my own incredible parents and family to raise me and take care of me and teach me, believe in me, support me, and love me, I have several other mom's and dad's who have raised me, taken care of me, taught me, believed in me, supported me, and loved me. As if it's not enough to already have a huge family, I have an extended family that I can't even begin to count. All of these people collectively have made me the person that I am. They have all taught me different lessons, but the common thread of their teachings is this: live passionately and with purpose, because you only have one life to live.
I try to not ever forget this. And I typically don't. But we're all human, and sometimes in the midst of all our happiness and perfection, we forget that we aren't guaranteed this beautiful life forever, the only thing we are guaranteed is change; for better or for worse. We forget that life is ruled by entropy; a lack of order or predictability. We forget that life happens and life happens fast. We forget that disease, illness, injury, and death do not discriminate, no matter how good of a person you are. And that pisses me off.
I'm not a religious person, I've never been. But I've always been a spiritual person. I believe in destiny and fate, I believe in Karma, I believe in the power and will of the human mind, I believe that our souls and our energy always carry on, and ultimately I believe that good things should happen to good people and bad things should not. But obviously that is not the case, because terrible things happen to good, innocent, underserving people all the time. And that hurts my head and my heart.
My first true encounter with this kind of unfairness was when I was 15. This was when my little brother was finally diagnosed with Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy I, a degenerative muscle disease in the same family as ALS, after years and years of trying to figure out what was going on. Type-I DM is more severe than type-II; my brother has type-I. The next shock came when I was 18, when Nate Avery unexpectedly passed away after slipping and hitting his head at Lake Powell. Just this week, one of my very best friend's dad, who has been like a surrogate father to me my whole life, was just diagnosed with brain cancer. On what planet is that fair? On what planet is that part of a plan? My brother is the most incredible, kind, and loving person I know. Nate was a neurosurgeon with the biggest heart. Brian is the father of 4 of my closest friends with an infectious laugh and an eye for fun that is unmatched.
The unfortunate realization is that life isn't fair, and disease and death don't care how great or how rotten you are. These things happen for no reason at all. The best part is this: life carries on. Life hurts, and it hurts bad, but we (I'm speaking on behalf of all my lovely friends) are strong. Our parents raised us that way. They taught us to find beauty everywhere. They taught us to take tragedy and be productive with it. We know that there always always lessons to be learned, we know to open our eyes and our hearts, and live every day to the absolutely fullest, so that when our time comes, we haven't skimped out on anything in life.
Beth: I've thought you were Wonder Woman for as long as I can remember. I mean the resemblance between you and Diana Prince is uncanny... Which would explain so much. You are an incredible lady who has always put other people before yourself. You have a determination and resilience within you that is rarely found in other people (unless we count your kids). You've never looked at life and thought: why me? You've always looked at a challenge as an opportunity for growth and learning--and you never let anyone around you give up. You pick people up and carry them, and help them, and push them, and fight for them, which is why you are such a good wife, mommy, nurse, and mentor.
Charlie, Davis, Kegan, and Blake: You guys are the strongest, most amazing family I have ever known. Change is hard; I see my brother changing every single day. But ultimately, Jake is the same person he has always been: my little brother. He has a severe disability, but he is living HIS life in the best way HE can, every single day. He loves and is loved unconditionally. Your dad is the same. He will always be your dad. He will always be the same amazing person he has been, with the same passion for life he's always had, and he will always love you the same. He's instilled that character in all of you, and you guys will carry that with you forever. In the midst of all of this, don't forget to live your lives too; live your life the way your dad would want you to: make it fucking awesome.
Brian: You've always eaten dessert first, you never skimped out on life and fun. You are the greatest. You have an amazing family and an amazing support system standing by you. Nate's energy is with you. You're going to beat this one way or another, because that's the person you are. Keep that fire burning. I am so grateful and thankful I've had you and your family with me my whole life. I love you all.
I don't want to say that the hard part is over, because it's not. But now that we know the diagnosis, we can start to move forward, instead of standing stationary in a hospital room waiting for the doctors to tell us something. Brian is coming home, a place with much better energy and a lot more comforting than a hospital room, where he will be surrounded by dozens of people who love him and Mimi's cooking. Surgery is scheduled and from there the healing can start. We all need to put our best foot forward, look deep within ourselves and be there for Brian and the rest of the family, we all need to help them fight, and think all the good thoughts, so that from here onward, Brian gets to live his Best Life Ever.
To anyone reading this: please send all your love and positive thoughts to the Boyers. Say a prayer, write a note, replay a great memory with Brian, meditate, practice, hike a mountain, go skiing... Whatever you do, do it with passion for Brian.
It’s an age-old debate: are humans inherently good, or inherently evil? I wish for the former but typically only see the latter. But then again, I am a young, optimistic, naïve, liberal so I do indeed believe that all humans have the capacity to do and be good. There are so many moments when I am absolutely shocked and appalled by what someone or a group of people have done, but there are also shining moments of brilliance that always bring me back.
Over the last two days I have witnessed many moving events. On Saturday, hundreds of racers and event organizers headed out of Crested Butte towards Star Pass for the third stage of the Crested Butte EWS. It was the first of the day’s two stages. Very unfortunately, it was not written for the day’s events to take place. A vet-class rider, Will Olson, crashed on Trail 400 and died. A huge group of pro men and women stood at 12,000 feet, hearing desperate and bleak radio reports. We watched as an emergency helicopter flew over the mountains from Aspen, and almost as if mother nature knew what had happened, we watched a rain storm roll through the Gunnison National Forest.
Out of respect for Will and his family, the race was cancelled. A heavy feeling immediately fell upon all the racers, organizers, and the town of Crested Butte. A memorial ride was organized for today at noon, and over 200 people showed up to give him a proper send off from the mountain bike community. Racers from all over the world gathered for someone they didn’t know, and with complete sincerity celebrated his life. I have seen countless thoughtful and kind words from organizers, racers, and other cyclists following the tragedy.
These are the things that keep my optimistic heart beating. May you find endless, perfect single-track wherever your soul rests.
This race season has been more of a struggle for me than I really planned on. To start the season off, I had to pull out of the opening round of the BME in Snowmass after crashing in stage one. Super sick. Next came Keystone, where I felt like I had never ridden a bike before. With round five of the Enduro World Series in Crested Butte coming quickly, I was panicked. I came home from Keystone frustrated and disappointed. “What is wrong with me?” I asked myself over and over again. I couldn’t figure it out. I’m faster (and smarter) than I’ve ever been, strong, and fit, I have all the support I could ask for and am not under any pressure to do well. So what the hell was I doing with my head so far up my ass?
I like talking. I especially like talking when I’m looking for an answer. So I talked to anyone I thought might have an answer for me. The overwhelming and resounding answer I got back was, “You’ll figure it out, Alex. Quit caring and just go ride your damn bike.” Duh, thank you, still not what I was looking for. But there were two people who added something a little more—Gary Steffensen, a long time ski coach and strength coach of mine, and Ryan Geiger, my cycling coach and one of my best friends. Both of them told me something along the lines of, “We all know you’ve got it in you, we can sit here and tell you that you’re fast, but you shouldn’t rely on anyone besides yourself to get your confidence back. YOU need to tell yourself that you’re fast, and YOU need to believe it.” Yeah, yeah, I believe it. Whatever, not the answer I’m looking for.
Then it was off to Park City for a few days of riding before heading to Crested Butte for the EWS. The first day I was there I went out on an epic ride that took me up to the Wasatch Crest and dropped me back down into Canyons. I was grinning ear to ear the whole time, mostly because it was a beautiful day, I was on my bike, and the trails were incredible. But there was a very precise moment where there was a paradigm shift in my attitude. I was riding down a section of the Crest and went flawlessly flying (blind) through a rock garden. It scared me a little when I realized what I had just done. “You’re playing a dangerous game going this fast on a trail you’ve never ridden” I said out loud. But I didn’t slow down. I kept riding, all the way back to the resort base, 110% confident in my ability to ride my bike, and ride the trail blind, fast. It was during that sweet descent that I fully appreciated what Gary and Ryan had told me. “I am going to be fine. Just fine.” My soul was smiling.
My personal demon could not have been conquered at a better time, for it was off to round five of the EWS. Plenty of people arrived several days early to Crested Butte to ride, and to get acclimated to the high elevation. I arrived in Crested Butte on Wednesday afternoon. I had been hiking in Ouray for three days and consequently off my bike since the previous Saturday. On top of that, I hadn’t even ridden my Roubion since Keystone. I had been riding my Tallboy instead. There were two stages of the race I had never ridden, and I didn’t care at all. I had the chance to ride both of them, but I couldn’t be bothered. I played bike park all of Wednesday afternoon and went on a leisure ride with Beth on Thursday instead. I knew that I would be fine for the race.
Now here I sit after day one, very content with how I rode today. Granted, I had ridden the day’s stages before (Doctor Park and Roaring Judy). But I had a score to settle with the two trails. Day two of last years Ultra Enduro was Roaring Judy and Doctor Park. I crashed, clipping a bar on a tree, on Roaring Judy, broke my nose, rode Doctor Park with a concussion, and subsequently had to pull out of the race. Today I rode both stages without any crashes, mechanicals, or major mistakes. I rode like I would ride any other day, never pushing to the point of cross-eyed exhaustion, because I don’t really give a shit (I know I’m not going to beat T-Mo or Beerten no matter how hard I push), and still did relatively well. I’m sitting in 22nd out of forty-something, and I’m only ten seconds back from being in the top 20. SIACKKKKKK. To quote Adam Craig, “Welcome to the NGS program, Pavon!”
Are nerves of carbon better than nerves of steel? I'm not entirely sure, though I'm certain everyone has an opinion. Regardless, both are strong, steady, resistant to stress, and have a high fatigue limit.
(We don't care about the properties of alloyed metals and polymers, Alex.)
I'd like to tell you that I don't get nervous, but that would be a lie. I don't get nervous in the sense that I get sick, or dizzy, or shaken, but I definitely get a bit mentally-wound up. My heart races, my breathing quickens, I get this weird tingle in my neck and back, and I become hypersensitive to everything around me. When it comes to competition, who doesn't get that way? I mean, you are about to huck yourself down a mountain, riding a bike that is one-fifth of your body weight, probably only wearing knee pads and a helmet, as fast as you can manage. Add a timing chip and a roster of other fast people into the mix, and all of the sudden you are trying to go faster than you've ever gone before down some real gnarly stuff. That's a little intimidating; nerve-racking, you might say.
But being nervous isn't a bad thing. My nerves keep me in check. If I'm nervous about something on the trail or on a particular stage and I can steady myself about it before I leave the line, then I know I can do it. If I can't calm myself down and I'm still nervous when I leave the start, I know I should be a little more careful. Being nervous also helps me push myself a little harder. Nervousness helps me activate that [super] competitive part of my brain; it initiates my fight-or-flight reflex.
This is how my brain works: There is a level that I just ride and that I train at (sometimes), and then there is the level that I race at. Often I have been told to "train how you race and race how you train," but I'm fully convinced that we cannot ever train how we race. You can try--you can put yourself in the pain cave and push as hard as you can doing intervals or climbing, you can try and go flat out on a descent, but you will never be able to do the things you can do when you're racing when you're JRA. We can race at the level we train at, but not vice-versa. There are "race reserves" buried deep within our brains that can only be tapped into at the very instant before we leave the start line. Mine are activated by nervousness--I imagine two huge barrels of sparkling white liquid courage getting dumped into my head as soon as the ten-second beep sounds.
That beep is the last kick in the ass. That's the moment that the pressure is on, it's the last few seconds that you really have to think about what's coming, and the last few moments for you to breathe calmly and deeply before your heart rate sky rockets and you can't think anymore. When the five-second countdown begins is when I gage my gut; it's when I decide if I'm riding at 90, 100, or 110%.
For me, it's important to gut check myself, to quantify and qualify my nerves; are they push yourself nerves, or are they hold back a little nerves? How much do I push, how much do I hold back? I have a tendency to throw myself full tilt into just about anything when I'm racing, and that's not always the best idea. I've also done the opposite, and crossed the line knowing that I could've pushed myself more. So which would I rather? Risk it all and hope you don't lose it, or keep it together but cross the line wondering? I'm inclined to choose the first, but I know how much it sucks to get hurt. So where's the fine line? How long does it take to find that balance?
School is out, summer is almost (officially) here, and race season is upon us. Looking forward from today, BME Snowmass is in two weeks, followed by BME Keystone in July, the EWS in Crested Butte at the beginning of August, BME Winter Park at the beginning of September, and the Monarch Crest Enduro at the beginning of October. I’m incredibly excited to be racing with the support of Juliana-SRAM, G-Form, MRP, my coach, Ryan Geiger/Geiger Coaching, Smith, and most importantly, Flag Bike Revolution. It’s been a long while since I raced my bike and my off-season has been riddled by some not-so-funny elbow injuries. As of today, I am 18 weeks post elbow dislocation number two, and even though I have to ride with an elbow brace that makes me look like the bionic woman, I feel incredibly strong and faster than ever on my bike. So as you might imagine, I’m getting super anxious to get my first race of the season out of the way.
As much as I love racing, I’ve elected to race less than I did last summer. I had to put off my first race until the end of June so that I could get more time back on my bike, and as of right now I don’t plan on racing any other races besides the three BME stops, the EWS in Crested Butte, and the Monarch Crest—that could all change, who knows. But a lighter and more spread out schedule should hopefully keep me from getting tired and burnt out—not that I’m terribly concerned about the latter, but after being hurt for a majority of the winter and spring, I really I just want to go on as many adventures, near or far, as I can. Not that racing isn’t an adventure, it’s just a different kind of adventure. Yes, I get to travel all over to some of the most beautiful and renowned biking destinations, I’ve met countless incredible humans along the way, I always have a great time, and I always come home with a good story or ten. The difference is that the race adventure is very organized and narrowly focused. I don’t get to roll out of bed when I want, ride whatever I want, stop and eat and take pictures when I want… Don’t get me wrong, I have a sick obsession for competition and racing, and I have a very different outlook for the 2016 race season.
I’ve been training and competing in one sport or another for a long time (I’m only 21, I know). Around 11 years old I started traveling to ski race. A few bad snow years plagued Flagstaff and lead to weekly weekend trips to Telluride, Durango, or Wolf Creek to train from Thanksgiving onward, unless we were going somewhere else to race. I started racing for AVSC when I was 15 and I took travel to a whole new level. I was all over the Western, and sometimes Midwestern United States with my team from the end of October until the middle of April, then training all summer. I blew my knee to pieces at US Nationals when I was 16 years old and ended up with a lot of time to think about competition. I loved ski racing and training and traveling, but I spent a lot of time panicking about the training and racing I was missing. Eventually I realized that panicking about something I couldn’t change was pointless, and that I needed to keep competition fun above all other things.
When I quit ski racing in 2013 there was an odd moment of calmness. I had no training trips to New Zealand or Hood planned, my family hadn’t planned any big trips, and I thought that I might actually be done being a competitive athlete. That moment was very brief. When I quit skiing, my mom made the mistake of suggesting that I take up a new sport, like mountain biking, to keep myself entertained (and sane). I went full throttle into mountain biking and started racing that summer.
I made a mental promise to myself to keep mountain bike racing fun above all other things. And it has been nothing but to this point. But there was a moment of panic when I hurt my elbow the second time that was all too familiar, a moment that I started freaking out about training and racing and results. Then I remembered that I can’t change what already happened, and I should probably take this season a little easier than I had planned. I just want to hop into a car loaded down with bikes, listen to awesome music, and shred sweet trails with my friends. And do well at the races I am going to. :)
Unless of course you meant grit, the noun. In that case, I'll take it, with a shot of espresso. If you can only think of grit as a the crap that gets stuck between the tile grout, or as a rough, uncomfortable texture, let me enlighten you about what definition I'm talking about.
Grit, noun: Passion and perseverance in pursuit of long-term goals. Courage and resolve, strength of character.
I recently watched a TED Talk about grit and I absolutely loved it, so naturally I had to blog about it (if you've never listened to or watched a TED Talk, do yourself a favor, please) so if you can't bear to read another word of my jabber, the TED Talk sums up everything one needs to know about the importance of grit in six quick, enlightening minutes.
If you're still reading, I'm sorry to break it to you, but grit isn't something you can consume for breakfast, steaming warm with brown sugar and a pat of butter. It's not like our essential amino acids, that we can get through a healthy diet--if you can't find it within yourself, you're not going to find it anywhere.
I've always liked the word grit. I liked it before I even knew what it meant. At first, I just liked the sound of the word; I liked the way it was said and spoken about in conversation. Maybe it's because whenever I heard the word grit, it was in association with someone I looked up to. To me, the word itself sounds tough and resilient, it's underlying message is, "never back down, never give up."
At a young age I started associating grit with the personality traits of the people I had heard be described as "gritty." Of course, the two people I most commonly associated grit with were my parents. When I was younger, the overbearing characteristic I noticed was toughness. It took me a very long time to figure out just what made my parents tough, though. Toughness has a billion different meanings, so let me clarify that I do not mean stern or macho, or anything physical really, when I talk about toughness. What makes my parents tough is this: they are confident, they believe in themselves, they are hard-working, they remain positive in the face of adversity, and they have never been afraid to fail. All of these things combined are grit, and that grit is translated into toughness, mentally.
Grit, this mental toughness, is perhaps one of the most valuable things my parents have taught me in my short 20 years. They taught me grit in the best way a parent could: by letting me become my own person. They did this with unwavering support, encouragement, and confidence. They have always been there to push me, they have let me fail and make mistakes, and they have always been there to help me back up. Unfortunately I have realized more and more that I am a rare breed of human--it has become increasingly rare to come across parents who are willing to support their children's passions, who are willing to support their children knowing that they could very well fall flat on their faces. Subsequently, it has become rare to come across kids who are gritty.
Obviously no one wants to see someone they care about fail, and as a parent I can only imagine that it is difficult to let your kid go out, knowing that they are probably going to fail and get their feelings hurt, and support them. But this is how we learn.
"While it is tough to let your kids, fail, failure is key in building grit and grit is often the key to success. You have to fall down to get back up."
Luckily my parents knew that. I mean crap, I played every sport you could imagine, and pretty much failed at all of them. When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a gymnast, the problem was that I was already 5'8'' in the 5th grade. Didn't matter, my parents let me try until I figured it out for myself. As they did with every other sport I threw myself into: soccer, swimming, climbing, volleyball, ski racing, and biking.
To this day, my parents have supported every venture I have immersed myself in. As a result, I have learned confidence and perseverance, that I am going to make mistakes, and that I will be able to get back up, rebuild and carry on, no matter if it's regarding sports, school, or other areas of life. I have learned that there are always consequences to my actions, bad and good, and that I have to be willing to face and embrace those consequences. I have learned to walk in the wind--the key is to put your head down and keep pushing, even if it's slowly.
If you didn't watch the TED Talk like I recommended, here is the take away:
Patient vs. patience. I am much better at being the former, and don't possess much of the latter. Which is unfortunate in almost all situations, as the two go hand-in-hand. Injury requires A LOT of patience, usually much more than I have (ironically I haven't figured this out yet, despite all the time I have spent broken). Currently I am 7 weeks into a 16 week recovery-NOT EVEN HALF WAY-and I am about to rip all my hair out. In fact, if my bike wasn't stuck in a shipping yard in California right now, the temptation to ride would be so great I would probably have to have it locked away at Bike Rev.
Patience is something I have never really had, though I'm sure it would be of great benefit on several occasions. If you didn't catch the Queen reference in the title, it's the first line from the song "I want it all" which paints a picture of an angsty teen chasing their future with relentless pursuit. That might as well be me. I want it all, and I want it now. BUT, I'm not usually in pursuit of instant gratification, and it's not that I don't see the importance of patience-I do (mostly). What it all boils down to for me is time. There isn't a whole awful lot of it and being patient means taking time. I don't like waiting, for anything really. It's just the way I am. I get really excited and over-zealous about almost everything, and don't like "wasting" time. If I can go get it, I will.
Back to bikes though. Frankly, I'm impressed with how patient I've been since I hurt myself. It may be due to the fact that I don't currently have a mountain bike to ride (my road bike is starting to look like a white unicorn with a glittery mane though) but my patience has grown thinner in the last week. Why? Because the first race of the EWS was this weekend in Rotorua and the weather in Flagstaff has been beyond glorious. Not only were loads of my friends down in New Zealand racing, but it just seems that everyone except me is riding. This is obviously not the case-I have friends who are also recovering from injury so I'll stop the woe-is-me. I'm ecstatic for everyone that got to go down to NZ and race, for my friends out traveling the world with their bikes, for all my friends near and far who get to go out and ride. I'm just jealous. I just feel like I'm missing out, loosing pace, wasting time.
That is a pretty pessimistic statement for me. So I suppose what I should really do is reexamine what "wasting" time really is, and then ask myself if I actually ever "waste" my time. Fortunately, the answer is no. I'm never actually wasting my time. I keep myself very busy and very entertained, except when I don't want to be busy or entertained. Since I've hurt myself I actually haven't gotten fat or turned into a couch potato. Actually, I've been doing most of things I've always done, except ride a bike. Gym. Trainer. Run. Work. Chill. Plus, I'm a full time student, and surely I could occupy myself with homework and studying, but I save that as a last resort.
I guess I should also find a way to make friends with patience. How ever do I do that you ask? I'm just going to start thinking of progression instead of patience. They are very interconnected, and I like the feel of progress more than patience. Progress makes me think I'm going somewhere, even if it is slowly. Patience makes me feel like I'm sitting around doing nothing. It's also a lot easier to apply progression to my recovery, and then to biking. It is taking time to get better, but I'm making progress. It will take time to get back to full-tilt on a bike, but there will be progress every day. Nine more weeks, I think I'll make it.
Writing is something I have always been passionate about. I love sharing my stories, my thoughts, my advice, but mostly, I write to record memories and express myself. So here are a few of my fondest memories, best and worst moments, my most profound and boisterous thoughts, and riskiest advice. Enjoy!