I thought I was fast, then the negative thought bitch arrived.
Watching my roommate and teammate ride away up the reservoir climb, chatting and laughing as if they were on a Sunday bike path spin, I dropped my eyes to the pavement incredibly irritated. My legs were on fire and my heart rate was spiking into the red at 177 beats per minute. How can they be pedaling so smoothly, so effortlessly? Pissed I bit down harder and raged through the cranks. Breathing raggedly, vision blurring, spit flying on every exhale, I pleaded with my legs to turn over quicker and quicker, but my co-riders kept pulling further away.
I’m not used to being in this place--the rider off the back; the person everyone is waiting for at the top of the hill; the dead fucking last racer. It’s not me. It’s not where I belong. I’m fast. I’m an XC racer damnit!
Am I just pretending? Do I really belong here? Am I the dreamer that dreamt too big? Climbed too high? Am I in over my head? These words belittled me as we recovered over the crest of hill. Dark thoughts mocking me and my helpless effort. It wasn’t the first time thoughts of not being good enough threatened to shut me down and turn me around. It probably won’t be the last. Is it fair to criticize or talk negatively to yourself when your skill or fitness isn’t at the level it used to be?
“Give yourself some dame grace!” I inner screamed to myself as we started the next climb, and I say to you now. We have to work for our goals, those gifts aren’t just bestowed upon us. Just because I was crushing that same hogback in May, it doesn’t automatically give me the same power and fitness in December—and that’s ok. Fitness and training is a long meandering journey—sometimes we are sitting on the mountain top, sometimes we slip down into the ravine, and sometimes we need to string up a hammock to take a rest.
We are too harsh on ourselves. We are too harsh on others. We are all on a different wild, crazy, unreal trek through life. Respect where you are in your journey. Respect where others are in their own journey. It is ok to be tired today. It is ok to be slower than you think you should be. Accept where you are today knowing that you won’t be in this place forever. Then take the time to name your destination. Say it aloud, write it down, and tell a friend. Then draw the map, write out the directions to get you there. Hopefully you arrive in one piece, and look back on that hateful little voice and laugh. You arrived at the peak, and that little bitch is still eating your dust.