For What It's Worth, It's Never Too Late

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.
— The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald

I read this quote on a friend’s Instagram story at 6:55 am on Monday, June 10. I know this because I took a screenshot on my phone, letting my coffee get chilled while I choked on my own tears. Looking up at the craggy ridgeline in front of me highlighted with dwindling snow above bright green meadows, I smiled realizing I was right where I was supposed to be.

The view, just down the street from my rental in Leogang.

Leogang, Austria - that’s where I was, like physically on a map. I had just spent a Sunday spectating instead of racing, using pommes frites and beer to cure my disappointment in not qualifying for my second European World Cup attempt. After a 4 minute-something run down loose, sandy corners, off camber traverses, steep chutes, stump gardens, big a$$ jumps and rocks my time placed me 22 out of 33 of the world’s fastest women. It wasn’t good enough. Neither was my first European World Cup attempt, placing 19 out of 32 with a big red DNQ next to my name. (To those who don’t follow World Cup Downhill, FYI: 15 elite women qualify at every race regardless of the entries, 60 men qualify, 20 junior men, and all junior women qualify)

Wet, gnarly practice in Fort William, Scotland.

Here’s the real kicker, I turned 31 the day before I didn’t qualify in Leogang. And I’m not going to lie, seeing my DOB on the start list next to all those 1996, ‘97, ‘98, ‘99… 2000s messed with my head a little bit. I specifically remember going back to my AirBNB on Saturday night in Fort William, Scotland and thinking to myself, “What are you trying to prove? You should just go back home and grow up.”

Grow up. I’ve already tried that, though. And you know what? I’ve just started this journey.

In the start hut at Fort William - a mix of stoke, focus, and “oh shit.”

I’ve had plenty of time to sit and think about why I wanted to race in Europe, why I still want to win a National Championship, why I want to represent my country at Worlds, why I’m grinding my gears at work every time I’m not training, racing, or coaching. The truth is, I don’t know the answer yet. But damn, I’m living a life I’m proud of.

After racing slalom and downhill at Crankworx Innsbruck and not performing to my potential at that race either, I wrote some notes down in my journal that could have almost been written by Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald, if he was into downhill mountain biking. I’m not usually one to share my journaling, but I’m hoping these take-aways help someone else with racing, riding or life in general:

  • There will be days and trails and sections of courses that will make you feel slow, uncomfortable, and like you can’t ride a bike. Know you can. You can figure it out, you can push harder and, in most cases, you can relax. Just relax.

  • Ride with confidence. Stop comparing yourself to other people. You are just as fast as the top women. You are one of the top women.

  • Take your time. The first run is not a race. Give yourself the opportunity to build speed.

  • Never give up. The race isn’t over until the finish line.

  • Ride with purpose. Why are you here? You didn’t come all this way not to give it all you have.

  • Do the work. Wake up every day with a goal, even if it’s a small one, and make it happen. Each day is an opportunity, now go home and get to work.

  • Most of all, know you are good at this. Navigating life and racing and the stress isn’t all that hard. Check yourself, are you happy? Yes. Then you’re doing something right.

One more thing - never take the moments in between for granted. Here are a few that I captured with my iPhone.