Returning to the Scene of the Crime – Sea Otter

First year mountain bike race 2007

My first Sea Otter Classic bike race experience was in 2007 when I was 20 years old. I had just started collegiate mountain biking and I attended Sea Otter for my first taste of the big-league mountain bike scene, racing in the Expert category. I remember looking at all of the pros lined up on the start line and thinking, “they look like rock stars with their matching bikes and spandex”. Witnessing the action left a powerful impression, and I made a pact with my friend that, one day, we would be big-time pro mountain bikers too!!
 
Last week, was my 9th Sea Otter Classic. I raced the pro enduro and the cyclocross race, placing 4th and 6th, respectively. I can hardly believe I’ve been at it as a career now for 8 years. What an incredible experience.
 
Jumping back into the big Sea Otter event at the start of my season reminds me that I love doing what I do. The racing is always a fun challenge but it’s the community coming together that I look forward to the most.
 
Because I didn’t get started on the bike until college, I, admittedly, have been pretty ignorant about the history of my sport and some of those who were the original mountain bike pros and rebels, making waves in the sport before me. Over the years, I’ve met top pros who have inspired my riding and pros who were the pioneers, introducing ground-breaking skills and styles that have forever changed the face of the industry. I am always immensely honored to connect with the legends, who have been cyclists for way longer than myself, and who still have the tenacity and dedication. Good people and good energy.
 
In the niche world of cycling, Sea Otter is the biggest national outdoor cycling expo and now I get to feel like a celebrity on the scene. It’s a strange concept, something that will always feel a little weird about, but it is also such a privilege to inspire other people and get them exciting about biking, the way I felt when I was first introduced in 2007. I will never take my opportunities and position as a professional athlete for granted.

 

2017 Pro Enduro race, photo credit Wil Matthews


 

2017 Pro Enduro podium, 4th place

Backyard Pump Track

I pride myself on being an adult kid and I vow to stay this way forever.

When I lived in Durango, CO last, my awesome neighbors built “Durango’s Best Pump Track” in our shared backyard. It was a draw for the college cycling community and gave us all something to look forward to when we came home. Ever since I moved, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to recreate the same backyard paradise.
 
This past weekend, I had the honor of finally hosting a backyard pump track building party in my own yard. It was a blast. We had a BBQ, a keg and several cases of beer, provided by a local Reno brewery, Brewer’s Cabinet/ Tahoe Beer, and the weather was a perfect 68 degree day with no wind and hero dirt, after receiving a spring rainstorm two days prior.
 
Lot’s of good people showed up who had never met each other before and became instantly bonded over digging, drinking beer and getting to ride the fruits of our labors at the end of the day.
 
The pump track plan had been slowly coming together since we bought our house a year and a half ago. In fact, one of our motivators for purchasing a house was having the liberty to build our own backyard pump track.
 
We have a small yard but it was just big enough. After the digging frenzy, our pump track takes up approximately 1400 sq ft.
 
The building process has definitely attracted some interest in the neighborhood since it’s a bit different from the landscaping most people are used to seeing. The whole process has allowed us to have some great conversations and connect with new friends.
 
I’ve always wanted my own adult playground in the convenience of my backyard. I still am hoping for some other fun yard assets like a garden, fire pit, and a chicken coop and whatever else I can squeeze in around the perimeter of the pump track, which nearly covers the entire yard.
 
We also plan to plant pumpkins on the berms and turn it into a “Pumpkin Track”.
 
There is still plenty of work to be done, we’ve only got one rideable outside line so far. The truth is, a pump track is never done because there is always an opportunity to change and reshape it. Pump tracks are a constant evolutionary design with room for new lines and creativity.
 
Sure, it’s not the most “practical” thing to have in the backyard, and it does not match the status-quo of what most adults build in their backyards, but we couldn’t be happier. I now have a new way to decompress after a stressful day, and I know I’ll develop better bike handling skills by default. If you feel like behaving like a kid, you’re welcome to come ride the pump track too. #NorthwestRenosBestPumpTrack

 

It Must Be Experienced

I was recently told a story about a mother who walked with her daughter a couple miles into town in -60 degree wind-chill and snow blowing sideways because she told her child, “it must be experienced”.
 
Simple, yet profound. My personal struggle is to shift the focus back to experiencing, NOT sharing.
 
I catch myself, in the midst of an experience, thinking about how something could be photographed or recorded or captured in 140 characters to document the event/idea/moment/thing/scenery and disseminate the information.
 
It sounds selfish talking about experiencing it and not sharing, but, let’s be honest, in this era, it’s the sharing that can be more narcissistic. We have the ability to share with EVERYONE…it seems. We are focused on making sure everyone else knows about our “experiencing”. And yet while we are capturing our “experiences” to share, are we actually experiencing the experience we are sharing?
 
Of course, we can do both. But let’s make sure we truly are.
 
Ask yourself, would you still be doing whatever it is that you’re doing, even if there is no one to witness it or validate it?
 
Communications and connections, virtual and in person matter, but, I am striving to get off the grid and unplug and experience things for myself in a mysterious, un-shareable way too.
 
Ironically, sometimes it’s what we read, see and watch, that others have shared, that inspire us to seek out new experiences. As I hope this post I am sharing will do for you.
 
The hypocrisy of my own sharing in this moment makes me laugh at the conundrum.
 
The point still remains, “it must be experienced”!
 

Developing More Skills from Playing than Competing:

Playing as a kid is something we never question.  Yet, somehow, as adults we seem to forget the importance of play.  I’m not talking about recreating, I’m talking about playing.  Playing, in its purest form, means doing something for the sake of doing it, without an intention or goal or focus.

 

Playing is something I am working hard to revisit in a serious way in my sport of cycling.  

I came into mountain biking through a collegiate team with many awesome, casual, goofy rides with friends (both male and female).

 

My career took off because I also enjoy racing, which lead me down a whole other path in the sport.  Competition teaches incredible self understanding, the ability to fight against the odds, confronting self demons when the pressure’s on, tactics, training, pacing and on and on…

 

BUT, the greatest skills I’ve acquired in mountain biking came from playing.  The more I play and don’t think about my riding in a calculated way or force things, the more I gain from trial and error.

 

My major goal for the 2017 season is developing skills that I’ve never learned.  Manualing, wheelies and big-ass bunny hops and, who knows, maybe a nose manual… the possibilities are endless.

 

Now that I’ve been a professional bike racer for 8 years, I’m excited to reconnect with bike-play and, I have no doubt, it will be beneficial for all of my riding experiences, even the racing.

 

This concept on the bike directly parallels life.  Life is not meant to be lived with a strategy all the time, with a grand plan for the future. Sometimes, it needs to be goofy, awkward and filled with joy and simple pleasures for no good reason.  

 

I encourage everyone to make room for playtime.  Revert to your 4-year-old self, It will make you a better, happier person.

WTF am I doing!? Part IV: Patience

I’m not done yet and I am looking forward to a powerful, fearless 2017. The manifestation of a rock-solid sense of self.
 
All good things take time and it’s hard to be a patient person. As I step back and give myself more space to figure things out and make mistakes, I am discovering more open doors on my crooked trail.
 
I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up but, for now, I’m focusing on what I do know. I still want to be a professional mountain biker and cyclocross racer, share some skills and my passion with anyone who will listen, learn from other remarkable people, be inspired, and pay my bills every month.
 
Edward Abbey has been a reoccurring theme in my life recently, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence. There are a lot of silly quotes out there that sound like words of wisdom but are really nothing more than cheap talk, pretending to be inspirational. Mr. Abbey, on the other hand, speaks the truth.
 

 
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.” – Edward Abbey

WTF am I doing!!? Part III: All is Fair in Love and War and Marketing

I did not formally study marketing but the education is all around me, inescapable. We are force-fed examples of what to do and what not to do daily. I am still coming to terms with this world, sometimes kicking and screaming.
 
Admittedly, marketing is not my perfect niche but it has taught me a lot. Trying to do it well has sometimes left me feeling shameless and uncomfortable. I also struggle with sharing something of relevance when there are so many other voices out there all wanting to be relevant.
 
This brings us to the “curse of comparison”.
 
We are comparative creatures and it is easy to get swept up in looking at each other’s journeys for a point of reference to tell us how we’re doing. The truth is, it’s usually frivolous and irrelevant, but that never stops us from comparing and judging. Comparison can lead to creativity and advancement but it can also create jealously, envy and insecurity.
 
One of the greatest irrationalities is thinking that life is supposed to be fair.
 
Marketing myself, inherently puts my self-worth on the line. I don’t get to disconnect from my brand, or at least, I haven’t figured out how do that yet. I am not objective. Every rejection and disappointment is a personal affront.
 
My brand is me, the process of building it sometimes makes me feel diminished.
 
However, this raw experience also gives me a powerful understanding of myself and the confidence to try again.
 
Just as competition is really about competing against oneself, even when there are other competitors next to you, marketing is very personal, even when it feels like it’s about everyone else.
 
There is some piece of this journey that I hope everyone can relate to. It’s a journey about never-ending self-discovery, risk taking and leaping without looking. I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’ll get back to you on whether or not it’s been worth it.

WTF am I doing!!? Part II: 2016 Unplugged

My 2016 season can be summed up in the following description: I traveled to cool places, raced, won, got injured, shared my story, made new connections, adventured, trained, fell down A LOT, got back up, struggled to juggle everything, put on an event, ran out of time, got sick, had a comeback, got creative, built fresh partnerships, got tired and jaded, questioned myself and I remerged with new energy.

WTF am I doing!? Part I: Branded

What does it mean to advocate for oneself?  This is the question that has lead me on my journey down the rabbit hole.

In 2016, I embarked on a new exciting adventure to see if I could piece together my own program of support and continue my career as a full-time professional cyclist; This means, surviving financially and still being able to perform athletically at the highest level.

Previously, I had the support of several incredible cycling teams that fostered my skills and taught me about the cycling industry and the meaning of being a top athlete.

For a lot of reasons, I chose to walk away from the team structure and launch myself down the path of building my own brand.

My favorite part of this process has been developing relationships.  The slowest part, if done right and sincerely, without haste, is developing relationships…

Fortunately, I did not start from scratch in 2016.  I already had past credibility and connections in my sport. However, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  My solo path has been the ultimate risk taking experience.

The term “Brand building” is a catchy, iconic, buzz phrase these days but it is very relevant in professional athletics.

In my position, advocating and brand-building means promoting, marketing, and selling me.   I am not defined only by my performance and ability as an athlete.   I’m selling my personality, my work ethic, my relatability, my appearance, my connections, my messaging and philosophies, my values, my failures and successes, my ability to speak, lead, write, teach, train, coach, share, be photographed, create content, write proposals, provide feedback, promote, inspire, be interesting, be articulate and insightful, be professional, be available and vulnerable but also exclusive and fearless and WIN.

These expectations apply to a lot of people and It’s an incredible amount of pressure and a difficult and rewarding journey.

So, was my 2016 season a success?…