Counting the weight of the bar, there is a 185 pounds laying on the floor waiting for me to pick it up. The task is simple, pick this weight up — Dead Lift style — ten times drop it and follow with twenty – five box jumps. Then repeat two more times without stopping. This is a timed workout. There are other people in the gym doing the same. Our times will be listed on the board for all to see, but we will only be judged against ourselves.
I’m watching the clock tick down. I’m not nervous. I like deadlifting, and can pick up a little under two and half times my bodyweight. The box jumps will be a bit harder, but I can get through them. With ten seconds left on the clock our coach, John, gets close and whispers into my ear
“All that fucked up hate you feel. Now is the time to use it.”
After that he steps back and counts down the remaining seconds.
Two years later Mark is telling me that the secret to cross is to “just get pissed”.
“Shit, that will be easy for you.” Big Time adds.
He then flicks his ear.
“Done!” He claims.
I tried to summon that anger as I stand on the startline for the next race but its not there. There is plenty for me to be angry about. Lots of little failures and blown opportunities, changing circumstances. Hell, my inability to make a decision that seems so clear.
I keep trying to get pissed, which used to be so easy, what I get instead is a heavy feeling and non-distinction of being the last person through the first turn. The Anti-Hole shot.
What happens over the course of the next 40 minutes isn’t racing, but riding hard. I manage to move up a few places, thanks to a run up. The one spot on this course where the time I spent in the mountains comes in handy. After that I’m far enough ahead of the people behind me that I won’t be caught, but far enough behind the majority of the pack that I will never see them again.
Over the weekend Signe and I load a majority of our possessions into a U-Haul bound for Seattle. I get mad about the slow pace of the loading. I get mad about having to move in the first place. I’m pissed at the way said U-Haul drives. After we get to Seattle I’ll get pissed about driving around a town I don’t know and the fact that 78th street crosses 218th street. I won’t think about racing, or even riding my bike for the entire weekend.
I cruise through the first set of deadlifts and drop the weight to the floor. Like I said they’re easy. The box jumps are really hard when done properly. Which is to say quickly and standing all way up once on the box. Like always I start off too quickly and start to run out of steam as the number of jumps increases.
“Don’t cheat! Stand all way up on top of the box” John yells.
Box jumps done, back to the deadlifts.
The fucked up hate I feel isn’t about the world around me. It’s about me. I’m pissed for constantly giving up on myself. I’m pissed about all the things I’ve fucked up in my life and can’t let go of. Its the same shit I’ve been dealing with my whole life up till this point. This desire to destroy myself isn’t about making me a better person, its about avoidance. It’s about leaving nothing else.
I drop the weight and go back to jumping on to a two foot tall box.
Ray and I are stuck in traffic trying to get to Alpenrose Dairy and its looking like we’ll be a bit pressed for time. I’m not feeling my normal level of stress. I’m amped to race, not just race, but rail corners in the dirt. This thing I said I would never do is slowly becoming fun.
Before I leaving the car I take the small kokopelli trinket that a co-worker left on my desk and put it my jersey pocket, like I always do. Still no hate, but there is excitement. There’s also a comfort I’m resolute in the decision. Not to race, but in the major life type stuff that I’ve been using these races to run from. The whistle blows and again I am the last person through the first corner.
Again I pass a bunch of people on the run up, but this time I actually bridge up to the group ahead of me. I do nearly everything different this time. Now I’m actually racing. There’s some bumping. There’s snaking of the best lines. I actually get my ass out of the saddle and sprint out of the corners.
Its getting dark earlier and earlier. The dust kicked up from our tires clogs my lungs and leaves a brown tinge to the darkening eastern sky. When the course turns west the sky fades from red to black. One of the guys I’ve been battling with passes me on the low part of the off camber descent, I catch and pass him on the run up.
I know I’m far back. I know I will never see the front of this race. But I also know that I am racing better than I have. There is not hate, only comfort. Maybe its because I know the course. But I’d like to think it has a bit more to do with being comfortable about where I’m going in the parts of life that matter. I’m more scared than I have been in a long time, but comfortable with that fear. There is no hate. Maybe I’ve moved past it.
I barely clear the edge of the box on the last jump. I step down off the box and note my time. Slower than I wanted to go, but faster than I had expected. I walk out of the gym into the cool September morning to try and deal with the hangover that comes from tapping that part of me. A part of me that has defined me more than any other character trait. I sit on parking block and let my mind settle, then wonder when I’m going to move past this tendency toward self destruction.