"It's Different Here"

On the eve of her last race of the '17-'18 season, Beth Ann penned some meditations on the season behind her and the road ahead.  Congratulations on an awesome last leg of the season: a solid lead-lap finish at the Nommay World Cup in the messiest of conditions, and a top 20 at Cyclocross Rucphen.  Read on...


The smallest changes dignify new places. I’m beholden to my morning routine when I travel: Sleep (sometimes late), coffee, look out the window. Think. I like to close my eyes and hear birdcalls. In Bend, the beckoning of a morning dove, the neighbor’s rooster, the smell of juniper and desert. In Nairobi, the early warble of pigeons mixed with the smell of burning garbage. In Adelaide, the sharp call of flocking cockatoo, and coffee bathed in sunshine and eucalyptus. In Belgium, the intermittent “caw caw” of the crow, a low cloud ceiling, and the smell of decaying earth.

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Belgium is different, and I’m different here. I came here to race a cyclocross world cup and chase after UCI points that have eluded me this season. It’s possible I also came to remember cycling: To feel excitement and ride in soaking rain and mud, laughing all the way with wild expectation and contentment, unwrapping something new with each turn into the forest.

I am here considering how to transform the pervasive questions “Am I fast enough?” and “Am I good enough?” into “What do I want from sport: What can I give and receive?”

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Professional cycling can be wearing – it can pummel even the toughest, brightest, and most talented athlete with expectation and disappointment. Cycling requires discipline and resilience, but don’t forget, it’s also fun. If you’ve forgotten how to have fun, then do something to remember. That’s where I’ve found myself this winter. At home in Bend, and here, I’ve learned to train harder, faster, and with more joy.

I’m not in Belgium for holiday: The weather is rather unkind for that! Sunday’s world cup in Nommay was good. My placement was not “good” in the traditional sense, but I felt fulfilled. Though I want to be faster, wanting will only get me so far. In the end, when I give my very best, have a complete race, remain present, and fight, then it’s good enough. If what I’ve given is all I have, it’s plenty good enough. Then I retreat to the drawing board by being honest about deficits; planning, training, building relationships, and riding myself to exhaustion with friends for the fun of it: Process.

Faster will come if you let it. Better will come if you look for it. But, you have to look hard, and you have to have fun.

At age 36, I am finally discovering the tremendous joy I have for racing. I’m learning to translate the same satisfaction with process that I have for mountain sports, into competition and finish lines. I’m learning that success and failure have different definition at the highest level of sport, and that process goals can be the best marker of success. I’ve learned that some days are good enough, and some days are flops, and that…is just fine. I’ve learned to understand that I don’t have the teeth and ferocity to be a natural champion. That may sound severe, but it’s true, and it’s very important to admit. That doesn’t mean I am passive, or that I don’t, above all else, want to win. I have goals, and I will pursue them tenaciously, but I don’t fight with daggers. I like the butter knife. Days with personal success and reward are few and far between. I love them, and I hold them close, but I understand what fuels me: Relationships, community, and experience. Maybe I’ll find my fighting teeth, but I’m rather unconcerned. I like being here, drinking coffee, looking out the window, listening to the damn crows, and considering what cyclocross will be for me in 2018.

I’ll be looking for daggers.

 All photos courtesy of Patrick Means (http://trailhousephoto.com/

All photos courtesy of Patrick Means (http://trailhousephoto.com/

Brenna Wrye-SimpsonComment