I opened up my Instagram profile the other day to look at the last post that I made.
It was February 26th. I had just finished my final post on my European cyclocross and made a post to promote that to others. Since then, nothing.
On Taking a Break
After working all season to create “cool” content, posting images and stories for followers, I was back to my normal life. No racing, no travel, just the same job, the same apartment, the same coffee shops, the same life I had been absent from for two months. Nothing had changed since I left home in December and the only thing left to do was to re-integrate back into my seemingly pedestrian life during the off-season.
If I’m honest, the constant stress of creating content, or taking some kind of cool photo, or figuring out what followers will “like” is a pain in the ass for me. Maybe that’s a bit too drastic. But there is somewhat of an added pressure to post something daily for folks to follow. I guess that comes with the job of being an aspiring bike racer, or maybe just being a Millennial.
What I mean to say is, I don’t know what people want. For starters, I’m not great at self-promotion and I’m often unsure of how something I post will be beneficial to anyone else. For so long writing has been a personal exercise for me, and now, as I look to build my brand, I’m trying to decipher what others want.
So, I look outward.
And by spending my time on social channels, I felt like I was drifting farther from the beneficial experiences that add value to my world. There was no yoga, no meditation, limited face-to-face interaction with friends, and absolutely no writing. I needed a break, not just from the self-promotion game, but also from the world where I spent my day glued to a phone.
It’s probably fair to say that I’m addicted to social media, or at least teetering on the precipice of it. I spend large portions of my day checking people’s stories, scrolling through posts and ads trying to draw some kind of inspiration or find some funny content to share (if I’m honest, probably half of my communications with friends far away is through the sharing of memes). What is everyone else doing? How can I make my life seem more exciting? What do people want to see? It all seemed to come to a head and I wanted nothing to do with it
On What’s It Worth
Upon from my return from Euroland, I needed a break from bikes. The season had been long, and though there had been many positives, it almost cracked me. The option to end my season after the Kersteperiode, was one I seriously considered. But I try my best to not quit something that I start, and I had spent too much of my time, my effort, and my finances to make the trip across the pond. Giving up then, would have been in insult to myself and to those who have invested in me. I soldiered on.
When I stepped off the plane in Dallas, I was more than ready for my off-season. I embraced the time away from the bike with open arms. In doing so, I pushed away a lot of my associations with the cycling world. I put off contacting sponsors for the 2019 season. I didn’t sign up for any races or look for adventure rides. Instead, I tried to reach out to friends I hadn’t seen in months. I did anything that I could to stay away from bikes and take in the experiences I felt like I had been missing. I went on a ski trip with my best friends, turned 30, watched the sun rise and set over the Grand Canyon, road tripped to Colorado, and took a camping trip to Moab. Bikes were involved along the way, but they weren’t the focal point.
I was late to the game in contacting sponsors. I wrongly assumed that my relationships with sponsors were all good. Afterall, I finished 14th at Nationals on the hardest day of cyclocross anyone had seen all year, I was ranked 162nd in the World on UCI points, and had done, what I thought, was a lot to generate publicity for my sponsors. I led clinics, traveled all over the country to races, made new friends, connected with old ones, generated “likes” and tags, and hearts, etc. Why wouldn’t they want to get on the TCCX Express?
But my outreach and request for sponsorship for the 2019/20 season did not garner the response I expected. Some were congratulatory, but their budgets were already set. Others didn’t respond at all. And I was left with this feeling of being cheated, like all this work I had put in for 2018/19 was for not.
I wish the sport of cycling was a meritocracy. Well, I wish a lot of things in life were a meritocracy. And if that was the case and I’m being honest, I likely wouldn’t be at the top of the pile. But I would be up there. But sponsorship and life (I’m not equating the two), is not a question of how good you are or your results. It’s all about who you know and what you can provide. I’m still trying to figure out both but suffice it to say that the fact that I couldn’t get an email back from brands I had shelled out for made me want to throw my hands up and leave the table.
I love this sport. I love my cyclocross family. I love the people I’ve met and the communities that have welcomed me in with open arms. But having to deal with the “what have you done for me lately” bullshit is frustrating. I asked myself, “Why am I even doing this?”
On Having Purpose
I’ve recently developed an appetite for listening to podcasts as I spend my time pedaling along – thanks Hugo for the idea. On the playlist that day were two episodes of ‘The Gravel Lot’ with Jake Wells. Jake is a guy who I know loosely through my fellow cyclocrossers. As I was coming into the UCI category, he was a guy that was at the top and a guy who continues to crush it to this day. If you want to learn more about Jake’s story, I won’t attempt to butcher it here, but rather will provide the links to have a listen yourself.
As I was listening to Doug, John, and Jake’s conversation, there were a number of stories that struck me, from the feelings on impostor syndrome, to the importance of meditation, and the stresses of racing at an elite level. But by far the most impactful thing was this message of “Inspire & Motivate”
That is to say, carry yourself in a way and do things in your life that inspire and motivate people to do just as well in their own.
On Moving Forward
When I started TCCX, I wanted to share this ethos of being able to achieve your goals no matter what they are. Through the support of my community and my friends, I’ve been able to pursue my dreams. And in pursuing my dreams, I forgot the true reason I started this in the first place. During last season I got caught up in reaching a certain UCI World Rank and chasing a spot on a UCI podium. I was so concerned with what others thought and had become so focused on telling some kind of story that I lost sight of my own.
It’s August and the first UCI cross races here in the US are less than a month away.
TCCX is still a thing.
It’s my thing.
And with that in mind, I’m planning to make it a thing that provides for others. I’ve been able to reach some of my goals in the sport, but there is more that I can do more to give back to my community and make my love of ‘cross more apparent. I want to coach more people, I want to be a supporter for others, and someone they can look to as an example. I want to show up every day and do the work that is required of me. And most importantly, I want to do these things with happiness.
It seems fitting for the end of this post to be open ended. I can’t honestly type here that I have this firm idea and plan for what I am going to be doing this fall. And I guess that’s okay. All that I can do is continue to put my best effort in and remember that that is good enough.
Maybe that is a kind of conclusion after all.