Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Power of Girlfriendships

The view from the outside of my life as a professional cyclist is not quite clear to me. I've never really gotten a good glimpse of what my life must look like to others but I really do think about it quite a bit. Prompted by what seems to be one strange question after another from friends and family leads me to believe that, although my life seems perfectly normal to me, its nothing close to that. Its taken me nearly my entire life, spent in one sport after another, none of which ever received mainstream media exposure, to figure out that all these questions are really true and sincere curiosity about my strange life...not strange questions at all! And now, I love answering and often find myself deep in conversation only to realize that the entire discussion has been about me! Possibly this is my own form of sport psychology as I've noticed the more I talk about my experiences, the more confident I become and the more I believe in what I'm doing. I love sharing my love of the sport.

However...cycling can also be a lonely sport. The ranks of the professional are not-so-glamorous; much time is spent alone training, resting, traveling...resting, training and then some. Its not only the time spent alone but also the blatant lack of understanding by what seems to be everyone else in the world. Who will give me, the superwoman, empathy, understanding, support...who could? Many try and, believe me, its more than appreciated. Big successes on the bike come few and far between however I drive on, chasing the dream, the goal, the win, the big one...wherever it is. In cycling, you can't always predict when "your day" will come so every day "could be" and, as such, I'm ready. I'm committed to whatever it takes each day, which leads to vulnerability and more often than not, a loss. One out of a hundred women win the race, just one had "their day" and everybody else has excuses and mistakes and learning experiences and wishes.

But the real heart of the sport, and my heart too, is still dependent upon the
almighty race. Its what gets me going, the prize in my eye, the motivation above all motivation. The speed, the intensity, the suffering. I'm addicted to it all, no doubt about it.

There are two parts that have me hooked: the physical challenge and the psychological experience. Pushing my body to the limit, whatever that might be each race day, feels good. I like to race hard and when the racing isn't hard, I don't like it. My favorite races are those won by the strong, tough, relentless women and no matter my result, as long as I turned myself inside out, I'm exhilarated.

But possibly even more so, I am addicted to the experience. Cycling is a team sport and as a stage racer, I am, along with my team of 6-8 women, committed to working towards one common goal, together we're going for the win and nothing less. And NOTHING feels better than being a part of a successful team. Nothing hurts more than letting your team down. Talk about lonely, everybody knows what it feels like and nobody EVER wants to feel it. The team - that's what its all about, that's where I found "it," my vice is the team. The relationships, the bonds, the trust, the love of the game are all there in my team. That's it, that's why I am a pro cyclist.

I am sometimes a bit too introspective for my own good but at this point in my career, I need to know why my desire to juggle the universe drives me to the very limit of my capabilities. I am dedicated to and bonded with my teammates and staff because we are a team. They are the ones; these women juggle the universe just like me, they feel the emotions just like me, they are bonded to me, just like I am to them. These women, these relationships, Girlfriendships, if you will, are why I am a professional cyclist. Girlfriendships, bonds among like women, are a beautiful thing. You can find them, too, in your realm, and I strongly encourage you to be real, vulnerable and dedicated to your Girlfriendships as I am to mine. Take the risk, be true to yourself and your relationships...your Girlfriendships. They're totally worth it.


amberrais said...

Kristin this was such a joy to read. Please come visit this year. I miss you.

LT said...

That was an awesome entry:) See you soon:)

HELL(cat) ON WHEELS said...

Great post and makes me ponder my also crazy existence in the cycling world. As a wife, a mother of five, a full time paralegal and a relatively "new" cyclist. I don't get paid, I'm not that fast and still I show up for races, get dropped, crash in crits and nurse the wounds at my desk the next week at work. Seems odd when written out, huh?! :)

Glad to know I'm not alone.