What have I gotten myself into?

We all ask that question at some point throughout the day. A wise friend once told me “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, either way you are right!”

Title: Mental Preparation for: Conquering Your First Event

Participating in any off road event can be a thrilling and challenging experience. It’s especially true when you’re gearing up for a longer distance, which can be both physically and mentally demanding. While the physical training is crucial, it’s essential not to overlook the mental preparation required for such an event. In this blog post, we’ll delve into strategies and techniques to help you prepare mentally for any distance as your first event, enabling you to approach the race with confidence, determination, and a resilient mindset.

  1. Set Clear Goals: Setting specific and realistic goals is vital to your mental preparation. Define what success means to you for this event. Your goals could be as simple as finishing the race within a certain time or maintaining a consistent pace throughout the distance. Establishing clear objectives will give you a sense of purpose and direction, motivating you during training and the event itself.
  2. Visualize Success: Visualization is a powerful technique that can help you build mental resilience. Close your eyes and vividly imagine yourself successfully completing the race. Visualize the route, the challenges you might face, and how you’ll overcome them. Engage all your senses and imagine the exhilaration of crossing the finish line. This mental rehearsal will instill confidence and help you stay focused and composed during the race. The finish chute is not an experience you will ever forget!
  3. Develop a Strong Mindset: Cultivating a strong mindset is key to tackling the mental hurdles during your event. Embrace a positive attitude and believe in your abilities. Recognize that you’ve trained diligently and have the strength to push through difficult moments. Stay mentally flexible, accepting that there may be setbacks or unexpected challenges along the way. Embrace the opportunity to grow and learn from these experiences, rather than letting them demoralize you. Have an A, B and C plan for the day.
  4. Break the Race into Manageable Segments: Any distance can feel overwhelming when viewed as a whole. Instead, break it down into smaller, more manageable segments. Focus on reaching each checkpoint or landmark, rather than fixating on the entire distance remaining. This approach will help you stay present, maintain momentum, and sustain your motivation throughout the race.
  5. Establish a Support System: Having a strong support system can make a significant difference in your mental preparation. Surround yourself with supportive friends, family, or fellow cyclists who understand your goals and provide encouragement. Connect with other riders participating in your event through online forums or local cycling clubs. Sharing experiences, insights, and training tips can boost your morale and make you feel more connected to the event.
  6. Practice Mindfulness and Mental Resilience: Mindfulness techniques and mental resilience exercises can enhance your mental preparation. Incorporate meditation or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine to calm your mind, reduce anxiety, and enhance focus. Develop mental resilience by intentionally pushing yourself outside your comfort zone during training. Embrace challenges, practice positive self-talk, and learn to reframe negative thoughts into more empowering ones.
  7. Embrace the Journey: Remember that the event is not only about the destination but also the journey. Enjoy the process of training, learning, and growing as a cyclist. Embrace the sense of camaraderie among fellow riders and the excitement of participating in a renowned event. By savoring every step of your preparation and race day, you’ll foster a sense of gratitude, which can boost your mental well-being and make the experience more rewarding.

Conclusion: Preparing mentally for your first gravel, or endurance, event is just as crucial as physical training. By setting clear goals, visualizing success, developing a strong mindset, breaking the race into manageable segments, establishing a support system, practicing mindfulness, and embracing the journey, you’ll be well-equipped to conquer the challenges that lie ahead. Remember, this event is an opportunity for personal growth, and with mental fortitude, you can achieve an unforgettable and triumphant experience in your long event. Good luck and enjoy the ride!

Can you count on you?

We spend all of our time trying to impress those that really don’t care.

Yep, I said it!

We spend time trying to impress those on social media that don’t care what we do or who we really are. They only know us through the strong filter we put on our life as we add images and posts to social media. If we invested that same time into our families and friends there is the chance it would be an entirely different conversation! Today, we live our lives looking at our phones, wondering what will happen next. Although we are the most connected that we have ever been with the world, we are the least connected we have ever been with ourselves and those living in our homes.

Take time to go enjoy yourself!

The true question is can you count on yourself?

Can you count on yourself to be kind? We all want everything to go correctly in our lives. We know when it doesn’t that we need to be kind to others, give them grace and accept that sometimes that’s just how it is. BUT what do we do when that happens to us? Are you kind to yourself? Do you show yourself the same grace and compassion? I know I don’t.

Can you count on your words to be meaningful? Can you count on yourself to have faith in yourself. I find myself saying things that I would never say to others….you are too slow, too fat, too old or just not enough to be doing this. I would NEVER say that to anyone else but I am quick to tell myself it.

Can you count on yourself to take care of yourself? There is one thing in life that is a constant, and that is change. Nothing is ever going to stay the same. But do you take time for yourself? Do you put your physical and mental health at the top of the list? I love my bike and I make time for it, most of the time.

I know as a wife, mother and employee that if you don’t set boundaries this is really hard to do! Add in mental health and it is even harder. There are times I struggle with what do I do now?! I tell myself, if you don’t do this…no one else will. This does NOT mean that my husband and family are not supportive. But they can not be expected to know what I need.

I need to be helpful with that and take care of me. I am the best mom and wife that I can be when I am happy!

I have failed myself this year on all of these. I will do better and try harder. I will find a way to put myself at the top of the list vs being the after thought at the end. I don’t have the five cent cure and I don’t have the answers. I do know we need to treat ourselves with grace and speak kindly to ourselves.

If you can’t count on yourself…who can you count on?

Gravel Gals Gone WI-ld

Everyone needs friends that they can say…”That sounds like a bad adventure, let’s go!” We didn’t find one friend, we found five.

All set to begin our journey.

The weather forecast changed daily and not always for the better. When myself and four fellow Gravel Gals of Eliel left home we knew that it would be cold the night before we left, that it would rain on us and that we would be only slightly warmer on the trail. For this part of the trip we were right on track!

There are times that you hope your training and equipment work flawlessly. Cold rain has the ability to make or break a trip. For me, once the rain sets in the adventure really starts. This trip was no exception.

Our bikes were fully loaded on this trip. We knew that there was not sag available or cell service in most areas…we were dependent on each other. The route was set to have short miles each day with lots of times for photos and friendship, heck we even went fishing.

Part of adventure is adaptability. We knew when we left that the rain was eminent as was cold. We also knew that if we were lucky it would miss us until Friday night. We lucked out!

Just as we settled into our tents for the night the rain began. The test of who had a dry tent in the morning was on! I knew from experience that my Big Agnes Copper Spur tent was up for the challenge!

Suddenly as we began packing in the morning strategy was beginning to form. How do we keep the inside of the tent dry as we ride, how do we make sure that our pads and sleeping bags are dry as we pack in the rain?

I had my Big Agnes Torchlight sleeping bag in a Pro Bike Gear waterproof seat bag. I knew that I was safe for that part of my sleep system. My Big Agnes insulated pad was in a Sea to Summit dry bag which gave me the leisure of knowing that once again that part would be dry.

The last segment of my sleep system was my tent. I loaded the fly into my Discover Bag by Pro Bike Gear. My tent was rolled very carefully with the fly to the inside of the roll and put in the Big Agnes tent bag. By doing so my tent was perfectly dry inside and out when I got home!

Goals change with the weather and mechanicals happen. The one thing that the Gravel Gals of Eliel did not waver on was smiles. Many of us had met for the first time on this weekend and some had known each other for years…however when we hugged goodbye after burgers and beers we all left as friends.

This trip was not pre scouted. We didn’t know all of the roads, or any of them for that matter. We had not been to the campgrounds before. We went in as cyclists with a common goal of spending the weekend in the North Woods, unplugging and riding bikes.

Go find yourself an adventure where your phone doesn’t work, your GPS is your guiding beacon and relax…you won’t regret it rain or shine!

Perception and the Plan

We all have them…sometimes our perceptions are right and sometimes, well most of the time, they are not.

In March of this year we were finishing dinner after Mid South with friends. Upon standing up Mirna said “I think you need to come to Africa with me”. All we could say through the laughter was “Sit back down and tell us what that means.”

Mid South Finish Line

There is always a plan..we shouldn’t know the plan because we would badly screw it up. But I do believe that my trip to Africa was part of a plan that I did not know at the time. I believe that the plan all along was to change my view of myself and my surroundings as I went to Africa. To allow me to embrace the people and the place but in a very different mind set than I thought I would be in.

When we came home from Oklahoma I told my parents that I was going to Africa. Immediately my Mom said “I want to go!” It would turn out that this would be the last conversation that I would have face to face with Mom. My last accomplishment and adventure that she would know about on this Earth was this trip. It also turned out that she got to go to Africa and rode every mile with me. That was the plan all along…

Nick dropped me off at the Chicago O’Hare Airport with a very large bag and my bike. I was flying alone to Qatar and then on to Nairobi. The first flight was 14 hours long and second a short five hours. This was the last time I would see Western infrastructure until I was back home.

See you soon!

My perception going into the trip was that this would be an adventure of a lifetime and very hard physically. I knew that we would ride 5-6 hours per day and 40-70 miles per day. We had been warned prior to the trip that seeing the poverty would be the hardest part. My reality was very different.

I left the States with a badly broken heart. Mom was killed the beginning of April. Since she was the glue that held our family together we all were struggling to “keep our heads above water”. I also had found that the bike was my friend during those months but quit training regularly as that was just one more thing that I struggled to make happen on a daily basis. What I did not realize was that my heart was going to be healed in a land I had never been to before, and that when I came home I would do so with the singular goal of returning.

The group of 15 women spent 9 days on the trip from Nairobi to Mombassa. We rode 7 of those days through red dirt, barren land and lush tropical areas. We saw elephants, zebras and a variety of birds from the saddle of our bikes. I knew going into the adventure that this would happen.

What I did not realize was that the children would come running to the side of the road yelling “Jambo Jambo” which is hello is Swahili. Their smiles would go from ear to ear as they ran to meet us. There was not a time that we stopped that the children or adults were not there to greet us. We were the oddity in their land and they were genuinely happy that we were there.

I also did not realize how my lifestyle at home would be so vastly different than theirs. The second day as I was eating lunch I turned around and looked into the eyes of the Kenyans watching me. No one asked for food, no one said a word. I knew that they were truly hungry and truly thirsty. I knew that they had walked there on one of the hundreds of trails throughout the landscape, and would walk home. I also knew that I had luxuries at home that they did not even know existed. Suddenly the bread stuck to the roof of my mouth and my water became hard to drink. The transformation in my mind had begun.

I soon realized that we did not work all day to survive. I also realized that the running water in my home was something that women walked miles to get EVERY DAY because they had no other option. The woman in the image below filled this bucket out of a pond that I would not water my horse from, placed the bucket on her head, put her left shoe in her hand, and walked home. This is a trip she makes every day. The only time she touched the bucket was when she walked around our tents, which were clearly set on the path she was using.

With the exception of two nights on the route our toilets consisted of concrete with a hole to “do your duty” in. I have had LOTS of experience in the wild but never had a target before so this was a new experience, and not one I looked forward to. We had showers each night but with the exception of three nights that was a bucket suspended from a rod that we called our bucket baths. It felt amazing and I also realized that this was a luxury item.

As Americans I do not believe we understand the luxuries in our world. We don’t understand that we have roads with an infrastructure, postal system, running water, electricity, readily available food, heat for our homes and heat for our food. The very items we take for granted was the reason we were riding.

My trip to Africa was transforming for me, but the trip was not for me. The trip was a fundraiser for the Non Profit Zawadisha. We were raising money to help Zawadisha be able to fund micro loans for womens groups in Kenya. The same amount of money that buys me dinner one night in the States will allow a family to have a portable cook stove for their home. That is why we were there.

We spent time in the villages with the ladies from the Mangu group. For two days we got to know them, spend time and were treated like royalty. Heck, we even got to learn how to make baskets! During this time I saw pride in the womens eyes that we don’t always have here. They were proud of their homes, country and talents. Their strength was strong! Our group raised $26,000 for the women and I am PROUD of that fact!

I found peace in a place that I never dreamed I would find it. Spending days on end on your bike is good for the mind. It gives you time to think, time to process and time to do nothing more than just ride. Africa is in my heart and soul. I left with a very broken heart and came home with a heart overflowing with experience and emotion.

The plan is always there, the place has been there forever, my perception was totally off but at the end of the trip I found love and strength. Thank you Zawadisha and Kenya for that! The sign in the garden says Change Makers….we were the ones that were changed!

Garden in Mangu

The Indian Ocean at the end with the ladies in the Ocean cheering.

What is Gravel?

What is gravel to me…I was recently asked that and had to think for a second. Yes, gravel is an aggregate that many states use as a road surface. Truly that is what it is to most people.

But to me, it is a way to find adventure on two wheels. It is the surface that has allowed me to find a new family on bikes, spend time with them and push my limits. It is through gravel that I have been able to push myself past what I thought I was capable of previously.

Gravel is a term that we lovingly use to describe our family…the gravel family. Truly we are a group that supports each other, helps each other and meets on common ground. The gravel community is inclusive and invested in their fellow riders. It’s not an easy day for anyone and everyone has a different challenge. The beauty of that understanding is that although the challenges are different, they are also very much the same. Never once has anyone criticized me for my pace…instead I am met at the finish line with hugs and congratulations. That in itself is very cool!

Gravel is the surface that gave my family the gift of time together. Each summer we would spend two weeks riding “gravel or dirt surfaces” on bikes. This is a time that is sacred in my heart now that the kids are raised. It is through that time that we got to reconnect without outside interference. Our cell phones didn’t work, we slept in tents, and the only way we got around was on our bikes. Even as teenagers the boys would ask for that time alone with us…it was our time without the world being there. Gravel did that for us.

Gravel is a surface that covers almost anything off road. That surface can be anything from smooth to large chunky rocks that like to destroy your tires. Like the riders, it is not consistent and that is the beauty of it. The beauty lies in the change and difference.

What is gravel…gravel is the aggregate that I get to explore to meet the greatest group of humans I know. Gravel is my passion and my road to adventure. Gravel lives in my heart and in my soul…if you have not met gravel yet let’s talk!

Eliel Gravel Gals

Passion…For riding, celebrating and for community.

“Inclusivity is easy to talk about and harder to do…taking a stand that includes everyone is the right thing to do every single time.  As a back of the pack rider I meet the coolest people.  To me, the people in the back of the pack are the hardest working people at any given event.  They spend the longest time on the course, are outside of their comfort zones, and for some this is the longest distance they have ever ridden.  The phrase party at the back is not something that has ever resonated with me…. it’s not a party because I’m working hard.” Crystal Kovacs

When Gravel Gals of Eliel was created, my hope was to give women a community and platform to encourage other women, help new riders find a place to meet others, break down perceived barriers and grow women riders in the gravel scene.  More than any of the above, this was an inclusive community-based team for all women.  

“Of all the groups/teams I am part of this year, this is the one I am most proud of.”

I wanted women to be able to go to an event or social media page and see their teammates…it was more than just an online group.  This group is about women advocating for women in the gravel cycling industry.  We have the chance to change the narrative of women in cycling and want you to join us!

I look forward to meeting all of you at events, during rides and on-line. Let’s make this the “team to be part of”.

Crystal Kovacs and Eliel Cycling

Gravel Gals of Eliel is based upon the following: You smile and wave when you meet others.  You stop and help those that need it, and ask if you are not sure. You encourage riders of all levels, speed and ability levels. You are a voice for all women on course.  You encourage others to find adventure on the bike. You have a can-do attitude and won’t be swayed away from being an ambassador.  You do what is right.

We are currently adding members to our team…we WANT you and encourage you to join. Here are some quotes from current Gravel Gals

This might be the cycling group I’m most excited and proud to be part of! I may not be a podium finisher, but encouraging and cheering fellow athletes is something I can do with the best of them!”

“This was the group I have wanted to find for years…I can’t wait to meet everyone”

“It’s so great to be part of this amazing community with such motivating people.”

It’s not just…

We live in a world where the biggest, brightest, longest and flashiest is what goals are set against. We are taught from an early age that if we are not the strongest at x sport then we are not the “winners”. For me…these lessons carried over into my cycling life.

I know when I go to an event I am not entered in the longest distance, and if I am, I will not be in the front of the pack. I also know that I will not win the shortest distance. By the public’s standards I am not a racer. All noted in my mind…and all wrestled with.

Finishing Unbound 2022

It was not until I started talking on womens forums and doing pod casts that I started to process what that above statement meant. I was at the event working HARD to finish. The statement business in the front and party in the back was not applicable here. I was business also, just at a different pace.

I was not there to win but I was there to win against myself. And for me that was a revelation! I then started to dig deeper into what that statement meant.

Have you ever listened to riders at an event? Really listened to them when they describe their chosen distance for the day? I HATE hearing I’m only riding x amount of miles.

With Bri finishing her first ever gravel event!

IT’S NOT JUST 25,50 or 100 miles!

There we have said it…we have ripped the bandaid off. For all of you at home working hard to get ready for the event…this is YOUR event.

This is YOUR distance and YOUR adventure. Please don’t say I’m just riding x distance. You have put in the training at home, the sweat equity and gotten out of your comfort zone to do this. Don’t let anyone take that away from you, and for sure, do not take that away from yourself.

Pre-riding the RPI course

Last year I stood on the start line at Rebecca’s Private Idaho next to my friend Bri. I was watching my husband wave goodbye to me. I was entered in the 56 mile distance and he was entered in the 20 mile.

The smoke was thick that day and I knew that Timber Creek stood between I and the finish line. I had tears running down my cheeks as I stood there. Nick had had a massive heart attack in July (this was September) and I was a little afraid of how the smoke and stress, and how his body would react. Leaving Sun Valley that morning I was determined to do what was right for my sponsors …without doing what was right for myself and those that mattered. I got to the turnoff for the 20 mile event and stopped.

Smiles for miles as we spent the day riding together.

All of a sudden it became clear to me that this day was not about anyone but Nick. That day turned into one of the most fun days I’ve ever had on my bike. Nick and I rode together, finished together and then waited for Bri to crush her distance.

Never once did I think that I had only rode x amount of miles. Never once did I wish that I had completed the longer distance or that I was not riding what I was entered in. I walked over and told the timing agent to adjust my course and walked away with a smile. That was 1000% the right decision..and was supported equally by every sponsor and coach.

The morale of the story…sometimes the best things come unexpectedly and without warning. Embrace them! This day was a win and the miles on the bike were just the icing on the cake.

Finishing RPI

As event season approaches please enter events that interest you. You will find that the gravel scene is extremely friendly to all skill levels, distances and to those out there trying. Find the distance that makes you comfortable and go for it. Embrace your choice, meet friends on the course and most of all smile! You are DOING IT!

My wish for this year is that I do not once hear I’m just riding x miles…I want you to smile (even if it is a nervous smile) and say I’m stepping outside my comfort zone and today I’m riding my race! And when the going gets tough (and it will) tell yourself out loud, with your own name, I’m DOING IT! Shout it if you want!

I can’t wait to see you out there!

Why it matters…

Inclusitivity is a word used easily in conversation. It is also one that requires thought in real life.

Ever seen an article of clothing that you loved and hurried home to find out that it was no longer available in your size? This scenario has happened to everyone at one time or another. What was your reaction?

Ever shown up to an event dressed in entirely the wrong apparel? “Oh no, I did not know that this was an x type of event. ” Yep, gut sinking feeling.

Why size inclusion matters…if you are larger than a XXL finding appropriate clothing for sporting activities is less than a productive search. The clothes are boxy, low quality and ill fitting in many instances.

Imagine attending a major cycling event knowing that your clothes did not fit. Imagine that when you got there you were going to be different than everyone else because your clothing was different…wearing a T Shirt or similar item. Not only do you know your body type is not the same but now the glowing fact is there for everyone…you don’t fit in.

I receive numerous requests from major brands to test equipment. When asked I have two requirements:

That it fits

That it does the job it was designed to do.

It’s not enough to just make larger sizes..it needs to fit and work in the same manner as the clothing designed for the fit model. I need to know that this product was made for an active non traditional body type!

Why does it matter? As an industry we are trying to consistently find new people, new riders and new customers. EVERYONE has the simple need of wanting to fit in. It’s not unique by body style or comfort level. No one wants to be the stand out in a negative way. No one wants to be the last one picked.

The first time I saw my own body type in a marketing piece I ORDERED! Wow, someone understands that we have humans larger than a size small in cycling clothing. They picked a model of my size, and they chose to USE the image! I could not have been more proud of that company.

I have stood on the front line of inclusitivity since I started cycling. Of all the statements that I can say about my time in this world…that is the one I am most proud of! We are seeing change!

Telling events that I really have always wanted to purchase your event kit but it was not in my size is a hard pill to swallow…but one I gladly will take in the effort to see change. And change I have seen!

I can not wait to watch the cycling industry find that there are thousands of individuals who have non traditional style bodies. We don’t want catered to…we just want included. I am incredibly proud to say that we are seeing change. I am pushing for change, riders are pushing for change and so are brands in the industry. It will happen!

To the companies who have embraced this change…THANK YOU! To the companies that are attempting with questions…please ask.

Why does it matter….it matters because our athletes of every type matter! Fitting in matters and comfort matters!

Strangers to Friends

Whew…stepping outside of our comfort zone is easy to talk about but really hard to do sometimes. It’s even harder to trust someone else when you do so.

As we all know 2021 was a year of change and growth. As I sat inside my home missing my friends I wanted to come up with a way, as a group, that we could train from our own homes, connect via social media and calls, and then meet in person. Hence, Nomadic Adventure Co was born!

The concept was to break down barriers entering the bike packing world. The was to be an adventure not a race. I am not fast and I wanted others to find that same relaxed pace. This was a trip all about friendship, pictures and no set times. Competition did NOT have a place here.

I have bike packed myself and LOVE it. There is no better way, in my opinion, to see the countryside than from the back of my bike! Life gets simpler when the cell phone doesn’t work and all you need to do is take care of yourself and the bike. I also knew that there are more people that have never experienced a night under the stars with not a car in sight than what have.

I asked on social media “What if I told you that you would go somewhere you had never been, do something you can’t do today and come home with a renewed passion?” Oh and “It will all happen on your bike.”

When I reached out to sponsors the response was overwhelming! I knew that we were on to something but I wanted to further break down barriers by lowering the cost of entry. We provided coaching, by Joy McCullough, for five months. Every rider that chose the “Entire Enchilada” package got stronger and stronger.

One thing that 2021 brought to us was zoom calls. I need a shirt that says “You are on mute!” Our Nomads were treated to weekly videos from industry professionals. They got to meet and talk to people that are household names in our industry!

All of the above is cool but it is only what lead up to the trip of a lifetime. The goal was to ride from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT on gravel. We would finding new limits and getting to know a route that very few have travelled. It would not be easy but it would be worth it.

The ability to set up a camp where there is not a soul in sight….not one light, not one radio or even a fence is something that everyone that wants to should experience once. The stars reached from horizon to horizon that night.

Part of the gift of bike packing is to be adaptable. Things happen out of our control. When Eszter Horyani asked about being our photographer she said “It will not go as you expected but that is part of it”. Those words were about to prove so true.

When we awoke we knew that rain was coming. We also knew that the ground was saturated from earlier rains and that the dirt we were on would turn to a soul sucking mud. The theme of morning was adaptability. Time to break camp and get on solid gravel.

I loved that the group trusted us to take them on a trip that they would remember and smile about. But, I will probably never be more proud of every one of them digging deep and riding through cold rain most of that day. The sun was no longer out and things were no longer fun. BUT when we look back on it that day, it has the ability to be claimed as badass! I DID that…it was that kind of day!

Does everything go as planned? NO. Long story short we adapted with fun that was not on the calendar but arguably more fun that what we were planning. The lessons learned I believe are:

  1. Step outside of your comfort zone and stay there for a bit. You will find a sense of pride in that experience that can not be bought.
  2. Take care of yourself and your bike. Your bike is your friend on such trips. There is not an easy out but if you take care of your equipment it will take care of you.
  3. Know your gear. This was done through zoom calls, questions and planning. The six Ps definitely came into play…prior proper planning prevents poor performance. Every one of the nomads SHONE!
  4. Every day has a high and low. Neither last! Embrace each moment and make the most of it but above all just keep pedaling!

Life is full of beauty and surprises…look closely and you will find both in the same place!

If you would like to join us in 2022 please contact me at crystal@nomadicadventureco.com or our website at www.nomadicadventureco.com

Thank you to our partners: Salsa Cycles, Big Agnes, Orange Mud, Kenda Tires, Eliel Cycling, Blackburn Bags, and Chamois Butt’r. The experience would not be the same without each one of you!

Photos credit: Eszter Horanyi

Grace, humility and a strong dose of reality

Take some time to ponder this statement…..“How willing are you to consider that your life is the way it is, not because of the weight of your circumstances or situation, but rather the weight of self talk that pulls you down? That what you think you can and cannot do is influenced much more directly by some subconscious response than by the reality of life itself?!”-Gary John Bishop

It’s so easy to tell yourself “it’s too hard, you can’t do this or this isn’t something that you excel at.” How do you talk to yourself? Are you kind and full of grace or do you beat yourself up? Are you willing to embrace the uncertainty and expect nothing but accept everything?

I have been asked many times what is your favorite part of cycling….the answer is easy. I love that it has never gotten easier. I have gotten faster but I still have to work at it. As someone who never really had to struggle to “get” things cycling has given me a challenge from day one. Has the challenged changed, of course. Have I changed…oh YES!

Last year was a year that was challenging for everyone. I would be lying if I didn’t say that training was hard and then stopped completely as I watched event after event cancel. I watched in stunned disbelief as my world changed. I understood why but I still couldn’t really believe what was happening. It was during the struggle of what to do next and how to stay safe that I changed my internal talk.

I began to challenge myself to have positive inner dialogue. I was willing! I took this quote to heart….”Stop blaming luck. Stop blaming other people. Stop pointing to outside influences or circumstances.” I was told you have the life you are willing to put up with. Those words hit me right between the eyes with reality. The stressors that I was identifying with were ones that I allowed into my life. If they stayed front and center I was putting up with that choice. Choices were something within my control and I needed to own that. I also needed to own that I was capable and willing to make changes! Time to act!

Leading a No Drop Group ride at Unbound 2021

I also learned from bike events that I could embrace the uncertainty. Uncertainty is where new happens and it was time to find new. Did this happen over night? No, of course not. I still am not always certain of what is going to happen next but I can embrace that and turn it into something certain in my world.

In reality, even many of the things we think as hard facts aren’t. They’re half truths. They’re assumptions. They’re guesses. If you want to win, you have to be willing to be judged by others. Like plenty of things in our lives, part of our aversion to uncertainty comes from our fear of being judged by others. We are, in a very real way, afraid of what the public thinks and the prospect of being thrown out into the world of the social media. If you want to improve though you have to be willing to be fail….that does not make you a failure! Whether it be riding a bike, learning to run or trying a new hobby you will never achieve your true potential if you’re hooked by what other people think.

In fact, you could change your life overnight if you were simply able to abandon the belief that other peoples thoughts matter. Am I self conscious walking around in my kit at major events….yes. Do I know that others feel the same way….yes. Have I learned to not focus on that and what people think….you bet! If you are avoiding uncertainty you won’t do this. You will be too afraid of being judged and for that reason you are stopped with one foot nailed to the floor. THAT was a heard lesson to learn!!!

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

Once I learned that then I started to stop doing the stuff I knew I shouldn’t be doing and started doing the stuff I knew I should be doing! I learned to expect nothing and accept everything. I started to find that I was challenged by what my expectations were. It was not a conscious expectation but rather something that I was doing during negative self talk. The negative self talk I had was not from my own insecurities or self doubts….it was from unrealistic expectations that I had self imposed. No one had an expectation that I do 100 miles, that I do it in x period of time or that I lose x amount of pounds. Those were all self imposed expectations. STOP CRYSTAL!

You would never tell your friend that they were too slow, too fat or not ready for that event. Instead you would be encouraging and helpful…giving any suggestions that were asked for. Why was it so hard to tell myself the same thing? Why was it so hard to accept this?

Thankfully I was training again so I had time on the bike to think it though. My expectations need to change and my acceptance changed at the same time….what a moment! I began living in the moment, no longer worried about the future or rejecting the past. I was simply embracing my present situation as it came to be. This meant I owned my decisions and was in charge or it. I OWNED IT!

I can find all kinds of things wrong with myself here….but the true image is that I DID IT! I practiced riding with no hands and finally succeeded.

My life and my success, my happiness really are in my hands. The power to change , the power to let go and be adventurous, embracing my own potential was all in my own head. This powerful statement changed the way I viewed my moments, hours, days and weeks. I was no longer dependent….the change was mine.

That dose of reality was life changing. Not overnight…it takes time and willingness to try and fail. Heck, I fail daily. The difference is that I have learned to treat myself with grace and humility. I have removed the expectations that had my foot nailed to the ground. The reality that is still very real…. my life is mine to control.