Maybe you once had aspirations of being a world class athlete. Maybe you still do. Or maybe you never have, and that’s okay too. But if you did, you probably had this vision of competing in your first world cup or world series or Olympics or whatever, and probably, most-likely, going out on a limb here, that vision did not include having MRSA.
I know, because I once had that vision too. When I signed up to race my first Enduro World Series earlier this year, I knew I wasn’t prepared, not in the technical sense. The girls I would be racing against would have years and years more experience, both racing and riding their bikes. They would be former World Champions and Olympians. They would be total, utter badasses and I would just be me. I knew I would be lucky to not get last. I wasn’t naive — I knew I was way, way, WAY out of my league. I did, however, sort of expect that I would be able to walk and think straight the week leading up to the race. I expected that I would be able to pre-ride all the courses and be, you know, more or less prepared to do my best. What I didn’t expect? A late night ER visit, a fever and a swollen leg. Thanks, MRSA, great timing. (Read the details of my run-in with flesh-eating bacteria here).
To be honest, there was a part of me that didn’t really want to do this race at all, even before the MRSA. I wanted to wait until I was faster. Better. Braver. Stronger. More qualified. More “legit” of a pro racer. Next year, maybe. Or the year after that. When I was ready. In fact, I wasn’t sure I wanted to race pro at all. I just didn’t feel ready.
But then, as he often does when I’m having an existential crisis, Macky stepped in and said exactly the right thing — “Nobody’s ever ready to race pro until they do it.”
He can be surprisingly profound every now and then.
Sometimes you’re not ready for something until you do it.
And so I showed up to the start line of my first ever Enduro World Series with my leg wrapped in three layers of gauze and covered in a modified tube sock. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t anywhere near my best. In fact, I was drugged out on a cocktail of three different antibiotics and I felt terrible. But I was there. Which was something.
I won’t go so far as to say that this race was fun. It was hard. My body was a wreck before we even got started. I was in pain. I was tired. The race was three days long and it felt eternal. A friend crashed hard on the last day and had to be taken to the hospital with pelvic fractures, skull fractures and a traumatic brain injury. It was scary, and draining and scary again.
But it was also something more. It was empowering. I watched my competitors rally around the injured rider — the girls behind her stopped their own races to get her help. They stabilized her spine and saved her life and waited with her until medics arrived. They were amazing. The women of enduro are great bike racers and even better people. They are awesome and I am just in awe of them, and beyond honored to have been a part of this race at all, ready or not.
Sometimes you don’t know what you’re capable of until you do the things you thought you couldn’t do. For some things, you’ll never be ready. And if you wait until you’re ready, you might never do the thing.
I’ve done a lot of things that I thought I wasn’t ready for — traveling by myself, living out of a car, conversing in another language, doing a particularly difficult bike race. I didn’t always do these things well. Sometimes I made mistakes. I got lost. I spent too much money. I confused the Spanish word for owl with the word for lettuce, over and over again. Sometimes it was overwhelming and miserable and not what I was expecting. But, always, without fail, I found myself to be more capable than I had anticipated.
And even though I wasn’t ready for my first Enduro World Series, I finished the race. I wasn’t even last. I did it. And next time I race an Enduro World Series, I’ll be ready. Or I won’t be. But I’ll be there. And hopefully I won’t have MRSA.
I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re reading this and trying to decide if you’re ready to live out of a car, or race enduro, or travel the world, or quit your job, or embrace your dreams in some other way — this is what I have to say:
You’re not ready. But you should do it anyway.