This I Believe

Marisa - Alexandria, Virginia
Entered on April 26, 2006

I believe in falling down—if only for the sole purpose of getting back up again. Falling down is a common occurrence in the sport to which I dedicate my weekends during the Autumn months. It’s no coincidence that this season is also called Fall.

Cyclocross is a sport in which cyclists (willingly) race many laps of a short course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills, and obstacles requiring a rider to dismount, jump a barrier and remount. Armed with two knobby tires secured to my green, Surly frame, I set out weekend after weekend from September through December to race over barriers and sandpits and hike my bike up and down steep hills, through the gnarliest of weather—and for what? Fame? Hardly. Fortune? Not likely. In addition to being fun, I do it because it teaches me that I am stronger than I know. A whole lot of pain for a little bit of redemption.

Such redemption doesn’t always come in the form of prize or cash awards, though nice, but mostly it comes in the form of mud, blood and vindication. Cyclocross is the Fight Club of our time—an arena where seemingly well-adjusted folks convene to trade egos for humility, and stare down our own Tyler Durden. We conquer ourselves with every ankle we twist, shin we bruise and collarbone we break. And still we get up and finish our laps bloodied and muddy, but smiling.

Not to get overly symbolic, but I believe that cyclocross is the perfect metaphor for overcoming obstacles—literally, the two foot high barriers we must jump over tirelessly—and figuratively, when life deals us a near fatal blow, from which we can’t imagine recovering. In the first race of the season, that was me, face down in a pile of gravel, having hit the deck after taking the wrong line in a switchback. The crowd watched as I drove my bike into the ground, got back up, spit out some rocks and continued on. There was no time to take inventory of my body; I had escaped with out a flat tire—I was good to go, so I did. And the crowd cheered on and I gave a casual smile. Even if I came in last (which I did) I wasn’t giving up, not for a bloodied knee or bruised ego.

These moments come back to me in my seemingly well-adjusted life—and suddenly deadlines, conflicts, and temporary setbacks in love and life don’t seem so insurmountable. Despite my bruises, I will be out there next season doing it again. After all, though I may fall down from time to time or get the wind knocked out of me, whether in life or in cyclocross, as long as I’ve still got air in my tires, I’m good to go. This, I believe.