Gratitude and Toilet Bowls

The best Thanksgiving I ever had, I began wrapped around the toilet of our Airbnb until 3:45 am, spewing out every mouthful of curry I’d eaten a few hours prior.

Every athlete should get food poisoning – it’d be good for you. Sure, athletes say they’re training for x or y but at the bottom of their unhealthy obsession with fitness is that there’s nothing like being fit, and I mean nothing. When you’re fit, you can just do things that other people can’t. You inhabit a different reality, a different plane. You are, for all intents and purposes, no different than a superhero to a couch-bound potato chip-eating normie.

This is why food poisoning is important – it reminds you that you’re human. That without warning, you too can be reduced to hugging a toilet, dreading the next heave. Do you think you’re immune from sickness because you’re an athlete? Lol.

No. You will not do shit. Do you think you can unload everything you’ve eaten in the past 12 hours, 1/3 of your body fluid, sleep for 2 hours, and then still spring up like a stallion and charge? Do you know what I did? I moved down into the kitchen and lay there, clutching Gatorade. And by moved, I mean crawled, over a period of two hours, only to end up prone in the entryway, unable to move.

That was the start of my best Thanksgiving ever. How the hell did that lead to my best Thanksgiving? I skipped my perennial Thanksgiving Day long ride around the Sandias of Albuquerque.

Yep, I didn’t even ride. I usually ride for 4 hours. But in 2019, after my date with intestinal torment, I did something that nearly gave my wife a heart attack – I didn’t touch my bike.

Instead, I ate pastries, had champagne at noon, and sat in a big chair with my wife, lowering the available credit on our credit cards on Black Friday deals in between bullshitting with relatives and trying way too hard to win board games before absolutely burying myself in turkey and pumpkin pie.

It was the best Thanksgiving I’ve had in living memory because there was nothing calculated about it. I wasn’t chafing to get in a big ride, snag a predetermined amount of TSS, or achieve some training goal I thought would move the needle five months down the line. I accepted my physical setback and gave in to the social inertia, and just guiltlessly, nakedly abided with everyone I love all day and didn’t feel a second of regret.

Yeah, the next day, I was hungover, bloated, and reeling from my credit card bill, but guess what? Everything, including my fitness, sorted itself out weeks later, but what took no time to unfold was the obvious intimacy and connection I’d created the day before with my wife, kids, and relatives because I hadn’t left.

If you’re motivated enough, you know that every day is a battle for your best self. You can win it, or you can lose it, and you’re right. That’s the right mindset. That’s what it takes to really unlock what you are. If you’re not ruthless, Life will run over you, and you’ll never be as fast as you could be, and you’ll point fingers at everyone else, but really the only one to blame is you. You, in the end, have to make it happen, and the world only cares about your results, not your excuses. Your life is your fault.

But, every day doesn’t matter. Not really. You’re not going to win something in April because you rode 5 hours on Thanksgiving – you’re just not. Sure, if that’s your attitude every day, it will hurt you, but if your default is psychotic adherence to training and you don’t make exceptions, that will hurt you even more. No one really cares if you’re good at breathing hard – they care how you make them feel. If you’re not there to make them feel something, then you don’t have anything.

I’ve seen that movie. There’s nothing more cringe than spending 20 years filling the spare bedroom of your apartment with participation trophies and age group jerseys that you can’t show anyone because it betrays juvenile insecurity while you keep treading in the same circles of similarly myopic psychos who can’t share a meaningful word because they’re still trying to figure out the answer to the riddle of which one of you is faster.

No, there’s not a complimentary spreadsheet attached to the bottom of this that crunches the perfect balance for you. As an athlete, you have to dwell in paradox. You have to push yourself, and you have to let go. No one can pull those levers for you; you have to figure that out. It’s an art, and art is a matter of interpretation.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m telling you not to ride on Thanksgiving. Do it if that’s your thing, or don’t. If anything, I want to check you at a moment that many people come together and ask you if you’re developing your art, the rhythm, the give and take of training and racing and allowing it to move with your life and not against it, that you’re there when it matters, that you’re digging in with people you care about and telling them by your presence at a table or a couch that you give a shit and the noisy undercurrent of watts and hours and numbers aren’t robbing you of that moment.

Because if it is, drive out to the nearest restaurant, park, and find the dumpster outback. When you’re sure no one is looking, woof down as much partially edible food as you can and then run back to your car. The more old meat you find, the better. You just bought yourself a ticket to the porcelain express. Buckle up. Your bike will not be available for the next 72 hours.

In races, just as in life, some occasions really matter. But they only matter if you think they do. This is no different than your training. You have to make it count. You have to try. You only get so many chances, so wake up, look alive, and make it count.

I’m grateful to all of you. Thanks for reading my shit. Thanks for striving. Thanks for all the kind words I’ve received over the past year, some from complete strangers who remind me there’s good in the world and all my effort and reflection aren’t lost to the void. Every word helped. Don’t forget that sometimes you can change someone else’s life with a kind word.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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