What really matters

Summer’s been quite the roller coaster ride, and I’m not even a month in.  So far, in chronological order, it’s featured:

1) Nathan’s appendicitis

2) Tornadoes at home while I was in Kansas and my 3 days post-surgery child (who, at 18, is hardly a child but still my baby) was home alone.  Once again I drop in the Mother of the Year rankings.

3) Yet another DNF at Dirty Kanza.

4) The death of one of my former students, a 9 year old boy who had been fighting a brain tumor for basically his entire life.

And in order of importance, some updates…

1) Joshua was the coolest little kid, sweet and funny and very much his own person.  In his 9 years, he touched an amazing number of people, including the entire St. Louis University mens’ basketball team.  I hope you click that link, read the post, and watch the video.  It’s worth a few minutes of your time, both to see that sweet boy and his wonderful family, cheerful and uncomplaining in the face of being dealt a pretty cruddy hand of health cards, and to see what great men those SLU boys are.  Jake, the player in the interview with Joshua, spoke at his funeral, and I could only hope to be as eloquent.  Joshua’s dad also spoke, displaying the kind of grace, faith, and strength that have marked every interaction I’ve ever had with the family.  The funeral truly was a celebration of Joshua’s life, one richly lived in spite of its short duration, and if I spent an awful lot of time crying there was also laughter.

2) Nathan’s all recovered and hoping to play in a volleyball tournament with his dad on Friday night. 

Pretty typical of what our trails looked like post-storm

3) Despite significant storm damage in town including many tree limbs down on our street, we didn’t have more than a small branch or two down.  It’s almost like there was a bubble over my house.

4) Though looking at this list definitely puts DK’s importance in perspective, I won’t pretend I’m not disappointed.  Worse than last year, even, when I felt more proud of my effort.  But I’m going to use a quote from my friend Aaron: “There is no failure, only feedback.”  So here’s my feedback:

Pictures don’t do justice to how beautiful and BIG it is out there.  You just have to be there.
  • The race: Kansas is beautiful.  Those gravel roads are super cool.  The race is such an experience. I was afraid that with so many more racers this year (between the different distances going on race day, there were nearly 1000 riders competing) that things would be too crowded or congested, but that wasn’t the case at all.
  • Equipment: The bike (Airborne Delta CX) was great, no mechanicals, no complaints.  The tires (Continental Travel Contacts) were bombproof and will be my go-to tires again next year. 
  • Nutrition: Using the Camelbak was absolutely the right choice for me.  While I probably should have eaten more pre-race, I did much better staying on top of nutrition though I kind of shot myself in the foot by bringing some foods which worked for me (nuts and dried fruit) but were difficult to access/eat on the go.  If I’m going to use those again I’ve got to have something like a mountain feed bag next year.
  • Training: While I did go out in “not great” weather, I never really forced myself out in bad weather.  I focused on getting in miles rather than getting in miles at a certain pace; that’s great if all you have to do is finish but not so awesome if you have a time cut-off.  I didn’t ride nearly enough miles.  I was trained to finish if everything went well.  Next year I want to be trained to finish, period.
  • Quitting: Quittting is like eating too much pizza or that extra big bowl of ice cream…it feels so good when you’re doing it, but once it’s done you’re miserable and uncomfortable.  I had valid reasons for quitting — I still don’t think I could have made that third checkpoint in time — but I still wish I’d ridden that third leg.  Next year I need to bring a stronger mental game.  Monika Sattler, who took second place at DK, had a great post about what it takes to finish something like this or Trans Iowa.
Nice words 🙂

If you were paying attention you might have noticed the phrase “next year” creeping in there.  Whether it’s a case of being a glutton for punishment or not knowing my own limits, I’m not ready to give up yet.  Hopefully, as a couple friends have suggested, it’s a case of third time’s a charm.  What’s the half-life of kryptonite, anyway?

The silver lining to falling far short of ones goals is that the recovery period is pretty brief, and the week after the race looked like this:

Monday: ride 12 miles, hike 2.5 checking out storm damage

Tuesday: run 6 trail miles (my first running since April 13)

Thursday: run 6 trail miles

Friday: hike 3 miles

Saturday: mountain bike 6 miles

It’s a little different from last year, when I basically sat on the couch for the three weeks between DK and the Indian Camp Creek 12-hour.  I had plenty of time to do whatever I wanted since my husband and youngest were in Colorado for Jeff’s family’s vacation, which I’d skipped due to money and because I’d already committed to DK. It wasn’t particularly fun to see the pictures and hear all about what I was missing, but I was also missed.

My 9 yr old reading to me from the journal he kept on his CO vacation.
J reading to me from the journal he kept while they were gone.

My independent, doesn’t-really-need-his-mommy boy has been much more snuggly since they got back.

Top o' the Colossus to ya!
At Six Flags on Monday

And then on Tuesday this happened.

The boy who really didn’t want to ride a bike is out on singletrack!

We’d talked about mountain biking in the past, and he’d never been interested.  For whatever reason, suddenly he’s up for it.  We went to Cliff Cave Park, where the trails are just right for a beginner.

Any time there’s a tree to climb is a bonus

He was pretty tentative for our first lap, but the second one went much faster, enough so that he was making me nervous with how (relatively) fast he was going.  He had to walk most of the uphills, but he didn’t get frustrated about it, and he was carving turns like he’d been on trails before. 


He had a couple of small falls, and then right towards the end took a switchback too fast and crashed hard.  He didn’t want any part of riding his bike for a while, so we pushed them as we headed off in search of the way out.  Eventually I coaxed him into getting on and just coasting downhill, and before long he was riding again. He certainly hasn’t let me forget that he crashed, though…or that he wouldn’t have fallen if I’d gone the right way back to our car.

It’s thirsty work mountain biking on a 95* day.

  In all, we rode a little over three miles.  And guess who wants to go back tomorrow. 🙂

This entry was posted in Bicycling, Bike racing, Dirty Kanza, Family time. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What really matters

  1. Carilyn says:

    Wow, Kate. So much on your plate right now. First, I’m so sorry to hear about Joshua’s passing. I remember when you posted about him earlier and thinking I don’t know if I could survive such a tragedy. It sounds like he has a wonderful family who reminds us what true grace is all about.

    I’m sorry DK didn’t go as well as you hoped. As a recent DNFer in a big race, I completely understand how you feel. I remind myself (often) that every great athlete I know DNFs regularly (probably more than average), but finds a way to move on to the next race.

    Glad to see your sons are doing well and you survived the tornado!

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