I forced myself out of my sleeping bag as morning’s first light was creeping in the tiny window of the RV. A conversation ensued in my head:
I am so tired… I should sleep a while longer… I need it…
This is your last morning here. The light is going to be amazing. If you miss this opportunity to grab pictures you’re going to regret it. You have to get up soon enough to go ride anyway.
The second argument won out, and I crawled outside, camera in hand, and headed up the hill to get photos of the sun riding over 24 Hour Town, Mt. Lemmon and the Sonoran Desert.
I spent the next half hour or so grabbing shots, and it was so worth it. By the time I wandered back to camp, the rest of the crew was awake and coffee was just about ready. I checked the team schedule — we’d been making notes of lap times in order to more accurately gauge when each person would likely be due to head out. We’d all done our night laps faster than anticipated, so things were bumped up a bit. I was scheduled to head out at 8:30, only an hour from now.
Before I knew it, that hour was up and I was heading out on my final lap, this one in the quickly-warming sunshine. Knowing this was my last and wanting to go home as tired as possible, I laid on the gas and managed to pull off a faster lap time than my second.
Back at camp, I finally got the pizza I’d been craving for the past 12 hours. I crushed it all in one sitting. I drank a couple beers in the sunshine and hung out with the crowd heckling people at the rock drop. I made friends with some folks from Hawaii when I was able to offer them a photo of their teammate doing a jump that they missed capturing.
Several hours later, I was on my way back to Phoenix, and the next day was a marathon of travel home — 4+ hours on a plane, a dead car battery fiasco at the airport, and a 3-hour drive.
My experience in the desert was so much more than a bike race. It was so much more than a weekend “vacation” to sunshine and warmth in February. It was my first bike media gig in 2 years since leaving my full-time position at Dirt Rag Magazine. It was an experiment — I didn’t know how I’d feel about being back in the bike industry because of the myriad of feelings I had about it when I left. Writing and working for a bike magazine full time wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and it took me a while to be okay with that, because it was what I had been working toward for several years prior.
But after almost 2 years away, I found myself missing the aspects of it that I loved. I do love writing. I love bikes. I love combining the two and I love having opportunities like going to Arizona for the weekend to race my bike on someone else’s dime, something I wouldn’t be able to afford to do much of otherwise. So after I had settled in to my new job making maps with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, I started to think about giving freelance writing a go again.
But this time, it was different. When I got my first writing gig back in 2014 (a bike review for Dirt Rag and soon after, a regular beat with Singletracks), I was excited and fresh but also terrified. I had a bad case of newbie/impostor syndrome. I had no clue what I was doing, and felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb as someone who had been barely riding bikes 2 years and didn’t know much about the tech or the industry as a whole (for some insight on how I was feeling back then, check out this post from my first Interbike).
I kept writing. I went to more shows. I did more reviews. I gained experience. After a little over 2 years of writing for Singletracks, I got hired full time as web editor for Dirt Rag. But I kept feeling like an impostor, surrounded by folks with more knowledge and experience than me. I was constantly terrified of losing my job because I wasn’t good enough.
Then, for a variety of reasons, I chose to leave.
And now, I am choosing to dive back in, but it’s different this time. No longer am I driven by the desire to “make it” in the bike industry. I have a full time job that I really like. It is secure and has benefits and great coworkers and I don’t hate going to work and I genuinely enjoy what I am doing. I am doing writing side gigs only because I want to, and when I want to, and there isn’t really anything at stake. I am not worried about proving myself. I’ve already done that.
My experience at 24 Hours of Old Pueblo was the best press trip I’ve ever been on. The only other one that compares is one of my first ever, to the Maxxis Summit at Mulberry Gap with Singletracks in 2016. Part of the reason is that it was well-organized and riding-focused (as opposed to the big shows like Interbike and Sea Otter where I hardly got to ride), and our group of journalists meshed really well together and became instant friends. Part of the reason is that my mindset was different. Perhaps that is the thing that made all the difference.
For the first time, I did not walk away from the event with a sense of dread about writing articles on a tight deadline. I did not spend the plane ride reliving my mistakes and what I should have done better. For the first time, I felt like I gave my 100% and that was good enough.
I rode my (well, someone else’s) bike hard. I got lots of pictures. I made new friends. I didn’t feel like I had to go hole up by myself to escape. I asked questions and didn’t worry about appearing dumb. I brought enthusiasm and positivity that have in the past eluded me. I have no regrets.