04 February 2013

Changing gears

And just like that ... it's over.

I always figured it would be my head that got me. I've had more concussions than I can remember (ha, ha), and the only thing I fear in life is developing CTE -- I'm moody enough as it is, so to have a medical condition contribute to that would likely be more than I can bear. That was a main factor of stepping out of road racing -- every season ended with a hospital visit due to landing on my head. At least with mountain biking I was going slower and didn't hit my head quite as often.

But as scary as that might be, it's never been something to stop me. So I kept at it, kept pushing, spent the last decade of my life pursuing my dreams. Exceeding them. Living the life I'd always wanted.

And now it's time to shift gears.

First, as many of you know, I've taken on increased responsibilities at work. This is a good thing, and is affording me an incredible seat for the next great ride -- the future of the bicycle industry is being written now, and I'm helping to shape it. For a kid who opened his first "bike shop" in his Dad's garage some 33 years ago, this is a pretty incredible opportunity that I can't pass up.

Along with that, I'm studying hard for a graduate school admissions test. I've always said we need to drink less of our own Kool Aid, and to look outside ourselves to figure out how to navigate the coming tide, and so I'm hoping to put my money where my mouth is, starting next year. I take the test in a month, and we'll see how it goes from there.

Then there's the family. When it was just Kim and I, it was hard enough to spend all my time riding, even if it was in pursuit of some sort of personal fulfillment. Once Kate came along, my efforts became more focused, though through Kim's generosity the race preparation was still very much a part of our lives. Now that there's two of them, though, it's that much harder to get out -- all last year, I found myself thinking only of them as I drove to Brevard, or Mills River, or DuPont -- wanting instead to be at home, longing for a tackling hug from Daniel or to be working on a craft project with Kate. At the end of this season, I began to spend more time at home, and now I know more acutely than ever what I've been missing.

Still, I kind of figured I'd have a bit of a go this year, and planned to pick it up once the travel ended this first quarter. "Don't call it a retirement," I said, "just an extended break."

Well, now I'm calling it a retirement.

I've been having trouble with my right wrist and thumb off and on for the last few years, without really taking the time to figure it out. Finally, as the season ended last year, it go so bad that I couldn't even pull up my socks -- the pain was that intense. And it was sudden -- there was no telling when it would start, but once engaged it wouldn't subside. It just friggin' hurt.

Which, sadly, seems to indicate that I've developed arthritis in my wrist and thumb. Which wouldn't be a big deal, except I'm a mountain biker -- I execute rear shifts with that part of my body, and it's sort of important to be able to hold onto the handlebars too. All of which is compromised by pain.

(Yes, I "could" become a single speeder. But I won't. Or at least, not to race. I just have no desire to go down that path, and besides, it doesn't solve the whole hold-onto-the-handlebar thing.)

So I think that's it. I'll try to manage through it, I'll do what I can to ride (and I think I'm OK on the road bike), and I'll get back into running to stay in shape. But I'm calling time on my racing career -- it's been an awesome ride, more fun than I could ever imagine, but I know when to say when. And it's time.

There's this awesome scene in Running Scared, after Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines come back from Key West to bitter, cold, hard Chicago. They go into their Captain's office (brilliantly played by Dan Hedaya, Carla's ex-husband on Cheers), light up cigars, lean back and tell him "We're retired." That's kind of how I'm feeling right now, with a big, sh*t-eating grin on my face, knowing the future is wide open.

It's been a good run, but now ... I'm retired.

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