Chapters EP:2
Chop Wood, Carry Water

When people ask me why I do what I do, or why I started racing when I was 5, I don’t know how to give a simple answer. The simplest one I can give is to say I do it for the full spectrum of emotions that come from racing bikes… because there’s sure a lot to it.

“Before you arrive, chop wood, carry water. After you arrive, chop wood, carry water”
- Zen proverb

Christopher’s field notes from each segment in this episode (January through April).

January: A simple and straightforward month. Every day pretty much the same and always ending in the recovery boots. No travels, no need to manage logistics, just getting stuck in the work. The pace of this month is so different than the rest of the year, so I have to appreciate the mundane work and predictable pace while it lasts. My training blocks were about 20-25 hours a week during January, with two days in the gym, and two days of intensity on the bike per week. Lots of steady endurance and finding sweet long routes in Santa Cruz.

February / March: The wind up to the World Cup season. 8 race days to get back to the sharp edge before Brazil. More races than I typically do to start the season, but collecting points to make the Olympic team is a huge priority. The race environments are more laidback, from Salinas, Puerto Rico, to Temecula, California, and Northwest Arkansas. It typically takes me a couple early trips, but quite quickly I’m used to living out of suitcases and being between the race tape again.

April: One of the most important months of the race season. Everyone is keyed up and ready to fight for Olympic qualification. Everyone has fresh enthusiasm and fresh fitness. My trip began with a couple curveballs; getting stung by a highly poisonous caterpillar, and proceeding to have one of my worst World Cup short track results ever. Within 24 hours I had to regroup and refocus on the XCO. Although I went through the start loop in the mid 30s, I stayed fully calm, and didn’t think about anything but executing each part of the course as well as I could. I kept moving forward until I found the lead group, and on the last lap, I had the kick to attack and win. You never know when it all comes together, and winning a World Cup in this way reminded me you can never count yourself out. Mairpora was a historic triple podium for the guys on our Specialized team, and that made the day that much sweeter.

We rode this high into round two in Araxa. I was second in the short track to Victor, while Haley Batten won in the women’s XCC. I lined up at the XCO starting line with the yellow number 1 plate and leader's jersey on, but 2 minutes into the race, I clipped a course marking pole and flipped off the bike. While I twisted my bars back in place, I watched the last riders in the field slowly walking their bikes through traffic on the first climb. Just like you never know when it will all come together, you never know when shit goes sideways, and such is sport. I salvaged the race quite well, passing 100 riders to come in for 22nd.

After Brazil, I flew straight to Cedar City, a small high desert town in southern Utah for some altitude training. The complete change of scenery made the time in Brazil feel like a dream. I had gotten the results I hoped for to start the year, but that didn’t really change anything about the current moment I found myself in. I had to come back to the process just the same, and work with the reality of the here and now. I was more than happy to come back to the simple work - to chop wood, carry water, and continue on towards the next one.