How can you measure life’s greatest moments when life itself is so relative? I don’t think you can, really. Because we are all human, which exposes life’s random nature. We are each a complex unique entity, but an organize jumble of DNA. Organized, but subject to unexpected results. I would like to try to measure my life’s greatest moments just to show how a bunch of complex organisms, each with their own relative ways of measuring things, can factor themselves into one of them for me.
When I first moved to Missoula mountain biking was a distant memory for me. In fact I moved here with a old broken Trek that I had from my previous mountain bike life. I was into hiking and photography back then and mountain biking was not really on my radar any longer. As I look back two factors evolved me into who I am today, Missoula’s great trail system, and TNR. If it were not for TNR who knows what other random path I would of taken.
The TNR or Missoula Thursday Night Rides is a group of people I hooked up with back June 10, 2004. I heard about them when I stopped into Adventure Cycling to ask if there were any mountain bike groups in town. Someone at the front desk said that Julie Huck has a group that meets on Thursday nights. So I inquired about more information and learned that the next ride was up Grant Creek. It was there that I met up with new people and did the Ravine trail, my first TNR ride. I have rode almost every ride in the last 7 years since then.
Over those 7 years each of the people I have met, rode with, become friends with, have collectively made the TNR a big part of my life here in Missoula. They have become my family. Last night we did the Treasure Ride to the top of Sentinel, even though I technically didn’t ride due to hands that are still injured from last weekends 24 hour race. On top of Sentinel an event took place that forged another notch in my timeline. A mark that measures out another great moment in my life.
Previous 5 greatest moments that I can think of at this time:
- The big hug after the 24 hour solo world championships.
- Starting line at a world cup with my parents in attendance.
- Seeing Ross finish the Butte 50.
- Sunrise moment with Jill.
- Second win at Vermont 50.
The big hug: I guess measuring great moments would be hard if we didn’t have emotions. I mean, define what a great moment is. For me a great moment is a combination of peak emotional happiness. Not only a peak of accomplishment but the emotions of reaching it with other people. To reach a goal of racing in the world championships is pretty big in itself but to enhance it with three other people makes it pretty intense.
I don’t remember much of the race because I had to go to that special place to hide from the pain monster. When I emerged from the darkness and that guy put a medal around my neck I made a b-line for my friends. Bob, Rich, and Sten were standing at the sidelines next to the media photographers. Their eyes glossed over with emotion we all hugged in a moment that is one of the greatest of my life. Absent from that hug but ever so present in my heart were my family back in Missoula. Also Paul and his family who just moments later showed up in the pits so very proud. The TNR gang who if were not for them I wouldn’t of been there. I think last night ranks up there with “the big hug” if not my all time greatest moment.
World cup starting line: I mentioned my “previous mountain bike life” earlier in this post. There was another time when I was all consumed with mountain bike racing and I had some pretty great moments. But there was one specially great moment that really did not have anything to do with reaching a goal. In fact the World Cup race at Mount Snow Vermont was a “elite” category race and not part of the world cup pro race. Also I came in last due to some miscommunication and severe dehydration. My greatest moment is such only because in hind sight after what happened after the race. My mom was so excited she rushed up to me as fast as she could with her walker. So proud she figured I had won the race. I suggested that she take a look at he leader board but she said she didn’t care. In her mind I had won. So my greatest moment was standing at the starting line before that race listening to the national anthems play and seeing my parents in the crowd who already thought I was a winner.
Seeing Ross finish the Butte 50: Last years Butte 100 was one of my worst mountain bike races ever. My entire season hinged upon it but I totally blew it. At the end I was sitting upon the ground totally devastated. Then Ross came in. Again a hug was commissioned and as I looked into his eyes I saw everything that defined that moment. I saw our friendship that started with a Thursday Night Ride and how he talked me into going to Idaho for a race, re-starting my race passion. I saw the inspiration that my own passion sparked. I saw self pride, a father that has devoted his life to his family finally do something big for himself. His accomplishments would inspire his own family. That was one of my greatest moments, realizing that I didn’t have to win races. All I had to do was try.
Sunrise with Jill: Sometimes a great moment can come at the least expected moment. A complete change in direction. To release focus on a goal and just look around with a fresh view. Coming to the end of a journey before the end of a race sounds confusing but for once in my life I choose a moment over ambition. A friend over a race. I choose to have a great moment because up until that sunrise lap at the 25 hours of Frog Hollow I was driven. I was driven by many motivators and focused driven by past daemons. A special friend and a beautiful sunrise. A connection and a moment in time that is so rare could not be reproduced. How many people stop before finishing a race to watch a sunrise with a special friend. Truly great moments can come from decisions. There is a saying to “stop and smell the roses”. I stopped and watched a sunrise with my friend. A great decision indeed.
Second Vermont 50 win: When you finally realize a talent and gain confidence and respect for yourself it is a special moment. Finally to be good at something, to find your place in the world is special. To win back to back Vermont 50s confirmed it for me. All my racing career I had taken a back seat to a dozen top level racers in New England. I was good but it just so happened there was other awesome talent in the region too. My best result in a regional big race was 12th. I was good at something but never really felt it was my sport. As I pulled away with 12 miles to go to take my second VT50 I realized I had a special gift. I had never felt so strong against people I never thought I could beat.
To this day I look back how it felt to pull away with such power and never really duplicated that moment until recently at a 24 hour race. Since then I have arrived in this world, I am a ultra endurance athlete. My greatest moment was realizing it. I still hold my bike above my head to celebrate wins, I picked it up at the VT50.
Merging in a new great moment: But now my top 5 greatest moments has changed. Last night was a cumulation of all my top moments and how they have molded me into the person who the group on top of Mount Sentinel gathered to say good bye to. During the evening I listened to story’s and how my mountain bike madness has affected others. How lucky am I to have found the Missoula Thursday Night Rides and taken from that weekly gathering some of my greatest friendships. Some of my greatest moments.
In the next two weeks I continue on down life’s path in a new direction leaving Missoula. I know where my greatest strengths are stashed. It will be back in Missoula, on some trail, in the form of a group. My family. And I will return regularly to enjoy the bonds I have made. Yep, last night was right up there, maybe the best moment of my life.