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A Look Inside

By May 17, 20137 Comments

I’m back in “my office” hurtling through space at a cruising altitude of 30,000’ in a giant metal vessel.  Today, I’m in the aisle seat for a quick exit.   I’ll try to make my very brief 30 minute layover and pray my bike and suitcase make the sprint into the next cargo space on the next plane.  I’m on my way to the east coast for a couple weeks.  My days at home in Boulder have been very limited this year. My friends are wondering where I am, and I’m thankful they still try to squeeze into my frenzied schedule.  Some of them even mark on their calendar when I’ll be in town.  I’m thankful they don’t give up on me.  I have lists on my phone and computer of things I need to get done and feel frustrated that I always seem to be behind and overcommitted.  I want to do it all… but I know I can’t and I’m simmering a little too close to the boil over point.

I just put down an issue of one of my favorite bike magazines- Switchback. This issue was particularly special.  I like the feel of the paper in my hands and the photos.  I had to pause as I felt my eyes fill up and my nose start to burn as I read Heidi Swift’s recount of MTB Ayiti.  She did an amazing job bringing me back to the event as if I was there… and the fact of the matter is that I actually was there with her, and my story about it is in Mountain Flyer.  Hers was much more eloquent- I deeply admire her writing style.  I realized I used to write more personally and from the heart on my blog, and that now my posts are rushed just to get the words out so I can move onto the next thing.   I decided to open my computer and decided to type my thought process like I used to do.  I had a similar eyes blurring/nose burning reaction 2 nights ago during a presentation I gave at Primal Wear in Denver about my race in Nepal this past March. “What’s with me?” I wonder as the pressure in the cabin changes as we take off and hope that no one notices my emotional energy swirling furiously in seat 27C.

I sit quietly for a few moments eating my almond butter and cherry jam sandwich I brought with me and realize that although these events seem like a dreamlike whirlwind, they actually happened.  I travel alone 90% of the time, and I actually enjoy sitting on a plane for hours because it gives me the rare downtime I crave if I can convince myself not to work on the plane.  I delve a little deeper about my emotional state and I realize my reaction is one of extreme gratitude and almost disbelief.  This is my real life.  I still can’t believe I got here.  It seems like just a year ago, I had my head down working 2 jobs, trying to train and race my bike as a first year pro, dealing with a heart wrenching break-up, and struggling through my masters degree in Electrical Engineering and wanting to quit.  NO DNF.  I was 22 years old.

Now it’s 7 years later and somehow I’ve gotten to where I’m at by not giving up.  My parents taught me to always do my best, to work hard, and not settle. It seems like if I keep being true to what I want to do, things work out.   It’s working, but it’s not always easy. Between dashing off to the airport every week between work, racing, and dating a Canadian, there’s a great amount of life in just one action-packed day.  I forget the great amount I’ve done and downplay it dramatically.  I break my New Year’s Resolution daily – take 10 minutes to reflect on my life with a deep presence.  If I have a free minute, I pack 2 minutes into it.  I need to stop.  I am out of control! So as I sit here, I tell myself a few facts from the year- I actually did trudge through thigh deep snow carrying my bike up to 17,769’ for the second time in my life on top of Thorong La Pass in Nepal 3 months ago.  I went to Haiti despite the CNN news reports and US safety travel advisory back in February.  I saw the devastation in Port Au Prince, I rode my bike across the unforgiving and ruggedly beautiful mountains across Haiti in the first race ever with an inspiring bunch of individuals.  I danced on stage with Haitians at the pre-carnival party wearing a mask in Jacmel…and then I remember I also danced with the Nepali women in Pokhara. And I just got a hug from Thor at the airport – my friend from the Yak Attack (a pilot) who rode/hike-a-biked with me during the most beautiful and trying stages of the race.  Apparently the airport is his office too.   He commented on the helmet hanging off my backpack; something I think of as insignificant because I always have it.  Seeing Thor reminded me of the profound friendships I’ve made along my journeys on the bike around the world.  I’m thankful to have crossed paths with so many brave, passionate people and I know I’ll see them again.  And now I’m going to race the 2nd annual Pisgah 111K in a mountain range I’ve never set rubber to on Saturday on a brand new Canyon 29er full suspension hardtail, spending the week in Charlotte and Chapel Hill doing work meetings and shop visits, Ergon product videos, speaking at 3 community clinic and group rides…then loading into a sprinter van on Friday with a fun and rowdy group to drive the 8 hours to State College, PA to test my mental and physical will for 7 days at the Transylvania Epic Stage Race.  I’ll have been to 5 countries and 8 states by the end of May in 2013.

Whoa.  I’m moving so quickly and doing so many things that I find I miss out on fully processing the things I’ve done.

I want to do it all, but I need to take time to slow down.  I criticize myself for my lack of presence lately as I rush through what I’m doing so I can tackle the next task or pack the next suitcase, and I’m probably late to wherever I was going.  As I watched a video that fellow Yak Attacker, Rob Burnett made at our presentation the other night, I realized that all the big things I take on don’t seem that intense when I’m doing them.  However, when I stop and look back at them, I realize from an even bigger scale what wonderful life experiences I’m getting and I’m thankful.  It seems that when we’re in a situation(good or bad) that’s big and requiring a lot of energy and power, we get into a mode where we just do it.  Humans are extremely resilient creatures… and then when we get through it and take a step back, we say, “Whoa!  I don’t know how I did that!”  So I am thankful.

I’m thankful for my health, for the things that come naturally to me, thankful that each experience builds upon another giving me more confidence, empathy, love, and a much deeper capacity for the well of life.  I’m thankful for the wonderful, loving, supportive people in my life.  I’m thankful for opportunity.  I’m thankful to simply have been born in New Mexico, U.S. and A and all the opportunity that comes with being lucky enough to simply have been born American.  I could have been born in a less fortunate place without a chance to live my dreams…or even have equal opportunity as a female, or weekly trash pick up!  I’m thankful I’m stopping for a minute to think, to write, to return to myself, to who I am not just what I’m doing.  I also am trying to slow things down.  Maybe slide 50 seconds into my free 1 minute instead of trying to shove 2 minutes 1. To maybe do a little less, to travel a little less, to let a few opportunities slip by(*cringe cringe*) so I can recharge and have more balance too.

Now back to my to do list….




  • 1speed says:

    Nice post. You are one of the lucky ones! Enjoy it all and good luck at TSE!

  • Fran says:

    Hey Sonya, it doesn’t matter how tired and busy you are. You have the life I always dreamed about. I started racing at age 13 and had all the passion and strength that a MTB racer needs to success. But my parents and family never support me with the excuse that MTB racing was not going to take me anywhere… Plus you are right, you are lucky to be born at the States; in Costa Rica you just dont get support unless you are really lucky and racing is something that not everyone can afford $$. So 17 years later I’m like many other riders, working in something you don’t like and that doesn’t make you happy, still enjoying riding but wishing I had the same opportunities you had.
    I don’t tell this to feel sorry about me or other riders, just for you to be even more aware of how lucky you are and take advantage!!!! I met you at La Ruta de los Conquistadores and you are nice and funny. Enjoy and I wish the best for you!

  • cynthia says:

    love you girl! and miss you! hope to see you soon. If anything – I can count on seeing you in person at the breck epic. hope you have a great race at TSE – I’ll be cheering from CO. 🙂

  • Gaz says:

    A great read and from the heart. I’ve never heard of a full suspension hardtail before though.
    You seem a class person, thanks for the stories. X

  • Jeff Katzer says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing these thoughts with me (us). Now kick back and chillax for a minute. Kat

  • Daniel says:

    That search occupies a lot of us, although each of us has different parameters we are looking within the goal we seek is pretty much the same. Learning to correctly pick and choose our battles seems to be an ongoing learning process.
    I enjoy reading and following your adventures but also realize how taxing it all must be at times. You’re truly an inspiration to a lot of people, not just by doing what you do but being who you are at the same time. I hope you are able to achieve a bit of balance someway so you can retain most of that. If it is that important to you, you will find a way.

    Personally I love them experiences that are all but impossible to mentally process all at once, that; ‘did that really just happen?’ or ‘did I really just see that?’ feeling. I take a lot of photos so that helps jar the memories later, write a lot of notes too. There was a time in my life I was bored and had trouble finding things to do- I’ll trade that for living a life so full I cant remember all the details any day.
    Take care of you, and best of luck in your adventures.

  • James Lee says:

    Keep charging ahead girl. You’ve made it this far with your perseverance. You’ll look back one day and be very satisfied. You also give us commoners a glimpse into a wonderful life consumed with what we love. We’re pulling for you to succeed. I was at your Chapel Hill clinic and won some tires and was so thrilled to meet you because I look up to you and what you have accomplished. I have a feeling no matter where you would’ve been born you would exceed all expectations because it is clear you are driven! Thank you so much for being an inspiration to us all.

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