Every professional racer faces that inevitable day when goals change and racing is no longer the top priority. Stepping away is not easy to do, because every facet of a racer’s life up until that point is geared toward improving or preparing. Whether it’s the training and riding, eating correctly, going to bed earlier than everyone else, or simply being disciplined enough to make yourself rest, there is always a reason or motive behind every action. It’s just how our how minds are programmed. There is a world moving around us, but all we see is the next gate drop. That’s a difficult, if not impossible, outlook to simply turn off.
It took time to sink in for me. Before, I would wake and immediately begin thinking about the next race in some aspect: what it entailed, where I was traveling, what I could do to prepare better for that singular event, and who I thought would be my close competitors. That was always the drive for me. I absolutely hated being beat by someone that I felt I should finish in front of. Words cannot express how much I hated that. If you ever saw me throwing things around the pits like a 5-year-old, that was generally a good indication of that occurrence. Racers are competitive, though; that’s what we do. To wake up one day and not have that anymore was a weird experience.
I think it’s that competitive spirit that brings racers back time and time again after they retire. The desire to work hard, prepare, and compete at a high level is very enticing after being away for a while. It presents a finite goal that we can work toward. We’re not looking for the open-ended dynamic of a professional career again, but just a few dates on the calendar that will come and pass. It allows us to once again experience that old lifestyle while knowing it is only a temporary foray to old times.
I’ve been preparing for a few upcoming European supercross races. Doing that rekindled feelings of pressure and nervousness that I haven’t felt since I walked away eighteen months ago. It is nice to know that life is behind me whether I win or lose. I’m not out there racing to pay my mortgage or fighting for a spot on a team. I can go and enjoy the experience and compete for the pure sport of it. Instead of staring right through everyone I see at the race, I can take the time to smile and appreciate being there. Whatever memories people have of my racing career won’t be affected by this venture. Racing for the pure fun of competition is what brings us all back and why I signed up for a race next weekend 7,000 miles away.
That’s not to say it has been easy to jump back into that lifestyle, though. Once you’re out, all of the specific muscles key to motocross and the required cardio fitness have to be rebuilt from virtually nothing. Once I started riding again, it brought on a lot of soreness that didn’t used to occur. There were plenty of days where I questioned if I really wanted to do this again, even though it would only be for a couple of months. Long bike rides and hellacious workouts are not a lot of fun for any reason. They are necessary, though, and I have put in my time to get ready to battle once again. The biggest struggle is simply trying to find time to fit everything in. Working a full-time job makes it tough to get to a practice track and accomplish anything. Time management is a skill that I have learned to excel at with this racing endeavor. My typical schedule has been something along the lines of:
5 a.m. - Wake up call
6 a.m. - Run or spin bicycle
7:30 a.m. - Work at Fly Racing
1 p.m. - Gym workout
2p .m. - Return to work
5 p.m. - Either riding or another run/bicycle
7 p.m. - Finish
As you can see, there isn’t much time for anything else at the moment. I have been doing a minimum of two workouts a day along with riding in hopes of regaining the fitness and form that I once had. It has been fun, but I will definitely be happy to taper off once these races pass. I lived that life for long enough, and some days I can see why I was ready to take a step back when I did.
For me, this has just been something I decided to do for the fun of it. I’m racing in Europe at events that I hand-picked. I don’t have any desire to line up against the best riders in the world here in the USA. I know how good they are and the level that racing has climbed to. At Anaheim, I’m content to sit back in awe and watch, just as I have the past two years. For these limited events, though, I can feel that tension and competitive edge working back into my psyche. I hope to be able to keep it lighter than before, live in the moment, and know that I will look back one day and wish I once again had the opportunity I do today.
Racing is ingrained in all of us. Whether you are a vet rider at a hare scramble, one of the sport’s elite flying over to race in the Bercy Supercross this weekend, or simply hoping to get back to a race soon, we are all of the same mindset: We want to have fun on our motorcycle and compete. It’s why Tim Ferry and Ricky Carmichael went back and raced Loretta Lynn’s. It’s why Damon Bradshaw and Kevin Windham made comebacks after battling with burnout. It’s why Ben Townley has come back to racing again this year. Stories like this will keep unfolding. We are racers. It’s not only what we do; it’s who we are.