Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Progress And The Art Of Showing The Fuck Up

A few days ago as I was back in the gym and working with my coach, we began discussing my most recent confrontation with terra firma; as we talked through my mental state and he checked in to see where my head game is at, Jay and I delved into the deeper parts of the athlete ego and how, despite the trollish posts and criticism from external sources, publishing the video of my crash and openly discussing how things went wrong was ultimately incredibly healthy for me.

He said "you seem happy". 

And there it was. I kinda looked up and grinned, and then admitted that yeah, I'm doing okay despite it all. I acknowledged the disappointment of not being able to race a track I really, really loved and be able to throw down what I knew could be a repeat of national champs, and then I said "but you know, I don't think I would have learned as much as I did had I been able to ride like I knew I could." 

I still feel that way. No, I didn't race. No, I didn't even get a single solid photo from the multiple great runs I took that day. No, there was no glory and no obvious reward, and yes, I've caught a lot of shit for pulling an amateur move and grabbing brakes.

The thing is, everyone has done it. And by acknowledging that in a very public way and saying 'yeah, I fuck up', I gave myself more space to be human. By not just saying "this is what happened, this is why it happened and this is how it goes sometimes" but actually opening up and claiming the space to be human, I kicked over the pedestal some people tend to put athletes on, and I gave myself the emotional and mental room to grow and progress into what has ultimately been one of the more positive recoveries I've ever had.

Because the thing is this: a lot of people root for me to fail, and that video? That crash? Some folks publicly celebrated it across social media. It was confirmation to them that I don't belong and that I don't have the skill to race at a certain level despite everything to the contrary that I've ever done... And that's okay. Because that isn't about me. Anyone who wishes for a stranger to fail in such a dangerous way has far bigger problems than I do after crashing like that. And it gave me some perspective into being human, into being okay with being human and into looking at the gap, laughing and joking about never taking that much cold medicine again.

Or, you know, just not grabbing brake. 

But there's no such thing as perfection. Have you ever watched the outtakes for some of the best MTB, ski and skate videos on the planet? I have. I grew up on those, cut my teeth to the wails of pros who fucked up and then put it in a blooper reel. And what inspired the shit out of me then shaped who and what I am today -- just because you crash doesn't mean you're out. It doesn't mean we're bad at what we do or that we'll never be our best. What it means is that we're not afraid of looking like assholes in the pursuit of becoming better at whatever we're chasing.

There's no dishonor in that

The real dishonor is in not racing or not chasing dreams because of what we're afraid of looking like. The real dishonor, as a character in 'The Art Of Racing In The Rain' tells Denny, is in "not racing because we're afraid to lose". There's nothing wrong with losing a race or being slower or fucking up and crashing. There's not a damn thing bad about taking risk, fucking up and getting back up again. "What if I lose?", Denny asks Don. "There is no dishonor in losing."

I'm not afraid of looking like a jerk. I'm not scared of looking like an idiot. I don't give a good flying fuck if I seem like an amateur to the armchair quarterbacks who sit at home and scoff at how they could have done better. Why? Because I spent the first half of my life so fucking wrapped up in looking stupid that I wasted most of the best and smartest years by not trying because I was so afraid of failing. I wasted a brilliant mind and an incredible athletic talent on the perfectionist dreams of the people around me and I was so crippled by the potential (or eventual) criticism of family, friends and strangers that it made me into a shadow of myself.

I don't live like that anymore. Not only am I a better athlete and person for it, but the world is a better place because of it. If I look like a moron in the pursuit of making this world a better place or if I fail or if I get hit by a milk truck while I'm helping someone else, so fucking be it. Because at least I tried. I will have tried over and over and over and over and over again so much that when they choose what to write on my headstone, it will be along the lines of "most stubborn asshole on the planet". "That bitch never gave up." "God, she was a like a dog with a bone." 

It's not that I'm fearless. It's that I refuse to let my fears dictate who I am or how I live or what I do. It's not that I think I'm better than anyone else, either -- it's that I know I'm better than myself as I currently am. It's that I believe in trying to be a better person, athlete, friend and human every fucking day and because I often fall so short, I just try harder the next day. Life isn't a goddamn competition against anyone but ourselves. This isn't a game of who has the best stuff or the shiniest toys. It's not about who's the coolest or the most aloof or the least touchable. All of this is about how many times you're willing to look like a dumbass in the pursuit of what you believe in. Life is about looking stupid and being dumb and finding that those things make you want to be better at whatever you suck at. That's what mountain biking is supposed to teach us. It's not about being perfect on the first try. Hell, sometimes that first try is just about trying not to die. Are you dead? No? In the words of Borat: GREAT SUCCESS! Now go try again.

Life is about trying. Life is about making do, showing up and putting the work in while laughing at your own stupid mistakes and letting the shit roll off your back. If looking cool on social media is the only goal you have in life, then congratulations -- I guess you'll have lived a more marketable life than the rest of us. But I'm not ignorant enough to think I know everything or to pretend that I'm not human and not fallible and not trying. 

Because I am. I try way too fucking hard sometimes. I care too fucking much. I jump in too fucking fast. And I reach too fucking high.

But you know what? I do okay, and tomorrow I'll do okay-er. And the least I can do while giving myself some space to be just okay is to let other people know that they're doing okay, too. Because nobody's perfect and the goal isn't perfection -- it's progress. It's about who shows up, who gets up, who makes up on that day. That's what I love about racing bikes. It's not about who's the fastest over a series or on Strava or in friendly comparison, it's just about who chooses to show up and progress. You show up enough and it's gonna pay off. And sometimes showing up hurts. Sometimes taking risk really sucks. But you continue to show up. We show up to the gym, to physical therapy, to that stupid MRI appointment. We show up for the great stuff and we show up for the suck. We show the fuck up. And sometimes we show up for bad shit. Sometimes we show up and someone gets hurt or we get broken off or we waste a whole lot of time and money just showing up. That's part of showing up. It's what makes us hungrier. It's not about people who are MTB Jesus or who can perform miracles. People who look like MTB jesus have often had more than their fair share of showing up just for the suck. But racing and riding and life are about showing up.

It's about the people who can show up, and then figure out how to show up and string a few good days together, a few good minutes, and determine that they're okay with giving a little more 'try'. That hitting pay dirt, heaving your guts out as everyone goes silent, then finally breathing, then actually kneeling, then standing up and walking away is absolutely okay. And whether that takes a few minutes or an entire lifetime, getting up is the heroic part. Getting up, even when you're not sure you can stay standing. Getting up, getting back in whatever ring you're swinging in and just trying to hold on.

Because sometimes, just trying is heroic. 

Fuck the expectations. Fuck the comparisons. Fuck the perfection, the criticism, the armchair quarterbacks. Get up, get up on your own terms and walk your own line. 

That's all that matters. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I suck.

Everyone knows I’m a little crazy.

Or a lot.

Pick one and move on.

I’m too aggressive, I have zero filter, I swear too much, I’m too demanding, I blow through deadlines and promised due dates like they’re yellow lights and I’ve gained thirty pounds of what my coach Jay says is likely me just ‘getting high on my own supply’.

I’ve been making a lot of cookies, okay?! 


Anyway. Deadlines.

They suck. I suck. And together, we suck harder than a Hoover that needs a revolve and a dirty floor.


I’d be late to my own fucking funeral.

Part of this is that despite being an uncontrollable raging bitch, I can’t seem to tell people to fuck off. I hate asking for shit and I despise saying no.

So when it was “let’s do something for _____” I’m always FUCK YEAH LET’S DO THIS! 

and then it’s “would you be able to come to ____ for ______ during _________?” and I do the whole FUCK YEAH LET’S DO THIS! thing again.

The problem here isn’t that the world is full of cool shit I’d like to do but rather that it’s full of really awesome stuff I can’t say no to. “Wanna be part of _________?” FUCK YEAH LET’S DO THIS!

And then I blow through deadlines and don’t respond to emails because I’m actually eating cookies in bed while snuggling my cats and getting a massage from someone named Aiden while completely blowing everything off.. I’m literally doing this right now.

I missed a spin workout with someone I love and adore tonight because I was napping in the sunshine after a lunch of mimosas. (There was no mimosas or sunshine or lunch today. I was actually working. And it sucked.) But I got the mail.

... Still haven’t replied to those emails yet. 

I have a lot of personal character flaws. I get it. But the thing is... I do get it. I know I suck. In fact, I’m probably harder on myself than most folks understand or can comprehend, and if you think I’m a dick on the internet, you should hear what I say to me.

I’m hyper critical. I look to closely at things. I care too much. I want to help. I have a massive heart and a critical brain that’s melting out of my ears and I forgot a lot of shit.

Hell, I’m balls-deep in a cookie E-book that was literally due to a paying audience exactly a month ago to benefit kids' bike charities and I’m writing this tripe instead of working on it because my brain is numb and so is my ass and there is very little in the world of quantum mechanics that sucks as much as writing a bunch of goddamn recipes. But I love it. I care about it. And I’ll go back to it in the morning. Or afternoon. Or... whatever. Don’t judge me.

But if you’re reading this, go ahead and give yourself a little bit of love today. Just extend some fucking compassion to you. If you need a bit of tequila to do it, fine. If you need a lot of tequila to do it, even better. Take a deep breath, eat a donut and tell yourself that you’ll get to it in the morning. 

Then again, don’t take my advice because I’m terrible. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Dear Podium Girl

Dear Podium Girl:

Yes, I'm addressing you. You may be a Grid Girl or a Booth Babe, too. Either way, whatever position you might hold within the sporting industry, this is for you.

A few of you ladies are quite upset about the recent decision by Formula 1 to dissolve your job titles and let you go, and you've spoken out about people who 'speak for you'Not only do I applaud this decision because I have advocated for this move for years, but I responded with a hearty 'IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME"... But that's not the point of this essay. This missive is a direct response to those of you who have complained about being let go and decried this progress, exclaiming that you love your jobs and that it's your choice whether or not to work those jobs.

You're right -- it is. It isn't, however, your right to be upset when a changing market means that your job title is irrelevant. It also isn't your right to demand that you get your job back. Why? Well, because you are what the business industry refers to as a 'noncontributing commodity'. In changing business, you are what gets cut first. Not only are we not 'speaking for you', those of us who have fought for your departure aren't making assumptions about you because it's not about you. None of this is, particularly not even your involvement in our various sports and the reason that you even had a job in the first place. It's always been about male preference and what a few select versions of men want to see in 'their' sport. But it's not their sport any more than that was 'your job', you see: these sports belong to everyone. These activities should be welcoming of everyone, not just straight men who demand that sexual objectification and appeal be part of their sports' experience. You are no more part of these sports than the decades of sexual marketing that was ill-thought out and ignorantly created in the hopes of gaining more profit... And as they have gone, so should you.

Grid girl, I feel for you -- I actually do. Investing years and countless dollars in your appearance, posing with people you'd probably like to NOT have to touch, being constantly nice... Damn. I really do feel for you. But again -- you're a non-contributor. You don't actually add anything to the sport that you've latched onto, nor are you investing in the market or industry. You don't bring value to any of the sports, nor do you attract the kind of audience that actually spends money. Research has proven this  . Time and time and time again. What your job was, essentially, was that of a sexual object placeholder.

I know. It doesn't sound good. (It's not.)

My friends, your job relied solely on the assumed idea that only straight men participated and spent money inside of that sport and accordingly, their experiences were the only thing that mattered. That assumption was not only completely wrong, but also extremely unprofitable. Companies and entire sports have actually lost money by employing you and promoting the idea that women exist solely for the pleasure of straight men, and they're finally realizing that women spend money... We spend a lot of it. We're also viewers, athletes, employees, company owners and participants in these wonderful sports, and we don't tend to want to be seen as sex objects. Research has proven this, too.
It's a rough life. 

But from a female professional athlete to you, here's some unsolicited advice: go get a job that relies on expertise outside of your appearance. Or don't. But whatever you do, please stop insisting that you contribute to my sports and the other activities that I actually participate in and where I am absolutely an equal, and not the sum of my body parts or my appearances. Please stop insisting that it's your right to be employed in an industry that not only underpays me (by a lot!) but where we still have rampant issues of discrimination, sexual abuse, assault and the refusal to see women as equal parts. The thing about your job, my dear, is that it makes doing MY JOB (that's based on skill and experience) extremely difficult, on multiple levels. Whether you intend it or not, your lack of contribution and presence undermines my very real contributions to the sport -- from contract negotiations to inspiring new generations of athletes who are valued for their athletic prowess instead of their looks, your job has put women who have invested in these sports at risk.

I know that this is probably really difficult to hear. I can't imagine how hard it must be to have someone tell you that not only is your job title obsolete but that you've done real damage to industries and sports simply by doing that job.

Is it your fault that the job existed in the first place? No. But is it your job to be better than a sexual placeholder in a sport you have nothing to do with and add absolutely nothing to? I dunno. That's for you to decide. But the women advocating for the dissolution of your job are not only real women, we're real people. We're leaders in our industries and we've been here. We'll be here long after the next crop of booth babes come and go, and we'll still fight for equality and market share as we try to bring more women and girls into our sports.

Perhaps you'll even be one of them.


Amanda Batty
Professional Mountain Biker

Thursday, January 25, 2018

It’s Not What You Think

To the person who broke into my car last night and stole a bunch of shit then left me to clean up the mess: 

I hope you enjoy that $500 downhill helmet you stole. I really do. I hope it means as much to you as it meant to me, a TBI survivor who scraped enough money together to buy a really nice helmet in the hopes that it would protect my brain better. I hope you use that helmet as much as I would have as a struggling, unpaid professional MTB athlete who hasn’t had a new helmet in three years until this fall. I hope that you find it attractive or that you can at least pawn it for some cash. Because while I miss an event or ride or shoot due to your careless assumption that I could afford to replace it (or that my insurance company would), I’m REALLY hoping you at least fucked around with the extra brim that was in that bag, or the numbered race plates I had in there or at least sold it to someone who did. Or even just tested the quality of the plastic, maybe? Something? I hope you enjoy the view from behind those multiple sets of goggles and their lenses, because I know I have. I know that every time I put them on, I'm grateful to be able to see. I know that every time I clean them off, I'm lucky to have them. Now, so are you. 

I hope that when you opened the bag of tools and realized that you’d just smashed a window to steal the bags full of items that are most likely worthless to you, you realize that the person who you just stole from was keeping those spare parts and tools because she couldn’t afford new parts. I really hope you realize that I’ve been salvaging parts for my bike this winter as I go through a rough financial spot, but I’m sure you won’t. 

I’m also pretty sure you won’t realize the value of what you took, nor will you understand that the replacement cost for that window (and the extensive labor to fix it) is coming out of my pocket because my car insurance isn’t going to cover it. I’m sure you won’t realize that, as you probably assumed that whoever lived in that house has money to spare, you couldn’t possibly imagine that I’m freaking out about paying rent this month or how I can split up my utility and medical bills with the costs of my physical therapy and basic living expenses like my cell phone and food next week... And now this.

It’s not just about replacing the helmet and tools and parts that you stole, you see — it’s about the thin line I walk every month where an event like this is going to throw everything else off. It’s not ‘just’ a deductible to pay or ‘just’ a helmet or ‘just’ some wrenches and spare parts — what you stole took my ability to do my job as an athlete. I don’t have a mechanic. I don’t have a parts sponsor. And everything I do comes out of my own pocket in order to survive and work and do the things I do that pay my bills. I don't have extra helmets or goggles or more parts or tools. They were in those bags, and now I get to fix the window in my car just so the fifteen-year-old vehicle that you broke into isn’t damaged further by the inclement weather that’s forecasted this weekend.

So from one broke and desperate person here in Albuquerque to another — I REALLY hope that whatever you did with my stuff last night or what it enabled you to do today was worth the nightmare you’ve just caused me.

But it’s not going to break me. I’m not going to stop giving people the benefit of the doubt, and I’m not going to let it interrupt how I go about my life any more than it interrupted my day today. Because I’m not going to make excuses, and I’m not going to wallow in what went south — that’s your job, person-who-steals-from-cars. That’s why you do what you do and that’s what separates us as thief and victim. And I feel for you, but I don’t pity you, nor will I turn into someone who suspects every person that walks by.

I hope someday I can forgive you. But right now, I’m gonna drink some wine and cry a little (or a lot).