Tuesday, December 23, 2014

When to Quit?

I must confess something.  I have a really bad habit of not knowing when to walk away.  This dates back to when I was a child.  With only a few exceptions I always push through the hard times and keep fighting.  A trait I acquired form my parents who never give up no matter how far down in a hole they are. 

But sometimes quitting is the best option.  Like back in 1990 when I decided to leave the sport I loved.  The only other sport I was ever good at besides baseball.  A sport that took part of my families life and nearly mine......

....on the long drive from Parkland, Florida to Gainsville, FL I felt kind of weird.  In the past when I went to race at the famed Gatorback Cycle Park I was always so excited.  On this drive I felt kind of empty.   I kept asking myself "why am I still doing this?"

Gatorback is not your typical Florida sand track.  I was a sand specialist and even though out of state riders label it as sand it is not.  Gatorback is build around an old rock quarry and its dirt and layout is hard.  Today I would race two classes but first there was practice.  Not to many things can beat the first laps around a motocross track.  Flying around on a smooth course with nothing but a big smile on your face.  Practice went o.k. but I still felt strange.  I had signed up for two classes and was looking forward to doing good  - at least winning some gas money back home.   Well at least I expected to do good in the first two motos.  I knew the second motos would be very hard due to the course breaking down and all the holes developing making the going tough.

As I line up on the full gate of  riders and I go through my normal start routine.  A routine that I practiced hundreds of times in my head and when everything goes as planned I usually get a great start.   Gates drops and I pull off a great start and lead into the first corner and then plunge down into the "Gator pit"  The trip out of the Gator Pit is just as fun - see above.  As I re-grip my throttle at the bottom and prepare to accelerate out my rear end hits a square hole and kicks my bike side ways.  I stay on the gas but my momentum is gone and I do not make the large double and land on the face of the next jump.  The rider in 2nd place jumps over me and hits my head in mid-air.  Usually this would not faze me, but with the recent injury to my brother it really effected me.  I did my best to continue on racing and ended up getting a top 5.  Respectable finish but I was not happy.

I go back to the pits to rest up and prepare for my other race.  Something inside of me said to quit but Chris Locke does not quit.  None the less I kept getting these strong feelings to pack up.  I clean up my goggles, put on a couple of tear offs, fuel my bike and check over everything.  I go lineup to line to start and again get a great jump.  I am up in the top 3 but I felt all out of sorts.  My mind would not stop thinking about crashing and what would happen to me.  As I approach a larger uphill double that used to be part of the layout at Gainsville (before you entered the stadium section and dropped down into the pit).  The exit out of the preceding corner was really getting choppy and again my rear end got kick out.  This time I did not stay on the gas and just started letting riders go by.  As each rider passed I felt their roost hit my chest and face.  It was like they were hitting me with small rocks and I felt like I did one day in middle school when some bullies were throwing things at me.

The checker flag is waved to end the moto.  I was never so happy to see that waving black white flag.  As I idle past everyone in the pits everything is in slow motion.  I feel like everyone is looking at me.  I find my pit, throw my bike up on my stand and walk to my trailer to find a friend of my there.  I went to get my my video camera and ask her to film me.  She obliged and went on to film me state these words - "My name is Chris Locke and I for the first time in my life I quit".  I said a few more words and if I can get that old tape converted I will post it up.  When I look at that tape and look into my eyes when I announced that I was quitting Motocross racing I see a young man that just made a life changing decision.

What does all this have to do about today?  Well it is closing in on the end of 2014.  I have recently had one of my worse years ever racing my bicycle.   It is not from that lack of trying either.  I have put in some miles and suffered during training just so I can "get up on that Podium".  The results have not been there this year (especially in cyclocross) and I feel just like I did back in 1990 when those riders kept passing me.  While there were no rocks being thrown up by their rear tires I still felt a pain in every pass that was made on me.

I am now asking myself is it time to quit bicycle racing?   Maybe it is time to put this old dog out to pasture.  I guess is comes down to what your goals are.  My goal once was to be a professional motocross racer.  When I could not longer do that because of fear I released it was time to quit. 

It is a hard decision to let go of any true passion in your life.  Currently I have signed up for two endurance events for 2015 - CIRREM and Ouachita Challenge.   Signing up for those two was more out of habit than anything else.  Based on what I see in the mirror today I will not be signing up for any other events any time soon.