Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Arrangements With the Weather Gods, Part II


Update: If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that exactly one year ago, I made good use of my special arrangement with the Weather Gods when I resigned from my day job as a renewable energy developer and promoted myself to full time Professional Cyclist for The Kona Bicycle Company. That is, in exchange for my service of putting wind and solar projects onto the grid and offsetting my carboniferous* ways as a globe-trotting outdoor fanatic, the architects of the elements granted me favorable weather conditions for whichever outdoor activity I happened to partake in. Whether it was good snow for skiing, or crisp, dry days for cycling, the weather gods would deliver!  In this case, the closing act and high-point of the deal entailed very mild winter weather conditions during my acute transition to full-time professional cycling in December 2014 (perfect for training!). All I had to do to fulfill my end of the contract was to train diligently, grow personally, and enjoy my work.


*I'm inventing a new use of the word "carboniferous" to imply carbon-burning activities, not relating to, or denoting the fifth period of the Paleozoic era, from 360 million to 286 million years ago. Speaking of carboniferous, smoke-infused clouds over Mt. Adams during the giant forest fires in the Gifford Pinchot this summer. Photo Credit: Diane Paxson

Hard at work at the Mt. St. Anne World Cup in Quebec, August 2015. Photo Credit: Duncan Philpott/Kona Bicycles

It Gets Warm and Fuzzy: A full year later, and I'm happy to say that the self-promotion has been fantastic.  Not only am I feeling well-established in my "m├ętier" as a cyclist, I'm feeling more established in life, in general! In the context of life's work, and having come from the more typical situation of being "a-bike-racer-who-also-has-a-quote-real-job-end-quote" (btw I am conflicted with the term "real job"), I sometimes view my situation as a mini-retirement, which allows me to appreciate the people who have inspired me and helped me to get here, the planning and patience it took to create this system, savor every drop of it, and look toward the future with positive momentum and motivation.  Most times I don't even contemplate anything other than the task at hand, which is immensely rewarding in itself.  It all has me growing as a cyclist, and more importantly as a person, learning and developing habits and perspectives that I feel will benefit my family and me for the rest of my days.  I've even excused the Weather Gods from bothering with my system, because, well, controlling the weather is selfish and too tricky.*  And besides, I entered into a few new contracts in late-2015 that far outweigh my need for agreeable weather conditions.  First of all, Sarah and I got married!! We also purchased a beautiful home! We are grateful to be well-planted in Beautiful Bellingham, with good friends, stimulating work, and a community dedicated to world-class stewardship and enjoyment of the outdoors.    


All hyperbole aside, above is one of a million good moments on the "best. day. ever." in Moretown, VT. I should note that we had perfect weather for our outdoor wedding in Vermont despite a hurricane blowing up the East Coast the day before and frost the day after, and when we moved, the rain stopped just when we needed to carry items out of the moving truck...thanks, Weather Gods.       

The vexingly positive update continues: Prior to my record-setting offseason, in which I became a married man and a homeowner, the 2015 race season finished on a high note as well.  Back in September I earned the honor of competing with the US National Team in my fifth mountain bike World Championships, this time in the small country of Andorra.  There I posted a career-best international result, finishing 40th on the day, coming from behind, outside of 100th, and along the way churning out lap times good enough for the top-25.  On paper it doesn't sound too impressive, but it had me fired up.  It felt like a good culmination of the increased commitment I had made through the year.  Along those lines, it had me looking positively toward the final Olympic selection process in 2016.

Just a few highlights from the 2015 season: Competing at the international star-studded US Cup; hypoxia at the Continental Champs in Colombia; getting lost at BC Bike Race; competing in the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto; setting a personal best at World Champs.

Speaking of 2016: I'm delighted to say that I'll be renewing my contract with The Kona Bicycle Company for the 6th year. As such, they'll be providing me with endless amounts of candy, and a bike made of iron (get it?).  Training is already well underway, and every day involves interesting preparations for a big season that will focus on making it to the Olympics!  On December 4th, USA Cycling announced the women's and men's Olympic Long Team, naming the list of athletes from which the final 2016 Olympic rosters will be selected.  I'm honored to be one of seven men and eight women who earned one of those spots!  

To be clear, making the Long Team is akin to making the "Olympic Trials".  The "Short Team" will consist of two (and possibly just one!) riders.  Those riders will be selected in June 2016 based on their performance in major international and domestic competitions between March and June.  The Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in late August.  There is still a massive amount of work to be done to earn a ticket to Rio.  That said, I'm thrilled by the opportunity and eager for the journey. This is my second time being named to an Olympic Long Team, and I'm coming into it with an order of magnitude greater experience than I had last time around.  Below is a snapshot of the schedule I am looking forward to for 2016.

To my sponsors: It's difficult to overstate how fortunate I feel to be able to pursue these opportunities, and I am grateful to represent my sponsors who make these pursuits possible: The Kona Bicycle Company, Shimano, Fox Suspension, Maxxis Tires, ODI Grips, Wilderness Trail Bikes, Champion Systems Clothing, Stans NoTubes, Clif Bar, Giro Sport Design, Smith Optics, as well as Stages Cycling, and Trailhead Athletics.

Stay tuned for more updates soon!  

Meanwhile, I'm warmed by the thought of all this inspiring others to seek fulfillment and happiness through their craft, whatever it may be. If you like, you can follow along on my NEW Facebook Athlete Page, as well as Instagram and Twitter by finding @slaxsonMTB.


Instagram
 

Here's the anticipated line-up for 2016.  I'll have my work cut out for me to offset this carbon footprint! 

Looking ahead to 2016.  On the start line at the 2015 World Championships in Andorra.


And a few more parting shots from the off season:

There won't ever be another off season like this one, married, first-time homeowner.  Along with it, I enjoyed building a new work bench for the garage using a giant slab of 600-year-old Douglas Fir that my dad and I harvested from a "hazard tree" several years ago.  I was thankful to have time on my side to do some great projects with Sarah to customize the new house.








Scouting new trail with the WMBC, catching sunrise in the woods, getting the hours in the legs, heating up the map!


At home in the woods...somewhere near Bellingham

Thanks for reading.

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