Austin, Texas [Tour Divide Intent]

I’m struggling and you’d probably never be able to tell.

And if you were pressing me for advice I’d seem confident and centered. It’d seem like I’d worked through everything eating away at me inside. I seem as though I were completely assured of my decisions.

I hate talking about myself, but my self, my self aches. She needs a voice.

Biboon, winter, it was hard. And I tried. I tried to work. I tried to save money. I ended up living out of my car. It got cold and my sleeping gear got stolen. I couldn’t hack it in the car anymore. I almost fell in love, but he wouldn’t let me love him. That, still, breaks my heart. I tried so hard in school and failed countless exams. I just want to be good at something. I tried fat bike racing and gravel racing and wasn’t good at that either. But, I try to remind myself, I just started. I’m trying to become an athlete.

What did I give up to get here? Is it fair to say; everything? Maybe that’s why it hurts so much not to be better. I feel like I’m giving it all.

Remember how long it took me to lose that first 30 pounds? It took years to be good at losing weight. It took me years to be a good nanny, and a good (ish) mechanic. And it will take me years to be good at school. Some more years to be a good partner and a good self. I want to stop trying so hard. It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to look at my reflection and still, after all these years of changing, of wanting to change more.

And I feel guilty. I want to stay, and to let someone in. I really do, but the trail is the only place in the world where I become the me I feel like I really am. It’s so selfish to leave. I’m always leaving. And year after year, I seek ways to keep that me that wakes up on the trail, alive throughout the year, away from the trail. But that she, hibernates.

She’s an animal. And animals don’t fit into a people’s metropolis. Animals belong in the wild. Plus, animals back home, they sleep the biboon away. Insomniac. An insomniac animal belongs nowhere. We all must sleep at some point.

Back to the divide again. This will be my fourth time traversing many sections of this trail. I’ll say once and half northbound. Second time southbound. My fourth time in Banff on the bicycle. In the effort to truly give it all up, I’ve ditched the derailleur and opted for a single cog. 19 teeth in the rear. 36 in the front.

36×19 on a 29er as a 29 year old woman. Last year, I carried the first womb across the finish line in a race that spanned 2700 miles. It was a win enough to last a lifetime. I’m back again, not to win. But to give my all. To leave the crutches and inadequacies in the miles behind me. I know I’m stronger than this, but the only way I’ll find that is if I force myself. I commit to the climb this time, no downshifting. Just my body and my Stella; Shimano can stay home this time. I don’t want the handicap. I can’t have the handicap. I doubt myself now, and I need that doubt to go away. I know better….

See, I’m lazy by nature. It takes more strength for me to find the gym than it takes to do the work out.

I remember my weaknesses from my traverse last year. I’ve spent the past year showing up, trying new things, pushing my perceived boundaries.

I pedaled the Colorado Trail finishing just 2.5 hours behind the women’s record setter, Ashley. In that race I learned, the race isn’t over until you cross the finish line; I’d given up on racing the night before thinking the two women in front of me were so far ahead that there was no chance I’d catch them and slept 10 hours.

I rode the Smoke and Fire with a failed charging set up. I had to charge at outlets along the route. I pushed my sleep boundaries and finished 11th overall after nearly quitting because the race wasn’t going the way I envisioned it. I learned that things go wrong, but those aren’t avenues for exit. Those are tests of hunger. Do you really want this as bad as you say you do?

I spun the Marji Gesick. A single day in the saddle. A test in pacing and juggling school and racing. I learned to push myself to ride as hard as I could the entire time. Sometimes as hard as I can is 20 mph, and sometimes as hard as I can is 2mph. Don’t save anything for later. When later comes, I’ve found, I always have something to give anyways. I’m no planner, I figure, it works out when I get there. Wherever there is.

I found fat biking. I raced the Tuscobia winter ultra. Only 80 miles and 8 flat tires to hold me back. I’d been pedaling strong; I think I was in the top 5 before my tires failed, I was feeling great to boot. I lost some 10 places due to an hour of pumping my tires. I watched rider after rider pass me in the desolate, wintry, Wisconsin woods. I kept at it, and somehow still set a course record. I learned that tubeless tires really only work for me in the summer.

I Polar Rolled, 30 snowy miles without my glasses. I learned to be prepared and to note my tire pressure. I learned not to give up even though walking a bike through the Michigan woods was a stupid task; I was passed by people running in snow shoes. 9 hours later, soaked and exhausted I hugged those crazy weirdos faster than me. Jill and Matt and Chelsea and Tyler. They remind me of my potential. I only dream of becoming athletes like they are. But they, they are my tribe and regardless of our finishing times, we all carve out time to be in the same place time after time. After all, it’s place that truly connects us.

I DKXL’d and snapped my pedal off. I’d worked on my sleep game, I’d dialed in my food game. I’d put the media presence outside my mind. I raced. I mentally quit a million times. I never quit in reality. I learned that it only takes one yes to change the outcome of everything.

I don’t know what the Tour Divide 2019 has to teach me. But, I’m lining up at the starting line with an open heart to figure it out.

I still need something, so I set out to find it…

My Bike Build

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Corrine Leistikow says:

    All you can do is give it your best shot. Good luck and remember to have fun out there! It will be fun to watch your dot. Way to be badass and ride single speed!

    Like

  2. Jarmila Gorman says:

    I can’t wait to dot-watch you! You inspire, as always! Love, Jarmila

    On Sun, Jun 9, 2019 at 1:06 PM alex, and her rastro wrote:

    > ahouchin posted: “I’m struggling and you’d probably never be able to tell. > And if you were pressing me for advice I’d seem confident and centered. > It’d seem like I’d worked through everything eating away at me inside. I > seem as though I were completely assured of my decis” >

    Like

  3. Paul Wissenbach says:

    You are an inspiration to so many people! I love this, and how you are so willing to be open about how you feel and the challenges and demons you face. Keep on being you. We are always hardest on ourselves. You rock! It’s not about how many times you stumble and fall, it’s how many tines you get back up.

    Like

  4. pgreehan says:

    You’re a rock star Alex! None of the events you do are easy. If they were, they’d bore you. I think one of the interesting things about endurance racing is that we are always learning—every race. Have a great Tour Divide. I can’t wait to hear about it when you get back!

    Like

  5. miles0929 says:

    You are superbadass! Currently Crushing the divide. Your true inspiration. God speed!!!

    Like

    1. Matt says:

      Love your writing.
      Your dot has been my favorite to watch this year on the divide. You are crushing, keep it up!!

      Like

  6. ijzercycles says:

    A great rider .
    Single speed power.
    Respect.

    Like

  7. drewish says:

    Pretty sure I saw you in Silverthorne CO today. Really stoked to have found your blog. Looking forward to watching your progress.

    Like

  8. Scott Jones says:

    Oh Alex! Great words. This ‘go around’ you are doing great. Fantastic job on the TD. It does this mans ego good that we rode together during the Smoke and Fire. You are open and learning. As good as the “placing” feels, it is the doing that resonates. and remains Keep doing. I hope to turn tires with you again. Go Alexandera!!!

    Like

  9. Tanya says:

    Boozhoo! Cheering for you from New Mexico via White Earth MN! Single speed spectacular! I have been following the TD from the start and so happy for you. What a journey!

    Like

  10. Darrel says:

    My wife and I saw you on Priest Pass crossing the CDT when you came through Montana (the crazy couple with the cow bells!). Now it looks like you are next to finish the race! You really are an inspiration and we have enjoyed tracking your progress. Keep peddling!

    Like

  11. Gwynn Lye says:

    My God. I’ve been watching AH dot, praying, sending you positive entail thoughts and watching. How did I get on this kick? Find you? Blame Austin, not the city, Austin Walker and the Radavist for an article I read about his Terilingua. I caught the Chumba flu and now have a luscious Team Blue Terilingua. My other bikes…… Well.

    Okay, I got off subject. What I really have to say is that you inspire me and make me proud, though I do not know you. You are a true force of nature, and somewhere deep inside you know that.

    When folks say I’ve never heard of Chumba, I talk about the history of the brand, and this young woman from Minnesota. Okay enough said, except you are an inspiration.

    Gwynn Lyell

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Scott says:

    Your grandmother is very proud of you. We go to church with bud and Carol.

    Like

  13. Jake B says:

    So much stoke. Fantastic storytelling.

    Are you the same badass Alex who road a fixie from Madison to Denver 6 or 7 years back? If so, I have some photos to share after we met in South Dakota and I dropped you off in the Black Hills.

    Happy trails.

    Like

    1. ahouchin says:

      Ahhhhh!!! Oh my god that’s so cool. Yeah. That’s me. Crazy still. Alexanderahouchin@gmail.com

      Like

  14. Kelly Fogarty says:

    Hey Alex,
    I’m really proud of you and as a female looking for feminine power in pressing times, you’re my answer.
    As many disappointing group leaders as there are in this community, I wish that you were the face of our female comraderies and set an example of what the GDMR represents.
    When you achieve your goals, I’d love to work with you in championing minority rights.
    Thanks for being a bad ass and doing your thing through your own will.
    You’re an inspirations.
    -Kelly

    Like

  15. Nik Steinke says:

    Reading your honest and great stories got me back on the single speed track. I’ve read some stories about you multiple times. Always very emotional, really motivating. I’m having foot problems the past 5 weeks and can’t ride, but looking forward to leave all these gears behind again. I was on Singlespeeds for 10 years and I had a singlespeed break for 2.5 years now, got tired of all the thinking before the ride about gear and brands, tired of thinking during the ride and tired of fixing the stuff. So the 10 years with a single speed were the most fun years. Riding and enjoying one gear is a mind set, a mental attitude… so if you can finish some of the hardest races out there, I should be able to ride in urbanized areas for 3 hours.;)
    Thanks for this mind set, I lost it in between. Always great to learn from professional athletes.
    -Nik

    Like

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