Matt Fox may be a mild-mannered school teacher during the week, but come the weekend he dons his skinsuit and mixes it up with the top Elites in the Northwest. He says he’s “chasing the dream,” but really, he’s already living it.
by Matt Fox
I am out the door and down the hill from my house; almost immediately my eyes are watering and I’m whipping downhill, second guessing my choice to go sans knee warmers or embrocation. It’s 9am on a Sunday morning in September and it feels like late October. I sit up to breathe some heat into my hands. I push it up the little rise and some warmth comes creeping into my core. I flash through patches of sun and shade, then I’m heading uphill thinking about the workout ahead of me. It was a lazy Sunday morning. I slept in, no alarm, drank copious amounts of coffee, sat reading the news, calm…. Not anymore.
Cyclocross season is in full swing. The days at work fly by, I daydream of races, scheme how I can fit in more, it’s a rush to get home and get a ride in before dark. Most days find me up at 6am and heading to school. Teaching high school full time is just part of who I am. I am also a cyclocross racer. Driving home at midnight on a Sunday with mud still in my eyes and the burn of the embrocation finally worn off, knowing that I have to work the next day, I worry that my students will wonder why my eyes are bloodshot. It’s like the scene from Fight Club, “Mr. Fox, is that mud in your ear?” Tired aching legs and soreness find their way into my daily routine. Mondays always hurt, my legs feel weak as I stand in front of class, compression socks on under my teacher clothes. I feel a bit like Clark Kent, but I am no superhero, this is ’cross, and as heroic as it feels sometimes, I know it’s simply a game, I choose to play because I love it.
For some lucky individuals cyclocross is their job. Many of these individuals have support, coaches, nutrition plans and travel that’s paid for. For the rest of us, we scrap together what we can and go out in the mud week after week because we love this damned game. Last year I decided to race A’s, and to jump into the Elite races around the Northwest. I want to be competitive at this level, but that isn’t easy. It’s been like taking on a second job. Yet riding home evenings in the early darkness, with a dry, dusty smile, I know it’s a job I love. I relish cleaning bikes, replacing parts, obsessing over schedules, training and racing.
I know I’m not alone in this. I try to be realistic, I’m not a pro, I don’t have a coach, I am doing this for fun. I dream of riding at a level that is much higher, but I am not too hard on myself. Riding my bike is what I choose to do with what little spare time I have. I find a lot of inspiration in the riders who like me – and there are many – find time to balance the dedication it takes to compete with full time jobs and families. I am in awe of the riders that do it on their own, are successful and really make it work. Riders like Molly Cameron, Erik Tonkin, Ben Thompson, Sean Babcock, Chris Sheppard…and so many others. And then there are my own teammates who share the crazy weekends driving 12 hours round trip from Bend to Seattle just to race for two hours, because that’s where the big races are, because racing with the pros is a dream we share. I can always look to these riders for inspiration and to push me to go after them. They aren’t superhuman, or superheros, but they are dedicated individuals that decided this is what they would do, chase the dream. Right on!
I have pinned my numbers on, I have stood on the line in rain, sun and dark. I have waited anxiously for the gun behind World Cup racers, national champions, seasoned pros and some of my heroes of the sport . A good friend asked whether this is intimidating or inspiring. I choose to be inspired by these riders. I choose to chase them. I choose to chase the dream.