I received a hand written letter last fall. Who the hell writes hand written letters anymore? Matthew O’Meara, that’s who. Matt is in his mid-30’s, married with two kids and working for a small bank somewhere in Wisconsin. He’s one of us. A regular guy, husband, dad, friend, community member… He didn’t say this but I bet he struggles with balance like the rest of us. Trying to be “great” in each of his roles while still finding time to do some hard stuff… The letter that follows is Matt’s story about the Marji Gesick last fall, his decision to #QUIT and the emotional journey that decision has taken him on.
Maybe, like Matt, you have #unfinishedbusiness somewhere. You look at the options and see no easy path… all the options are hard. If there is an easy one it probably won’t take you where you want to go. Trying to decide which one is “right” and which one is “wrong” is a trap – a little cabin where nothing gets done with no roads to or from.
The decision to take action or begin is always the hardest part… because by starting we commit and by committing we assume risk… risk of failure, falling down or falling short… but that feeling of risk is critical because it tells us we care and “this” matters… we are willing to strive for something beyond where we are… a new place… a better place… a place which holds the things we believed we would never be… the things we believed we could never do.
Todd & Danny –
I am writing this letter (I think) for a number of reasons. One of them is purely self-serving and I “need” to write it. I feel like a god damn alcoholic coming out of an AA meeting. “OK, now part of your therapy is to write this letter, it will help in your recovery process and is part of the 12 steps”…or however many steps there are. Who knows…I might need 13…or maybe I’ll create a few more and call them “15 ½ Steps to Recovering From the Marji.” But maybe there is more truth in all of this than I know. I think today is the first day since the race finished that tears have not been shed when either thinking or talking about my experience. It was like when Seinfeld breaks up w/ his girlfriend Patty, “what is this salty discharge coming out of my eyes?…oh my God I CARE!”
To say your race and what you’ve created has affected me in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined would be an understatement. Whether you intended things to have such a dramatic effect on people or not…it does (I’m guessing some is intended but the best stuff comes from nowhere and everywhere)…and I know I’m not telling you anything new or different because every post, every story, EVERYONE is doing and saying the same thing. It’s fucking unreal…it’s fucking awesome…
Back to my story (I know…so selfish). This is the only way I can tell it though, and maybe the best way for you guys to be mildly entertained while also saying YES, FUCK YES!…we get it dude…cuz I know you do.
This next part is important…the most important to be exact (not for you guys but for me). My 3 biggest fans are my family. W/out them I am NOTHING…in cycling or in life. They are my world and support system in all things that require oxygen coming in and CO2 going out of my lungs (breathing…in case you guys are starting to drift or if you’re asking yourself why should I keep reading this incoherent drivel?) I’m 36, slightly graying, married, 2 kids (5 and 2), work for a small bank and my wife is a nurse.
Anyway, cycling is my passion and huge part of my life much like many of your other subjects. When I signed up last year for this “Marji” I thought, “whatever, It’ll be fuckin’ tough but it will be like all the other races.” I do roughly 7-10 mtb races a year. But the Marji is different…and you guys make it different. I trained hard throughout the spring/summer and put the work in. Over Labor Day my training buddy and good friend Nate Lillie and I did a full on Marji dress rehearsal (as he called it). We rode 92 miles up in Hayward, WI and both came away from that ride w/ serious doubts about what we were up against in just a few short weeks. Nate called afterwards and said, “Fuck that race, I’m going down to the 50.” I won’t throw Nate under the bus and say I wasn’t wavering right along w/ him but I happened to watch The Barkley Marathons documentary so I stayed strong…made him watch it…and promptly told him to “quit being a little bitch, buck up, and stick w/ the Marji 100.” Well Nate ended up getting sick the week of the race (what’s a little viral Meningitis) and couldn’t come up. Little did I know that not having him by my side to pick me up when I was down would be absolutely devastating. So to shorten this up cuz you guys got shit to do and people to torture (that’s just what I assume you do in your free time and over the rest of the year.)
I paced myself on Sat. and was riding/feeling good. I made it through the heat of the day and came out on the other side still feeling functional and confident (the chills/shivers I experienced while still being completely overheated were slightly concerning but I figured if I made it through those that there couldn’t be much more worse ahead…wrong). Pretty much everyone else I had come with had dropped out and were all staring at me like, “dude, are you kidding me, how are you still going?” Mile 65 and the drop bags came and went and I still felt good…standing and crushing climbs just focusing on getting back to the bags again at mile 89 was the only thing on my mind. Then something happened…or changed I should say. The “Death” guy in costume from the start of the race showed up…actually it wasn’t him at all but a guy who wore a Freewheel Bike kit named David Mainguy (David if you’re reading this do not take any of it personal…you just happen to be apart of my experience. You actually sacrificed your own energy so I could save mine by pulling me down the bike path. So Davids at the end of his rope but he finds a little bit more in the tank to help a stranger…only in this race.) David and I have a brief conversation where he says, “Dude, save something for the last 15 miles. I’m dropping out when we get back to the bags and am o.k. w/ that cuz I finished last year.” All I heard (mentally anyway) was, “I’m dropping.” OH MY GOD…how amazing. David Mainguy…this man in the Freewheel Bike kit who I’ve now know for 30 seconds is going to be done and out of this fiery hell of a bike race in mere minutes. HOLY SHIT…I could be done too. And that’s where it ended…David has and probably will never know how his off the cuff comment affected me mentally. We were 2 minutes from the drop bags and everything was set aside in a swept up nice little neat corner of my mind about how the rest of the race would go (I think there was even a nice fresh flower in a vase sitting on a table)…FUCK YOU DAVID!…my organized little corner immediately turned into the deepest, darkest, black hole ever…my cute little flower wilted along w/ it.
I rolled in to Jackson Park and QUIT. The decision to quit has haunted me and is something I’ve been struggling to deal with since 8:15pm Eastern on Sat. night. I actually was still feeling good mentally and physically (or so I thought) compared to others. Why did I quit? I don’ know…but I’m so upset w/ myself at this dramatic turn of events that I even started trying to find blame in my buddies. “how could you not push me? You guys said nothing, you offered me no support.” Nate even said he was going to call me and would have if he’d have know the situation and the timing of everything. But that was it…it was over, and I made the call to drop out.
The emotions after are something I did not anticipate having to deal with. What YOUR race brought out in me is like nothing else. Nothing I have ever experienced in life or sport. So to get to my main reason for writing this (and who the fuck hand writes letters? I don’t know…me I guess. If you can’t tell, the ability to ready my handwriting is about how my race went. A+ and gold stars from my penmanship teacher in the beginning to lots of red check marks and sad faces from here on out…it also could be because my shifting thumb is still sore). THANK YOU!…this is a thank you letter to you both. But also to your wives, kids, sponsors, volunteers, trail angels, the other riders, anyone, and everyone. The love, care, effort, selflessness, family, blood, sweat, dirt, tears, and heat of the sun brought out its best in everyone. I don’t know how or why but it did and it does. You guy are smart and you know all of this but I think it’s important to hear it again…and it’s really important for me to tell you.
Life is short, the planet is small, and nothing is guaranteed in life. But to see real people care for each other is a beautiful thing…and you guys and everyone else have created an environment for that to happen. Like I said earlier…whether you intended for all of this to happen or if it has just morphed in to something all on its own that’s beautiful, ugly, smelly, funny, happy, sad, hot, cold, nice, mean, shaved (damn roadies) or hairy…the fact remains that this shit is real.
I’ve also included a gift for you both (I guess it’s a re-gift technically). You’ll probably just toss them, which is cool. Or they’ll get lost, or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. These chips are obviously more of a symbol and have a deeper meaning for myself and the #UNFINISHEDBUSINESS.
Best Regards, (you fuckin’ assholes)
Wait!!…see new thought below
I changed my mind…these aren’t gifts. These are symbols. Rental symbols to be exact…because I want them back. Someone told me, “dude, you earned those chips. You had an epic ride to make it 89 miles.” In my mind it might as well have been 0 miles. I didn’t want 2 chips…I wanted 4. But I didn’t get it done, I didn’t want it bad enough, I was the #QUITTER (wow that hurt to write).
So here are my 2 chips. I know the WURST (haha get it…those dudes fucking rocked) thing you can do as a cyclist is center your entire year/season around one race…you set yourself up for failure. But I see no other way. If I’m TUFF ENUFF I hope to have 4 chips in my hand next year. A little luck won’t hurt either. But next September 22nd 2018 I am going to request 2 things from the best race directors in the WORLD. One is a handshake and the other is these 2 chips. The only way these 2 things can happen is if I cross the finish line. I will then give these 2 chips back to my son and daughter. (I’d initially given them to the kids right away but had to steal them back…boy were they pissed. As they should be…and what parent does that? Poor role model if you ask me. But the meaning trumps a couple wooden chips to a 5 and 2 year old…and God willing along with a pair of well made Maxxis Ardents my poor, suffering, crying children will get them back.)
So I realize this is an absolutely outrageous request…absolutely ridiculous in every sense. You guys are like, “Is this guy for real, he thinks we’re going to hang on to these god damn chips for an entire year? Then remember to actually give them back to him? Does he realize how many moving parts there are to what we do. There’s 600 other racers…what a selfish d22khole.”
So if they hit the waste basket before you’re even done reading, or the dog gets them, or you need to start a fire and ran out of kindling this winter, or a spontaneous checkpoint chip war breaks out at the office where everyone is zinging all the extras leftover (there are a lot of them) at each other on a Fri. afternoon. If any of these scenarios happen…do not fret. It’s OK…I get it.
Again (in advance) thank you for ruining the next year of my life and causing me deep pain, anguish, and the weirdest most painful rash/saddle sore/chafing the ol’ crotch cave has ever seen. Seriously…skin grafts? Maybe…