A little over a year ago, I was out mountain biking with my friend Zane, and we rode some trails where wildfires had charred the mountainside.

Groves of skeletal trees, ash stains imprinted on the ground, wildflowers beginning to push into view among the devastation.

That day, I was sleep deprived by my 6 month old, riding poorly, feeling weak & fat, and through exhaustion & trying to keep up with a ‘ragin Zane, those charred trees felt like they were speaking:

“this was your life, you are nothing more than crumbling ashes, but look at all these blooming flowers, this is new life”.

I wrote about this then, but never published it, I was too “new-parent-overwhelmed-syndrome” on that day, and too depressed to blog what I was feeling.

But this past Sunday, I went back to those same trails with another friend, local mountain biking cat 1/semi-pro Kevin Wilde.

Wow can he ever big-ring steep dirt climbs. Amazing.

Kevin also has a little baby at home, and we talked in depth about our experiences as our mountain bikes zipped & danced through the singletrack.

We agreed it’s pretty much impossible to systematically train when you have a little kid.

Impossible for me, as a speedskater, to consistently train all the complex “pieces” of the skate-training puzzle. Impossible for Kevin to regularly complete 3.5-4 hour epic training rides, so he can big-ring climbs at the end of 3 hour mountain bike races.

But we still love getting out, as much as ever, even though we are slower than we once were.

Our wives understand this about us, & actually kick us out of the house every now and then, precisely because we are committed fathers.

And on this day, keeping up with Kevin, my former life is truly crumbled and gone, I almost don’t see those blackened tree trunks anymore, ashy groundstains swallowed into the landscape of dim memory.

But what do I see? Something so much more beautiful. Flowering. So alive.

My little girl… There are far more ways for a man to measure himself than the fruits of being hyper-competitive. I get that now.

RZ you are always my teacher, thank you.