It’s a winter morning in 2016, and I am thawing my toes in the bathroom sink of my college dormitory at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The pain starts with a subtle pins-and-needles feeling, then rushes in suddenly, accompanied by feelings of regret and dread, but also exhilaration. My cold digits finish searing, now redder than my wind-burnt cheeks and bloodshot eyes. Then I made an omelette.
This wasn’t an exceptional start to a Saturday for me—in fact, it had been somewhat of a pattern for at least a full year. I left the rowing team in high school to race mountain bikes, and I brought that same intensity to my riding in college. I would often finish an evening exam, strap some bags to my orange hardtail, and dash off into the night. I rode uphill until after midnight, stopping to lay in the snow for a few hours. I’d attempt to sleep while looking out of my cinched-up sleeping bag and waiting for first light.
Then came the massive descent before dawn, with numbed fingers that could barely squeeze a brake lever, and the not-so-graceful return to the bathroom sink. Regret, dread, exhilaration.