What am I up to these days?
Well, most nights you can find me standing by the west door of the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs.
For 8-11 hours each day I valet at the world’s longest running 5-star, 5-diamond certified resort. Occasionally I drive a McLaren, Ferrari, or Lamborghini, but most of the time its a Nissan or Hyundai. This past week I put in 71 hours. Fascinating, I know.
When I was 18 I vowed that I’d never work a real job. I had fundamental problems with the idea of “living to work.” With a life revolving around making money to spend on meaningless possessions.
I’d seen the materialism excess income inspires, I’d read studies on income vs happiness, and I wanted no part of it. I choose instead to eschew manual labor in favor of blackjack, 40 hour weeks for plasma donations, so as you can imagine, the first 3-4 weeks in this new job were quite the system shock. But I’m beginning to feel comfortable with the new schedule. I suppose that’s a good thing. This is not a career, and I’m aware of that.
From where I stand at work the eastern slopes of the Rocky mountains loom towards me. Cheyenne mountain, with the cavernous NORAD base inside, rises to the southeast. To the west Pikes Peak peers out from behind rolling foothills. As the sun sets, the mountains turn from patchworks of yellow and brown to blue and then finally a beautiful deep purple, the sky above them becoming a flame of reddish-orange. On a slow night I’ll stand for a half hour or so in the waning light, watching the spectacular sunset until the last slivers of light fade out and are replaced by darkness.
There is a bronze placard above the main entrance, its text consisting of quotes held in importance to the late Spencer Penrose, the one-eyed east coast transplant and familial black sheep who sired the Broadmoor ( and then the surrounding city that would become known as the Springs) upon the back of his newly acquired fortune, courtesy of Colorado’s gold rush of 1900. My favorite of these quotes, amidst those from Thoreou and the Bull Moose, comes from P.S. Ambar:
“The age of discovery followed the sun west.”
Standing in this new state, watching the sun disappear behind the mountains and fade away, I feel strangely unsatisfied with the strikingly metaphorical qualities of those words. I took a necessary step in coming out here from the Midwest, and now another in choosing this job, but in the grand scheme of things, which direction were the steps?
It took a while to come to grips with, but recently I was able admit to myself that I don’t enjoy competing anymore. Of course, I DO enjoy everything that comes with racing- the travel, training, accolades, friendships, wild experiences, and the coaching.
Perhaps my foot injury and the subsequent eight of months severe, constant pain while running has clouded my perception, but nonetheless I’ve found myself strangely at peace with the idea of never racing again. My brother seems to have accepted it as well. So there you have it. My time as a wannabe professional athlete is over. It was a fantastic ride and I’m pretty content with what I accomplished in that short time.
Growing up, I never understood stories detailing athletes that willingly walked away from sports despite influxes of talent or success.
My dad’s family was full of gifted athletes. His older brother, Jeff, was a freak athlete who while in high school would do sets of 10-15 pull-ups with my dad (155 pounds at the time) hanging on his shoulders. But he was quiet and reserved, choosing nature and art over sports, and was content residing in those avenues until being drafted to Vietnam.
My dad’s younger brother was also a talented athlete. He followed my dad to Northern Illinois on scholarship and played wide receiver to my dad’s quarterback. While they enjoyed playing together, my uncle wasn’t partial to certain aspects of the sport, and eventually quit the team, despite the general consensus that he had a bright future at the next level. So instead of following my dad to the NFL, Kit moved back home. Eventually he became a cop.
Growing up, this story irked me. Although I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was, I now understand that it involved my perception of “wasted talent.” Things at that time seemed very black-and-white. A young and ignorant me, desperate for success in athletics, and under the belief that said success and social standing (and maybe even self- confidence) were directly correlated, could never have understood the virtues of striking one’s own path. I was more aware of the allure of being cool or successful than that of “questing for meaning.” And looking back, I wish I would have had this clarity at a younger age.
I’ve spent the last year constantly injured and increasingly negative. At the same time I’ve witnessed my brother Brakken’s rise to the upper echelon of sport. I’ve had people question me, wondering if this juxtaposition in any way frustrates me.
But the truth is, the only reaction I’ve ever had towards Brakken’s success is pure, unfettered joy. I love the guy, and he’s hands down one of the most sincere, down to earth people I’ve ever met. Often time during media obligations the topic of our relationship comes up, specifically the question of competition. They never seem to like the answer we give them- that there’s a complete lack of it between us. We’ve never felt the need to kill each other in training- after all, we value smart training over “beast mode” style workouts. And more importantly, over the years, and regardless of the specifics of our relationship at the time, we’ve gained equal or more satisfaction from watching each other succeed in various sports and venues. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Anyway, we’re witnessing an incredible run from Brakken this season. It’s seldom that we see an athlete improve dramatically after 4 years on the professional circuit, and the wildest part of it is, he’s not close to hitting his peak.
As much as I hate to use a cliché like “He deserves it,” he truly does deserve this success. When/if this sport makes its Olympic push with a shorter, faster format, he’ll be the face of it.
So there you have it.
My apologies if you were expecting some satisfying conclusion or announcement to end this post. I’m really not sure what’s in store for me. And I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to have a future defined by vagueness. In fact, in some ways, I think it’s more exciting than knowing what’s ahead. Cormac McCarthy had a wonderful quote in Blood Meridian regarding journeys:
“There is no such joy in the tavern as on the road thereto.”
I’ve been on that road for quite some time, and I think I’ve finally become comfortable with it.