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Life as a Bike Jockey: Lookin’ Back

JFreeman-Kenda-Mug1It’s almost the new year and time when a lot of cyclists are reviewing the year past to plan for the next. That and a cup of coffee will set the stage for reflection.

Thanks to my Jakarta-based sister, I had a little reflection time with a surprisingly tasty cup of Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, is coffee from Indonesia made from beans that have undergone a unique processing that gives it a less bitter taste and, ironically, a pleasant aromatic quality.

Crappy and Tasty

Processing starts with the coffee cherries being eaten by the civet cat. Then, the fruit is dissolved in the digestive tract. The bean doesn’t lose its shape, but is chemically changed in the process. When it leaves the cat (and you know how), it is then harvested, cleaned, sun-dried, roasted and then sold as the world’s most expensive coffee. It can reportedly  fetch between $100 to $600 a pound. Suck it, Starbucks.

A Year in Review

So somehow a cup of Kopi Luwak and reviewing my 2010 had a certain symmetry for me.

I entered 2010 still feeling the injured hand I earned four days before racing my first mountain bike world championships. And now I’m closing 2010 wearing a boot for the foot I broke in October. Sandwiched in between was the unexpected death of my dad in May from pancreatic cancer.

A friend helped me realize it’s all made me leery that life wasn’t about to deliver another sucker punch at any moment. He was right. Personally and professionally I’ve been bracing for the other shoe to drop, whether I’ve known it or not. It’s been no way to live and definitely no way to race.

Luwaks and Lemons

And that’s how, when trying to find some sense in the year, Kopi Luwak came to strike me like the ‘ol lemons to lemonade story; but different.

People like to say that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But lemons are cute, they even have zest. People like having lemons around. Lemons get used as decoration in kitchens and paintings.

Cat droppings, for obvious reasons, don’t get the same positive attention. But neither do the most influential catalysts for change in a person’s life.

Sometimes it takes a while to see that something seriously unpleasant has a value.

What it’s Worth

I’m not saying I know exactly what positives I can find in 2010 for me, but I do know that 2010 has been a major change agent in my life. I’ve read that all life is relationships — your relationship with people, things, yourself, everything. And I can’t think of a relationship I have that hasn’t changed this year. Some for the better some seemingly for the worse.

When my friend told me I had a shaky confidence in life, it was a wake up call that my relationship with life needed a change.

It hasn’t always been lemon pretty. But bottom line is it made all my relationships grow in some way and me along with them.

Back on the Bike

As far as racing I’d like to say I got back on my bike after my dad died and won my first race. But truth is, a friend found me crying on the trailside looking for a short cut back to my car. Encouraging me to continue, he stayed with me as I rode back to the finish.

My training partner also dealt with some workouts cut short this summer. Turns out, it’s really hard to do intervals when you’re sobbing. It has something to do with needing to breathe. Whodathunk.

Still, even when my bike yanked tears out of me, it’s been the place I always want to get back to. And my friends, family, coach and sponsors have helped me along the way.

They were all cheering me on when I had my best finish at nationals this year — just missing the podium. If they weren’t actually on the sideline, they were calling or emailing. For these experiences and many others, I know I have much to be thankful for.


I’m optimistic about 2011, even though I know there’s no guarantee it won’t be as hard as 2010. I’m hoping for the best but know that no matter what I do life is going to go where it’s going to go.

This time though I think I’ve got a better base to have faith that whatever happens, it all has the makings to push me toward something better.

I’ll believe it if for no other reason that is doesn’t serve me to think anything else. And maybe also because when I last checked, lemons didn’t yield coffee worth $600 bucks a pound.

Suck it, lemonade.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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