The first push of the pedals. The adjusting of gears. Already my body anticipates the adrenalin.  I hit that first downhill slope and can’t help but smile. The air sings in my ears and I am free, falling and flying at the same time. My legs pump against the trail, moving the tires through sand, dust, and pebbles. Up ahead the road narrows. I hit the breaks to squeeze through a broken boulder. My back tire skids through the sandy trail, stopping only inches from the twenty foot cliff to my left.

My pedal scrapes the side of the boulder as I pass. I hit my pedals hard, pushing to the next pinnacle only to fly down and push up the next and the next. Sweat drips down my face, mixing dust with salt.

The setting sun reflects on my sunglasses, and for a split second I am blind. I hope this isn’t that moment I have had so many times before, when I hit something, anything wrong, and my bike stops and I keep going.

But we do keep going. For miles I see just the few feet in front of my bike as we fly by at inhuman speed. Every breath brings a surprise: sagebrush, pine, dust, and some floral scent I can’t place. The wind whistling through my helmet is masked by my labored breathing and the sound of the chain pushing through the gears.

I’m tired. But I can’t stop. Every uphill mocks me. It laughs at my fatigue. Every time I can’t quite make it up a hurdle of rock, or when I second guess myself when jumping a two foot cliff. My exhaustion makes me reckless, dangerous, and I know I should step back, slow down. But I don’t. I can’t.

I scream with my legs, “I am not weak. I am strong.” The trail has no choice but to believe me as I speed by.