Seat Time: Falling on Your Face

Kyra Sacdalan
by Kyra Sacdalan

Photography by: Matthew McNulty and Justin Coffey

After scrolling through endless lists of famous quotes looking for something which really suits my condition, I landed on this:

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” —Paulo Coelho

It’s not the most profound of the options. Nor the most touching or even poignant. But how I interpret the meaning was the most encouraging. To me, this message warns of the consequences of giving up. That to “fear…failure” in reaching your dreams can lead to avoidance, procrastination, or, worse, not trying at all. To surrender, or never even bother going for what’s frightening, results in closed doors, limited opportunities, and a life filled with anxiety or monotony (or both).

Seat Time: Finding a Way to the Finish Line… By Any Means Necessary

Seat Time: Don’t Listen to Your Girlfriend; Size Does Matter…

This has been the sole motivation keeping my proverbial gears turning to stay in operation these past few months, all while the walls seemed to cave in on me. It wasn’t happening to me by any means. My personal and professional state of affairs are a product of my own naivete, actions, and non-actions. But it didn’t make each shortcoming any less painful, or burdensome, or obviously preventable in hindsight. With every misstep, the tumble became more clumsy; I hit the ground a lot harder and picked myself up much slower. And with so much on my plate – keeping up with my fitness, nutrition, enduro training, plus a demanding work schedule – stopping everything, altogether, felt like the easiest choice. Even my workout coach (Steve of Thrash Moto Co) suggested we scale back because my complicated schedule didn’t allow me to reap the benefits. Who actually needs to compete in a hard enduro anyway?

It was around the holidays that I think I stopped giving a damn about everything. Someone crucial in my life began to drift away, and I couldn’t do anything about it. We are professionally and intrinsically glued to each other, for many reasons, but something felt off. Maybe it had been off for years, but, now, this started coming to light. While the matter was easy enough to place in the back of my mind, at the same time, pressures at my job began to pile on, even when it appeared that the team was banding together more than ever. Extra hours at the computer each day weighed me down.

Despite being pulled in several directions, underprepared, understaffed, ill-informed, lacking proper tools or authority, and running on what felt like a slippery hamster wheel for 24 months straight, I was still optimistic. But as the story goes, it’s hard to maintain a positive outlook when you’re overwhelmed by emotional, professional, and logistical issues. Do you know what it’s like to put your heart and soul into something, then for whatever reason your progress slowed or was arrested altogether… And instead of being proud of making headway (let alone starting the journey at all), you're disappointed in yourself, discouraged to carry on, and embarrassed at your defeat? I’d like to think that’s a common reaction, being too tired to cheer yourself on. To take that high road, or the glass half full perspective, at least at first. It can’t be just me.

I imagine even the most accomplished people face these self-doubts and can be caught occasionally feeling sorry for themselves before a triumphant inner-pep talk, brushing themselves off, and going about their business – better than ever, no less. In this particular slump, it’s been more difficult than usual for me to recover and trudge through the muck. I’ve been seeking advice and inspiration from each source at my disposal. Much of which comes from podcasts on marketing, workflow, success, and the pursuit of happiness; badass dirt bike chicks sending it up hills or riding over logs on Social; or the kind and encouraging words from loved ones.

However, it seemed the pressures didn’t let up. No problem. I’m used to that. Then the aforementioned relationship and job blew up in my face. Just when things looked to be turning in a slightly less feeble direction, events unfolded which not only led to Justin and me being laid off, but ultimately ended a deal we’d been working on for two years, indefinitely – under questionable circumstances. All the while, my free time had waned from all the additional duties at the proverbial office over the last few months.

It became harder and harder to choose my selfish training routine – exercising five times a week, restricting my diet, spending money on training, riding as much as I could, trying to partner and raise funds – over spending time with loved ones, playing tour guide for friends, giving my attention to a deserving boyfriend, or drinking hot chocolate and peanut butter whiskey (don’t knock it ‘til you try it). I missed evermore days of my critical routine. Pounds I’d spent six months losing began to find their way back to my body, securing themselves to the most unflattering areas, of course. My focus and discipline, what I was so proud to have developed since Justin suggested I race Romaniacs, were more clouded and labored than ever.

This whole experience was crushing. It still is. We were fairly blind-sided. The wounds are extremely fresh. And while all this might seem a bit like a pity party, the retelling was necessary to paint a picture of my many flops (onto my face). There were plenty of things I could have done had I lifted my head from my laptop long enough to pay attention. If nothing else, it gives me the opportunity to take responsibility for it. To not let myself become some victim. To realize I’ve failed, but I’m not dead. It’s not over. And there’s nothing left to fear…Right? If I could f*ck up my livelihood a bit and survive, then all those little missteps with my fitness, food, and riding were less daunting. Besides, picturing my life after abandoning my goals is (almost) more powerful than the image of me attaining them.

Looking back at all the signs, I could have maybe reassessed my situation sooner. The constant travel, lack of available time, inconsistent schedule, and the unbearable stress. My life was not equipped for strict routines, but according to all my experienced racing buddies, especially those who’ve competed at Romaniacs or such events as the Dakar Rally, Baja 1000, and beyond, a routine is necessary. At least when it comes to seat time. Which, of course, I “know” (air quotes intended), but do not practice. And I’m told that’s not the end of the world. “Life gets in the way” and the only thing you can do about it is continue moving forward, maybe find a new route, or take a bit longer.

For the most part, I chose the latter. The last thing I want to be is a liability on the racecourse. Romaniacs will be tough enough for everyone, let alone if I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place [read: a Beta] in the middle of their path. And since there appears to be no end to life’s gift of shit right now, I need to assume that the amount of overall days/weeks/months it’ll take me to become as proficient as needed to compete will be at least twice as long. I won’t let it go beyond that because, in reality, putting it off any more might drastically reduce my chances of actually doing it. I’m allowing myself one monumental change, one free pass to feel down and out, take a break, and then get on with it.

And so, we push forward. I give myself the pep-talk, even when it feels weird, and the voice in my head is still indifferent and monotone. It’s not too unusual. Because that’s what I do in micro doses when I’m at the gym and feel too sluggish to run the full 60 minutes. Or on the trail, staring up at a momentous hill climb telling myself I was only really supposed to be doing simple drills… And then I push myself anyway. Now, I’ll just do it for each struggle until that mountain (or hill) is surmounted. Those are the moments I cherish: the satisfaction of facing fear, enduring some pain, and accomplishing objectives, albeit small ones. So, why not condition myself to find satisfaction in the suckiness? Instead of looking for pity or comfort, I’d look for solutions.

I needed guidance to get back to my plan. To my life. In a direction I can be proud of. So, as strange as it feels to say this (especially out loud), reading Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger actually offered me a strategy. I’m only at chapter two, but let’s be honest, I’m not trying to build an empire… At least not until I finish the book. But even the table of contents laid out a comprehensive procedure to attack whatever obstacle or nail any target. In my defense, these points were not new to me. I might not have worded them all the same way, or presented them in the same order, but they were all familiar – and, in my opinion, pretty on point. It was enough to help me take a few steps out of my funk. It goes like this:

  • Have a clear vision
  • Never think small
  • Work your ass off
  • Sell, Sell, Sell (it applies more than you think for racing)
  • Shift Gears (I did this one out of order)
  • Shut your mouth, open your mind
  • Break your mirrors

Since I’m still working my way through the literature, that last chapter doesn’t make as much sense as the others. But considering it’s the finale, suffice it to say, it’s probably important. So as not to turn this column into a novel, I’ll let you buy the book for the details…

Some added rules:

  • Be honest with yourself
  • Look yourself in the eye
  • Don’t be afraid to restart
  • Do it without willpower, and you’ll never lose the willpower to do it

Now, I have a new tactic to carry out my crazy plan. They say that failures are just lessons along your journey to success. And the lessons I learned with this two-month setback is that I do not have a regular schedule, a lot of free time, or much extra bandwidth. So, to approach this target as if I had enough stability for a strict regimen would only set me up for (you know). If finishing is what we’re aiming for, then making space in my agenda – to ride, workout, ride, change my lifestyle, ride more, and put some competitions under my belt – is the key element to crossing the inflatable archway at the finish – and avoid burning out in the process.

Romaniacs is still in the cards, and to accomplish that, my objective will be pushed back, spreading my efforts over a year and a half. I’ll still venture to Eastern Europe this July to observe the event as a journalist, to scout the area, and make friends (because you need friends with a mission like this). Over the next five months ahead of the event, I’ll train with my coach, Destry Abbott, as often as is affordable. If time and finances permit, I’ll attend whatever variety of riding clinic – like Max Gerston’s race prep – I can point my wheels at. Then the plan is to enter my first dirt bike competition… and hopefully the second. If I miraculously inherit a fortune, then a third and fourth trial will be in the cards. In the meantime, it’s my goal, as small as it may seem, to mount my cheeks onto the seat of my trusty Beta 300 XTrainer at least one full day a week, more if I can find the opportunity, but I’m trying to hit the target. Once a week, for the next half a year, is reachable.

Giving myself permission to move slower has allowed me to find some clarity with this pursuit, map out the voyage, and gain some confidence. It’s a great story to go from “zero to hero” in less than 12 months — an off-road riding novice conquering one of the hardest motorcycle races on the planet. And it’s still a little embarrassing that I can't put my money where my mouth is (yet). However, ultimately, I’d feel far more foolish if I put in all this work, tapped on all these shoulders, waxed poetically to all my friends just to quit entirely. It’s the lesser of two evils. After July, I’m vowing to go full steam ahead, pick up where I left off with fitness, hopefully be better with nutrition, quit drinking (for the most part), and cut sugar. Then bring my once-a-week riding routine to every other day except when I’m on the road.

So, where does that leave us now? Where does that leave Project Seat Time? I’m hopeful that it’ll stay the course, only now, that course will be a bit longer. Anastasia is facing a similar crisis, having to postpone her dream to challenge the Dakar Rally, albeit her excuse is far better than mine. Because Anastasia’s application for asylum in the United States means she can’t leave the country for a minimum of two years, she plans to diversify her objectives. Make smaller ones — in her profession, her efforts as an influencer and voice, as a teacher and guide, as a woman trying to find footing in a new world, and as a racer determined to never abandon her aspirations. Right now, she aims for Dakar 2026. She’ll continue to write her thoughts, experiences, and insights for our “Seat Time” column while training and competing locally. She’ll rely on her trusty KTM 890 Adventure to take her places, both in actual distance and in her proficiency. And, if nothing else, she won’t give up hope.

“One must choose in life between boredom and suffering.” —Germaine de Stael

Life gives you way more opportunities to fail than opportunities to succeed. Its sole purpose is to test you over and over until you die. You win the game if when you die, you’re fulfilled. Not necessarily rich, not even particularly happy. Hell, your existence might have been brutal at best. But if you leave this world feeling you’ve faced every trial, tried every angle, stood back up after each fall, then perhaps you’ll arrive at the pearly gates victorious. Having reached the finish line on your terms, battered but fulfilled.

This belief might be the only solace I’ve had for the last couple of months to keep me on track. Or rather, keep me coming back to the path whenever I inevitably stray. It’s been both a wonderful time and a severely shit one. Sharpening my enduro skills, spending time with great friends, setting personal records in my fitness. And then the other less pleasant stuff. Plus, the part of me that wants to really live, knows I need to see it through. I have to pick myself back up and literally hop back in the saddle.

In truth, it was more important for me to write out these “problems” than I expected. Not to garner attention or find sympathy, which perhaps I might not attain anyway. But it allowed me to read through everything carefully – about all the things I think are ailing me. To gain perspective and realize that my hurdles are mere pebbles compared to the mountains which so many people have to climb. I’m not going down a political and social spiral. You know what terrible things are occuring in the world. But many of those people overcome, because if not, the other option is to succumb… and the real victims are the ones left picking up the pieces. I don’t want to take for granted how good I have it. How my biggest struggles are repairing a broken relationship, paying rent, and qualifying for a race. And that I have the luxury of caring so deeply about those things.

Caring is a key to success and perseverance. But it can also unlock vulnerability. If I want to finish Romaniacs, and Ana wants to finish Dakar or become an American, then this will be the norm. It will not be comfortable. Even those moments when my world “collapses”, and I have some other dip in morale, the pain will be my rock. If it’s hard, if it hurts, and it feels bad, then I might just be headed in the right direction. It could certainly be worse. We could give up.

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Kyra Sacdalan
Kyra Sacdalan

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  • Cait M Cait M on Feb 13, 2024

    I’ve got to give you credit here, even athletes with a whole crew of people to schedule and train them can get sidelined by life! You’ve already come so far and it obvious that you’re willing to put the time and effort in, even if the goal needs to change a little. Will def be following along with your progress, and hope to link up with you this summer in Romania! Keep it up!

  • Jonathon T. Coffey Jonathon T. Coffey on Feb 13, 2024 coincidence, I broke up with my gf after 2 years😆a week ago today..and I've gone over the bars and face-planted..I'll be 68 on the 15th,I've endured many endo's in many enduros 🏜in my life*your lament touched me profoundly!.over the years I've learned that ya gotta have family or be a millionaire to devote yourself to one task in life.( don't forget to duck when getting those action close-ups)📸📹