A Special Message

By: Debbie Matthews

As many of you know, my passion is racing. Not just any racing, although you would be hard pressed to find those who know me not emphatically shout, just how competitive I am in everything I do. My passion is Motocross!! But it’s more than just a passion. Dare I say, an obsession??? My Sport doctor (surgeon) will vouch for my passion for the sport.

My doc is a personal family friend, having mended our entire household more than once and he makes house calls!!! Thanks, Pablo, for all the years stitching, cutting, pasting, gluing and in general providing miracles, to keep me in the sport I love. Yes, I know…I am certifiably nuts, by your account, but you take care of my stupidity anyway.

I have an over abundance of energy and passion for the sport. To say I live it is an understatement. With 27 years of racing under my belt, endless nights working in the garage, splitting cases, finding just the right combination, workouts, mountain bike rides, crashes, bruised egos, shattered bones and confidence, euphoria in winning a championship, despair in losing, fear of failure, failure, politics, huge crowds, motocross schools, teaching, consoling, educating, lobbying, mentoring…all have shaped me into the person that I am.

I’ve had many memorable experiences. Some were painful, some humorous, some euphoric, and some outright stupid. Some of my more embarrassing experiences involve pride. When one is searching and finds that perfect balance of fitness, confidence, poise and skill. This is the point when we are at our best, yet set ourselves up for some of life’s biggest lessons. When…brimming with confidence, we wheelie down pit row, only to hit a patch of mud, slide out of control and crash in front of the entire pits during a National.

Another lesson in pride occurred after successfully teaching a motocross school for women. I decide to call it a day. The women, whom I have just trained and successfully gotten them to complete a double they wouldn’t have dreamed of doing only a few hours before, ask me to do the double. I decline, saying I’m tired and head towards the pits.

On the way, you think to yourself…Hey, why not?? I’m the big, bad pro. Yeah I’ll go over there and just speed double it. Heck, I’ll be hitting it two gears higher then they did. Yeah, it will be cool. SO, you spin around and hit the jump wide open in fourth gear. Yeah, BIG AIR!! This looks cool. Just as you smile to yourself, you realize with sickening clarity that yes, you got big air, only it’s straight up and not out…

You realize, you are coming up short, because you failed to do what you taught only moments before. You calm yourself, relax and try to absorb the impact, grabbing a handful in hopes the momentum will pull you through.

You realize that yes, you are going to make a big impression, just not the one you planned on. The bike hits and rebounds so hard that it flips over landing upside down 35 feet further down the track than the initial impact.

As the forks collapse, you flip over onto your side, only to have the bike land flat on top of you, cracking a wisdom tooth. The seat shreds, upper and lower handlebar mounts rip loose, sub frame bends and shock dog bone break, but you walk away unharmed. Except that wisdom tooth. Ah well, you didn’t need that tooth anyway!

You try to ride a few days later but are so sore from the impact, you call it a day after 45 minutes. It just hurts too much to ride. But before you pack it in for the second time, your students woo you over to the double. There they all meet you and cheer as you roll through the double, only to look over and see a big sign posted on a tree proudly proclaiming this as “Debbie’s Double” as the riders all hold up score cards with the number 10 on them.

I love racing. I love the excitement. The rush. Living on the edge. Making split second decisions that decide whether I win, lose, or crash. If we are honest with ourselves, this is probably why we all race. Each race is different with new challenges. New faces, different conditions, your mental state and those of your competitors changes.

You plan, but along the way come surprises. You must adapt quickly. Analyze the situation, make changes and decisions quickly. These learning experiences make us risk takers and help us to excel in life and in business. We are not afraid to hang it all out, because deep inside we KNOW that we can do it. We are the adventures, explorers, and inventors of the past generations.

Yes, I love moto’in. Throwing a big roost, catching big air, playing with friends…With 7 major surgeries in the past 10 years, that passion and desire has been severely tested. Can I come back yet again? Do I posses the courage to battle age, injury and fear in a sport that tolerates none of the above??

In all honesty, as far as my racing goes, even with all that passion oozing from every pore, injuries have left their scars emotionally, physically and in confidence. I love racing, but the price now to race again is very high.

It will take time, a lot of time to get my body back in shape physically and emotionally. But I am putting this experience to work. For years I have slowly been evolving from one of racer to one of a mentor…

Injuries have forced me to look at myself. To re-evaluate why I still pursue the sport. My goals have changed. My definition of winning has evolved. Winning is an all-consuming passion that involves hard work, dedication, sacrifice, endless hours in the gym and at the track. A single mind, with one goal, CHAMPION.

This is still true, although I have come to realize that winning comes in many forms. Yes, I won a National Championship. Yes, I hold the record for the longest pro and amateur career for women in Motocross. Yes, I have an AMA MVP award, So Cal Lifetime achievement award, and have been inducted into the Hot Shoe Hall of Fame. Yes, I have helped shape our sport and blaze the trail for women who wish to compete. And yes, I have paid the price.

Winning to me now, still involves sacrifice, dedication, long hours and hard work. Winning to me now is being able to get up every morning and be successful in raising my family. Winning to me is being able to still ride although not as fast or stylish. Winning to me now is finishing a moto without getting hurt and going out for pizza after the race with my racing buddies. Winning to me now is helping others experience the joy and confidence that riding offers. Winning to me is making a difference.

Winning means evolving. Rising up to meet adversity head on. Winning means picking ourselves up when we fail, dusting ourselves off and going forward. It means never giving up, despite the hand we are dealt. This is winning. No, I may never do a triple again. But I can teach. I can give back. I can mentor, I can be an example.

After 27 years in competition, I am still competing. Although getting around a track is a lot harder on the knees now, I am still out in the trenches, busting down doors, meeting with people who can make a difference, schmoozing, politicking, educating, lobbying, all for the evolution of the sport. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a pioneer in the sport. To have the opportunity to make a difference. For the opportunity to stand up and say I love to ride! From those who know me best, I wouldn’t bet against me. The word NO, or CAN’T simply never made it into my vocabulary.

Years from now, trophies will be broken, our names and accomplishments largely forgotten, but the impact that will remain is in our contributions to those around us. How we evolved and changed the lives of those around us. Did we help them reach their full potential? Did we give them a glimpse of who they really are and what they can accomplish? Did we recognize our own potential and evolve to our own personal potential of greatness?

As a woman in a predominantly male sport, we sit on the cusp of Evolution. Due to the efforts of many, Women’s Motocross is beginning to ride into the big time. The road has been long and perilous. Many have scoffed, but still we raced. Many laughed, but still we raced. Many have tried to derail the women’s movement in the sport, but our passion was too great to be denied. Such is the case with me.

So here I still am. Waist deep in the trenches, shouting to the world, YES, women you can ride, just go do it. To those who came before, and those who are blazing the trail as we speak, THANK YOU for your dedication, passion and love for the sport.

It is because of your sacrifice and dedication we stand poised to finally be accepted as professionals in the sport. We are not there yet, but that evolution is coming, and soon.