Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What Happens in Vegas... Motivates!

Getting ready for CrossVegas Elite women's race. Mountains and Shimano fly-over in the background! 

Well, it's another cyclocross season and with that comes another year of experiences and emotions that cross always seems to bring. So that being said, it's about time I got back to the blog world to put a few of those things in writing. Although I'm a bit behind already since I am already 6 races into my season (we are always chasing our tail at the front of cx season it seems) I will pick up with my adventures starting with my races in Cross Vegas last week.

First off, as a little update to where I left off last season. As many of you know I ended my cx year last season in a hospital bed with emergency surgery. What was highly suspected to be ovarian cancer, thankfully ended up being a benign torsed ovarian mass. I've really, really struggled to regain high end fitness since then despite lots of hard work. Long story short, my body really has had enough trauma done to it and it has basically been hanging on by a tread to keep going for even simple day to day activities. My cortisol levels dove to critically low levels, and I have been fighting a terrible low back issue with four old ruptured discs including spasms most of the summer. I've put in a lot of work and completely changed many things in my life with the help of a great functional nutritionist here, Darrell Carr, who I work closley with a couple times a week (http://www.darrellcarr.com) , but basically, I don't have time on my side, and I can't change the demands of my profession (that I love) at this point. It's going to take some careful training and lots of rest to just line up this year until my cortisol levels can recover, which can take up to a year. Plus, I'm just trying to manage what I can with my back ruling my ability to lay down power, maneuver on and off the bike, and jump over barriers. It won't be pretty this year, but I still love being at the races, racing and riding. So while it may not be anywhere near my normal form, I vow to keep working my butt off, line up to race, and have a darn good time doing it!
 A girl can only take so much! But in reality, I'm still really blessed to just be out there competing! So what can I complain about??!!

SO... onto Vegas! 

And so it begins! I always get asked how we transport bikes on the plane. Here ya go, three bikes in hard cases ready for the airport in Indy.

It has always been a dream of mine to compete in this event. Dubbed the "largest cyclocross race in America,"  centered around the industry's Interbike Show (http://www.interbike.com), it has been on my bucket race list for several years. Either because of illness, work, or logistics, I've never had the chance to go until this year, so when it all came together I was extremely excited to be able to take part in it! I really couldn't believe it was going to actually finally happen! Being that it was quite a effort to get there, I decided fairly late in the game to get the most out of my trip and do both the singlespeed and UCI Elite race (http://www.crossvegas.com/25/index.php). Looking back, this was a huge effort since not only was the elite race fast and difficult, the Singlespeed race was held in the early evening where the temps averaged 102 degrees for my race. It is the desert ya know! 

Host hotel view with the Don Walker SS. Las Vegas Tram and Bellagio in view.
It was a whirl wind of a trip. We arrived in the afternoon Tues before the race on Wed evening, and were back in our own beds by Thur night. I saw as much of Vegas as I could in those hours, but the main attraction for me was the race. So after getting to our host hotel and getting the bikes ready Tues, we took a spin in the windy sauna of Las Vegas out to the race course about 6 miles away from the strip. Eek... add a little elevation gain to the heat, plus dead legs from the air travel and I was feeling rough! 

After that we headed back to the hotel to have a nice dinner, and off to bed to get ready for the next day. Wed morning had a nice bit of sightseeing and pool side relaxing for me. I had a limited time since I needed to be at the course early to prep for the SS event. 

I did a little pre-riding, but not too much since the course was pretty straight forward, and I was feeling the heat already. I think I spent most of the time having people look at and discuss my Don Walker SS bike set-up (http://www.donwalkercycles.com). It seemed to be a popular item! 

Game time! Vegas had some pretty rad cloth numbers... not a bad start grid either! 
Once the race got underway, I found myself in a battle for 2nd. I felt okay until I was having some major chain slip issues preventing me from riding up the inclines. That eventually pushed me back to 3rd in the end, but it was still a blast running the single gear. The officials ran our race a bit long (it's the desert ya know), and I was definitely feeling drained, dehydrated, and beat by the end of my 53 minute race. 
But no time to spare! I had about a 1.5 hour turn around until the start of the pro race. I got as much fluid in me as I could and tried to keep the legs spinning a bit. Thankfully, my mechanic buddies Tim Wegner  and Terry Twitchell took care of everything else that needed done so I could focus on the next race! So thankful for those guys! 

The best crew a gal could ask for! Tim, Don, myself, and Terry. 

So I was super anxious about how I would do for the elite race. I knew very well coming into the race that I was in some of the worst shape of my life, and that I had also just put forth a big effort in the heat for the SS event. I just wanted to be somewhere in the same race as the big guns. My only goal was to give it everything I had, stay positive, not come in DFL and make it at least 2 laps. That's was it. Check, check, and check!!!
Cross racing at night in Vegas! Boom!
I managed all of those things and even did a bit better than I expected. I actually made it all but the last lap to go... just barely missing the time cut off. I got next to last, and had to fight hard to obtain that with another racer. It was the best next to last battle ever! I really believe I could have made it on the lead lap had I not got caught behind a huge pile up at the start. This left me way off the back right from the get go, and with a wide open fast course like Vegas, I had no chance of making it back to the group. 

The experience? IT. WAS. AWESOME.
Plus, racing my 1st big race with the Shimano (http://www.shimano.com) Ui2 set-up was smooth! Add the sweet Ritchey WCS Carbon Cross forks (http://ritcheylogic.com) and I was loving the ride out there in the desert! Thanks for the support! 
I sure didn't feel like I was at the back of the race. The fans were great and cheered like rock stars. Vegas style. The course was fabulous and I smiled every time I hit the familiar scenes I had watched for so many years on the live feeds. I kept saying to myself: "I can't believe I'm doing Cross Vegas!" 
I ended the race totally trashed from the days effort. I had given it all I could and had fun doing it. I was surprised how much personal support and cheers I had out there. I felt like I was back in my own region doing a race where everyone knew my name. Thanks so much to all of you who cheered for me! I heard each of them every lap!!! 
And that's pretty much it folks. I ended the evening watching the men's race and cheering for my bro Josh Johnson who took on his first race with the Giant factory team! Wow! He did wonderful. So happy for him. I was also stoked for my travel mate, Chad Tieman, charging the fast race. Great job you two! 
Oh yeah... and the World Champ, Sven Nys, was hanging out at the hotel too. That was worth the trip alone!)
I was really glad I didn't back out of my dreams to do this race. I considered not going considering my fitness and back issues. But in the end, I'll not remember the placing I got, or the effort it took to get there... just the rad experience and the motivation it gave me to continue to get back to health and continue to do this sport I love for many years! 

See you at the races everyone! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Look Back at 2012. Love!

Well there it is, the last arms by those who made podiums were raised at the cx national championships last week and I think most cx racers would consider it the end of the season, save for Master's Worlds (late north american nationals) and maybe a late race here and there. I of course, feel like I have a big void in my heart since I planned my entire year on doing well at cx nationals, but as Cubs fans say "there is always next year," and I appreciate the support from people who say that to me. In all honesty, I was sad to miss natz, but it was out of my control and I'm doing a pretty good job of keeping that in mind, and it's okay. But as far as me saying the above phrase, it isn't something I count on after the nde. There isn't always next year, and even tomorrow isn't a guarantee. I don't mean to be cynical, but I understand completely that each breath or moment can be our last... that's just the facts of it folks. So try and take each moment and live and love it with all your heart. Even though it's really hard to do sometimes. 

Reflecting back on the season... I have to say I'm pretty happy with it!
Anyway, even though on initial review of this post, I was going to write about the disappointment I had in some of my races or placings this cross season, that isn't going to happen the more I think about it. Coming into the season, I wasn't quite up to speed yet. I had dealt with some kidney/ bladder issues left over from the nde. I had a stint where I was pretty ill and needed to be back in the hospital in July for the kidneys and needed to have a foley catheter (tube in the bladder) in place for 3 months. That's right, I trained, raced, and had that every day for 3 months. I sucked it up and dealt with it, but it wasn't optimal by any means. Given that, I also was planning a full ICX and OVCX schedule so I knew it would be a long season to get my groove back. A lofty order! Since I missed all the ovcx races last year from the nde, I really had no idea how I would do compared to everyone else. The years before that, I was clearly one of the top 2 women in the elite series, but 'cross has grown up a lot since then and I basically felt a year behind everyone else. Of course, one can say that to themselves, but when the gun blows, I forget about all I've gone through and it's easy to forget that once you are racing and you expect your body to perform like it once did. Long story short... it didn't. Not so much at least. I had a good "sole searching" time this year getting used to the fact that I wasn't the best anymore. I also needed to spend the season learning how to adjust to the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis. It would take some time to learn how my "new" body would respond. 
How would I take that, what did that mean to me as a racer and person, and how was I going to approach each race. It was time to reset my goals a little bit. 

I won't lie, the first few races I was way back and I was not taking it well. Maybe I should quit?
Always leave it to the Mom to put you back in place. I had called her after a race where I thought I did bad and was really down in the dumps about it and beating myself up. She just told me point blank: "either race your bike and have fun no matter how well you do, or don't race at all. And don't call me anymore being depressed about something that shouldn't warrant sadness, I won't have any part of it. We are just blessed you are still alive, let alone be able to race a bike." It takes a little tough love sometimes:)
 See it, do it, love it, leave it. 

I reset my attitude. Do the best I have with what I had and work really hard to get better. Enjoy it! And weather people viewed me as a good racer or not... wasn't any of my business. My goal was to be a good, positive influence in the sport and show that winning isn't everything. Cross has so much more to offer! And man, would I learn this more than ever this year! 

So how about a look at some wonderful pal mars I accomplished this year results wise with my Don Walker Cycles Team:
I competed in 22 cyclocross races.
 I reached the podium in 17 of those races. 
Winning the race or my master's class in 5 of those.
Indiana CX Cup overall elite women series champion. 
OVCX Elite Master's 35+ series 3rd overall and 7th overall of all elite women combined. 
2nd elite in Indiana State Championships. 

Not too shabby I guess... many people would kill for this, so I'm gonna be proud of it.
What I'm more proud of is the fact I learned that winning isn't everything. Not even close. I worried that my lack of wins would make me fade away from the cyclocross family I've become a part of. If I wasn't winning, would people even care? The truth is... your family always cares.

Wow! My family grows every year... here are just a small amount of my cycling family gathering to send me some encouragement! So much support!
Since I've been known to wear my heart on my sleeve at times (like all cross racers do), let me continue that here. I was crying like a baby as I was laying in my hospital bed recovering from surgery on Dec 16th. The last series race of the season at MTV was taking place and I was stuck in a hospital feeling a world of pain from surgery and sadness from missing the race. I had worked so hard all year to be a part of the series, to make the series podium overall and say a goodbye to all I had spent time with and to those who supported me the this season. 

To say I was overwhelmed by the love that came my way soon after would never describe my gratefulness to the cycling community. I'm still speechless to this day. The amount of texts, pictures, messages, and kind words (and hospital heckles) that I received is unimaginable to me still, it seems like a good dream... and I wasn't even the best rider anymore... huh! I won't try to explain what it meant to me in the state I was in. It was a very dark time to face such a huge surgery after everything I had already been through in my life... but it was good to not feel alone in the journey. 

Yeah... I was feeling pretty rough after surgery, but my spirits were lifted by the thoughts and prayers of many.
Sometimes if you ever think the world is a cruel, mean place, and that people are inherently bad... I beg to differ. There is so much love! Thank you to all that showed it to me when I really needed it. God has blessed you all.

Cycling is a great sport. My family and I have known that since the first day we spent at the BMX track when I was 12 years old. At 36 now and thousands of races later, it still is a great sport and even more importantly a wonderful family to be a part of, no matter what recent media focuses on. 

My lesson and take home message from 2012?
Winning isn't everything, but ACTING like a winner is. 

Of course, there are so many more pictures and messages that came my way in days to come... these are only a few, otherwise the post would be too long! 

Lots of racers were missing NB yesterday - hope to have back on the bike soon! 

Show love and be loved. I have had so much satisfaction in seeing people around me be happy, do well, and overcome hurdles, than I ever had when I used to put so much worth in to me winning myself. 

I would like to dedicate today's victory to my friend and mentor,, who's recovering in the hospital from a recent surgery.

Be proud. Some people never make it back. No matter how much time they have. Stoked for you. 

 Uh oh, that doesn't look like home......whatever it is, get well quick....there's cowboys waitin'.....

 don't be sad darlin' it's gonna be all right

Good job to everyone this year who accomplished their goals... not matter how big or small. 
Is it next 'cross season yet?


Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Last Race Report... For Now!l

A pre-cross season playground... the season started in earnest with a DH play trip to Winter Park, CO!
Time to put the mental memory of the last regular season cross race to the keyboard. I'll get to a complete season wrap up in the next post, but for now I'll mostly stick to the final regular season series race I was able to do. With a pleasant surprise of finishing 4th in SS and 3rd in my Master's class last year at nationals, I started the season this year with a lofty goal of winning a national championship. So with that said, this post comes bittersweet as it will be my last report for cross this season and we all know nationals have yet to occur this upcoming week. But... as bittersweet as it is, the growth I've had as a person, the challenges I've faced, overcome, and the people I have faced them with... just can't be put down as a "goal" on paper. But I shall get to that some other time. For now... this is the last race report this season. Thanks for reading.

Focusing on drifting through the sand pit at the last OVCX race (for me) in Ohio.
Photo: Kent "The Kamikaze" Baumgartd
The John Bryan OVCX race came after the day of the Indiana State Championships  I wrote about in the previous post. As you recall, it was a wonderful mud drudging affair, and I put my all into it. After the ICX race in Indy and wrapping up the series title end events I drove a couple hours to my teammates house in Lebanon OH, unpacked, ate, and cleaned the muddy bikes. Bill and Teri had housed me so many times this season, I almost felt like their  home was a cyclocross vacation home to me. Being on the road 4-5 hours (one-way) from my own home, away from my family every weekend this season would have gotten very old, very quick had I spent it in a hotel. Sure, I could have spent plenty of time on the phone to my loved ones to get the social interaction necessary to keep one sane, but that just isn't the same as having people you love right in front of you, sit down to eat with people in a HOUSE at a table and share a good belly laugh with or discuss the day's races. To say I have been grateful for each and every one (including Leslie and Don Walker) who has hosted me, would be a understatement! 

Flying the Don Walker Cyles Racing Orange and Black made for  a nice bright contrast on the gloomy day.
Photo: Kent "The Kamikaze" Baumgartd

After a good night's sleep at the Meek's I woke up and realized the day would be a struggle for me. My legs were pretty sore and stiff from the thick mud race, and more interesting was that the ovarian tumor on my left side I had been dealing with was none-to-happy with me. On the bright side, it was a dark, dreary proper cx weather looking day and I welcomed that true cx atmosphere. After getting to the venue, I was stoked to see a layout and it seemed that it was perfect for me. I looked forward to getting on my bike and getting my warm-up going. Once again, I have to give a major shout out to the Shamrock cycles crew for allowing me to make camp under their banner on a rainy day as our head honcho, Don, had fell victim to one of the many sicknesses that had been going around the area. 

And then... I started warming up. As my heart rate rose, so did my pain, nausea, and general feeling of badness. Really? No, no, no... not today! I went through a well done warm-up and hoped that once the adrenaline of the race got going, I would be able push the bad feelings to the back of my mind. One could hope! But it didn't happen.

Girls just wanna have fun! The start of the Elite Women's OVCX John Bryan is underway!
Photo: Kent "The Kamikaze" Baumgartd
I got a pretty good start with my 5th position call-up. I gave the first 1/2 of the lap all I could and did pretty well, and after that I just started going backwards despite feeling like I was maxed out on my effort. I was giving it my all, it's just that my all was braced by a large amount of trying to deal with nausea and pain on top of managing the bike. Poop! One of the awesome ob/gyn docs, Dr Don Durecki, had told me earlier in the month that ovarian pain was like "being kicked in the nuts" for a women... yep, now I have the privilege to know what that feels like! Haha. 
Being that the course was pretty slick, it was an interesting feeling to try and brace and protect my abdomen while handling a slippery bike underneath me. My bike, my body, and my mind were all in completely separate places. I just tried to push it all back to the corner of my mind somewhere where I wouldn't take note of all that was going on and just spent the race imagining I was swimming underwater in the ocean... a nice mental exercise for me. It got me through it and I finally finished the race. 

I guess I've earned my newly given nickname of "Coal Train"  from Don Walker this year. Toughing it out to the finish.
Photo: Kent "The Kamikaze" Baumgartd
I managed to finished 12th and 4th in elite master's. Off the podium.
There would be no podium at nationals for me if I went. I knew this now. I was going backward in my performances. I was sad about it. I understood what was going on and it was out of my control at this point. It's hard to not be in control of something. I packed up and hustled the 4 hrs back home. I was scheduled to be on anesthesia OB call by 7pm and I didn't have time to be upset. I hit the ground running once I was at work. I finished the night around midnight and was thankful to have such a positive end to a let down of a day. I enjoy my profession and it is a rewarding feeling to help a family bring a new life into this world. Plus, I just tried to remind myself for all the things I got to do that day because in reality... I knew very soon my world was going to slow down A LOT. I knew I would be the one going under the knife soon. Again.

Turns out, it was much sooner than I had thought. That weekend had just progressed to a even worse situation. Three days later I could barely stand up and the nausea became vomiting. I was admitted to the hospital for a torsed ovary and the day after that I was indeed correct, I had surgery of my own. My ovarian tumor had a torsion and had hemorrhaged and was starting to leak out. I pretty much knew this was happening on and off since Lexington.
I wouldn't know if the highly suspicious tumor was cancer until I woke up, wouldn't' know how my myasthenia would manage, or if I would find myself with another pulmonary embolism (unlikely, but I was still afraid of it). 
All of that was out of my hands now. I prayed with my parents, had a good cry with them, then we all regrouped to face it... whatever it would be, we would face it and deal with it. I drifted off to sleep and imagined I was swimming again but this time I was in a school of people I love and that one distant figure that joins me now and again that I can't quite make out who he is... no joke. He's my guardian angel. 
And with that...
I knew before I even was all the way under that this would go good. 
It did. No cancer. No post-op vent. No need to remove my only remaining valuable ovary. NO feared blood clot. 
 Thank you God!

This may be my last race report.
But just for now! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rounding it out...

What a great group of ladies to compete with and a honor to win the ICX Elite Series Overall Title
photo: planet adventure

So I'm a tad behind on my blog updates... I've had some stuff going on preventing me from keeping up to date... but more on that later and in another post. However, I have plenty of time now to catch up on the last few races I've done in the final drive of the regional and statewide series I've been taking part in to round out the season. Going in to the last few races of the both series I knew things pretty much would stay as they were in my overall standing (1st and 3rd) but I really wanted to give a good push to keep the race efforts high for nationals in January. Plus, the ICX series finale doubled as the Indiana State Championships so I was fired up to try as hard as I could to take a podium spot.

Leading the train into The Wall the first lap in Zionsville, I managed that first climb pretty well actually!
photo: Planet Adventure) 
The finale venue for the ICX doesn't really suite my strong points as a racer, but it actually turned out to  fair me pretty well the way the promoter had set it up this year, not to mention that the surrounding area is very horse rich and a nice backdrop to warm up to on a gloomy day. I had a bit of a poor start but quickly found myself at the front of the race and soon passed into the lead shortly into the first lap. I seemed to hold that position for half the race and I was doing a good job of handling the muddy, slick conditions really well. I took this as a small victory since I knew that these conditions would be very similar to the Nationals weather in Wisconsin soon enough. 

Always, always something to improve on in sports! My technique is good, it's just the engine behind it that needs work! This hill proved the death of my lead.
Photo: Kent Baumgardt)
I was powering along, until that darn hilly run-up got the best of me! I slowly lost enough time on it to allow the 2nd place rider to catch, then pass me, and she slowly gained more and more time in this area until it was beyond a point where I could re coupe the time I had lost. 

Although hard, very hard... it still remains fun because it's such a challenge! Love, love this stuff and great photo by Kent! He probably got as muddy as us racers getting these shots!)
I was able to hold on to 2nd place easily and in the end, I was disappointed to not be able to capture that elusive elite state cx title, but given how life plays out sometimes... my best isn't always the best. Major thanks to the Shamrock Cycles Crew for being my stand in "Handmade Builder Team" support this day as I was out of the Don Walker  area this particular day. Their cheers (or heckles) and pit help was much appreciated and proves only more that handmade in 'merica takes care of their own! So get to the show http://2013.handmadebicycleshow.com/ and meet some of these great people!

Oh yeah... I DID however, seal the deal on the Indiana Cyclocross Cup Series Overall Championship and I was stoked about this. The ICX cup, although smaller in  rider numbers than the neighboring OVCX, hosted a very competitive group of elite women this year and I was very happy to walk away winning this series for a second year in a row. Major kudos to Plant Adventure for holding great cyclocross events this season http://www.indianacxcup.com/index.php! I truly enjoyed the not-so-stuffy atmosphere this series still possesses and I'm thankful these races are around.

The week prior to that was the famous (in my books at least) Brookside OVCX race in Indy. I'm not really sure why I love Brookside so much... it's scarcely has any features that play into my strengths, but there is something about the setting and features that make it a great place to have a cx race in the winter. I was not feeling in the best of health (which is when I started to realize the harsh reality my season was doomed to be over before I had wanted it to be) before making the short 2.5 hr drive down, nor did I feel well at all during my warm-up. I was in a "I'm in so much pain I'm now going to go throw up" sort of way. As if cx isn't already hard enough to push down the thought of vomit and pain to the back of your mind... I now had this health issue to try and manage during the race too. Oh well, I didn't come all that way to not give it my best go of it! As I always say; "I shaved my legs, I paid my money." 

Am I wearing non-cycling branded socks? Oh my...   maybe that's why I felt a little strange at Brookside!
Photo: K Baumgardt

I put  my head to it and did the best I could, which I was surprised landed me in 10th overall and 3rd in Master's. Okay. That's pretty good, but I'm a competitor and I always hunger for more. Always. It was a super good field, but I hope to be super good again too.

I am doing my best to be thankful for what I CAN accomplish this year, and getting 10th in a super competitive field of rock stars isn't so bad for what I'm working with. I know I've said it before on the blog, but let me say it again, not as an excuse (because I don't roll that way) but just as a brake check to myself and many others out there: I don't race my bike for a living, nor do most gals or guys I race with every weekend. It's pretty silly to bank all your self worth and the safety of others on a bike race. People have other aspects of their lives and we simply can't control everything that goes on in it week in and week out. I know we are all competitive, I just always hope to see everyone having FUN and not getting to overboard on placings (me included). Heaven knows mi vida loca! 
With that though, I have to say, we have some really rocking fast gals in this region and I'm stoked for the depth of talent I get to race against in the area! New England, west coast.... midwest brings it to the house too! 

Hey look! Two ladies racing their bikes very fast that were once thought to not live through near death experiences...  keeping Alison Delgado at bay for the moment, but really proud of her "comeback" and not at all upset when she passed me. Persevere!
Photo: Kent B.

I for one, will be pretty excited to see how everyone fairs in the near future and places at nationals and world's! Master's AND Elite U23 (go Josh)! 

So with that, I only have one more race to report on; the next to last ovcx series race in Dayton, OH. It's always a empty time of year as the snow starts to fly, the temperatures here up north hover near the teens, and people turn their minds towards a wonderful holiday of Christmas. As I said, I have some time on my hands so I'll wait till later to post another blog update on that race. I seem to get a little of that wonderful anxious nervous excitement I feel at the start of a cross race by updating the blog... so I will try and drag it out a little longer to fill the void of actually not being able to race.

Making the podium at Brookside with some great ladies: Gerry and Kim. Good job ladies.
Photo: Bill Meek

Merry Christmas to all my cycling friends and family. As always, I look forward to spending time with my family for THE reason for the season! God has blessed me to be on this earth with them one more day and for that I am forever grateful! Everything else is a bonus!

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Abyss of Winter.

Well, here we are, about to turn the calendar over to December. And with that comes short hours of daylight, cold temps, and fewer exposures to races and riders. As I expressed last year, the people who really want to do well at Nationals and beyond really have to dig deep to continue to train at a high level during these next couple months. Sounds easy enough, but the motivation factor must remain pretty high while keeping the distractions low. No easy task considering most of the social media world racers seem to have already resolved to riding the trainer indoors. I'm sure this is multi factorial for many, including lack of good lighting investments, warm clothing and for some, living in highly populated areas where cars are not looking for bike riders at night. For me however, I am trying to stay on the outside as long as I can. I loath the trainer, I find it horrible in many ways, plus I find it pretty easy to burn out on riding if too much time is spent going nowhere!

As most of you know, I have some pretty crazy work hours, so almost everyday of riding right now is in the dark for me. It may seem strange, but I don't really mind it all that much. Riding at night has it's own calmness about it in many ways. Usually the traffic in my area is much more subdued, the busy hum of life is calm and the darkness is a welcome blanket over the busy work day I've left behind. The only downside is the temps get pretty chilly quick once the sun is down and since I'm quite a bit north of my fellow racers, most of my rides are sub 30 degrees (or lower) at this point in time... not to mention the deer factor is pretty high. But... it keeps me motivated and I feel I remain focused on nationals. 
Some days I think about summertime rides, ya know, the ones where I actually got to ride with other people, yeah that was pretty cool. I sorta feel like I'm in the middle of nowhere, all alone most days on my rides, but I'm sure there will be plenty of people to ride with once the gun goes off in Madison and L'ville :)

Nice field for the Planet Adventure ICX race! What a great day at the races! 

So last weekend I did a little racing (surprise). Saturday was the ICX race in Indy at the famous Major Taylor and Sunday I headed down to Lexington, KY for the OVCX race. It's no secret that I've faced some health issues as of late, and I can honestly say my mind was far from focused on racing these days as a result of that. The Friday prior to Indy, my gyn discovered a suspicious looking ovarian mass, after I've been having ongoing related issues for several months now, and I was slated to see a oncologist the following Monday. Even though I attempted not to worry all weekend, the events of my health consumed my every thought and focusing on doing well in a bike race seemed like an irrelevant detail in my life. However, racing did prove to be a minor distraction at the time and it kept my nerves at bay for a short period. Fast forward a week and many prayers later, so far the cancer markers have come back negative. This is beyond a major blessing as it indicates that I likely do not have advanced ovarian cancer, it could still be cancer... just early and more manageable. It could also mean I have a benign mass and this is the better and more likely option! At this point, we wait 2 more weeks to recheck the cancer markers, and reassess the mass, then make more operative decisions from there, so my immediate future on the bike is a bit up in the air, but I don't want to sit around staring at the wall, I'm going to live life. 

Tackling the downhill at the MTV Cycloplex. It only took me 2 laps to get the hang of it. Haha

So yeah, the bike race: even thought the weekend was a bit of a fog for me, I did pretty respectable Saturday. The women's field was great since it was also a collegiate regional, so we had a good mix of regular and college gals. I had a slow start, but remained near the front on the first lap to the famous Katie Antonneau and Jakcie Kurth, I'm sure they were just toying with me, but it was good to be behind their lines for a bit. After that I faded a little behind my class competition to 2nd place and remained there at a good steady effort until the end. It was a super fun venue and the vibe was great the entire day. Kudos for Marian Cycling (http://www.muknights.com/sport/0/21.php) for putting on such a great event for us racers.

After the race I got to spend a short time with my buddy Josh Johnson and his family. I'm super proud of Josh and his accomplishments this year while pursuing his education at the same time! He has recently been selected to go to EuroCross camp and I'd like to take the moment to ask any of you to support his trip if you can in any way, so shoot him a email if you could be so generous, every little bit helps ( ibike33@gmail.com). He's a great kid and has a wonderful attitude and work ethic to represent the sport we all love. Personally, I have found few things more rewarding than seeing people I had mentored work hard and achieve their goals! 

After that it was onto to Cinci area to stay overnight with my awesome teammates Bill and Terri before heading down to Lexington with them the next day. I had never been able to make the trip to the Lexington race due to its distance from my home, but this year I ended up with a Monday off work so making the 6 hr drive home after the race wasn't a huge deal since I didn't have to be to work early the next day.

Taking my teammate Xavier Chickenski on a hot lap in warm-ups at Lexington OVCX. Turns out... he really doesn't taste like chicken at all. 

My focus the day of the race seemed to be even worse than the previous day for some reason. Sure, I went through the motions good enough, I just was in a mental fog. That's just life I imagine. I started out pretty good I suppose and was probably in a top 5 spot I imagine, but the race moved ahead of me after that. 

Uphill start to the Lexington race. It really wan't my kind of course, which meant it was my teammate Terri's, she finished 2nd on the day! 

I didn't really feel like I was particularly slow, just my drive to dig deep was a bit lacking on this day. At a ovcx race with such great competition, this just can't be done if you want to do well. To do well in such a bright field required focus and determination and I was lacking these things this weekend. I never gave up though and kept on pedaling until the end. I actually ended up 9th overall and made the podium for the Elite Master's class in 3rd place. Not too bad for having a "bad weekend" and I can't really complain too much about it considering my circumstances. I think my mind really had mentally checked out and my results showed it. Not that I'm complaining about it because it's my choice and what I love to do, but at this point I had been on the road, far from home for the last 14 weekends in a row, then coming home to work full time and train as well. I think it's only natural that at some point your mind and body needs a time out and mine seems to be now. 

Another great day for racing... perfect temps for a mid- november race. No need for warn embro today... but rather some warm weather Mad Alchemy blend instead ( http://madalchemy.com/products/warm_weather.html)!

So after that I decided to take a break for a weekend. Even though this meant missing Gravel Grovel which I love and had won in 2011. I felt it was really important to spend time with my family (and cat) since everyone was extremely worried about what was going on with my health. The feelings and memories of the NDE are still painfully fresh in everyone's minds and time together is a good way to heal that. 

See how a photog can make you look faster than you really are? Another  great shot by Kent Baumgardt (as are all the photos of his this post).

So I had a sweet few days off work to spend with family and also had some free time to go get lost in the woods on the mountain bike. When the going gets tough, I always find the trails the best therapy for me. Mountain biking is so peaceful  and for that moment in time it's just you and the trail. No time to let your mind wander and think of other things.... the focus needs to be on the now and then. I'm pretty lucky to have cycling in my life, it really does keep me sane, even if I do seem like a nutcase for training outside in the abyss of winter.!

Monday, November 12, 2012

UCI 5!

Almost 50 women strong at the start of the non-uci women's field!
Photo Credit: Kent Baumgardt

So the regional series of the Midwest took a rest these past couple weekends to host some of the biggest UCI races in the country and those who normally take part in the local scene didn't disappoint on the national level either! 

For me, I'm finding myself stuck in middle ground between still having a Cat 1 license, battling for Elite Master's OVCX series points, and gunning for Master's World Championships later in the year. That being said, most of you know racing in the Pro races require that I don't accidentally snag any uci points to DQ me from Worlds, yet still needing to race in a cat that has appropriate competition to keep me pushed to the limits. 

Thankfully, the Cincy3 (http://cincinnaticyclocross.com/ ) races included a Elite Master's 35+ category for all the ladies in my same situation! It was a bit of a pride blow to not race in the pro races, but I AM an elite master's racer and as long as promoters present this option for us ladies, that is where I belong at this point in my comeback and career. I was pretty happy to see several of my fellow ovcx strong girls choose to race these races as well. 

Taking on the log barriers and the Shamrock heckles during day 1 of the Cincy3 weekend...
Photo: Kent Baumgardt 
 So on to the races! 
First off, 3 straight days of cyclocross races can test just about anyone, and I was a bit worried about how it would test myself with the myasthenia in particular (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myasthenia_gravis). Now that it is all done, I think I held up pretty well, aside from the last lap of the weekend where my body decided it had had enough. How can I complain about that? 

The weekend as a whole was probably one of the best times I've ever had at a race weekend. I could go into detail about the whole atmosphere, but I think everyone who was there felt the same and I can't give enough kudos to the event promoters and all the people that made it what it was. 

Friday's race got underway at one of hilliest venues for cx in Devou Park. I honestly dislike the place on that premise alone, but otherwise, it's a stunning place to spend the day on the bike. The race field for us non-pro's was packed and it was exciting to look back from my front row call-up to see a sea of 40+  female racers behind me. I knew the day would be tough for me since one of my best competitors, Gerry was there and she loves climbing. She ended up taking a early lead and never looked back (maybe she did but I never saw her). I cruised around and got second. I was pleased with that. I knew Gerry was out of my sights, but I expended very little effort to maintain the second place spot to maintain as much energy as I could for the remainder of the weekend.

Best quote of the weekend: "yeah, you can ride sand like a dutch women." Love this stuff!
Photo: Baumgardt

Day 2 was held at King's very close to my host housing with Bill and Terri Meek. It was so great to have them open up their home to as many as 10 cyclist... that's a lot of pasta folks! 

Saturday was the perfect storm for me. It had rained all night, was a little misty come race time, and a touch on the chilly side. Plus, the course layout was all sorts of perfect for my riding style. I took off to a early lead with a couple gals in tow. I was feeling good and strong only to bobble the bottom of a slick downhill, causing me to lay the bike down and loss some major time. I got back up, fought like heck to catch back on to the lead ladies of Gerry and Erica, and ended up in a dead sprint with Gerry for the win at the end. Of course, the ending straight was at a gradual incline, and I had spent so much energy catching back up, that I had nothing left in the tank to take on the climb at speed let alone someone who loves stuff like that. Major kudos to Gerry for a great all around race, with her and I finishing the same as the previous day: 1 & 2. 

Enjoying some good cross weather on day 2... probably thinking about how good my Monday massage is gonna  feel..
Photo: Baumgardt

Day 3 of racing moved on to my most hated of all venues. Harbin Park. Not only is it at the end of the race weekend when a person is dead tired, it has it's share of climbing like Devou. Add to it that I was crashed here by Marne a couple years ago causing some broken ribs and the end of my race season following it that year, and I was ready to have a nice, uneventful race for a change to get Harbin off my back. 

I was pretty much toasted before the gun went off, but I wanted to give everything I could. I once again had a good start and even opened up a little gap halfway through the 1st lap due in part to my love of sand pits. After making my way through that, the hills showed up and my legs didn't. I was passed by Gerry and Eric and even though I told my body to take chase, it decided enough was enough and turned the power switch off. My hands and feet went into cramps (a sign the MG is on the verge of getting really angry) and I knew I had to be the smart person and turn it down a notch to just salvage what I could with one lap to go, leaving me with a respectable 2nd place in my Master's Elite class. 

Ahh yes! A punchy hill. More my style for a change!
Photo: Baumgardt

Being the queen of the weekend would have been sweet, but taking three 2nd place podiums and ending up the princess isn't that bad either. My goal for the weekend was a top 3 everyday and I pulled that off, so I was thrilled with that. 

Sprint for the Win! Gerry and I have both taken a win in sprint finishes this year. She took it over me on this one. Love battling like this.
 Photo K Baumgardt
So rounding out the 5 UCI races in the area was the Derby City Cup USGP in Louisville this past weekend. USGP is always a good time and all the who's who of cx showed up this past weekend to check out a small preview of the venue that will host the Elite World Championships this year. I really had no choice but to race the Pro women's race, and it was pretty cool to see 50+ of the countries top females all lined up on race day and be a part of that while representing my Don Walker Cycles Team (www.donwalkercycles.com/) while doing it. Honestly, I disliked the course set-up to the extreme (as did other racers), although I did like several of the features they had in it, just not the way it all came together. In the end, it didn't really make a difference in the grand scheme of my life or cycling goals and I found myself not so "fired up" once race day rolled around and we took off. I didn't feel like putting the remainder of my season at risk with injury, so I sat near the back of the pack and gave a good training effort in with the big guns. I ended up somewhere... not last and no where near 1st. 

 Sunday I decided to get my first race of the year on the single speed going. I absolutely love racing SS in cross (and mtb) and I was excited to get out and get some time on it before racing at Nationals. I was having a bit of issues with it before the race, but thanks to my teammates (Blaine, Nate, and JC) and every respectable mechanic we could have look at it, I still was unable to stand and power up climbs with out the chain skipping, but I managed the rest of the course on it without a problem... and had a blast doing it! I even managed to chick a few guys along the way to my 17th place finish!

Now it's on to the last stretch of the season for me. The next few weeks will wrap up the massive race schedule I've been doing, the two race series I am competing in will finish up and it will be back to focusing on training well for Nationals and Master's Worlds. Thanks so much to all that cheered and encouraged me this past couple weeks, thanks to all the support from my Don Walker family, and big credit to my buddy Aaron for keeping the bikes working week in and week out!

Can't stop, won't stop!
 Photo: Tim O Shamrock Cycles

Cycling really is a great sport to be a part of... 
U (you)  C (see)  I (I) give it 5 out of 5 stars:)