Thursday, October 28, 2010

On The Bridge

So I'll admit that the above photo from the Derby City USGP last weekend is pretty much an example of how things have been going for me since the UCI3 weekend. I have not quite been myself, but I continue to work through the struggles of injury, travel, work, and race results. Just like above, I pride myself in my sand pit riding skills, but in this photo I decided to dismount and dodge the other gals who maybe find this a little hard. It was a different approach, but it paid off in the end. Even though my race results have not been bad, I was hoping for better up to this point in the season, and after taking a blow at Harbin Park, my drive to keep on pushing has been tested; not my typical attitude. After a tough season plagued with physical injuries, the week after Harbin with the cracked ribs was a physical struggle and I started to question myself to ask why I continue to fight through so much physical pain in order to reach my personal cycling goals.I wandered how much I could take before cracking mentally, but I reflected and found the drive to continue. I am thankful to be a person who races for the joy of it myself and not for other's around me. Otherwise, this really wouldn't be all that fun, would it? I honestly almost decided to call it quits for the season, and I was in a pretty dark spot for a bit. This wasn't helped by the fact that every single breathe I took made me wince with pain. I won't go into my personal reasons for racing on, but after a week of pretty easy spinning, I decided at the last moment to do the Blooming cross race. I didn't want to make any long term decisions based on my current mood, so I just went racing with no expectations. I was warned to not race by my Dr, but I figured I would take it easy and try to stay in safe situations and not be too aggressive. I knew another fall to the bad side would potentially send my rib into my lung. So, I played it safe, I took off pretty slow for me and started mid- pack, trying to stay in my little safe bubble. I worked my way up to second and safely stayed there, babying around the corners and cruised in for a 2nd place. I had a good time, and boosted my love a little more since the DRT crew ran such a fun race!

The whole rest of that week was spent in Brown County in a great cabin with my Mom. We take a fall trip every year together and get some time to catch up with each other and enjoy the beauty of the area. I'm really lucky to be able to spend time like this with her, and I'm blessed to have a Mom who is also a good friend. I did some riding, read a book, sat around in the hot tub, and spent a lot of time cleaning up the cabin woods looking for firewood to burn. We really hated to leave, but we made some good memories and we already look forward to next year!

While the time in BC was great, my health that week kept going downhill. The race the Sunday before took its toll on me and I was feeling pretty bad by Wed. I had trouble breathing, was throwing up, and just felt zapped. After getting home Thur. I decided to get into see the Dr again to make sure I didn't have any major issues before the GP. We were concerned I may have lacerated a liver or have a pnuemothorax. We did several tests and I spent the day being poked and prodded and spent hour after hour in a hospital bed. Great news was that nothing major came back, but a couple things didn't add up until after the GP.

Nicole Borem (DRT Racing)
How could I miss the Derby City Cup? Biggest OVCX of the year, probably the most anticipated race in the country with the unveiling of the future World Cup venue, and the biggest pro field to date? Seriously, I was having a rough week to say the least physically and mentally, I was on the bridge about ready to jump my cycling season into the depths below... but I decided to go. What did I have to lose? If I couldn't find any motivation the morning of the L'ville gp, I wasn't going to find it at all this season. It didn't take long to find. I woke up ready to race and looked forward to the day ahead, despite spending most of the night awake and struggling to breath. I was starting to get a nasty URI and sneezing and coughing with busted ribs was not going well.
I headed out for an early recon of the course and even though I loved the set-up, I felt like I was a fish out of water. I could hardly take in any 02! I had to put that behind me and pretend I felt fine. I opted to have a very controlled warm-up on the trainer instead of putting in to many ups and downs on the tough course to preview it. I headed to the start line and tucked in the grid as the next to last starter in 39th place. Great! The truth is, I really couldn't see anything through the dust until about mid 1st lap, and I just tried to dodge the downed girls and keep my bike upright. I busted my butt the remainder of the race and focused on my on-and- off skills and somehow worked my way up to 19th place! Awesome. I was pleased with that for sure, especially after being so beat up, down and out, and in the back of the pack. I looked forward to day 2 with much anticipation.

Day 2 started a little better with a 27th start number. That didn't do me much good since I bobbled my clip and got spit to the back right from the gun. I was definitely hurting from Saturday's effort and felt like I was kicked in the ribs by a donkey, so I had to play a smart race. I took some safe decisions early to avoid pile-ups and quickly moved up to where I was the day before. I had a great time, I was in a race for 16th with a good bunch of gals and I was able to keep my head in the game to hold on to the position. I was oh-so-close to that payout of 15th place, but just couldn't quite get there. I know moving from 19th to 16th may not seem like a big deal to some, but it meant a lot to me and any sign of forward progression at this point in the season is a step in the right place for Nationals in Bend later.

I was happy I decided to make the gp, and not miss it. Thanks to all the people who cheered and encouraged for me out there! Best cheers go to the Shamrock Cycles crew for sure! It's so nice to hit a big race and have shouts out on every aspect of the course when you feel like letting off the gas.

As for this week after the gp, I have paid for my decisions physically. I continue to be in a lot of discomfort and now have a full blown cold (hopefully not pneumonia). I've been off the bike since that 16th finish on Sunday, but have managed to work and that's good. This blog is really the first productive thing I have done so far and the rv sits parked in the driveway fully waiting to be unpacked from the gp. I've tanked up my fever to 102 degrees the last few days, so hopefully that temp is killing some of the little bugs making me sickly. It's kinda funny to me that I'm now fully ready and motivated mentally to train and race again, yet my body is waiving the stop sign at the moment. Ahhh. All in time... I look forward to getting back on the bike.

As for now I'm just thankful for the attitude. I was standing on the bridge ready to jump and now I am on the bridge ready to fly!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. - Corinthians 4:8-9

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

(Let the racing begin! Taking off in the second row to the right of the field)

Ah yes, the UCI3 Cinci weekend of racing has come and gone in a blur of excitement... or dust and heat that is. Anyone who decides to tackle this 3 day race event knows it's a tough 3 days and I was super excited to test my cross skills against a full pro women's field that seems to be growing more and more every year for this event. Sweet!
My teammates Anne Young, and Josh Johnson packed up the RV (Mr T.) and took off for the first venue on Thur night. After a uneventful trip down, we spent a little too much time going around and up and down with the RV in Devou Park to find a place to stay only to be moved by the parks department early on race day. Partial RV purpose day 1 failed.

The Good: Anyway, once we finally got settled we headed to check out the newly designed venue this year. It only took a quick glance for me to know that this was not going to be on my "like" list of cross races. This was confirmed with my pre-ride. I make no secrets that I dislike hills and this place was crawling with them! Add some massive pot holes, heat, dust (asthma), and loose untacky dirt and I seriously considered bowing out on the day of racing to save my legs for the days to come... but I'm not a quitter, and maybe I would surprise myself. All in all, I ended up 16th. Which is funny, because it happened to be my best place of the weekend. I didn't feel good, I actually felt discouraged after this race as I discovered I still have a long way to go on my cornering skills. In retrospect, this isn't a complete handicap, as I know I can work on this in the future. The race itself was pretty uneventful and since I wasn't really in the mood to race, it all seemed kinda like a foggy memory while it was happening. Day 1 done.

(Taking on the barriers. Thanks for the great pics Jeff!

The Bad: We packed up and moved on to the day 2 venue at Sunset park. I think everyone loves this place. I really happen to like it too and since everyone else does, I knew most of the field had the same thought in their minds: " I'm gonna kill it on day 2." I like the course here, but also love the venue itself. Lion heart's, Doug gave us a friendly greeting on arrival that night and the place also has hot showers available, plus it has a great set-up for racing and spectating. I actually felt pretty good on my warm-up and was fired up to get going. We had several more gals out there and I actually had a good spot going into the first turn for a change. Excellent. Until everyone decided to go around a tree in the same line and as the pile formed, I had to put my foot down and dismount. Wha, wha, wha... stuck in catch up mode. That's cross racing though. I did a pretty good job of chasing back, but once the tight twisty came, I started losing time again. I eventually faded to 20th. Not near what I hoped for, and I was really down after the race. It's hard to be down for long when there are so many encouraging people out there, and I was thankful for every person out there with the kind words. I do have to remember a few things and keep those in perspective: 1. what I do for a real living is pretty much way different from those who beat me and bike racing isn't my job, 2. I've had a few major physical setbacks recently, and 3. I'm still a doing pretty darn good in a highly competitive field. I tried to remember these things and get my confidence out of the gutter.

I gained a huge insight on a couple things after this race too. One of which came from a personal professional pep talk, and the other is that I have been running a retarded gear choice up to this point. This may seem minor to all of you- but it's a huge revelation to me! That said, I was really excited to get to day 3!

(One of the many corners at Java Johnny's)

The Ugly: Harbin Park is typically been on my least favorite list. It's wide open, has some gradient climbs and not really what I would think would suite me. After getting my gearing changed, however, I was looking forward to it. We woke up that morning, well, it took some time to actually wake up, and already felt the heat starting to build. After 2 brutal days of racing in the heat, I think we were all dreading racing in more heat and looked forward to getting our racing done and moving on with the day. The bus was pretty sedate that morning as we were all pretty much in zombie mode and starting to feel the effects of the days before. Regardless, we had some racing to do. I decided to limit my time on the course since it was pretty straight forward. I only did 2 recon laps and chose to stay by the fans and water at the rv on the hottest of the 3 days. My plan worked out pretty well as I was feeling surprising good in my warm up.

(Always my favorite part of cyclocross: barriers! )

At the gun I had a decent start, nothing great, but the legs felt good and I knew I could do well as the race went on. Once we got off the pavement gals started getting twitchy already and I knew that everyone was going to be crazy the whole race with this being a C1 graded race. I kept a pretty smart race at the beginning and was pleased with how some of my mental visualization had improved my corning skills so far. About midway in the race I found myself in a nice group with the exception of one reckless gals who felt she needed to chop pass in order to gain time. Apparently, this caused Anne Swartz to be unnecessarily taken out and left me wanting to get away from her as quickly as I could. I went to the front and gaped her for a while, only to find her back on my six going into some off chamber technical spots at the beginning of lap 2. Apparently, she couldn't wait the 3 extra seconds to get around me on the flats so she decided to take an outside line, cut in front of me, lose her traction and slide out right under my front wheel. That really worked out well for her! I think we all know how this goes from here... I run her over, endo over my bars, bounce down the incline for several yards at a high rate of speed, finally come to a stop only to then find myself in motion again as my left foot gets tangled in another riders bike and I get dragged several more feet before she stops to let me out. All I have to say it thank goodness I was tangled in Gerry S's bike and she took the time to let me out, or my foot would have been cracked for sure! I don't think some other gals would have been so nice. In those seconds I was being dragged like a cowboy stuck on a bucking bronco, I was kinda laughing that this just had to be happening to my reconstructed ankle... really? Finally the never ending crash came to a stop. Hello! Where am I? And is it possible my entire body is broken because it sure felt like it. I was none to happy to say the least, but I tried to keep my cool and found my bike and thought if I got going again I would shake off the horrible feeling of blunt trauma. So after getting my chain put back on, I took a few pedals and thought I should stop and take a look at my foot since it hurt really bad (I hurt everywhere really bad) and take a better assessment. Okay, I just need to get going as the entire field is long gone. After riding for several minutes I decided something was wrong, I didn't know what, so I easy spun and started doing an anesthesia assessment on the go.... collarbone- seems okay, right wrist- not cool, couldn't feel my fingers (I ended up bruising my carpel tunnel), reconstructed ankle- sore, but workable, right and left back of shoulder- grass rash and bruises, left toe and inside of foot- wasn't sure (ended up with a huge bruise here), left hip- grass rash and big hematoma, right arm- some sort of puncture wound, right knee- cuts and bruises, right shoulder- bruising, lungs- just the wind knocked out of me... nothing seemed major, I just felt stunned. Or so I thought. Anyway, I decided to drop out at the end of the second lap. I was having trouble breathing and couldn't hold the handlebars. I was bummed, I had felt so good. Doesn't that always figure? Great legs and something beyond your control messes it up. Oh well. Done deal.

On the way home I had a few hours to replay things while driving the rv. My mates were resting their wounds as Anne decided to crack her head and get a concussion on her warm-up and Josh wrecked and flatted out of the race too. I took a look back over my 18 years of racing and came to the conclusion that this was the first race I had ever dnf'ed because of a body mechanical. Ever. I felt like a wimp, maybe I should have finished. What was my problem, nothing was bleeding bad or any bones sticking out.

Well, after a couple days at home, I still felt like a train wreck. I was in the ER staring a IV on a pediatric patient for work and asked the ER doc to take a look at my side that had been killing me. Case closed. I had broke my ribs in that massive pile drive into the hard ground. No wander I felt like my lungs had been dislocated. That's what was wrong. Even though I didn't feel so much like a wimp for the dnf, the last few days really has me tip toeing through the days. I'm getting really tired of being in pain and having bad body luck. I pray it changes for me soon, I would really like to see what I can do at a race 100%. Who knows? I'm sure God has this all planned out, but I hope the gal in question learns that racing a bike is NOT worth riding dirty and injuring other people around you. That's just ugly.

Anyway, the long weekend was fun, and I enjoyed the races and time with my teammates. It was so cool have the local fans out there cheering me on, and that always makes you go a little faster. I wish I could have produced a little better results for everyone, but in the end, I'm proud of what I accomplished. Thanks for reading and cheering everyone! Until next time- HUP, HUP!

(Making it cleanly through the sand pit before we both got wrecked!)

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”- Jeremiah 29:11