Friday, December 23, 2011

Stella? Steelllaaa!

(Digging into the red zone at the IN State Championships race to try and hunt down 1st place... I came up short and finished 2nd on a really great muddy course)

II just think Stella may be getting her groove back! Slowly, but not as slow as I had expected really. I figured cross season would be lots of fun riding around in circles this year, but I didn't think I would stand a chance at any type of fitness to be honest.
But here I am!

Funny, how I went from that thought, to the thought of being upset for placing second instead of first. Amazing how the competitive juices get flowing once you get a taste of winning again. It's addictive!

So I may have mentioned it before here, but I'm a huge Seinfeld fan, and pretty much have wasted a small corner in my brain memorizing most of the episodes line for line. I'm sure this knowledge will help me someday... but for now I will just unleash one of my favorite lines from Elaine with the Stella comment. If you've seen the episode great, if not, you should go watch it. Every time I get a little out of whack or off balance I feel like my inner Stella has lost her groove. Stella is still missing a bit, but I'm definitely getting her back bit by bit!

I've pieced a lot of it back since June at break neck speed. However, I still found out that I lacked my starting hole shot groove that I once was so accustomed to. Last Sat I did my first double race weekend since the NDE. My coach and I were both curious how my body/ and myesthenia would handle this stress, so it was an important weekend for me. Saturday was the state championships in Bargersville. I was stoked to just be considering taking a win at this race. However, it was not to be. I had a terrible start and got caught behind some muddy traffic on the first lap. Not a good thing to do in muddy conditions. By the time I found a clear path, Sierra S. had laid down the law and was a good 40 seconds ahead of me. I fought my best to get back, buried myself really, got her lead down to about 6 seconds, until it was too late and I had to settle for a hard fought second place. Sierra rode a great, smart race and I was happy for her and she deserved to win.

(This would be how to NOT start a race. It even looks like I am somehow going backwards. All photos this post credit to

I was bummed at myself for not putting it all together and making the mistake at the start, but that's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes you make mistakes that cost you and when your competitor doesn't, they deserve the win that day. Overall though, I was happy with the rest of my race and I was pretty happy at the effort I was able to put in to narrow the gap. I hadn't put my mindset back in the mode to make myself suffer that much for a long time, maybe because fighting for my life required a enormous amount of suffering that I hadn't made the decision to do it freely again, but I pushed my envelope during this race and I was happy with that.

The next day we headed to Lebanon near NW Indy. This was at a fairgrounds and at first preview of the course I was a bit bummed at the easy profile they had laid out compared to the previous day. However, after the sun came out and muddied it up a bit, I was pretty stoked on it. I think the promoters did a great job on the layout to give it a good feel for the nationals like course in Madison, WI in a couple weeks.
I was still mad at myself from my race the day before and I had all the determination to improve my start. I did just that and took the lead on the first turn and never looked back. I felt pretty junky on the first lap, but after that I kept focusing on the master's men ahead of me and started picking those guys off one by one. The legs loosened up and I felt good after that. I got a little settle-in midway and kudos for Gerry S. and Liz C. for making me get back out of the saddle again since they fought hard to not hand me a free ride.

(Hole shot.... much better!)

I got back on the gas and savored the win on the last lap. It felt so good to take this win against some ladies I really respect. Plus, I was a bit giddy at doing so well in a race after such a power draining day previous. I didn't know what to expect with the 2 back to back races, but looks like Stella got this part of the groove back too!

It was a nice weekend of racing and it was good to be back on the road again doing the "race thing." I have to give another major thanks to Aaron Hawkins for helping me get to the races, pitting for me, and taking care of the bikes! I can't wait until the next race weekend rolls around.
Also check out the great freelance articles by Robert Annis on the weekend of racing:

(Pretty sure this is the raddest photo of me for the year so far. Barriers are my favorite single aspect of cx, so it's good to see my technique is spot on!)

(What cross race would be complete without a little heckling from Shamrock Cycles crew? Having a little chuckle to myself here. )

(AWWWW Yeahhhh!)

(Podium girls: Elizabeth Cobb, Me, and Gerry Schulze. Great job ladies!)

Thanks as always for reading everyone! It's been a wild year so far and the year will hold one more event until the calender turns to 2012. I can feel the chill in the air and the excitement growing in my heart for Cyclocross Nationals and Master's fracking World goodness Championships! Wow!

Merry Christmas to everyone!
Enjoy your loved ones, all you have been blessed with, and the REAL meaning of Christmas.
Jesus Christ, out Saviour.

I certainly know I will!
Because it can can change in The Blink of an Eye!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Uncharted Ground

(Finally frozen ground with some mud snuck in!! I LOVE CX!
Sweet photos and angles by Chris Jones in this post:

So it's now mid- December, and I'm racing bikes. Not only am I racing, I've got several races to go until having my short season come to a end in mid-January. This is a bit of uncharted ground for me... along with most of us cross racers. Now that the season has been extended (which I like btw) a month in length I am discovering new challenges to what that brings. Luckily for me, I have no lack of motivation or burnout since my season has been broken up by the NDE. However, I am finding that us Northerners may find ourselves in a interesting love hate relationship with having to train through the brutal weather of December in a quality way. I think my average real feel temps on my rides in the last 2 weeks have been about 25 degrees, and with a full work schedule... most of those come in the dark. Facing sub freezing temps and brutal wind conditions on daily training rides is the only motivation I find a bit challenging to overcome, and I am trying to trick my heart into thinking that will help my body be prepared for the frozen tundra in WI come nationals time in January. I guess we'll find out soon enough. I'm not complaining about it... just my observation.

(With temps in the teens, I'm not sure if I'm smiling or if my mouth is frozen that way)

So speaking of frozen tundra, I met up with it first hand last weekend. More on that later. The newly beefed up Indiana Cx Cup ( continued in my neck of Indiana last weekend at none other than a venue that is my local practice course. The bike Depot is about 1 hr down the road for me and is actually a place I had some say in the original course design. Needless to say, I know the course pretty good. It turns out I knew it a little too good. In all fairness to everyone the route was changed on race day. I loved the layout and it was good fun... but my mind was still in autopilot of the original layout. I had been on-call in OB world the night before the race and I just so happened to be making future mom's to be nice and comfy all night long leaving me not so fresh minded on a few hrs of sleep come race time. That's where knowing the original course would have been a bonus for me... but shutting that memory off in my mind and switching on a new one didn't go over so well on such little sleep. I took off and within 200 yards I goofed the turn and found myself playing catch up to Kiersta Tucker. Kiersta gets baller points for being the only brave elite wmone's sole to make the trip up north to race when I usually spend the entire season making 4+ hour drives to race other gals. So big thanks to having her come and keep me on top of my pedals all day.

Anyway, we went back and forth through the race and after she tested out the muddy corner on the ground, I gained a little advantage over her until I decided to test out a section of frozen ground myself. Turns out, the frozen ground doesn't give AT ALL. I hit pretty hard, and what I thought at the time was me knocking the wind out of me, turned into me later discovering blood in my urine and having a bruised kidney. BAM! That's all behind me now and I don't feel I need to test out the ground that is that hard anytime again soon.

Anyway, after I ripped my fav Bob's Red Mill skin suite, I got back up and fought back to 1st place again. I ended up grabbing a hard fought win over KT. Making that my 5th cx type win of the year.


I hope that isn't the last time I charter that ground (or podium step) this year.

(Parting shot: post wrecked jersey, staring down the barriers at the Fort Wayne Outfitters)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Encore Please!

(Focusing my sights on the next mud section last weekend at the final MTV ICX race. Big thanks to Chris Jones
for the excellent photos this post and for the blog header pic!)

The concert (cx) tour has started! At least for me.
I know the cycling world seems to be wrapping up the 2011 season and looking on to next year already, but I'm just getting my feet wet. So as a result, I feel like I'm coming to the show after the last song at a concert has been sung and all that is left is the encore. The OVCX series has come and gone and I am super bummed to have not been able to give the series overall my best effort (or any effort at all), but lucky for me the people at Planet Adventure and the efforts of some really great people in Indiana have got a legit December schedule lined up for me to get ready for the encore up in WI and down in L'ville come January.
That's right, I plan on putting a shot into Master's worlds and I've got a little bit of time to prep and see what happens come January.

I have to laugh a little when I think about getting pumped up to race a World Championship race on a bicycle, especially when I was doing a little grocery shopping the other day a memory from a few months ago hit me while I was waiting in line behind a person in a handicap cart. I thought back to my first trip outside of the house where my friend Anne took me to the grocery store. I had to ride the little cart because I was too weak to walk around still. Anne and her daughter Bethany helped me get a few supplies, we were there maybe 30 minutes and I was so exhausted I had to take a few hour nap after getting home.

And now I'm going to attempt to race in a World Championship. How's that for a encore to the season?

(Lining up with a strong field of up and comers, future stars, and proven experts. Indiana Cyclocross Series is growing quickly!)

So I've been getting back to racing lately. I started back working with my cycling coach Mark Fasczewski. I felt it was finally time to have a plan and felt like I could finally follow some direction instead of being so day to day on how I have felt. I'm happy to be back with Mark and I look forward to what progress we can make in the little time we have to prepare for the end of the cx season championships. It's a bit humbling and eye opening to see how my numbers have faded with all of this... but what could I have expected? People don't gain watts by laying in hospital beds and couches for 3+ months.

(I was thankful for a muddy race! Made me feel like a true cross racer again!)

Last weekend was the third race down at the Marion University Cyclocomplex. I really like the venue as it has a fair mix of techy, finesse, and power sections. A good variety of everything as I feel a cross course should be. The weather is turning into more challenging conditions and I tend to favor those sort of terrain challenges. Marion gals are no joke as anyone who follows cycling knows and anytime I can reach a podium there is great in my book. Mix together superstars of the future with some really strong regional riders and we have some great racing.
I was lucky enough to make the trip with my good friend Aaron Hawkins again. He played pro mechanic for me and that instantly takes a ton of stress off when the conditions are muddy! He was a huge help getting the bikes around, and even though I only had 1 bike change (for practice), he made it super easy for me to just ride my bike. I'm finally starting to get the pre race routine of cross back down and falling into a groove. I'm a big advocate of sticking with the same prep race after race, so it's nice to get that flow back!

My plan was just to try and ride as smoothly as possible and that slowly helped me work my way up to 3rd place after a bit of a slow 1st lap. The course had some changes from the other times and I had to run up one section. It was good to see that I handled this stress much better then several weeks ago since I really haven't had a run-up since. Before it just hammered me to to a run -up. Now it is coming much, much easier! By the end of the race I honestly didn't know where my placing was, but I was please to learn I ended up on the podium once again for the weekend. Now I just need to add some power to that smoothness and I should have a good mix like I once knew.

All in good time though. Some things can't be rushed.
Just like when the band hangs out backstage to let the crowd grow the excitement for the encore...
makes that last song seem even more sweet!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gravel Grovel Rocks

Normally this time of year on the bike for me is 100% cyclocross. That being said, 100% doesn't leave much room for all the cool little events that round out the season of mountain biking in the fall. Obviously, my life has changed a bit this year and I've had an opportunity to mix in some events I've always wanted to do, but just couldn't fit in. Top on that list is the SRAM Gravel Grovel. 62 some miles post holiday on gravel roads with some dirt mixed in seems like a great time to me (except for the 3,000 ft of climbing involved). I had the time off work, so I was excited to go down and ride the race and try to survive the mileage. I say survive because I hadn't rode my bike that far since the day before surgery way back in June and I had no idea how the newly diagnosed myesthenia gravis issue would manage me riding at said distance with some hills mixed in there. So I headed down with some Men of Steel teammates to cruise through a fun "ride" to get some miles in for the remainder of the fractured cross season I've had.

The day of the "ride" I headed to registration and there I got a glimpse of the trophies (see above) that the winners would be given. I've won a tons of trophies over the years... so many that sometimes they become garbage shortly after I get home. But for some reason, I fell in love with the sweet limestone rock for this event. I totally wanted one! I knew it would never happen though so I decided to snap a picture of one while I was in line. While doing so, Singlespeed bad ass Bushong made the comment to me: "can't you just take a picture of it after you take it home?" Yeah right, I had NO chance at that... or did I? Should I change my approach to the "ride" and give it a good racing try?

You bet I should! I got my number and headed over to my friend/ domestique for the day, Aaron, and told him I saw the trophy and that I really wanted it. Change of plans... and the rest is history. I did my best to stay near the front with the guys at the start in all hopes to catch as many groups to draft as I could stay with as best I could. Aaron buried himself for me to stay stuck to his draft for 25 miles straight. I felt pretty good at that point, saw I had about 1 minute over Angie Sexton at that time, and knew I had to crush it on every off road, downhill, and flat section I could. That's what I did. I was in disbelief at how well my body was doing, and I felt so blessed every time I made a climb I saw other guys walking. Flashbacks for motivation of hospital days when the physical therapist had a safety belt and a walker to help me get out of bed raced though my head and kept me going. Maybe it's a bit of an unfair advantage to have that sort of motivation in my head.

At the 50ish mile turn around in Story. I saw I had gained at least a 10 minute advantage, but I wanted to keep the heat on in case I needed any buffer if I had a bike break down or crash. That never happened thankfully and at 59 miles I was really starting to feel the pain. I found one last small group to gather with and after suffering for about 3 miles I pulled out of my dark cave with the help of some encouraging guys (thanks Dean Peterson) who were struggling a bit as well, turned over a quick recovery and brought it to the finish line at around 4 hours and 25 minutes. I rode a rock solid race and couldn't wait to get that rock! Coming into the race finish chute I got a little choked up emotionally. I felt like a bit of a dork and giggled to myself a little bit. I wandered how many times it would take for me to come across the line and not get emotional about what I've been through and the amazement of how far I've come.
Then I decided that feeling that way is okay and I kinda really hope I never lose those emotions, never take it for granted, to always be forever thankful for my life and what I am able to do.
Like a rock, I stand firm in that belief and I won't budge on what I know God has given me.

The Grovel was a sweet event. Nicely put on by Sub 9 and everyone who came had a great attitude during the race. Sram was amazing in their support and gave away so much swag that a lot of racers came away with some cool stuff. I think I will add this to one of my favorite races all around, winning always helps with that, but the atmosphere and facilities add to that decision, plus they had Yatz gumbo for a post-race dinner! Yum.

So here's a picture of the trophy at home (thanks to Jeff Bushong). I decide I would put it on the fireplace next to one of my pottery pieces from a local Brown County potter. Fitting after all. I don't think I will throw this one away anytime soon!

Thanks to Todd and Kent for driving me down and all around good guy Aaron Hawkins for all his help, along with every other dude I met on the gravel roads that worked with me groveling along the way.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saint Doug

It’s interesting that it’s almost 5 months to the day that I had my ankle surgery: 6/14/11. It’s 4 am and I’ve just been startled awake by a nightmare that have become a common thing for me since I was fighting for my life 2 days after the above date. When I first came back to my own home after living with my parents after getting out of the hospital I had the terrors every night. Every. Single. Night. I hated the night time. I would feel the fear rise in me as the sun set. Now, they come less frequently and I actually haven’t had one for a few weeks until this morning. I won’t lie, after I have a terror I dread going to sleep for several nights after them in fear I will have one again, but I know someday they will be a thing of the past I won’t have to dread it. Thankfully, they are not as bad as they once were.

So here’s a personal insight and I share because it only strengthens how awesome it is to be surrounded by such amazing people (biking world or not), and that I hope each day we all take a moment to realize that amazing people touch our lives so much when you least expect it. You can plan life all you want, but life makes it’s plans regardless.

In my terror, which is the same every time, I feel a tremendous pain in my right lung, the burning with each breath is like a huge fire in my right bronchus. Every breath I take feels like I am trying to hold in that last breath you take when you’re underwater trying to stay there until the very last minute before coming up. It’s takes the most strength I’ve ever used. Each and every breath, and I’m breathing about 60 times a minute I figure.

I’m drowning.


Only this time in my nightmare. I recall the phrase I told myself in the hospital “I’m having a PE, I know I am going to die” In my terror, I feel immediate fear, then calm. I FEEL God. I see the image of my anesthesia colleague, Doug Pruitt standing by my side, holding my hand, saying everything I needed to hear. I was locked onto his eyes, fearing and fighting every single breath. I knew where I was heading, I just couldn’t take a break from struggling to breath to tell Doug, to tell him I was going to die and I needed him to intubate me, but for a guy who has been in medicine as long as I’ve lived, he knew without me saying it. I saw the look on his face. Then I remember thinking again, “Well dying just isn’t a good option.” And I set my mind to it. Set my mind to moving on. That image of Doug is seared forever. I know I could paint a perfect picture Doug’s pupils by memory. Now I call him Saint Doug... even though he chuckles when I say it, he’s MY saint. And I’m not even Catholic!

Then I wake up from the night terror... calm. Then return to immediate fear. Someone is in my bedroom. A large figure staring at me from the foot of my bed. I can’t make it out clearly but he is just standing there. What are they doing here, what are they going to do to me? I’m scared half to death, it’s worse than the nightmare! And then the figure is gone. I’m safe again. Calm.

For the first month after I was home, I didn’t put 2 and 2 together. I lie awake until daylight in fear that the person may come back. Then I realized the figure was always there watching over me, I was fearing something that wasn’t meant to be feared. Something was in my room with me... but not in the perspective I had at first thought. I’m not pushing any assumptions on you here, but I know without a doubt that there is a presence in my room, I feel it, I know it. Take from that whatever you want and believe whatever you want. I’m just saying what I experience. I KNOW what I experience.

It’s interesting that despite it being 5 months ago, my mind still fires those memories and these terrors. In medicine, major life trauma and injury are something that is common place on a daily basis to us. We see and understand (somewhat) how the physical body heals and how we expect it to recover, but no one ever really tells you what to expect from your mind after you have such an experience. I know I still struggle with that, I get frustrated with it, but I must embrace it to learn and grow from it. The good part is that even though I still have nightmares, I only dread the nightmare part. The part where I drown. Feeling calm and having faith in Saint Doug (real heros of this world) and the presence that is watching over me in my bedroom? I welcome that.

I’m thankful to have witnessed amazing people here on earth and an amazing presence from...

Dare I say heaven?

Yes, I do.

Every single moment.

Every single time.

Every single breath.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Epic defined by urban dictionary:
A word that used to be used to describe a book, a movie or other work as timeless, great, and meaningful. Is now used by douchebags who combine it with "win" or "fail" to describe everyday things.

True definition of epic:
Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size.

Epic: is highly overused in cycling. That's a fact.

Today I broke out the word epic: I said to myself I must be having the most epic string of bad luck ever. I was having a pity party sort of day. I try really hard to not have these moments, try to keep my chin up, ALWAYS trust in the plan that God has. His epic plan. Today I was a bit tired of "keeping my chin up." I had just had enough! I allowed myself to be bummed out with my situation for the 1st time in a while. As most may not know of me, I was an incredibly shy child, I don't think I even spoke 2 sentences at school to until the 3rd grade. I used to tell my Mom how nervous I was and she would say then and even today; "honey, just walk in there like you own the place. Never lose sight of who you ARE and the rest will fall into place." Well, I haven't lost sight of that, but it doesn't mean I understand why things happen to me, but I felt I had every right to admit that the last couple years have been a bit epic in the bad luck department concerning my health.

I've just been released from a 4 day stay in the ICU. This coming almost 5 months from the day that I had spent 11 days there fighting for my life. I was just getting back to feeling somewhat normal. I did a fun cx race in Yorktown last weekend, woke up Monday with a small bite behind my right knee. I went about my business and by Wed I had a draining wound, by Thursday I had fever and a full blown case of cellulitis and a swollen leg. Friday afternoon I was laying back in a hospital bed getting strong antibiotics and medicine to help with severe dizziness and nausea along with IV fluid to help with dehydration. Compared to my last stay this was a minor speed bump on my way to recovery. Minor to me, but I was still feeling pretty crummy, I didn't want to be there, and I was bummed out about yet another health problem. How can this be possible?

(This is the healed version of the infection. Prior to the antibiotics it was very swollen and draining all sorts of bad stuff).

I mean seriously! As some say: I'm the healthiest sick person they know. Yep, that's me. But the truth is, I don't really view myself as a sick person. Just a gal who is on a epic journey. I feel that deep down I'm a kid at heart living the dream. Here's how that goes:

Every time I have ever used epic to describe a ride it has been a ride I have chosen to go on. I take off, usually get lost, have no idea where I am, run out of food and water, bonk, get saved somehow, regroup, ride tons more miles than planned, enjoy the most wonderful scenery, then make it home. From guess what? That's right... an epic ride.

Well, this is somehow the same. Except I didn't chose to have these things happen to me. They just happened. I don't understand why they happened. I've felt very bad physically at times, my friends, family, and God saved me. Matter of fact, I can maybe only remember about 3 months in the last 2 years where I ever felt "good." I carry on and each time I am thankful even more to be where I am. It's epic.

Here's a low down of the past couple years:

July 2010 emergency appendectomy. October '10 Broken ribs at UCI3. Nov '10 Viral Meningitis. Dec '10 Ankle surgery to repair fracture. June '11 Tarsal Tunnel Release- 2 days later- The NDE PE. Live and 2 weeks later develop myopathy/ myasthenia gravis. Nov '11 Severe leg infection... and this is all not mentioning of the 5 operations I had in the previous 4 years before this.
Enough already!

(Normally I get these from cyclocross battles... but this season they came from having many iv's and blood draws)

Yet, I keep my chin up. Heaven only knows why. As quickly as I had the pity party day, it passed on just as quickly. I've got things to do, places to see, and life to experience!

I can either fight like hell or lay down and die...
I had the chance to lay down and die and I passed on that option once already so I guess I'll fight like hell!

Life is going to be EPIC...
I just pray in a different way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Other Choice Do I Have?

(First race in a elite women's field. Felt great to take off on the start line again!
Thanks to all photos here from Cycle Exposure

(It had been a long time since I stepped up on a real podium. Snuck in a 3rd place at Yorktown ICX)

We all know life full of ups and downs. The risks of failure is never a reason to not attempt to win in my mind. Life goes so up sometimes because of the work you made digging out of the holes you are in because you go out on a limb and fall way down. That's why just being "okay" in life isn't "okay" with me. I like to live life with a full on chance of all out high or all out low.
Right now, I'm feel like a born again cyclist. Everything is a monumental accomplishment. My first 3 hour ride, my first time making it up that hill, the first time racing cross again... whatever it is, I feel like I am doing it all from scratch. I know all the cycling culture, rules, and history, but the physical part is a work from the ground up.

So what other choice do I have? 4 months ago when I needed someone help me do simple things like brush my teeth for me, or when I had to live with my parents after coming home from the hospital for weeks, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn't get better some day to take care of myself. I just focused on each day get better. I was in a big valley with the peaks far away. I didn't like where I was at, but appreciated everything and every moment for what I did have knowing I would get better.

Fast forward about 5 months... and I did my first sanctioned cycling race in an elite women's field. I was so excited to even get to line up that I was like a newbie. The race was near Marion College in Indy and there were a handful of young college gals I was racing against. After going through everything I've went through in the last year... I felt a million years older around them.
I was super excited to be out there at the races again and I was curious to see where I would fair against a women's field. Well, turns out I was still in the valley. I didn't come in last, just next to it, and it was a very humble experience to be beat by people I used to easily beat. BUT my mind wasn't in the valley, I was looking towards the peaks. It takes some hard mental strength to go from being on top of the podium to the back of the pack. Very hard in fact, but I know these are all just steps I must take in order to feel that high high again, and that these struggles now will make getting back there even better. What other choice do I have? I am just happy (for now) to be out there doing something most "normal" people couldn't even do.

(Planet Adventure and ICX put together a fun course. Complete with run up to test out the running flex of the new D2 Fang shoes!)

I also did another race this past weekend in Yorktown with the newly beefed up Indiana Cyclocross Cup series. After a tough week recovering from the MTV race and also trying to fight a sinus and ear infection, plus a full week of passing gas (anesthesia), I decided to give it a go. Once race day arrived I actually felt pretty decent for me and I was happy to roll around the course and put in a solid, steady effort compared to previous weeks. I felt I was getting the hang of attacking the course a little better. I know I still am being smart and not taking too many risks since I'm on blood thinners... but I'll get my groove back once I know it's safer.

(I've still got to wait a bit to get my "groove" back, but week by week I try to relearn what I once did so easily).

Soooo, even though it's been frustrating and humbling to ride and compete in a different respect right now, I'm still happy to be out there and thankful to write a race report! I'm not saying I'm content with staying in the position I'm in right now... but I'm taking it all in and learning to appreciate, love, and be thankful for the blessing I HAVE been given to be out there so I'm enjoying everything and every moment around me.

What other choice do I have?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You're Either IN or You're Out.

(Crossing the line as the all female amateur National Champion: IN)

In the cycling world
you’re either IN or your OUT.

I’ll admit that I’m a Project Runway fan, I watch it when I can and I enjoy seeing the art form of the fashion world. The main saying in the show is “in the fashion world; one day your in and the next day your out.” While we all know this is true with fashion, think about how more true it is with cycling. If your not out racing or taking part in cycling... your considered out.

Sure, your legend may live on and people may remember your name, but you’re only as good as your last race and the second you fall off the pace... well, you fall off the pace. The cycling world moves on, there is no art work or piece of clothing to carry you on, just the sport itself, it rolls on to the next hopeful just like the circles keep rolling on down the path.

I know I always stress that cycling (bike racing) needs to be done for self fulfillment. I always try to represent that to others and always remind myself that goals for racing, although we race against others, need to be based on personal standards. I think the above fact even stresses that more, if your looking to be a legend to others in cycling... that is a rare thing and you may find you feel a bit empty in your later years if that was what you were hoping for. But if you ride for yourself... not matter if you race, retire, or get a little setback from a injury your always IN.

So every year I make a little fall trip to Brown County Indiana with my Mom. The trip this year was loaded with emotion and some reflection as you can imagine. For the past 4 yrs. or so we scheduled this trip around the Blooming cross OVCX race, as we did this year. I was all set to make a ovcx race appearance, until a nasty flu bug decided that I better wait for that until a later time. Bummer. I was out again for that one. It’s hard to believe, but that the last ovcx race that I did was last year’s B’town race after breaking my ribs at Harbin Park just before that. It has been a series of unfortunate events for me it seems for the last year (or the last 4 years really). I know it seems like I’m “out” of the cycling world to most, but I never really felt like I left, I enjoy the moments I have on the bike even more even though my moments may have different purposes from time to time. I’m very much “in” in my opinion.

We were also here about 4 months ago. We came down for me to get in some hilly training miles and also do the Dino Brown County mtb race. We had a great trip, I won the race, and I was super focused on getting in some good training for this cross season. My mind set at the time was to enjoy the moment, but I was also full of excitement for the fall for cyclocross. Well, one week after that trip events changed my life forever, and my mindset 4 months later is a bit different than what I thought it would be. Instead of tackling the cx season fully fit and ready, I am taking life day by day and making the very best of the situation and the time I have here on earth. I still have the intention of returning to racing someday at a high level... because I enjoy it. It’s just a bit interesting how different my intentions are this trip compared to the last one, yet I’m still loving every minute of it. I was fortunate to get in a sweet, crisp road ride around Bloomington the first day we arrived. Yesterday, I ended up with 4 hours in the saddle on the mtb. It wasn’t so much that I was excited about “training” for 4 hours, it was that I was ABLE to ride for 4 hours and take in so much sweet single track and beauty around me. It felt so good to feel the flow of the singletrak below me, to feel the thrill of the mtb roller coaster, and be IN the woods with the fall trees surrounding me.

Today I’m all set for a rainy road ride. Rainy rides have a greatness all themselves, especially in the fall. Embro, shoe covers, apres velo coffee, and a rain jacket. I love it.

I’m a bike racer that isn’t racing right now, but before I was a racer I was a bike rider at heart and that will always be IN me.

IN me till the day I die.

Are you IN?
Or are you OUT?

That’s really your personal choice.

(And still IN doing a small Kisscross race in Michigan)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lord Don't Move My Mountain!

All I ask is that You give me the strength to make it up it!

That has to be one of my favorite quotes as of late. I've never been shy of a good challenge. I've climbed the mountain, been knocked down, climbed it again, and repeated that routine several times. I have to admit that sometimes I wish that maybe I didn't fall so far down sometimes and a good long break at the top would have been nice to enjoy the hard work and resulting success I've worked for... but I really do like the journey up the mountain and I enjoy the challenge, so I'm in a positive mind frame to make the best out of getting knocked well below sea level this time.

How many times do you get knocked down before you give up? It's like watching a boxing match and seeing the guy get pounded hit after hit and he still stays on his feet and tries to put up a good fight. Some hate to see the beating and wish he would just lay down and lose, some are amazed he fights on, some just don't understand and step out of the arena. The fighter doesn't know any other way but to do what is so instinctive to him. He keeps fighting. He may not like what is happening, he may feel defenseless, but he keeps on until he recovers or get knocked out.

I won't particularly say I "like" where I'm at today. But I'm HERE and I'm doing the same the boxer would. I just keep fighting, it's the only thing I know. I know a few people think I should just "settle down" and quit fighting, some just don't understand the drive to move on, but it's all I know how to do. It's just who I am. I can't just take it away. Some days still feel really bad, but some days feel really normal, some moments are back to how I used to feel. Everyday I keep looking up at the peak and know I can make it back up there again. It's just that the ascent is a bit more rockier this time. One of these days I'll get knocked out... I won't make back up the earthly mountain. I am very much aware of that more than I would have ever thought possible, but for now I will carry on.

So on those notes I am slowly noticing my endurance is getting better the last couple weeks. It's been almost four months now and by all accounts of the medical experts, they are amazed at how I'm progressing. A longer day at work isn't as exhausting. I can even do other things after I get done with work instead of come home and sleep for hours and hours. I still require a minimum of 10 hours of sleep a day to function... but now I know to adjust my life for this. Not bad considering I was too sick to take my trash out 2 months ago!

(Thank goodness the barriers still felt like second nature to me.)

I've been able to ride the bike a bit more too and even snuck in a Kisscross "race" this past weekend. Sure, I did the "B" race and sure I could only go one steady speed, but I somehow won and even beat a few guys in the process. It just felt so good to get out and be in a competition that didn't involve me fighting for my life. Talk about a lot less pressure!

(My friend Anne's 14 yo daughter also did her 1st cross race... and won!)

I also got to run my first race for my new team, Bob's Red Mill Cyclocross. I'll be racing for the raddest food company I know all cross season and look forward to representing at some bigger races later in the season. For now, I'm just getting back out in the mix of things. Don't be fooled and think I plan on being super competitive for a while yet, I still have some major recovery to do. But at least I'm heading back up the mountain!

(Felt so good to line back up on the start again)

Go live your life to the fullest everyday people! Don't be afraid of the mountain. Embrace it. Take it on! Enjoy the journey and the amazement of your accomplishment as you make it along the way.

As a special note:

I felt one of the most difficult parts of being in the ICU was knowing my parents and loved ones had to face the real truth that their daughter may not live. I can't even begin to imagine that pain and they are still greatly affected by that.

It's been especially hard for me to have known someone my age that shared the same love as cycling as me since I've met him when I was twelve, recently pass away from an accident. I was so, so very close to not being here myself and it brings up all those emotions of dealing with all the aspects of facing my own illness and near death for me and my parents who also knew him.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the family and loved ones of a great guy I grew up racing BMX with and someone who I always felt lived life to the fullest. Please pray to help them cope with their recent loss.

(Robbie doing some rad single speed work, building my IF along side a young I. Neff)

Robbie Gast

Monday, September 19, 2011

Maybe it's the rain....

(Dad and I were treated to a Colts game in a cool way from my surgeon Dr P last weekend and had a great time... aside from the ending score that is)

Maybe it's the rain that is falling today, maybe it's the fact that everyone and their brother is talking about what is happening this weekend at the cross races all over the country, maybe it's the fact that every time I walk out into the newly crisp air I "feel" cross excitement going through my veins. I don't know... but it all has me a bit down.

I've been bound and determined to make it back to elite level racing this year, even if it took me until December to do it. But this past week I think I finally am realizing that somethings can't change no matter how much will power you put into it. Nothing can change the fact of what I went through, that's okay, but for some crazy reason I had my blinders on when all the experts in medicine told me all this would take a long time to recover from. A long time? Like a few months right? I said that to the neurologist recently and she responded to me like I was a 1st grader. I can't blame her really. I mean, I am in the medical field and it seems to be pretty obvious when you break it all down what sort of massive healing process my body needs to do. When she said "a year to feel pretty normal," I'm not sure why I felt I could or should prove her wrong. It's not a contest. And it seems like I'm the only idiot that expects myself to feel "normal" at this point or expecting it to be back to normal very soon.

Whatever. So what if my lungs still are exchanging gases inappropriately from lingering inflammation, so what if my muscles and neuromuscular junction are functioning at 50% capacity for the next 6 months or longer, so what if I still have a lingering fever and my body is trying to recover all the little red blood cells that were taken from me for about a hundred blood draws. So what?

So it's not the easiest reality to take for someone who has always been active and independent. I had some very tough, life changing days when I was in the ICU... but I had something to do... try to stay alive. Now, my only choice is to sit around and wait to get better. It doesn't seem like I do anything. Which I know is the best thing, but very different than what I'm accustomed to doing, and very much not what I want to be doing! It frustrates me to no end, but when my muscles and energy levels drop, it stops me dead in my tracks and I have no other choice but to put my head down and rest. If the gas (acetylcholine) isn't there to run the engine, the engine just doesn't go no matter how ready it is.
Simple as that.

Some people look at me, see me as the engine that looks just fine, but what they don't know is that I don't have any energy to make myself go... no gas. It's a little strange to feel like I need to explain that to some people when I know I appear just fine. It's also been a very intriguing observation how people I have known for years that work in health care have reacted to me since I've returned to work. Most have been great and very supportive, but others treat me as if I have some sort of black plague and I find they treat complete strangers with more understanding and compassion. Just an interesting social aspect I've noticed along with all the other stuff. If I had the energy right now, I would do some sort of study on it.

I'm also learning I don't need to make excuses for myself, it's a discovered fact and there is nothing I can do about it until I've had proper time to heal. That's just how it has to be and I've started to see and realize the fact that this is a long haul ahead of me. I am learning that ANY day of activity, being it be a small half day trip somewhere, a few hours at work, or a easy 1 hour bike ride; will require 2 fold that in rest and sleep. I've learned that I can't make plans or get delusions of grandeur the day after I have a task to complete. It's just different now.

I think about how much my life has changed in a year. I know change happens in life and I actually enjoy change. Like I stated in previous blogs about the near death experience (NDE) I am not angry it happened and I don't ever think it is my place to say I would go back and erase it from my life, but I'm in a very different place than I was last year. Physically and socially (not to even touch on mentally), I was taking on the cross season, traveling to races, and working a full time job, and maintaining my home life on top of it all. I was a busy, busy girl. I look back now and it helps me put how ill I've been in perspective since last year I would work 8 -24 hour shift, get off work and ride 2-3 hours, be able to prep dinner and get ready to do it all the next day. Now, a few hours of doing anesthesia requires 24 hours rest, forget riding a bike or even doing grocery shopping or what not. Looking at things that way helps me understand that this isn't going to just go away in a couple weeks, and that maybe one of the top neuromuscular neurologist in the region isn't crazy after all.

Maybe it is the rain....
but maybe it's the truth.
And yes, I can handle the truth.

(I recently was given a high honor as a Distinguished Alumni from my high school Tippecanoe Valley. Final ceremonies were held at the half time of the football game; as seen above standing with Jason Bowmen, MD who was also a 1995 grad and a honored alum)

The Tippecanoe Valley High School Distinguished Alumni Class of 2011 were honored Friday. PIctured seated (L to R) are: Rebekah Parker Legan, Jayme McCalla Parker, Nicole Dorem, Sherri Miller Johnson. Pictured in the second row are: Vernon Goodman, Kevin Deardorff, Dean Trippiedi and Jerry Meadows. In the third row are Greg Hoover, Todd Stokes, Dr. Jason Bowman and Micah Lukens. Photo by Marissa McSherry, Times-Union

The Tippecanoe Valley High School Distinguished Alumni Class of 2011 were honored Friday. PIctured seated (L to R) are: Rebekah Parker Legan, Jayme McCalla Parker, Nicole Dorem, Sherri Miller Johnson. Pictured in the second row are: Vernon Goodman, Kevin Deardorff, Dean Trippiedi and Jerry Meadows. In the third row are Greg Hoover, Todd Stokes, Dr. Jason Bowman and Micah Lukens. Photo by Marissa McSherry, Times-Union

It was a cool experience going back to high school as a career women. I had a chance to speak to students and see some of the teachers and staff that helped mentor me to the place I am today. The honored alums that TVHS had were quite impressive and have made great contributions to this world and I was honored to be placed in that same category.
I was just a little rug rat from the small town of Burket... just like all the other's above were from small towns and went to a small school.
My advice to the students?

Just because you come from small places doesn't mean that you can't do BIG things!

And that's the truth.
Go Vikes!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Isn't That The Truth!

Isn't kinda cool how sometimes God aligns everything just right sometimes and something happens or is said that you absolutely needed to happen at just that right moment?

We've all had it happen and even if you want to credit God for it or not, well that's your thing... but I know God does it all the time for us. Heaven knows I've had a few things here lately occur that if He didn't interject could have easily gone south.

So my neighborhood I live in is called SpringHill acres. It's named that way because it is on a lake and it is down a hill. It's not Colorado, but it's a fairly steep incline that goes out of my neighborhood and also one that heads back down to the hospital I work at. Nothing major... but I can always gauge right off how I feel that day on a training ride based on how I tackle that hill. Before I was sick, I could ride up both hills like they were flat. I love when that happens. I was getting really fit.

After I finally got up the strength to cruise around the hood on the granny bike, my goal was to someday be able to make it up that hill. It took me a couple weeks to make it. The first couple times required a few breaks, but eventually I made it up clean! I was stoked. Such a little hill that I used to laugh at became a major struggle for me, but I made it and I didn't care what anybody else thought of me making it or needing to take break. To me it was a major hurdle and that hill felt like a prison wall holding me away from longer cruises until I could overcome it. And that I did!

(A little bigger incline at Cottenwood pass)

So once I made it up the hill and down the back side of it, my next goal was to make it back home up the other side. This is actually on a road that goes to the hospital campus, so it sees a fair amount of traffic therefor some of it has a sidewalk. Now, let me tell you this. It's been a long time since I've used a sidewalk with a bike under me, but these days I feel so much slower than traffic, I take that sidewalk all the time. Weird. This little hill maybe takes me 30 seconds normally, but given that I have already climbed another hill, I spent a few weeks needing to take a break at least 2 or 3 times. It was huge... it might as well been the Alps for all I know.

So lately, I have been able to make it up that hill all at once at snail's pace. I'm proud to make the hill, but some days I forget that I almost died 3 months ago and I start getting upset with how slow I go up that little hill. I don't get upset everyday, but the thought of frustration crosses my mind sometimes.

Which just so happened today. I'm on the sidewalk, minding my own "feeling sorry for myself being so slow" business when a familiar car rolls up beside me. I'm thinking "man I hope this isn't someone wanting to converse because I can't even breath right now." Then a dude I've known since the BMX days shouts out to me...

"It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster."

I thank him and Him and we both continue on our paths.

Isn't that the truth!

A couple months from now when Coach Mark has me training my tail off, this won't seem any bit harder then what it does now. I'm just going a little slower for the time being.

The thing is: getting up those damn hills isn't about how pro I look getting up them, how fast I used to be able to do it, or how fast everyone else can. It's about me believing I can go up it. It's about me going for a bike ride because I like to, it's about me trusting in God's decision that this is exactly where He wants me to be right now and giving me a chance to make it up even more hills and obstacles in the future.

My friend is right... it doesn't matter how slow, fast, or good I get. I'll always find a way to push the limit further because that's how I roll.

That's what I did and that's what I'm doing!