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 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! 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 ( 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 ( 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 (!

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 ( ) 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 ( 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 ( 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:)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don't Stop Now!

Oh yeah! How sweet it is! Fine champagne (or cheep) celebration! Celebrated another win at OVCX Eva Bandman. Photo: Tim Brown
Man, I took a couple weeks off the blog and next thing I knew, life just flew by! Cross season does that to a person. You spend the whole year prepping yourself for it, and the next thing you knew you are standing in Wisconsin at Nationals planning how to approach the next season after Master's Worlds ends.  No way can I stop now... we are in the thick of the season! 

Anyway, so since the last posts I have packed in another 6 races, many miles and hours in the Honda Pilot, slept in 5 different  beds (no, this isn't like you think), had many many cups of coffee, bananas, and oatmeal, had a few meals from team chef Melinda, went through a chain, a tubie, and accumulated several mystery bruises. Somewhere along the way I even got to step up on the podium 5 different occasions with the last one being on the top step!  Yes!

So since time is short and a picture is worth a thousand words. I will mostly keep the post as show and tell. But let's get to it:

The ICX ( race in Richmond kicked off a weekend of bad mechanical luck for me. I had a chain skip problem from the start only to have the problem come to a head with my chain link breaking clean with one lap to go. I was as far as possible from the pit (of course) and enjoyed a nice walk in the park to get my B bike to finish off the race in 3rd. Twas okay with me really, Sierra S. was in 2nd ahead of me at the time and I was in no way gonna catch her so I didn't mind saving my legs for the OVCX Gunclub the next day. 

This pretty much sums up my race weekend. Here I'm running to the pits from a broken chain. Didn't even feel like I worked up a sweat... mechanicals are frustrating, but machines break down... just happy it was ME that broke down. Photo: Joni Siebenlist

So on that note, I was pretty pumped up for the famous Gun Club ovcx race the next day. GC is always highly attended and the course is just a blast even though it doesn't seem to play to my strengths much these days. After a nice overnight stay with my generous teammates Bill and Teri the night before, I was ready to roll. I had a pretty good start and was getting settled in and then found myself settled on the ground after another racer had a crash directly in front of me. I spend precious time untangling my bike from hers and fought like heck to catch back to all the people that passed me... only to have my rear tubie roll in one of the tight corners. So I ended up getting more time to walk in the woods to the pits... but once again it was a long walk, and I dropped down to 17th place when it was said and done. Boo! Crazy weekend! 
Sooo after that was the first mud race of the year! We headed to Bargarsville, IN for another ICX race. I had planned a week trip with my Mom around this weekend and had considered skipping racing this day, but she was willing to sit out at a cold muddy cx race, God love her, so I decided to just put forth enough time and energy to show up and get it done. In other words, it wasn't a priority on my list and my 4th place results reflected that... but I was cool with it. It was fun to get the hang of the mud again and get the Tex Market team kit ( ) some cx mud on it to properly break it in!  It was also kinda fun to show up for a race with little to no pressure for a change!

 Taking on the first mud of the season! MMMMuuuddd!!!!
Photo: Kent Baumgardt

Stretching out the legs a little in the mud, a good proper gloomy day for cx!
 Photo Kent Baumgardt

Next up was Blooming Cross in B'town! Love this race! I like the venue all around and the weather didn't disappoint either. It was a beautiful day. I was focused on this race and had a good showing for me. I think I ran in 3rd the majority of the race (at least that's what my Don Walker Cycles racing team camp was shouting to me (, until I faded just a bit at the end. I ended up getting 2nd in my Master's class and 5th (?) overall in the elite class. It was a super fun race as Bridget and Gerri and I had a good, clean, back and forth race the entire time. Love that! Plus, I was treated to a ice cold brew of root beer from neighboring Shamrock Cycles afterwords  ( too! Double bonus! 

Wonderful day of racing against yet another strong Ohio Valley Elite Women's field! Best part of the day was my teammate Teri Meek taking the overall WIN! Two weekends in a row for her!
Photo: Kent Baumgardt
After that, Mom and I departed on our yearly Brown County cabin vacation trip and it was a much needed 3 days of chilling out with her. I really cherish the time I have with my Mom and this week was no exception. I had some wonderful, quite ride time in BC and had nothing to do except relax by the fire and hot tub most the rest of the time. Bliss! 

When all else fails... there is nothing a Twissler hand up from a kid can't make better!
 Photo: Team J's Bikes
And then it was GO time again! After our cabin trip, I came home to pass some gas for a day before heading off to the races again. ICX ventured to Martinsville next and the course had a nice film of moisture to make it a challenge. The only really bad part was the addition of  the "hell hill" they added on the backside of the course. I was not a fan at all... and neither was my bum ankle, plus I was running on very very little sleep and the hunger to perform just wasn't in my belly. I gave a few good efforts here and there, but I decided pretty early in the race to not spend energy that I simply didn't have. It was a good little practice race for me and I still managed 4th overall. 

Charging hard at Eva Bandman!
 Photo: Nathan Roberson
After that I was off to L'ville for the OVCX Storm Eva Badman. I really love this venue as well... like many other racers. My team owner and his new wife were kind enough to house me for the night and I stocked up on much needed sleep! I knew I needed to sleep tons so I could focus on racing the next day... plus staying in the NAHMBS ( founders house didn't hurt to help me focus on bikes either! Kinda like a custom bike museum. 

Good thing mechanical luck went my way... looks like I avoided some down cx tape!
 Photo: Nathan Roberson
I headed out to the races after a nice breakfast and got to the task at hand. I knew the day would go well since the song that the venue played during staging of my very first pro race years ago came over the truck radio as I pulled into the race park. I was pumped! I have just finally been feeling like my high end fitness has been kicking back in and I was anxious to see if I could manage a good ride at the future World's venue. Turns out, I could! I got off to a good start and laid down as much power in every place I could. The course had great flow to it and having a bunch of DW crew around the course (along with many others) didn't hurt either! We had a strong field of women this day and I was really pleased to be hanging in 4th for a while, but my main focus was taking the win in the Elite Master's Cat. I managed that and also held on for 6th overall even though B-jet was charging hard. 

It felt so rewarding personally to take the win. My myasthenia was giving me fits all week and after deciding to save my matches the day before, I banked a lot of time and effort into this race. It paid off and I had a blast doing it! 

Thanks to all my teammates and friends for the support out there! 

Channelling my inner Stella. Stelllaaaa!
Photo: Scott Whitehair 
Next up is Cinci UCI3 weekend... that's 3 days of racing! It may not seem like a lot to the average joe, but 3 days of focused racing is an exhausting effort for everyone involved, but we can't stop now.... 

Mi familia! Yeah... that's right! 

... we WON'T stop now! 
See you all at the races! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

This Is How Life Is Too!

Always feels good on the top step! Found a win and some confidence at Xenia OVCX in the Elite Master's class!
Photo: Don "Hoss" Walker
Fighting the Up-hill at St Mary's OVCX
Photo: Kent Baumgardt

Victories and defeats. Highs and lows. The good the bad.
Call it what you want, but life is full of its ups and downs. It never ends. I've felt quite defeated the first few weeks of the cyclocross season performance wise. I have been putting in my work and training, focusing on my diet, rest, and goals; but I haven't been seeing the results. I was feeling defeated before I even slipped into my skin suite on race day. I was still having a blast at the races in all other aspects, but this feeling of defeat over a bike race wasn't me. I had to get my act together. I had to get things in perspective. 

Best team camp EVER! Thanks Don Walker Cycles! All lined up and ready to race... and hand out a few waffles:
As a athlete, I've felt many aspects of defeat, lost many competitions... but losing is the nature of sport. So is winning. So in times like this I feel it's important for me to remember my feeling of greatest defeat ever; so let me briefly tell you the "20 feet story":

After finally graduating out of the 2 week ICU stay after the NDE 15 months ago I was put on the telemetry floor. I was still constantly monitored by the nursing staff... but was no longer considered in "critical" condition. The days before my surgery that led to the blood clot that went to my lungs, I was in great shape. I had done a 6 hr ride the day before my surgery (which ended up contributing to my down fall due to dehydration). Sure, I had just spend 2 weeks in a ICU bed unable to move, but now that I had survived something most people die from, I figured I would start back to rehabbing and move along with my life like a normal athlete would. Just like coming back from  injury. Turns out I was wrong. Very wrong. In fact, it would lead to my greatest feeling of failure ever.

The first day physical therapy came to my room to start my out of bed rehab, the plan was for me to walk to the hallway and back to bed, this was about 20 feet. They told me the plan and I smugly laughed at them. I literally laughed out loud. Seriously? 20 feet? I'm a athlete. I thought: "I'll show them." I remember being sat up. I didn't sit up. I needed to be assisted. It was the first time in 2 weeks I didn't have a massive amount of breathing devices, tubes, IV's, monitors, and varies other things on me to keep me alive. I felt so free! Finally, I could move. Wrong. The PT put a belt around my waist to lift me up and an old lady walker in front of me to help me walk this 20ft. Lol. I got this. 

I took 2 steps. TWO. It took all of 2 seconds and I was completely overwhelmed with exhaustion and inability to hold myself up. I tried to mentally rally and "suck it up/ HTFU" as I was so accustomed to with sports. But I couldn't do it. I didn't "have this." I had nothing. The nurse and PT saw it coming, they got me a chair immediately, and my "session" was done. It finally hit me at that moment that this was beyond anything that I had ever faced. I crumbled inside and outwardly. I had fought death, unmasked a autoimmune disease of myasthenia gravis and this was how it was gonna be? This was my life now? Why did I fight so hard for this? I couldn't even make it 2 feet? I lost it. I looked at my Mom's face and even though she was doing her best to be strong for me, I could tell we were both overwhelmed by the fact that a once fit athlete and young lady... couldn't even stand up for 10 seconds. I broke down, I bawled, I was devastated. I still break down to this day thinking about it. I wanted to give up. It would be so easy since I couldn't even get started really. But after a good cry, a moment to collect myself, a prayer to God for strength, along with my Mom repeating words of encouragement to me, I got myself together. Clearly. But it did take a vvvverrrry long time before I made it that 20 feet. I made it: One. Step. At. A. Time. When I made it 20 feet. I owned it! I felt like I had conquered the world.
 This is life. Ups and downs.

Myself and rad teammate, Terri Meek showing off our skills and our sweet Shimano Dura-Ace wheels! /
Photo: Baumgardt
I got 15th in an elite cyclocross race 2 weeks ago at OVCX St Mary's. I was upset with myself. I could have easily bowed out and told myself I was not going to be able to overcome the challenges I've been dealt.
I was upset about 15th? Compared to my "20 feet" story I should have felt like a rock star. It was time to get over it and focus on the next steps to improving my self performance and keep things in perspective.

GOing uphill a couple weeks later!
Photo: Baumgardt
Next up after that was the ovcx race in Xenia, OH ( I told myself my #1 goal was to stay positive and remember to never take any moment of racing a bicycle for granted and enjoy the ride. I also wanted to lay everything I had out there on the line. These things I did. I had a decent start, powered out of the corners, and pushed my limits on the barrier run-up. I knew I had a few top girls behind me, but honestly, I had no idea where I was in the race. I passed by the Don Walker Cycles team camp and Don yelled out that "3rd place is just ahead!" I thought he meant 3rd place for the sub-set of the master's ladies in the race, not for the overall race! I was in a bit of a bind as I was racing to shake birthday girl and master's lady Gerry Schulze off my tail, and in doing so I was catching my teammate Terri Meek in the process. Terri is gunning for the elite series points, and me the master's points, so I had to keep my head down and focus on racing Gerry in this case. It was a blast of a race! The 3 of us stuck together for the last couple laps, going back and forth, with each of us gaining and losing speed on differing personal strong points of the course. Gerry and Terri climbed the punchy, near finish line hill like snow leopards... and I just tried to hang on. It came down to me a Gerry side by side on the last straight. I knew I had to nail the hill perfectly and I did. We had a good, clean sprint to the line and I gave every ounce of effort I could to just nip Gerry at the finish!!! Terri was just behind us and I could hear her cheering me on the entire sprint! How cool is that? I did the whole "collapse after the finish like I just did Hawaii Ironman," and had to collect myself to not throw-up. It was great! I ended up 4th overall and 1st in the Elite Master's 35+ group. Wow!!! Talk about a good feeling. Kinda like making it that 20 feet.

Go Gerry! Too bad I just couldn't let her win on her birthday! Man, it was close though!

Sprint finish!
Photo: K. Baumgardt
The next day of racing had us heading back to Indy area for a ICX cup race ( ). We got a feel for some chilly temps finally and it was tough to get those spent legs out to the race course. After the feeling of such excitement from the previous day, I took a deep breath and enjoyed the lower key atmosphere of races at ICX and reminded myself how I love everything that is cross. We had a small, but quality field of women. I knew I wasn't quite at Annajean's pace this early in the season yet, but I wanted to see how long I could hang with her. 'Tis wasn't long as it turned out. Oh well. I would take chase. I found myself in 2nd, trying to shake 3rd off my back but couldn't quite do so in the tight, twisty sections. Plus, it was a open, windy venue and laps were quite long to be hanging out in the wind all alone. The gal behind me (Liz C.) was more then content it seemed to try and get past me and I obliged.

Taking chase in second place at the ICX race in Lebonon.
Photo: Planet Adventure
 I spent the next 3 laps being patient, drafting, and learning where my chance to attack would be. I found my spot to be at the "Shamrock Cycles" barriers section (
I nailed the technique and put the hammer down and never looked back. I rolled in for 2nd and snagged a few valuable points for my home state series. The rest of the day was spent taking in the other important things in cross.... food and beverages.
 Love it! Love it so much! This is life! This is living!

Making my move right after the barriers!
Photo: Tim O'Donnell of Shamrock Cycles- taking b&w photos like a Boss!

It was a good weekend of racing. Results wise and off the course. I'm not sure what next weekend will bring in the results aspect, but I do know I will value and cherish just being there. Just living and taking in life, and never taking race results so seriously (but still will work hard at it).

Who am I to complain about a 15th (or whatever place) in a bike race, when at one point I couldn't even breath for myself or walk 2 feet!!!! 

I really don't think God let me stay here to be upset about things like that.... 
so enjoy your own races and the season everyone!!! And don't EVER give up:)

Living the dream!
Photo: Tim O'Donnell of Shamrock Cycles
  See ya soon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This Is How Life Is.

I'm amused and never seem to find endless similaities to the world of cycling and real life. The truth is: cycling is just a pocket of my bigger life in general as it is for most of us. Sometimes cycling has you on top of the world, sometimes you are just barely hanging on... this is how life is, just as cycling is.

Thrilled to get my first win with my new Don Walker Cycles Cx team! Winning always feels so  good!!

The last 3 weeks and the start of the cross season have been no different. My first race kicked off with the ICX Lion of the Den race, where I won, followed by the kick off of the OVCX series in Borden, IN, which I pretty much stunk at. Analogy to life: it has it's up and downs, and now it's up to me to learn from it all and move on. 

At least I did well at the barriers during the OVCX opener. Getting ready to jump back on the bike.

I was super excited to get back to the cross world this year. I'm pretty happy about getting to start racing  with everyone else since I missed most of last season after the NDE. I love to race cx and whether I'm doing good or bad... I'm just happy I get to do more of it this year. However, I also have to remember that this is a long, long season compared to what I had last year and that my goals are still a couple months down the road for nationals and world's. I know this and seem to keep that perspective until the gun goes off for the start of the race. Somehow, I seem to forget that my fitness is right where it should be at this point in the year when the adrenaline is going! I can't keep in peak fitness until Nats and struggling a bit now at the races will pay off big later in the year.  I shouldn't dramatize that too much, since I'm a world's better condition than where I was last year at this point. It just seems there are many more girls in even better shape than me currently. So... I didn't finish too well at the ovcx race. I ended up 17th of 30 elite girls and 4th in elite master's. I know that doesn't seem horrible to some, but to me, I was greatly disappointed with myself. It wasn't that I had a bad race, or didn't give all I had, I just got out raced. Aside from the interesting call-up procedure by the host team (I won't nor do I need to explain since I wasn't the only person to notice this) at the start that put me in the last row despite my early registration; that found me caught up behind a start straight wreck. I had a pretty uneventful race. Heck, I didn't even feel slow! I was just left shaking my head trying to figure out what hit me. I left the race trying to figure out where I went wrong, and upset with myself.  After talking to coach Mark, I realized I hadn't "went wrong" anywhere. Life just has things thrown at us we can't control and I came to the reality that I'm not the same racer or person I was 2 years ago. I hate excuses more than anything and I always felt that me saying I have myasthenia gravis is an excuse... but I now know it's not a excuse, it's my reality. I have a chronic illness and it effects me whether I like it or not. It's not an excuse, it's my life now. It only took me a whole year to be able to come to that realization to myself. Not the easiest thing to admit as a active person. 

Rounding the corner at the ICX race... on my way to the run-up.
That of course doesn't mean that I will let it get the best of me! No sir! I have good days too! I was able take home a win during my first cx race at the Lion of the Den ICX! 

Myself and Rebecca Zink (Shamrock Cycles) pre-race... the two gals sponsored by handmade builders, both took home category wins at the Lion of the Den!
I also brought home 2 more wins this past weekend at small local races at Depot Cx and Frankie Cx in Fort Wayne. I may not have had any other cat1 women at either race, but I felt like I improved and got some of my inner "Stella" back during these events. I took Depot cx to focus on putting out some power and going into the red zone the whole race (and also practiced my dollar hand-ups) and then focused on my cornering at Frankie Cx Sunday. I feel I accomplished that and I had a lot of fun at the races too. My original plan was to make it up to the WI USGP since I really love this race and was bummed to miss it last year with the NDE, but life responsibilities prevented that this year and it just didn't work out. I was happy and thankful to still be able to hit a couple local races instead!! 

Celebrating the first race and the first Win of the season Don Walker Cycles style!

Other than that I was happy to get together with the whole Don Walker Cycles Racing Team for the first time during the OVCX race. I can't express how thankful I was to show up to a race and have a crew and pit area around to make the race day easier! The DW waffle crew has put together a huge effort and sweet set-up for us racers and I can't wait to race more with them in the future!
 For now, I'll keep on training, working hard, and living a life full of fun! 

A reminder I keep on my mirror to keep things in perspective . Like it Mark?

See you at the races!