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!

Monday, September 3, 2012

'Cross is HERE! Can You Believe It?

And so it is! It Is Time. Cross is here!

Time to represent the best team in Cx: Don Walker Cycles!

We all have finally stomached our way through the dogs days of summer and can now move onto what we all live for. Cyclocross season! If you're anything like me, you started planning and scheming this year's season long before the last medal was given at World's last year. And with my first race just a short 6 days away I'm still not really ready. I still have a lot to get around and a lot to wrap my head around, but that's the way it is with cross. It's the most complex, simple form of racing there is... it can either be a very simple bike and rider, or it can involve a trailer full of tire/ wheel selections, equipment,  clothing options, approaches to the best lines, and so on. 

Normally at this point in the year I would have spent almost the entirety of August solely on the cx bike and would have spend my fair share of time doing laps on my mock cx course at our local fair grounds and college xc running course. But this year I found myself  drawn to hunting down new dirt roads and taking the cx rig on the mtn bike trails here and there. Seeing how that has been what my "want" has drawn me to and that is all cool with Coach Mark, I don't see how skipping laps on grass will hurt me much. I figure I've raced enough cx races to let my instincts kick in once the 1st gun blows at the start line. Besides, although I plan on having a good all around season up until nationals, I figure I have plenty of time to work out a few corners here and there along the way to nationals and Master's Worlds. 

With that being said, I can't say how excited I am for the season. I have found a positive, professionally run, welcoming home for cx after a late blindsided dismissal announcement from my last year's team management. It was the best blessing in disguise and I'm so glad I had to go through a dark bought to find the light at the end of the tunnel! As you notice from the change on the blog layout, I've shifted my colors to orange and black and now have a sword and shield on my arm. 

Getting ready for cx season honing my skills with down hilling!
That's right, I will be riding for one of the "original 6." No, no... not hockey, not Richard Sachs, nor the Greek gods. But none other than head honcho of NAHBS http://2013.handmadebicycleshow.com/ himself- Don Walker (http://www.donwalkercycles.com/). If you haven't heard of the bike show or him, do yourself a favor, be a real cyclist and look it up! I mean seriously people... if you haven't broached the world of cycling enough to the depths of a man/ woman who can MAKE a custom/ handmade steel frame, then you need to wake up! This art is just as much the heart and sole of cycling as the first time you ever threw your leg over a saddle. This is where it starts for the industry. I realize that everyone can't go pluck a custom bike off the checkbook, even though you'd be surprise just how affordable DW can make you a bike, but there is nothing more sexy in the bike world than a custom steel frame done just right. Until you experience the art of sole of a custom frame at least once in your cycling life you're just not doing it right. While I'm just as prone to drooling over the latest carbon made beauty rolling off the assembly line somewhere in china because that's what the cycling media ingrains our brains to tell us what's hot, there is NOTHING (in cycling) will ever make my heart a flutter like a custom, beautifully made steel or ti (I'm thinking Moots here) bike!
"Do you KNOW who built your bicycle?"

Whoa! So enough of that conversation that I could go on about for days, and back to the matter at hand. Soooo you could say I am thrilled to be riding for the Don Walker Cycles Racing team (http://www.donwalkercycles.com/2012/06/13/official-press-release/) this season. They consist of a great group of people and I am also thrilled to be a teammate of Mrs Terri Meek on the elite women's side of things! Good. Quality. People.  Hopefully, I do the team proud! More importantly, stop and hang out with us this year, check out our steeds (you're even welcome to ride mine), check out the bike set-ups (I'll be running Shimano Ultegra Di2 http://bike.shimano.com/publish/content/global_cycle/en/us/index/products/road/ultegra_di2.html, Paul Component Neo- retro brakes http://paulcomp.com/neoretro.html, along with other great goodies), and try to out-heckle us! Good luck with that last part though!

In other news, most of you know I spent 11 days recently in Colorado for my personal cx training camp. I had a great time out there. I spent some time in the best US cycling city of Boulder and then had chosen my final end point as Winter Park (WP) for the quality of all around riding. But I somehow ended up strictly sticking to fat and even fatter tires than I would have thought. I make it no secret that mountain biking is my true love, even though I prefer cx for the racing side of things. Well, WP was like mtb heaven! Everything in the area was catered to mtb of all forms. It was amazing! I could go on and on about how great it was and try to relay how I felt so very at home there... but just as a picture could paint a thousand words and not do the views justice; a blog post could never even come close either! So I won't even try.

This had to be my favorite section at WP. Hitting that at 30mph... felt like a kid again!

I will say this: I'm thankful to be here on earth and grateful that I was able to spend time doing something I love like that for myself. By now we are all sick of hearing about how I almost died last year... it may seem like a faint memory to most now. But it will never be that to me; a faint memory. It happened and I'm so lucky it did because I value and see through different eyes now. Moments and minutes come and go, and once they pass you never get them back. Someday, the autoimmune disease I have (MG) may decide to flare up, make me stop breathing in my sleep and that will be the end for me. Who know's? That's the reality of it. Not to be a Debbie downer... but all of us will face our demise.This we know for certain. And while I know for a fact I don't fear death since I accepted it once, I do fear not living. 

Living it up!
Don'e get so caught up in the unnecessary drama of the world and forget to live. 

...And back to the fun! Cx is here.
 Live it up and enjoy the season everyone.
 The cx scene is all about fun and don't forget to live and love it! 

(check out some of my downhill runs with one of my first GoPro attempts!)

Here we go!