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 (http://www.indianacxcup.com/index.php) 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 http://ovcx.com/ 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 (http://www.texmarket-usa.com/usa/chi-siamo.php ) 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 ( http://www.donwalkercycles.com/), 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  (http://www.lugoftheirish.com/Shamrock_Cycles/Home.html) 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 (http://2013.handmadebicycleshow.com/) 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! /http://bike.shimano.com/
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 ( http://ovcx.com/). 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 http://www.donwalkercycles.com/ 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 (http://www.indianacxcup.com/index.php ). 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 (http://www.lugoftheirish.com/Shamrock_Cycles/Home.html
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!