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:)