Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What Happens in Vegas... Motivates!

Getting ready for CrossVegas Elite women's race. Mountains and Shimano fly-over in the background! 

Well, it's another cyclocross season and with that comes another year of experiences and emotions that cross always seems to bring. So that being said, it's about time I got back to the blog world to put a few of those things in writing. Although I'm a bit behind already since I am already 6 races into my season (we are always chasing our tail at the front of cx season it seems) I will pick up with my adventures starting with my races in Cross Vegas last week.

First off, as a little update to where I left off last season. As many of you know I ended my cx year last season in a hospital bed with emergency surgery. What was highly suspected to be ovarian cancer, thankfully ended up being a benign torsed ovarian mass. I've really, really struggled to regain high end fitness since then despite lots of hard work. Long story short, my body really has had enough trauma done to it and it has basically been hanging on by a tread to keep going for even simple day to day activities. My cortisol levels dove to critically low levels, and I have been fighting a terrible low back issue with four old ruptured discs including spasms most of the summer. I've put in a lot of work and completely changed many things in my life with the help of a great functional nutritionist here, Darrell Carr, who I work closley with a couple times a week (http://www.darrellcarr.com) , but basically, I don't have time on my side, and I can't change the demands of my profession (that I love) at this point. It's going to take some careful training and lots of rest to just line up this year until my cortisol levels can recover, which can take up to a year. Plus, I'm just trying to manage what I can with my back ruling my ability to lay down power, maneuver on and off the bike, and jump over barriers. It won't be pretty this year, but I still love being at the races, racing and riding. So while it may not be anywhere near my normal form, I vow to keep working my butt off, line up to race, and have a darn good time doing it!
 A girl can only take so much! But in reality, I'm still really blessed to just be out there competing! So what can I complain about??!!

SO... onto Vegas! 

And so it begins! I always get asked how we transport bikes on the plane. Here ya go, three bikes in hard cases ready for the airport in Indy.

It has always been a dream of mine to compete in this event. Dubbed the "largest cyclocross race in America,"  centered around the industry's Interbike Show (http://www.interbike.com), it has been on my bucket race list for several years. Either because of illness, work, or logistics, I've never had the chance to go until this year, so when it all came together I was extremely excited to be able to take part in it! I really couldn't believe it was going to actually finally happen! Being that it was quite a effort to get there, I decided fairly late in the game to get the most out of my trip and do both the singlespeed and UCI Elite race (http://www.crossvegas.com/25/index.php). Looking back, this was a huge effort since not only was the elite race fast and difficult, the Singlespeed race was held in the early evening where the temps averaged 102 degrees for my race. It is the desert ya know! 

Host hotel view with the Don Walker SS. Las Vegas Tram and Bellagio in view.
It was a whirl wind of a trip. We arrived in the afternoon Tues before the race on Wed evening, and were back in our own beds by Thur night. I saw as much of Vegas as I could in those hours, but the main attraction for me was the race. So after getting to our host hotel and getting the bikes ready Tues, we took a spin in the windy sauna of Las Vegas out to the race course about 6 miles away from the strip. Eek... add a little elevation gain to the heat, plus dead legs from the air travel and I was feeling rough! 

After that we headed back to the hotel to have a nice dinner, and off to bed to get ready for the next day. Wed morning had a nice bit of sightseeing and pool side relaxing for me. I had a limited time since I needed to be at the course early to prep for the SS event. 

I did a little pre-riding, but not too much since the course was pretty straight forward, and I was feeling the heat already. I think I spent most of the time having people look at and discuss my Don Walker SS bike set-up (http://www.donwalkercycles.com). It seemed to be a popular item! 

Game time! Vegas had some pretty rad cloth numbers... not a bad start grid either! 
Once the race got underway, I found myself in a battle for 2nd. I felt okay until I was having some major chain slip issues preventing me from riding up the inclines. That eventually pushed me back to 3rd in the end, but it was still a blast running the single gear. The officials ran our race a bit long (it's the desert ya know), and I was definitely feeling drained, dehydrated, and beat by the end of my 53 minute race. 
But no time to spare! I had about a 1.5 hour turn around until the start of the pro race. I got as much fluid in me as I could and tried to keep the legs spinning a bit. Thankfully, my mechanic buddies Tim Wegner  and Terry Twitchell took care of everything else that needed done so I could focus on the next race! So thankful for those guys! 

The best crew a gal could ask for! Tim, Don, myself, and Terry. 

So I was super anxious about how I would do for the elite race. I knew very well coming into the race that I was in some of the worst shape of my life, and that I had also just put forth a big effort in the heat for the SS event. I just wanted to be somewhere in the same race as the big guns. My only goal was to give it everything I had, stay positive, not come in DFL and make it at least 2 laps. That's was it. Check, check, and check!!!
Cross racing at night in Vegas! Boom!
I managed all of those things and even did a bit better than I expected. I actually made it all but the last lap to go... just barely missing the time cut off. I got next to last, and had to fight hard to obtain that with another racer. It was the best next to last battle ever! I really believe I could have made it on the lead lap had I not got caught behind a huge pile up at the start. This left me way off the back right from the get go, and with a wide open fast course like Vegas, I had no chance of making it back to the group. 

The experience? IT. WAS. AWESOME.
Plus, racing my 1st big race with the Shimano (http://www.shimano.com) Ui2 set-up was smooth! Add the sweet Ritchey WCS Carbon Cross forks (http://ritcheylogic.com) and I was loving the ride out there in the desert! Thanks for the support! 
I sure didn't feel like I was at the back of the race. The fans were great and cheered like rock stars. Vegas style. The course was fabulous and I smiled every time I hit the familiar scenes I had watched for so many years on the live feeds. I kept saying to myself: "I can't believe I'm doing Cross Vegas!" 
I ended the race totally trashed from the days effort. I had given it all I could and had fun doing it. I was surprised how much personal support and cheers I had out there. I felt like I was back in my own region doing a race where everyone knew my name. Thanks so much to all of you who cheered for me! I heard each of them every lap!!! 
And that's pretty much it folks. I ended the evening watching the men's race and cheering for my bro Josh Johnson who took on his first race with the Giant factory team! Wow! He did wonderful. So happy for him. I was also stoked for my travel mate, Chad Tieman, charging the fast race. Great job you two! 
Oh yeah... and the World Champ, Sven Nys, was hanging out at the hotel too. That was worth the trip alone!)
I was really glad I didn't back out of my dreams to do this race. I considered not going considering my fitness and back issues. But in the end, I'll not remember the placing I got, or the effort it took to get there... just the rad experience and the motivation it gave me to continue to get back to health and continue to do this sport I love for many years! 

See you at the races everyone! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Look Back at 2012. Love!

Well there it is, the last arms by those who made podiums were raised at the cx national championships last week and I think most cx racers would consider it the end of the season, save for Master's Worlds (late north american nationals) and maybe a late race here and there. I of course, feel like I have a big void in my heart since I planned my entire year on doing well at cx nationals, but as Cubs fans say "there is always next year," and I appreciate the support from people who say that to me. In all honesty, I was sad to miss natz, but it was out of my control and I'm doing a pretty good job of keeping that in mind, and it's okay. But as far as me saying the above phrase, it isn't something I count on after the nde. There isn't always next year, and even tomorrow isn't a guarantee. I don't mean to be cynical, but I understand completely that each breath or moment can be our last... that's just the facts of it folks. So try and take each moment and live and love it with all your heart. Even though it's really hard to do sometimes. 

Reflecting back on the season... I have to say I'm pretty happy with it!
Anyway, even though on initial review of this post, I was going to write about the disappointment I had in some of my races or placings this cross season, that isn't going to happen the more I think about it. Coming into the season, I wasn't quite up to speed yet. I had dealt with some kidney/ bladder issues left over from the nde. I had a stint where I was pretty ill and needed to be back in the hospital in July for the kidneys and needed to have a foley catheter (tube in the bladder) in place for 3 months. That's right, I trained, raced, and had that every day for 3 months. I sucked it up and dealt with it, but it wasn't optimal by any means. Given that, I also was planning a full ICX and OVCX schedule so I knew it would be a long season to get my groove back. A lofty order! Since I missed all the ovcx races last year from the nde, I really had no idea how I would do compared to everyone else. The years before that, I was clearly one of the top 2 women in the elite series, but 'cross has grown up a lot since then and I basically felt a year behind everyone else. Of course, one can say that to themselves, but when the gun blows, I forget about all I've gone through and it's easy to forget that once you are racing and you expect your body to perform like it once did. Long story short... it didn't. Not so much at least. I had a good "sole searching" time this year getting used to the fact that I wasn't the best anymore. I also needed to spend the season learning how to adjust to the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis. It would take some time to learn how my "new" body would respond. 
How would I take that, what did that mean to me as a racer and person, and how was I going to approach each race. It was time to reset my goals a little bit. 

I won't lie, the first few races I was way back and I was not taking it well. Maybe I should quit?
Always leave it to the Mom to put you back in place. I had called her after a race where I thought I did bad and was really down in the dumps about it and beating myself up. She just told me point blank: "either race your bike and have fun no matter how well you do, or don't race at all. And don't call me anymore being depressed about something that shouldn't warrant sadness, I won't have any part of it. We are just blessed you are still alive, let alone be able to race a bike." It takes a little tough love sometimes:)
 See it, do it, love it, leave it. 

I reset my attitude. Do the best I have with what I had and work really hard to get better. Enjoy it! And weather people viewed me as a good racer or not... wasn't any of my business. My goal was to be a good, positive influence in the sport and show that winning isn't everything. Cross has so much more to offer! And man, would I learn this more than ever this year! 

So how about a look at some wonderful pal mars I accomplished this year results wise with my Don Walker Cycles Team:
I competed in 22 cyclocross races.
 I reached the podium in 17 of those races. 
Winning the race or my master's class in 5 of those.
Indiana CX Cup overall elite women series champion. 
OVCX Elite Master's 35+ series 3rd overall and 7th overall of all elite women combined. 
2nd elite in Indiana State Championships. 

Not too shabby I guess... many people would kill for this, so I'm gonna be proud of it.
What I'm more proud of is the fact I learned that winning isn't everything. Not even close. I worried that my lack of wins would make me fade away from the cyclocross family I've become a part of. If I wasn't winning, would people even care? The truth is... your family always cares.

Wow! My family grows every year... here are just a small amount of my cycling family gathering to send me some encouragement! So much support!
Since I've been known to wear my heart on my sleeve at times (like all cross racers do), let me continue that here. I was crying like a baby as I was laying in my hospital bed recovering from surgery on Dec 16th. The last series race of the season at MTV was taking place and I was stuck in a hospital feeling a world of pain from surgery and sadness from missing the race. I had worked so hard all year to be a part of the series, to make the series podium overall and say a goodbye to all I had spent time with and to those who supported me the this season. 

To say I was overwhelmed by the love that came my way soon after would never describe my gratefulness to the cycling community. I'm still speechless to this day. The amount of texts, pictures, messages, and kind words (and hospital heckles) that I received is unimaginable to me still, it seems like a good dream... and I wasn't even the best rider anymore... huh! I won't try to explain what it meant to me in the state I was in. It was a very dark time to face such a huge surgery after everything I had already been through in my life... but it was good to not feel alone in the journey. 

Yeah... I was feeling pretty rough after surgery, but my spirits were lifted by the thoughts and prayers of many.
Sometimes if you ever think the world is a cruel, mean place, and that people are inherently bad... I beg to differ. There is so much love! Thank you to all that showed it to me when I really needed it. God has blessed you all.

Cycling is a great sport. My family and I have known that since the first day we spent at the BMX track when I was 12 years old. At 36 now and thousands of races later, it still is a great sport and even more importantly a wonderful family to be a part of, no matter what recent media focuses on. 

My lesson and take home message from 2012?
Winning isn't everything, but ACTING like a winner is. 

Of course, there are so many more pictures and messages that came my way in days to come... these are only a few, otherwise the post would be too long! 

Lots of racers were missing NB yesterday - hope to have back on the bike soon! 

Show love and be loved. I have had so much satisfaction in seeing people around me be happy, do well, and overcome hurdles, than I ever had when I used to put so much worth in to me winning myself. 

I would like to dedicate today's victory to my friend and mentor,, who's recovering in the hospital from a recent surgery.

Be proud. Some people never make it back. No matter how much time they have. Stoked for you. 

 Uh oh, that doesn't look like home......whatever it is, get well quick....there's cowboys waitin'.....

 don't be sad darlin' it's gonna be all right

Good job to everyone this year who accomplished their goals... not matter how big or small. 
Is it next 'cross season yet?