Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Racing Here I Come!

Today I woke up with more motivation than ever to race and continue racing but have nothing solid worked out as far as teams go for the mtb season. Oh boy. Not good.

I can officially say that I have a renewed sense for who I am as a bike racer and for what I need to be doing with my life (racing bikes!!!). It is what makes me happy and Chris is in full support of me going for it again on the mountain bike circuit next year.

And based on my race in Bend, OR I think I can say that I still have it in me on the national level physically and mentally. And when I saw my lap times for that race too, I became SUPER psyched and motivated for next year!!! My best lap times would have put me duking it out in the Top 10 had I started on the 1st or 2nd row (and not the 6th)!! Hello motivation!!!!

I am excited but will need to start looking for sponsors ASAP since that is a process that should be done and over with by early fall. Yeah, I am a little behind you could say, but what's a girl to do...I had bigger fish to fry at the time.

That said, prior to racing US Cyclocross Nationals, I really didn't know what I wanted to do (quit racing or not). Everything with the parents had put me in a really difficult position mentally and physically. I didn't know who I was, what I was doing or what I was feeling. I was going through the motions of torment and trying to push through the best I could hoping that something inside me would twinkle and give a sign on what direction I should go.

In the meantime I just did what I always do which is train and race.....well.... in between planning funerals and saying good bye to my parents for the last time. Riding, racing and training was what kept me "grounded" even though I was far from it.

I lost my sponsorship right after my parents Celebration of Life with my 2009 mtb team. Was that a sign that it all needs to end and that I need to move on? I have never lost a sponsorship before in my life. What kind of sign was this? What was my mind telling me? What was my body telling me? I honestly didn't know. So I did nothing about it. I didn't make a call, nor did I send out any resumes to find teams. I had no idea what I wanted to do so how could I?!!! I was still anxiously waiting for that sign.

What I did know at the time was that I shouldn't make any rash decisions about leaving the sport that I have loved forever. You are in such a weird emotional state when you have lost not one, but both parents in 8 weeks time. And they had been sick the entire year, which for me was emotionally draining. A drain that I took into every race with me in 2009. Ok, yeah you are supposed to be a professional and suck it up (which I did to race) but my performance suffered. And while going through all of this was NOT the time to make big crazy decisions about your own life. Potentially throwing everything away! Waiting for the dust to settle was truly in my best interest and I knew it but I wished it would have just settled faster!!!!

On one particular day I remember vividly deciding THAT WAS IT and it was over, I wasn't going to race at Nationals in Bend or at anything ever again. I was done and that was ok.

ANNNNND......4 hours later I called my coach back and said it's on like donkey kong, I am going to Florida to train (not just enjoy a vacation) and I am heading to nationals too. I was going to do this thang!

Can you say flip - flop?

Yeah, that is what you call a roller coaster ride and it went on for months like that in my head. I was just waiting for a sign the entire time. You know, that something inside of you that says YES this is the direction you want to go and it is ok if you do?

Well I finally got that!! And at least that part is over now and I know exactly what I want to be doing with my life. I am ready, able, willing and I can't wait!!! I fought all year long and I am not about to give in now!

I was waiting for that light bulb moment and I finally got it in December!!! I will be back next year to race mtb and cyclocross!!!

What a good feeling to know what I want again! Now it is time to find someone that can support that cause..........so late in the game. Ugh.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Heading Home

After going to Trader Joes in Bend (YES!!!) I decided to do the full circle car tour and go on US 26 to Portland this time. What a gorgeous drive!

Everything on the drive at first started out sunny and dry.

But it all changed at about one particular mile marker as you started to ascend into the depths of winter.

It was no different than going the other way other than it was a tad faster.

I passed another resort that my family checked out way back when, called Kah-nee-tah. Good memories there too. And again, I had no idea where it actually was in Oregon, I just knew we went there for a family vacation a few times when I was a kid. It was fun to think about as I drove by the turn off for it.

I also passed the road to Timberline Lodge. That is where my parents spent their honeymoon after getting married in WA. I was tempted to go have a peak at it but I didn't know how good or bad the roads would be going to it so I left that journey for another day.

My uncle actually recounted a funny story to everyone at my mom and dads Memorial Service in November about their honeymoon. Apparently my parents headed off in the car from the church they were married in and my dad forgot his wallet!!! He had left it with my Uncle and had forgotten to retrieve it as planned before leaving on his honeymoon. And back in the 50's there were no credit cards! Knowing that it was imperative my dad got his wallet before heading to Timberline Lodge my Uncle went to great lengths to get the wallet back to him, which he somehow and someway did. A cute little story I thought I would share here, one in which made me smile big upon remembering it as I drove by headed for the airport.

I am glad I went 2 different ways getting to Bend and then leaving Bend - it has served as some WONDERFUL vivid memories of how lucky I was to have my parents as my parents! God bless them both.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

US Cyclocross Nationals - Bend, OR

When you expect nothing, sometimes you get SOMETHING. This was a good race for me. I didn't know what to expect, got to the venue, horsed around long enough to not get a full warm up in - nice and then raced my pants off.

What truly was I expecting from today?? I was starting on the 6th row, hadn't raced with any of these women since mountain bike season and here I was having missed about a month of training in the last 3 months and had no idea what my fitness was like or where my head stood against racing with the nations best. I wanted to race and do my best but who was to know how that was really going to turn out!

The course hadn't changed much from the day before except that a lot of the snow and slush had melted leaving some nice tacky track.

We lined up with me feeling so far back from the front row that I felt like a sardine (there were girls lined up behind me believe it or not!). It was great to see everyone again I must say too! I missed everyone this whole season while dealing with my life tragedies. Oh and a big thanks to Darrell Davis who was kind enough to take and carry all my nasty warm up clothes while I raced. Details, details. Ok, they weren't that nasty cuz remember...I kind of botched up my warm up.

So my whole goal today was to just move up in the pack and get as far up there as I could.....if I was fit enough against these girls to do that. So much was running through my head but overall I was pretty calm considering today was a total crap shoot.

The gun went off and I got a mini nap in before our row was ready to hit it hard for 40 minutes. And at that moment I started with a vengeance and let-er-rip!

I felt surprisingly really good out there and was so happy to be working my way through the group of 87 women with each lap. I honestly couldn't believe it. As I passed people it gave me even more fuel to gun it harder. On the stairs I felt like I was gliding up them effortlessly and I was able to ride the "ride up" with more ease than normal.

I had worked my way around about 5 girls during that particular lap and was ready to pass the next one on the ride up and she fell over into me, knocking me down and off my bike! They got a picture of it here. I didn't get all bent out of shape about it as we untangled the bikes. But as the others passed us it was going around in my head that I was going to have to re pass all of them the next lap again. Rats!!!! But that is racing for you.

When the last lap was called as "one to go" I was extremely disappointed because I still had lots of work to do, I was having A BLAST and I was getting places in the pack!! I have never felt like that on the last lap either....usually you are wanting that last lap to come sooner rather than later and not delay it!

I finally crossed the line in 21st. No, not a top 10 but a great way to start and end the season all in one day.

That night it was all about drinking wine and packing up for my flight out of Portland the next day. This cute little deer even stopped by our house to say hi.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bend, OR

Holy cow it was bit stressful getting to Bend, OR. I flew in Friday night and started driving to the venue at the crack on Saturday in order to pre-ride the course at 12 noon. Race is Sunday.

Luckily I saw that there was weather coming in so I timed it all accordingly getting a super early start. But I missed the memo about the black ice on I-5.

Hmm, why is everyone driving so slow as I wizzed by each car going 70mph. Didn't find out the answer until I went to get onto OR-22 which would take me up and over the mountain pass on into Bend. Yeah - NO BRAKES. I slid and it was scary as I almost hit the cars ahead of me. Awesome......only 10 minutes into my 4 hours journey across the pass to Bend. I'd better take a deep breath now and settle in for quite the drive all by myself!

The first hour was hair raising and it was an exercise of how calm I could keep myself and how I could keep my heart rate from spiking. I seemed to be almost the only toolbag on the road in this inclement weather and the roads were covered with ice. Apparently I should have studied the news a bit more than I did.

And my car even got some freshies at the top of the pass. By then time I hit Sisters, the weather was in a better place and so was I - a lot calmer.

I passed Black Butte Ranch on the way over and it brought nothing back but memories of me and my parents having a family vacation there almost every year when I was a kid. I never really knew where it was in OR until that moment. It was nice to think about all that. I definitely carry my parents very close to me in my heart and I am sure they knew they were being thought of at that very moment. They were so great and wonderful and I really do miss them.

Actually a lot of the drive reminded me of Scotland. It was so lush and wet outside. And you were driving along a road that had water on the right and nothing but a steep mountain on the left. It was beautiful!

So I got to the venue safe and sound with time to spare and jumped right on course. It was fairly warm out at around 30-35 degrees.

There had been a lot of talk about how much snow and ice there was but there wasn't a lot by the time I got there on Saturday. It had melted over that last few days and left some snow packed stuff, some slush and even some dry areas.

The course was great and very mountain bikey. Lots of fun with one pretty good off camber steeper descent with a sharp turn at the bottom. Nice!! There was what was likely going to be a run up if it rained but for now it was a "ride up." A great set of barriers sat right outside the beer tent and a lovely set of stairs made for a good jaunt in the park with your bike on your back. Other than that, you had your standard course....lots of turns, some muddy some dry, some slushy, little steep uphills with quick and fast down hill sections too, etc.

Afterwards I went and picked up my number at registration and was given the number 60. Yep, 60th call up. And what did I do??? I immediately got the to condo I was staying at with my teammates and put it on as #09 (a # that I saw a lot of in 08).

Oops - just wishful thinking I guess and also just a good reminder to myself that I was going to have my work cut out for me tomorrow!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Utah Cyclocross Race #11 - Ogden, UT

I was thinking WAY too much for my own good during this race. You can see it on my face!!

So I go from beautiful Florida to snow in Utah. It was expected but it is always a bit of a shock to the system when you go from 70 to 20 degrees.

Once I got to the race venue today I don't know what bee got in my bonnet or....er...um...helmet.... today, but I was a mental wreck when I saw the snow on the course. I totally freaked out. Seriously, I don't know why I was being so weird about it because it is plain and simple:
there was a race
it was snowing
there was ice on the course and
I had to race it

Pretty simple concept really so why was I FREAKING? Maybe I like my limbs and body very intact. Having an unscathed body is nice. Perhaps that was it.

Racing on ice is a bit unnerving hopefully for anyone so maybe I should give myself some credit here but good lord girl.....GET on your bike, ride it, race it and go home. Again a simple concept that I couldn't quite grasp.

Was it that I was still in the middle of wrapping up a 1000 things from my parents death now that I was back from our trip? Was it that I was inundated with things that aren't a normal part of ones life and I am learning how to cope with that? Was that it? Why was I not mentally ready for this race?!

I still don't know. All I know is that I had to accept the way I was feeling and deal with it the best way a so called pro knows how to.......hmmmm, yeah. I felt like I reverted back to when I first started racing and everything was scary to me because it was all so new. What the??

I wanted to leave. That is how I was feeling. I almost did but every last bit of me fought off that urge. My concern at this point was if I am not mentally in a good spot to be here and racing, then should I be? Am I putting myself even more in harms way by starting a race that I was skeptical of starting? Oh good lord! But if I left, what would that teach me? For me on that day, no good could come from leaving.

What a freaking struggle!! Well, struggle = my life this year so why stop fighting with my life now??? It is December after all which means that I have been dealing with crap happening with my parents for a full year now.

I am staying and I am starting dang it!!!!!!!!!!

I don't run away from things and I am not about to start now!! Plus, what doesn't kill me will make me stronger right?

So I started the race.

I conveniently (NOT!) started on the 2nd or 3rd row back. I think that was my subconscious ringing in on my hesitation of racing on the snowy and icy course.

And once the gun went off, I took forever and a day to get to the front of the group. Again, all hesitation. I was fighting with everything I had mentally (because you can't go that hard on snow and ice) to get to the front. Why was this so difficult I would ask myself. Just trust the bike - trust yourself!

Bam!! I eat crap on a icy corner. Land on my head facing backwards on course as everyone that I had just danced around to pass closes the gap again. I get back up completely fine and continue to daintily jockey my bike around the course, tip toeing through the corners and punching it on the straight aways. I needed to get to the front!!

But some of those straightaways has consequences. You hit the deck and slide and you are sliding off the path and down a ravine in some spots. Yeah, doesn't sound fun to me either but you had to punch it where you could otherwise you never would!

Still thinking far too much here in this pic. Just be, just DO!

I started taking more chances and gained confidence on the snowy course. I start to remind myself that I am not a complete tool and I do know what I am doing (how quickly we forget!).

Then swoosh I go WAY off the course and into the trees. So much for taking THAT chance. Whoops! I was ok, just had to go chase everyone down again.

I finally get to the front where Sara Kaufmann is having the race of her life leading the thing.

What it came down to in the end? Who made the least mistakes. And I guess that was me although I felt like a walking mistake from the moment I got to the venue.

What a weird day mentally. And physically too because you can't actually race at your race pace on this stuff- maybe in certain sections yes, but otherwise you had to be careful!

I am going to try and take away a positive thing from today which was that I did not give into my fear and it worked out.

What did I learn? That I can do it and that pushing through your fears can be a good thing!

And I got in some GREAT practice today too. Having to pass a lot of girls today will definitely be good for next weekend in Bend, OR at cross nationals. There I will start in 60th position (about 6 rows back) out of 90 plus women since I have no points and will need as many mad passing skills as I can get.

I heard it is snowy up there too. Am I scared?

Not now!