Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Season Recap

Who would've thunk that I was going to go from being sick as heck in January for a month while mourning the loss of my parents to standing on this the podium at US Cyclocross Nationals in December?

I have always believed in myself but after such a turbulent 09, I wasn't sure what 2010 was going to bring wise or fitness wise.

But all that said, I have wanted the podium at cross nats for a long time. The hunger started when I came super close in my first big season of racing cross in 2007 at the snowy, ice rutted Kansas City Nationals when I was knocking at the door to the podium with 1.5 laps to go and then promptly put an end to that with a slashed sidewall. I have never felt disappointment like that. To be so close to seeing a dream becoming a reality and then was all over in a blink of an eye.

In 2008 I had the fitness but not the mind. After having a great cross season I was dealing with what was the start of super sick parents right before nats. I placed 12th that day but wasn't expecting much from myself do to life circumstances which of course was part of the problem (not expecting much).

And last year of course, I showed up for the US Nats race in Bend 5 weeks after dad passed and that would be the only UCI race I would contest that season. I had no points, started 67th or something and made my way up to 21st by the end. But that is the race when I got hungry again. I could feel it. I knew I could do it and most importantly I knew I wanted to race full time again!

The immediate trauma of losing my parents was over by then although the wounds were still wide open and would take almost a solid year to really heal up. And guess when that year mark was? You guessed it, at the beginning of the Cyclocross in Sept.

I have never felt like myself (and beyond really) until this year in cross once the wounds had a chance to mend. I never knew what it was like to race at this level without having ill parents to worry about. Dad was sick when I was just starting to show my face in the Top 5 at big XC races in 07 and I worried about him and mom all the time. The worry started to wear on me especially in 2009 when both mom and dad took a big turn for the worse.

When my parents passed last year during the cross season, it was 2 of the saddest moments in my life so far. But I was happy for mom that she found her rightful place, a place she wanted to go and I was happy that dad was no longer suffering silently. I was also oddly happy for myself, that I too was now able to move on since they had already done so themselves. Now it was my turn to move forward knowing full well that it was going to be a long road.

And it was.

But now here I am. Healed, happy, doing what I love and dare I say doing it well.

I have never felt like this EVER on the bike. Even in the days that I started getting on the podium at NORBA's in Cross Country, I never felt like I do everytime I ride or turn myself inside out racing. I look forward to whatever the training is that day, easy or difficult and to just be on the bike is more fullfilling that it ever has been. I am happy and I am loving every single second of what I am doing, even on the bad days. I don't just love the training and racing part either. I enjoy the whole thing: the travel, the people, the experiences- everything. Even packing! And that says a whole lot because if anyone knows me they know that packing is my least favorite thing to do.

I have been set free from my emotions and from my life that has drug me down with it these past few years.

Looking back on it I was merely floating along, just getting through, dealing with the most important part, my parents and their health while trying to race.

They are now both gone bless their hearts and I am pursuing the dream that has been in me all this time to pursue: To race, be successful in my mind and to enjoy it!

I am now doing that and every fiber in me tells me that this is why I am standing on that podium in that picture. I love what I do and I am willing to take risks to get there.

No, I did not win, I came in 4th but to me that is my win. It is something I wasn't expecting until I got further into the season and saw just what I was capable of physically and how strong I now was emotionally. Nothing for me has ever been as hard as losing both parents in 8 weeks time and it has made normal life seem like a breeze now. It has made racing and the pain associated with digging deep bearable.

The pain I went through last year was excruciating and it lasted a long time, not just a few hours like a cross country race or 40min like a cross race. The pain was all day and all night as I worried and cried most days. Now the pain is simply a 40 minute race? I will take it! I think I can give 40 min of crushing myself pretty easily after years of mental pain.......its all tied in. I think that is what the difference is now.

I am a changed person from that experience. I see things completely differently now. I see other people completely differently. I see life different. I see people's actions differently. I forgive easier, I am not as quick to make judgements. Its all for the better and I have come out on top of a hugely awful experience somehow. I don't know how it morphed into a positive experience but maybe that is what you do when you are so low and you are an athlete that plays mind games with yourself all the time in racing, training......and in life. Maybe that translated into life and making a good thing out of the bad. Whatever it was and however it went, it worked and I stand on that podium with probably the biggest proudest smile that I could ever have.

Happy with 4th place, not sad that I didn't get third. Happy with 4th. Sure the athlete in me asks what I could have done to get third but there is a time and place for everything and this whole season has been a process for me of learning the courses again, learning who the girls are again, learning what I am capable of, what my and their strengths and weakness are and most importantly learning who I am again as a different racer and person.

What a year!!! I am certainly hoping it's not over as I have put my bid in for the Cyclocross Worlds Team and have been training my butt off ever since Nationals. We will know tomorrow who made the team.

But seriously, I am just simply happy to be in the running for a spot. I couldn't ask for more right now really. I am just..........plain happy!

Obviously I would be honored to go to Germany at the end of January. If it's meant to be it'll be and if not, there is a reason for that too. If it's not meant to be I will simply look to new goals for the mountain bike season ahead with my new team (more to come on that).

Cross your fingers....or don't....because whatever is supposed to happen WILL.