Its been a while since i’ve had the urge to share my racing story on our site. Mostly i either had too much to say or was left without words and had nothing to say. If you follow me on Facebook, you know this season has been a bit of a struggle. Starting with pneumonia and stumbling through races while cursing my body for not cooperating. This is the story of my change, and i am hoping that by writing this that others who are struggling can benefit and come to see the light as i do now.
First, i want to share one of my greater joys of the season, helping and encouraging others. Do yourself a favor and discover someone else. Encourage them, support them, take pride in their success. I promise you this will take your mind off your own narcissistic racing mentality. We all have it if we race, we want the best for our own races. But that person that’s coming up in the ranks behind you, that is now sometimes beating you, needs your support and doesn’t need to feel shunned just because they are doing their own best. Find pleasure and success in others special skills and uniqueness. Tell them, that you recognize it, and feel good that you are spreading some love. Watch them smile and know you had part in making that happen. Take the time to show a rider “the lines” on the course and check their tire pressure to make sure they are on track. Share some of your secrets, you have to pass the knowledge down to someone….it would be a shame to have it lost. Race like hell when you are racing but stop to congratulate the person that just kicked your ass and made you suffer to new levels. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself in a race and maybe tell someone good job as they go whizzing by you. There is greater power and joy in lifting someone else up rather than just yourself all the time. Ask yourself if you’ve made a difference even if small in someone else’s life each day on the track. I promise you, you will walk away satisfied no matter your own race result. I have become more passionate about the success of others especially women on the circuit. I want to see all the struggles i have had eliminated for others. I want to make a difference, this outside of my own racing is my passion. This, has eliminated a lot of pressure in my own racing and brought new joy to my CX story.
Racing with friends at Pan Am Champs. Photo Michael Robson
All this being said, i still needed to figure out my body and myself. I have cursed age, wondered about strange immune system issues, battled my asthma, and continued to train as i have in the past. Mentally, its been hard to push, maybe some of the fire had gone, maybe the body told the mind no, who knows. Until one day my good friend, hair client, and fellow cyclist and coach Michelle Grainger walked in for a hair appointment (yes, I’m a hairstylist also). She said she had seen my heartfelt Facebook post and believed i wasn’t done and that i just had to make some big changes, changes that she was sure i would be very uncomfortable with. She asked me what i had to loose, and i thought well the way its going now, nothing. So we decided we would trade services, i would make her hair look beautiful and she would help to make my body and mind feel beautiful again.
The first week was a struggle as i literally only rode 30 minutes a day, easy. Are you kidding me, i thought. It takes me just as long to get ready for my ride as it does to complete it. Once warm, i would then turn around and go home….what a waste. But mentally, i do have to say it was a relief not to have to push myself as i had exerted all mental strength over the race weekend already. I was a better mom, girlfriend, the house was cleaner and i had space in my life. The next week i would have some efforts but my ride time would be cut by a quarter or even half of what i was used to doing. Hours were way down. This also worried me as i felt i had time to make up for as i didn’t really ride much because of my preseason sickness. Of course, everyone had suggestions, train more, train less, more intervals, eat more meat, you name it the list went on. But i put trust in Michelle and only listened to her. First thing i noticed was mentally i had strength again. I wasn’t tapping it out during the week so in turn had some to give on the weekend. Its coming up on 4 weeks training with Michelle, she has been by my side, checking in, giving positive affirmations, breathing exercises, in depth conversations, and general positive support. She has taught me that i am a race horse and as an older racer i should find strength in my years and use those to my advantage. She says many older racers are afraid to even let others know how very little they have to train to get results. Basically, she believes in me, something everyone needs.
Slowly the pieces are coming together, i feel full. Getting satisfaction out of helping others, and now being to race and push myself again to be my own personal best. I may not ever be what i was years ago but all i expect is to be able to push to my fullest and feel like I’m actually in the race and able to contribute.
As far as the racing goes, two weekends ago in Cinci for the Pan American Championships i found my CX love again. It was one of the best courses i have ever raced and i enjoyed every minute of it. I honestly didn’t even care where i placed as long as i rode well. Time on the course was good enough for me as i was having a blast again, finally. I have gotten very tired and bored with the grass crits that seem to be dominating the scene these days. This course was all about why i had fallen in love with cx in the first place. I finished 9th that day, but to me i had finally finished first. My first feel good of the season.
Last weekend was The Derby Cup in Louisville Kentucky and the venue holds a special place for me as it was my first big travel race when i started racing cross at an elite level. I also love the people, atmosphere and the track has just gotten better and better. The week between Cinci and Louisville i felt terrible, i could barely train and had a small asthma attack during a training ride. I was nervous, what the hell was my body doing? Michelle assured me, that Sunday had been good at Pan Am, and so she was sure i would pull through and Louisville would be a success. The first day, the C1 would be at night. My usual good start and i would sit in 3rd for a while, actually feeling good and wondering when my body would give up on me, as i was becoming accustomed to. This time it lasted longer, i would fade in the last two laps but had held on long enough to manage a 7th place finish. My best C1 finish of the season. I was happy, i was coming back to life.
My Focus is back
The next day was beautiful and sunny and i would choose dramatically different tires from the day before and go with file treads (Clement LAS). I felt confident enough that they would stick but would add a little bit of speed needed in straight sections and sand. My start was horrible, i missed my pedal and then pulled out of my pedals on next stroke. I would have to lay it down hard to regain position. I hung on the outsides of corners and passed the inside bunching pack. i would sit 3rd again. Katerina Nash and Rachel Llyod sat in front of me and at the end of the second lap i bobbled on a steep uphill to the road and would get dropped by the two. I then continued to get passed and then pass back others….something new for me as mostly this year if i was passed that was it, i was passed. Now i had the power to fight back, YES! The last two laps Courtenay McFadden and i would work together to catch Arely, the 4th place rider, and the 3 of us then worked as a group together, inching up on 3rd place rider Caroline Mani. Half a lap to go and Courtenay and i would drop Arely. On one of the last grass straights Courtenay gave it all she had and pulled us only seconds away from Mani. Courtenay then yelled for me to go and catch her….she had done her best for me and given me an opportunity, selflessly, to catch Mani. She was in my sites, i urged my body to give all it had. I could hear Courtenay behind me yelling to “go” and i would yell back “I’m trying”. The last hill and then the straight to the finish, it was so close but not close enough, i would bobble again on the steep hill and miss the opportunity to give it a go on the road for 3rd. I would have to settle with 4th, but was ecstatic that i had finally had it in me to fight and give it something in the last lap. I was back!!! Later i would look at lap times and discover my last lap was my fastest, something that i have not even come close to all year. Success even without the podium.
The best part was reliving the acton with fellow friends and competitors, thanking Courtenay and Arely for making it fun, talking with Emily Kachorek and discovering we had all passed each other on the course the last lap in opposite lanes and that she wanted to cheer for us but remembered she should maybe stick to her race since it was last lap. Katerina had won in her current fashion and Rachel Lloyd had a great race and ended 2nd only 15 seconds behind.
A little postface fun with friends who love to play in the mud together. Photo Dave McElwaine
I am hoping that this positive streak will continue. I will miss Jingle Cross this weekend as i will stay home and take care of my children. I am not jealous of the freezing temps that everyone will have to race in. This week is frigid and snowy at home and many rides will take place on the trainer, something I’m ok with for now. My next race will be in sunny Los Angeles California. I’m looking forward to working with fellow cx enthusiast and hardworking promoter Dorthy Wong and racing with up and comer, California Champion, SDG/SPY athlete Amanda Nauman. I will skip the Christmas European races for the fist time in a while and will find joy in being able to spend this Christmas with my children, after all this age of innocence with them is brief.
Once again, thank you all for the support and ongoing encouragement. Please support those who support me as i choose each out of their ability to show strong integrity and same ideals as i expect from myself. Until next time…….
The SRAM CX family unites at Zipp in Indianapolis after Cinci3 races.