Friday, December 31, 2010

Staying Focused

Most of my quality thinking happens on the bike. It's often a big chunk of my day and I look forward to that time. Something about being on a bike, often alone, on a quiet road gives you the opportunity to just be alone with your thoughts.

I've been in Chicago for the past week visiting family. While it's has been a lot of fun catching up with people training has not. Partly because I'm a cold weather sissy and partly because the roads are icy and not totally clear (for my liking anyway), I've been spending some quality time on the rollers.

My teammate Sam is actually the expert in this area, but I'm going to go ahead and discuss it anyway. Riding rollers is tough. It's tough to get focused and stay focused while you're going nowhere. The feeling of being a gerbil on a wheel is definitely present- riding your bike, staring at a wall, or a TV, listening to your iPod and not covering any actual ground. Time slows to a crawl and you notice everything- the seam of your sock is twisted, your chamois cream is cold, bar tape isn't perfectly wrapped anymore. All these things seem to have neon signs drawing attention to the "problem" that needs to be fixed. Outside on the road, these things all go unnoticed.

I have two tricks that help me get through roller rides, and they're actually contradictory. First, turn your brain off. Get into a Zen-like mental state where you sort of turn your brain off and just ride. You're not aware of anything, yet completely self aware- you don't want to fall off the rollers- during your ride. The rhythm of your cadence, heartbeat and breathing all help to get into groove. Soon enough, you're done!

The second, is to think about everything! It's like going on an adventure in your head- Yes, that can be scary at times- but just start in one place and, like a conversation, follow the path. Don't force anything. Think about wherever your mind takes you. This method is how I get to thinking about outer space, the confines of space, how many other planets have life and why haven't we made contact with them, who are the people in my life that I should get back in contact with, what my grandmother is doing this weekend and so on. Everything leads to something else, and you may find that you get quite a bit of good, quality thinking done in that time.

Like riding your bike, it takes training to get to the point where you can either turn your brain off, or turn it on warp speed. If you're like most Americans, you'll probably have the weather for lots of quality roller time this winter. Stick it out, it'll pay off in the spring when you're out on the road and killing it. Happy riding!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Resolution?

Starting today- it's technically Wednesday already- I'm going to update this blog three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Call it a resolution, a goal, or just being more responsible with thing, but regardless of what you call it, I'm going to do this. As of today, Mondays will be a training recap, "Wildcard Wednesdays" will be a bit of everything and Fridays will be a bit of everything, but mainly pertaining to life as an athlete. I didn't like any of the clever names beginning with an F so it's just Friday for now. The two ideas that were shot down were "Friday Fun Day" and "Frisky Friday".

Name suggestions are welcome and encouraged, as are topics for entries and any questions you may have.

Here's a little update: I'm back in Chicago for a little visit with the fam. Nadia came out to Colorado Springs for a day to see the city, then drive back with me. In the day she was there, she saw everything the COS has to offer. Admittedly, it's not much at all, and we didn't feel like we missed out on anything at all. The drive in was uneventful which is good, I suppose, when you're driving 1100 miles in one go. There was some pretty impressive freezing fog between the Springs and Denver. The grasses and trees looked like they'd been coated with a perfect amount of frost. Or sprayed with a fire extinguisher. One or the other.

We celebrated Christmas with the whole family- aunts, uncles, Nanee- my grandmother, and the kids. We took our Christmas card photo on Christmas which will be sent out for the New Year. (Timing isn't exactly our strong suit.) We actually look pretty good if I do say so myself.

Because it's quite cold and very snowy outside, I've been riding the rollers inside while watching movies. It's a bummer to ride inside, but it's better than freezing my little toes off. And now, I can catch up on my movie watching. Speaking of which, Nadia and I went to the theatre yesterday to see The King's Speech. I highly recommend it! Colin Firth is fantastic, and Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush also play terrific roles. Go see it.

That's all for now. Check back on Friday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Biggest Fear

I know I don’t know all of you that well, and maybe we’re not at the point in our friendship where we voice our hopes and fears, but I’m going to anyway. I’ll start with one of my biggest fears- breaking or losing my teeth. I’m not scared of snakes or spiders, although I found a spider in my bed once and didn’t like that very much, but the fear of damaging my teeth is very, very real.

As a child, my baby teeth fell out as expected but instead of nice, Chiclet shaped adult teeth growing into a movie star smile, the teeth that grew in were… less than beautiful. In actuality, I had a bunch of crooked, gapped teeth that didn’t quite fit in my mouth. An eighteen-wheeler could have driven between my front teeth. Because of this horrific situation, I was sent to the orthodontist for some work. They did everything from expanding my skull to make room for all my teeth and tongue to fit in my mouth at the same time- I’m very happy that my tongue doesn’t hang out of my mouth like a dog’s- to the traditional braces and retainers. This went on for six years. Yes, six years of my life were spent with some type of orthodontic apparatus glued to my teeth. These six years spanned the 3rd to 8th grades.

Because I spent six years of my life with braces, I’ve grown to value dental hygiene and health. I brush and use mouthwash everyday and even floss sometimes. That's right, floss. This devotion to dental hygiene is based in fear. I’m terrified that by not brushing my teeth, they will rot and fall out of my face and I would look like a white trash hillbilly. Not even my Colbert sweater could make up for a missing tooth and it’s the most pretentious piece of clothing I own.

Because I’m in control of my dental hygiene, it is the lesser of this two-part fear. More importantly, I’m afraid of breaking or knocking out a tooth- or, Chicken forbid, teeth. Playing soccer for 12 years, I took my fair share of hits to the face, and the fear was nearly crippling. Cycling, I fear that I’ll break teeth in a crash and it’s usually the first thing I check when I hit the ground. Again, this is mainly because I don’t want to look like a hillbilly.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “This Greta sure is vain.” Well, maybe I am, but I really, really care about my teeth. Part of this fear is the part where the teeth actually break. While I’m sure this is quite painful, it’s a minimal component of my fear. Mainly, I’m terrified of the aftermath. Having broken/missing teeth and holes in my smile is not something I want to experience. I’m far too young for dentures or caps, and putting my teeth in a jar at night is simply not an option. Given the choice however, I would choose a fake tooth over a dead, grey tooth still attached.

I’d really hate for my six years of orthodontic torture to go to waste because of a silly thing like a bike crash, or tooth rot. My parents made quite the financial investment in this smile of mine, and I invested hours of stress and dental pain- a far greater cost than any amount of money if you ask me- and it just doesn’t seem right to have to fix it again. Because losing my teeth is a constant threat, it only adds to my fear which I worry it may have reached an irrational level. I will continue to live in constant fear of losing my teeth, but I assure you, I’m doing everything in my power keep all of them intact.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

I could write an entire book about all the things I'm thankful for, but you probably don't want to read all that right now. Here just are a few:

- The best friend you could ever imagine
- People that love me and I love in return (and finally realizing that!)
- The opportunities I have been given throughout my life
- The life experiences- good and bad- that have helped shape who I am, and what I value

Everyone has something to be thankful for, sometimes it's just a matter of realizing what it is. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Today is going to be a good day- I can feel it. Happy Wednesday. That is all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

2011 Season

I'm excited to announce that I'll be racing with Peanut Butter & Co. Team Twenty12 for the 2011 season!

Read more about it here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Louis Zamperini Story










The Most Interesting Man on the Planet

On Friday I heard the most interesting man on the planet speak. And no, it wasn’t that Dos Equis guy. Louis Zamperini came to the OTC to speak 70 athletes about perseverance, and to share his life’s story. If you’ve never heard of him, you’re not the only one, but he is truly an incredible person and deserving of much more recognition than he gets.

At 93 years old, Louis flew to Colorado Springs to speak at the OTC's annual Reach the Peak event. He probably weighs 90 pounds soaking wet, but he more than makes up for his small stature with a larger than life... life. He started running in high school, and at just 19 made the Olympic team. He competed in Berlin in Hitler's Olympics in 1936, and despite not winning a medal, he was congratulated by Hitler himself for his finishing kick in the 5000m. He also stole a Nazi flag, and talked his way out of trouble with the gestapo.

After the war is when his life really got interesting. His plane crashed during a WWII rescue mission in the south Pacific. He spent 47 days on a raft with the other two survivors (one died after 33 days on the raft). They fought off Great White sharks (he told us nonchalantly that if you're ever face to face with a Great White, just put your hand on its nose and it'll calm down and leave you alone) and evaded death by Japanese planes shooting at them. He decided to jump in the water and take his chances with a few sharks than face certain death from a bullet. After drifting over 2000 miles, he washed up on shore of the Marshall Islands and was soon taken prisoner by the Japanese and transferred to "Execution Island." He was a guinea pig for their medical experiments, was threatened with death every day (the nine previous captives on the island had all been beheaded) and kept in a tiny cell. He was transferred to a POW camp in Japan where he was help for two years. Merciless beatings and forced labor were the day-to-day in Louis's life for two years. 

He was freed after the war ended and jumped straight back into real life. He married a smoking hot girl soon after returning home but fell into a bottle and suffered from night terrors until he found religion. Now, this is where I am really amazed by Louis's character. He was beaten, tortured, experimented on, and faced with atrocities I don't want to imagine everyday for two years, and was able to forgive his captors for it. He went to Japan on a religious trip and met with some of his guards (they were in prison) and he was able to forgive every single one, including the worst one. 

I’m not a vengeful person, but if I went through what he did I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be as quick to forgive. I don’t think I’d want to kill them, but I at least wouldn’t want to go visit them, or probably forgive them for what they’d done. And I understand that orders are orders, but in that case I feel it’d be okay to stay angry for a while.

He then went on to talk about how the lessons he’s learned from the Olympics and his war experience has impacted his life. Everything he said about living life was so simple and made so much sense. For instance, just don’t think about negative things. You can only focus on one thing, so why not make it a good thing? By eliminating stress, he’s been able to live a healthy, happy life and at 93, he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down at all. He talked about having hope and faith, the difference between them and how without them, he wouldn’t have made it off the raft. It was really amazing to hear his story, and at the same time frustrating that I’d never heard of him before! How can a person who’s persevered through so much be an unknown? He wrote an autobiography that I just started reading, and there is another book about him coming out next month (Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Seabiscuit is writing it).

I definitely recommend watching his video (I’ll post the links for it it) and looking into his life. You know you’ve lived an amazing life when being an Olympian is an afterthought.




Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Walking is Hard Work


As an endurance athlete, I’ve been taught “don’t stand if you can sit and don’t sit if you can lay down” when I’m off the bike. This may sound extraordinarily lazy to some, and it may sound like heaven to some of you. Well, it’s usually a motto I live by except in the off-season. The fall is often the time for us to play around, have fun off the bike, and try doing other activities. One activity that’s easily accessible here is hiking.

All hiking is, is walking in nature. In theory it’s simple- you put on some shoes and just start walking. Well, that’s about where the simplicity ends and the mountains begin. Walking is hard work! Really, it’s tough. Here in the Rockies, chances are you’re either going up or going down. After hiking for nearly five hours in the mountains one day last week, I have a new found respect for people that hike seriously, and the pioneers when they came through here.

Our hike started at 8000 feet, and our destination was at 10000 feet. Armed with plenty of water and a camera, we set of up the mountain. Let me tell you, it was gorgeous! There were so many little plants that I’d never seen before, the leaves were changing colors, we identified different types of pine trees, crossed streams, saw bear scratches on trees, and heard stories from one man about how he’d chased a bear through some of the same trails. Why you would chase a bear is beyond me, but it was cool to hear him tell the story. Now, for those of you from sea level, you may have noticed this thing called “altitude” here in Colorado. Even as a trained athlete, it’s hard to breathe at 10000 feet.



After a few hours of climbing we reached the top. Oh my chicken, it was gorgeous! The aspen were beginning to change color and the brilliant gold against the bright blue sky is something I’ll remember for a long time. I took a bunch of photos at the top primarily of a dead, uprooted tree with a rock in its roots. I like dead trees, uprooted trees, and quirky things like rocks that get stuck in trees. When the three came together, I took it as a sign and went crazy with the photos (see album on right). We found pieces of quartz, amazonite, and lots of cool pieces of dead wood.

Unlike on the bike, walking uphill is much easier than walking downhill. There was not a single moment on the descent when I thought it was easier than the ascent. It is very clear how easy it is to get hurt on the descent when you’re tired to begin with coupled with harder work than the first half of the trip. Each time we stopped, my legs were shaking from walking down such steep sections of trail and working to maintain footing on loose soil. After getting back to the OTC, I was exhausted! It felt like I’d ridden for 5 hours, not walked! I was so happy with the day though that it didn’t matter how tired I was. A new activity was conquered, stories were shared, photos were taken, and now I have a tiny crystal too.

If you’re looking for a fun, challenging activity, consider hiking. It’s a great opportunity to see the area from a different perspective and take in some of the beauty of nature. Seriously, if you don’t believe how hard walking can be, try it in nature.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Quirky Hobby

If you haven’t picked up by now that I’m quirky (“odd” and "weird" have a negative connotations), this should settle it for you. I love going to cemeteries. Wait, don’t leave, just give me a minute and hear me out. I don’t go with pouches of fish scales, eyes of newts or crystals I go with reverence and curiosity.

Death, and what happens after death, is interesting to me. Is there a heaven and hell? I don’t know. Are people reincarnated? I don’t think so. I struggle to believe in god- although it would be kind of nice sometimes. Where does a soul go, if it goes anywhere at all? What I do know is that everyone makes a difference in someone else’s life. The saying “To the world you are one person, but to one person you are the world” is a bit too lovey-dovey for me, but there is something to take away from that. Everyone is loved at one point or another in their lives, hopefully for all of it, and hopefully it continues on after they die too.

I joke about not liking people, ok about hating people, but it’s because I don’t understand why they do the things they do sometimes. I really do like people, I like learning their story and what makes them who they are. Listening is important to me, and I think it’s something I’m able to do fairly well. Too few people really listen to anyone anymore- it’s almost like a lost art.

When I go to a cemetery, I want to learn about the people there. Since they don’t do much talking, I have to take the reins. I ask questions and do a lot of speculating. How did they die? How old were they? What were their hobbies? If they’re buried with a family, I wonder about the family too- parents, children, siblings. Did they have pets? What was their favorite book? What did they do, or want to be when they grew up? These and hundreds of other thoughts all run through my head when I’m there. I wish I could listen to them, and hear their stories.  When I leave, it’s with a sense of wonder and respect for the person regardless of if they died a hundred years ago, or three months ago.

A friend told me that people die three deaths- one when they actually die, one when they’re buried, and finally the last time anyone thinks of them. So, in a way, going to the headstones of people I’ve never met and have no connection to is keeping them alive. I love life, and I want everyone to enjoy theirs as much as I do.

Another element of cemeteries that I love is the serenity. There are no children running around you screaming, very few cars, and hardly any distractions. It’s quiet. It’s amazing how a cemetery can be right on or near a busy road, and once you’re inside the gates it’s quiet. There’s an invisible sound barrier surrounding the grounds that lets you be with your thoughts.

Despite death, more often than not, there’s a sense of new life. Fresh flowers are placed on headstones, trees are growing, and people are visiting their loved ones. It’s hopeful in a way. When you see death, you appreciate life more. You can understand how fragile and precious it really is. Visiting other people in the cemetery makes me think about their lives and how great of people they probably were.

Each time I go to a cemetery, I leave with mixed feelings. I feel big knowing that my life can impact people, yet small knowing how short life can be and how delicate it is. Life is exquisite! Enjoy it while you have it, and respect those who have lived their lives by remembering- or theorizing- the life they lived.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Road Worlds

World Championships is the keystone event of an athlete’s season. For cyclists, it’s two days of racing, two events, two chances to show the world how good you are. Think of it as the final presentation after a semester long project. The work is all done, you’ve completed every assignment and now all that’s left is to tell people what you know. It sounds simple, and in essence it is. As the athlete, all you have to do is show up and do what you know best.

2010 has been a long, busy and hard season for me. Racing started in February and it’s been full on since then. Physically it’s been difficult and mentally even more so. I’ve never been as dedicated to my training as I was this year. I trained harder, raced more, and didn’t do any outside activities in the thought that it would detract from my training.

As best as I can remember, it was after competing for six days straight that I cracked. Like a house of cards, everything just came crashing down. Something small (I don’t even know what it was) made me crack. I was mentally shattered and over it. I wanted to go home, sleep in my bed, and not even look at a bike. Luckily, this was perfectly timed in the middle of the season… or the worst timing imaginable. I went right into track camp, nationals, prep camp for Worlds, and finally World Championships.

By the time we got to Canada my legs were just flat. When you’re ready to go you feel sharp, ready to race and on top of the world. I didn’t feel that. I was excited to finally be at Worlds because, in my mind, the whole season came down to this event, but I just felt tired.

Photo: Barney Storey
One of the events that I focus on is the time trial (TT). It’s you against the clock, no excuses, you just ride your heart out. I gave everything I had that day which was enough for 3rd. I’m absolutely stoked to have a medal, but am disappointed in myself, because I know that I’m capable of much better.


After a full day of rest, and trying to regroup mentally, we had the road race. It was a race of attrition, with five trips up one of the biggest climbs to be in a Paracycling race. I’m not a climber, but on a good day, I can at least hang with the group on most roads. This was not the case. As soon I started out of the gate, I knew it was going to be an exercise in mental toughness. I went from racing to win, to just managing my time loss. The first lap was okay, I got gapped a bit over the top of the climb, but was able to catch back on on the descent. The second lap was not as successful. From there, it was myself along with a teammate chasing the leaders for third place. I did everything I could to help my teammate out. She’s a better climber, the course suited her more than me, and she had the legs that day. I did what I could to close the gap between us and the leaders then she had to go on alone. I was done and had nothing more.

The rest of the race was definitely a test. It was awful to get “The pity clap” coming through town. When you’re racing and are going at it alone, you better hope to be off the front; anywhere else is pretty miserable.

After finally finishing, I just wanted to leave. I went back to the hotel, showered, and ate dinner. I’m not a crier, I’ve never cried after a race, but I was so upset with myself that I couldn’t help it. I knew I was capable of racing better, I knew that I was capable of helping my teammate more and that if I’d been there to help her more, she could’ve placed better than 3rd. I knew that I was capable of being there at the end but I wasn’t. It felt like I’d failed myself, and my teammates. People have assured me that I didn’t let anyone down, and that may be true, but I feel that I let myself down. I’ve always been my harshest critic, but I think it’s what keeps me going. I’m never satisfied, and always striving to do more and be better. If I had won with those rides, it would be a very hollow victory because I know I can do better.

Worlds this year was disappointing. I went in and did what I do, but not as well as I know I can. After some time off and a chance to mentally regroup, I know I’ll be back firing on all cylinders. 2011 will be better than 2010, and I know what to do differently. Anyone up for a winter ski trip?

Photo: Anthony Zahn
"I have a bell and I'm going to use it!"
After being such a downer in this blog I have to say that there were definitely positives to the trip. It should be known that Baie-Comeau did a fantastic job with the event. The crowds were phenomenal and there were more spectators than any other paracycling event. The people of Baie-Comeau are also some of the nicest I’ve come across. I’m excited to go back next year for a World Cup.

I also want to thank my teammates, and say that I was blown away by their support. It was amazing to be surrounded by such caring individuals who gave me  everything from a shoulder to cry on, words of encouragement, and company while throwing rocks. Being part of this team has been a terrific experience. Watching a group of individuals come together as a cohesive unit, be supportive of each other, and extremely successful is something not many people get to experience. This year we were able to top the medal count for the event winning 14 total medals: six titles, three silvers, and five bronze medals. Here’s to Track Worlds, wherever they may be, and knowing things will only get better. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Savelli's

Last night (See, I'm getting back on this blogging thing!) we went to Savelli's in Manitou Springs. We've hit just about every place in downtown COS, so we decided to branch out a bit. Our first choice was closed which forced us into the hills. We headed west without a real plan, but once we saw Savelli's we knew we needed to stop. Stacy and I drove past this place the other night and there was some type of bust going on in the parking lot. I'd like to think it was something exciting like drug running or human trafficking, you know, a good reason to get arrested.


It's a fairly small restaurant, so we were all relieved when we were seated on the half opposite the kids. I ordered a hot sandwich that was very good, and others ordered a pizza, salad, and chicken balls. Everything was tasty. For the ranch lovers out there, there was probably half a bottle that came with the chicken. Everyone knows that foods like that are just carriers for the ranch dressing. At about $10, it's nicely priced for a quick bite to eat or those on a budget.


Unfortunately (or I suppose fortunately) there was no bust while we were there. It would've been nice to go along with the conversation from the table behind us. They were talking about how someone had to get married because their mother-in-law had already made the dress. Quite entertaining.


Anyway, I give it a rating of Leather Bound Books (just below Fireworks).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Guidos and Arabica

No, I haven't started using ethnic slurs, they're the last two places we did ToCS at- Uncle Guido's and Arabica Cafe.


First, Uncle Guido's. We chose it simply based on it's name. It was everything and nothing I expected all at the same time. We walked in and were immediately greeted by a pool table. It took a few moments for anyone to realize we were even in there, then Pat (the only woman working in the whole place) came to greet us. She was beading in the back by the bar. They were also watching House on TV. We decided to stay and eat, and chose to sit on the patio. I was nearly blinding by the setting sun and Taj had to pop his collar to keep his neck from getting burned, but we survived. The menu consisted of a few hot sandwiches and a few cold sandwiches and salads. I got "The American" with ham, turkey, a bunch of rabbit food and of course, american cheese on a roll. It was actually quite good. But first, the service. 

Since Pat was the only person working it took a while to get our food. In fact, I went in to get a refill of our water pitcher and just ended up bringing our food out  myself. No, no, it wasn't a bad thing, it just added to the experience of Uncle Guido's. Pat was awesome, a lot of fun, and we found out what her work schedule is so we can go back and see her (Saturday-Monday). The food was basic, but the service, when it came, was fantastic, and the name is definitely good for points. I give it a Fireworks.


Next up- Arabica Cafe. I wish I could remember the name of what I ordered, but alas, I have the memory of a goldfish. It was chicken cooked in their specialty style. So, when you go, just ask what their specialty is and get it in chicken. It was pretty cheap and a good amount of food- the entree, rice, and I chose hummus as my side. The hummus was fantastic, but I should've gotten more pita to eat it with.


I thought the food was good, but the atmosphere was too fast-food-y for me. And there were kids there. Kids! I give the food a Fireworks and the atmosphere a gold star, so it balances out to either Rich Mahogany or Leather Bound Books (I can't keep the rating system straight.) It was good, but next time eat outside. Unless kids are around cause then you're SOL.


Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sh*t Happens


Two horrible things happened to me recently.

The first incident happened about a month ago. Aaron and I were finishing a training ride on a gorgeous day in June. We were riding through the CC campus looking at the hipsters riding their fixed gear bikes on the sidewalk, and the trees and whatever else there is to look at at CC. Then, disaster struck. Something almost as bad as an atomic bomb fell from the sky. It was bird poop and it landed on my leg.

When I realized that poop was on my leg, I could feel my heart rate and blood pressure increase almost instantly. In the span of 1.2 seconds the following thoughts ran through my head: “I’m going to die, a bird pooped on me. A BIRD!” “I can’t rinse it off with my water bottle, it will spread and get on the rest of my leg.” “Surely God is on vacation because something this horrible couldn’t happen on his watch.” and finally “I need leaves!” I acted on the last thought and before I knew it, I’d slammed on my breaks and turned hard across the road to get to the median, amazingly missing all the cars driving down Cascade. I leapt off my bike and grabbed a handful of leaves to get the filth off my leg. I can only imagine the horror (Or possibly amusement) of the onlookers as I was screaming and nearing a panic attack with every passing second. All in all, the bird poop was only on my leg for 30 seconds, but it felt like eternity.

The second horrible thing happened yesterday. On the way back from the Raven’s Nest, disaster struck again. This time, the attack came in the form of a mine. Someone didn’t pick up after their dog when it had left a steamer right on the sidewalk. Yes, I could’ve been paying closer attention, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is I came close to death. Again.

I felt something on the bottom of my shoe, looked at it and got weak in the knees. I began furiously scraping it off my shoe. There was a small stone wall and a patch of grass nearby that I was able to use for the majority of the cleaning. The cup of water I brought with me for the trek was also of use to get the remaining filth off my favorite shoes. My teammates were of no help, and found my reaction highly amusing. In the middle of this near anxiety attack, a garbage truck pulled up next to me. The man standing on the back looked over at me and said “Hmm, sh*t happens!” and they drove off. No love, none!

Of course, I was wearing my favorite shoes at the time, and now they’re ruined. After a recovery ice cream cone downtown and a pair of replacement shoes, I was doing much better. I’m not one to look for sympathy, but come on- two near death experiences in a month! 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lake Geneva Crit, SuperWeek


I'm not a crit racer. I come to SuperWeek because it's a weakness I'm trying to improve, and to gain some fitness by racing everyday. It seems this plan is the opposite of the other girls in my field. They're all crit racers and they're here because they've got crazy jumps, and are wily in a field sprint. Well, that's not me... at all. My training is pretty specific to the time trial, and SuperWeek is a bonus.

Finally after four days of trying unsuccessfully to win a race, and one day of what appeared to be a protest that I missed the memo about, it happened. The Lake Geneva crit is definitely one you should check out next year. It was a two corner course (the other two were cut off so they were just sweepers) and had the topography of a Pringle. The "climb" through the start/finish looked like more than it was, and the headwind on the back side was more of a factor than that "climb" was. 

Women's racing is too nice. Nobody wants to hurt themselves or other people, they just roll around and exchange cookie recipes most of the time. Nobody ever wants to sack up and take a pull because they'll get tired, or it's too hot, or they have a hangnail, I don't know. If you figure out why they do that, please let me know because I've been wondering for a long time. When I show up to a race, I want to finish with my tongue tangled in the spokes of my front wheel knowing I had some guts and did everything I could do. This usually means getting in a break, or off the front. After being off the front for half the race on Saturday, I've been marked like a bingo card.

The course in Lake Geneva suited my strengths pretty well, and the conditions played in my  favor too- warm and windy. After the atrocity of a "race" on Tuesday, someone put up $100 cash for the first person to lap the field in an effort to get the girls racing. I took my turns at the front, tried to go solo, tried to go with a few potential breaks only to be brought back. I even picked up some points towards the sprint jersey just for kicks. The winning move finally went with 12 laps to go (out of 50). A girl went early for the final sprint points at 10 to go. She got a pretty good gap quickly, but nobody wanted to step up and chase or go with, they were just going to let her go. I decided it was time to go, and accelerated hard in the saddle and was away. I was able to bridge to the girl quickly. She was struggling a bit and told her to just sit on and recover for a bit. I thought I could stay away solo for 12 laps, but just incase, I wanted to have another person with to share some of the work with. She was interested in the sprint points, I didn't care. I told her she could take them all while I worked to establish the gap. After the sprint points, she was gassed and I went on alone. Time to tape the flashlight to my hand and keep running into the pain cave. 9.5 laps to go. My coach was on the sidelines giving me splits each lap- 15 seconds, 20, 30, 35, 40, 50, 55, 1min, over a minute. On the last lap I could see the field going into turn three while I was on the straight away. I wanted to lap the field but couldn't quite do it- I needed one or two more laps. Now that I've had some time to decompress and reflect a bit, I'm still happy with the win, but angry I didn't catch the field.

It was great to finally get a win this week, and a win in an able bodied race is always really satisfying. A big thanks is in order to all of you for the support you give me and putting up with my race reports. Race with some guts people!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Coming Up

Since I only update this thing once a month now, I figure I can give you a heads up on what I won't be writing about any time soon.

ICC SuperWeek 7/7-16. Matt and I are leaving on Wednesday for the drive to Chicago for a week of crit racing. We race the 10-15 in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. Last year it was an amazing trip, and I'm certain this year will be just as good. We'll have a few other para athletes joining us once we're in Chicago, so it'll be a little race trip for a group of us.

Track Camp 7/16-26. Road nationals are over and done with so now it's time to shift focus to the track. We have prep camp here in the Springs, followed immediately by track nationals. Nationals will serve as the selection event for the World Championships to be held sometime later this year (It's still undecided at this point).

Road Worlds 8/13-23. Team USA will be heading up to America's Attic (Canada) in August to collect a bunch of medals. While there we'll time trial and road race. The town is Baie- Comeau, Quebec, Canada. Google it. It's tiny and way out there, but the photos I've seen are pretty and it's right on the water which I like.

Road Team Announced

Your 2010 Road World Championship team

Friday, July 2, 2010

2010 Road Nationals

Gypsy summer is officially under way! Last week was USA Cycling’s Road National Championships in Bend, Oregon. As is my style, my car was the chosen transportation method. This year, it was only an 18 hour drive instead of the 36 from Milwaukee last year. Taj and I loaded the car with six bikes, 16 wheels, three sets of rollers, duffel bags, helmets, a cooler and of course my iPod and hit the road.

Packed.


We arrived in Bend without incident, other than having to drive through the rest of Oregon, and moved into our rental house for the week. What’s better than 13 people and a baby staying in one house for a week? Throw in the fact that we were all competing against each other for spots on the Worlds team, and you’re getting close. Let me tell you, it wasn’t Sea World, that’s as real as it gets. For sanity, the deck was the “Mellow Zone” and was always in use. We should really have a reality show, the world would love it.

Since everyone in the house was a cyclist (the baby isn’t one yet) it meant lots of bikes. 24 bikes plus about 50 wheels and other miscellaneous equipment meant the dining room was converted to a crowded bike storage room with more bikes lining the front hallway and stacks of wheels against the couches and tables. For anyone other than a cyclist, I’m sure it seemed excessive, but was totally ordinary for us. Wait, you don’t have bikes in your living room? Huh, weird.

Racing started on Tuesday with a road race, a crit on Wednesday and the big show on Thursday. The time trial served as the selection event for World Championships, and the road race and crit were for bragging rights. The time trial course was simple: go out on a road and start climbing, then turn around in the road and come back downhill.

Race day itself was a relief. All the training was done, and it was time to just go ride. During warm up, I nearly fell off the rollers because I was dancing to my love, Lady GaGa. After avoiding near calamity, I finished my dance party in the grass and was ready to rock on the bike. I was the last single bike off for the girls and in my mind, meant I was responsible for catching all the girls in front of me. I almost met this goal, only missing the women’s tandem who I could see the entire second half of the course. It was extremely frustrating to have that carrot out there and not be able to catch it. Next year. The race was over and I was dry heaving in the grass before I knew it. Our coach calls that “An appropriate measure of an adequate effort.” It was a relief to finish the TT and be back at our base camp. The second half of the road season hinges on the time trial at Nationals and to be done with it is always satisfying. The athlete’s part is done, the rest is up to the staff in calculating times and placing. My dance party was enough to help me rock through the race, and ended up, finally on the top step of the podium. The joke of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride could finally stop. It took a long time, but the monkey is off my back.

Everyone rode extremely well in Bend. The strength of this year’s World Championship team will be hard to stop. It’s an honor to be part of such a strong team, and I’m looking forward to seeing more results for the team in the coming months. Before heading to America’s attic (aka Canada, you don’t know what great things are up there till you go) in August, the gypsy wagon will be rolling to the heartland for 10 more days of racing. While I didn’t contemplate washing my hair in a deli sink this trip, more adventures are in store for Gypsy Summer II. 




With Clark and Dave

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rasta Pasta- ToCS

Last Monday we went to Rasta Pasta on Tejon. I've wanted to try it for a while, partly because of their colorful sign, and it always smells really good when I ride past. I ordered the "Rasta Pasta" which had two chillies next to it on the menu. Holy shiz, it was good. And definitely had two chillies worth of kick to it.
The restaurant itself is pretty new, it used to be a wireless store, and it was converted in to a restaurant. It's totally open inside with a really nice mural on the back wall, and has a decent sized outdoor patio. We opted to eat inside since it was 95° outside, but it's always nice to have that option.
The atmosphere was good, the food was really good, and the prices were also good, especially for the amount of food. The also have different lunch and dinner prices which is definitely a plus.
My rating: Sunshine!
Part of the mural.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Emmett


Got a new car two weeks ago. I thought I should share a photo with all of you. It's a ton of fun, I really like it, and it'll be a great car for bikes.
Ali dubbed it "Emmett" but I've never named a car before, so I forget that it has a name... Good thing I'm not a parent.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Catch Up

Once again, I've been slacking on my blogging duties. We've done three more ToCS dinners. Here are the reviews. They're short because I can't remember all the clever things I was going to write three weeks ago. Sorry.


Slayton's BBQ
We went to the downtown location which apparently isn't like the original. It's "fancy." Not like steak house fancy, but BBQ fancy. You know, tables that aren't sticky, no paper towels on the table, and no bottles of extra sauce- BBQ Fancy. The food itself was good, I'd say Gold-Fireworks (between Gold Star and Fireworks) The atmosphere took away from the overall rating- slow service, the tables were really tight so we were right up against the other group in the restaurant. I'd say try the original before the downtown location.


Saigon Cafe
Vietnamese Food. Good, light, summer time food. Service was good too, nice atmosphere. Fireworks.


Everest Nepal Restaurant
Sunshine!
Nepalese and Indian food. The waiter told us we were crazy for all trying to order Chicken Curry. He told us what we should order instead, and it was all super tasty. Chicken Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala and a chicken kabab. (The name escapes me right now.) Ali and I also got Mango Lassi which is sort of like a smoothie, but lighter. It's a yogurt-y drink over ice. Really, really good.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This is one of the best things I've heard in a while: "Be wise enough not to be reckless, but brave enough to take great risks."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Americans Are Coming


The final half of Team USA’s “Spance” trip marked my second time to France. This trip was much better than the previous time, despite the weather not cooperating with my mental image of “Europe in Spring” (It’s 75° and sunny, which is my mental image for nearly every place I go.)

The format for the Urt International Paracycling Challenge was similar to the Bira in the fact that they’re both cripple races, and stage format. The Urt race started with a hilly road race followed by a mostly downhill time trial, a crit then a circuit race. Like the Bira, men and women started together for the road race, but we were split in half- Men’s C5-4 in one group and the women’s C5-1 and MC3-1 started together.

The road race was on a distinctly un-paralympic course- there were hills! Now, I’ve never thought of myself as a climber, and none of my past results exposed a hidden climber within. I was nervous, which is uncharacteristic of me, and I mean really nervous, more so than any race I can remember actually. Going in to France, my goal was to race with the men, as that’s how I’m going to get faster, and better race experience. After seeing the course, self-doubt started creeping in- what if I get dropped? What if I totally embarrass myself as a bike racer? Well, I told myself to “Nut up, or shut up and race your damn bike!” It’s just a bike race after all. It’s not something foreign. Once the race was underway, I made sure to have good positioning on the climbs and it paid off on the second lap- the group split and there I was in the front group. Woah, not expecting that. The 5 other guys in the group did double takes when I pulled through, apparently they weren’t expecting a girl. We stayed away, and the day was a huge confidence boost. While I’m not riding away from them, I can definitely hold my own.

The next morning’s time trial was definitely a course for me- 8.6k, slightly downhill, a few bumps mixed in, all ending on a little kick into a tiny town. It’s becoming a trend, but the Americans slayed the TT. To borrow a line from Clark, “Time trials and football- that’s what America does!” Of our six bikes, we won five categories which put all five of us in the GC leader’s jersey for the next stage. Once again, the other athletes on the podium were counting the American jerseys standing beside them. I have to admit, that’s pretty cool to see.

That afternoon, after getting lost in the French countryside looking for the next race, we finally made it to the circuit race. The course was rad- shaped like a bow-tie, it would definitely be a challenge. Luckily for us, we were in Europe where “cornering” hasn’t yet been discovered, we’re all crippled, and we would race in the worst rain we’ve ever ridden bicycles in.

To be fair, it was sunny when we started and the rain didn’t start until probably the 10th minute of a 50 minute race, so it wasn’t all in the rain. Once it started however, it was on. I kept my foggy glasses on because there was so much rain, I would’ve had to close my eyes. The uphill sections of the course were like rivers, with water cascading down the gutters and ruts in the road. The flat road had 3” of standing water which made it exciting riding through the rough roads. It was like a game of Memory trying to remember where the potholes are. And then the front wheel fell into a hole and you found it. In it’s always good timing, nature turned off the fire hoses and the sun came out as soon as we were finished. After peeling off soaking kits, we threw them all in a trash bag to be sorted and washed later. We just wanted to get warm, and get back to the hotel.

The next and final stage was another 50 minute, plus 2 lap race. Of all the races I’ve done, this is one that I’m most proud of.  You don’t often get the opportunity to race as a team in paralympic racing, so when it comes around, you remember it.

I have the greatest teammates in the world, and I would do anything for them. When I came around a corner and saw Sam picking himself up after a crash, my brain kicked in to action mode. He only had an eight second lead on GC, and this crash could cost him the win. TAJ was there too, and after making sure Sam wasn’t hurt, we were like fighter pilots going into formation. The team time trial intervals we did at camp would really pay off now. My race was wrapped up, but Sam’s was in jeopardy. Come hell or high water, the gap was going to be closed. We rolled like a freight train to close the gap opened up after the crash. TAJ’s powertap said we rolled close to 30mph, and closed about a 2 minute gap in under a lap. After a final shove back into the pack, Sam was back in the group and my job was done. It was especially satisfying because he was able to take the stage win, and held onto his overall.

The awards ceremony provided us with the most unique prize we’d ever received- a ham! Each winner got a 25lb salt cured ham and French berets to go with the Spanish txapellas. It was definitely a great experience to go to Europe to race for two weeks. The team was absolutely amazing! Our winnings included 100lbs of ham, nearly 60 bottles of wine, and a bike box full of trophies. I learned that I can race with the men, the training we’ve all been doing is definitely paying off, and 2010 promises to be a stellar season for everyone. The world better be ready because the Americans are coming.

The Rain in Spain

The Paracyclilng Bizkaiko Bira is a two day, three stage race in the Basque region of Spain. As the name indicates, it’s a race for the cripples (It’s ok, I CAN say that) so I was racing in a USA jersey, rather than a xXx one. The first two stages were short time trials- 11k and 13.6k respectively- followed by a short road race- 42k. Like most of my American teammates, I specialize in the time trial. We got up Saturday to a steady rain, and soaked roads. Luckily we all brought rain jackets as our trainers were broken in transit, so it was a road warm up for us. The course was pretty neat- the start was in the middle of a short, punchy climb, a brief false flat then a screaming descent, a U turn in the road, and back up the climb. All in the rain, under heavy tree cover, so basically in the dark. Unlike my usual style of cooking the descent (ask the people in Peachy Canyon in SLO ’09 about that) After catching my 30 sec girl in the first 5 minutes, I played it safe on the descent and probably gave up a few seconds rather than a minute or more picking myself out of the ditch. Made the turn, and rolled it uphill as best as I could. It was over before I knew it, and was soon back in the parking lot huddled with my teammates for warmth.

Back to the hotel for lunch and quick recovery before heading out to the afternoon’s time trial course which was supposed to be “a traditional paralympic cycling course” which translates to “flat.” Well, we got there and rode what we thought was the course. It wasn’t very flat either, but after riding for nearly 40 minutes, we realized we’d gone more than the 13k that the supposed course was. It took nearly an hour to find our way back to town to make our start times for the second race, on a course that none of us really knew… at all. But at least it wasn’t raining! If you’ve never raced a TT blind (And I don’t mean on the back of a tandem (which I'm sure is fun too)) I highly recommend trying it. What’s the worst that can happen? I feel that it’s a true-er test of your bike racing abilities. The parts that we didn’t ride were the bigger climbing bits, which made it tough to gage the effort, but really, what’s the difference between 350W for 2k or 3k? Exactly, not a whole lot. The afternoon was, on the whole, much better for the team, with almost all of us winning our respective categories (Think weight classes in wrestling).

Sunday brought the road race and more rain. All the bikes started together- men and women of all categories- which made a nice big pack to start. It split up pretty quickly with the higher classes (less crippled) in the front, and the lower (more crippled) classes in the back. My goal for the day was to just race with the men. I’d established a comfortable lead after the two TT’s and the road race was the time to really whip out and measure. My teammate was sitting 2nd on GC in his class, so I was working to help him in any way possible. The Spanish had a huge presence in the race, obviously, as this doubled as the Basque Country’s National Championships. My race was 4 laps. It was pissing rain again. After the first lap, we rolled through the start/finish and about 3 seconds later, I found myself on the ground, sliding across the fine, granite-like stone they paved the intersection with. An ice rink would have had more traction. I got up immediately and back on my bike to find a bent derailer hanger. No biggie. With the help of the guy that caused the crash, we chased back on pretty quickly without incident. The Brit put in a few probing attacks, and then one that finally got him off the front (the winning move for his class). The pace was reasonably high, but not high enough to weed out all the… less than stellar bike handlers. 

Halfway through the third lap one of these people decided he wasn’t satisfied with his spot four bikes from into the pack from the left and took a hard turn into someone’s wheel. Domino effect ensued and I was on the ground. Again. This time my luck wasn’t as good. Something was bleeding, my front wheel was pointing one way and my bars the other, and my bar end shifter (for my front derailer) was hanging on by a thread. It was stuck between the big and little rings but I was able to put it in the little ring, straighten everything out, and get back on the horse so to speak. Luckily, it was still raining.

The last lap I rode in my little ring (I did the previous three in the big ring) and found my way into a chase group. At this point, the pack was long gone, I’d guess 3 minutes easy, so it was just a matter of minimizing lost time, and rolling in to the finish mostly intact. The rain stopped for the finish which was very considerate.

It was a somewhat frustrating day for me because I had great legs, had no problem staying in with the men, and had a teammate to help. That said, I was happy I wasn’t hurt, and the damage to my bike was minimal.

My GC placing was all wrapped up, so it was off to awards ceremonies. It was absolutely awesome to see the podium dominated by Americans in the time trials. From our team of nine, seven people won their category. The other countries on the podium counted the American contingent and I’m sure, felt sad and intimidated by our complete dominance of the race of truth. With a new jersey to take home, came a  traditional Basque hat- the txapella (See Horner’s victory photo from Tour of the Basque Country)- and a champagne shower. Leave it to the guy that races the trike to completely drench me. The sun came out just long enough to dry the champagne in my hair and ears. Then it started raining again.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spance

The second day is always the hardest for me as far as time changes go, so I'm really just writing this to stay awake. I'm writing from Spain, on the the first part of our "Spance" trip (Spain+France=Spance). We're holed up in a little hotel just outside Bilbao (One of the largest port cities in Spain). Bilbao is in the Basque region in the northern bit of the country. It's beautiful here! Everything is super green, mountains, little euro roads, roundabouts. It reminds me of Switzerland, but not as Sound of music-y. It's Europe! It's raining a little bit now, but yesterday was about 80°F and sunny. I guess today's weather is more indicative of the season than yesterday's and the rain will carry through the weekend.
As per usual, this is a race trip. Nine athletes and staff made the trip over for two P1 events (Smaller than a world cup). Two people are only doing the Spanish race, so our group will shrink when we go to France (huh- huh!). Racing starts on Saturday with two time trials, then a road race on Sunday. Categories are supposed to be combined for the races which I'm really looking forward too. Men and women of like categories will be racing together. I'm so tired of women's racing... this will be fun!
We still have an hour to kill before our afternoon ride. Amazingly, as I was reminded of earlier today, there is even less to do here than at the Training Center. We're all trying to stay out of trouble, and stay awake. 
Till next time!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Cat Show



Never in my wildest dreams would I think I’d have the material for this blog. Today I went to a cat show. Let me repeat myself, I went to a CAT SHOW. Yes, that's right, a show of felines, hundreds of them, and crazy cat ladies to accompany them. Now, you may be asking yourself Why the hell would she do such a thing? Surely she's gone mad. Well yes, not really, I mean... maybe I have. 

Several days ago, I was riding my bicycle- like I do every day- and saw that there was a cat show coming to the City Aud. I thought to myself Greta, this is too good an opportunity to pass up! Think of the mocking you can do at a CAT SHOW! I quickly told Stacy about this and she agreed that we simply must go. After some investigating online, we found that admission was $5- a small fee for the potential greatness to come.

So last night, I was trying to plan my outfit for the show. (I was imagining something like either the Westminster Dog Show, or an ultra trashy convention of crazy cat ladies. I was leaning towards the latter.) I'd planned to wear either an amazingly pretentious outfit (think Westminster), or astoundingly trashy (think crazy cat show). Rather than doing either, I decided to just wear my favorite purple sweater and jeans. My second outfit choice was a sweater vest worn as a tank top. Next time. So we arrive at the City Aud and all the doors are locked. WTF? We weren't as worried about not being able to get in, as having to ask for directions to the cat show. The shame. We find an open door and ask the hip(ster) looking guy working the film festival for directions.

We enter the main hall (where the roller derby team competes) to find it filled with long tables covered in cages and containers, filled with cats. And of course, tons of middle-aged women with cat shirts and sweaters walking around with their cats. The man at the door seemed fairly excited that two non-cat people were there to experience their first cat show. This guy looked like he was straight out of a King of the Hill cartoon or something- high and tight haircut, neon hunter’s orange t-shirt, huge beer gut, wranglers, and a plate of greasy potatoes and eggs. Not at all what I’d expected to see. He goes on to explain that the “kitties” are all lined up here, and the “kitties” are judged over there. I’m thinking to myself Seriously, we’ve been here one minute and I’m about to start hysterically laughing. Great start.

Honestly, the whole thing was quite overwhelming. We weren’t sure what to expect but it was nothing and everything we expected. We started walking around looking at the cats, and looking at people interact with their cats which was amazing. The first cat we looked at was hideous. It’s face was horribly disfigured, which apparently, is how all cats in this breed look. Unfortunate really. The one we saw was a different color, but looked like this:



We walked around, looked at a bunch of cats, too scared and embarrassed to ask questions about anything. We met a woman who makes folk art in the form of cloth, stuffed cats. These fake cats looked nothing like real cats, mainly because they were made of printed fabric, with puff-paint faces and whiskers to match their fabric. Impressive in the fact that she (and her 90+ year old mother) made them all by hand, but really, nothing I would ever want in my house. Ever. We talked for a while then moved on to the other craft tables where there was a skinned cat! Now, maybe it's just me but as (presumably) cat lovers, why the hell would you have the pelt of some type of house cat at a cat show? A trophy? I've got nothing.

Being the smart people that we are, we decide it would probably be best to learn about the cats and the whole deal at the judging rings. One judge looked like he hated cats and didn't want to be there at all, one looked mildly turned on by the cats, and the one lady seemed mostly normal. She talked through the whole thing which was helpful to learn what the cats are judged on. Basically being as close to that breed's standards as possibly, and the personality of the cat.

After about an hour or whispering to each other and getting dirty looks from the cat people, we work up the courage to ask someone questions. The women we asked first were incredibly nervous and socially awkward- cat lady?? They tried to recruit us into showing cats and gave us business cards to help get us started (check out the Cat Fancier's Association).

The second woman we talked to was really helpful in explaining a lot about showing cats. We learned it was much harder to have a Champion cat than dog because of the tournament like competitions you have to advance through. She told us it was the last show of the season, and the new season would be starting up May 1st (which is next weekend btw) so apparently there's no cat show off-season. A good entry level show cat costs about $600, maybe $500 if you're really lucky. This woman was also terrified of my claw. Now, it often fools people because of it's tan shell, but it really is a claw. She was quick enough to notice that it wasn't a real hand, and in fact a metal claw, and it was very clear she had NO idea where to look. So, rather than acknowledge I was standing there, she just looked at Stacy the whole time, and occasionally her eyes would dart to the claw then right back to Stacy. Rad.

She told us basically everything we could ever want to know about cats and then some. We saw huge cats, cats with smashed in faces, cats that looked like you could break them in half, cats that looked like cats, cats that looked like an explosion of fur, cats that use hair product in their fur, and cats with coffee filters around their necks to prevent them from licking their fur and undoing all the hard work their owners had done to style their fur.

All told we spent about 2 hours at the cat show, and as quickly as we decided to go to a cat show, we decided it was time to leave the cat show. Admittedly, I was hoping the cats would have to perform tricks like dogs ranging from jumping through a hoop, catching a frisbee, and walking on it's hind legs. You know, things a good cat would be able to do. After seeing the spectacle in person, I can now say with certainty that I have NO desire to show cats, have a cat, or be a crazy cat lady. Crazy? Sure. Cat lady? No thanks.