Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review


This has been a year of changes. 2011 has been one that, looking back, was very stressful and mentally challenging. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about myself and other people and think that I’ve grown as a person- is that too cliché?

While I know some of you would love to read- in great detail- all about the past year’s highs and lows, lefts and rights and everything in between, I know some of you probably just want to get to the good stuff. So, in an effort to save you guys some time and give you only the filet of information, here’s a list of notable moments from 2011.

January
  • PB&Co. 2011 marked my first year on a real team.
  •  Pneumonia Being sick really sucks. It sucks more to not take the time to get back to 100% and be behind the eight ball for months.

March
  •  Broken bikes In the span of three weeks, two bikes were broken- the first at the hands of an airline, and the second from UPS. In that time, my time trial bike and I became much closer friends.

May
  • Sydney World Cup This was my first trip to Australia and was another continent to check off the list. The extra days spent in Sydney were some of the best of the year. It was also another birthday on foreign soil.

June
  • Broken collarbone The “squirrel incident” as some people have called it was one of those where you have to laugh to keep from crying because it was so dumb. While on the bike path, riding about 15kph, a squirrel ran in front of me. I swerved to avoid running it over- and possibly killing it- and dumped my bike over, breaking my collarbone in the process. Thankfully it was my already gimpy side because I would’ve been S.O.L. if it’d been the good side.
  • The decision to move After months of waffling over whether or not to move out of the training center, I decided it was time to go. Almost five years in Colorado Springs had taken its toll on me and it was time to get the hell out! I had no idea where I was going to go or what I’d do for money but I knew something needed to change and I was the only one with the power to make it happen, so I did!

September
  • Moving After road worlds, I packed everything into my car and hit the road for San Diego. A teammate had an open room and I needed a place to live. Southern California has so many more opportunities to race, better weather for year round training and, most importantly, it wasn’t Colorado Springs! So far, it’s proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
  • New coach Following the theme of change, after the move I began working with a new coach. It’s important to me to have a coach I can see on a regular basis, ride with, and have face-to-face contact. We made some changes to training routines trying to freshen things up to help make training enjoyable again. So far, it’s been working out really well.

November
  •  Nanee The hardest part of the year has been the death of my grandmother. There are so many things that could be said, but they’re best saved for another time. Rather, this Dr. Seuss quote sums it up well: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” There are so many lessons she taught and so many wonderful memories she gave me that I won’t ever forget.


These are the moments that stick out when thinking back on the year. Things like airplane seatmates, and people clipping their nails in public places- and leaving the clipping all over the floor- are some things you may see in future posts. Until then, here’s to a fantastic 2012!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

ParaPan American Games


In all of my travels, Mexico has been one country to escape my grasp. Finally, I had the opportunity to visit our neighbors south of America. The ParaPan American Games took place in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Held two weeks after the Pan Am games and in the same village and venues, it was like a mini Games. For some sports, a win in Guadalajara meant a ticket to London. For us, it was one of the last opportunities to qualify more team spots for London. (What that means is that we needed to do well to get a higher ranking to take more athletes to London.)

In Mexico, I competed in the 500m and 3k pursuit on the track and the road race. (Normally I would compete in the time trial as well but due to a family emergency I skipped the TT.) Things got started off tremendously with the 500. Historically my weakest event and without any specific prep for the event, my goal was just to get under 40.0 seconds. A good warm up, fantastic track and a packed house of rowdy spectators made for an ideal racing environment. Not only did I go sub 40, I took 0.2 seconds off my pr. To add to the excitement of the moment, Team USA swept the 500 event with Jenny taking gold and Allison bronze.

The following day was the pursuit. Coming in, this was the event that I wanted to do best in. The 3k is as much mental as it is physical and striking a balance between the two is a challenge that I enjoy. That said, it can be infuriatingly difficult to strike a balance between the two. This time around, things leaned towards the latter. Going in I felt phenomenal. Spirits were high, the crowd was getting going, a great warm up and a few high kicks before qualifying put me in great mental position. I was able to qualify in first with a comfortable ride. Then, it was time for the final- this is when things didn’t go as well.

According to the watch, things started off okay. According to my legs, things started off terribly. The ride never felt right, it was as if I was wrestling the bike the whole time, fighting to stay on schedule. At the halfway point, Craig stopped giving me splits and started giving me the distance ahead or behind of my opponent (in this case, Jenny). Rather than being motivated and digging deeper when hearing that I was five meters down, it was discouraging. This was my event. How could I have felt so good in qualifying and so terrible in the final? I was losing the mental battle and was dying 1000 deaths on the boards. The feeling of shattering disappointment I felt after my ride was one that I won’t soon forget. I’d lost the battle with myself, let emotions and doubt creep in and lost control of the event. Now, things are only truly a negative experience if you don’t learn anything from them. Looking back I know what I need to work on. I’m confident with more training under my belt- both physically and mentally- that won’t happen again.

Two days off of racing before the road race was just what I needed to regroup mentally and recover physically after the track. Fortunately, the women and C1-3 men were combined- but scored separately- for the road race. This makes the racing more competitive and gives both groups larger fields to race with/against. Starting with the men meant that a fast first lap or few kilometers was likely. Sure enough, just several kilometers into the race, the group split. Eight riders made the front group including myself and my teammate Mike. No other women made the selection so at that point, I knew that if we kept a solid pace we would stay away. To let Mike rest and stay fresh for any attacks and the field sprint, I took his pulls. This worked perfectly because I was able to set the pace to stay away from the other women and Mike was able to save himself. The laps ticked down and the race was over. The win in the road race felt like redemption after the 3k. Mike fought it out for a second place finish.

One notable aspect of the road race was the road itself. The fact that I looked forward to the cobbles should be an indication as to how bumpy it was. When cobbled road is a sweet relief, it may be time to repave the road. Just sayin’. We finished and my hands and feet were numb from the road vibrations.

Bumpy road aside, my time in Mexico was fantastic. Not flushing TP was strange and brushing my teeth from a bottle of water felt like camping but the people were wonderful. The volunteers and Games staff were so helpful and went above and beyond for all of the athletes. As always, it was an honor and privilege to represent Team USA. Seeing 24 flags for our podium finishes and hearing the anthem played so many times was amazing. Great things are in store for the coming months! Thank you to my teammates, family and coaches, US Paralympics, Peanut Butter TWENTY12, Zipp, SRAM and Felt Bicycles for the support. I couldn’t do it without you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Photo Update

This post will be primarily photos that I have taken over the past several weeks.

As some of you already know, I moved to southern California. The move is proving to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. Besides the obvious perks like warm weather, better training and racing opportunities and an ocean to look at every day, one of my favorites is the mailbox. Growing up in Chicago we had a mail slot- the mail carrier came every day and put letters through a slot in the front door. If we wanted to send something out we either went to the post office or the blue box on a street corner. The only time I'd ever seen a mailbox- with a flag and everything- was in the movies. That is until I moved to Cardiff. Now, I don't have to look for a big blue mailbox or go to the post office. It is so neat! Holy cow! Think what you will but this simple minded bike rider thinks it's pretty darn cool. 
Shortly after moving, I went to Houston for an athlete appearance. The hotel I stayed in had a Chihuly piece in the lobby which I thought was pretty cool. If you haven't seen any of Dale Chihuly's work, it's absolutely amazing and unmistakeable. The event was really great and I met a ton of interesting people. Everyone was extremely nice and left me with a very good impression of Texas- it was my first time to the Lone Star state. They even had a summer concert series in the park across from the hotel.   
I'm excited about this plaid shirt that I just got. It was for a "plaid tie" wedding but I plan to wear it for other occasions.
And Finally, here's a photo I caught of a pretty cool sunset the other day. The photo doesn't quite do it justice but it's a glimpse.





Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2012 Track World Championships

The World Championship team has been announced! The official press release can be found on the US Paralympics website. (For those of you that just want a list of athletes, it's at the bottom of this post.) The team includes some veteran athletes and some new faces which is always exciting.

As some of you already know, Worlds will be held in the States. Yes, that's right, World Championships will be held in the United States, in LA. So, mark your calendars, get your plane tickets and some out to watch the world's best para cyclists racing in our own country. Check out the LA Worlds website for all the details and schedule of events. (My events are on Thursday and Saturday.)



Men
Matt Bigos (Cardiff by the Sea, Calif.)
Will Chesebro (Carmel Valley, Calif.)
Mike Farrell (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Mark Gyulafia (Portland, Ore.)
Vincent Juarez (San Jose, Calif.)
Sam Kavanagh (Bozeman, Mont.)
Clark Rachfal (Annapolis, Md.) and pilot Dave Swanson (Tucson, Ariz.)
Aaron Trent (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Chester Triplett (Mooresville, N.C.) and pilot Pete Billington (San Rafael, Calif.)
Anthony Zahn (Lincoln, Neb.)
Women
Megan Fisher (Missoula, Mont.)
Allison Jones (Colorado Springs, CO)
Greta Neimanas (Chicago, Ill.)
Jennifer Schuble (Homewood, Ala.)
Laura Sobchik (Fullerton, Calif.)
Karissa Whitsell (Eugene, Ore.) and pilot Lisa Turnbull (Springfield, Ore.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Track Nationals



Photo: Gus Sarmiento
Track nationals are done and dusted. While in LA, I raced the 3k individual pursuit and 500m time trial. Mentally, I went in to nationals a bit flat. I’d moved to southern California two weeks earlier and wanted to enjoy my new home instead of riding inside in circles. I was able to convince myself, make a deal with my mind, that if I gave it my all on the track it meant I could really enjoy my offseason. It worked. After a few sessions on the tracks in San Diego and LA, I was able to rally. 

My first event was the 3k IP. After a sub-par performance at World Championships in Italy earlier this year, I was looking forward to putting down a solid ride. I wanted a technically sound ride while taking into consideration the track conditions and my motivation. In qualifying, I was in the last heat of the day paired with Kelly Crowley. She’s had a phenomenal season thus far and I knew it would be a good pairing. The clock counted down and I came out of the gate. Any lack of motivation I had going in quickly turned around when the gate opened. It was on. A quick opening lap was the set up for a faster time than planned for but I was game. The lap counter ticked down from 12 and before I knew it the bell was ringing- one lap to go. After crossing the line, it was enough to qualify first and move on to the finals that evening. Not to totally blow my ego up, but by all accounts- friends and strangers- it was a very smooth ride. The final on the other hand, well, that was a different story.

Photo: Rob Evans
After a quick lunch and recovery it was time to turn around, and head back to the track for finals. I was pumped. This was my chance to defend the national champion’s jersey and keep it for another year. The final for gold was a ride off against Jenny Schuble. The plan was to do the exact same thing as the morning session- just ride my ride. As the clock clicked down, my excitement levels were growing. As soon as the gate opened, it was like unleashing the hounds of hell. There’s a difference between “going out hot” and “blazing f’ing fast” with the latter being something you’d generally like to avoid while racing 3000m. Well, that was shot right out the window. Once you go out hot, as far as I’m concerned, you’re committed. Just hold on and keep it going as long as possible. The first five laps felt fantastic, I’d put a lot of ground into Jenny, then, it was like someone attached a piano to the back of my bike. MMmmm not so good. Not good at all. Shortly after this, I started hemorrhaging time. I was getting scared. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold on until the finish. With each lap, the gap was closing- she was gaining on me and I was losing ground on her. It came down to the wire at the finish and I was able to eek out a win by the skin of my teeth. The evening session was almost the complete opposite of the morning’s ride, which is frustrating to say the least. It wasn’t pretty but it was certainly a hard fought battle.


Photo: Pat Benson
Our final event was the 500 (kilo for the men and tandems). The event is only two laps so it’s sort of an odd, in between distance. It’s long enough to suck but not long enough to get into any rhythm. The best portion of the race was the first 10 meters. After that it was sort of, meh- not terrible but not the time I was hoping for. Jenny-who specializes in the event- won. A silver in the 500 and gold in the pursuit is a pretty good way to finish the season.


Now, we have a bit of time off before the ParaPan American Games in Guadalajara, MEX November 12-21. It’s time to enjoy the California sun!

Pursuit Podium
Photo: Rob Evans

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Exergy TWENTY12

Exergy Development Group has stepped up in a big way in women's cycling. The team that was once Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 is now Exergy TWENTY12. Watch the team's intro video here:



(You can also watch on the Vimeo site.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Parapan American Team

The US Paralympic Parapan American team has been announced. We will be competing in Guadalajara, Mexico November 12-20.



2011 U.S. Parapan American Games Cycling TeamMen
Mike Farrell (Colorado Springs, Colo.)


Vincent Juarez (San Jose, Calif.)
Sam Kavanagh (Bozeman, Mont.)
Steven Peace (San Diego, Calif.)
Clark Rachfal (Annapolis, Md.) and pilot Dave Swanson (Tucson, Ariz.)
Oz Sanchez (San Diego, Calif.)
Matt Updike (Denver, Colo.)
Brett Weitzel (Salt Lake City, Ut.)
Anthony Zahn (Lincoln, Neb.)


Women
Monica Bascio (Evergreen, Colo.)
Muffy Davis (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Allison Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Greta Neimanas (Chicago, Ill.)
Megan Fisher (Missoula, Mont.)
Jamie Schanbaum (Austin, Tex.)
Karissa Whitsell (Eugene, Ore.) and pilot TBD

Monday, September 12, 2011

Road Worlds- Roskilde, DEN


A lot has happened in my time away from this blog.  We had our para team training camp here in the Springs, competed in the UCI Paracycling Road World Championships in Roskilde, Denmark, and now I’m packing up to move (more on this later).

22 bikes and 25 athletes (three tandem pilots that count as equipment) were named to the worlds team and made the trip to Roskilde, about 30 minutes outside Copenhagen. We were greeted with cold temps, lots of wind and rain. Coming from the blazing heat of the Colorado summer- days were consistently over 90°- it was a bit of a shock to the system. Personally, I like the rain and don’t mind the wind so it was just the cold that I was somewhat unenthused about. I do have to say that our week in Roskilde was the perfect opportunity to make good use of DZNuts In Heat embrocation- no legwarmers needed with that stuff.

We had several days of training before competition started. Both the time trial and road race were held on the same 15.3k loop so we did almost all of our riding on the course. By the end of the week, we were all extremely familiar with the course and could probably run through it backwards in our minds. The course had a bit of everything- long straights, little kickers of climbs, and fast, technical sections. In typical euro race fashion, the roads were narrow, had some roundabouts, a small town with thatched roofs on the houses, fields full of cows, and even some optional cobbles. I really enjoyed it this course.

Come race day- the TT was first- the rain stopped and the wind subsided leaving us with cool to cold temperatures. With just one lap of the 15.3k course, it was going to be a fast and furious race to the finish. Because of the scheduling of the other riders going off that day, I did not have a follow car or radio- I would be riding blind. Rather than having a follow van, there was a photo moto around me for big sections of the race which will be interpreted as I must have looked damn good.  At one point, one of the horses ran alongside me from fence to fence of its pasture. That’s never happened before. The ride went well and after the results were in, I finished up 3rd behind Great Britain with the win and Poland in 2nd.

Two days later was the road race. Things went off like fireworks right from the start. My teammate Kelly and I soon found ourselves in the first chase group of four riders with the two leaders up the road. With no help whatsoever from the other two riders, it was up to us to us to do the work. Several big pulls later I got popped out of the chase group- a cardinal sin- and found myself on my own, in no man’s land. That’s how things finished up and I rode solo in for a 6th place finish. It’s certainly not the way I’d hoped the road race would play out but it is what it is and it’s done.

The road season is all but finished- we have Pan-Ams in Guadalajara, Mexico in mid November- and now it’s on to track nationals at the end of the month. No rest for the weary!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

How to Ride in a Group

Here's a good article that talks about the importance of the group ride and how it's become a lost art.
The Lost Art of the Group Ride

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Danny Macaskill makes me look like I've never ridden a bike before in my life. Absolutely amazing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dad


In some ways it feels like yesterday and in others the three years have been ages since my dad died. I don’t remember if it was overcast or sunny, hot or average or what anybody wore or looked like. It’s almost a fog, like a clichéd Lifetime movie in my brain. This is supposed to be something to remember distinctly, right?

As time has passed, I find myself remembering, highlighting, more of the good memories rather than only the bad ones. I’m still very angry but things are certainly shifting towards the positive. I don’t know if I’ll ever remember only the positive things but I kind of don’t want to. Good comes with bad. The negatives- and positives- changed me and it almost feels like I owe those moments something for what they’ve done, how they’ve shaped me as a person.

Sometimes it feels like I’m missing someone I never really knew, or a ghost, which is a strange feeling to say the least. There are memories from years and years ago and then stories that his friends, my mom and family have told me. I worry that I’m constructing my own memories of what I wanted rather than what actually was.

Despite the feeling that I didn’t know him, I have good memories of our time together. The day he died isn’t clear in my mind but others are: That time I was attacked by the monkey at the tire shop, all the times I sat on the bucket in the van, being carried like a sack of potatoes, going to the museums, building the sand box, making the teepee, the fireball of a torch- nothing’s better for a kid to play with than a kerosene soaked rag on a stick! And the countless hours he walked me up and down the hallway because I couldn’t sleep. To this day, looking at the moon and stars is calming and one of my favorite things to do.

What I’m learning and working on is that what’s done is done, it is what it is, and all there is to do is move forward. That’s easier said than done, though, and I still find myself wishing for things and wondering how things might have been and would be different. I'm afraid, too, that I'll forget things about him. I don't clearly remember the day he died and it's worrisome to think what might fade next.

Dad, I think about you everyday. I wonder if our relationship would have changed, if we would get along now. Whenever I see someone in overalls or suspenders, I think of you. When I see a picture of Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds, it reminds me of your mustache and then when you shaved it off and it took ages for that to be the normal look. Panel vans, work boots, weird artwork, PBS, Bob Marley, Tom Waits and Eric Clapton’s music, salami and hard bread, and seeing the moon all remind me of you.

Logically, I can’t believe in a god or heaven and hell but I hope I’m wrong. I hope that you’re somewhere at peace and enjoying yourself. For better or worse you made an impact on me and I’ll never forget it. I love and miss you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Not a Robot


Something within me has changed. I'm not sure what exactly brought it on, or why, but I kind of like it. I don't feel the need to be a robot anymore.

I’ve always been my harshest critic and have put pressure on myself to bat 1.000. To some, that may clearly be impossible but nothing is truly impossible, it’s just improbable. This way of life, while some may argue that it makes for a better athlete, isn’t such a great way to live. It’s quite stressful and often unnecessarily so. This season has been frustrating with rebounding from serious burnout, having pneumonia and not fully recovering, and a broken collarbone. Somewhere along this rocky road it dawned on me that maybe I need to take time to do things properly- things like recovering from illness and injury. Not everything can be controlled- which is still difficult for me to comprehend- and sometimes things just happen. While the mind is a powerful tool, it still doesn’t have magical powers. Healing damaged lungs in a week, or mending a broken bone overnight are not going to happen no matter how hard I concentrate, wish, pray, or cast spells for. Somehow an idea worked its way into my brain that maybe, just maybe, I could let it go. It was earth shattering.

In the last few weeks, I’ve raced the national championships in Augusta, GA, a world cup in Baie-Comeau, CAN and part of SuperWeek in Chicago and Wisconsin. Going into each of those races, I put no pressure on myself. All I had to do was ride as best as I could and my job was done. What did I find? I had great results! No, I didn’t win everything I entered and I even lost the overall UCI World Cup title in the final race- that was a tough, tough pill to swallow- but I’m not distraught over it. It wasn’t meant to be. I’m much more relaxed about my performances and my life in general. It’s like I’ve broken free from the tangled web of “perfection” and I’m now able to do what I love- race my bike!

One of my teammates sent me the link to this video. Now that I know what not to do, it should be easier to find what’s right. 


Monday, July 4, 2011

Road Nationals


Road Nationals were held in Augusta, GA last week. In addition to being an opportunity to claim the title of National Champion, the time trial served as the selection event for the 2011 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Roskilde, Denmark. A total of eight spots for the men and four spots for the women were available for automatic selection to the team.

Matt picked Nadia and me up in Colorado Springs and we drove out to Augusta from there. We saw snow in eastern Colorado and then the rain came. Of the 27 hours we drove, 26.5 were in the rain- over 1000 miles of rain. The rain ended as soon as we arrived at our hotel in Augusta and was traded for heat and humidity. It was quite nice to have some moisture in the air.

Originally, my plan was to race the three Para races- Time trial, crit and road race- and the elite crit and road race. Plans changed after the broken collarbone so it was only a time trial for me. The TT was held along the Strom Thurmond dam on a straight out and back, 19.6km course. Who knew that Strom had his own dam?! The course was made for power riders. It rolled with hills that could all be taken in the aerobars. This was especially good for me because I could get settled in the clip-ons- I ran clip-ons because I couldn’t get into real aerobars- and stay in the bars the whole time. Despite rain for the race it was fast course. Pair that with riders on top form and you get some quick times. The top riders were all considerably faster than the National Team time standard. I finished up fourth overall in the women’s two wheeled bike classification- there is also a classification for the three wheeled cycles. Normally I would be very disappointed with a fourth place but with a broken collarbone, I’m quite pleased.

After the TT there was still the crit and road race to be fought. I did my training rides in the morning and was a spectator for the races in the afternoon. While frustrating, it was actually kind of fun to be a spectator at the races. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely wanted to race but it’s always fun to watch bike racing.

The week was filled with great racing by everyone. The team has just been named and it’s filled with tremendous athletes. I look forward to racing with everyone!

2011 U.S. UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships Team announced

2011 U.S. UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships Team announced | News | U.S. Paralympic Team

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Living a Double Life


Only a few people knew Batman’s real identity. He dressed in normal clothes, had a mostly normal life and job but lived as two people. He put on his super-suit and fought crime then went about his business. People knew that the villains were vanquished but didn’t know by whom. The streets of Gotham were being cleaned up and that’s what mattered.

This is what being a Para-cyclist is like. People have some sense that you exist but don’t really know what you do or how you do it. Something happens- it must- and races are won overseas but more detail than that is unknown and somewhat unnecessary. We live double lives as Para-cyclists and your average rider at local races- we’re just missing parts or some are defective and can’t be warrantied.

We train and race as hard as any other elite cyclist but without the recognition. We travel around the world fighting our competition and come home, quietly victorious.

Medals from Nationals and World Championships are kept in a basket and yellow jerseys are in a bag on the top shelf of a bookcase, out of the way, not displayed for people to see. They’re proof of an alter ego. Proof of the double life but a life I choose to live. Choices are not sacrifices because they are done willingly. Being a Para-cyclist isn’t going to get me on billboards or cereal boxes and I know that. It’s okay.

Most of us don’t race the able-bodied circuit for the recognition. Rather, we race because we love to race, it’s great training and, most of all, it’s fun. This is our day job (for some). Sure, in a pack a fake arm or leg- or riding with only one leg- is going to stand out and those are the things that people remember. It’s amazing how many people know me simply as “that blonde girl with one arm” at races. I come quietly, race my race and go on my way.

At an able bodied race, there’s no pressure other than what I put on myself. Yes, I like to win, but a lot of the races I do are for training. They’re just practice. For right now, the priority is on Para-racing and conquering foreign adversaries. It’s my priority that few people know even exists. The cutthroat attitude you learn in able-bodied racing is a necessity on the Para circuit. The top riders are all on able-bodied professional teams so the more cards in your deck the better off you’ll be.

Despite having a full deck of cards, the transition between the two can be a mental challenge. With two different styles of racing, it’s sort of like going from second gear to fifth- it’s a bit of a shock. Para-cycling is small pack racing. Only the top riders are there and the “pack fill” that you expect in races are all medal contenders so you have to be on it. Usually it’s every man for himself so teams of just two riders make a huge impact on the races. There are no lead out trains or caravans. One hundred spectators is a good turn out. The cat 4s usually have a better turn out!

This double life can be difficult. Right now, with the London Paralympics less than 500 days away, we’re chasing points. We always race to win, but now there is a bit more pressure. Without results now, we won’t have the team ranking to take the number of people we want which means people could be left at home come Games time. Results now means a larger team for the London Games. With this in mind, more than just a race win is on the line. This could be the difference between me going to The Show or watching on a grainy webcam feed.

For now, I’m going to continue to put on my national team super-suit and fight for every point. Then, as usual, come home, recover and do it all again seemingly under the cover of darkness.

Without the support of Peanut Butter & Co. Team TWENTY12, U.S. Paralympics and all of their sponsors and supporters, none of this would be possible. Thank you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I've Come to a Realization

Maybe I’m not as tough as I originally thought. Since crashing a week ago I’ve felt cranky, agitated, bummed and even a bit depressed. It’s not so much because it’s painful or anything- that’s what Tylenol is for- but mentally it’s been really tough. Being cooped up is not something I’ve ever enjoyed or handled well. Call it being a free spirit or whatever but I need to do things, go places and explore. I was a leash kid for a reason.

The collarbone is just a skinny little bone that helps make up your shoulder. They break all the time and it’s not a big deal. They heal pretty well and you’re able to get back to “normal” life reasonably quickly (which is never quick enough). So what’s the problem, then? I feel like I’m losing my mind!

Riding has always been an outlet and some of my best thinking happens on rides. I can do something, go places and explore all at the same time! Riding a bike is my way of handling stress and freeing my mind. It’s my escape. When my dad died, when there’s a family issue, when I have trouble focusing, my bike has always been there, ready for a ride. It helps me clear my mind and reduce the stress, anger, sadness etc. that was there before. It’s cleansing. Being outside in the wind and sun, hearing animals, and getting rained on is all very calming.

Frustration can be taken out on the bike, too. You can throttle yourself and somehow feel better afterwards. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the sport. There’s something about physical suffering that helps me straighten out my mind. Yes, it’s a bit masochistic but it’s what works for me.

After crashing, I was given instructions: “Keep your heart rate under 100bpm” and
“Don’t ride outside. You can’t risk another crash.” Well, there goes my coping mechanism! Okay, fine, I’ll just read or watch TV and rest. That lasted about two days. The “vacation” was over and I wanted to get back to work. It was frustrating not being able to use mini arm- I realized how much I actually use it for- but wasn’t the end of the world carrying things differently or driving differently. (This can be a conversation for later- driving stick with one hand to begin with then throwing an arm in a sling to top it all off.) It was a call for patience, something I’m not good at. The Pnu was different because I didn’t have the energy for anything other than sleeping. Now, It’s uncomfortable to lay around, I’m rested and just feel like I’m a leash kid again- held back.

How is it that such a skinny little bone has so much power over me? Craig- my coach- told me years ago “You’re not a real cyclist until you break your collarbone.” Now, after having a week-which, for me, is an eternity- to reflect and think about things I’ve realized something. It’s not breaking the bone that makes you a cyclist; it has to be the rest of it that does. Evaluating where you stand, what the course of action is and what’s a priority- or no longer a priority- for the season and then moving on makes you one. It’s cliché but every so-called real athlete has to get over some type of obstacle in order to truly achieve anything. Nothing is given away; everything has to be earned. Maybe this is just a test. Not like a religious test of faith because I don’t do that, but a test of will. How much do you want it? Considering I spent a morning watching videos and reading articles learning how to tape a collarbone back into place to race, I think it’s safe to say I want it. (I’m not going to do anything dumb, I’m just exploring options.)

As crazy as it sounds, maybe this is exactly what I needed. At the training center, I’m surrounded by athletes that are training to be the World’s best. Each day of easy riding and resting feels like a step backwards. After months, things were finally clicking and going well on the bike. Now, I’m back on a leash. If this is the situation, and this is how things are going to go, then that’s fine. It is what it is. Maybe I'm exactly as tough as I thought. One thing is for sure, when this thing is over and done with and I’m free to ride, it will be on!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bike lanes

This is a very true and funny video. Bike lanes aren't always the best place for cyclists.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's been just about a week since crashing so it's time for an update. Unfortunately, I can't report- as of right this moment- that things are completely healed and I'm ready to rock and roll. (Hopefully this will be knocked out by Friday.) Things are progressing nicely though and I'm feeling much better than last week. Sleeping has become much more comfortable and the pain has subsided to more of a dull ache than anything else. Each day, range of motion increasing and my pendulum exercises are becoming easier and the circles bigger. (I make little circles with my arm to keep things moving, trying to increase the circle's diameter a little bit each day. Exciting stuff, I know.)

My coach gave my Friday (the day after the crash) off and I was on the spin bike for easy rides starting Saturday morning. The spin bike and I are developing a love-hate relationship. I want to ride but haven't been cleared to go outside and the spin bike is the best option at this point. The hardest part of this whole thing is not being able to ride outside! The weather has finally turned for summer and it's been 85° and sunny all week.

On the bright side, as my friend pointed out today, if my collarbone wasn't broken I wouldn't have been at the craft store in the middle of the day with a man wearing a lime green and white tank top with short overalls on. It was the highlight of my day. I wish more people wore short overalls. They seem very practical.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Finally, I'm a Real Cyclist!

Broken
Several years ago my coach, Craig, told me "You're not a real cyclist until you break your collarbone." Well, I'm a real cyclist now. Last week, while riding the bike path for a recovery spin, a squirrel ran across the path, juked left and right and while trying to avoid hitting the little guy, I dumped it and landed on my shoulder. As soon as I sat up, I knew something was amiss and decided that with the power of a positive attitude, my bones could not be broken. Nope, no way! A good samaritan stopped to see if I was okay. He asked "Your legs look pretty strong, do you do this often?" To which I responded "Crash? No. Ride? Yes, although you probably wouldn't have guessed that."He helped me dust myself off, asked if I went to church then helped me get on my way. I rode home with my arm cradled against my stomach still saying to myself "Nothing's broken! Everything's just fine!" and went straight to the sports med to get cleaned up.

The initial diagnosis was a separated shoulder. This was determined by the trainer feeling for breaks along the collarbone and then, at the shoulder joint, jamming his finger into what he thought was the AC joint (and what I later came to realize was just the break in the bone) which was unpleasant to say the least. They gave me a sling and told me that I'd be good to go in a week to ten days. After a few hours in the sling and feeling some things moving around in there I went back and got x-rays. Sure enough, it was broken. Not even my charming, positive attitude could heal that bone. Who are we kidding, I'm a realist.
They're wily buggers

After a visit to an orthopedist to rule out the need for surgery, very little changed as far as treatment, but the time frame grew considerably. The orthopedist said 6-8 weeks for my frail, bird-like bones to heal. Hopefully it doesn't take that long because it's summer, the weather is nice and I have racing to get to. Thankfully it's mini arm and not my good arm because that would have been tragic. I'm in an ever stylish navy blue sling with white trim that seems to wrap around my torso. It's a lot of sling for a little arm!

Being juked by a rodent was not my finest moment, but I hope he went home and hugged his squirrel kids and his squirrel wife. Hopefully the sun shone brighter and the grass seemed greener because that is one lucky squirrel.

Every athlete has their setbacks, suffers their injuries and has a wrench thrown in their plans at some point in their career, right? Given the situation, it could definitely be much, much worse. A collarbone break is a common cycling injury and, in all seriousness, would probably have just a matter of time until it broke anyway. Best to get it out of the way now. And, I'm finally a real cyclist!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sydney World Cup


 From Montreal we headed to the opposite end of the Earth for the first UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Sydney. This trip meant another country and continent checked off my list and I was very excited. Australia is always a place that I’ve wanted to go and it lived up to my expectations. But first the racing.

The format for the racing was standard- a road race and a time trial. The road race was held first on the Eastern Creek Raceway another auto-racing circuit. The course combined the typical racecourse with their drag strip via access roads making an 8-ish Km undulating circuit. There were some 180s, hard 90s, S bends and chicanes culminating with a long, downhill finishing straight. The girls raced separately this go around which meant a small field. Sarah Storey won and it came down to a sprint between Claire and I for second. With a bike throw at the line, I managed to snag second on the day. Instead of flowers, we were given stuffed frilled necked lizards to take home. 

Always throw your bike! Photo: Chris Lane, Cycling Australia
The next day was a time trial through Olympic Park, the location of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Village. The 6km course was the most technical I’ve ever seen for a Para-cycling event. It was great! I rode my road bike, a Felt AR, which is basically a TT bike with drop bars on it to begin with. Throw on a set of clip-ons and it’s about as close to a TT bike as you’re going to get without it actually being a TT bike. I digress. I felt fantastic! I liked the course despite there being no rhythm to it. I took the corners like I was on rails. Second again; I just plain got beat. In order to win, I need more power. If you know of anyone that’s looking to get rid of extra watts, let me know, I’ll take them.

The Olympic Park TT was the first race in a while that I felt good on the bike. The end of last season and almost all of 2011 has been pretty tough for me and I’ve struggled to have fun on the bike. The TT was fun, plain and simple. My legs felt great and I was happy to call myself a bike racer again. 

Montreal

Two weeks ago Team USA went up to our nation’s attic for some bike races- there’s some great stuff up there, you just tend to forget about it until you go up. We went for two P1 events- regional events from our continental area- the Americas. The first race was in Blainville and held on a banked oval auto test track. Yes, it was similar to a velodrome because of its shape, no, it wasn’t like a velodrome because it was six kilometers long. Six. The turns were so wide that the change in wind direction was the only reason we knew we had turned. In the typical fashion of spring in northern North America, it was cold, windy and rainy. This was not a surprise to anyone but unpleasant nonetheless.

Now, this is a post or conversation for some other time, but there are no girls who race. I mean, yes, technically there are several, but we’re few and far between. So, if there are any crippled female cyclists out there, please, please, please consider racing. The sport needs you and I’d like more people to race against. As you may have guessed by this plea, I was the only girl in my class and one of three total including one who was a teammate in a different class. So, with the points for this race locked up it only made sense to work for my teammates who needed a bit of help. Sam and Vince both had people to race against and I needed some training time. Mike- who also didn’t have anyone to race against- and I set tempo, closed gaps, and did what we could to keep Sam and Vince- marked men-either out of the wind or off the front. Because of the differences in classes, Mike and I raced a shorter distance and had to leave them on their own for the end of the race.

The next event was in Montreal on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve F1 racetrack. Because it’s an auto-racing track, the road is as smooth as butter and plenty wide to take turns at speed. If cars can race around the track at 100+ mph then there shouldn’t be any problem for bikes. The first of the two races was a time trial. Again, Mike and I were the only ones in our classes and would work to help Sam and Vince in the road race. In an effort to not blow ourselves to bits in the TT- like we like to do- we rode very conservatively. The next day was the road race and with legs as fresh as spring daisies I was ready to work. As was illustrated in Blainville, the race would be Canada vs. The U.S. and it was up to us to make the race ours. We had the strongest riders in the field so we rode our race. Mike and I rotated at the front to keep the pace high and cull the herd. Team USA had a major presence in the race with two to four riders rotating on the front at any given time. Like in Blainville, Mike and I raced a shorter distance than Sam and Vince but by that time, they were both already off the front in the break and the first chase group. The work for the day was done.

It was fun having a job and working towards a common goal. More importantly, all the bikes started together big(er) fields. (For safety, the handcycles, trikes and tandems started in separate groups.) It’s always fun to race with the guys and to race with teammates. Training together is one thing but racing together and seeing the hard work pay off with wins is another. Additionally, having some low-key races to start the trip off is nice and takes some of the pressure off the riders that have to get results to gather points for the team.