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.