Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Taking time

It's important to take time. Time to relax, to regroup, to recenter and just to be. Time to take a deep breath, to soak it all in, and be comfortable in your own skin.

This past week has been perfect. No training schedules, no pressing dinner plans, no agendas or places to be. I had no reason to get up each day other than feeding my belly and listening to music. Talk about a complete recharge of my mental and physical batteries.

It also helped me come to the realization that I am tired. Tired from pushing my body, tired from the constant travel, tired from the season that started in march and threatened to go year round if I didn't do something about it. The looming idea of trying to hold onto peak fitness for another two months weighed heavy on my heart so I made the decision to take some time now.

And a big weight lifted off my shoulders.

It was the right decision. So now, I get to take some time, get back into the gym, start the winter training on the flip side of the solstice (yahoo!!!) and have some serious motivation for the big things to come in 2011.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shake it.

Surprisingly, a lot of my friends have not heard of the Shake Weight. I was first introduced to it via Facebook over the summer. I immediately stormed into my mom's office, made her watch the YouTube video and we laughed hysterically for a half hour.

If you haven't seen it - check it out. Shake Weight.

Too funny, right?

I had completely forgotten about the 2010 invention of the year. Move over snuggie! There's a new gift in town.

Then last night, unsuspecting, I opened a gift from my mom. It was heavier then most - I commented it must be a CD or something. Low and behold, I received my very own Shake Weight.

I must have been a very good kid this year. Thanks Santa!

Let the summer countdown begin!

Know what's cool? The winter solstice is today. Which means the days are going to start getting longer in the slow, steady march toward summer. Yessssss!!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Airplane amusement

My eyes are itchy and groggy from the lack of sleep from last night. We said our goodbyes late last night to the U.S. squad while sitting around the dinner table, enjoying some racing stories and jennie's childhood rhinestone tales, till just past midnight. Thankfully the bikes were packed, whisked away earlier by Carlos Lopez, my columbian freight friend, and all we had to do was be in the lobby for a 4am walk up call. That gave Emy and I three hours to catch some sleep. Ouch.

My eyes were shut before my head hit the pillow.

This trip, as the last one to Melbourne, hold so many fantastic memories. Countless laughs, nervous energy, hilarious encounters, third world blunders, dancing dogs, lost in translation miscommunications, etc. And not a single regret.

A lesson we learned at track trade camp: the importance of having staff. Showing up with just our bikes isn't enough, unless you have teammates with the Amazing Race traits; navigation, multi-lingual, problem-solving, detail oriented, and adventurous soles, and another set of legs. Thankfully the U.S. staff stepped up to help us, despite having a full plate with eight of their own athletes to take care of. Benjamin Sharp, Viggo, Andrew Hawkes, James Stanfill,
Jamie Staff - thank you. They kept us informed with daily itineraries changing bus schedules to the velodrome, late night massages, split times, general moral boosting and confidence that yes, we do belong here.

I'm on my last flight home, a four hour bender from Dallas Fort Worth. I can't complain though as my teammate Emy has the same amount of travel west, capped with a fourteen hour flight to melbourne. Double ouch. Good thing the next world cup isn't until February. A quick flight down to la for training here and there seems like a walk down the block now.

I've always enjoyed traveling and to be able to do it with my bike for a 3:30" ride is nothing short of amazing. Megan and I half-heartedly joked about opening up our wallets and just dumping our money out. It's true, these trips are self supported and expensive but you only live once and these memories will last a lifetime.

Personally, I'm a little disappointed with my own performance. It's not that I didn't give our ride 100%, it's just that my 100% that day wasn't close to my potential. Outside factors - being a woman, having asthma, wind, etc are things i can't control entirely. But what I can control is giving everything I do have at that particular moment and learning from it, moving on and chalking it up to valuable experience. Some days you just have bad days. We rode the same as Melbourne, a 3:38, and again, i could barely walk down the ramp. My legs buckled, my lungs gasping for air, my heart crushed that we weren't on schedule. It makes those perfect rides that much more valuable. And that much more inspiring when you see another team execute it to perfection.

Later that night, the Ouch Pro Cycling team would face off against the New Zealanders for the gold. Watching the girls in person, go through their warm up protocol and then take to the boards, is priceless motivation. Seeing how they can physically push through pain and then keep going through the tunnel of pain - Dotsie has hands down the best pain face - Sarah with her massive lap and a half to two lap pulls - and Lauren getting right on that wheel and giving it everything to remain in their slipstream. Despite their best efforts, the Kiwis pulled ahead and put two seconds into the girls. Afterward, during the medal ceremony, you could see the pain still lingered, this time from being so close to winning. They graciously accepted their medals, respectfully listened to the New Zealand national anthem, but I noticed the fierce competitor in Sarah - she was far from satisfied. Being second is bittersweet, we all know that.

Earlier on this trip, I connected with my uncle who lives in Corona Del Mar. We have had limited interaction over the years, so it was nice to get to know him a little bit and share with him a little bit of my world. Our conversation made me realize that what I do is unique and what makes me strive toward the ultimate performance a far cry from the norms of society. But I can't imagine having it any other way. The instant attraction to any sport i've ever tried is based upon if a) they are an olympic sport and b) how quickly i can get to the world cup level. Take dodge ball and kick ball in elementary school.  I wasn't hanging out with the girls playing hopscotch, I was out there throwing balls at boys heads and usually the last person standing. I got used to being picked first for teams, and when I wasn't it motivated me to try harder and never give up. I threw myself into boxing, tele-mark skiing, rock climbing, basketball, track and field, volleyball and now cycling. My favorite subject in school? You guessed it: recess and p.e.. Moving my body made me feel so alive and when i couldn't due to injury, depression set in. But as soon as i was healed, I was back at it. As i've grown older and wiser, those forced down times were used to strengthen the mental aspect of sports psych, a field that really interests me.

I had an interesting lunch conversation this past week with Sarah. I asked her if she thought about life after the world wind travel and what that would entail. Her answer was to remain connected to cycling in some shape or form - a testament to her and Andy's love for sport. And as hurl through space and time now, aboard this plane, i think of all of the opportunities i had to express myself by moving my body and how the coaches over the years, the faithful supporters, cheering squads, etc played an instrumental role in me becoming the elite athlete i am today. And what better way, once that selfish pursuit is satisfied, to give back? To help others pursue their passions?

Now for a little rest and recovery back at home, in my own bed for the first time in a month! I can't tell you how excited I am for tonights slumber. I have no idea what time zone my body will think it's in. But I really don't care. A week off the bike entirely, healthy eating, connecting with family and friends should pass in no time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Not just a number

Not just a number

At an early point in our relationship, ryan and I developed a code number for saying i love you. We had adopted it from my mom and her ex-husband John as a term of endearment. We'd use this term often - pretty much in every correspondence and exchange. It held the same meaning as saying i love you and we'd use it frequently.

Throughout this whole world cup adventure, I've sensed ryan's presence at various points - often when I least expect it and at times when i need him most. He'll pop up in random, funny ways and sometimes in hard, sad ways. That's life in the grieving roller coaster game.

Yesterday on the shuttle bus back to the hotel, Megan let us know our numbers. Emy and i both hoped for a good number - and immediately our term of endearment came to my mind. As she read the series of numbers 141, 142 and 143 - i couldn't believe my ears. And as I told them about how ryan and i would use 143 to signify i love you, we found out that was my number. Out of the hundreds of athletes and hundreds of race bib numbers, it's impossible to think that's just a coincidence. 

As i line up later today, ready to take the boards and propel forward through space and time, i take comfort in that number and am armed with the knowledge that ryan's here with me now, cheering me on and helping me strive toward my goals.

Race day

The jitters are there. And it's not from the columbian coffee. Time to embrace it, accept those nerves and put the energy into my legs. It's time to execute, make the most of the preparation we've had, the dozens of standing starts, the pacing, the exchanges, etc in one singular focus: GO FAST!

The city noises outside - the honks, car alarms, traffic, etc - remind me that it's important to go to a quiet space, somewhere within myself to center, ignore distractions, and get ready for the task at hand.

Focusing on the here now is amplified times ten. Relax, breath, embrace, enjoy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Roughly five or so of the national teams are staying at the same hotel: the Four Points Sheraton. The other teams are spread throughout the city of Cali at various hotels and the uci has provided bus shuttles to transport athletes, coaches and staff between here and the velodrome. A daily training schedule as well as bus timetable are posted in the lobby so it's not difficult to navigate between the hotel and the track.

Yesterday, Andrew (the logistics manager for usa cycling) arranged for Megan, emy and I to have a shuttle swing by the sheraton and take us to the track earlier then the late late shuttle. We boarded a large greyhound sized bus, complete with disco interior and blaring air conditioning only to travel two blocks, wait for ten minutes and then be told we were switching to another much smaller bus that would whisk us away to the track. Little did we know this smaller bus would be filled to the gills - with the denmark national team, some of the kiwis and all of their bikes. Quite a different experience then Melbourne, where we stayed with emy and weren't as integrated into the international scene except when at the track. We giggled and laughed when one of passangers couldn't take his eyes off emy. And when even snuck in a game of UNO while we waited an additional fifteen minutes for the pick up.

As the bus approaches the velodrome, hordes of locals surrounded the area and my first thought was, whoa, track cycling is happening in Columbia! But a few tight turns later, and our bus turned off the crowded street to the back entrance of the velodrome. We found out later that crowds were there for a bull fight. Silly me, like anyone is into track racing!

The cali track is pretty amazing. It is has an open air cover, composed of Abarco wood (form the columbian pacific coast) and bugs the size of small children. The open air roof provides amazing natural light to filter through and i snapped a few photos yesterday of the riders passing through rays of sunlight, it was amazing. The track is somewhat smooth except for a large dip in corners three and four in the pull lane. The transitions between the straights and the corners is similar to la, except the banking in the straights is a hair or two shallower.

We did a roller warm up as the uci designates certain track times to the different countries and teams at different times, so the track is manageable with the number of athletes wanting some track time. You want to make the most out of your time on the track and emphasize feeling the track, dancing with its nuances and discovering its subtleties. Later in the session, which we had the last one of the night starting at 6:30 pm, the wind picked up quite a bit, creating a massive head wind on the back straight. Thank goodness marymoor's frequent headwinds prepare you for the unexpected. What marymoor doesn't prepare you for though is doing a team pursuit effort and having malaysia's team sprint guys nearly take a rider out in the middle of an exchange. Holy smokes Megan almost went down!

We finished our efforts, got a quick ten minute cool down on the rollers before hustling onto a shuttle bus and being whisked back to the sheraton. Our return trip to the hotel had a quicker route - the driver decided to go up and over the hillside, through switch back ascents and harrowing descents. I was thankful to be in the back of the bus, except if we did hit something, i would be ejected to the front of the bus in no time.

Aye aye aye!

The hillside was covered in blinking Christmas lights - a nice reminder that christmas is coming and people still celebrate it.  I was still buzzing from the effort, or maybe it was the gu? by the time we got back to the hotel and took a quick shower before i got notified of an evening massage from Viggo. 

Today we have an early morning roller session followed by lunch, our final track time before racing tomorrow. Should be fun! Wish us fast legs....


This whole experience is surreal. I mean, who would have thought I'd be traveling the world, armed with bikes, rollers, spandex and other cycling centric things and seeing the world by the speed of my legs? 

Yes, I still have that pinch me, i must be dreaming, sensation.

As I sat upon a set of rollers spinning on my road bike on the fourth floor of our hotel, overlooking the street scene of Cali, a huge smile spread across my face. I am here. A street parade walked down the sidewalk, filling the street full of navidad music that tickled the ears.

We head to the track after a leisure morning of breakfast, late lunch and running across the street to the convenience store. I can't wait to see what the track looks like as it's only been described to me. Bugs, technical transitions, natural light, good atmosphere in the infield, it shouldn't disappoint.

Excess baggage

(I'm playing catch up...)

Excess baggage....

Well today's check in was an experience. Traveling with a double bike box is always challenging, and today was no exception. Also included in the circus act was the added performance of traveling with 4" drum steel rollers, which took up the majority of the weight. The rest of the enormous suitcase i borrowed from Gary is pretty much empty. At check in, I even put ten pounds of clothing and cycling shoes in my carry on, last minute, since it weighed in over 52 pounds.  Oh the glamorous and exotic lifestyle of a cyclist, you should be jealous.

Dear TSA, please be careful with my oversized, over weight, pain in the butt bike box. I know that's a lot to ask, but if you could just avoid throwing it around like a gorilla when I'm watching, I'd appreciate it. Oh, and by the way, you might not want to open that beast as it is a puzzle piece to put back together. 


Next stop: Miami! Next, next stop: Cali, Columbia.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Second breakfast

On a morning ride this morning with Kim, food became the topic of discussion. Big surprise, right? We both admitted that the biggest reason we do this sport, get up and pedal our bikes when most people are sleeping in and relaxing is so that we can eat not just one breakfast, but two.

Oh second breakfast, how I look forward to you each morning. With the biggest decision of the day concerning what I should have - another breakfast or lunch type of item - I get to run through possible scenarios and yummy foods on my ride home.

I know, weird. Right? But those of you how pedal a lot know exactly how exciting the second meal of the day means. Yum!

A little down time this afternoon and then we're headed to the track for an evening session. I'm excited for the final track workout before heading out on the next adventure to Columbia on Monday!

Mmmmmm..... French toast.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I'm sitting in my hotel room, with ShoBox fighting on the tele, affirming my decision to hold off on pursuing boxing for cycling. It's funny how things work out in life. Six months ago I entertained the idea of picking up the gloves again, getting back into the groove of things as a pugalist. At the time, I didn't know if cycling was going to continue filling that niche I have for sport. Thankfully I stuck things out, as was always the game plan leading up to nationals. But I did for a second consider getting back into the ring to follow my olympic bid by using my fists and avoiding blows to the head.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the better option of the two.

I am blessed with the ability to reach such a high level in both sports. And now that I'm competing at my ultimate dream goal of world cup action - well, I could call it a day. But the competitor in me has issued new goals and I will continue striving toward them until i reach them. Curious what that is? World champion. Yep, you heard it here first.

Today was a solid day at the track. I found my breaking point, again. As hard as it is to fail an attempt, it's also rewarding knowing that i pushed myself as hard as I could and each effort was with 100% intensity.

The day started with a two hour road ride from the hotel down to long beach at 9:30. From there we headed directly at the track and didn't leave until 4:30 that early evening. Phew, it was a doosey.

And now I'm in a sushi coma. My mom called and checked in, reminding me that I haven't been updating her, or my blog for that matter. In all honesty, I have been pretty pooped each night. With each additional brain cell focused on recovering and giving each effort as much energy as possible. Things are looking good for Cali, Columbia. Our team has done some solid efforts together and in exactly a week from today we'll be taking to the boards in south America.

The weather has been ideal - mid sixties during the day and high fifty at night. Hearing weather reports from friends makes me wonder why I want to return home? Yet, i miss it all the same. Spending christmas in a warm climate is way different - no trees strapped to people's suvs, no obnoxious house lights, etc. The tinsel that hangs in the reception office at the hotel is the only reminder around here. Strange, very strange.

A well deserved rest day tomorrow.... Just in time.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Yo yo!

Wow, that travel and racing took more out of me then I thought it would. Since friday, i've been readjusting to the pacific coast time zone and getting my body recovered and ready for the next big hit in a little over a week. My evenings in comfy Carson are spent with very little activity - both mentally and physically. It is still amazing to me how much training and racing takes it out of you and now that I'm even more singulary focused, i have become an expert at doing nothing, which thankfully translates to going faster on the bike when it counts.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

On sunday evening i went to my uncle's house in corona del mar. I hadn't spent much time with him since I was a kid and we were one big happy family, so it was nice to reconnect with him and my cousins, who are 8 and 10 years old. His house is incredible - something that would out cribs to shame. And he started asking questions about why i do what I do. Why do I push my body? And we came to the conclusion that I am wired differently then most people I know. Yet somehow i've been able to surround myself with others of a similar interest in cycling.

I digress.

The weather down in la has been amazing, mid seventies during the day and about mid fifties at night. This is making what is typically a hard time of year for me a lot a easier to take. If only they had more trees and greens down here....

Last night I had a wacky dream, a testament that I am living and breathing cycling. I dreamt i lined up for a team pursuit with Sarah and Kim. Sarah was in the starting position, kim second, myself third. The countdown was on and that's when i realized instead of a bike, I was starting on a black bar stool on wheels. As the countdown continued, i panicked and thought how lame it would be to try and keep up with those two on a rolling stool. So i false started, and i looked down to see Sarah false starting as well by getting off her bike while it was in the starting gates. She and Kim continued the effort though, as i headed to the infield to sulk about my stool and i looked up to see sarah lapping Kim for the second time. Strange.

Too funny.

This week we have some efforts, though not a ton since we're balancing tapering and recovery with getting ready for columbia. I leave next Monday on another amazing adventure!

Saturday, December 04, 2010


Mind blowing. That's what I'll use to first describe my experience at the Melbourne world cup. I hope to capture every single aspect of it, but it's also something that you will have to experience on your own.

I have surrounded myself with the world's greatest. Or rather, they have surrounded me. It was intimadating at first. Walking through the concrete belly of the velodrome, entering the infield for the first time amongst a whirl of high end carbon fiber, mavic wheels, matching track suites, 35 or so countries represented, international coaches, UCI officials, current world champions, fit, fit, FIT cyclists, some with legs bigger than anaconda snakes (Beth- wait till you see Megan's photo of the German). Yet when I took to the boards for the first time, spun my first revolution, I felt like I had arrived. That I belonged there along side of them all. What an indescribable feeling, this kinship linked via the machine we use to transport ourselves as quickly as possible through space and time. No matter the cultural origin, the shape of your body, the color of your spandex - we are all here to do one thing and one thing only: go as fast as humanly possible.

Despite traveling the 16 or so hours via air, car and foot travel, my excitement grew to such heights that nothing could wipe the smirk off my face. We met Emy, our Ausie teammate at the airport and she whisked megan to the velodrome as my dear friend Monique picked me up curbside. Monique is a month away from having a baby and looks fabulous. She took me to a local cafe, helped me unpack my bike, attended to my every need and then we headed to the velodrome. I couldn't have asked for a better tour guide; as she showed me the city's highlights, I fell in love with Melbourne. On our return trip to her house, we stopped at a local park and went kangaroo spotting. They are the funniest creatures - they use their tail as a tripod balance point with their massive rear legs, their front arms resembling t-Rex appendages with little practicality other then scratching themselves. I must have sounded like a elementary kid as I ooed and awed over their quirky movements. Monique giggled as i took delight in their colloquial sayings such as flaming galah and other unmentionables. My biggest regret on this trip would be how little time I got to spend in Melbourne, let alone Australia. Let it be known here and now, I plan to return. Perhaps the christmas carnivals next year?

Okay, so second biggest regret: I didn't travel with a camera. Dope! I'm picking one up this week.

The next morning, Monique and I headed into the city early to grab a crepe and flat white in one of the lanes (alley ways) in the heart of the city. Much to my delight, the little sidewalk cafe we ate at had a nutella and banana crepe, which i had to order in honor of my friend cam. One word: YUM! And I'm happy to report, the ausies know how to do coffee. I arrived to the velodrome a little early that morning and walked down to the yarra riverside to absorb in my surroundings and soak it all in.

We had a training session, more to familiarize ourselves with the track and with our new teammate Emy. Since this was our first efforts as a team, we looked at melbourne as a race/training opportunity. This mentality placed no expectations or additional pressure on us - other than staying together as a team an not do anything embarrassing. Mission accomplished.

Afterward, we headed to the AIS, a state funded athlete facility that contained multiple ice plunge baths, warm pools, weights, etc. Emy referred to it as "recovery" and as she and Megan plunged between the warm and ice cold pools, while I decided to try and freeze my extremities off by plunging for a solid fifteen minutes. A couple of famous football players drifted in and out of the facility, as the three of us hooted and hollered our way through recovery. Afterward, we opted to stash my road bike in emy's old rowing house along the yarra as we grabbed a bite to eat and decided our next move. I switched lodging to emy's house but there was one problem: not enough room in her car for three of us and three bikes. So i headed to massage with the national team swanie and was going to adventure back to emy's in the Kew neighborhood via bike, mass transit or taxi, depending on the weather. The only problem? It was pouring rain when i headed out to the hotel headquarters. Never one to shy from adventure, i was armed with a hand drawn map, multiple instructions on how to get to her house and my bike. Lucky for me the rain stopped after my hour long luxurious rub down. The life of an elite athlete can be rough sometimes, let me tell you.

Perhaps a little dazed from the rub, or still seriously jet lagged, i got all turned around and had to ask directions several times from other cyclists. Lucky for me just about everyone rides their bike in Melbourne and i soon found my way back to the house. A quick introduction to emy's father Peter and her brother and we headed out to dinner at a local establishment. Get a little food in my belly, relaxed muscles and I was a live wire in dinner conversation. Not so much. It reminded me of a little dinner party we had with the blatchfords last february. I think I fell asleep before my head had hit the pillow.

The next morning was race day..... And nerves were running high. Emy arranged for her friends stewart and Matilda to help us track side and attend to our every need. They did a fantastic job, calming our nerves, weighing our bikes, setting up rollers, bikes, pumping tires, etc. Before we knew it, we were sitting in the hot seat as the French team encircled us. Benjamin helped with our split times and walked the line, adding a sense of familiarity for Megan and I. I lined up in the start gate with complete focus and determination to demonstrate 100% of my ability. The 10 second beep sounded, i grabbed my bars, ready and anticipating the start. Beep, five, beep, four, beep, three, beep two - ready to pounce, weight shifted back into the gate for max propulsion forward, beep one, beep GO! Out like a rocket, adrenaline pumping, I
was into corner three, getting into my aero bars and accelerating through the first lap of our twelve lap effort. My first exchange was solid and Megan did a good job of setting pace. The effort went by in a blur. As soon as i hit the front, my thought was, my turn! My turn! My turn! Pull, pull, pull. Exchange, relax, recover. Up, up, up. Here we go, reel it in. Let's go, let's go! And with three laps to go, my cottonmouth caught up, mouth wide open trying to suck in as much air possible; wishing i were in a 98". Tunnel vision closing down my senses and Emy did the final pull, clocking us in at a 3:38. Not bad for our first go. And a fantastic start for the season.

I took two laps to get off the track, and could barely walk down the stairs to the infield. A steadying hand on my back nearly knocked me off my feet. My body went into shock, lungs spasming for air, pale as a ghost, legs pumping full of lactate, knees close to buckling. The other girls could move and talk. The deep satisfaction of going as hard as i could coming to me like a tidal wave. The world ceased to spin for two minutes, and if it did, I had no recollection of it. Turning your body inside out like that is not natural, yet necessary for optimal performance. Somehow, some way, you are able disconnect your mind and body by diving into the pain, going beyond what's comfortable. Or as Jennie puts it, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. This feeling, this please stop feeling, and then pushing through it is why I do sport, why i push my body. It makes me feel alive. And as painful as it is to be temporarily in that state of discomfort, i seek it like a rare gem hidden in the depths of a mountain.

Need i say more?

The rest of the evening was magical too. I got to watch the world's best track cyclists do their thing in the flesh. From the men's team sprint, woman's team sprint, the team pursuit final where the ausie women nearly upset the world record held by the american women, the omnium elimination race and my favorite: the Madison. Wow. WOW. WOW!!!

Sadly we left the next morning. I spend the next ten days in l.a. Training and prepping for Columbia, the next stop on the world cup tour. I'm still waiting for someone to pinch me.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Reel it in.

I only have a few short minutes before we head to the track for our first assault on the international scene. I have a good mix of feelings - from excitement to relaxation. This is go time. I am fueled properly, rested, soaking in the experience and ready to show the world my ability.