Friday, April 19, 2013

"One Last Race"

Well, by the time this gets posted it will be Friday. Everyone will be pulling on race day jerseys, nerves will be sinking in and there is nothing quite like hearing “mount your Schwinn bicycles” and Straight No Chaser sing Back Home Again in Indiana as the pace laps start.

I was lucky enough to start the race for Cru Cycling last year, a position I was initially going to fill again this year. Unfortunately though, you will not see me out in the track today. I’ve been waffling back and forth all year, going between focusing solely on collegiate nationals to attempting to do both. However, the decision was removed from my hands when I ended up having a cyst removed from my wrist joint two weeks ago. The doctor said I could probably race, but it soon became clear that my wrist was not going to support me jumping on the bike and even if it did I could possibly injure it severely enough to ruin nationals. My teammates have been amazingly supportive through this whole process and I owe them more than I can quantify.

I may not be out on the track today, but I will be in the pit putting my coaching certification and race experience to use, and I could not ask for a better group of girls to coach on race day.  However, there are a lot of people who have made Little 500 what it has been for me.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Little 500. Without it I probably never would have started riding competitively or found a place within college. Little 500 gave me friends, it gave me community and it gave me something to work for. That being said, there are a few teams who deserve more than just a general thanks from me:

Thank you so much to Wing It Cycling for helping me to fall in love with riding, thank you for your support and friendship my freshman year. I had so much fun racing that year and the top ten finish is something I still cherish today.  Tom, you remain one of the most influential people on my cycling career and I owe you more than I could ever repay in terms of knowledge and support.

Thank you to Cru Cycling for taking me in and helping me renew my faith. Thank you for walking with me during my long months of physical therapy for my knee and thank you for continuing that journey with me for three years. I could not ask for a better group of women to call teammates.

Thank you to Melanzana for letting us into your team and life these past years. In particular I owe Dana, Christine and Rose for your kindness. I can't express how awesome it is to see how much our teams have grown stronger because of each other. 

Thank you to all the riders, men and women, who became my friends. I have had more fun on the track in the last few months than I can ever hope to have again. I love watching the friendships that form on the track between people of all different skill levels. They say Little 500 is the great equalizer and I could not agree more in terms of the connections it creates.

To those of you who are not graduating this year, cherish these months. It’s hard work, and sometimes it seems like it is not worth it, but I would not give up my four years on the track for anything. Support your teammates, and know that they would travel through hell and back again for you. In turn, encourage the teams around you. Little 500 may pit you against each other but some of my best moments in college have been because of other teams and the friends I made during track practice.

I guess what I am trying to say in the end, is thank you. Today was the last day at the track and as I looked around I realized how much of myself I discovered because of Little 500, and how far I had come from that scared freshman during rookie week. 

See you on race day and Godspeed.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Regionals Race Report and Conference Wrap Up

Regionals Race Report

Saturday's road race at Purdue was the perfect course for me. Finishing with a “gradual turning steep at the top” climb was right in my comfort zone and I was hungry for a top ten finish. Tactically, it was one of the better races I have done. With four off the front in the first lap, the pack settled in for forty miles of wind and hills on the first lap. The wide open course made hiding challenging at best and a tricky descent in the backside sent alarm bells ringing in my head. Four laps later as we came up to the final climb I knew that I had to gauge my moment, if I went too soon I would just pull the pack with me. Waiting has to be the hardest thing to do but as we came over the top I fought through for 8th (4th in the field finish).

Saturday night I had the privilege of representing IU at the annual conference meeting. It was really nice to have people, including the conference directors, coming up and telling me that this was the most they had seen of IU in years. I think it speaks volumes of the efforts of members to sacrifice Little 500 participation in order to go to Utah.

Sunday was a very flat, awkwardly windy course through downtown South Bend. Because of the buildings you never knew quite where the wind was going to hit. Within the first fifteen minutes Ashley James and Kaitie Antonneau were off the front, leaving the field to fight for third. I was struggling at first with the turns but then something clicked. It was as if everything I have been reading as well as the advice of friends and my coach to be more aggressive and maybe do a little less work had finally sunk in and the last half of the race I felt as if I were flying. As the final three laps started Marian formed a train for Coryn and I saw my chance, sneaking onto the back wheel with two Lindenwood girls as well as a few others. They hammered it along the backstretch and as I glanced back to make sure that I didn’t get boxed in, I realized that the field was no longer with us and I was fighting for top ten. I barely passed a few girls at the line, but came in tenth, my second top ten of the weekend and of the season.

“You can count on this, I’m only getting better”

Conference Wrap Up

2012 Conference 8th Nationals 10th
2011 Conference 6th Nationals 6th
2010 Conference 7th Nationals 8th

The above is the placing of Indiana University Cycling the past couple of years that results are available at the MWCCC website. This year we went 4th in the conference and 3rd in the nationals qualifying rankings. We were the first ranked non-varsity program and while we still have a ways to go, this was huge progress.

In three weeks Melissa, Graham, RJ, Austin, Paul, Turner and I will be competing at the highest level for collegiate cycling in Ogden, Utah and I could not be more excited.

Going to nationals this year has been my personal goal since the end of development camp in August. I have worked towards this goal with steadfast confidence since then, dealing with doubters and taking setbacks in stride. Our team as a whole came together in the fall with the overarching goal being nationals. We have been told that it wasn’t worth it, that we were stupid to even try because we weren’t going to win, and that there was no way we could hope to hold our own against two varsity programs (not to mention how dare we do anything other than Little 500).  Everyone took this and let it fuel them, focused on the goal of competing as a team throughout the spring and qualifying for nationals. It is safe to say we accomplished that goal with flying colors.

You have to start somewhere. Three of us will be returning from Ogden for racing next year and this experience will only make us stronger. If you never try for fear of losing then what is the point of racing your bike? It is like going through your entire racing career in the pack and never attacking. Pointless.

This year was not necessarily what we expected. We got pummeled at races, overwhelmed by larger, more organized teams. We stayed at friend’s houses, drove our own cars up, and covered many of the expenses individually, dealing with the issues that come with not being a varsity program such as limited funding and little support. However, we did find support within the Bloomington cycling community and for that I am eternally grateful.

To everyone who said we could do it, who cheered us on, thank you. To organizations that sponsored IU Club Cycling, such as IUSF,  Rec Sports, GU and the Rudy Project, thank you, we would not be headed to Ogden without you.

I don’t expect to win at nationals, in case that wasn’t clear. Honestly, I don’t even know what my expectations are. I hope to be of some assistance to my teammates, and I hope to gain experience that will be of use to the women’s team next year with Emma continuing in the A field and others looking to upgrade.

To my teammates, both men and women thank you for going through this with me. Thank you for showing up to races with an amazing attitude and the realization that we were all in it together. Thank you for making it fun, and thank you for being the inspiration I sometimes needed.

To my competitors, thank you for being so gracious. Thank you for giving me pointers, for your coaches that gave me advice, and for your friendships that I have appreciated over the past few weeks, especially at the races that I was by myself for. Thank you for housing me, thank you for your words of encouragement when things got tough. Thank you for letting me into your twitter conversations and musings. Most of all, thank you for letting me play bikes with you.

See you in Ogden. 

My parents came to watch the road race!

Some of the best ladies in the world to race with. Can't believe I won't see them every weekend anymore.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Marian/ Little 500 ITTs/ MSU/ Michigan

Wow. Okay, so clearly a lot has happened since I last updated this, so bear with me.

Remember that big snowstorm after the Lindenwood race? Well, long story short I fell walking on the ice and broke my tailbone. Sad to say it is all downhill from here.

Marian was five days after the tailbone incident and the last thing I wanted to do was sit on a bike for not one, but two criteriums. However, I was already registered and I would have to be on my deathbed not to race a bike (especially after racing with a concussion/whiplash last summer after the wreck at camp).

Saturday morning rolled around, my alarm didn't go off and when I got to the race site I locked myself and Ashton out of the car for what is the second time this season. The day racing was a lot of fun though, it was a cool course with a wicked fast technical portion through the campus. The collegiate race proved to be a good learning experience, and massive thanks to Ivy from Marian for giving me some tips on how to handle the turns. I felt really comfortable throughout the entire race, which was a nice change from my usual inner panic. As is my problem though, I put in too much work and popped off the back with two to go. I got in with a small group off the back and was able to break away in the final run through thee technical portion and fly to the finish line for 18th place. Not my best, but in the points.

The afternoon was a very different kind of racing, the cat and mouse "I'm not going to pull, but I'm not going to let anyone get away" which I HATE. I finished with the pack after finding myself in horrid positioning coming into the technical portion of the last lap, and having to work from the back of the pack for the sprint.

Moving on.

Monday I had a doctor's appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to look at my wrist which had been aching and swelling the past week. Lucky me, I had developed a cyst inside the joint. Fortunately they were able to take care of it that morning and the recovery period is only supposed to be two weeks. I spent an hour with needles and the like in my wrist but was patched up, sent on my way and went for a ride that afternoon (granted that ride involved only one hand, but still).

The injured wrist without the hard brace on.

Wednesday was ITTs for Little 500 and at this point my wrist was still causing a fair amount of pain and I was concerned about my ability to control the bike as well as get up to speed with only limited ability of my second hand. It hurt, but I got 14th out of 133 girls with only one hand in the drops. All I heard afterwards was "You looked like you were in pain".

My name on the board (that lasted about ten minutes).

Okay, so now about this past weekend of racing.


The road race consisted of half gravel/half paved roads for a grueling 42 miles. I knew my wrist was going to be a factor and that thinking was proved right when we hit the first gravel section. I found myself 30 seconds off the pack with Stephanie (Marian). We soon caught three others which dropped to Stephanie and I and then grew to four again going into the second lap. At this point I knew there was no power in the universe that was going to get me to the pack and I found myself on the wrong side of a shattered group. Between the gravel section and the 20+ mph winds on the paved roads I ended up doing the last three laps by myself in no man's land with the pack in sight and two girls a minute or so behind me the entire time. However, many thanks to the Men's A fields for the words of encouragement as they passed me on lap 4.

Gravel, dirt, dust, sand you name it, we raced through it on Saturday.

The ITT that afternoon was equally painful with the wind, a firetruck and a brush fire all adding to the frustration. I got 15th in both events.

I stayed the night with Tessa from University of Michigan and it was fun to talk about boys, bikes and eating gluten free. It was nice not to stay in a hotel, and many thanks to her for being willing to house a competitor.

The Crit the next days was a very fun course with sweeping turns, a tailwind up a small rise and a massive headwind into the finish. Right off the bat Coryn, Ivy and a few others from Marian/Lindenwood were off the front. I found myself, as usual, in the main pack doing way too much work on the front. Field sprint for 14th. After the fact that statement about me doing too much work was repeated multiple times from multiple people that I have a lot of respect for. I know that tactically it is not the best move since I am often without teammates, but I also still have this bug in my brain about doing work in criteriums. For me part of racing is doing work and driving yourself into the ground. It's how I learn, it's how I get better and sucking wheel all day just to pop out for a field sprint just seems wrong.

The A Women NOT on a varsity team.

Regardless it has become clear that my tactics need some the coach assigned a little homework. I'm supposed to read it, memorize it, practice it and repeat. No pressure. At the end of the day though, it was a very stressful car ride home between talking to my coach and then also with the doctor about my wrist and I was an emotional wreck by the time I got back to Bloomington. Frustrated with my consistent "just out of top ten" results as well as worried about my ability to continue riding, I ended up going straight to my parent's and curling up on the couch for an hour. Tomorrow is another day, another week of workouts and another chance to get it right.