Friday, January 25, 2013

Faith and Cycling: Why I Ride

So as many of you know, I ride for Cru Cycling for the Women’s Little 500 race. Well we have a team testimony night coming up and that has had me thinking about why I ride and what has kept me going, so the following is my testimony. I do not intend to preach, nor do I wish to offend. This is just my story, and I thought it was time that I share it, all of it, including my faith.

Growing up I went to church, got confirmed through the Catholic Church and kind of wandered through faith. My senior year of high school I started riding for fun and then got into racing, joining Wing It Cycling my freshman year of college. It was amazing, for the first time I felt like I was a part of this group that had the ability to accomplish whatever we wanted. We qualified 9th and I was lucky enough to join the race as a freshman, competing in my first Little 500.  During this time I also became involved in a Cru Bible Study, attending when I could around Little 500 training. The end of the year came around and I went into the summer so excited about racing. It was finally my chance to be great at something, to show the world what I could do. I ramped up my riding, and did a few road races over the summer.

It is crazy how God works, because just when you think you are at the top, that nothing could bring you down, he has a way of stepping in and showing you how little control you really have. Going into my sophomore year I was so excited about Little 500, shifting my priorities to training and no longer being as actively involved in Cru or my local church. We had an amazing team and all signs pointed towards a top five finish. I was riding more and more, and getting stronger every day. It was around September that I began to notice a nagging pain in my right knee, including large amounts of swelling around the joint. I tried to work through it, again thinking I did not need any help, but following the Hilly Hundred my knee gave out.

We went to see a specialist who gave a general, vague diagnosis of muscle overuse. I was told to take it easy and only do light riding until after the Fall Cycling Series races were over. I did this, and yet the clicking, swelling and general joint pain only got worse. We went back to see a different orthopedic surgeon and that was when Chondromalacia was diagnosed. It’s a huge problem with female cyclists, involving severe muscle imbalances. I had it badly enough the orthopedic surgeon at one point told me I should be prepared for the worst outcome: not being able to train as a competitive cyclist.

I was devastated. I distinctly remember getting home that night and just sitting on the floor, staring at the mirror on my dorm room door. Everything that I had spent months working towards, that I had put my identity into was crashing down around me. I ended up attending Cru that night and one of the staff, the coach for the Cru Men’s Cycling team, ended up listening to me as I sobbed through my situation. I was a wreck. He prayed for me and that I would find some sort of peace in this problem, and at the time I shrugged it off.  I continued to ask the question: What kind of God would do this to me?

That night was the turning point though, I began to regularly attend Cru again, to get back involved with my church and found a new Bible Study. I threw myself into rehabilitation, working with a physical therapist four times a week. Still I was not making the connection, I thought if I worked hard enough I would get my dreams back on track. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In December I made the hard decision to leave my Little 500 team to focus on physical therapy, even though I was making little progress. At this point it felt like I had nothing left. One night during Bible Study we were working through James, and I came across the following passage in James 1:2-3. “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance”. This was the final piece for me, and it was in that moment that I realized if I continued to make my own plans, if I continued to rely solely on myself I was going to get nowhere.

I began praying, just asking God to show me a way. If that meant giving up cycling, then so be it but at this point I knew He was showing me that I couldn’t accomplish what He wanted on my own, that I had to trust him. I continued to work through physical therapy, and started to see results. I began to ride with the Cru Women’s team, helping them since it was their first year on the track and I had some skills to offer their student coach Jaclyn. But most of all I prayed for God to show me a way out of this mess I had created.

I got better. It hit the point that the physical therapist told me that it was one of the fastest turn arounds he had ever seen. Not only was I better, but I was stronger than I had been prior to being injured.  Still, I was hesitant to throw myself back into training. If I was going to race again it was going to be because that was where God wanted me. I slowly stepped into the field again, racing on the road for the IU Club Team, and Team Scholars Inn Bakehouse. The thing was, it was no longer about winning just for the glory. It was about going out there, supporting teammates and most important of all, showing Christ’s love through racing. That summer was the best season yet. I did over twenty races, winning my first race and achieving a Category 3 upgrade.

Coming into my Junior year I decided to join Cru Women’s Cycling team for the Little 500 race. Surrounding myself with a team who was racing for the love of sport, and so that they could pour their hearts into those around them was an amazing experience. I learned how much of a platform sports provided, and how the relationships you build on the track and on the road can be used to show God’s love.  It was no longer just about winning or personal glory, it was about doing the best you can with the gifts you were given, and using them in a manner that glorified God.  The following summer was a whirlwind, with attending a USA Cycling regional development camp, as well as competing in local races and realizing just how strong I could be if I let God control the outcome.

So, here I am now in the last semester of my Senior year. I am training as a member of the Cru Women’s team still, but I have realized a greater role that I play in God’s plan. Cycling is at a turning point; it is a sport that is struggling to find a place amongst scandal and growth. As a cyclist I can impact and reach people who may have previously never thought about how their faith affects them, and how they can use cycling to reach out to others. I’m training with the IU Club Cycling team and a local road team, with the end goal of racing at Collegiate Nationals, and then hopefully going on to race as a professional (though I realize that is years down the road). The difference is that I am doing this because I have seen that racing at that level provides a platform, an automatic understanding and bond with a group that in some ways needs Christ’s love the most right now.

I’m not perfect and I realize that. I have days where I think it is all about me, and I have days where my faith is the furthest thing from my mind, when I just want to be the best. Every time this happens, when I get to wrapped up in training and beating everyone else, God brings me back and I remember James 1: 2-3. My injuries produced a faith that is strong and enduring, and one that can hopefully be stronger than my pride.

“Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance”

Sunday, January 20, 2013

This Life Would Kill Me...If I Didn't Have You

Well another weekend of long rides and decently good weather has come and gone. We have been relatively lucky this winter with the weather. A quick recap of the riding:

Emma and Ashton, best riding partners ever.

Friday I headed out with Scholars Inn Bakehouse/ IU Club teammates Emma and Ashton. We had fun dealing with some major wind and chit chatting about racing as well as the typical gossip. We are girls after all haha.

Bonnie working her way up the backside of Hindustan

Saturday we took the Cru team out for a rough ride, the wind took a toll on everyone. It was a day for a lot of tough love with the rookies. I was happy to catch three guys from the Cutters who pretty much pulled the group in and provided some amusement to keep minds off the wind. I then headed back out for a Bakehouse ride, getting lost along the way and doing a couple of miles on gravel roads.

You know you're lost when suddenly there is only gravel in front of you...

Sunday I left with the Bakehouse team and although I hung on through the first few surges, I got dropped on the run out of the causeway. I was in for a long three hours out to the end of 446 and back. The weather was nice, but the quiet and the ever present wind was taking a toll.

It was in that moment that I passed the first group of riders that had turned around, a teammate Cameron shouted some encouragement, and maybe twenty minutes later the same happened when I passed the second group of riders. Finally, on my way back into town I passed an old friend who shouted "Keep going Palmer" or something to that effect. According to him I don't smile enough when I ride.

As I rolled back into town I realized how lucky I am to be riding in Bloomington, and how lucky I am to receive encouragement out on the road. A lot of people who ride as much as I have been lately are relegated to long hours alone, and while I do my fair share of that, there are always people around, encouraging me. I am blessed by three amazing teams, and over a hundred local cyclists. They've pushed me up hills, encouraged me to keep going, and have provided joy when the long hours on the bike become a little too much.

Anyways, this is rambling, as per usual. But long story short, this life would kill me if I didn't have you. So I guess what I am trying to say is, thank you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Take That Rage...

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul...... and especialy whenever my hypos get such an upper hand on me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

"Take that rage, put it on a page."
The Script, If You Could See Me Now

Today was a rough day for me. It started with getting called out for a search and recovery out by Lake Monroe at 6am, it ended with a late night run to put some frustrations to rest. I may not be able to take to the sea so working out is the best I can do. Sometimes Nationals, State Championships, all of my goals for the season are just a little too far from reach. 

So, some things to think about. Also, if you even considering professional cycling the below link is something to read. It does not change my goals, but it is something to read, if only so that I can chase after my goals with eyes wide open.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Weekend to Remember

This weekend represented the epitome of cycling for me. From the best of weather to the worst, it was the capstone of a very successful week.

To start off, this week was the first in a while where I finished all of my scheduled rides, as scheduled (except for the surprise 90 mile sojourn). My powertap and computer are finally settled and everything seems to be working well (fingers crossed). Everything was coming together.

Friday I headed out with Lyndi, a teammate from Cru. I had a short interval to do and she was along for the pull. I felt great. Better than I had in weeks. I know a lot of that had to do with the warm weather, but Forest has honestly never been better. We came back into town just in time for the Cru Team meeting, and it was great to get all seven of us in the same place. With five returning veterans and two rookies things are looking very good for us and that combined with the warm weather had me excited.

The early morning view on the lake out by MMSF.

Saturday I was up early to hit Breakfast Club at Kilroy's with Arianna. After that we went out to work off the food and mimosas. I had a three hour ride scheduled so we did a few loops of Forest before heading in. While we were out I saw half of Bloomington it seemed. The IUCC men were out, as well as DG, Phi Delts, Forest, Wing It, DU and numerous others. As we were coming up cascades I saw a large group of Scholars Inn Bakehouse riders as well as some IUCC guys heading back out. Excited to see people I turned around and headed out with them. Possibly a big mistake, but the weather was so nice.

Arianna at the start of our second run through the forest.

I headed out for about 45 minutes with them before running out of water. I turned and headed for home, knowing that continuing to work as hard as I was without water was a bad idea. I reached the top of firehouse hill and headed inside the firehouse to fill up on water. Coming back outside I really did not want to stop riding. Again, the weather was so nice (see the trend). So I headed back out and linked up with the large group again to come back into town with them. So, what had ended up being a three hour scheduled ride, turned into five and a half. 90 miles, done.

Sunday was a whole other story. I had another three hour ride scheduled and the weather had turned to rain and 35 degree temperatures. My dad has always said that if you can't ride in it, you won't be able to race in it. With the collegiate season the way it is I have raced in snow, ice and sleet and I knew weather conditions like this were likely to occur at some point. I met up with the Bakehouse group and off we went. As we headed out of town there was a minor wreck in the back, but once that was settled we headed off again, maintaining a fairly high speed but nothing like the usual race pace that occurs.

The rain got hard, the conversation got quieter and the temperature plummeted. I have never been more thankful for the pulls of the stronger guys in the group (Paul and one of the SIBH men). We reached the flashers and turned back into the wind, all seven of us staying together. At this point the rain was even worse, and it was a struggle to see more than a few feet in front of where you were. As we hit the causeway the group split up with the stronger guys headed for home and AEPi waiting to collect one of their rookies who had been struggling. I continued home alone, constantly fighting to keep moving.

Sure, it may not have been the smartest decision but I am cozy, warm and well-fed now. Not only that but I have the knowledge that faced with those conditions in a race situation, I can handle it.