Saturday, May 31, 2014

Resiliency, it's in the water

"No athlete is truly tested until they've stared an injury in the face and come out the other side stronger than ever."

No, I am not injured again. Well, not unless you count the numerous bruises I seem to have accumulated attempting to get better at mountain biking.

I am not injured but the last few months have felt very similar to coming back from my knee injuries a couple years ago. Anger, denial, acceptance, and finally my purely stubborn nature have all played a part in my return to training and racing, as well as Colorado. Colorado, the people I have met and the places I have been have all kept me going.

I am not sure if it is something in the water, or something in the people I have met but resiliency seems to abound here. There are the big examples like marathon runners fighting back from injury to take a personal course record, friends taking 4th in their first ever marathon, and injured veterans finding the strength to compete on the velodrome when they have not ridden a bike since they were little. These are all amazing but I also find beauty even in the small examples of resiliency that we so often pass by, like flowers growing seemingly from rocks and finding the strength to bloom when everything in nature is going against them. It wraps around me, inspiring, lifting me up and encouraging me to keep going; telling me to run one more mile, to try and climb the technical portion on the trail one more time even when my body is screaming at me to stop, go home, eat ice cream and lay on the couch. When it comes down to it I am not the injured veteran, and I am not a flower growing from rocks so where do I have room to complain, to give up? 

Sometimes, it is the little things that you see.

It took a bit of a kick from a friend, but I finally bit the bullet and got back into racing. This past Tuesday was the opening night of racing at the 7-11 OTC Velodrome and I could not be happier with how it went. I finished 1st, 2nd and field finishes in the Chariot, Snowball and Points races respectively. While the race results are nice, it is the training I am most proud of. Last week I recorded 14 hours of training and this week looks like it will come in close to the same. While nowhere near the twenty hour weeks I was completing last year, it is progress. Training is finally fun again and I am having the most fun on a bike that I have had since Snake Alley last year.

Speaking of Snake Alley, the elder Palmer did well at the Memorial Day races, posting multiple podium finishes. Calling home was bittersweet because as happy as I am for his successes, I miss road trips for racing with my dad. He has been there for every major race of my career and I miss his perspective and companionship as a training partner. Riding solo gets lonely, though I am meeting more cyclists here. 

Territory Days!

Monday the roommate and I hit up territory days in Old Colorado City, kind of like the 4th street festival with MUCH better people watching opportunities. I'm talking rainbow hair and people walking around with machetes. Exploring Colorado Springs has been a blast and I've made a lot of progress on the 100 before 25 list I made back in January. On my radar for completing next? The incline, and a half marathon that I signed up for in September, as well as continuing to chip away at some of the larger goals! 

I do the cooking in our apartment,  which should come as no surprise. Nomnomnom.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Reset: A New Path

So. Clearly it has been awhile.

If you are reading this you probably have been following me on Facebook or Twitter. You probably know that I recently had some major life changes, for the better but still a major change.

My front row call-up at the Collegiate Cyclo-cross National Event.

After cyclo-cross nationals (where the Lindenwood team finished 4th on the team podium, and my teammates did amazingly well while I suffered through the end of my cyclo-cross season) I took some time to try and come down from my burnout. My 100 before 25 was one of the ways that I was trying to achieve this and while they are goals that I am still trying to achieve it was not terribly successful. The closer the collegiate road season got the less I wanted to look at my bike, and it hurt to not enjoy something that had been such a large part of my life the last five years, including the injuries.

My parents and I took a week down in Florida and seeing some old friends in St. Augustine and riding with the cycling group down there went a long way towards helping, but I still was not inspired like I was when I was doing well this past summer. During that time a job at USA Cycling was posted and I applied for it under the assumption that the process would be good for me but it was unlikely that I would be hired due to the fact that I was still in school. This was the beginning of February with the 2014 road season weeks away.

The view from Florida, St. Augustine will always hold a place in my heart. I miss the ocean!

To my surprise I got through the entire interview process and the further I got the more I realized how amazingly this job fit to my set of skills and experiences. It was truly something that I got excited about in terms of researching and preparing for, and when I was offered the job I knew I would have no other response but yes. A whirlwind of a week later I moved out to Colorado Springs, Colorado to start as the new Interscholastic and Club Development Coordinator while finishing up my MBA online at Lindenwood.

I thought that leaving the Lindenwood team and particularly the Midwest was going to be one of the hardest things I ever did. I competed in the season opener at Lindsey Wilson, and I kid you not I got a little teary eyed as the bus pulled out to head back to St. Louis. In all honesty though, this move has probably been the best decision I have ever made for myself.

The Lindenwood Lady Lions at the Lindsey Wilson season opener. Some of the best teammates a girl could ask for!

I am in a job I love, that supports collegiate cycling which has had one of the biggest impacts in my development as a cyclist and as a person. It allows me to help others experience the same opportunities that I have had and give back to the sport that has given so much to me. In addition to this it has taken the pressure off of me and reminded me why I love riding my bike. I bought a mountain bike upon moving and have recently been running, weightlifting and riding almost every day, and have managed to consistently ride over two hours and even run more than five miles for the first time in my life. The biggest thing is that I am healthy again.

Moving has been hard, I will not lie. While I know people at work, meeting people in Colorado has been difficult since I have not started racing again. While I have met people through the local velodrome, and through community activities (I have been taking Spanish classes at the library, pilates, yoga, and even ballet again), it is hard when you are no longer in a collegiate environment. However, “the Springs” makes it easy in that there is always something going on and amazing riding right outside my door. I have an amazing roommate and have started to make some friends with people.

My favorite ride so far, up Gold Camp to where it turns into a dirt climb and down Cheyenne!

I guess the biggest lesson this has taught me, is not to be afraid of what is to come, and not to discredit myself. I used to think there was no way I could ever get a job, I was terrified of having my MBA and moving back in with my parents. Instead I will have a job and my MBA this fall. I told myself there was no way I could ever run more than three miles, and now I am planning on running a half marathon in September.

I have been in Richmond for Collegiate Road National events the last few days and one of the pro riders said something at the banquet that struck me as very applicable to my life recently “Don’t be afraid to create your own path, cycling opens doors for you that you may never have expected.”

From environmental science major, to varsity athlete, to employee this was not a path I expected, but for now it is where I am and could not be happier. I will still be riding, so look for me on a bike; I seem to be getting fast again!

Hanging out at Palmer Park on the new mountain bike!