I’m a planner, a hard worker, I dream big dreams, and I do hard things because that’s how I grow and give meaning to my days. This year has not gone to plan. It has been challenging, devastating, and rewarding in ways I never could have imagined.
In late 2021, I partnered with my husband and we started Distance To Empty. We launched the DTE Pursuit Awards program, and have been supporting four selected Colorado based women to pursue a full season of gravel racing! We continue to grow the program, bring on new sponsors, and raise money for next year. It’s been an incredibly rewarding process to see our mission resonate with so many people.
I faced my own Distance To Empty at the beginning of the year, and continue to navigate the uncertainty of my health and future as a professional athlete. If you aren’t up to speed on all that, you can read the full story here. Without a full season of travel and racing I’ve been able to put my energy into growing DTE and the future of the award program. Today is a big day for us, as we’ve opened the Distance To Empty cycling kit store! The inaugural Distance To Empty kit is inspired by the mountains we climb from dawn to dusk, from the desert floor to tree line, and the grit, determination, love, and heartbreak we carry every pedal stroke of our journey. It represents the need to seek out hard things and challenge ourselves to grow and pursue what we can while we can, because we only get one go, and there is no time to waste.
By repping Team Distance to Empty, you’ll be sporting some of the most comfortable cycling gear available, but more importantly, you’ll be setting up the next group of Colorado-based women who will become the 2023 DTE Pursuit Awardees. That’s right: 100% of our proceeds of these sales will go directly to the 2023 Pursuit Awards program. How good is that? You buy the highest quality, made in California cycling kit, look great, and help get more women on bikes and challenging themselves. Win, win.
If you haven’t see our 2022 Pursuit Awards program, here’s the lowdown: it’s designed to empower and provide opportunities in cycling for girls and women who are looking to pursue something on the bike, whether it be competing in their first-ever gravel event or pursuing a goal of becoming a professional cyclist, but lack the support system and resources to get there. Check us out on Instagram to see what they’ve been up to – and be prepared to be inspired.
Get your Distance to Empty kit order in now, the window is only open through Thursday, July 7, 2022 at 11:59pm PST.
This launch edition is a representation of challenges and hard work not only in designing the kit, but building a new grass roots brand, launching an award program for Colorado women, and getting world class sponsors and race promoters behind our mission, but also learning how to navigate life when things don’t go the way we planned.
Reach out if you have any questions about the kit, program, or anything else.
Thank you to everyone involved in supporting this program, our vision, and our mission. We hope to inspire and create curiosity for others to pursue their own Distance To Empty.
I am super excited to announce the launch of Distance To Empty. It’s an idea about resilience and inspiration, and pursuing hard things against all odds. It’s also a brand that my husband and I have built together. And, it’s our way of giving back.
The best way to achieve big ideas is to start small. As a first step, we’re focusing on what we know: cycling. I will be competing under the Distance To Empty racing banner this year, with the support of my incredible sponsors. Soon, I’ll be sharing a full cycling kit that I designed, and Eliel is making. The new kit will be available for purchase later this year, and you can find my full race schedule under 2022 Calendar along with my 2022 partners.
We’re going to be issuing four 2022 Distance to Empty Pursuit Awards to Colorado-based girls and women who are pursuing cycling against all odds. With the support of my 2022 sponsors and Colorado race promoters, awardees will receive entry into a number of Colorado gravel races being announced on out Distance To Empty Instagram page, product and discounts from my sponsors, and a season of mentoring from yours truly!
The Pursuit Awards are designed to empower and provide opportunity in cycling for young girls and women who are looking to pursue something on the bike, whether it be competing in their first-ever gravel event or pursuing a goal of becoming a professional cyclist, but lack the support system and resources to get there.
We believe a bicycle has the ability to create a sense of freedom that can unify and build bridges to create community. Pedaling a bicycle can help develop bravery and confidence, a feeling of accomplishment, and can free the mind during troubled times. Our goal in launching the Distance To Empty Pursuit Awards is to help create opportunities for others who share the same desire to pursue their own Distance To Empty.
How did Distance to Empty come about?
In sharing the stories of our travails, perseverance, adventures, and accomplishments, we noticed a pattern over time. People would reach out to us and tell us we were inspirational. We didn’t see it this way though. We’ve just been living, packing our lives and our tanks as full as possible, and sharing highlights along the way. But, over the course of a pandemic (that is still going, as we both are dealing with Covid as I type this), we started wondering how we might tell stories of other people who are doing inspirational things, and doing them against all odds. That’s where this idea started. We all have a Distance To Empty, and the good stuff in life happens when we keep that in the front of our minds.
Anyone that knows us knows that we’ve had our fair share of challenges. And despite countless setbacks, multiple life-threatening crises, and a global pandemic, we have continued to push forward. For us, being alive isn’t good enough. We need to live.
We hope you’ll help us share this far and wide, and be part of this movement by using #MyDistanceToEmpty and we can’t wait to hear from and be inspired by our 2022 applicants.
It had been well over a year since I last crossed a finish line, and I was blindsided with emotion. At the beginning of 2021 I was unsure if I would get here again, to take to a start line, and then cross a finish line. My first race back, my 3rd ever MTB race, and I was finishing in 2nd. Yeah, I was choking back tears, realizing this moment meant a lot more to me than I ever could have anticipated.
Crossing my second finish line this year, I was consumed by the same emotion, just seconds away from uncontrollable sobbing. The third time across the finish line was special though. It was unlike any finish line I have ever crossed. It left its mark on me and I’ll forever be changed by it. More on this in a minute.
The pandemic has upset all of our lives, plans, dreams, and our goals. Many have suffered loss and continue to do so, and it’s far from over. But, we have also found ways to adapt, and even thrive. With a pause on racing in 2020 and no start to the international road calendar this year, I have had the opportunity to take a step back and redefine what it means to me to be an athlete. This was not an easy process. I’ve nearly always been part of a team, and lined up at local crit races, all the way up to world tour and international races, with a job and a team goal most of my 15 year racing career. It took time away from racing for me to realize that it is not the team or the start line that defines who I am as an athlete, but my own ability to push myself, and see what more I can get out of myself on a daily basis.
I cycle because I love it, and because it empowers me to do other things that in turn hopefully empower others: to inspire and encourage kids and adults to develop bravery and determination through sport and adventure. I like to lead by example. Instead of sitting on the sidelines in 2020 and 2021, I mapped out my own challenges and adventures, stepping way outside my comfort zone, and competing on new ground.
That third race was Co2uT, a 190 mile gravel (and sand, rocks, mud, and potholes) race in the Colorado and Utah desert covering the longest distance, most elevation gain, and longest time on the bike I’d ever done. I finished in 3rd place for the women 11th overall, in less than 10 hours.
Getting to the start line was admittedly the hardest part. I felt like I was racing my bike for the first time, entirely out of my element. I’ve lined up to more crits and stage races than I can count, and rarely would I experience nerves or concerns at those starts. I’m used to being focused and excited to execute my job. This was completely different; I could not have felt more green. My nerves leading up to the race were felt throughout my household. I have never done more research preparing for a race in my life, nor have I had more doubts and questions.
Was I riding the right bike?
Aero bars or no?
Am I on the right tires and running the correct tire pressure?
Hydration pack or vest, or just bottles or both?
How much food and what type should I consume?
Should I be prepared to go the full distance, or rely on aid stations?
How long will it take me?
Will I make it or will I have to bail out and distance down to a shorter course?
These were all the questions and doubts I was struggling with. I had never tested or pushed my body like this before, and I honestly had no idea how I would respond to such an ask both physically or mentally. There was plenty of self doubt, and I questioned why would I do this to myself, and how would I cope should I fail.
I’m glad I never had to answer that last question! I never really thought that I would have to, because I’m not one to give up even when I probably should. But, this was so new to me I feared it may be a possibility. I could give a full race report, but what it comes down to is this: I showed up, believed in myself, I never gave up, and over the course of the race, I fell in love with the experience. I came across that finish line holding back sobs, because I knew I had leveled up as an athlete, pushing myself into new territory and out rode fear that day.
Since Co2uT, I have crossed a finish line a few more times winning the 107 mile gravel race at the FoCo Fondo, and finishing Ned Gravel with an injured hamstring. Ned Gravel was a race I was just happy to finish, and was ok with that. The day was about the experience, putting in the effort, pushing through the discomfort, making the most out of my choice of bike (I experimented with a hardtail mountain bike, and learned it wasn’t the right choice for me.), enjoying the beauty and challenge of the course, and remembering the big picture of what the day’s ride was preparing me for later in the season.
I’m starting to find my groove and confidence in this new sport of gravel and endurance racing. The confidence is not to be mistaken for confidence that I will win or even finish every race though. It’s confidence knowing that I will take to the start line, be challenged, support other riders through their ride, and I will enjoy the experience and adventure of it all.
For those of you that are curious about how I ended up answering all those questions in my Co2uT race prep, below is the list of gear, nutrition and product that has worked for me in that race and others so far. It is ever evolving but I hope it helps someone in their own adventures. Please reach out if I missed anything or if you have specific questions.
Nutrition is individualized and you need to find what works best for you, the best time to experiment is in training, please never try something new on race day. The Feed is my go to resource for nutrition, they source the best products for athletes, do all the testing and research, and then share that knowledge with you, it’s a great way to try new product or subscribe to products you love. You can buy a sample of 1 or a whole case, its easy, they have fantastic customer service and other resources and they provide a tone of info about each product and the best way to use it.
Depending on distance and race day temperatures ill mix it up and add other foods like pickles to help cut the sweet or salty chips, a baby can of coke, or a bar like JoJe Bars white chocolate coconut blondie is my goto, or Betty Lou’s Bars apple Pie is my favorite.
We use social media for different reasons, frequent some platforms more than others, and might engage a little, a lot, or… nonstop. For some it’s work. For others its a way to express themselves, stay connected, or a way to fill the empty void of space and time, or a way to not be alone with our thoughts.
If I were to take a poll on how you use social media, what platforms you gravitate towards and why, the answers would be as varied as are our ages and personalities. Social media is something different to each of us, and will be something different through different times in our lives. I remember the days when we were just social, but in recent times we rely on social media to stay in touch, to keep up with what is going on in the world, to remain relevant, to share a laugh, or to find warm fuzzies. We all know there is an ugly side as well, and it would be easy to leave this part out. Realistically though, we have all likely been attacked, bullied, called out, or cancelled. I personally refuse to engage in the negative aspects. There are enough loud voices screaming, and I’m not one of them. When I strongly believe in something, posting or commenting on social media is not the platform for me. If I must get involved I personally reach out to have a conversation, and gain understanding. If its a bigger challenge, I vote, I take it to my congressperson, to my community leaders, and participate where change actually happens.
I realize as a professional athlete I have a special platform. I have chosen to do good with it, and to me that means I need to set a realistic example, share honest content about who I am as an athlete, and as a person. As an athlete I represent sponsors who support me. Their support makes this all possible, and I only work with sponsors whose product or service I believe in so I’m never struggling to come up with authentic, honest content. I choose to include my dogs, my husband, teammates, and friends because without them my story would be incomplete. I use Instagram to tell my story and document my life, so I have something to look back on when I’m having rough days, to put things into perspective, and remind myself why I work so hard, and continue to be grateful for the opportunities I have.
With what I share, I aim to set a positive yet realistic example. It’s not all bikes and heavy weights all of the time. It’s not only good days. I’m not anyone special, nor do I strive to be an influencer. I’m just another human working really hard to fulfill a dream, live a life with little regret, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
About a month ago I was waiting to make a big announcement.
A couple of weeks ago I watched my international race calendar fall apart. First, three stage races in China, then Italy. There was a small bit of hope amongst the team that the Tour of Thailand would still be on, but travel of any kind did not feel safe. I started focusing my efforts towards US races I could drive to, and I started accepting invites to ride for composite teams for upcoming stage races, building out a crit/gravel/MTB race season in my head to supplement until things were back on track. I competed in my first 2020 gravel race and won, then, as you know, all were cancelled.
With this news I went through a rollercoaster of emotions, but the one that sticks out and was the most surprising was a sense of relief. I had no idea just how much anxiety I had been experiencing around racing and training until racing was taken away. I have come to realize as I have had the time to process that my head has not been in a good place for a while.
Our family has been through a lot and I have spent the better part of 6 years feeling anxious, selfish, and fearful, that I would regret my choices no matter what path I went down.
To explain, my husband has a genetic disorder called Fabry Disease that is robbing him of his life. Fabry is the reduction of, or the total lack of a single enzyme in our bodies that breaks down lipids. Over the course of decades, the lipids build up in many parts of the body, and the kidneys and heart are most often affected first. He was diagnosed a few weeks before we met nearly ten years ago, and as the years have passed it has greatly effected his quality of life, and we have spent a lot of time in hospitals and a lot of time holding our breath waiting for the next blow.
In 2015 I was racing for Fearless Femme. We were sitting at a coffee shop having finished up a team ride, and were discussing team stuff. Phones were not allowed, but I had mine hidden in my lap receiving updates as Gino was going in for a kidney biopsy. I was upset with myself for not being there with him, and I was scared for him and for the test outcome. Eventually I had a meltdown and told the team what was going on, and apologized for not being present as my mind and my heart were with my husband.
This would be a common theme over the next 6 years. My head and heart have constantly been pulled in different directions, struggling to be present as I struggled to reconcile with the choices I was making.
As Gino’s body continued to be brutalized by this disease, decisions to continue to train race and travel became harder and harder to make. The conversation was to live a life with no regrets but this felt impossible, not spending every precious moment I have with Gino would lead to regret, not pursuing my life’s passion of sport would be a regret. It was a constant guilt-ridden battle to find balance. Together we made decisions, made sacrifices, and fought for Gino’s life.
In 2017, Gino’s kidney function had dropped to 9%, and while most people require dialysis at the 20% threshold, he fought through it and never did dialysis. Through reaching out to our network he was fortunate to receive the gift of life through a living donor kidney transplant from a coworker. Gino is a fighter, and an incredibly driven individual. Within a week after the transplant, he was back to running his company from home, and I was back to getting out for short rides mostly to allow myself to have a good cry, but also to create hope.
As we ticked off medical milestones things never got back to normal, but we had a new normal that was ours. We relaxed a little because we had to, and after encouragement from him, my attention and energy went back into training and racing for me, and continuing the success and growth of Gino’s company that provided security for us and his employees.
The stress, the worry, and the anxiety all had it’s effect on my training and racing, and for that I have guilt and regret, but I was doing the best I could at the time. When I was racing I kept telling myself to be present and in the moment, to make the most out of it because if I did not give it my all then this time away from Gino was wasted, all the sacrifices made leading up to this point, wasted. When things were not under threat and I was able to focus, I had glimpses of what my true potential could be. I saw what hard work and sacrifice could achieve.
In 2018 Gino was under great stress with work and was experiencing chest pain, after putting the company first for way too long, and days after his company was acquired, he had an angiogram and found that the main artery of his heart was 99% blocked, not because of unhealthy life choices but because the progression of his disease. They placed a stent that would fail a year later, requiring double bypass surgery.
Here we are today almost three months out from surgery. The world is in crisis and we are watching things unfold behind the relative safety of our devices. On a day-to-day basis not much has changed for us in terms of our health behavior. Ever since the transplant, we have taken all the necessary precautions of constantly sanitizing our environment, washing hands, avoiding crowds, and avoiding people who are sick, because Gino has to take daily meds that suppress his immune system.
We are both high risk. I have Asthma and an autoimmune disease. No one would know any of this by looking at either of us, and that is what is so scary about this pandemic. Everyday we see people choosing not to take it seriously or make the right decisions to protect themselves or the vulnerable in their communities. We are doing everything in our power to stay safe and keep others safe, so we are self isolating.
In this time I have gone through all the emotions for different reasons, as I’m sure everyone is experiencing right now.
I could go though the list of why I have fear, feel anger, sadness, frustration, and so on, but most of you are here because I am a cyclist and I share my experience as one. As a cyclist, watching the season crumble was really hard. Finding meaning in my training when I have no idea what I am training for took some time to reconcile, and looking at my bikes while not being able to ride them outside stopped me in my tracks one afternoon, and I just cried. I had to ask myself Why? Why do I train? Why do I compete? Those questions led me to here, to reflect back over my career, through all the struggles, sacrifices, and emotions.
Being an athlete is all I have ever wanted to be. From a young age I developed the mentality that I must push myself, and must achieve more than I could before, always growing, and never being satisfied with what I am currently achieving. That want – that need to be better is what makes me feel alive, and having the ability to keep pushing and fighting to achieve is what makes me happy, and grateful.
The feeling of physical or mental breakthroughs is unparalleled, pushing myself against my own goals to achieve or competing against others is a way to measure the work I have put in, but it’s also the relationships and community that comes with the traveling circus that is bike racing. Being an athlete has defined the majority of my life, so when I ask myself why, it’s because it is what make me feel alive, it’s what I love and without it I’m not sure who I would be. Professional athlete or not I believe I will always be an athlete, and will always strive to improve.
With no outside competition in sight, I continue to train because I love it. I love feeling fit and strong, seeing my body change, and witnessing what it is capable of achieving. I have given myself new goals and challenges all while staying the course for one day returning to the start line with my community.
The greatest thing that has come from this forced break from competition is the mental break and the anxiety of decisions needing to be made. Being away from Gino is gone since we are now together 24/7, and we are in lockdown. That has been fine, and good, and we certainly eat at home a lot more now.
I can’t remember the last time I felt this at ease around my training because it’s not tied to any upcoming races or travel. I am simply training again because I love it. My hope is that when competition does resume I will have a healthier mental relationship and preparedness with what I can take on, and be able to go into every race with focus not only for myself but for my teammates and all those who have supported me over the years.
Until then, I will be at home, riding indoors as not to take the risk of an unnecessary accident putting myself and family in further harms way, and putting unnecessary stress on an already stressed medical system. I will continue to support my local community by not going to scheduled appointments but still paying for them. We are ordering necessities from local businesses, and grossly over tipping those who are risking infection while shopping for and delivering goods to us at home. We are planting a garden to become more self sufficient, and running our dogs a lot so they let us sleep in longer. We’re cooking – so much cooking! We are reading actual books made of paper, and are facetiming with friends on the regular. I am coaching Gino back into physical health now that all restrictions from January’s open heart surgery have been lifted. He is on his MTB on Zwift, and even though he hates it he is doing it, we are also working on his functional mobility and working up to strength work. I continue ride on Zwift and am continuing with strength workouts as well, and have even brought back running in to the program. I’m avoiding time spent online, and focusing on being present and enjoying time with loved ones.
I hope you all can find a bit of peace in these turbulent times. Stay safe as you look out for the safety and wellness of your communities, understanding that things are not always as they seem. You never know who is vulnerable, or who is struggling. Be mindful, loving and caring because it will take all of us together to get through this.