Off Season

Off Season

Off season. What does that mean?

Your feet are standing in one spot, but your emotions are all over the place. Its like a rubber band you have been pulling on and pulling on, and then you come to a stop at full tension, and someone lets go on the other end. What happens next? Everything comes rushing at you, and you hope that this year you are prepared for it.

The race season is over: no more racing. No more packing your bike, just to unpack it a few hours later in a different state. No more proving the car rental agent wrong, “No I do not need an upgrade. I can fit all of this into a compact.” Suck it car rental agents all over the country. I never came back for that upgrade.

No more airport runs to pick up teammates. No more grocery runs and calculating the perfect amount of food so you don’t run out, and so you don’t have leftovers. This became a personal challenge of mine that somehow turned in to a really gratifying game when I won.

No competitive remembering where hosts keep their kitchen devices so I can smugly ask teammates, “what are you looking for? Oh that? that is in the drawer left of the stove in the way back.” Why smugly you ask? Because not everyone can have this superpower to see something once and then know were it is when you can’t find it. You will thank me someday.

No more “sleeping” on an air mattress, waking up with your butt on the floor, or hating yourself in the middle of the night for forgetting to put that extra blanket under you because you are now air-conditioning-frozen, even though its 100 degrees outside.

No more lying awake playing the end of the race (which hasn’t happened yet) over and over again in your head, and analyzing all the different ways you might win or lose the race.

No more timing race day down to the minute: what time you wake up, when you will have your coffee, when you will go to the bathroom, when you will eat breakfast, pack your pre and post race snack, load up the car, drive to the race, unload the car, prep your race wheels, sign in, pin your number, warm up, change your wheels, pre race snack, hit the bathroom one last time, and then one more time after that. Line up… wait. Wait some more. Race your bike. Eat, drink, repeat. None of that.

No more post-race recovery, clean up, and depending on how the race played out, no more going to the podium or playing the race over and over in your head to analyze what went wrong. Or if you made the podium, there’s no making sure you’re zipped up, podium hat is on with your sunglasses placed just so that they re not blocking the sponsor logo. No making sure you are standing just right so all the things you are insecure about will not show up in the podium shot.

Off season means no negotiation of who showers first, or checking your post-race email inbox and working until its well past your scheduled bed time, only to start the process all over for race day 2.

Off season means everyone goes back to their home states and countries, and then thats when the rubber band hits and you have about two weeks to deal with it, to not look at your bike, to start panicking about who you will ride for next season, to reflect on what went right, what went wrong, where you can make improvements, and when you try and relax and enjoy this short break before the real work starts.

The off season in my opinion is the hardest part of the year. This is where you begin to lay the foundation, where you are honest with yourself and where you dig deep both mentally and physically. The workouts on the bike may not be intense at first, but they are long, depending on who you are and what your coach’s training philosophy is. You may start running, you may go to the gym and start lifting. In my case I do both.

Running = put your shoes on and your out the door. Freedom is quiet trail runs, breathing deep, and alone time with your thoughts.

Lifting = hard work, noticeable achievements week to week, working your arms to the point that it’s hard to lift that recovery drink (and by recovery drink I mean adult beverage. It is the off season after all.) to your lips with trembling arms.

Bike = long slow distances, a lot of time in your head, and building a strong foundation for the coming season. Endurance, endurance, endurance. Depending where you live this may also mean a lot of trainer time. This is my second year in Portland, Oregon, and sometimes the rain is coming down so hard that the streets are flooded, or its just so cold that no matter what you do your hands and feet go past numb to that painful stabbing feeling in a short period of time. I find that a good trainer/rollers and a great playlist help me to get through these indoor training sessions. Its even better when you can do it with a friend or go to your favorite computrainer studio (mine is EndurancePDX)  and share laughs and painful workouts with your buddies.

The most important thing to me about the off season is finding a balance between getting the prescribed work done and allowing myself to have fun, indulge a bit now because once race season comes around you will allow yourself these simple pleasures less and less. Find motivation in friends and in yourself by going over your upcoming season goals no matter how big or how small over and over again. It’s a great use of your time on those long solo rides. Keep up the positive self talk, and envision yourself on that top step as much as possible.

There are a lot of exciting things coming in 2015 and I will share all of those soon enough. 2014 was a hard transitional year from crit racing to stage racing, I learned a lot about racing and about myself. I also had one of my better seasons, standing on that top step several times, taking back-to-back wins on multiple occasions, and taking home the Oregon Criterium State Championships.

The hard decision to change coaches was made and I am really excited about the progress we have already seen. As a graphic designer I have been really fortunate this year to be able to work with so many amazing clients. Without them I could not keep the same focus on my training as I do now. We got a dog, Abi, and she now has an Instagram hashtag: #abitheaussie. Abi, you have filled my heart with joy, and you have tested me like only a puppy can. I look forward to many adventures with you little girl. My support system is what gets me up in the morning and to bed at night. Without Gino, the friends who have stuck by my side, and the new ones here in Portland I’m not sure I could do this – any of this – without you. It’s your belief, your cheers and friendship that keep me going, as well as believing in myself and this crazy dream I have. 2014 you have been a tough one, I thank you for all that I have learned but I am excited to move on to 2015.

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2013 in review. And here I thought no one was reading this.

2013 was an amazing year! Let me break it down:

Strava reports the following, but does not include the following rides where I:
• did not think a Garmin was worth turning on.
• forgot said Garmin.
• forgot to charge the Garmin.
• forgot to upload the Garmin files to Strava.

What was reported:
I logged 5,391.9 miles, which is the distance between Free State and Bakhtiyarpur, if you were wondering.

Distance between Free State and Bakhtiyarpur
Distance between Free State and Bakhtiyarpur

I spent over 341 hours in the saddle. That’s 14.2 days, or 8.5 40-hour work weeks.

I climbed over 352,480 ft. Thats like climbing Alpe d’Huez over 74 times. And the boys in the Tour only do it once. Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 1.49.55 PM

I went out on over 220 rides, which is just under 2/3 of the number of days in a year. Thats a lot of coffee drinking, and selfies of drinking coffee. IMG_5135

What else happened on the bike:

I raced in El Salvador in my first international UCI race.

I spent two days in the break.IMG_3662

I won points towards the sprinters Jersey.

I signed thousands of kids school note books. This little one was not to sure she wanted my autograph.kids note book

In the US:

I trained a lot. I raced a lot.

I lapped the field for the first time in a crit.

I won some races, had a lot of 2nd and 3rds, and some other placings.

I got one concussion and no broken bones, lost some skin. Right after this picture was taken.rain

Most importantly:
I received support from some amazing generous people who made the above all possible. Without their support none of this would have been possible. I cannot say thank you enough.

Off the bike:

I started working for myself 100% as a freelance Graphic Designer!

I moved to Portland OR.Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 2.28.35 PM

I said YES. To what? You will have to ask me personally to find out.

I wrote a few blog posts about the year that stopped before the season was over. ( I am sorry) I was not sure anyone was reading, but below proves me wrong. I promise to be better in 2014.

Speaking of  2014, I have some big goals, I just hope I can find a team to help me achieve them! Here’s to looking ahead.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Race trip cut short

I’m excited to be going home, and disappointed for the reason. It has been a great season so far, and I was looking forward to this time on the road racing Glencoe, Tulsa Tough, and Nature Valley. Well, the racing was realistically over before it really had a chance to begin.

A torrential downpour engulfed the Glencoe criterium. Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 6.09.41 PMWith 5 laps to go I hit the deck pretty hard due to a rider changing her line to avoid a manhole cover in the apex of a turn. I suffered minimal road rash, had a few contusions on my hip and back side, and hit my head pretty hard.  I was lucky to not break anything when I slid into the curb, but received a concussion that left me dizzy and a bit out of sorts. I was seen on site by two MD’s and was told there was nothing to be done other then monitor my head for any worsening conditions.I was scheduled  to fly out in two days to Tulsa, OK  for Tulsa Tough. A decision needed to be made: go home now or fly to Tulsa spend the week there and see how the head was feeling. I chose the latter. The first few days in Tulsa I rested, slept and took note of how the head felt. Over the next few days I got out on the bike for some easy short rides again paying attention to what the body was saying. I had a bit of anxiety, but the foggy feeling was lifting. I was still extremely fatigued by end of day and was avoiding to much mental stimulation, making sure to get plenty of sleep.

Teammates arrived on Thursday and I put in some harder efforts on the bike, to test the legs and the head. Legs were not happy and nothing significant to report with the concussion. I knew I was still concussed but symptoms were not worsening and i felt it was manageable, so I decided to race.

As I write this, and I’m sure as you read this you will be thinking the same thing. “What was I thinking, this is my brain, my life force, what makes me who I am. No race is worth the damage that could happen.” I know this and yet the drive and determination to race my bike was stronger. I kept telling myself I was ok, I would monitor how I felt and if the time came during the race to pull out I would.

I raced all three days, Friday night I had a really hard time getting my head in the race, I was not the confident, aggressive racer I had been a few weeks ago, I was getting a bit overwhelmed in the pack so was motivated to be off the front and launch some attacks, the pack was nervous and there were several crashes, one that almost took me down but I managed to keep it upright. This race was a struggle for me, I just did not have the clarity and the fight it took to be in the final push for the sprint.

969203_10201242675087150_1155229520_nDay two was a bit better, a faster course so a safer race. I again tried to be aggressive and managed to be so in the first part of the race but realized at some point mid race I should not be racing. I was not dangerous to myself or to others, it was something I felt, I could feel myself slipping into a hole that would not be easy to come out of. I tailgunned most of the race and with 3 to go my instincts kicked in and I made the push to the front, sitting top three in chase of one rider off the front. 2 to go i lost a few spots, and with one to go I was a bit further back then I would have liked but had confidence I could make up ground to make the podium, coming in to the final turn a rider sat up right in front of me and there I was with nowhere to go safely until we made the turn. I could not make up the ground lost at this time and came in disappointed but with my mind made up that I needed to go home.

My team mate Liza was sitting in 5th in the omnium and wanting to support her and help keep here there. I decided to race the last day, Crybaby Hill, and do every thing I could for the team. I have raced Tulsa Tough several times and had great aspirations for these races. Having a respectable season I had a goal to have a good result in Tulsa, but after the concussion and making up my mind the night before, I knew this would not be my year. I attacked early on hoping it would count for something, burn some matches and protect Liza for as long as possible. Crybaby Hill is unlike any other race I have ever seen, with thousands of spectators dancing in the streets on the hill in costume, celebratory beverage in hand. Sound Pony marshals blow their whistles to part the sea of people just in time for the racers to come through. This is something special to be a part of.  My final time up the climb the crowd cheering I new my fight was over so I indulged myself and the crowd with high fives and they went insane.  With continued team work Liza and Elle stayed in the main group with one up the road for the win and Liza sprinting to maintain her 5th over all. IMG_4560 IMG_4575 936434_10151416164650213_1464336845_n
With Tulsa over it is time to go home. This was a hard decision to make to back out of Nature Valley and not be there to support my teammates. I will hit the reset button and be back to continue the season, soon enough, but not before I am ready.