Here we are

Here we are

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.

It takes a team

It takes a team

To truly line up on the start line requires focus, planning, commitment, and preparedness in your Physical, Mental, Recovery, Nutrition,Team and Luck.


Physical training is putting your body through incredible stress, and suffering so come race day whatever the course and opponents have to offer, it feels easy in comparison to what you have been doing in training. Maybe not easy… but you are prepared and ready for the challenge. 
 
Not every race is won by pure power. It takes a strong, confident, sharp mind to know your opponents, course and winning strategy, to navigate through the peloton like a boss, and conduct your face with a cool calm nose breathing demeanor even though your legs are screaming at you to stop. It means believing in yourself and the work you have done, and knowing you can suffer even harder and won’t die from the pain you are feeling in your legs, and lungs. It means trusting your instinct, and to be patient so when you do strike it is with purpose, because you have played this moment over and over again in your head, arms out stretched over your head because you just won. 
 
Recovery is not just a shake, its easy spins to the coffee shop to meet your neglected friends, its visiting that person who spends hours working your muscles like rising dough, often inflicting giggles because thats what you do when you’re in pain. It means guilt-free naps in the middle of the day, sleeping in and sleeping often. It means pretending like you are a vegetable posted up on the couch sipping on your Maxim water bottle.
 
Nutrition – this is a BIG one. Nutrition matters on the bike off the bike, in training and recovery. It takes time and experimentation to learn what works for you. For me I am still learning how to properly fuel on the bike. Off the bike I feel pretty solid but getting myself to eat and drink on the bike, and to do enough of both is a challenge. This year we, the Fearless Femme Team  made the switch to Maxim, a European company now in the US which has been the fuel of the Tour de France teams for over 25 years. I had found a nutrition product in the past that had worked for me so I was a bit nervous to make the change, but it was an easy transition that has produced amazing results. 
 
The first and most important is simply that I want to use it. The Hypotonic Sports Drink tastes great in all three flavors, and is not too sweet like a lot of other sport drinks, so when I get a bottle feed I’m never disappointed in what I get. I’m satisfied knowing I’m getting a drink with all the essential vitamins, electrolytes and energy that I need so if I fall short on my other nutrition intake needs I know I am getting optimum nutrition from just my bottles. It’s like this product was made for me. All they have to offer from Carb load to gels are effective, so this encourages me to use them.
 
Without a team to race with, and a team of people to support you its hard to be a professional in any sport. I am fortunate to surrounded by an incredible team. 
 
Race Team: Fearless Femme p/b Haute Wheels Racing, is a merger of two teams and sponsors with long term vision and goals chartered to advance and advocate youth and community cycling, as part of Pure Energy Velo, a  501c-3 based non-profit organization. 
 
With the team comes a star cast of sponsors: 
Coaching: Kendra Wenzel of Wenzel Coaching has been an integral part of my training and progression on the bike. We have an exciting path ahead of us.
 
Recovery/ Massage: Colleen Mcclenahan is experienced working with athletes. Her technique is slow and deliberate, which encourages the tissue to soften and melt. She has been amazing for recovery and correcting injury. 
 
Mental Preparedness: Melinda at GritPerformance fills the gap between hard work and mental strength. Melinda has experienced both the thrill of success and the challenge of adversity as an athlete throughout her life, battling her own addictions to running, skiing, swimming, yoga and recently mountain biking. As a coach and instructor Melinda speaks the language of an athlete while implementing brain based research skills for success.
 
Nutrition: Not only has Maxim Sports Nutrition properly fueled me but the team of Laura Borgelt, PharmD an English Channel swimmer, USA Aqua Bike National Champion and Ironman triathlete, and Brendan Lundy MBA co-founder of many start-ups, both domestically and internationally and athlete, as a former European cyclist and as an international triathlete, have both been a great resource with a plethora of knowledge and experience. 
Luck: There is no practicing luck, but to be successful in a race you need to have a lot of luck on your side. In my mind that means being a good person on and off the bike and keeping your good karma bucket full.
Want to build good karma and build an awesome Nutrition regime? 
 
Then go to Maxim Sports Nutrition and get a SPECIAL DISCOUNT of 20% off when you use Discount Code :  FearlessFemme  Use this code and you will support Fearless Femme p/b Haute Wheels Racing  and this may even gain you some luck in your next race.
I cannot thank this team enough.
Maxim Sports Nutrition

Count down to awesome madness

The last few weeks.

Getting my bike fit on
Getting my bike fit on

I got dialed in on my New Wilier by my dear friend, and fellow bike fitter, Matthew Larson, at Devil Mtn Cyclery in Walnut Creek. We had a lot of fun catching up, getting my fit just right, and talking about the upcoming race season. He asked me some great questions about why I race, what my goals are, and how I feel in comparison to last year. This caught me off guard, and really made me think. It was a fantastic experience sharing this, and it aloud me to be really honest with my self. So thank you Matt.

Ocean View
Ocean View

After being fit on the new bike, and being fully recovered from the flu, I was able to start adding back the miles. Lots of great photo ops. I am lucky to live in such an amazing place.

Got to spend the day coaching a new client. She rocks!
Got to spend the day coaching a new client. She rocks!

So many birds

Tam, sun, fog, we have it all.
Tam, sun, fog, we have it all.

Picture the boss man took. Always love riding with my coach .
Picture the boss man took. Always love riding with my coach .

Mini Me getting caffeinated before our first race.
Mini Me getting caffeinated before our first race.

Cherry Pie was the first race of the season for me. Some of you may have already read the race report on FB, but for those of you who have not, here you go. Those of you who have, enjoy it again.

Today I raced Cherry Pie, my first crit of the season, with two awesome teammates. This race is generally the NorCal season opener, and it’s famous because the podium gets cherry pie, which is not an incentive for us glutards.

I missed this race last year, which was the first time since I started racing. It was not by choice, but out of necessity because I was recovering from hip surgery.

As I was on my way to the race I got that nervous feeling in my belly, and this surprised me. I have not gotten this in years. It was not because I was nervous to race – I have lined up at the start line hundreds of times, it was because I have pretty high expectations for this year and have fought back from several years of injury. I was afraid to line up, and race with the same pain and disconnect of years past.

This was not the case. I felt strong, confident, and pain-free. I felt like myself, a self I have not known in years. Even though I was the designated sprinter and got 6th to my leadout who placed 2nd (awesome), the sprint was there but I chose the wrong side. I accept that, and I was more excited than if I had of won. This was a huge victory for me. The first of many to come this season.

The Sprint.
The Sprint.

More “What I See On My Rides” photos.

Found new bike path on my ride this day
Found new bike path on my ride this day

Lear calm day at Alpine Dam
Clear calm day at Alpine Dam

I mentioned “Awesome Madness” in the tittle. Team camp starts tomorrow!

Riders are coming in from all over the place. We will have an exciting week of riding together, getting to know one another, and meeting with our incredible sponsors.

Camp kicks of with a ride in my neck of the woods.Im excited to be sharing some of my favorite roads with the girls. During the ride we will get to stop by our sponsors Osmo Nutrition headquarters in Farifax to refuel, and give some hugs to some great people.

The next stage of madness will be getting on a flight at the end of camp to head to El Salvador for 10 days of racing!

Stay tuned for FB, Twitter, and eventually blog updates.  Follow me if you want in on the racing action.

Ready to bring the BOOM!
Ready to bring the BOOM!