Alright here it is...a lot of writing
June 14, 2007
Flashback to June 10, 2007: It is the morning of the biggest bike race I have ever been a part of and as usual I wake up to a funny feeling stomach (how the heck it knows to be nervous that early I have yet to figure out). This is the final race of the Triple Crown Series and we will be racing in the streets of Philadelphia where the city seems to shut down in order to come out and watch these crazy humans on bikes. The attendance of fans for this race will exceed 1 million and the riders literally come from all around the world! Despite the fact that my legs felt like garbage on the recovery ride the day before I am keeping my nature in tact and keeping a positive attitude about my ability to be a player in this race and my excitement about helping my team mates is there! We road from our Philly summer house to the race and as we approached intersections the police would hold traffic for us to come threw and I said: “how great is this, it isn’t every day that they hold up traffic in downtown Philly just for us (my 2 team mates and I) to smoothly roll through! We are there and I’m remaining calm and reminding myself that it’s just another bike race, but in reality it is different. We roll up to the pre-staging area for the women’s race and we sit there for quite some time waiting for the men’s race to stage, start, and circle the round about 3 times before we can ride up to the main staging area for the start of our race. The magnitude of the race has time to sink in as I sit on the top tube of my bike surrounded by some of the best racers in the world. The men come around for their first parade lap and “geeezzz!” I think, all the guys on the lead motorcycles and in the cars are having the best day of their life waving at friends and posing for pictures…then again I conclude I would be pretty excited as well if I had a motor to help me on the course! Then again it is so much more rewarding to expend all your physical limits! I pray that the day will keep everyone safe and that I will have enough to help Theresa (our team leader) get to the line as fresh as possible. Eventually we make progress toward the start line and I jockey for a good position to start the race. I’m right behind the call up riders on the start line and feeling pretty good. The race starts and it become apparent, I’m going to have to be strategic about my placement in the pack and make sure I can get to the front before the narrowing of the road, which is notorious for crashes. We make it threw the bottleneck section and from my observation I know at least Theresa and Jessie are still there, hopefully the others have made it threw as well. The crowds pick up as we enter the streets of Manayunk and head for the “wall” (the famous climb of the race). I’m on the left side of the pack dodging pothole grates and with Theresa behind me. Ok, “I need to get us up the side here and get her a bit farther up for the start of the climb” I think. That is what I tried to do and I’m not even sure if she stayed on my wheel or decided to do otherwise. The next event is unforgettable though. The “wall” was swarmed by thousands of fans screaming, ringing bells, and drinking beers as they watched the race. All that commotion seemed non-existent and secondary though. I started up the climb and must have been in the top 20-30 riders at least but as I shifted my gearing and started to climb my legs locked up worst than ever before, they just wouldn’t move. As I stalled out in the middle of the climb I was swarmed and passed like a car staling on the highway as all the others make their way around at 70mph. My muscles break up a little and I can move again, but the hill only gets steeper and nothing is working right, “what is wrong with me!” runs threw my head repeatedly as I tell myself “just hang on, come on just get over this hill, you can do it”, but my body is arguing with my head and I drop behind the main pack with all the other scattered stragglers. I tell myself “don’t worry, you might be able to catch them on the downhill and flat”, unfortunately for me my legs weren’t recovering quickly and after the climb I was unable to give what it would have taken to catch a pack of power packed riders. I kept riding and caught a few others who had been dropped so we kept riding, but their wasn’t much hope for catching the main pack…I still tried but no one else wanted to put in any hard pulls. My legs did start to feel like they were coming back a little and I was feeling pretty strong at different points but the “wall” hurt pretty bad every time and I knew we were going up it much slower than the main pack would be. The analyzing had already started, a million thoughts streaming threw my head…”what did I do so wrong? why has my riding been so poor? why do I feel so weak?, WHAT DO I DO NOW?”, etc. So, I’m having a pretty bad day, but that isn’t the whole issue. One day I can handle but these past few weeks have been filled with poor riding performance, weak feeling legs, and mental hardship which at this point is bringing me to a breaking point. To be honest I can’t even remember the last time I had any sort of melt down or cried for any reason other than that I was laughing too hard, but my day had come. I was a bit of a mess for a few hours but I never doubted my ability to come through. I just needed to rebalance and get myself back on track. Lucky for me I have great family, friends, and a team who are very supportive and give good advice when I need a little reassurance! I can’t thank them enough. After a few phone conversations, talking with the team and some time to sort my thoughts I was feeling better. So THANK YOU…you know who you are!
The past months…
The “season”, if I have one other than year round (I know, I need to start taking more of a break), started earlier than ever this year. Last fall I took an opportunity to attend school in North Carolina and ride with a collegiate team. It was something new and defiantly had new and different terrain than what I had been used to in Michigan. It taught me a ton and seemed to be beneficial to my life both in and out of cycling. I was doing well at early training races and continued to do very well into the collegiate calendar. I was excited to get out on the Pro circuit as the collegiate season came to an end, not to mention excited to get a break from classes.
I still remember back to Christmas break when I got the call from Gary with an offer to be part of the Verducci/Breakaway team with Theresa! I was honored that they wanted me to be part of the team and I knew it was a great learning opportunity in many different ways. Not only would I have the opportunity to ride more pro races and have support with road and track, but also I would be riding with a World Champion athlete and I was sure that alone would teach me a lot. In addition, I didn’t really know Theresa and Gary that well but I knew them through another good friend and I really liked what I knew of them. One thing I observed in the previous year was the pettiness within a lot of the teams and I wasn’t interested in being a part of any of that. I was confident this team would be comprised of riders with good character and not a mess of controversy. Basically, I was thrilled with the opportunity to work with and for an athlete like Theresa. I didn’t know who else would be part of the team when I committed but I was sure it would all work out. I was right and the team is tons of fun! I have spent a few nights away from the team house recently and realize how much I miss being around. We really do have a good time and we spend a lot of time laughing, which is always a good sign! The teammates who don’t live with us are great as well and all very nice girls!
So, yes! I am livin the life! Rooming and traveling with teammates, training, racing, eating, resting, repeat. But, it hasn’t been without it’s rough times as may be noted from the flashback above. One problem has been that my preparation coming into this circuit as it turns out was lacking some needed aspects. To add onto what I felt was poor riding performance I had to adjust to many other things. It is definitely a change in lifestyle to be on the road and not really feel settled down anywhere. It is great in a lot of ways but also has its down sides. I usually adjust well, but somehow I had let myself get out of balance. After the Philly race I knew I needed to change a few things and get myself rebalanced and ready to go. Thankfully the team has been understanding and helping me to restructure a bit and come around! I should also mention that overall the team is doing well with many of the girls riding well and Theresa kickin it in good form!
I took a few days off the bike to mentally and physically get a break from everything. Then I’ve been out in a more rural area doing long training rides in the country, which as served as amazing therapy! I’ve actually discovered some other great therapies for myself as well! Although I may not be good at either, singing and dancing does wonders…so try it sometime when you’re feeling down! I even rocked out with the ipod, singing as I was riding through the rolling country land!...I’m sure you could get a good laugh just imagining it! Additionally, I noticed how many pictures Theresa and Gary always have around and started thinking I would like to have some of my own. I picked a bunch of my favorite pictures of great memories and with people who mean a lot to me. It is amazing how nice it is to have those pictures while on the road, just to look at and remember all the people you love and who love you.
I am officially starting to accept that it is going to take some time to get where I want to go…not to mention some time and thinking to figure out exactly where it is I want to go! No path worth taking will ever be easy.
Whatever life throws at me I know within me is something so valuable and real it can never be taken. A dedication, determination, drive, instinct, passion, & love that is never ending and unwavering. Life brings everyone opportunities and obstacles, it is those who learn to accept and balance both who are most successful. I know hard times are part of sport and part of life and I am quickly learning how to best deal with whatever comes my way. Nothing has ever stopped me before from chasing ideas and dreams and it’s not going to be any different now!
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! to all those who have continued to show their support! It means a lot to me!