I’m alive, I swear

Hey readers, it’s almost July.  The last time I posted was directly after nationals, 2 weeks later I wrote up another blog post I never posted, because I never really finished it.  Actually to be honest, I have 7 unfinished posts.  I was going to go back and re-read them, and then condense them all into one post to give you an update on my life.  But after reading this particular un-posted post, I decided I needed to copy and paste it here.  Remember, I wrote this 2 weeks post nationals in January, and it is unfinished.

 

I’m finally crawling (on my hands and knees) out of my emotional pity party.  When I returned home from CX Nats I had to stay away from social media.  I didn’t check Facebook, I stayed off of Twitter and Instagram.  It hurt too much to see the posts about Nationals.  Eventually, I was able to get onto Facebook and just ignore the National posts, as long as I scrolled fast enough if I saw something bike related, I would be okay.  This becomes a problem once you realize nearly all your Facebook friends somehow relate to bikes.  I healed past that emotional black hole, and for the first time today, I looked up the results and watched a few post race interviews (of my favorite people) on Cyclingdirt.  I know it seems I should be over it by now, but nearly 10months of preparation (plus thoughts), 4 months of racing, and thousands of miles travelled, it’s hard to disregard 1 race in just a matter of days.

I want to reflect a little on my season.  I haven’t had the chance to step back and look at the whole picture of the season.  I had some highs and lows (as always), but mostly highs.  When I first started racing cyclocross I did it because everyone around me was, then I caught the bug, and all I could think about was cyclocross.  I rode my bike because…I liked riding my bike.  Every year I progressed and got a little faster, but I never believed (or even had dreams) of being where I am now.  I never had ambitions of lining up at Elite cyclocross nationals.  Naturally, I am a person who always wants to do better than last time, I guess you could say I’m competitive.  I have never excelled so quickly in a sport before, like I have in cyclocross, and this has continued to motivate me throughout the years.  Once I realized where my racing was going, was when the goals started.  I’m thankful for my goals and my ambition, it’s why I am where I am.

I’m thankful and I’m happy with every single one of my results this year.  I can look back on my season and I remember how I felt at every race.  I remember every emotion and every sweat drop (okay just kidding about the sweat).  I learned so much at every race, so much about technique and tactics.  I learned what I need to work on to better my skills, and what I need to work on to be stronger.  Even though traveling for 4-5 months every other weekend is exhausting, I don’t work as much so I have to forget about the material things, and I miss out on seeing my friends and my husband, I wouldn’t take it back for anything.  I’m living in the now and I love what I do.  I love riding, I love racing.  Riding takes me places in nature I would never other wise go.  I can appreciate the beauty of where I live, I can appreciate the cool breeze on my face, every hill I have to climb, and every single track trail I ride.  Racing gives me a thrill, it makes me feel successful, it gives me a goal.  Racing lights up my world, it has allowed me to meet people from all over who love the exact same thing I do.  Racing has taken me places I never thought imaginable.

Racing took me to Belgium.  Lets reflect on Belgium.  Belgium was, and will probably remain one of the most epically packed trips I have been on.  First off, I have to say that Geoff Proctor (who runs Eurocrosscamp) does an amazing job putting together the whole program.  From the mechanics who constantly kept our bikes running, to his wife who spent too many hours in the kitchen cooking for 20, the whole experience was incredible.  The logistics that go into running such an affair cannot be easy, especially over seas!  Trying to manage 16 racers during 1 race day (5 times over), whew so many logistics!  Thanks Geoff for putting together the program and for including me in it!

Racing in Belgium is a real experience that I’m so happy I had the chance to do this season.  I never anticipated such a thing would happen for me, and I feel that much more prepared for next year because of it.  Racing in Belgium allowed me to realize how much more I need to work on, it has given me the drive for next year to better my performance.

 

As I think about what my life is going to be like in 2 months, I can’t lie and say I’m a little nervous.  This off season has been really awesome, I have had the chance to see people I don’t get to see all the time.  I have watched the smile on my friends faces as they get married, I have trained my booty off, almost put our house on the market to buy a new one, went to Hawaii, got a new job, put Chris and I on a budget, contemplated how happy I would be if I bought a new car, snuggled my kitty 5x/day, and have worked my BUTT off (with my dad) to find sponsors for next year.  Reading what I wrote back in January brought back a flood of emotions of the Cyclocross season.  Lets face it, racing bikes isn’t easy, it secludes you from the real world, secludes you from those who don’t race/ride bikes, and there is always that thought in the back of my head “how material do I want to be”?  I think about the things I could have if I didn’t race bikes, it tempts me, because I’m not afraid to say, I like material things.  Then I go back and read posts like the one above, and it reminds me, why I do this.  I race because I love it, I love the sport, and the people in it, I wouldn’t trade anything for the life I live, if I didn’t travel and race, I would still train and race just as hard, so why not take it where it should go?

Thank you January self, for reminding me why I race, for reminding me how much I LOVE the sport.  As July nears and August comes, the jitters will come until that first race of the season.  I can’t wait to share with all of you how hard I have worked to put together a program for next year.  I can’t wait to announce everything, but you will have to wait until that time comes!

Thank you for being patient for this far delayed post.  I will post an update on life relatively soon!

It’s as if someone threw a dagger right thru my heart

Flash back 2010.  Bend, OR Collegiate Nationals.  Third place D2 in my fist attempt at a cyclocross season.  We raced the same day as the Elites, so I was lucky enough to watch the women as they floated over the barriers making every twist and turn look so easy.  I watched as Katie Compton crushed the field, as she does every year, I watched Georgia Gould chase behind in second.  I was amazed at the strength and the abilities of these women, amazed at how easy they made the sport look.  I thought to myself how amazing it would be to line up for that race some day, let alone be as fast as these women, to be as amazing as they are.  I could only dream to be there some day.

Fast forward 2012 I find myself holding onto a dream I never thought imaginable.  Something that just fell into my lap, something I never tried for, something I did because it made me smile and brought together a community.  An incredible season ended on a pretty low and disappointing note, that left me with a lofty goal for 2013.  Top ten at Nationals.

Fast forward 2013.  In order to step up my game I find a coach.  Then I search for a way to get to the big races.  With the help of the community I hold dear to my heart, I made it to a fair amount of races.  When asked what my goal for the season was, a top ten at Nationals, that’s all I want.  Redemption from a silly race last year.  I had my eyes on the prize, and I was sitting pretty getting top tens all season long.  Going into the season I never expected to finish as I did at all those races, and honestly I still can’t believe it, nothing has soaked in.  Then I was invited to Europe and I raced in Belgium.  Once again, something I never thought possible, and honestly, until someone mentioned it to me this year, it wasn’t a dream.  Baby steps, get used to top tens one year, race World Cups the next, apply for Worlds the year after that.  I had literally already mapped out my future of racing, and it wasn’t really going according to plan, but I won’t deny it was awesome.  This season was a whirl wind of excitement and I can’t deny how happy I am with everything.

Coming home from Belgium I took special care to get back onto US time, rested as I needed and slept a lot.  The week before Nationals I did my specific workouts and my legs felt strong and my lungs felt good.  Bring it on, I felt nervous, but ready to par take the challenge of my goal.  All week long I was visualizing my start, telling myself to be aggressive, deciding which wheel I was going to line up behind, I knew what I wanted and I was going to get it.  I was ready.

Friday morning the 3:30am alarm clock goes off, Chris and I pile into the car and head to the airport.  It wasn’t until the flight from Seattle to Denver that I started to feel a little nausea, ignored it and thought it was due to the early wake up.  We landed in Denver and I couldn’t get over how tired I felt and how awful my body was feeling.  I ignored it, I woke up early.  We got our car, drove to Boulder, picked up my number, checked out the course, got groceries for the weekend and said hello to the Rock Lobster team.  At about 4:30 it hit me, my stomach started revolting, aching, I just thought I was tired.  We head back to our host house to make dinner and that’s when it all came shattering down.  My stomach hurt like crazy, but I was tired.  Chris took the liberty to make dinner while I laid in a ball on the couch reading The Hunger Games as I moaned in pain.  He offered me dinner, but the thought of eating made me sick.  I laid there moaning, crying, aching, for what felt like forever.  I don’t think I could pass this off as being tired.

Chris suggested I lay in bed, it only took me about thirty minutes to roll off the couch and get myself to bed, crying and moaning in severe stomach pain.  After reading suggestions on Facebook to drink water I chugged my water bottle, and instantly I knew that was a bad idea (or a good one).  My mouth began to salivate and that wretched sweet taste came, that one you can only connect with vomit.  I ran to the bathroom and made it just in time, trying to remember the last time I felt this awful, the last time I actually threw up.  It’s never a comfortable feeling.  I bursted into even more tears, knowing this couldn’t be a good thing.

Chris went to the store to find me medicine and I dozed in and out of sleep.

My original plan for Saturday was to pre ride the course in the morning and do some openers.  We didn’t get out of bed until 11am, and from there I only moved to the couch.  The thought of moving hurt my head and the idea of food made me nauseous.  I managed to swallow down some saltines and liptons noodle soup, which both tasted quite flavorless.  All day my body ached and my head hurt to move, I was hoping the rest would help for Sunday.  One thing was for sure, if I felt this way on Sunday, I couldn’t race.

I showed up to the race course Sunday to do my first pre ride of the course, after one lap I knew I couldn’t race.  My head wasn’t straight, and my legs weren’t doing anything, Chris convinced me to do one more lap.  After two laps I knew I couldn’t.  Hanging out at the WD40 tent with friends who all had different insights.  My biggest fear was racing and getting a terrible result (which was bound to happen) and having people think that’s how I race  AND if I didn’t race then it wouldn’t show what I can do.  I was really stuck on what to do.  Worried this would hinder my ability for a team/sponsorship for next year, it was the words of wise Brian Dallas that got me to the line.  Chris said, if you feel bad just quit, it will be fine.

So away I went, with half a bowl of oatmeal, three cliff shots in my belly and a warm up that consisted of two laps on the course.  I lined up behind Nicole since she always finds her pedal and gets off the line faster than a speeding bullet.  As soon as the gun went off and I didn’t go anywhere I knew it was bad.  I was pushing the pedals as hard as I could and I wasn’t going anywhere but backwards.  I looked around as about thirty people went flying by me.  I convinced myself it would be okay and I would make passes on the climb since I’m a pretty good climber.  I hit the climb and I continued to fall back.  By the top of the hill I think I had to have been sitting in what felt like the 50’s.  Every turn of the cranks weren’t taking me anywhere and the first pit stop couldn’t come soon enough, my heart was sinking, and I was holding back tears.  It wasn’t until I hit the stairs that I knew it was bad, I could hardly run up the stairs, my legs felt weak and wobbly.  I held back more tears and just pressed on.  Once I found the pits I saw Chris waiting there for me, he knew.

It stings a little bit, no, it stings a lot a bit.  All day Saturday I was trying to figure out why, why me?  Why did I have to get sick now?  Trying to figure it out, trying to rationalize why I was sick, why couldn’t Chris be sick?  Why was it only me?  It hurts, like someone just threw a dagger in my heart.  One goal.  One goal was all I had eyes on this year, and then…nothing.

Post trip to Belgium I decided to petition for the Worlds Team, just for the hell of it (pre trip I wasn’t planning on it).  That wasn’t my goal, and honestly I’m ready for a break, I didn’t want to continue to train, I want to ride my mountain bike on single track for hours on end, I wanted to see my friends I have ignored for the past 4 months, I want to work so I can make some $$.  Needless to say, getting sick and being unable to finish Nationals, I knew I was out of contention for the team.  But there is nothing that stings more, nothing that just makes the situation worse, like adding salt to a wound, than getting that rejection email.  It added to the pain of not achieving my goal, I didn’t care about not making the team, I cared that I couldn’t finish Nationals.  I’m going to do my best to not soak on the pain I’m living in right now, do my best to see the positive of the past 4 months, but I can’t say it doesn’t hurt.  It’s a flood of emotions.

I’m sad.  I’m motivated.  I’m terrified.  I’m confused.  I’m lost.  Where do I go from here?  It’s one race of many and I’m even more motivated than ever to come out next year faster, stronger, better.  I know what I need to do and I’m ready for the work that needs to be put in for it.

Thank you everyone who has supported me this season.  Thank you Paul at Rock Lobster, thank you to the entire team of Lobsters, I don’t think I have ever been on a more fun, energetic, awesome team…ever!  Thank you Easton for the cockpit of my bike and a set of wheels, thank you Vision for coming through with a set of wheels when I had nothing.  Thank you to Paul Components for the awesome braking power.  Thank you Clif Bar for always supplying my nutritional needs and always being so supportive!  Thank you to the whole crew at WD40 who took care of the Lobsters in Bend and at Nationals.  Thank you to everyone of you who has followed me along this season, who has supported me by donating funds that allowed me to travel around this silly country (and beyond).  Thank you, I can’t wait for next year.

Belgium in photos

I thought you would really enjoy some photos as seen by my eyes.  All photos where taken with my I phone5, so they aren’t the best quality and the lighting sucks on some of them, but you get the gist of it.

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These wrist bands are required to get into the races in Belgium. Even the riders have to wear them.

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A latte is hard to come by here in Belgium. This was a much welcomed treat over the last weekend here.

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Diegem food

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The U23 men’s race leader. Sometimes at the start of the race it’s best to run the first corner!

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I wanted to get a good picture of the crowds at Diegem, but this doesn’t give it justice

 

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Diegem mud

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Our beer tents have a little catching up to do. These tents included disco lights and a DJ

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Lighting is sucky, but that’s the beer tent and all the crowds at Diegem

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So many people police are needed at the races

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fans don’t have to be watching the race to have a good time. Drunk people where lining the streets outside of the race course.

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Went on a ride and saw these cute little goats

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The same ride provided me with some white spotted deer. And humping donkeys…

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We need lots of wheels here in Belgium

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Downtown Antwerp

 

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Myself and the train station in downtown Antwerp (background)

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This was a delicious treat Elle and I treated our selves to in Antwerp. 1 a year for sure!

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So beautiful, even if it was a grey day

This aint’ no stinkin’ Sunday fun ride!

That should be my motto for every Euro race.  I need to show up with my knees and elbows drawn!  These girls mean business and I’m too nice and complacent.  I didn’t do a very good job being aggressive this day, particularly at the start of the race.  I wont lie when I say that start of the race was a drag race and I was terrified, I think I went into the first grass section dead last. The positive out of that was I saw all the crashes early enough that I was able to maneuver around them.  And blah blah blah.  The course wasn’t as epic as Namur, some ups and downs, 2 sandy drops, some brutally straight and windy pavement sections, some twists and turns in the trees, and a brutally awesome run up.  I don’t really want to bore you with the details of the race.  Lets just say this, the race was fast and fierce, I did my best to get the result I did.  Is it good enough?  Never.  It’s never good enough really, am I happy, of course, satisfied?  Never.  I think I have always been a fighter, I never give up on something I want to do better at.  My dad likes to tell me about the time when I was learning to read, I locked myself in my room until I could read.  If I want something, I will get it, and when I want to do better, I will work for it until I’m satisfied.

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Zolder Bib #

If there is one thing I could work on when the racing is like this, is my aggression, I’m too complacent because I don’t feel I’m strong enough to stick with the fast girls.  I let myself get bullied, and at Zolder I learned a new trick.  I like to call it “The Knee Block”, a girl literally cut me off and then blocked me with her knee.  Perhaps I should have just rammed her with my bike.  Hence, the title of the post; these girls mean business, this isn’t a Sunday fun ride, this is a World Cup race!!!!!

The following day after Zolder, was what is known here in Belgium as “the party race”…Loenhout.  The terrain is mostly flat, with some table tops, fly overs, pump track, and ditches to keep things interesting.  I heard the race is ridiculous, drunk people all over, tractor pull mud so thick you can’t ride it.  The whole course, I hear, can get just totally gross and muddy.  LOVE IT!  I couldn’t wait to race in some awesome beautiful mud.  MMM Northwest stuff.  Elle and I were only given the chance to do 1 lap on the course, at the time I thought it was sufficient, but looking back at it I wish we could have gotten a chance to get in 2 pre-ride laps.  I struggled finding the right time to shift and and which gears to ride.  I have found that I’m riding in my little ring, unlike at home where I can ride most every course in my big ring.  I think I have found that I’m riding in my little ring the whole time for fear of the big ring being too big for some of the stuff that sneaks up on you in the racing out here.  You never know what’s around the corner!  :-)  Anyways, this course had a ditch that ran through the entire course and we crossed it about 4x every lap.  I opted to get off and jump it every time instead of riding it for fear of a mishap mid ditch.  This added a whole new “hard” to racing.  Sometimes I would get to the ditch and wonder if I could actually jump that far to make it across the ditch.  If you had weak ankles, you surely might not survive this race!

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Set up at Zolder. We have the hook up here at eurocrosscamp!

I found I was pretty good at some stuff (pretty good is a relative term, pretty good compared to those around me), but really sucky at other things.  Some parts my legs felt strong and others I didn’t have enough gears, yet girls where flying by me like I was standing still, I couldn’t quite figure out why I sucked at it.  Oh well, I had a total blast suffering and sliding around the course, and finished 23rd.  I’m happy, but unsatisfied.  I want more and I want better.

Now to the good stuff.

Belgium is a funny country.  It’s really amazing to come out here and race cyclocross.  The fans know more than I probably know.  They have their riders they root for, this is their sport.  They come in masses, they watch cyclocross like we watch football.  When I arrived at Zolder the Thursday after Christmas I couldn’t think of a better venue for a cyclocross course.  There is VIP seating in a covered area that looks down onto the course.  Kind of like the VIP areas at a Seahawks game.  People line up right next to the course throughout the entire venue, and there are huge TV’s displayed so everyone can see the action, even if they aren’t on that part of the course.  There are food vendors and beer vendors with lines of people waiting.  Trying to get from one side of the course to the other side was like trying to navigate through a carnival, and even more difficult while on bike, dodging people trying not to plow them over.  The crowds of people add an even greater challenge when trying to navigate your way to the start line.

Rider Cards.  Why didn’t anyone tell me about rider cards?  I know you Americans have no idea what Rider Cards are, I didn’t.    Rider cards are like baseball cards, but for cyclocross.  The weird part about rider cards are, I think the only people who

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Elle handing out her rider cards

collect them are men 60+ years of age, but yet it’s still very endearing.  I hear they trade them, and collect them in binders like we would collect baseball cards.  The fans have no shame in coming right up to you and asking for your postcard picture.  It became very depressing saying “no, sorry I don’t have any” and seeing the look on the Belgium men’s faces.  “Next year” I would say, that usually made them smile.  Not only do they want your rider card, but they also want to take a picture of you, watch you warmup, and stare at your equipment and talk with their friends about it.  Super fans.  That’s what we call them.  What it all boils down to is the culture of cyclocross in Belgium.  I knew it was big, I had heard, but this is a whole new level of awesomeness.  I wish the US could gather around cyclocross like they do in Belgium.  I wish the US could understand the sport like the Belgium’s.  We are on our way, but not quite there!

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Dave, the head mechanic, has been taking care of me over here in cyclocross land!

Namur World Cup

So not a creative title, and for that I apologize.

First things first, 705 people viewed my blog yesterday.  Holy smokes people, I hope you found it somewhat entertaining.

Onwards to the race.  Namur goes down in my life history as one of the coolest cyclocross venues ever, and one of the most rad courses ever!  Saturday night we received our numbers and start position on the grid.  That’s when reality struck that this was actually going to happen.  I knew I needed a good nights rest, so I went to bed somewhat early (before 11).  At 1am I woke up wide awake, thinking “man it has to be 7am I feel so awake right now”, I looked at the clock and was quite surprised to find it was only 1am, the worst part was laying in bed forever.  I dozed in and out of sleep and then finally around 5am, I just laid there until 7 when the alarm went off to get up.  My body ached and my face felt tired, but I thought it was best to ignore that, and continue forth.  I chugged some coffee, made breakfast and put all my bags together.  Elle, myself, and our driver piled into the car and headed to Namur.  I tried to get a little rest on the window in the back seat, but there is only so much sleep you can get in the car.

We arrived at the course to find our bikes all ready for us to hop onto the course and pre-ride (thanks mechanics)!  I was already really antsy pre hopping on the course, but it was nice to see some familiar american faces there!  I had heard some knarly things about the drops here at Namur, so I was pretty scared to start.  I hit the first one, no problem, not scary, second one fine, third one was long, but do-able.  The fourth one…the fourth one was after a short steep muddy run up, and you had a total of 6 feet to remount before the course drops again.  I got to the top and looked down and thought to my self “I can’t even see the bottom, I’m supposed to ride that”??  After watching one other rider ride it, I just went for it, turns out it wasn’t that bad, reminds me of stuff I mountain bike down at home, get your butt back and hang on for dear life.  No problem.  The rest of the course was up and down and tough.  The only flat section of the course was by the pits, everything else is either up or down.  The starting up hill is so long and pretty steep I was having a hard time imagining what it would be like to pedal up that hill at race pace, or drop down those descents full gassed.  Smooth and steady was the name of the game.

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An awesome older home we found on our ride

The most interesting part about this course, was how lost and confused it left me.  Once off the course, I had no idea how to get back to the cars.  I wandered around lost and confused until I finally found the cars.  Now, if I thought finding the cars was difficult, how about trying to find the start line!  After hopping off the trainer and onto my bike to head to the start line, I realized I had no idea where I was going.  Thankfully I just followed some euro girl who looked to be in a hurry as well.  We cruised through the crowds of people and pushed our way to the start line, only to wait around for the call ups.  Lucky me, I was start position #41, really awesome, I think that came out to 6th row.  With a call up like this, all I can do is hope for the best and take it all with a grain of salt.  I remained calm when the light turned from red to green and did my thing.  Starts are always a cluster, but this one was a cluster even more!  We started on this pretty tough muddy climb.  I had an okay 30 second start, until a girl ran into a course stake in front of me which flung her bike sideways into mine.  I caught myself before totally hitting her, only to get stuck behind a 2nd crash just before the top of the climb.  This time I had to maneuver around a pile of girls and bikes, trying to figure out where the heck I was going to go.  From there, I just thought “well this is what it is, have fun, race your race”.  I did my best to try to catch up to the girls in front of me and make my moves where I felt confident.  The most amazing thing for me to see, was how scared some of these girls where on the drops.  They where almost coming to a complete stop at the top of the downs, or they where straight up running down hill!  I thought this was a bike race?

The first lap I was trying to remain calm and comfortable with the course.  I discovered where I could make passes,(for example) by the girls who where walking up the run ups!  I realized my running was a lot stronger than theirs, so I made my passes there, or on different lines down the descents.  I was catching up to girls in front of me and was making up lost places after a terrible start.  The lack of sleep was very obvious in the lack of power coming out of my legs, but I was having fun so I just didn’t care!  Going into the third lap I opted to pit, and after passing the pits during the third lap I ended up crashing, breaking a wheel (which didn’t surprise me, I didn’t think the Mad Fibers would be strong enough for this Euro mud and drops), a shifter and had to run half a lap to the next pits.  :-(  That was SO much running!  My legs haven’t done that much running in a long time, it made the run ups that much harder, and I am sad to say I did have to walk for a second to catch my breath during one of the run ups.  While I was running on the off camber rutted out hill this girl passed me, and as she passed me she said (in a foreign accent) “your wheel, your wheel is broken”.  I laughed to myself because clearly my wheel was broken!!!!  As I was getting closer to the pits I thought I was for sure going to get lapped.  Turns out, I didn’t get lapped, grabbed my pit bike and finished the last lap.  I caught a couple of girls on the last lap, but not enough to make me happy with my placement.

Remember with the last post how I said that if I didn’t do better than my start position I better start thinking about my racing career?  I think that was karma, because I finished 42nd.  Ugth I was so mad.  The positive I took out of the race was how much fun I did have with the course.  I re-fell in love with cyclocross.  The course was challenging, the mud was wickedly awesome, and I had a smile on my face for most of the race!  I could really only take the race with a grain of salt, a great experience, and a lot of fun.

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Broken Wheel

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I think this was right after I crashed and broke my wheel

I’m so thankful to have the mechanics here at the Eurocrosscamp.  They have been taking care of us left and right.  Dave, the head mechanic, took care of my wheels stat.  Pulled off the tires from two sets of wheels so he could glue up the mud tires on the 2nd set of wheels.  I’m so thankful to have people around to help me out and take care of everything I don’t know how to do.  Thank you for that.

Reflecting back on the race, while I’m bummed about breaking a wheel (for multiple reasons) I am so glad I was given the chance to race a World Cup, and I get a second chance to race another one tomorrow!  I’m here for the experience, a building block for the future of my racing.  Thank you to everyone who has made it possible.

Merry Christmas!!!

The smell of cookies and poop

Well people, I have made it to Belgium safely, I have somewhat adjusted to Belgium time, and this place smells of cookies and poop.  I have now been on 3 fantastically flat and windy bike rides and smelled cookies and poop!  Okay let me explain the poop smell.

First off, there are farms and fields, and when there are farms and fields, well poop is bound to be smelled.  BUT, poop can also be smelled in bathrooms, like the one Elle and I are sharing with the mechanics.  The first day we thought the mechanics dropped a doozy, but the smell lingered.  So then after a few hours of this dank smell I decided it was coming from the heaters (it smelled of gas and sulfur), and thought since they hadn’t been turned on for awhile they stank.  Then I decided it couldn’t be coming from the heaters and it was coming out of the toilet.  No one spoke of this dank smell until Friday.  Friday afternoon we all started talking about this retched smell.  Elle thought perhaps it was coming from the sink, so we poured hot water down the sink.  That didn’t help.  It wasn’t coming from the sink.  After showering, I decided it was coming from the shower.  My final conclusion was…the shower.  After leaving the fan on all day, closing the bathroom door, and placing a towel at the crack of the door so we didn’t have to smell dank, we finally told Geoff, who spoke to the house owner, who came over, found the problem, solved the problem, and the poop smell is gone from our bathroom!  YES!  Turns out it came from the shower.  No more poop smell, but I think it permeated my senses because every so often I smell sulfury poop.  Gross.  Apparently, sulfury poop smells are really common in Belgium plumbing.  That’s rank.

Cookies.  Lets talk cookies.  We all know how much I love cookies…mmmm, the thought of cookies brings warm and fuzzy thoughts to my belly.     Elle and I have been on some wonderful rides since we arrived, and it appears that as we ride through these cute tiny little Belgium towns, everyone must be baking cookies, because they smell like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  It’s so warming to the senses.  If you feel the need to check out our rides you can go to my Strava page here.

So now that you know about Poop and Cookies, lets talk about my feelings.  Remember my last post how I said I was all emotional the week before heading over here?  Well once I got on the flights and landed I was doing a bit better.  Until today.  Post ride I almost broke down into tears out of pure stress and total lack of confidence.  I wont lie when I say how scared I am to race tomorrow.  I’m terrified, I’m nervous, I’m scared, I feel like….. the fat kid picked last for the team, yea that feelings hasn’t gone away, and it some what has gotten worse.  I can’t help the feelings, maybe after the first race I will feel better?  I feel like I’m surrounded by a bunch of really fast people who are so much better than I am, and I’m just here for the ride.  I feel like I’m going to get trampled, crushed, pushed around, and totally dominated at tomorrows race.  The rain has started and I’m sure the mud is building, only time will tell how I do.  I’m trying my best to have a positive attitude going into the race.  We received our numbers tonight and I’m number 20, but don’t be confused, because this is not my start position.  I’m actually number 41 on the grid.  What is that…6th row?  I can only go forward, and if I got backward I’m seriously concerned with my racing and might think about ending my racing career?

Life in the Eurocrosscamp house is going well too…uh..besides the sulfury dank smell coming from our shower, things are pretty good!  I had an adventure in the grocery store over here…if you read my blog post about the midwest last year you will understand how I feel about food.  Well now picture being in a foreign country where you can’t read any labels and I don’t really know what the heck I purchased until I opened it.  Such a mystery!

Upward and onward.  That’s all for now.  Miss you all back home, I will do my best to represent the PNW!

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A cool line of trees

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A neat church close by the house we are at. BIG tall church and old

Stepping outside of the comfort zone

I believe it’s good for us to step outside of our comfort zone, to a degree, I think it makes us a stronger person.  Last year I embarked on a journey around the US racing cyclocross and chasing UCI points so I could get a good call up at Nationals.  Last year I stepped outside of my comfort zone multiple times.  Every time I traveled alone I stepped outside of what felt comfortable.  The nervousness, the anxiety and the fear of the unknown, that’s never comfortable.  Last year I finished the season with a 14th place at Nationals, some okay results here and there and a little increase in confidence in what it’s like to travel by your lonesome.  I was hoping to find some sponsorship for this year, but my results just weren’t good enough.  So with a lot of reluctance and some pushing by my friend Dave, I embarked on yet another season of UCI cyclocross racing, embarking once again on another year of fearing the unknown, what will this season bring me?  Fear of traveling a lone, doing the season by myself once again, it’s not an easy task.

At the beginning of the season I told myself I would do a better job of being more social and trying to talk to the girls at the races and not be so shy.  I wanted to make sure I felt like I had a place in the field, I wanted to be less afraid, less nervous and feel more welcome.  It turns out, when you have a pretty good season it’s easier to be friendly with people because they know who you are.  This season turned out to be much  better than I could have anticipated, and it’s not even over!  When I look back at everything I have accomplished I couldn’t be happier or more motivated for next year.  As I sit here typing this, embarking on a new adventure, that same fear, uneasiness, and nervousness strikes me again.  Except this time I have a flood of nearly every emotion, and for some reason I find myself crying over the simplest things.  This trip to Belgium has brought a new feeling of uneasiness over me.  It’s just a race, I know, but it becomes much more at this point.

I’m so excited to be a part of the Eurocrosscamp this year, as it has opened my eyes (and doors) to my racing world and where it could go.  I couldn’t be more honored to be a part this adventure and experience, but I can’t help and express some feelings.  I’m not asking for any pity or feelings of comfort, because in the end I will get over it.  For some reason when it comes to athletics, I have a hard time believing in myself, call it low confidence if you will.  Whatever I do, what ever my results, I feel are never good enough.  I think I put too much pressure on myself, but I feel like if I don’t do better, I wont be noticed and my efforts will be left for the wolves.  What this trip has helped me realize is that my efforts have been noticed and I feel like I’m being rewarded for the efforts I have put in.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, this trip makes me feel like the fat kid that was picked last for the team.  I know you’re probably thinking “what the heck”.  I didn’t say this in the last blog post, but when I booked the trip I was unsure if I was going to get the chance to race the World Cup races, I was just planning on racing the other 3 races that are after the WC’s.  Here is what I mean by this.  Each country is allowed 8 racers (8 male and 8 females in the elite fields), the top UCI ranked riders that want to race are the ones that get priority.  I’m ranked #13 (thanks to the lack of West coast UCI racing, never have done a WC, AND results just not good enough to score those big points) in the US and I knew right off the bat that 8 other women where going to be racing the WC’s.  Because Katie Compton is so dominant, awesome, and winning, us females get 1 extra rider, hence…me.  The fat kid picked last for the team.  It’s silly, I know, I know, I know, I just can’t help the way I feel though!  Talking to a friend helped me realize that, you have to start somewhere.  Heading over to Belgium and racing 2 World Cups is a stepping stone in my racing career, because everyone has to start somewhere.  I realize now, that this is where it begins, and from here I can hopefully only move up.

As fear of the unknown floods over me and I step fully out of my comfort zone, I realize that this trip could be the start of something fantastic, I hope to learn more, grow as a racer, have fun and soak up the experience as much as possible.  I am so thankful that I have parents that could help me along the way, a husband that supports my racing and is okay with me being gone for Christmas.  I’m thankful for my team Bicycle Bluebook/HRS/Rock Lobster for being so dang awesome and supportive, for Paul at Rock Lobster Cycles for building me 2 frames that ride amazingly.  For FSA/Vision for coming through with some great wheels in a time of need, for Paul Components for providing me with some great stopping power, and for Easton supplying me with a fully functioning cockpit and seat post.

Here I go, leaving the America’s for the first time in my life, stepping out with my head held high, racing my heart out.

Thank you for your support!!!!!