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.