Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Love My Job!

One of my favorite things about being a professional cyclist is "paying it forward." Through all the years of blood, sweat and tears, I've gathered a wealth of knowledge about cycling, being a professional athlete and a few other things too. Every chance I get to pass along some of my knowledge, I jump! A few weeks ago, the young ladies from The Pine School in Hobe Sound, Florida, were my audience as together we celebrated Girls & Women in Sports Day. We talked about how sports has molded my life and reallly become a large part of my identity. Most of the girls that were in my audience happened to be athletes too and have participated or competed in many of the same sports as me so we had a lot in common! I remember being their age and how every experience was new and so exciting! I hope that the girls left inspired and motivated by my experiences because the girls of The Pine School definately inspired me with their enthusiasm!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A2 = Ah HA!

Preparations for my 2010 season with Team Vera Bradley Foundation just got a HUGE boost! Early in the week, I loaded up my Specialized TT bike and my Dad in the Elephant (a.k.a Honda Element) for a full-on country music infused road trip! I was scheduled to spend some time with Mike Giraud at the A2 Wind Tunnel in Mooresville, North Carolina.

The miles ticked by quickly and the closer we came to Mooresville and my testing session time, the more excited I got. I just couldn't wait to see how my position could be improved. Two of my teammates also tested on the same day as me so we had hoped for some good pre-season hang out time too! I arrived at A2 with a little time to spare and watched one teammate's wind tunnel session with the other teammate. I took many mental notes as I watched and couldn't wait to see how I could improve my aerodynamics, just like my teammates did.

Finally, after a quick changed into my skinsuit, it was time for my test! A2 testing starts with a series of baseline tests, just to get an idea of where you are with your current position. Mike came in after my baseline tests to inform me that "this is going to be easy." WHAT? What's going to be easy? Then Mike informed me that I'm already very aero! Fortunately, I was not shocked because my coach had prepared me for this moment...we've always set up my TT position by "feel" and I've only been satisfied with it when I "feel" fast and powerful. So with a HUGE sense of confidence and pride, I asked Mike what improvements I could possibly make...??? So Mike tweaked my bike to fit my body in the most aero position and after a total of 13 tested positions, I was again satisfied, and CONFIDENT!

So I spent several days and quite a bit of pocket change to learn that I do know what I'm doing...really? REALLY! Every second, and every penny, spent were absolutely well worth it! I learned a TON about aerodynamics, my own personal aeroness and had a great road trip with my Dad. And by the way, my Dad happens to be just about the best support staff a rider like me could ask for. Not only did he catered to my crazy schedule he did all the driving! And he learned how to fabricate a special piece of carbon to hold my SRM head unit- ask me about it when you see me on my TT bike and I'll proudly show you his handiwork!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Power of Girlfriendships

The view from the outside of my life as a professional cyclist is not quite clear to me. I've never really gotten a good glimpse of what my life must look like to others but I really do think about it quite a bit. Prompted by what seems to be one strange question after another from friends and family leads me to believe that, although my life seems perfectly normal to me, its nothing close to that. Its taken me nearly my entire life, spent in one sport after another, none of which ever received mainstream media exposure, to figure out that all these questions are really true and sincere curiosity about my strange life...not strange questions at all! And now, I love answering and often find myself deep in conversation only to realize that the entire discussion has been about me! Possibly this is my own form of sport psychology as I've noticed the more I talk about my experiences, the more confident I become and the more I believe in what I'm doing. I love sharing my love of the sport.

However...cycling can also be a lonely sport. The ranks of the professional are not-so-glamorous; much time is spent alone training, resting, traveling...resting, training and then some. Its not only the time spent alone but also the blatant lack of understanding by what seems to be everyone else in the world. Who will give me, the superwoman, empathy, understanding, support...who could? Many try and, believe me, its more than appreciated. Big successes on the bike come few and far between however I drive on, chasing the dream, the goal, the win, the big one...wherever it is. In cycling, you can't always predict when "your day" will come so every day "could be" and, as such, I'm ready. I'm committed to whatever it takes each day, which leads to vulnerability and more often than not, a loss. One out of a hundred women win the race, just one had "their day" and everybody else has excuses and mistakes and learning experiences and wishes.

But the real heart of the sport, and my heart too, is still dependent upon the
almighty race. Its what gets me going, the prize in my eye, the motivation above all motivation. The speed, the intensity, the suffering. I'm addicted to it all, no doubt about it.

There are two parts that have me hooked: the physical challenge and the psychological experience. Pushing my body to the limit, whatever that might be each race day, feels good. I like to race hard and when the racing isn't hard, I don't like it. My favorite races are those won by the strong, tough, relentless women and no matter my result, as long as I turned myself inside out, I'm exhilarated.

But possibly even more so, I am addicted to the experience. Cycling is a team sport and as a stage racer, I am, along with my team of 6-8 women, committed to working towards one common goal, together we're going for the win and nothing less. And NOTHING feels better than being a part of a successful team. Nothing hurts more than letting your team down. Talk about lonely, everybody knows what it feels like and nobody EVER wants to feel it. The team - that's what its all about, that's where I found "it," my vice is the team. The relationships, the bonds, the trust, the love of the game are all there in my team. That's it, that's why I am a pro cyclist.

I am sometimes a bit too introspective for my own good but at this point in my career, I need to know why my desire to juggle the universe drives me to the very limit of my capabilities. I am dedicated to and bonded with my teammates and staff because we are a team. They are the ones; these women juggle the universe just like me, they feel the emotions just like me, they are bonded to me, just like I am to them. These women, these relationships, Girlfriendships, if you will, are why I am a professional cyclist. Girlfriendships, bonds among like women, are a beautiful thing. You can find them, too, in your realm, and I strongly encourage you to be real, vulnerable and dedicated to your Girlfriendships as I am to mine. Take the risk, be true to yourself and your relationships...your Girlfriendships. They're totally worth it.

Friday, January 8, 2010


So many things are inspiring me right now but nothing more than watching people accomplish things they didn't know they could. To watch someone reinvent herself, make their own action plan, or do "it" their own way is giving me a HUGE energy boost! The timing couldn't be better for me to become energized as I'm entering a tough phase of my training. The miles are long and, for the last month, mostly sans companions. All of this time alone, and all this inspiration, has given me time to philosophize a bit and the following is a list of what I've determined:

1. It takes way to much energy to get mad and so I'm going to try to avoid anger.

2. Being nice, even overly nice and happy, especially when it's not really expected, is energizing and uplifting not only for the person I'm being nice to, but for me too!

3. I'm not going to resolve to learn Spanish for the 6th year in a row...someday, I'll get it down...I'm giving myself a pass on this one for the year.

4. There are some things you just can't force, like your health, no matter how strong your will is; you're best bet is to treat your body well all the time.

5. Watching other people achieve their goals is so rewarding and it's definitely worthwhile to invest in dedicated people.

6. I really do love riding my bike. And I can do it forever if I want to.

The credit for my list should be giving to a lot of different people and in the weeks to come, I'm going to tell you more about some of these people. In addition, Vera Bradley and the Vera Bradley Foundation have signed on to sponsor my team and they are nothing short of inspiring! Talk about inspiration, they epitomize it: the Foundation is solely for the purpose of fighting breast cancer. Breast cancer has probably touched the lives of everyone I know in one way or another and so I'm thrilled to support the cause and Vera Bradley's efforts. Ironically, Specialized, our equipment sponsor, also has a breast cancer support initiative. So this year will be a special year, not only about me, but about people like my Aunt Carolyn, who is a survivor, and numerous others. Thinking about what she's been through makes my job as a professional bike racer sound easy.

So, while I try to control my enthusiasm (and not overtrain!), I'm pretty fired up about the year. I'm putting the list above front and center in my life and giving myself perspective, which has me really motivated. 2010 is going to be a really happy year!