Like a Kid?

Yesterday was just a great day to be a cyclist in Ottawa. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was shining, there was a bit of wind and most importantly – no rain. I seized the day and the weather for another easy ride. The plan was a 45 minute ride… This plan didn’t hold together all that well – I ended up riding for 90 minutes or so. But it was an excellent 90 minutes.

I set out with a loose plan – essentially ride on as many bicycle paths and patches of grass as possible – all in my Ottawa suburb. So this is what I did. I explored a new bicycle path, followed a worn trail in the grass, zipped along busier bicycle paths, hit up some trails by the 416. Really just like a kid who takes off for a “bike ride” I simply followed my eyes, ears and heart. If the right turn looked more interesting, I went right. Big puddle on the left, okay ride right through as fast as I could. I’m pretty darn sure I was smiling the entire time – this is based on all the smiles I received from those I saw out enjoying the fresh fall air.

So you can easily understand how this 45 minutes turned into 90… Can’t blame me really. Great ride. Good sensations in my legs and body. I didn’t push the pace, rather I rode so I could get a feel for my legs. All in all, a most excellent ride.

I closed off the day with a photo shoot with Marc L. Many thanks to Marc for coming out to snap literally hundreds of photos of me rolling along on my trusty Stevens Carbon Team DA and wearing my long-sleeve skinsuit (thanks Champion Systems Canada). The photos are for my rider cards. Yes, I’m finally getting rider cards! Pretty stoked about this. Rider cards are sought after at all the races in Europe – people collect them just like hockey cards here. For the past three years, I’ve had to say “Sorry, I don’t have rider cards”. But not this year! Thanks Marc for the photos and for the work behind-the-scenes with the lay-out. Definitely appreciated.

I realized that in my blog post on Monday, I neglected to tell you about Marc’s weekend racing. Well, it was a weekend of ups and downs. Saturday was a challenging day thanks to an early race collision that resulted in a bent derailleur hangar and this was followed with a flat… But through it all, Marc dug deep and kept on going – I was very inspired by his doggedness. Sunday was a much better day for Marc – he rode very strong and even a late race crash didn’t set him back. It was great to watch him race, cheer him on and then hear all about the races afterwards. Another excellent weekend at the cyclo-cross races.

Today I’m taking it easy. No riding for me. Truth be told, I’m tired. Plus my quads are a bit tight – must have been the running last night. I just got home from my second iron infusion. Crossing my fingers that these iron infusions help. Have to say that the staff at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital have been amazing – super friendly, super patient and just top-notch professionals. So today is all about rest. Maybe a bit of light yoga to stretch out my muscles but other than that, I predict the couch will be my training partner this afternoon!

But before my afternoon nap, I have to take off to do a few errands. Off to The Cyclery to pick up some supplies for next week’s trip to Aigle and Plzen for the season-opening World Cups. Then a break at Sbucks to catch-up with the KingsBridge head honcho.

(P.S. I’ve registered for the Brockville race. Looks like I’m racing the early race. So to all the little kids out there – be gentle when you pass me! Seriously, looking forward to racing at home and to soaking up the supportive vibes of the Ottawa Bicycle Club Cyclo-Cross Series. This is where it all started for me.)

(P.P.S don’t forget to pick up the latest issue of Canadian Cycling Magazine – I’ve got two articles in the issue. One about carbohydrates and training/racing and the other is about cyclo-cross training/skills. A couple of good reads if I do say so myself!)

(P.P.P.S make sure to pick issue 10 of Cyclocross Magazine… There is an article in this issue about mental training/coaching. I was interviewed for this article and I think it reads really well and includes some very useful information.)

New England Worlds – Kinda Sorta

I had really been looking forward to racing at “New England Worlds” aka “Gloucester” all season. But sadly it is not to be. Those tests I had done earlier in the week revealed some additional health issues that I need to sort out in order to be healthy. I’ve learned that I’m really just getting by thanks to my fitness and cycling-determination…. Once again a testament to how living a healthy and active lifestyle can keep you out of the hospital and living a full life. Problem is, that as a result of the ulcerative colitis flare, I’ve developed a pretty severe bout of anemia coupled with a too low hemoglobin/red blood cell count. This explains a lot. In a strange way it is a relief. This news explains why each race this year has been a struggle.

How am I feeling? Well, in a way, relieved – now we know what is going on. But in another way, I’m damn mad. I’m downright angry. Why does happen to me? Why do those people who eat poorly, don’t exercise and quite frankly treat their bodies like garbage disposals, manage to avoid the problems I’m having? Some days I feel like pulling up to the nearest golden arches and hunkering down to a Big Mac, large fries, and chocolate shake. But I don’t. And I won’t. Because that is not the attitude that got me here.

Got me here to this place where I’m surrounded by super friends and sponsors. Friends who cheer for me no matter how I’m riding. Friends who encourage me every step of the way. Friends who when I’ve cracked, have been quick to send emails and post comments reminding me to keep chasing the dream. Friends who know what it is like. Sponsors who were there in the beginning when I was transitioning into elite racing. Sponsors who believed in me to provide me with bikes, clothing, food, shoes, helmets, travel and living support. Sponsors who know that I’ve got lots of great races left in me. (Do yourself a favor and check out my sponsors – some top-notch products and people. Overwhelmed would be the appropriate word.)

I’ve had a few pity parties for myself this season. Wondering what is going on. Why can’t I ride like I did last year? I even asked myself if I still wanted it? And the answer: Yes I want it. Yes, I will be racing at the World Champs in St. Wendel, Germany. Yes, I know I can compete with the best. Yes, I know I’m stronger and smarter than this time last year. Yes. Yes. Yes.

So this weekend there will be no racing for me. I’ll be cheering on my favorite guy. Doing whatever he needs to ensure he has two excellent races. Gloucester is a special place for us. This is the first race we traveled to outside of Canada. This is the first time I stood in the pits. This is the first time I saw the elite women whiz by and wished I could be like them. Gloucester is the first time I stood on the podium. Gloucester is where we were bitten by the ‘cross bug. Can’t hardly wait to get there. If you see me in the pits or roaming around, stop me and say “hello”. Looking forward to a great weekend of racing, cheering, friends, and hanging out.

Interbike

Thursday was a long but very good day. I spent the day at Interbike. Honestly I had no idea what to expect, I haven’t been to many trade shows – and never had I been to a bike-specific show. Well, lets just say that Interbike was crazy!

The trade show floor was massive and it was packed with more bicycling retailers than I even knew existed. I’m not sure what I expected but I wasn’t ready for the incredible amount of people and noise. I was extremely tired by 4:00 but in a good way. I spent the day talking and wandering. I had a great meeting with Clif Bar that really made my day and from there things just really got better. I had a great chat with the gang from Cyclocross Magazine – looking forward to working with this magazine again. Hung out and chatted with the Sinclair Imports/Stevens Bikes team for a while – a top-notch group of people. That booth was super busy – some very fast bikes on display. (Yes, I have photos – I’ll get them up on the weekend.)

So all in all, a really good day at Interbike. I took some photos of some cool looking gear that I’ll post on the weekend. I’m just too tired right now to do this. It is bright and early on Friday morning and I’m just getting ready to fly home. Looking forward to getting home to Ottawa and relaxing with Marc and Murphy (the cat). I’m racing on Sunday in Rochester, N.Y. so Saturday is going to be a busy one.

Had a bit more time to think about my race at Cross Vegas on Wednesday night. it was not fun to get lapped but I did all I could to prevent this. I was on the gas the entire time and really just didn’t have the “oomph” in my legs to hold off the surge. I am happy with my start. I was right in there from the gun and held my position fairly well – that was definitely the fastest start I’ve ever experienced. My regret is that I wasn’t able to sit on some wheels – I made that race hard on myself because I was out in the wind alone for the 40 minutes. So more good lessons learned.

Many thanks to KingsBridge for helping me out so much on this trip – from arranging the travel, being my uber-support at the race, and for just being a good group of guys. Big shout out to Dave Smith of the Element Hotel – the rooms was awesome, the hotel is super nice and having the trainer on Wednesday night was huge. Many many thanks to Stevens Bikes for their continued support – thanks to Vince for the kind and encouraging words before and after the race, thanks to Peter for just being “Peter”, and thanks to Ralf for helping me out so much. Big thank-you to Clif Bar for really setting the tone for my day on Thursday – nothing like having the support of such a solid company and group of people.

Time to finish the packing and get to the airport. I’m sure I’ll see some of you on Sunday and others next weekend in Gloucester, Mass. Racing in Gloucester is one of the upsides of the UCI Cyclo-Cross Training camp being canceled – I haven’t raced in Gloucester since I was in the 3/4 women’s category and wishing I could race elite. I only hope I can inspire someone else to chase their dreams as I was inspired by watching those fast girls.

Cross Vegas

I can safely say this is the latest I’ve ever made it home after a cyclo-cross race. It is 1 a.m. on Thursday morning… But the early morning/late night was definitely worth it.

I admit I was a bundle of nerves early in the evening. Thanks to the KingsBridge crew for putting up with my “shortness”. The support I received from these guys was awesome. They just basically were there to help me out in any and every way. Thanks Skip, Steve and Jason – I owe you guys!

Well, Cross Vegas is pretty crazy. Lots of people. Lots of cheering. Lots of everything really. It was a fun time.

The race? Well, the race was as expected hard. I’d say this race was as hard as a World Cup. Some of the top women in the world were there today. It was fast. It was windy. The grass was really dense. And did I mention that it was fast?

I had a not bad night. The best part about my race was my start. Usually I don’t have a very good start. But tonight I had a great start. I actually came by the pits the first time in 18th position! This is awesome. Unfortunately I started cracking shortly thereafter. I really just put head down and turned my legs as hard and as fast as I could. I rode well technically – the barrier re-mount could have been faster but all in all, I’m happy with how things came together. I won’t lie, getting pulled was not one of my race goals. But I came out and rode as hard as I could for as long as I could and to top it off I had a good start. This in my books is a good ride.

It was great to catch up with more people and to meet some new people. The Stevens Bikes tent was pretty darn busy and I think everyone had a good time. My bikes were very popular with a number of people giving them a test ride. This all makes for a great night at the races.

I do have to say that it was dry out there. I really wished I had had a bottle in the pits. I couldn’t believe how thirsty I was. Ah well, another lesson learned. Luckily I was able to swing by the Clif Bar booth after the race for some post-race food and drink. I literally drank all of my water before the race – not often I drink two cycling bottles plus an additional 1 liter of water in three hours!

After my race I had a good chat with Marc. I admit I had a few moments of feeling sorry for myself but luckily Marc was on the other end of the phone to shake me out of this and to remind me of the facts of life. It was so good to talk to him after the race and to tell him all about it. It also helped to have him remind me that there are some things that are beyond my control.

I hung out and watched the elite men’s race with Vince and Peter. I think the conversations we had were as equally entertaining as the men’s race! It is something else to watch the elite men fly by – they were cooking. Too bad that Driscoll got caught at the end – but he went for it. This is all you can do. Picked up some cool t-shirts at the race – thanks to Schlamm and J-Pow.

We closed the night off with a fine meal at the Red Rock Canyon Resort and now I’m about ready to hit the sack. I had planned on riding at the Red Rock Canyon tomorrow morning but I realized that I’ve been up at 6 a.m (on Monday 3 a.m.) everyday this week – I think I’ll sleep in a bit tomorrow. I know the Red Rock Canyon isn’t going anywhere and I have full intentions of bringing Marc here for a trip one day. We’ll do some riding, we’ll check out the Las Vegas strip, and we’ll just have a good time.

A massive thanks to the Element Hotel and Dave Smith for the amazing accommodations and for arranging for a trainer. Having such a comfortable place to sleep and relax really does make a big difference. It has been nice to not be staying down on the strip amongst all the action. The trainer helped a lot tonight – I was able to easily warm-up away from the hub bub and just do my thing. Thanks a lot for the incredible support. All this from a person I’ve never even met! Incredible.

Most importantly – thanks so much for the emails, blog comments, Facebook comments, Twitter comments. All of these really do have an impact. I can’t say enough about how much it means to me to know that you’re out there cheering me on. Things will get better – I know they will – and when they do – I have you to thank.

Checking in from San Diego

After a whirlwind weekend in Vermont I now find myself in San Diego, California. Sunday was a great day of hanging out at the Catamount Outdoor Center watching the racing action. It was hard not to race but that crash I had on Saturday really did a number on my shoulder.

By Saturday night I could barely lift my arm… So there was definitely no racing for me on Sunday. I thought I had separated my shoulder but thanks to some amazing attention and care from Deb Paulson, I learned that my shoulder is not separated just badly strained. Deb is a massage therapist and she did some amazing release work on my shoulder and gave it a thorough assessment. Thanks Deb for the help on Sunday! The shoulder is feeling much better today. It is at about 75% so I’m confident that it will be fine for tomorrow’s race in Las Vegas.

So with no racing for me on Sunday, it was fun to just 100 per cent focus on Marc and his race. Boy oh boy did he ever have a good ride! It was awesome to see him riding so well and to just keep digging deeper and deeper. I was so proud to see him race so well. Many thanks to Conor for doing the pit duty for me on Sunday – this gave me a chance to relax and hang out with my parents for a bit.

Really the day was just about hanging out and watching racing. I got to catch up with lots of friends and meet new people. Can’t ask for much more from a day. Thanks to everyone who gave me words of encouragement and the odd hug here and there. I really appreciate it. This is a hard and frustrating time but I know that I just have to keep digging deep and pushing forward and good things will come.

After some frantic bike packing on Sunday followed by a relaxing evening with Jenn and Shane I was quickly at the airport on Monday morning at 5 a.m…. What seemed like the longest day ever ended with my arriving in San Diego to connect with the KingsBridge crew at the DRJ Fall World show. Good day at the show capped off with a fine sushi dinner and then I was back to the hotel to build one bike and get some much needed rest.

I had a great ride this morning along the San Diego Bay. I hooked up with a small group of cyclists for a bit and then did some exploring on my own. This afternoon we’re driving to Las Vegas and tomorrow it will be go time. Yes, I’m nervous about tomorrow. But I just have to line up and race as hard as I can. This is all I can do. This is what I will do. Had a great talk with my coach today and I’m feeling pretty good about tomorrow. Looking forward to visiting Interbike on Thursday as well. It will be a whirlwind couple of days but it will be a “good” whirlwind.

Oh, some disappointing news… The UCI Cyclo-Cross Training Camp is canceled. This is a real drag. Upside is I’ll get to race at Gloucester now! Haven’t raced there since I won the women’s 3/4 race in 2008. It will be great to race there again. The real hassle is now I have to change my ticket again… I originally booked my flight for the first World Cup in Aigle, Switzerland on Oct. 17 and then I changed the flight so I could do the ‘cross camp and now I’ll have to change it again… Each time I change the flight it is a minimum $250 charge… Sigh. Oh well, not like I can flap my arms and “fly” myself there!

Well, next check in will be from Las Vegas. Be sure to send me some speedy vibes for around 8:20 Las Vegas time Wednesday night. Thanks again for the kind words, emails and positive thoughts.