World Cup Frenzy

This is how I feel, a tad frenzied. It is 9:30 and I’m not very close at all to packing. I’ve made a few piles of clothes and other stuff on the floor. But I’m not anywhere close to being ready to jam things into bike boxes and into my carry-on. Today has been a very good but busy day. I did get lots done and most importantly I connected with a very good friend for some coffee and a great chat.

As for the rest of the day? Well, I got in an excellent road ride. Felt so nice to be out on my familiar training roads and just enjoying the crisp fall air. I didn’t think about racing. I didn’t worry about the garbage from the weekend. Nope, I just focused on pedaling, smiling and taking it all in. I did do a little bit of “mental packing” – putting ideas and thoughts in little spots in my brain for future reference.

Oh, I suppose I did think a bit about racing since my mind wandered to the excellent training day I had yesterday. Marc and I zipped out to Karl’s to play in his front yard. Karl’s cyclo-cross course is great. Sand. Steep climbs. Fast descents. Mud. Ruts. Barriers. Grass. Can’t ask for much more. The atmosphere of the training session was bang-on with all of us constantly laughing at each other and also learning a bunch as well. I can’t thank the guys (Karl, Conor, Evan, and Marc) enough for their advice, patience and help on Monday. With their help, I conquered the steep climb and with their encouragement made it down the descent. All in all a good time on the bikes.

Now my bikes are clean and ready to be put in bike boxes. I’m hoping to get in a morning ride but considering that I don’t have much done in the way of packing or even collecting stuff to pack, the ride is looking like a distant memory. But you never know, I’ve been known to work miracles before!

Checked the start list for the Aigle World Cup – lots of fast girls on the list (myself included). Looking forward to connecting with my Belgian, Dutch, and Danish cycling friends. Amazing how time and distance are erased as soon as you get together with your cycling pals. I do have to say that I really can’t wait to get to Belgium permanently for the winter. It is a chance for me to put the ridiculous from the weekend behind me and to forget about the silly people. Most importantly, I can get settled into my racing, training and enjoying life in Belgium.

Right now even though things seem a little bit disorganized and crazy, I couldn’t be happier. This time tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Frankfurt and soon enough I’ll be pre-riding the World Cup race course. Life is good. The only thing that could make this trip better is to have Marc come along. Oh well, at least he’ll be there with me in Belgium very soon. I’m looking forward to spending time with my dad – wonder what he’ll think of his first World Cup experience? Perhaps I’ll see if I can get him to write a blog post on his impressions of World Cup racing?

Alright, my tea is getting cold and I really should do some packing….

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.

Motoring Along

This morning I realized that I’m ready. Really ready. I got out for a ride behind the motorbike and the body sensations were good. (Can’t say much for the ridiculous wind…) But nonetheless it was an excellent ride. Nothing quite like the feeling of speed when sitting just off the back of the motorbike with the legs spinning at 115 rpm and the wattage numbers looking sharp. Does so much for the body, mind, and soul. Just what I need a few days out from my first race of the season.

Tomorrow is looking like another most excellent day of cyclo-cross action. I’ve got a cyclo-cross practice session in the morning. Followed by a spin on the ‘cross bike. Then in the evening I’m hooking up with Karl and maybe Marc and Evan for some ‘cross skills work and a little bit of videotaping. A good day indeed.

I find the hardest thing for me these days is to take it easy. I’m feeling so good and I just want to squeeze as much as I can out of every training ride. I’m so tempted to throw in extra work-outs and to extend every ride. I know – this is not the best way to do things. I’m trying really hard not to do “too much”. Yes, it is possible to do to much. I have to remember I’ve got some busy weeks of travel and racing coming up. I guess it is just because I’m feeling so good and I feel as though I’ve progressed so far this summer that I want to see what else I can get out of myself. All in due time I suppose.

Pretty much all the plans have come together now for the cyclo-cross season. I finalized a car lease today – thanks to AutoCar Europe for the outstanding assistance. I managed to lease a Peugeot Tepee at a very reasonable price. This is a big weight off my mind. The Las Vegas trip is all sorted now – thanks to uber-planner and sponsor Skip Williams of KingsBridge for helping make this trip possible.

Actually, this is the perfect time to say thank-you to all my sponsors. The season starts on Saturday and truly without their support, I don’t know what I’d be doing. So without further adieu – thanks to the fine companies and individuals who are making my cyclo-cross racing dreams and goals a real possibility and reality for me:

  • KingsBridge: what can I say about this company of fine people? KingsBridge helps me out with all the “behind the scenes” stuff needed to make a cyclo-cross racing season come together. Owner Skip Williams had never heard of cyclo-cross until he started sponsoring me – and now he’s coming down to Cross Vegas to take in the action! Check out the KingsBridge blog, follow KingsBridge on Twitter, and check out the Facebook page.
  • The Cyclery: each time I walk into The Cyclery I really am overwhelmed. Owner Vince Caceres and his staff really do go that extra mile for me. Whether it is ordering in new chainrings, helping me choose new shoes, answering endless questions about my gear, and helping me out of last minute jams. My Stevens Bikes are built and maintained at The Cyclery – and for this I’m so grateful for – I know that they are well-built and will run perfectly all season. Vince does so much for the Ottawa cycling community that really does go overlooked – it is not often you’ll find a business owner who is willing to do so much for others for so little in return. If you’re looking for a bike, a helmet, shoes, some snazzy Icebreaker clothing, or maybe you just want to look at some cool bikes – be sure to visit The Cyclery.
  • Stevens Bikes: the support that Stevens Bikes gives me really is more than I can have ever imagined. I’m super lucky to have two brand new Stevens Carbon Team DA cyclo-cross bikes to race on this season. I’ve been riding Stevens Bikes since 2008 and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. The bikes are super reliable, fast, they turn well, take a beating, and they look damn good. Can’t ask for much more out of a bike. Thanks so much to Stevens Bikes Canada for the amazing support – I feel pretty fortunate to be riding on such solid cyclo-cross bikes and to have the Stevens Bikes logo on my clothing. Be sure to check out the new line-up of Stevens Bikes and don’t forget to follow Stevens Bikes Canada on Twitter and to visit the Stevens Bikes Canada Facebook page.
  • Champion Systems Canada: thanks to this clothing company, my Ottawa Cross clothing looks darn sharp. Not only does it look good, it fits well and I’m well prepared for the cyclo-cross season. Snow, mud, rain, ice, and the cold won’t be an issue thanks to the warm, waterproof and resilient clothing. I’m literally covered from head to toe with skinsuits, base layers, jerseys, thermal vests, thermal jackets, bib tights and for off the bike, I’ve got a waterproof, windproof, three-in-one coat to keep me toasty. If you need clothing and you want it done right and on-time, do yourself a favor and contact Champions Systems Canada.
  • Clif Bar: mmm, Peanut Butter Crunch, Chocolate Mint, Double Expresso, Caramel Nut Brownie – can’t go wrong with these flavors in your jersey pocket. Clif Bar is one of these companies that really is rock solid. Not only do they make excellent products for bike racers like me, but the company itself is just top-notch. I like the product, I like the people, and I like what Clif Bar does for its community-at-large. Do yourself a favor, slide some Clif Shot Bloks (Tropical Punch is very tasty) and a Chocolate Mint Clif Bar into your jersey the next time you go for a ride. Believe me, you’ll be well-fueled and your taste buds will thank-you. Oh, and to learn more about nutrition and sports, be sure to listen to the ClifCast.
  • Bell Lap Coaching: Steve Weller of Bell Lap Coaching makes it all happen. This is the guy with the plan, the vision, the knowledge, the patience, and the wisdom to make my racing seasons come together. No challenge is to big for Steve – when I told him I wanted to race at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships, he didn’t blink – he just said that “we’d make it happen”. This guy keeps me from doing too much and for pushing me that extra bit when I need it. His advice and knowledge really make the difference between a coach and a trainer. Bell Lap Coaching is going to get you where you want to be.
  • Outdoor Gear Canada: thanks to Outdoor Gear Canada, I’m riding on and using the best equipment out there. Fast and reliable wheels? Thanks to OGC, I’ve got them. A flashy and rock-solid helmet? Yep – got one of these as well. Stiff shoes that can take a beating? Oh yah, I’ve got these. OGC fills in the blanks for me and makes sure that I’ve got all the pieces I need to keep me rolling along quickly, safely, and smoothly. And I’ve got to say, yellow shoes are pretty darn awesome!
  • Oakley: be fast and look good – this is easily done thanks to Oakley. I’ve got some pretty hot glasses to wear this season including my pick of lenses to suit any light and course conditions. I’ve got to say that having worn Oakley glasses, I don’t think I can go back to my dollar store specials. These glasses really are the bomb. Beyond glasses, Oakley can set you up with some solid and durable luggage and snazzy clothing. Oakley – really what else is there to say?

Thanks so much for the support this season. I’m looking forward to another great year with many good things to come. I’ve set the bar high again this year, because really there is no other way to race or live.