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Archive for the ‘Lessons learned’ Category

While at the Pan Am Games, I lost track of how many times I was asked “What sport are you with?”

It’s standard elevator talk. But the reaction of surprise was so consistent when I said,  “I’m an athlete, a track cyclist,” I felt it was time to get something out in the open.

I’m not a young woman.

I’m not a coach for the US Team, nor am I a soigneur, a press officer or logistics coordinator. There are people far more capable of doing those things than I am.

I’m an athlete. I compete for the United States, at the elite level, on the track.

And I’m 42 years old.

The reason I bring this up is because, well . . . 1/ I don’t look or think like a 20 year old. And 2/ I’m tired of tucking my tail in about it.

I started this blog as a line extension, if you will; to the one I started for Bicycling.com titled Livin’ the Dream.

I stopped writing that blog because the politics of being me in the sport of cycling became unbearable.

For two years, I lived two lives: one I could write about for a publication that promotes cycling in all its’ glory and one I couldn’t, because no female would enter this sport if they knew.

Then I stopped riding bikes. And I stopped writing this blog. And I stopped writing all together. And I kind of stopped communicating in any sort of meaningful way to the outside world or hanging out with people who had anything to do with bikes–which is just about everyone I know.

It’s very hard when something you love so much that you’re willing to give up everything safe and familiar and consistent to pursue it–this love–turns on you.

But the opposite of love isn’t hate, right? Didn’t that Nobel Peace Prize winner guy say the opposite of love is indifference?

I’d like to paraphrase the great Garrett Morris here and say, ‘Cycling . . . been berra, berra good . . . to me.’

At the very core, I love riding my bike. So I shuffled my way back. Some things are just worth fighting for.

Back to the original topic: I can see the confusion in people’s eyes when I tell them I’m an athlete. Eventually I get around to telling them my age.

Their eyes grow wide when I say I race for the US.

It gets even more fun when I tell them I just returned from the Pan Am Games, where my partner and I set a new American Record in the Team Sprint.

When I say I’m a sprinter, they give me a head-to-toe body scan. Then comes the smile and nod.

They’re usually the ones who ask if I’m going to London.

I tell them we’re going to do our best.

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One of my athletes forwarded me the video of our bronze medal ride in the Team Sprint, so here it is. Thanks, Todd!

I knew the crowd was going to be out of their minds, but nothing like this. The stadium was so loud, it was nearly impossible to hear the countdown. You train to respond to the beeps and not look at the clock. You want to go on instinct.

Having to watch the numbers, then process them and react accordingly can add valuable tenths to your time.

A lot happened in a short time, as you can see here. We false started, though at the time I thought it was Mexico, not knowing the language! We came back pretty well, and came away with plenty to learn from.

On the plus side, we posted two 500’s under 35 seconds at the Pan Am Games. We rode a 34.7 in qualifying. Our previous best together was 36.0, so that’s quite an improvement!

The Team Sprint is still a relatively new event for women. It’s been contested domestically for a number of years, but was only added to the UCI World Championship schedule in 2007.

I rode in the start position (man 1) at the 2007 Los Angeles World Cup with US Team member Jennie Reed, but we never raced it again after that. Her focus was on the individual events; the Match Sprint and Keirin.

Cristin Walker & I rode together twice last World Cup season, and depending on rosters may have the chance to see how far we’ve come this year.

On the whole, we (the US Team) are just now starting to see the benefits of having a dedicated coach and consistent training program: quicker times, a better understanding of the event and more bodies to work with.

This is the first time the US has had a women’s sprint program with enough depth to work on this event. And really–with Team Sprint being an Olympic event–the first time it has been a priority for female sprinters in the US.

Pretty cool, eh? I’m psyched to be here. I think I can say with confidence that our 34.7 is the quickest time ridden by American women to date. I’m sure we’re going to go faster, but we’re waiting to hear from USAC HQ if we’ve established a new American record.

Beyond not coming out with the win, I don’t see any negatives . . . only room for improvement!

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With Master’s Nationals over, I confess to being a little concerned I’d lose my training partners.

I know how tough it is to fit in consistent workouts with a 9-5, and while some of the guys I train with are teachers or have flexible schedules, most of them have wives and kids who really like to see them when their goal has been met for the season.

(Thanks, btw, wives and kids for letting your men come to the track. I feel very fortunate to train with them.)

Imagine my relief when I got this text from Affinity‘s Jon Chambers:

JC: U available to train Sunday?

We’ve had storms hovering, plus I raced Friday and training gets shuffled for these reasons. And while Sunday’s usually a rest day, (can I get an Amen!?), it’s also a day when guys like Jon can sneak away for a morning track session.

ME: What do you have going on?

JC: Not sure yet depends on what you have.

ME: This weather may shift things around, so maybe flying 200’s or rolling 500’s.

JC: Works for me.

Jon & Cam setting up for Masters' Nationals.

There was a little more to it. But that’s the gist. We’ve trained together quite a bit the past few years and can speak in shorthand. Our schedules haven’t meshed lately, so I was glad to hear from him.

Did I mention Jon’s racing like a champ? Just killing it every Tuesday and Saturday in the Cat 2/3’s and Master’s Men’s field. He’s a powerhouse who stepped it up a notch this winter. I hardly recognized him when I got back from Los Angeles in May.

It’s not uncommon in competitive sport to see elite women training with men of equal or greater ability. In track cycling, you often see top women racing with cat 2/3 or Master’s men to simulate the kind of speeds and action you’ll get in international competition.

Basically, you have to train as fast as you want to race. So if you’re trying to step it up; training with the guys, a motorcycle or exceptionally fast women are, in theory anyways, your best ways to go about it.

Today it was Jon, myself, Jon’s teammate, Cam; Bike Line Dale and Paul; Greg, the new Manager at Performance Bicycles and his buddy Ken. All great guys. I did flying 200’s behind the motor on Thursday, so I had 4 handicapped rolling 500m efforts, full throttle, two in race gear +4, two in race gear +6.

Three words: Big muscular effort.

We split into two groups: sprinters & enduros. Each of us (Jon, Dale & myself) took a turn at the front.

The speed difference between leading and chasing was remarkable: 6kph faster in the chase. I know I hit some of my best top speeds today. I also know the guys put the hammer down ’cause (and they’ll tell you this) no one likes getting beat by a girl.

Today’s training session was mint. Each effort high quality. For most of these guys, track time is a priority and they make the most of it.

And Jon is like a locomotive once he’s on top of a gear. Lucky for me, he doesn’t mind it if I sit a few bike lengths back and turn myself inside out trying to catch him.

There’s always some good-natured ribbing that comes with the territory. The guys like to tease me about being a girl (which, I am). I grew up with an older brother who used to pummel me for sport, so these guys are lightweights in comparison.

Gentlemen, in fact. Am I allowed to say we have a good time? And I certainly get more out of each effort than I would on my own.

This is something I’ve been thinking about because it’s new to me. I trained by myself a lot last year because it’s what I needed to do at the time.

I started the summer working with Andrew Harris on starts & OTB strength and did flying efforts with Chip Berezny and his crew on Wednesdays. Each session has been good in so many ways, this year better than last.

Then I found this newspaper clipping when I was home and thought, “Hah! This must be my destiny!”

Me & the Boys. Towsend, MD Invitational 1975?

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I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get back to writing regularly, so I’ll start with right now.

I’m sitting in bed with my coffee. My dog Bruno is snoring at my feet; his fur catching the sun streaming through the window.

I just returned from Los Angeles where I spent the week training and posting times at the ADT Center in Carson. It was a really great trip, though hard to be away with Masters Nationals being held at my home track.

A lot of friends and guys I train with were competing this week, so I was bummed I didn’t get to see them perform live. We keep each other honest and motivated in training. And I’ve long realized the value of having good people with similar goals, abilities and work ethic to train with.

Good people help you show-up and keep you going, especially when the heat index is off the charts! Plus, it makes the work productive and the suffering manageable when you enjoy the company between efforts.

But between Facebook, USA Cycling & the event photographers, I kept on top of things & pieced together the action.

There was tons of excitement about Masters Nationals coming to T-Town. The one question I kept getting asked was if I were going to compete which means 1/There are more people interested in track racing then ever before; and 2/ They’re on to me and know I’m not a junior.

For the record, I turned 42 this year. I also signed a contract with Black Dog Professional Cycling, and as a member of a UCI Professional Trade Team, I’m unable to compete in masters events.

When I started this science experiment of one, my goal was to take the sport as far as I could go. To reach my potential as an athlete.

For a million reasons, I didn’t know I could be competitive at the Elite level until my late 30’s. The irony being it took success at the Master’s level for me to realize my potential in open competition.

I’ll write about my trip to LA, but I have to get to work, which today means over-geared starts, a road spin and getting settled and ready for 8 weeks of high intensity & volume.

So I’ll leave with huge props to all who came to T-Town to race, and beg forgiveness for not being here to cheer you on. I’m both proud and thrilled for everyone who shared their goals, aspirations or insecurities with me . . . then came out & rocked it.

Check out this article, featuring a bunch of friends:

MORNING CALL PIECE ON MASTERS’ NATIONALS

And if you have the chance and are looking for some inspiration . . . flip through the photos on USA Cycling:

USA CYCLING MASTERS SUPERHEROES

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I spent February and some of March in LA this winter. It was good to get out of the cold, dark East and great to hang with my friend Stacey, who I stayed with before the ’07 LA World Cup.

Stacey & Molley Girl

Stacey & I share huge love for our dogs. She recently had to say goodbye to her sweet pal Molly (pictured right).  Molly was the kind of dog that barks at you and expects you to understand what she’s saying. Funny thing is . . . after living with and feeding her for a week or so, you actually could start to understand her.

I got a strange sensation riding along the Strand . . . not because the last time was there was in 2007, but because the first time I was riding that path was 10 years ago to the day.

In March of 1999, I made my first solo trip to the West Coast to race what was then called the California Spring Classic Series. I entered my first EDS Track Cup, then raced the Sea Otter Classic (Cat III road &  mountain), the Napa Valley World Cup on the mountain,and got spit out the back of the Visalia Crit.

I somehow convinced my boss at Runner’s World to let me take a month off and race my bike.  (thanks Ken!) I flew to California, rented a mini-van, floated between El Segundo at my cousin Cheryl’s and Pasadena at my friend Tony’s when I wasn’t traveling to races. It was me, a van, 3 bikes and a map of California. I was rider, mechanic, team manager and soigneur.

What I remember most from the trip was how much I learned in a short time, and how hard it is to race back to back weekends when you’re handling all the logistics yourself. Since that moment, I’ve been in awe of road pros. I’m pretty sure that’s when I realized the ‘arena sport’ nature of track racing was more my style.

I dug out the journal I kept while on the road and found this report on my first EDS Cup.

Race Report, EDS Cup 1999

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the art of conversation

I just stumbled across this and feel like sharing it. I feel surrounded by opinions lately, and have too often shared mine when—in hindsite—it would have been better to simply nod and refrain. 

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but, far more difficult still to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. 

—Dorothy Nevill

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