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Archive for the ‘love’ Category

Spending the day packing for Beijing. We’ve got a flight out on Air China at midnight, which gives me the entire day to attend to all the junk I’ve been shoving aside when I’m too tired from training.

I’m also trying to embrace the digital life, which means I’ve got to stop printing stuff like this and keeping it around. So I thought I’d preserve it here:

“Someday, in years to come, you’ll be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow, of your life. But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long-continued process.”

–Phillips Brooks

Admittedly, I had no idea who Phillips Brooks was when I printed it out. I think our sports psych, Wendy Borlabi sent it in one of her emails to keep us on track. Obviously, it spoke to me.

Upon further investigation, Brooks was not only a great scholar and theologian, he wrote “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” (which happens to be one of my favorite Christmas carols). His legacy lives on in educational and service organizations, where the development of kindness, character, service and a love of learning are core values.

The center for volunteer organizations at Harvard University is named after him. I also learned there’s a cool little independent school in Menlo Park, CA called the Phillips Brooks School, which is super hip and embodies the way of living he brought to the world.

Check it out! The Phillips Brooks School.

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I am one lucky human being.

I’ve been given the chance to pursue a sport I love training for and competing in to the highest level I’m capable of. It’s an unconventional pursuit. I won’t receive a diploma when I’m done. And best I can tell, there won’t be a huge financial reward at the end.

There are days when I ask myself, ‘how did I get here?’ And there are days I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I should to be doing, right now.

For that, I have a few people to thank:

My husband, Lath

My husband, Lath. I married a man who’s crazy enough to think this is a good idea. Without his support, I couldn’t be here. We met while I was juggling a demanding full-time job, random out-of-comp USADA testing and training. We both knew together we could accomplish great things. The irony being that, for the moment, we’re often apart.

But he’s never wavered in his support. I can’t begin to explain its’ depth and breadth, because that would be way too personal here. I know for a fact he’s the biggest piece of the puzzle for me.

My mom & dad. I grew up in a small town where sports were what we did. From the time I can remember, we were either out back playing, or my folks were carting us off to swim meets, ball games or golf matches.

Dad (left), Number 44

My dad was an accomplished athlete himself. He played football and basketball in the Air Force, then at Mansfield Teacher’s College after the service. My mom loved to swim and spent her summers teaching kids to swim at the Valley Hunt Club in Lewis Run, PA.

Together, the two of them loved to play, teach and enjoyed exposing their kids to everything. My mom’s a gifted pianist and music teacher, who’s filled with enough passion, drive, heart and emotion to fuel a small revolution. My dad is the logic behind the madness. He was a math teacher, a hunter, a gardener, respected coach and strategist who knows how to stay the course and get things done.

Between the two of them, they’ve personally touched the lives of thousands, most of whom were our coaches, friends and teammates.

In a small town, you don’t have to specialize in one sport as you do in large cities or suburbs, so we did it all: swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, tennis, wrestling, baseball, football, track and field, golf, basketball, skiing . . . you name it. I never once got tired or bored, and came away with a wide skill set & plenty of game.

Not only am I blessed to have grown up in a house where playing sports and being active was just what we did, somehow the union of these two great people crafted a girl who’s rhythmically coordinated, fast-twitch faceted, compulsive enough to take risks, calculating enough to work the numbers and who clearly inherited her mother’s thighs.

Mom (far right) and her siblings, Chataqua Lake

Because of my sister Karen, I learned how to be a tomboy. She was the only person–girl or guy–daring or talented enough to do a gainer off the diving board. And she swam the butterfly. Karen was also an accomplished basketball player. She had a real command of the game by age twelve, was a natural-born leader and good student, which made her the perfect point guard.

She’s 4 years older than me and I idolized her.

I followed her around like a puppy and did everything she did. She played point guard. I played point guard. She threw javelin. I threw javelin. She taught me how to do a proper lay-up, and I still plant my left foot, extend with the right and follow-through to the basket.

Karen became more of a girly-girl as we got older while I held onto our athletic roots. But I always had someone to play 3X’s with and look up to. She led the way, and has encouraged me through competitive sport as an adult. For that I’m truly grateful.

My brother TJ is 4 days shy of 1 year older than me, and best I recall made me pay for being born well into our teens. TJ was also an exceptional athlete. He, too, possessed a mean butterfly and was a master of the cannonball and jackknife in the greatest splash contest at the Memorial Recreation Center.

By the time he was 15, TJ had invested that magic number of years (7-10) in the sport of wrestling and won a Pennsylvania State Championship title. For those unfamiliar with wrestling, Pennsylvania ranks up there with Iowa in taking rural farm kids and turning them into little mortal combat machines.

Growing up, TJ was a lot like this:

TJ, after a day in school

You never knew when he was going to strike, then you had to act quick and decide if this was a fight, flight or play dead situation. Sometimes he had back-up (The Burdick Boys) so you had no choice but to take Craig–Don’s younger lightweight brother–for your teammate and pray for the best.

One minute I’d be watching Happy Days, the next, I’d be dragged into a full-on, tag-team, death match on the living room floor. TJ would pile drive me into the carpet, my face smashed into Play-Doh stains from earlier times. I’d end up screaming, hair matted and brush-burned. Eventually, he’d climb onto the piano bench channeling Macho King Randy Savage before executing his final move.

But I regress.

My first coach used to call me a fighter. I was so green to bike racing, I didn’t know it was a compliment at the time.

Now I get it.

And I have my brother to thank for that.

__________

I could go on for miles about the many amazing people I know and have met who have it in their hearts to help aspiring competitive cyclists, but this is a good place to start and end for now.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, enjoy the feast!

–Liz

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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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All in a name…

There seems to be some confusion as to what my name is, so I’ve decided to set the record straight.

My first name is Liz. My last name is Carlson. My former last name is now my middle name, which makes me Liz Reap Carlson. It’s officially Elizabeth Reap Carlson, but nobody calls me Elizabeth.

Me & my girl, Rube at her modeling debut in Runner's World magazine

I’ve been keeping Reap around as a bit of a transitional thing…something to help folks who knew me before I got married find me. I also want them to know that I did, in fact, get married. I found a man who’s as good, if not better company than my dog, and snatched him up faster than you can say, ‘yes!’

Even my Grandma, who’s now seated at the right hand of the Father, called me Lizzy. Or Lilly . . . or Lilly Bell when she felt spry. I can’t remember if she was the one who called me Petunia Pig, or if that was my uncle or one of my parents’ weird friends.

Either way, Gram only called me Elizabeth when I was being scolded or at church. Or scolded at church.

I never hyphenated, only married late . . . well after establishing a career as a writer / editor / photographer. Then I became a cyclist, and kept Reap around as a safety net, in case I needed to make desperate phone calls to former colleagues looking for a job.

The last thing I wanted them to say was, “Liz Who?”

But I think we’re past that. Anyone who knows me by now has figured out I married a guy who comes from a long line of ship builders. And anyone who doesn’t know me will hopefully figure that out.

So I hereby proclaim, the woman (myself) heretofore known as Liz Reap Carlson is now Liz Carlson, both personally and professionally.

But I’m not militant. I’ll answer to both. Some people call me LizReap as if it’s one word anyways.

And when the realtor who owns LizCarlson.com closes shop, I hope she’ll sell that prime web estate at a good price—or just pass the url on to me—seeing as how we’re practically related.

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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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Where to begin!?

I’m writing this on my return flight from the Manchester World Cup. My teammate Cristin is two rows in front of me. We started the day with Bobby Lea, Kim Geist and Cari Higgins—also of the US Team—and Megan Hottman, of DFT Treads Cycling.  We left Kim & Bobby in Pennsylvania while Cari & Megan flew on to Denver. Cristin & I are heading back to Los Angeles where we’ll resume training Tuesday at the ADT Center.  

I flew to Los Angeles shortly after Thanksgiving to train with the new US Sprint Coach, Jamie Staff. Staff was hired by USA Cycling in July 2010 with the challenge of building an internationally competitive sprint program. Staff retired from competition last year after a career that began on the BMX track and ended with his winning gold at the Beijing Olympics as the starter for the British Team Sprint team.

At Elite Nationals, I learned Staff had an open door policy for now.  I did well at elite nationals—two gold and two bronze medals—so I took a few weeks to consider whether I wanted to pursue the sport at a higher level. If I learned anything in 2007, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to succeed at the world class level without committed support from an organized program.

We decided we were still game so I emailed Jamie to see if I could join his training group between the holidays.

That was three months ago. What started as a ‘try out’ has become a work in progress!

When I arrived in LA, 2009 elite national champion Cristin Walker was the only female sprint athlete training with Staff. She was doing road work and being groomed for next season. Staff has been straight up since taking the job that he’s got a long term vision and is building a program with the 2016 Olympic Games in mind.

New for London 2012, the Team Sprint is being used to qualify sprinters for the Olympic Games. Prior to myself and Tela Crane from Seattle joining him, Jamie had only one female–Cristin–in camp. When we arrived, he suddenly had enough bodies to field a team.

So we got to work. No promises were made. Jamie’s a high-energy, driven, process-oriented coach. We show up every day, work hard and give him our best. He gives us his best and expects our best. That’s how it goes.

By January, Staff felt we were fast enough to race the World Cup. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think he saw this season as a chance to gain international experience, establish a UCI ranking and if all goes well, earn Olympic qualification points. At the very least, he saw it as a chance to get US women back in the game.

It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least! Cristin and I flew to China last month for the Beijing World Cup. It was my first elite international race since December 2007 and Cristin’s first World Cup ever.  Long travel, crazy jet lag, funny food, very little English . . . nothing like diving in head first!

We did well in Beijing: placed 11th with a respectable time of 35.954. We also scored Olympic qualification points our first time out! Last week we rode a 36.054 in Manchester . . . just 1/10 second off our best.

With Beijing, the travel and cultural differences take some getting used to. Manchester is an entirely different beast: sold-out crowds, non-stop loud music and cameras in your face. The stimulus factor is a 10+ and learning to concentrate and focus on your race is a cultivated skill.

We’d grown accustomed to going 2/10ths faster every time we rode together, so we were expecting a faster time in Manchester. Cristin and I also came home from China sick as dogs, though, and lost valuable training time between the two events.

Still, we’re ahead of schedule: Instead of waiting ‘til next World Cup season, we’ve got two World Cups under our belts. And, we’ve set a time we can only improve on and have seen first-hand the best in the world perform.

Plus, we’ve got a UCI ranking and have scored coveted Olympic qualification points. Whoot! I’ll post photos soon and do my best to explain what it takes to qualify for the Olympic Games . . .

For now, I’ll just say this: Every pedal stroke counts!

Until then, cheers!

Liz

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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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