Biking After Baby

Little Cora

Cycling and racing have been a huge part of my life for the past 6 years. My life pretty much revolved around riding and training. It was my identity. However, last year this all changed when I found out I was pregnant. I had wanted to have a baby for years, but for one reason or another it never happened…until now.

Several months into the pregnancy it started to hit me that my life really was about to change drastically. Of course my training stopped immediately and I was just leisurely riding. Soon though, my husband did not want me to ride my bike outside anymore because of the dangers of falling off my bike and injuring the baby. As much as I hated the thought of riding the trainer for months I listened to his request and hung the bike up.

Tracie and Cora

Tracie and Cora

I continued to ride the trainer at least 5 days a week throughout my entire pregnancy. When my belly started getting really big, my regular bibs were so uncomfortable that I could no longer wear them. I decided I would take a couple of old pairs of bibs that I had and cut the bellies out of them so that they would fit me. It wasn’t pretty…but it worked and I was able to continue riding the trainer. When I was 8 and 9 months pregnant, pedaling started to become a real challenge. Each time my knees would come up during a pedal stroke it made me nauseated. I pushed through though. I was dedicated to not losing every bit of fitness I once had. I rode inside all the way until the end of the pregnancy. Cora was born on a Monday and my last pregnancy ride was the previous Friday. I have to say I am extremely proud of myself for sticking to it. It would have been easy just to say “forget it”, but I rallied until the end!

Five weeks after Cora was born I was back on my bike, determined to get my fitness back. It was amazing to be riding outside again. I had almost forgotten how wonderful it was to feel the road underneath me and the wind in my face. It feels good to be back, but it is different than before. Finding the time to ride has become a real challenge, I now have to do a better job of coordinating my schedule with my husband’s, and I can no longer be gone the entire day on long marathon rides.

Tracie and Cora spending time with family during Easter.

Tracie and Cora spending time with family during the Easter weekend.

For the first few weeks I really went at the training hard and was spending quite a bit of time on the bike once more. I quickly realized though that I now have other priorities. I want to be at home with my family. My heart hurts when I am away from my baby for too long. I want to spend every last minute that I possibly can with her while she is this age. I don’t want to miss a thing. She is only going to be this age once, but my bike will always be there. I will continue to train and race here and there, but I have found new priorities. I am no longer just a wife or a cyclist. I am also a mom. I still have the desire to compete and race my bike, but if I’m not as fast as I once was that’s ok. My goals are no longer all about winning because I have already won with the birth of my little girl. My life has changed forever and I couldn’t be happier!

Posted in Balanced, Cycling Team, Road Racing, Training, Uncategorized

Return of the Competitive Spirit

Missouri State Road Race

If you asked me how I got into cycling and racing, the answer might actually surprise you. My story initially has very little to do with riding a bike. Racing as it turns out filled a void that I had spent part of my of adult life trying to fill—the love of competition. As a young kid watching the Olympics I was mesmerized by the sport of gymnastics. Watching those young women compete and put themselves through some of the most rigorous routines was inspiring and brought about this excitement that I had never really felt about anything before. Soon after I knew this was the sport I wanted to invest my time in. My love of gymnastics quickly evolved into a serious commitment that required hours of practice in the gym, an understanding parent that was willing to drive me to practice almost every day, and to meets on the weekends. All those years of hard work fueled my dream of earning a college scholarship. As a college gymnast I competed in all four events, but the balance beam was one of my favorites. The beam required a lot of concentration and determination to stay on something that is only four inches wide.

Linda and her competitive spirit

Linda on the balance beam

At the conclusion of my college career I unfortunately sustained a knee injury that required surgery. I was trying out a relatively new dismount on the beam during practice and on the landing my body went one direction while my knee went in the other direction. As you can imagine our bodies are not meant to do that. Finding out that I would require surgery did not stop me from planning to return to competition my last year. I anticipated that I would get the surgery done, recover quickly and be back in time to compete for at least the last half of the season. That didn’t exactly work out as I had planned. Many of us have faced some type of road block in our lives that sidelined us for a short or in some cases a long time. For me, life went on. I graduated from college, got married, and started my career in education. Within the next five years I had two young children and a very busy life. I would try and find some time here and there to get a workout in, but with young kids that was not always possible. I think I was always looking for some kind of physical activity that I could connect with like I did with gymnastics.

Fast forward 23 years and who knew I would find cycling as a way to stay fit and have fun at the same time. I had not been riding long when I was asked, “have you ever thought about racing?” That question initially made me laugh and think, is this person crazy! To make a long story short, after watching my first criterium, Gateway Cup, I decided that I might give this racing thing a try. Don’t get me wrong there was a bit of skepticism about starting to race at the age of 51. At that point, wouldn’t most people consider retiring from racing? I knew that several of the women in my field were considerably younger and that it would be a challenge, both physically and mentally, but I was up for it. I think for many lifelong athletes, their competitive spirit and mental toughness never really goes away. This was certainly the case for me, my desire to compete had just been in hibernation for a while. There are so many great things that have come from cycling. Whether it was getting on the podium for the first time, or being last in a race, of which I have been both, it’s about what makes you happy.

When I took up cycling five years ago with a local bike shop, racing was the furthest thing from my mind. I was really just looking for some form of exercise that would allow me to get in a good cardio workout and put the least amount of strain on my joints. Initially that was enough to have found an activity to participate in. What I did not expect when I started cycling was that I would fulfill the void that had been left by gymnastics, specifically my love of competition. I was again able to set goals and see how well I could achieve those goals against my peers.

Although I never really thought much about it, the sport of gymnastics and bike racing have many similarities. With gymnastics you compete individually on different pieces of apparatus. You are always trying to make individual improvements in your performance, but you are also part of team and encourage each other along the way. In cycling, individual improvements are measured by increasing your power, improving bike handling skills, and shaving time off that TT race. The goals of the individual are in important, but are only part of the picture. In both gymnastics and bike racing you encourage each other and work together as a team towards a common goal. And in some cases, specifically with cycling, that requires you sacrifice your finish so a teammate can win a race.

To be back competing and a part of a team has been so much fun. It’s always exciting and rewarding when a race situation comes together. Two years ago a teammate, Amy, and I were in a criterium together and she was able to communicate with me about what was developing before the sprint finish. Her awareness and quick thinking made a difference in how we were able to finish the race. Because of her we were both able to finish on the podium. That’s teamwork! The encouragement we all provide each other has been one of my favorite parts about returning to competition.

After being a competitive gymnast for so long and leaving the sport due to injury I had searched but never found a form of exercise that I could really connect to until it came to cycling. I’m not sure what will happen in the future. Last year I thought it was time to hang up racing, but realized that I still had a little left in me. I have learned that you don’t have to set limits on yourself and “never say never.” Take it one day at a time or sometimes in my case one race at a time.

Posted in Balanced, Cycling Team, Road Racing, Training, Uncategorized

Pedaling Towards Clarity

Heather-Queeny-downhill

I am certain that all cyclists, at some point, get asked the question—“Why on earth do you do that?”  To the inquirers, we are the “crazy, lycra-wearing, ride ridiculous distances in all sorts of weather conditions on skinny little seats” people and they are the “normal” ones.  (who probably do something equally as crazy like Step class or Zumba—it’s all about perspective!)

In order to answer this question for me, we have to discuss “a-ha moments.”  And, maybe to avoid being overly cliché, we should just call those “moments of mental clarity.”   Some are trivial but all are great learning experiences.   Some of these moments have immediately obvious repercussions—i.e. changing lines in the supermarket to checkout faster will always guarantee the Granny in front of you will end up writing a check, she’ll have 200 coupons and will need a price check.  Others have, what I would call, “delayed gratification”, for example, a few beers followed up by a few tequila shots—yep—that’s a great idea….until the next morning.  Others mark more important milestones in your life, like the first time you buy a house and realize that the signatures on the paper are yours and yours alone.   It is scary, but in that moment, you feel like an “official” adult.

And then there are other moments that aren’t so positive, but end up changing you in a positive way.  I am sure we all have examples like this.  It is a fortunate AND unfortunate conundrum.  As humans, we learn from these experiences and grow as individuals.  But, that doesn’t always make them immediately palatable.

For me, the catalyst for multiple “clarifying moments” was April 27, 2010.  This was the day that a physician looked at me and said, “I’m sorry Heather, but you have breast cancer.”  I am not a person prone to the dramatic.  I have actually been accused of being a person who holds too much inside, not letting the rest of the world see me emote.  (You should feel sorry for my husband right now, because he gets to see what the rest of the world doesn’t.)  But this experience floored me.  It kicked me in the stomach with 2 humongous donkey hooves.  It ran me over like a bulldozer.  (I may not be dramatic in public, but I can give you some metaphoric drama like a champ!)   I was 34 years old, barely married two years and THIS?  You better believe I was pissed.  I was scared.  I lay awake at night and listened to my heart race.   I made deals with myself—“once all the decisions are made, I’ll feel better about this.”, “once all the surgeries are done, I’ll feel better about this.”, “once I can get back to doing everything I did before, I’ll feel better about this.”  Those deals got me through, but the “feeling better about this” part took a hell of a lot longer to sort out.  (Some days, I am still sorting it out.)    Some crazy part of my brain convinced the other parts of my brain that once I could get back to “normal life,” I could just shut the door on this chapter.  It convinced me that because I was a physical therapist and worked in the medical field, I would be immune to all the weird things that can happen post-surgically and because I was in good shape, I would just bounce back.   (4) surgeries, lots of restrictions and some left arm dysfunction later…I can tell you that shutting the chapter door has proven to be much more challenging than anticipated.  Being limited in my exercise choices was only the tip of the iceberg; treating patients at work, making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning house, etc. were all challenges.   I was told that my limitations might never get better.   I suppose if my stubbornness could be advantageous throughout this process, it helped me at this point.  I refused to believe what people were saying.   I might have stomped my feet, cried and been a general pain in the ass about trying to get myself better, but feeling physically recovered was a big portion of my mental recovery, so I had to stick with it.  I learned so much about myself through this whole ordeal—when previously I thought I knew myself pretty well.

So, how does this relate to why I ride my bike?

I ride my bike now simply because I CAN.  Because there were times after my surgeries that I didn’t think I would ever ride it again.  Because being able to improve inspires me to do more.  I won’t say that having this experience made me braver or more fearless–because, honestly, I am still kind of a sissy.  But, it did make me appreciate that I am tougher than I gave myself credit for and gave me the chutzpah to try something completely out of my nature like bike racing.  It gave me a renewed sense of purpose and made me appreciate everything I could do even more than before.  It makes me reflect daily on how far I have come and taught me to not be so hard on myself.  I now regard the journey with as much respect as the destination.

I won’t ever be the best or most intrinsically talented athlete out there.  I am OK with that.  Every time I ride or race and I do something better than I did it previously—this is my triumph.   I can also tell you that, even though I am still a “work in progress” in terms of physical recovery—I have emerged a stronger person—not only physically but mentally.   And, don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have these “moments of clarity” without having to experience all the bad stuff….but that’s not how it happened.  And I’m OK with that too.

Posted in Balanced, Cycling Team, Uncategorized

How I found the “ME” in Team

ReneeIf you were to ask me why I decided to join the Balanced Women’s Cycling team it is a pretty straight forward answer. For one, there is the excitement of being on a team. Listening to everyone’s stories and all the thrilling moments that go along with racing. How could you not be pumped? The fun memories we could make traveling as a team. I couldn’t wait until the season began.

I was looking forward to racing in crits the most..How hard could it be to ride in a “circle” for X amount of time in a pack of riders? You can’t get off course, it’s fast pace. This is in my wheel house ( or so I think so ). Let’s just say it lived up to all my expectations, it was fast paced, you could not get off course BUT I didn’t fare as well as I had hoped. I spent everything I had in the first three laps because of all the adrenalin. Then just barely hung on to finish in the bottom. Despite not having the race I wanted, I had to hold my chin up and ride off proud that I finished my first race ever! I saw this experience as an opportunity to evaluate the race and see how I could improve for the future. In one race I was able to learn so much about myself and with persistence, hard dedication and self discipline I knew I would only get better.

Throughout the rest of the season I brought a positive attitude to every race and every training ride and effort as well as. I knew I had to keep working hard and giving it my best which I did with the support of my teammates. I looked at every race and found a positive and negative factor and focused in on those for improvement. As I look back, I think it took me the entire race reason to improve! Every race was a new adventure and a new learning tool. I finished my race season with a bang! Well really a CRASH! I fractured my left clavicle. I was off of my bike for ten weeks, and wasn’t sure if i wanted to come back and race. This was my first broken bone ever! I was scared to crash again. I had some nerve pain in my arm and neck ( all from a fractured clavicle). I just wanted to ride for FUN/SOCIAL. Then I realized that all the hard work I had put in to gain confidence as a new racer, and all the dedication I put in place to grow and learn about myself I now needed to focus on healing. So with persistence and hard work I will continue to get back into race form. After all, “Success is not the key to happiness.

Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”-Albert Schweitzer.

Posted in Balanced, Cycling Team, Road Racing, Training, Uncategorized

WONDER WOMAN

Ladies! This post is for you. 

Do you ever get on your bike and have a fantastic, amazing, super awesome, best, ride-I-have-ever-had day?  The kind of day you wish you could replicate over and over every time you get on your bike??  Sure you have!  This day you had tons of energy and power and were completely fearless.  The ride could have gone on forever and you would have never gotten tired.  Your body was a primed machine.  You think to yourself, “Too bad this isn’t race day”!  Afterward you think back to everything you did leading up to that ride and try your best to duplicate it.  Eat the same foods, get the same amount of sleep, wear the same pajamas to bed the night before (oh yes I did).  Alas! Disappointment!

I have had a few days like the one I described above.  I thought I could conquer the world.  I was riding around with a stupid grin on my face that just wouldn’t go away because I was having fun and going fast.  I have nicknamed this feeling “The Wonder Woman”. 

If you are not familiar with Wonder Woman I will explain.  Wonder Woman  is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books and cartoon shows.  She is widely considered a feminist icon.  She is gifted with a wide range of superhuman powers and superior combat and battle skills.  She possesses an arsenal of weapons including the Lasso of Truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, and a tiara which serves as a projectile weapon.  Wonder Woman can also heal faster than a normal human being, has superhuman strength, ESP, and telepathy. Here is a picture:

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

 

After much research on how I might be able to duplicate this wonderful feeling I have learned something very important – IT SHOULDN’T BE DUPLICATED.  You see, this “feeling” happens when my body is having a hormonal imbalance. 🙂  Usually, about a week before menstruation when hormone levels are at an all-time high.  There isn’t a way for me to duplicate that.  No amount of wearing the same pajamas to bed will make me magically wake up tomorrow in the same mood as today; and as I have come to learn, I shouldn’t want to.  While I am flying high on an endorphin and adrenaline rush of fast, fun times, my friends and teammates are behind me suffering.  It’s just not nice!  It wasn’t intentional and it took a couple times for me to realize what I was doing.  I was having a great time – they were not.  I have also been on the back side of the hormonal swing.  Feeling super tired and drained for no good reason.  Mentally wanting to go hard but body refusing to cooperate.  Falling off the back of the group and riding back to the car alone.  Defeated.  It’s a hard place to be in.  You know you’re better than that.  You have put in the work and the time and just don’t understand what went wrong today. 

As a cyclist we need to be sure we are all supporting each other.  Not just with empty words but with kind actions as well.  I have learned so much about myself riding my bike and it’s a joy to be able to share it with others.  Every single one of us will need some support at some time.  Whether it’s a CO2 cartridge on the side of the road, maybe a water refill in the middle of a long ride, or just a friend to chat with while training.  We are all human and will make mistakes, but learning from them is what makes us better people and better teammates. 

If you wake up and feel like Wonder Woman God willing this will be a race day. LOL  If not, perhaps it’s best to ride alone. 

Posted in Balanced, Cycling Team, Road Racing, Training, Uncategorized

Time For The Curtain To Come Down

balanced-blog

Numbers, Watts, Kilojoules, data. These topics are discussed ad nauseam it seems in cycling circles. Data is everywhere in cycling, well almost everywhere…

I want to start by saying this is my personal experience. I don’t pretend to know how things playout all over the globe, BUT from my small corner this is what I see. In my few years of racing I hear all the time about watts from many of my male friends and acquaintances (including my husband and my coach who also race). We often discuss our watts for this ride and that ride; what they were for the race last weekend; our power for the same race the previous year. We talk about what our max power output is, and what our FTP numbers are. The list goes on and on. I hear the numbers some of the pro men can achieve in sprints, TTs or the grand tours. There is even a toaster challenge that pits a male track cyclist against a toaster to see if he can produce the watts needed to toast a piece of bread. (see here) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4O5voOCqAQ The numbers are out there for men and they openly talk about it with each other.

For women, the numbers are lacking. If you look hard enough you can find bits and pieces of information, but when you compare it to what is out there for men—the discussions about power, race data, it seems awfully quiet on the women’s side. Why is that? It’s not that women don’t have the data or don’t care. I know they do, I know I do! In the last few years I have become a data freak, almost to a fault. I went from someone who didn’t even have a computer to someone who religiously looks at my numbers, keeps a journal about every ride and every race, and I am certain I am not alone.

Let me get back to the point, this discussion is not just about me the individual, rather all of us women in the sport. Why is it that we are so reluctant to share information? Have you ever gone on Strava to see how many pro women are on there? Recently I did just that and was pretty surprised how many of them did not have a profile, or if they did it was rarely used. I then went out to look and see how many of the pro men were on Strava and found quite a few. Now, for full disclosure until recently I did not have a profile that I used regularly either. Maybe for the same reason there are so few pro women on it. I didn’t want everyone to know what my training was or how much I was riding, or whether I was having a good day or bad day. But maybe that’s part of the problem. In worrying about keeping my training and my data secret I have cut myself off from having any meaningful dialogue with the women I ride and train with. Sure I can talk to my husband and coach about my numbers, and I can hear about theirs.  At the end of the day their numbers mean nothing to me because we are so different. The numbers they throw around are like unicorn numbers; they are not relatable nor are they achievable for me. It’s a nice conversation but that’s about it. The same goes for all of the data released by the pro men, just more unicorn numbers.

A common theme discussed in regards to women’s cycling is how to grow the sport. There are a lot of differing opinions on this topic. One of the problems women’s cycling is faced with is that it does not get much attention. For the purpose of this discussion I am not addressing the overall lack in cycling coverage here in the states, but rather I am focusing on the even greater lack of attention women’s cycling receives. I will say there has been progress. In 2015 there were two attempts on the women’s UCI hour record and this Saturday, Evelyn Stevens will make her own attempt. This is something that can truly shine a light on women’s cycling. USA Cycling sold out tickets for the Stevens hour record in approximately 6 minutes, which is pretty awesome. With this attempt I think Stevens has the power to achieve even more than just breaking the record. She has the power to really inspire women cyclists everywhere, and I don’t mean by her performance, but by what she decides to share. Just imagine if she releases her data. Women all over could be informed, be inspired, and could ponder the possibility of “Could I do that?” Dialogues could begin about how she achieves her numbers, even heated debates. At the end of the day, that very discussion is part of what makes the sport so interesting, especially on the men’s side of the sport. If women in cycling opened up a bit more it could make it that much easier to care about it. If there is nothing to talk about then people simply won’t. I hope that Stevens decides to release her data and furthermore I hope she succeeds. This sharing of data and being open does not rest squarely on the shoulders of the pro women but starts with every woman in the sport being a little more open. Just because someone knows what your average watts were during a ride or race doesn’t mean someone can beat you. It may give them insight into how you ride but that is just part of what gets the win. There is so much more to it than that. This does not mean you have to post your entire training plan for everyone to see. It does however mean women need to be more open. I for one know it’s time for me to bring down the curtain. I was afraid to put myself out there but if I want to push myself and be pushed by others then it’s what I need to do and I hope you all do as well. Just imagine all of the conversations we can have with each other instead of just hiding.

Posted in Balanced, Cycling Team, Road Racing, Training, Uncategorized

Why I Ride

Spending some time riding with my daughter Jess

Spending some time riding with my daughter Jess

Mostly when you read this blog you are going to hear about racing, training, and all of our other misc cycling adventures.  I want to take a step back from that and tell you a little bit about why I do all the crazy things on my bike that I have done; and will continue to do.

Let’s go back about 7 years.  I was newly divorced with two young children.  At this point it seems people make one of two choices: A) have a mid- life crisis or B) completely turn their lives around.  I chose option B, but it wasn’t without the help of a friend.   I was clearly walking down the path of option A in life – making bad choices, until a friend invited me to do something different.  We went for a bike ride down the Katy trail to Augusta for lunch.  I had not been on a bike since I was a teenager.  It was liberating.  I loved every single second of it.  There was so much time to think about stuff and enjoy the scenery and just relax.  I will always remember that ride as one of the best times I have had, and as being a turning point in my life.

Within just a couple weeks I had acquired a bike of my own.  A hand me down Schwinn mountain bike, given to me by my boss at work.  I rode that bike as often as possible.  Every time thinking about my life and where I was going and what I wanted.  It didn’t take long before I decided that smoking caused me to make additional stops along the rides I enjoyed so much.  I can still hear my son’s little kid voice telling me “Daddy loves cigarettes and beer.  Mommy loves cigarettes and Sun Drop.”  It had to stop.  What kind of example was I setting?  I had to do better; I know I can do better.  Quitting was hard but I managed it on 5/25/2012.

I started taking my kids with me on bike rides.  If I wasn’t too old to learn a new hobby then neither were they.  Jake on his mountain bikeMy son especially was really into Mt. biking for a while – pre driver’s license. LOL My daughter enjoyed the Katy trail and some road riding with me.  I do my best to teach them by example.  Having children is easy – raising them is the hard part.  Everyone makes many, many mistakes along the way.  What works for one child won’t always work for the other child (dang it).  I do this for them.  I want them to know mom has made bad choices and many mistakes but they don’t define me.  Those choices helped to build me up into the person that I am today.  I can do it better; I just need time to figure out how.  I can do it better; please let me try.  I can be better; let me show you.  My bike will take me there.  The path will be covered with rocks, sticks, mud, snow, doubts, uncertainty, and fear.  I will overcome and ride through.  Even when I’m scared I know that my friends and family will be there to support me.  I will be ok.  Take a deep breath and leap of faith and go for it.  The first time might not be great but I can do it better.  I will do it better; let me show you.

Posted in Balanced, Cycling Team, Road Racing, Uncategorized

Girl On The Move

The moving party!

Over the past couple of months my family and I have gone through many changes together. Within these months my husband and I decided to venture out of our little comfort bubble and sell our house, make a career change, and move to St. Louis. Leaving the familiarity of a town we both grew up in, our families and friends can be hard at times. We both knew, however,  that we had to keep pressing on so that 20 years from now we wouldn’t look back in regret and would honestly be able to say that even though things were uncertain we stepped out and embraced what all the Lord had in store for us.  I must say that I am truly proud of my husband for giving up the reliable job that he had that did provided stability but did not fulfill him or challenge him to pursue a career he is truly passionate about. Taking that step or even leap of faith can be nerve wracking at first, but in the end it yields much fruit.

Step one of our plan was to sell our house and move. Well it sold within three weeks! Let the hunt for the new place begin! Off we went to explore what all St. Louis had to offer.  We decided that we wanted to be close to downtown St. Louis so that we could embrace the city life, something we had never experienced before.  With my teamie, Lauryn, at our side we perused the streets of St. Louis and stumbled across a quaint apartment located in University City. Even though I am only at the apartment on the weekends, it can definitely take some getting used to, especially since we can hear EVERYTHING that goes on upstairs! Talk about getting to know your neighbors. Our dog Tyson is settling in too, he even has made some new friends.

Tyson testing out a new napping spot.

Tyson testing out a new napping spot.

We had lots of help from our families and friends getting settled in to this new life style. The folks at Spin City Cycles in Decatur and our respective race teams, Balanced and Korte Hammer Down, were a huge help and we honestly don’t know how we would have done it without their support and encouragement.

I work as a social worker for the VA in Decatur, IL.  My transfer to St. Louis has been approved, however I am still waiting on my official transfer date. The commuting back and forth to seeing my husband and little buddy Tyson on the weekends has been rough, to say the least. I am trying to remain joyful through this all and remind myself daily that even when there are unforeseen obstacles in life it is important to push on through and not get discouraged.

If all of that wasn’t enough, I also committed myself to competing at TT nationals and to racing with the Chicago Women’s Elite Composite team. CWEC’s mission is to support and develop top-level female cyclists to reach their full potential through education and by inspiring confidence within them.  Racing with this team will allow me opportunities to race nationally on a more competitive platform.  Each rider is also responsible for taking the concepts they have learned back to their teams as a means to keep the women’s racing scene alive. In looking at the 2016 race calendar it is sizing up to be the hardest season I have ever done. When I was going over everything with my coach Paddy, we came up with a good game plan to help me balance the crazy life changes and my training.

Exploring some new routes.

Exploring some new routes.

There have been plenty of days where I was mentally and physically drained, but I had to remind myself that a vision without a plan is a hallucination. It is in these circumstances where teammates and coaches prove to be more valuable than you could ever imagine. They have been there to help me make the transition into this new life chapter and I am truly thankful for them.

As I begin to lay my goals out for the season, I am learning how important it is to realize that we all have greatness inside of us.  When we truly begin to understand this, we can break down the limitations we have set on ourselves and reach our true potential. When we are fearful of change we can remain stagnate and the decision Evan and I made to choose a different life for the both of us will in the end lead to endless possibilities. Life will always give you challenges and difficulties, but you have to find balance so that your dreams and goals may be fulfilled.

Posted in Balanced, Cycling Team, Road Racing

Sometimes The Best Plans are the Ones You Don’t Make

Lauryn in Utah

Lauryn in Utah

The 2014 cycling season came to a close for me with a thud. It was the last race of the season, Benton Park. I think I was just a little too excited to JRA during the off season and somehow missed a manhole cover, or rather did not miss it. This was the second year in a row that my cycling season had ended in this fashion. A flare for the dramatic you might say??? I digress, despite the fractured elbow and concussion it was a really fun season. Since I was unfortunately acquainted with the injury and healing process, second elbow in two years, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Trainer, trainer, trainer and then lots of slow riding outside after that. I kept at it though. I mean who doesn’t have obstacles to overcome, mine are certainly no different than most of the women I ride and race with. We all have jobs, families, friends and we all find the time to train. Of course there are days when I simply don’t want to ride, I am sure I am not alone in this, but we do it. But then there are the days when there is nothing else that I would rather do. I count down the minutes until I can leave work and get out on the bike and just let go.

In March I got married. I won’t go into all the details but it was one of the best days simply put. I spent much of the spring preparing to race in the Joe Martin Stage Race. This would be the 3rd year there but it was going to be dramatically different this time. We were going to be in the Pro 1/2 race this year, a UCI event no less. Talk about scared out of my mind.  It was going to be such a big jump in the level of competition. We would be racing with some of the pro women I have heard about but never raced against, unless you count the few crits including the aforementioned thud race in Benton Park. But those were all crits, so in my book it didn’t count. Crits are not my favorite type of race. But stage races with a TT and a Road Race, yes please. Anyway, I just really wanted to have a good race at JM, at least show that I am able to race at that level. I had no ill-conceived notions that I would be winning or making a top placement. I just didn’t want to suck.

Well I sucked. 😉 Okay, it was not a simple case of just performing terribly but things leading up to the race certainly did not go according to plan. I got sick, really sick about a month before. I had some kind of virus, took a few days off hoping I would be on the mend and then bam, Strep throat. More time off the bike including a week off leading up to the race. NOT RECOMMENDED. Needless to say I was even more nervous and pretty bummed. All of my training leading up to the race prior to getting sick had been going so well! Again, it happens to all of us where things just don’t go according to plan but you deal with it. I didn’t have the race I wanted to and I did seriously consider not going but I am really glad I did. I learned a lot about myself during this race. I learned that as part of a team you show up. You may not be at your best but you just show up. I learned that you give it all you have and you smile when you cross the line even if you miss the time cut by 3 minutes. I learned that you have to accept the cards you are dealt with, even if it is a hard lesson to learn. I learned about the type of rider I am and the type of rider I want to be.

The rest of the season was pretty awesome. For the first time I was able to walk away from a crash, get back in the race, and finish with my friend and teammate Anina when she won the Illinois State Championship Road Race. So even though the crash was not part of the plan it turned out to be a fantastic race.  Things were wrapping up nicely. Then one of coolest things happened, but I’ll get back to that here in a second.

hello friend!

Meeting a new friend

If someone were to ask me what I love the most about cycling, it would be the community. It is pretty small compared to other communities. Especially for women. When you start out as cyclist it can be pretty intimidating. Cycling itself can be scary, dealing with cars on the road, it can be a dangerous sport. So when you find a group to ride with, especially a group of women, it makes conquering fears and insecurities so much easier. The encouragement you get from a fellow female cyclist can truly be inspiring. As I said earlier, one of the coolest things happened to me the week before my final race of the season. My friend Lisa Glad, another female cyclist from the St. Louis area, sent me a message asking whether I was planning on going to Masters Nationals to compete in the Time Trial. I said no because I was not eligible to race. It had been my understanding that I was in that void where I had no place to race. Too young for Masters, too old for the U23 amateur division, and not on a UCI team for the Pro division. I was incorrect as it turns out and had it not been for Lisa I would have never known that I was indeed eligible to compete in the Masters 35-39 division. I was not sure I would be able to go. Bike transportation, timing, and the overall cost were all going to be a challenge. Like I said before, the cycling community here in Missouri is pretty amazing, had it not been for this community I would not have been able to go. I owe a huge thanks to Lisa for encouraging me to go for it, for picking me up at the airport and sharing her lodging. I also owe Dana Braet a huge thank you for transporting my bike all the way to Utah and helping me get the bike race ready. I could not have done it without his help. I want to thank MOBRA for helping me with some of the cost. The support I received from my team Balanced, MOBRA, and all the people who encouraged me they are the reason I had the opportunity to compete at a national level.

At the start of the season I would never have guessed I would wind up in Utah to race, it was certainly not part of my plan. I never could have imagined that by riding a bike I would have found a community of people and a group of friends like I have, but that is exactly what happened. Racing has opened doors for me that I was unaware of. I have traveled and met amazing people. I have pushed myself in ways I never thought possible. Ultimately it has transformed my life. 2015 turned out to be pretty amazing for me, and I am excited about what lies ahead, whether it’s part of the plan or not.

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Balanced at the USA Cycling Coaching Summit

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