Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Track Nationals

Track National Championships 2012

Track Nationals was a mixed bag this year.  I didn't particularly want to race, seeing as I haven't spent any time on the boards since before Augusta.  But the email came through that I needed to race, so I decided to race the 500m time trial.  I probably should have raced the pursuit as well, but that's why this bike racing thing is a long term learning process, not an instant gratification data point.

So, we'll skip right to the part where I DID "race."  Since The Games were just a few weeks ago, there weren't many people there.  I was on the track alone.  Warm-up went well, being on the track went OK and I was just shooting for a sub-50 second time.  After an OK start and a less than admirable second lap, the final time was 49.05 seconds. Not bad for less than optimal fitness, training and being broken.  I'll take it - along with the National Championship jersey that goes with it.

But the time at the track brought up the fact that I need to commit and jump into racing with both feet.  I don't like looking stupid.  I don't like getting dropped at the start.  But if I want to be a bike racer, then it's time to be a bike racer.

Game on.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

When you get beat by your own brain

I fight myself a lot.  I would be 99% more efficient if I would learn to let go.  The more I get into my own brain, the more problems I have.

I've been training relatively hard, given the fact that I broke my collarbone 10 weeks ago.  Last weekend we did a Gran Fondo.  Ouch.  But I felt good. I rode with people who don't know me, and I was able to keep up.  The beginning of the week was not so great. But by Wednesday the legs started to come around.  Thursday and Friday were OK.

Saturday I rode with my uncle.  He was hurt recently and hasn't ridden much and yet, he could have throttled me if he wanted.  On a climb that I've done hundreds of times - up to Pepperdine - I was pushing 200w (which is a LOT for me) and yet I was passed by people who just seemed to be soft pedaling up the hill. I get really frustrated when, even though I'm doing well for me, I still get creamed by others.

I want to be good. I want to be fast. I want to keep up with the able-bodied people.  I want to belong on the National Team and not be there by accident.  I want to do well.

I need to have realistic expectations.  I need to give myself credit when I do things well. I need to stop giving a fuck and just ride my damned bike.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On being...what I am

I'm not always sure how to address the issue of being "disabled." Since I had GBS when I was two, I don't really know the difference.  For at least 28 years I pretended that nothing was wrong.  Sure, I wore AFO's and walked funny, but I was just like every one else.

It seems ironic, in my mind, that it took hanging out with a bunch of crippled people to figure out that I actually AM different from everyone else.  This is the best part of being part of the National Team. Even better than the awesome kits.  I finally realized that there are people "like me."

"But you don't look disabled."
"You got beat by someone with ONE leg?"
"You're tired?  You never go out!"

Why, yes! To all of the above.  I can fake being normal pretty well, but the bottom line is I'm not playing with a full deck and it's about time I give myself some credit for that.

The most difficult concession I've made is that I'm tired. All. The. Time. And it's not necessarily my fault. It's part of who I am.  I can't expect myself to "keep up with the __________'s."  Today, I spent 2 hours cooking food for the week and I'm exhausted.  I want to finish cleaning my house, have all of my laundry folded and organized by color, iron all of my clothes that I just washed, lay out all of my clothes for the week and then go to church, be social and support the friend who needs help.  But I can't.  I'm exhausted.

So instead of pushing the limits, I'm going to rest.  The mess will be here tomorrow.  And hopefully so will I!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Travels

Some days, you wake up and you are happy. Today is one of those days. I wish that I could bottle up whatever it is happened while I was sleeping and save it for the "other" days.

A lot of things have happened in my life. Some things I am not so proud of, others I relive every day.  There was a time in my life when I thought I needed a day, year, five year and overall life plan.  I'm not sure that's the way anymore.  It is most often the things that I had no idea I was going to do that have changed me for the best. It is the people I never expected to be important to me, the activities I never dreamed I'd participate in and the feelings I didn't expect that have made all the difference. Most of all the things that I was most afraid to do and was convinced for some reason or another were not "good" for me, are the things that have clearly defined some of the greatest moments in my life.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

2012 Road Nationals

It has been a month since the time trial at Road Nationals that served as the Paralympic Trials.  It's probably time that I finally sat and thought about all that happened.  I'm not a fan of not doing what I set out to accomplish.  And let's face it, that time trial could not have been further from what I thought would happen.

Strom Thurman Damn

We arrived in Augusta on Sunday after racing in Ocala, FL for the weekend.  We spent a lot of time on the time trial course, refreshing our memories and teaching our bodies how to ride it.  On my final ride before the actual event, I felt good.  I was shifting through the rollers a lot better, my body was acclimating to the heat and I was feeling good.  

Pretty sure I will never actually like skin suits.  (This picture is actually the time trial in Ocala - I think all the other women in my category thought I was going to be fast because I was wearing my CA State Champ skinsuit. HA!)

Thursday arrived and we followed the same routine we had the entire week. We left for the time trial course around noon.  My start time was 3:28:30.  We arrived at Strom Thurman and found a parking place that was far enough away from the rest of the parathletes, but close enough to know what was happening. I flew through bike check and got ready to race.  As I arrived at the start line, I saw Allison, but no Barb.  Barb wasn't coming.  Immediately I knew this changed the game.  I didn't have anyone to chase or base my speed upon.  The next person was a handcyclist that started about 3 minutes ahead of me.  Allison started thirty seconds behind me.  I started to let my mind get the best of me before we even started.  And it just spiraled out of control from there.  The beeps counted down, I pulsed the pedals and I took off across the same bridge I had ridden across so many times in the previous few days.  I felt OK, but not spectacular. First mistake allowing that to be a conscious thought. In my mind, I knew that Allison was not that far behind me. Second mistake. About ten minutes in to the time trial I committed the mortal error of looking behind me. I saw Allison gaining on me and began to lose hope.  And when you lose hope and faith, there isn't much more to go upon. About 1/3 of the way through the race, Allison passed me and I mentally and physically imploded.  I lost power. The final hill before the turn around (which I had practiced and rehearsed hundreds of times - OK, it just seemed like I did!) kicked my butt.  At the turn around, Allison was already about 30 seconds ahead of me.  It wasn't pretty on the return ride.  I finally crossed the finish line at 35:02 minutes.  Yes, more than three minutes faster than last year, but still much slower than anyone had anticipated.

I was beat. Pure and simple.  I did not handle it well. I didn't talk to anyone, but burst in to tears as I rode up the hill back to the car.  I spent an hour alone and then decided to ride my bike home back to the hotel.  

Second and last, all at the same time. Again.  

I am disappointed in my performance and was pretty sure that it couldn't get worse.  Oh how I was wrong!  
The next day was the crit, essentially a circuit race around a city block.  The course was 1km and we were supposed to race 15k.  I went over strategy and thought it would be a good race.  I made sure I started behind Allison and was clipped in.  At the second turn, the guy in front of me wiped out.  I ran off the road, onto the sidewalk and through a grass patch. I went off the curb and tried to chase back on.  But as one of the most disabled members of the team AND a woman, it's pretty rough to chase back on. The race became a time trial and I continued to suck.  I caught on to a few wheels and stuck for a few seconds and then got dropped.  I'm pretty sure I yelled at a team member who was cheering me on and I flicked off my coach. Again, losing is not my good side.

There's me - all alone. Dropped and pathetic.

It was disheartening. I just wanted the second day of embarrassment to be OVER. As I rolled through the final straight away, I saw Allison and Meg Fisher approaching from behind. Although I couldn't win, at least we could have a sprint at the end.  Coming in to the last 200 meters and the sprint, we made a left turn.  I remember my front wheel crossing Ali's back wheel and thinking, "Oh crap, I'm going down." Then I woke up in an ambulance.  


I ended up with a broken collarbone and a CT scan that showed I had a severe concussion and evidence of "blood on the brain." I spent the next 24 hours in ICU in Augusta, GA.  The road race commenced on Saturday, without me.  Although at that point, I was mentally out of the game anyway.  

I am very blessed that my teammate, G rode to the hospital with me and stayed with me until she had to leave to be nominated to the London team.  My coach stayed with me while they x-rayed me and poked and prodded me.  My best friend, Kate, had come from Atlanta to see me race. I am so grateful she was there. She stayed with me in the hospital, helped me change my clothes and brought me Fig Newtons and Diet Coke.

I flew home with my coach on Sunday.  Definitely not my finest flight home. There is picture evidence of how pathetic I looked, but we'll leave that on someone's phone. My parents picked me up from the airport.  I had surgery the next Friday to mend my collarbone.  

I think I'll get a tattoo under this seven inch scar that says, 
"I went to the Paralmypic Trials and this is all I got."

Well, that's not real pretty!  

"Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it."
--John Wooden

Road Nationals 2012 will serve as one of my biggest failures to date.  I've failed before and perhaps even as significantly - but this is the first time I had publicly laid my goals out. I wanted to at least put up a good showing and in my dream of all dreams, I wanted to go to London.

I don't like to lose.  I really don't like someone else to win.  In a very demented way I am glad that I got hurt. It allowed me to leave all of the negativity that I acquired in Augusta.  The past month has been difficult for many reasons. First of all, rehabilitating after surgery has been strange. I'm not used to being cut above the knee. At first, I was thrilled because pain medicine actually works on a part of the body that doesn't suffer from neurological destruction.  But soon impatience began to set in. This wasn't big surgery. I should be better by now.  Second of all, it has taken my emotional side a little while to come to the grips with the whole situation. The disappointment of months and months of hard work culminating in nothing is a difficult pill to swallow.  Athletics is a different game (pun!) than academics.  There are so many things that I need to learn to be a bike racer.  That's all I am going to say about that.  I want to be able to learn from what happened, move on and be more successful in the future.

What happened in Augusta will not truly be a failure unless I don't take what I learned and apply it to the next season.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

And so we begin...

It's been three weeks since I crashed and broken my collarbone (amongst other things) in the National Championship Crit in Augusta.  I would love to say that I have spent those three weeks cementing my commitment to the next four years to Rio.  But I'm not sure that's what I've decided and I'm OK with that.  That doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking and figuring things out.

I am acutely aware of how blessed I am to have the people in my life that are in my life.  I don't remember anything after thinking, "Oh crap, I'm going down," until I woke up in the ambulance.  And I woke up next to G. I couldn't have asked for a better person to keep me calm and stay by my side.  My coach, my best friend and my parents all took care of me until I was able to take care of myself. I can't put in to words how grateful I am for all of those people.

Since I haven't been allowed to ride my bike I've had a lot of down time, which I am not used to.  I've remembered how important having people in my life is to me.  The people that I have met over the past year, through US Paralympics and other areas have changed my life.  I like the person that I am now much more than the person I was a year ago.  I am disappointed that I let my head get beat at Nationals.  I want to have a chance to make up for that.  I want to be able to say that I rode my bike and won.  But I know (kind of) the commitment and sacrifices that come with being able to say that.  I need to find who I am as an athlete and capitalize on my strengths instead of taking what works for others as what will work for me.

Tomorrow, I'll go back to the gym since I'm not allowed to ride my bike outside for another three weeks.  It isn't going to be pretty considering the fact that I've sat on my rear for three weeks.  I want to be resolved that I am going to commit to the bike for the next two years until Greenville.  Given the amount of reading I have on my nightside that revolves around learning to ride my bike, you would think I'm quitting my day job sooner rather than later.  There are a lot of things to consider.  I'll keep you posted...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Love this song!

You only know what I want you to
I know everything you don't want me to
Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine
Oh you think your dreams are the same as mine
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
I always will

I wish you'd hold me when I turn my back
The less I give the more I get back
Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise
I don't have a choice but I still choose you
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
I always will
I always will
I always will
I always will
I always will 

The Final Push

Nationals is less than three weeks away.  Last week was "fun;" if by fun you mean the stomach flu and getting stitches.

Today was a really good training day. I climbed Latigo and beat my previously recorded fastest time.

I wish that I could bottle the confidence I had when I finished that climb.  I am always, always looking to be better, to be the best.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Thirty Year Anniversary

Thirty years ago, I looked like this:

I was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome on May 12, 1982.  

A month and a half later, I was doing much better!  My mom remembers thinking how great I looked in this picture!

Today, I rode in a time trial in San Diego.  I rode a 40K time trial yesterday, so my legs were tired.  But I rode well.  I dropped 30 seconds off of my time from a month ago and I rode 95% of the national standard (how we judge how "fast" we rode across classifications of disability).  Both things of which I can be proud.  But most of all, today I was faster than two "regular" girls.  For a year, I've been passed and lapped by able-bodied women.  It's hard on the psych sometimes.  I am functionally the same as my competitor who has one leg and rides without a prosthetic, but unless you notice by uber-skinny lower legs or watch me walk drunkenly - I look "normal."  So to finally "beat" someone is something I can be proud of.  I can't think of a better way to celebrate being me.

Someone asked me to write something about my "GBS Experience" and this is what I came up with:

This year, this month is my thirtieth anniversary of getting Guillain Barre Syndrome. Sometimes, I think I’m “lucky” because I had GBS when I was two years old and so I had no concept of “before.” This is my life. GBS is part of my life, but it does not define who I am or who I will become.

I was just two years old and I had the flu. My mom was getting more and more concerned because my fever wasn’t going down and I wasn’t sleeping. She carried me in to the pediatrician one day and he said he wanted to see me the next day. She carried me in to the doctor the next day and he asked her to put me down on the floor to see me walk. I immediately collapsed on the floor. Thankfully, my pediatrician had seen a case of GBS in his residency, so he told my mom to grab my car seat from the car, he grabbed oxygen and they drove to the hospital in his car – not wanting to waste time waiting for an ambulance.

The next day I was on a ventilator. I was in ICU for a month and in the rehab ward of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for three more months. I can’t tell you a lot about what happened during that time. I have a vivid memory of a hallucination of my parents signing papers to leave me there and I remember being on the tilt board and being “bribed” with Apple Jacks. All of my other memories are reconstructed from other accounts. And to be honest, I don’t really care. My life is about today – not thirty years ago.

After a year, when I was finally “walking” again I got my first pair of AFOs. I had severe foot drop and still had weak hand strength among all of the other residuals. Over the years, I’ve had thirteen surgeries to help with orthopedic problems that arose because of muscle weakness. When I was twelve I had my left ankle fused and had the right fused when I was 24 which allowed me chuck the AFOs in the trash. I have severe residuals, probably in the bottom 10% of those with GBS in terms of returns of functioning. Debilitating neuropathy is a part of my daily life. Buttons are my mortal enemy. I perpetually walk like a drunk person. I have 30% functioning and feeling in my lower limbs. That’s who I am.

Growing up wearing AFOs wasn’t pleasant. I was teased. I couldn’t play weight-bearing sports. My parents and I were told I was crazy because my feet hurt and there was nothing wrong. I am terrified of needles because of being poked so many times. I stumble and trip more than any sane human should. I can’t wear high heels. The thing about my GBS is that it is just part of my life. But it doesn’t stop me. I am blessed to have parents and a family who allowed me to “do what I want” (my signature phrase) and support me along the way.

I don’t want my GBS story to be about what limits me because I truly believe the only thing that limits me is myself. I’m now 32 years old and I’ve experienced life, not life with GBS. I was a Varsity swimmer and water polo player in high school. I taught myself to “roller blade” (even though my mom hides my rollerblades in the attic). I raised nine puppies to be guide dogs for the blind. I’ve graduated from top universities and have two master’s degrees. I taught elementary school for six years. I’ve ridden 100 miles on my bike to raise money for my best friend who has MS. I am on the United States National Paracycling Team and I am competing for a spot on our team to go to London for the Paralympics.

You’re not a victim, it’s just something that happened to you.  So don't live your life missing the things you might have done, but do the things you want to do.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Gimp Month to Meeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

May is National Guillain Barre Month!  Hooray?  Not only is it National GBS month, this May will mark 30 years ago that I had GBS.  30 years people....that's a LONG time ago!

Guillain-Barré (Ghee-yan Bah-ray) Syndrome is an inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.
It’s also called:
  • Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy
  • Landry’s Ascending Paralysis
What causes GBS?
The cause is unknown. We do know that about 50% of cases occur shortly after a microbial infection (viral or bacterial), some as simple and common as the flu or food poisoning.  Some theories suggest an autoimmune trigger, in which the patient’s defense system of antibodies and white blood cells are called into action against the body, damaging myelin (nerve covering or insulation), leading to numbness and weakness.

I had the flu a week before I was diagnosed with GBS.  It happens fast.  One day I was a normal two-year-old, a few days later I was paralyzed in ICU.

How is GBS diagnosed?
To confirm a diagnosis, two tests may be performed:
- A lumbar puncture looking for elevated fluid protein
- Electrical test of nerve and muscle function

I am incredibly grateful that my pediatrician had seen a case of GBS in his residency.  He had my mom put me on the floor to walk and I collapsed.  He didn't even wait for an ambulance, he grabbed an oxygen tank, told my mom to get my car seat (even though it was 1982) and we drove to the hospital in his personal car.  

How is GBS treated?
GBS in its early stages is unpredictable, so except in very mild cases, most newly diagnosed patients are hospitalized. Usually, a new case of GBS is admitted to ICU (Intensive Care) to monitor breathing and other body functions until the disease is stabilized. Plasma exchange (a blood “cleansing” procedure) and high dose intravenous immune globulins are often helpful to shorten the course of GBS.The acute phase of GBS typically varies in length from a few days to months, with over 90% of patients moving into the rehabilitative phase within four weeks. Patient care involves the coordinated efforts of a team such as a neurologist, physiatrist (rehabilitation physician), internist, family physician, physical therapist, occupational therapist, social worker, nurse, and psychologist or psychiatrist. Some patients require speech therapy if speech muscles have been affected.

Unfortunately none of these treatments were readily available when I had GBS and even they had been, I didn't have enough blood to sustain them.  So, GBS ran its course.  I was paralyzed in ICU and on a ventilator for a month and then stayed in the hospital for three months after that.  I was released even though I still couldn't walk.  I wore AFOs until I was 24 (don't ask, still not my favorite subject) when both of my ankles were fused.  I don't remember much and most of what I know comes from my parents.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Every girl can wear a white dress, only a few can wear a national team uniform

As I creep towards the aged spinster, I wonder (a lot) about whether I am making the right decision in pursuing this cycling dream.  A lot of people have asked if I will try to make Rio 2016 if I don’t make London 2012. And the answer is a tentative Yes.

For my entire life I’ve been in pursuit of the “next thing.”  In high school, it was going to a good college. In college, it was doing service and finding a career that I found fulfilling. After college, things got more complicated as there was rarely a “next thing.” So I went back to graduate school, where the next thing became getting a good job.  But then I settled in to the routine of a job and I was unfulfilled. I had friends, and a church that I enjoyed. I had nothing to be unfulfilled about.  But there wasn’t a goal that lies ahead.  And then I stumbled my sorry, unfit butt into development camp and made a pathetic showing at Road Nationals – and BAM! I had a new goal.  I went to track nationals, was selected to go to Track Worlds and now I want to do well at Road Nationals/Parlaympic Trials in Augusta, GA.

Will I make it to London?  Probably not.  The odds are stacked against me.  Six women want one spot.  Am I closer than I was last year at this time?  Of course. I understand what it takes to get a spot, I just need a little more time.  I’ve come leaps and bounds from where I started. Cycling provides me not only with a “next thing,” but also with a way to challenge my body and mind.

What about getting married?  There was a time when this was my goal. I love children and would love to have children of my own. And maybe I should focus on that part of my life more.  But I’d like to believe that there is someone who would understand this crazy obsession and would choose to be a part of it.  Relationships have fallen apart because I am tired from riding, I need recovery time.  I don’t necessarily feel like dressing up and going out on a Saturday after I’ve ridden for five hours. If you don’t understand that part of my life, then you probably don’t belong there. 

And so I return to the title of this post.  Not to belittle or demean getting married, I’d love to get married.  But for now, when I pull on that National Team kit and see what lies ahead (as gruesome and painful as that might be), I’m satisfied without the white dress.

Monday, April 16, 2012

John Paul II

For my birthday I asked for the book of daily thoughts, Love is the Explanation for Everything.  Hidden inside (I didn't know until I was skimming through it), there is a meditation for cyclists.

"The pursuit of sports always reminds us of the ideals of human and Christian virtues, which not only contribute to physical and mental training, but promote and encourage strength and moral and spiritual greatness.  Sports are a school for loyalty, courage, tolerance, will power, solidarity, and team spirit.  All of these natural virtues are, frequently, the foundation upon which other supernatural virtues are consolidated.

In your lives as professional cyclists and in your family and social responsibilities, do not forget to put into practice that series of small and great acts of self-control, simplicity, honesty and respect for others that are in the arena of sports.  Shun all that disloyalty, deceit, and cheating because that degrades your profession and diminished you in the eyes of God."

Speech to the Spanish Cycling Team
June 10, 1985

In researching this statement, I found the John Paul II Foundation for Sport.  As always JPII never fails to disappoint.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Time Trial

Today was the first time trial I've done on the road since....well, since Augusta last year.  I wasn't particularly well-prepared.  I haven't been sleeping real well because of random nerve pain.  The last week wasn't a pretty training week.  I had to concentrate just on making the legs pedal, rather than any sort of power goals or training intervals. Work has been  stressful because I have a new boss and trying to balance work and training is becoming more and more difficult.

When my alarm went off at 3am, I really wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. But I pulled myself out of bed, threw on clothes and set off for San Diego.

My antipathy towards the entire race didn't subside as I set up my trainer, in the dark, at Fiesta Island.  My disdain for time trials (well, that's not true, I like racing against the clock the most) didn't decrease when I put on my skinsuit and the ridiculous helmet and shoe covers.  I rode over to the start line, not quite sure what to expect from my legs.

And so I set off - 7:18:30am.  At least I passed the trike and the 90 year old man!  I kept pedaling.  I lost all type of feedback from legs besides pain around midway through the second lap.  So I just kept pedaling, trying to monitor my effort through my heart rate.  I didn't think it was going too well.  But I kept pedaling, trying to feel the pressure/power on the pedals.

I rolled in at 34:43 when all is said and done.  That is 1:44/k.  The national standard is 1:47/k.  97% of the standard.  Not too bad.  Last May I rode the same exact course at around 39 minutes.

I am strangely disconnected from this result.  I should be elated.  This is the first time I've ridden the national standard on the road.  It may be due, in part, to my exhaustion from lack of sleep.  Or as I get further and further into this world of paralympic cycling, I am expecting these results from myself.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's about what you love

If you have talked to me since Worlds, you know that I struggled with a fantastic case of demotivation and general disdain for everything. I didn't want to ride my bike. I didn't want to look at my bike.  There are a lot of reasons that this happened and I've been working on digging myself out of this hole.

The following blog has some suspect recommendations (esp regarding nutrition), but the guy went to Notre Dame and his posts pop up in my LinkedIn account.

The Myth of Discipline

My favorite part of the article is: "There is no such thing as discipline. There is only love. Love is the most powerful creative force in the universe. You are the result of what you love most. You either love finely etched muscular abs more than donuts or you love donuts more than wash board abs you could do your laundry on. It is as simple as that. Don’t beat yourself up that you have no discipline or further drown yourself in a sea of refined carbs. Admit that you like crappy food more than you love strength."

What is it that you love?  This is the question that I've been asking myself.   Today was the first day in a LONG time that I enjoyed riding my bike. In terms of training, it wasn't a stellar ride.  But in terms of my mind, it was exactly what I need.  After five hours of beautiful weather and great riding, I remembered that I do love riding my bike. And sometime it's not the actual bike riding.  Instead it's loving strength that I feel growing in my legs.  It's loving knowing that I am getting better.  It's loving the desire to be better, feel better and earn my place on the National Team.

The near future requires me to make decisions. I want to let love help me choose the path I take.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Track Worlds

This past weekend I competed in the Paracyling Track World Championships. It was my first international race.

To be perfectly honest, I was terrified going into the first camp.  I almost threw up as I pulled in to the Home Depot Center.  It was hard.  There were a lot of times I didn't feel like I could ride as hard as I was supposed to. There were times that I was disappointed with my performances.  But as each day passed, I became more confident and ready to compete at the next level.  I feel extremely blessed to have two friends at camp. Slowly I made more friends on the team, but I will be forever grateful to FF* and G for their encouragement, answering my stupid questions, loaning me gears (I promise to give them back) and making me feel a part of the team.  Rumor has it FF may have done some laundry for me at some point!

After a month of preparation with the National Team (and getting team clothes, (woohoo! No longer a second class team member), we entered the final camp that would lead us into the competition. 

As teams from other countries began arriving at the hotel, it all became even more real.  But the first big hurdle I had to get through was classification.  Now, we all know that classification was a difficult experience at Road Nationals.  I was classified as a C4 and told I was one point from being a C5 (C5 is the least disabled and C1 is the most disabled).  I had all of my ducks in a row. I had a gimpy speech prepared and all the reasons that my disability affected my riding. I guess I did a better job than I expected because the international classifiers decided I was a C2.  I was a little shocked to hear this.  Personally, this is better for my long term trajectory as the C2 time standards are lower and the competition should be a little slower.  From the perspective of the team, it would be better if I was a C3.    

I raced on Thursday and Saturday. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I was going to be. In fact, the 500m race on Thursday went extremely well. I placed sixth out of ten, while not stellar I accomplished my goal of finally beating someone in a bike race.  My time of 47.49 also qualified me for the National B team and was a PR by almost 4 seconds.  Thursday did not go so well. I also placed sixth in the 3k pursuit with a time of 4:44.  This was a few seconds off of the national standard and 3 seconds off of fifth place.  

A video of one of my races...

This is what I looked like after the race.

I'm proud of my first international race. Some things could have gone better (like being able to hear my splits during my 3k), but I didn't embarrass myself, I made a national standard (and thus the national team) and I didn't crash into the infield.

LA Times article

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's all about the clothes, right?

Back in the day (like April), before all of my disposable income went to bikes, I loved the store Anthropologie. I like clothes. Now I can only walk past the storefront and remember a time when I wore more than spandex.

Last night, I got something I could never buy at Anthro: my team clothes. At the last camp, those of us that were new didn't have team clothes. Even at dinner one night, a waiter asked why we didn't match the rest of the team. I received a backpack full of USA clothes. This morning as I pulled on my USA Paralympic kit, I felt pride and some sort of fulfillment for all of my hard work. I know that I got here faster than some, but that doesn't take away any of the pride that you feel when you wear those colors in public for the first time.

There are a lot of things that I am sentimental about in my life. Most of the time, sports isn't a place to be a "girl" about things. Winning means pedaling faster and you don't pedal faster for any other reason than you work harder. Mean Coach bought me a "Man Up" shirt for a reason. But along the way, my girlness has some benefits. Everyone (just about) has the same track bag and do they often get confused. I wanted to put a patch on mine to mark it as mine. I asked a friend to look for a Notre Dame patch when he was at a game. The bookstore didn't have any - but a week later a strange package arrived from somewhere that is not South Bend. In it was a Notre Dame patch that my friend had ordered for me from eBay. Every time I see that patch I remember that he is rooting for me and pedal just a little bit faster! Thanks ChooChoo!!!!

Be careful what you pray for!

A few months ago, I sat on my road bike on the trainer in the infield of ADT velodrome and I was fervently wishing/praying/hoping that I would race fast enough to qualify for the World Championship team.  As I got bumped up to a C4, the National team coach came over and seemed to say that I had good chance of a discretionary nomination.  I raced, it didn't go well and I didn't know how to feel. I waited for the team to be announced.  A week later, the official announcement came and my name was on the list!  Woohoo!!!!!!

And then reality set in.  I've been seriously training on the track for about four months and in six weeks I'll be competing for my country for IPC points.  Points that could send another athlete to London or allow another country to take their own athlete.

Training since Nationals has been OK.  I was on track and then early in December I got the stomach flu and go sent home from training camp in San Diego. I was not pleased.   The three weeks following that were difficult on the legs.  They seem to be coming back now.

Tomorrow I will start my first training camp with the National Team.  I am scared out of my mind.  All of the thoughts of death and dismemberment that I had when I went to development camp in April may very well come true!  Development camp is all happy fun time!  Yay! We can go to the Paralympics!  Hooray bike riding!  Look at me at the OTC!!!  Now shit is getting real.  It's make or break time.