It’s been a while….part deux…personal reflection.

Ramblings in my mind…

What.a.season.WOAH! I’m sitting here, looking back at the last 9 months with a huge smile on my face. Has it really been that long? YES- 9 full months. It seems like yesterday when I was sitting with my teammates and our directors, Kevin and Pat, in our team training camp house planning our 2014 season. We raced most all the races we targeted for the year, but something was different this year. The 2014 season proved to be a fantastic year for CHANGE in Women’s Cycling. At the Amgen Tour of California, they added two stages (Time Trial and Circuit race) instead of just the Time Trial. The inaugural Women’s Tour of Britain, La Course (Women’s one-day Tour de France) and the Women’s edition of Tour of Utah. With the changes we’ve seen this year, I can only expect more change is in the pipeline for 2015. May it be even better!

This year marked the 2nd year of heading into the international scene. This time racing at the top caliber of women’s cycling.   Fortunately, I had a gentle introduction to racing in Europe with the USA National team at the Giro Rosa, in support of Maura Abbott . This year was a huge year of growth, both physically and mentally on the bike and was by far the most challenging season of my young racing career.

Our team had the great fortune to compete at both inaugural international events with GREAT success resulting #1 in team GC at Tour of Britain and Leah Kirchman’s 3rd place at La Course. We ended the season with 4th at the UCI World’s Team Time Trial in Ponferrada, Spain, just 6 seconds from the podium. Sooooo close!  Personally, I achieved my first international win at the Czech Feminin Tour with the USA National Team.

I can attribute much of my success this year to working closely with my coach, Kendra Wenzel, who prepared me both mentally and physically for the long racing calendar of 2014, specifically preparing me for the racing in Europe.   I knew this year would prove even more challenging as I raced outside of my comfort zone. In addition to my physical  training to prepare me for this season, I was maintaining my part-time employment at Yakima.  Kendra customized my training schedule to meet my needs. Probably the best part of working with Wenzel coaching is the mix of training that she provided throughout the season to keep it interesting and tap into my strengths on the bike. We focused on Time Trialing and POWER-specific skills this season. A lot of the preparation came from the “off-season” (October-Jan) training block. This included: weight room activities that targeted strengthening my body for Time Trials, Sprinting and climbing, stairs workouts,  uphill sprinting sessions and flexibility to substitute other activities during my “base miles endurance” workout days. So naturally I’m totally excited to enter into the next phase of training because it means that I get to work on my physical weaknesses, play in the dirt, hit up my favorite trails by foot and generally embrace what can be a daunting period of training.

I realized that this year was not just about the training, but the mental concentration and strength which is just as important. Kendra helped me work through managing mental fatigue racing in the European peloton, overcoming anxiety from crashing, keeping relaxed during mass start races, the managing the highs and lows one can feel in the sport. Kendra was able to help me with most everything, but also realized that I needed more support. Mainly, balancing what I call the “race Life” and my “personal life”. This is when Kendra introduced me to Sports Psychologist, Melinda Halpern. You can visit her website here. Melinda understands the minds of endurance athletes- how my stubbornness and tenaciousness have benefited me tremendously in my pro cycling career, but how it affects my personal life and relationships with people. It can be a so powerful and detrimental at the same time. Now I’m discovering how to balance and how to manage my stress. Turn “stressed” into “dessert”.

Melinda and I have been working together over the last month to help me balance my training with personal life and manage anxiety and stress. So far, I’ve noticed a big difference in my mood, which directly impacts my training quality. I plan to work with her over the off-season and continue going into 2015 season.

Tip of the month: One of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself this year is that I was not getting enough sleep. As a professional athlete, 8-9 hours of sleep is really the bare minimum…I was getting on average about 5-6 hours of sleep. Sleep is something so fundamental and basic yet I didn’t fully understand the benefits of a good night’s sleep until this year. I’m getting at least 8-9 hours currently and taking 20 min naps (1 hour naps during heavy training weeks) and am noticing a HUGE change in my energy and mood, and directly increases performance. So, make time for your sleeps!

Next month’s topics:

*How to overcome anxiety after crashing. It sucks, let’s face it. First you remember you were rocking it taking a corner really fast and the next minute you’re flat on your ass. I’ll explain my personal experiences and how I was able to get back in the saddle and racing after a series of crashes this past year.

*Quick and easy foods to make in the off-season- on a tight budget 🙂 Whether your a starving pro cyclist or on a tight budget, I’ll share some recipes that are healthy and don’t break the bank.