Written on 1/30 and 1/31 about my experience around the Fat Bike World Championships
It’s now about two months ago when my husband and I were sitting on the couch one night. He must have been scrolling through Colorado cycling emails because he said, “I found your next race – the Fat Bike World Championship.” He shared a little of the info with me and I said, “Yep, doing it.” and I think I even declared it on social media right there and then. I then set off on a few weeks of randomly fat biking when working from home or on the weekends among Christmas activities – but this was still before I had embraced #fitbyspring.
When I embraced #fitbyspring, things changed. I had a new vivacious attitude towards training. I really wanted to get out there and work as hard as I could. I wanted to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after my work-outs and I was newly invigorated by the Fat Bike World Championship. #Fitbyspring had me wanting to do more than show up – it had me wanting to show up and be competitive.
Today is race day and here I sit having a latte and breakfast in the wee hours of morning. I was the first one at the coffee shop at opening bell and it’s fun to sit here and see the town of Crested Butte come to life. I have to admit that I’m a little bit out of sorts because I’ve really only raced a handful of other times in the last 8 years and usually I showed up wanting to participate versus contend. Naturally, those are two different mindsets. I actually did my first triathlon in about 8 years this past summer – it was my first XTerra race, too! It was AWESOME and I think I was grinning ear-to-ear the whole time but I had no idea where I would end up. It was fun to learn that I had podiumed in my division and I left the race thinking “Okay, here I go, I’m going to get back into this!” But then summer in the cul-de-sac caught up to me and I was content to fall back into my casual patterns.
However, now here I sit with an unusual sense of awareness that I do really care how I do today. I really want to do my best. Put it all out there. Suffer. Be smart and hope that I come out very satisfied with my performance. I have to admit that it’s slightly uncomfortable but I hope that it’s a feeling I learn to embrace again. Not that I feel I’ll be racing a tremendous amount again but I do want to have a sense of ongoing high expectations for myself be it on training day – or in this case – racing day. Never mind that today is my first fat bike race ever and it so happens to be the World Championship. It’s just a new mindset I want to embrace each time I step into ring.
In looking back at the past month and my journey with #fitbyspring, here is my list of top 10 pointers/reasons on how I got here. Perhaps these will come into handy for someone who wants to have a new mindset when it comes to their training or perhaps this will help other women who also work and have kids to think through what their #fitbyspring means to them:
- Don’t compare yourself to others: I know this is a cliché we often hear but I can’t help emphasize it. I really believe in it. For example, I’m part of the #fitbyspring club on Strava. I feel like I’m doing absolutely everything in my powers to ride as much as I can but when I go to the club page, I’m totally floored by Jered Gruber and Ted King’s miles. Damn them! But then I reassess the situation and remember our lives are quite different and I feel happy that I’m on the list and simply compare myself week over week. Now, that’s comparing apples to apples!
- Think a Day Ahead or Two Ahead: I feel I do a good job with time management and having a clear understanding of my priorities and responsibilities on an ongoing basis but I think it’s even wiser to try and have a grasp on what the upcoming days hold. I think this is particularly important as a full-time working mom. Understanding the whole family’s schedule ensures that I know exactly when I need to fit in an hour Zwift ride. Often that’s at 5:30am in the morning. I’ve been super dedicated to this thought process and it’s worked well. I’ve been able to get in all the training that I could realistically fit in and I haven’t dropped the ball on my responsibilities to my kids and family. Overall, that’s a very satisfying feeling.
- Embrace Reality: To my point above, I’ve been on top of things and have felt really good about managing it all. With that said, my daughter (5) came down with a bad stomach virus (Fifth’s Disease) about a week and half ago. I stayed home and took care of her and spent a lot of time cleaning to say the least. During my competitive days, this would have thrown a huge wrench in my plans. When I did Ironman Wisconsin in 2006, my son was 9 months and he came down with something about a week before the race. I was totally out of sorts and didn’t handle the situation well. In the end, I left for the race venue a few days earlier than I had planned and my husband stayed home with our son. Perhaps I did the right thing for myself as an athlete but I don’t think it was the most responsible choice as a parent. This past week I accepted that I wanted to take care of her. If that meant missing the Fat Bike World Championship, so be it. There will be other races and #fitbyspring will lead to #fitbysummer and so on. Don’t let the things that are most important slide no matter how fit you want to be. This time it worked out well: I’m at the Fat Bike Championships and my daughter is back to great health but I would have considered it just fine had it worked out any other way because I put my daughter first when she needed me.
- Zwift. This was the tool that really ensured I could fit in work-outs around my career and family. Zwift has really changed the game for me and is adding training value to people around the world. Fairly simply put: if you haven’t tried Zwift yet, learn more about it now. Like right after you read this!
- Strava segments rule! If never before, this is the section where I will really prove that I’m a huge dork. As most you know, Strava resets at the start of the calendar and there’s a new chance to snag 2016 segments. Because fat bikers are the only people riding right now, this has worked out quite favorably in my neighborhood on the fat bike. We have a fairly vibrant fat biking community in our neighborhood with a decent amount of trails. I have been hell-bent set on getting the climbing segments in our hood – for both men and women. My husband thinks this is hysterical because who knows if any of the other cyclists care about this. Point being: I care and I want them all. This has literally had me Scooby-Doo running over icy sections and hurling myself up snowy rocks with a head-lamp on at 6:30am by myself but I don’t give a damn. Those segments have inspired me to gear up, wake up, and everything in between. Thank you, Strava!
- Want It. As I said above, I’m sitting in a coffee shop enjoying a latte and breakfast on race day. My nerves are starting to churn and I’m feeling quite excited. Over the past month, my confidence has grown considerably and I started wondering if I had a chance to podium. About a week ago, we received an email notification from the race that we could see who was racing in each division. I was giddy and looked up “Women’s Open/Amateur”. Okay, there would be 15 of us – sweet! Then I looked at the racers names and I was happy – I saw two names of women who I know through work and both very accomplished professional athletes. They would definitely ensure that I would need to bring by best if I wanted to podium at the amateur race. I would need to pack my A Game. Want It. Really want things in life. I think it’s a great way to live.
Now, off to the races I go and I’ll do my top four after my first-ever World Championship!!
Before I write my top four, I will share how the race went. There were about 350 fat bikers in the race. It was a beautiful sight for the eyes as the gun went off and we made our way on the Nordic track. You could see a snake of fat bikes up the mountain side and it was freaking epic. I’m not going to write a typical race report because you’ve probably read many o’ race reports and I’m not a technical writer and I really have no merit in that category. Here’s my short report:
The gun went off and I tried my darn best to stay upright on my bike because there had been a lot snow and the course wasn’t packed down. I quickly realized it was going to be a snow pit out there and after a few slides and falls, I adjusted mentally to the snow. I’d be a bit slower but I’d try not to lose time by choosing a poor route through the snow. “Stay on your bike” became my mantra for the entire race. I pushed my hardest and had a great first lap (3 lap race) after a wobbly and snowy start. As we came through the pit, I put on a smile and a fist pump for the SRAM contingency that was there to support me. I was in second behind the World Champion racer gal. I had an okay second lap but was a bit frustrated at myself because I had to get off my bike more times than I wished. I was passed by someone in my division and did my best to keep in her my sights but she got away from me. Her jersey was super cool so I was okay with that. She looked like she knew what she was doingJ. I smiled and gave another fist pump as I came through the pit – as I was so happy to have the SRAM group there! I looked back and did see another competitor approaching me – Wendy Ingraham. During her professional career, she had accumulated eight Ironman victories and is a well-loved athlete given her endearing personality. I clearly knew Wendy could dig deep as this moment at the Ironman World Championship really showcases that. We were very close that whole third lap. She passed me and then I got her going up a hill. I think we both had technical issues as my chain dropped and I think she had to stop to fix her boots/laces. We played cat/mouse as we went through the hilly section – scrambling on and off our bikes – but I had the lead going into the final approximate 2km straightaway. I buried my head as I knew she had what it took to catch me. Unfortunately I came around a corner and fell off my bike as I was going through a snow pit. It took me a half minute to collect myself and I knew she was a shadow behind me. She passed me right before the final “track lap” and I stuck to her wheel. We came around the final corner and I tried to get her on the inside – the tactic didn’t totally work but we were next to each other going into the final sprint. One thing I do remember focusing on during my competitive days as an amateur was being aware of where the finish line was and knowing the race isn’t done until you cross the line. I’ve watched too many races where people celebrate prematurely and I’m always baffled at this. I know that the last moments of a race can be filled with a foggy brain and you’re riding on high emotion so knowing the logistics of the finish line are key in those moments. That’s what happened here. I knew that finishers had to go left (as the sign stated and the announcer had shared) but Wendy went straight. I crossed the finish line before she did and therefore clinched my place on the podium. There is humility involved here because Wendy is an exceptional athlete and she’s such a neat person. I recognize that had she known where the finish line was, she would have most likely beaten me. With that said, it’s not over till it’s over and I got to the finish line first. Wendy has had her fair share of podiums so I’ll take what I can get at the first-ever Fat Bike World ChampionshipsJ and I hope we go back to compete next year! My SRAM friends and colleagues were quite proud and happy for me and they hoisted me on their shoulders. I felt like a champ and it was awesome!
7. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing, it starts feeling like one. I saw this in social media as I was leaving the coffee shop. How true is this? In that moment, I couldn’t help but get swept up in a moment of complete gratitude. I’m sure that the majority of the people reading this have ample opportunity in front of them and that many of you capitalize on this. Let’s remember this and live it every day. On my walk back to the house I was staying at, I noticed everything – the dust of snow covering the sidewalk, the colorful buildings and the bustle of skiers headed to the mountain. There I was in Crested Butte at the Fat Bike World Championships! F&*K yes! It was going to be a great day!
8. Surround yourself with people who reflect the kind of person you want to be. Even at a Race. I think this is one of the most important things we can do in life. You tend to lift your own self standards when you surround yourself with people you admire and respect. This is how I feel about my colleagues at SRAM. In lieu of my family being there, they welcomed me as one of their own. They provided me with great company for meals and lodging and treated me like a SRAM pro on race day – mechanics, support, you name it. Truly, one of the greatest joys of my career at World Bicycle Relief is being surrounded by generous, awesome, and high-expectations-kinds-of-people. Be it with InGamba and SRAM, these are the kinds of partners and people that I truly treasure as part of my job. Do this with racing and training and you’ll be your best athlete – but more importantly, your best person. Find a coach, training partners, and a team that reflect who you want to be.
9. Know where the finish line is. As to my race report above, know what you’re aiming for – be it on race day or your training goals. Know when you need to bury your head and when you can celebrate with a donut. Acknowledge all the effort along the way is part of the journey and give yourself the opportunity to celebrate milestones along the way.
10. Keep perspective and balance. Perhaps a few of my points have alluded to this but I think perspective is a true key to life. I’ve gotten it wrong a few times and learned from it. I think it’s something we all struggle with along the way: the need/desire to balance personal happiness and fitness goals with family and responsibilities. Most of us are amateur athletes, let’s remember this. I went to Italy with InGamba this past fall. One of the rides we did was on this gorgeous road (well, they were actually all gorgeous) but this road was particularly picturesque. We were surrounded by sweeping vistas of Cyprus trees, vineyards and blue sky. I just couldn’t get enough. I made the calculated decision to get off the group train and stop for a picture. It was just me and the surrounding area. I ended up hanging on to Eros Poli’s wheel with the rough attempt to re-catch the group. We never caught up so I rolled into the coffee stop on my own but with a smile. I had stopped to take in the view. Life is short – work hard, dream big, have fun and for goodness sake, keep a level head, stop for coffee…and please stop to take in the view.