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US Women's Cycling Development Program diary
The US Women's Cycling Development program was founded by former pro rider, Michael Engleman, as a way to help promising young women cyclists reach their full potential as athletes. The USWCDP networks current and former women pro riders with up and coming athletes through mentoring and coaching.
With experienced mentors like Olympians Dede Barry and Mari Holden, along with current pros Amber Neben, Tina Pic, Kim Anderson and others, the USWCDP helps young riders like Mara Abbott, Katharine Carroll and many more to race better, find teams and become professional bike racers. The dedicated and well spoken women of this program provide thoughtful, compelling and sometimes hilarious anecdotes of their experiences in this diary.
For further reading about the program, visit the USWCDP website
August 8, 2007
By Brooke Miller
Bikelove |b îk-luv|
For anyone that is reading this, you know exactly what bikelove is. Not every ride is a bikelove ride, but when you have bikelove, you know it. It is, ultimately, why we all ride. Sometimes, I will find myself riding along with a big, unwavering smile transfixed on my face. I can't help it. It is what happens when you are just in love with the moment loving the sky, the trees, the road, the air, whom you are with, or the solitude itself. Loving what you are doing and having a finger on that exciting pulse of life, knowing at that exact moment what pure happiness is. Happiness is elusive and hard to pinpoint at times, but with bikelove, happiness envelopes you and screams to you, "This is the moment! This is your moment!"
That, for me, is the essence of bikelove. That is why I ride my bike. But I do not always feel bikelove on every ride I do. The season is long. It is hard. You cannot be 100% for every race: March through September. It is too much. Your body and mind will get burned out.
For me, this is my first big season racing. Last year, I had 40 days that I raced and most of them were local races that are not very physically taxing. So far this year, I have already had 38 race days and hardly a single one has been a local race or not hard! I also spent five days doing some training on the track where each day was a race-paced effort that blew me apart. And the season is still young! Last year, 11 hours was a big week of training for me now? 20 hours is more where I shoot for in a good training week. That is a big change and my body is still adjusting. I won't lie! It is physically and mentally taxing to be on the road, racing and training so much.
In April, I was incredibly lucky to get a chance to race for five weeks in Europe with the US National team. There, we did nine UCI races, each one ranking as some of the hardest races that I have ever done. When I got home, I was exhausted: physically as well as mentally. That racing block took a lot out of me. I was high with the euphoria of the experience for a few days and then completely fried once that buzz wore off.
One of the things that I have noticed both with emotions and with training/racing is a loss of perspective. In other words, when I am happy, I feel like I am just always happy. But when I am down, I feel like I will never be happy again. In the rollercoasters of emotional life, I find I often have an inability to see ahead (or critically look behind) and know that I will rise up again, or fall. Logically, of course, I know this. But how I feel? Logic does not always play a part. I have to just remind myself and take baby steps each day to clink up one rung high, clink, clink, clink soon, I am at the top again and happy, all the while laughing at myself for not seeing that it would come back.
I find that the same is true with my training/racing. When I am fatigued and my body and mind are worn out, or I am sick or injured, it is easy for me to think, "That is it. I am fried and done for the season!" Again, logically, I know that, no, that is not true. I just need to take a step back, rest, recover and trust in my training, coach and athleticism that it will all come back. But how I feel? Especially as a newer athlete, sometimes it is hard to trust my body to know that it is OK to not be 100% for every training ride or for every race. That sometimes you get sick. Sometimes you get tired. Sometimes you need a break and that is OK!
For me, coming back from Europe, I needed a break. It was such an incredible experience for me and I loved every minute. But when I came back man! I was tired and could hardly ride! I was also running around like a mad woman since I had to defend my Ph.D. 10 days after my plane touched down, then fly to Chicago where my husband graduated from grad school, then fly back to California to give my public defense talk, then get back on a plane to fly to Montréal to race again all within a three week period. This was while I was physically tired, fighting off sickness and mentally taxed from the hardest block of racing I had ever done.
This is where bikelove comes in. I was not feeling the bikelove. In fact, I will say it I was, uh, well, uh kind of not liking my bike at all some days. Whoa. That is hard for me to even say, nevertheless feel. I did not want to ride. I did not want to ride hard.
Fortunately for me, I have a great coach (Linda Jackson) who knows me well and knows my need for bikelove. She gave me a break. She knew that it was important for me to back off. We looked at our schedule and our goals and knew that my season was far from over and that I just needed to retool for the second kick. She prescribed some bikelove for me: "Just get out there and ride. Love you bike and don't stress the training."
For me, I can think of few places that I would rather ride than in the mountains of Santa Cruz with a few of my closest friends. That is where I got my start really riding, and it is where my heart is. It is indescribable for me, how much I love those roads. With only an hour or so of riding, you find yourself dancing along ridges and overlooking valleys of redwoods with delicate puffs of fog rising up from the trees. Some ridge tops are grasslands with scattered coastal oaks, the icons of Northern California to me and hands-down my favorites. I could go on and on. Every crumb of earth, air, sky and water in those mountains reminds me why I ride.
Although I was not yet strong at Nature Valley and knew that my sprint was not there yet, I know that I am building up and getting stronger and that it will come back. I will be stronger as the season goes on than when I started out this year. I am motivated again. Highly. I have regained my perspective in knowing that, yes the season is long, but that just means that there is still a lot of time for me to keep getting stronger and stronger.
Getting back to bikelove was important for me. It reminded me that I am doing this for one reason only: I love it. Even on the hard training days where I have dragged myself out of bed and onto the bike even on the days when I have cried on my bike and the days when I just can't even imagine doing that last interval, but do anyway it all comes down to one thing. Bikelove. Remember to seek the bikelove. It is always there, just some days it is hard to find.