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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 programme, visit the USWCDP website
March 6, 2008
By Mara Abbott
I hear that in order to really make it to the top in cycling, you have to work for that excellence in every part of your life. Since the top seems like a worthy goal, I have been endeavoring to integrate race-readiness preparation in my every activity. This is my "secret training". However, as I realize there are others out there striving for success in the sport, I figured I could share a few of my secrets...
I risk life and limb for my craft
While back at Whitman studying for my senior exams, I sought some help from Google in locating a yoga studio at which I could continue to feed the addiction. I found a studio located WAY out in wheatfields which promised power yoga classes on Monday Wednesday and Friday evenings. So the next Wednesday, I drove my car out to the middle of nowhere on a very dark and WINDY night, and found the place. There was one light on in this whole huge building at the end of a dirt road, and other than an old truck, no other vehicles.
I actually got out of my car long enough to see the sign for what I presume now to be an abandoned yoga studio before being realizing I was alone with seriously no other person or light in sight except for the owner of the scary looking truck. I fled. I locked all of the doors to my car and drove home as fast as I could. I was fairly convinced I was going to die, but I understood that these were the sorts of risks I will be required to take if I am going to maintain optimal training conditions.
I practice staying cool under pressure
Most people would consider fires in the kitchen to be (like, perhaps, a threatening attack in a race) a cause for serious alarm. I know, however, how important it is to keep a level head in panic-worthy situations. So when I left a dishrag too close to the burner of our stove and absorbed in a story I was telling my housemate Chelsea, failed to notice the fact that it had dutifully ignited, I was able to react coolly with a simple "Oh, no." before throwing it in the sink.
Chelsea, amused, chalked up calm and calculated decision-making to my extensive experience with setting off the kitchen fire alarm. But really, I am just practicing. That is what they get for living with an aspiring cyclist. That and a hole in the dishrag that makes it a whole lot easier to hang on its hook.
I train in stressful situations with serious consequences
It is important to remember that the intervals and efforts prescribed in our training occur in a fairly pressure-free environment that is somewhat unlike the stresses of a real race. I therefore take care to make sure that I sometimes put real-life pressures on myself while training. The morning before taking the Economics GRE, I decided to train as usual, since I didn't have to be at the test until 1:30. I planned to be back by 12:30 for a relaxed lunch and shower before my exam.
Unfortunately I failed to notice the storm that blew in while I was riding, mostly because it arrived as a direct tailwind. Thus, when I turned around, I found myself engaged in an all out effort in order to maintain a between 16 and 20 kilometers per hour, and with the serious consequences of losing the ability to graduate weighing on my athletic performance. Luckily, due to my general bicycling prowess and the unmentionable insults screamed at the wind that I am pretty sure were effective, I arrived home at 1:15 and made it to the test both on time and highly alert.
I take great lengths to ensure that I stay properly nourished
I spent the last few weeks training in California with my team. Since I am not twenty-five yet, and thus unable to drive rental/leased vehicles, I have to devise other means of getting around beside the team car and charitable whims of my older teammates—and my stubbornness not to ask for help. The highlights included a 25 dollar cab ride to Whole Foods... an expenditure which left me stuck late at night at a nearby Safeway where I walked when Whole Foods closed, in tears at the prospects of paying for the return venture.
I was saved by Marissa and Zach, two UC Davis cyclists on a soymilk mission who recognized my face from Velonews. Did I mention I was crying like a baby at this point? Because this was indeed the part where I felt super cool. I also climbed over a chainlink fence which led into a cement drainage ditch to get to a Trader Joe's, and in the process poked a hole in my down jacket. (Yes, Mom, this is the first you have heard of that. Sorry.) And I also retuned to the same Whole Foods via bicycle directed by Blackberry Mapquest only on sidewalks (a 6 mile venture) because it was dark and I didn't have a light.
I can't reveal all of my training secrets... I certainly don't want to ruin my competitive edge! This should however, be enough to get one started. They tell me to incorporate my sport and training into my lifestyle. This is what they meant, right?