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US Women's Cycling Development Program diary

US Women's Cycling Development Program diarist Kathrine Carroll drives the pace in 'Toona"
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

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

Index to all entries

August 21, 2008

Do not act like your four year old

By Hilary Billington

It's not ok to act like your 4 year old...and other lessons from the 2008 Cascade Cycling Classic.

Hilary and her two sons
Photo ©: Hilary Billington
(Click for larger image)

I am a 36 year-old mother of two boys, ages six and four. I've always been an athlete: I ran in college, I've run marathons, raced triathlons, and occasionally raced my bike. I've done OK in local bike races, but it wasn't until last year that I actually considered "doing" something with my cycling. So, with the support of my husband and another good friend, I did my first NRC race in 2007 – the Mt Hood Cycling Classic.

I didn't exactly train for the race (I didn't even give up my three days a week of running), and I had no idea what to expect – I didn't follow women's racing. My husband wonderfully failed to inform me (i.e., hid from me) what caliber of cyclist would be there: you know the old saying, Ignorance is bliss. I ended up having a great time, and pushed myself further than I'd thought possible. I eventually blew up in spectacular style and didn't finish the race.

"The Mt. Hood Experience," as it's become known in our house, left me the rest of last summer to chew on the "what if's." Our oldest son entered kindergarten last fall, and I had a little more time for structured training, so I decided I could give this whole bike racing thing a real try. I put in a good winter of base miles, and I even weaned myself off of running for the first time in over 20 years.

My season started with a bang at Redlands, where I straddled that line between "Oh My God, what have I gotten myself into" and "Hey, I think I can actually do this." I came out of Redlands with some great fitness, and went straight into a regional stage race (Tour of Walla Walla) where I was lucky enough to win a couple of stages.

Hilary glued to Kristin Armstrong's wheel
Photo ©: USWCDP
(Click for larger image)

Then I made my first big mistake of the year. In anticipation of getting myself ready for a return to Mt. Hood, I failed to listen to my body and take some down time. One cold turned into bronchitis, which never healed, and before I knew it I had pneumonia.

What's a girl to do? I knew I could race at the NRC level, but I didn't know how to balance the new cycling-only training and getting ready for big races.

Enter Michael Engleman and the USWCDP. Michael guided me back into good health, and then into some good training. Most importantly, he helped screw my head on right and got me to believe in myself. The USWCDP equips women who have the ability to compete at an elite level with the tools they need. Every female cyclist's needs are different. It turns out that what this mother of two needed was someone to have confidence in her ability to compete at the level I always suspected I was capable.

With health restored through Michael's guidance I felt I was ready to ride Cascade.

Being a novice, I still have a lot to learn. Here are some of the things I learned at Cascade:

Lesson number one: Be polite. I was stressed about my readiness for the TT (another lesson: If you want to TT well, you should probably ride your TT bike before the actual race). Waiting for my start in the TT, I shouted at my team manager "Martha, where's my drink!" Someone standing nearby corrected me by saying, "Please, may I have my drink." All I could think to say was, "Thank goodness my kids aren't here to hear me sound like that!"

Hilary and her team-mate
Photo ©: USWCDP
(Click for larger image)

Lesson number two: Patience. After finishing the first stage, I was in the medical tent getting patched up from a late-race crash. I asked my manager if he could find my recovery drink, which had been misplaced. My manager did his best to find something that would work for me - but sitting there I found myself thinking something I have heard by kids say: "I want what I want and I want it now!" I don't think I said that out loud, but it was scary even thinking it.

I also noticed that same lesson of patience could be learned through watching a teammate of mine. She has this amazing ability to have a quite, calm, unstressed demeanor. (Yes, I'm talking about you, Robin.) This is something that, if you hadn't already figured out, I lack. Watching her helped me see what I need to work on. It also made me realize that if I want my kids to behave more like her, I had better do a better job showing them how!

But, in the end, I think what I learned the most is that I'm really not all that different from my children. It takes work to be "well behaved", especially when we are stressed. And now, when my kids are throwing a fit, I'm going to do my best to remind myself how they feel, and maybe, just maybe it's ok to cut them a bit of slack, sit down with them, and calmly and quietly say, "yes, honey, I really do know how you feel."