A New Beginning

So much has happened since my last blog post sooo very long ago, but I am in a place where I want to write again; I’m determined to catch up and remain updated going forward!  Here goes…

I left off at the beginning of 2013; I was struggling with my job and under a ton of stress; life was not great.  My health had improved, but I was nowhere close to where I’d hoped to be at that time.  Following my illness I dealt with a lot of inflammation and immense pain, low energy, poor sleep, heavy stress…  Every day.  The entire ordeal was very expensive and we were struggling to rebound from that financially.  I had worked so hard over years to get where I was wanting to be in my cycling career and I had lost it all.

However, I had a strong team/support and wanted nothing more than to represent them well.  I jumped into a few criteriums in the spring, refusing to admit that I wasn’t mentally or physically ready.

kinda tough to fake it in this field...photo: Chris Moore

kinda tough to fake it in this field…photo: Chris Moore

Instead of feeling excited, confident, and powerful, I felt panicked and weak; pretty much the exact opposite of how one would hope or expect to feel while racing bicycles at the elite/professional level.  After much deliberation, I made the tough choice to listen to my body and back off from racing.

I continued to ride; though I stuck to the mountain bike at my leisure.  When riding with groups, I struggled and suffered up the long mountain climbs, but somehow I could flip the switch and crush the descents.  A few weeks later, I traveled to Dirtfest, Dirt Rag Magazine’s mountain bike festival and had a blast.  That weekend alone changed everything for me.

Since the only thing I could do well was descend, I ordered a proper trail bike and baggies; eager to try enduro racing (a format where only the downhill portions of the race are timed).  That spring USAC threatened to punish pros from entering”forbidden races” that were not sanctioned.  This absolutely dismayed me and killed my motivation for returning to cross country racing, as it severely limited my race options and I was not a paid professional cyclist, nor did I have disposable income to fund myself to travel across the country where the majority of UCI races were.

Actually, we were barely scraping by.  Racing any format or discipline was by no means the most practical move at the time, but after being out for so long I needed to try or risk quitting the sport altogether.  Dave was behind me and we did what we could to make it work.

As it turned out that year, USAC postponed their enforcement of the rule but it left a bad taste for a lot of racers.  No enduros were sanctioned by any governing body, and this added to the allure of pursuing them.  I started at the Mayhem Enduro in Ohio, and won!  I won many times over what I had ever made in a cross country race and I was able to fund a lot of my season.

After that I caught the bug and we raced in Virginia, North Carolina, Utah, Colorado-everything from regional, grassroots racing to the international Enduro World Series level.

Beyond racing I was able to meet a ton of amazing riders and new friends.  Enduro racing is very laid-back and supportive; you are casually climbing or riding to the next stage and there is a lot of time to talk and hang out with others between timed stages.  Dave and I were able to explore new trails through our travels with our homestays and I attended a women’s-only downhill camp at Snowshoe-was one of the most memorable experiences ever!

As it happened it turned out enduro racing was just the thing I needed-there was no pressure and I focused on pushing my limits and comfort level while staying safe.  It’s so cool to see progression in mountain biking; that summer I rode a lot of features I wouldn’t have attempted previously.  In turn I got stronger and made another step in my recovery.

Moving into the fall I raced cyclocross for Asheville Cyclocross and had a bit of fun on my singlespeed; I also traveled to some UCI races in the midwest and southeast.  It wasn’t close to where I had left off but it was a step forward from 2012.

I finished up at USA Cyclo-cross Nationals in Boulder and had three pretty disappointing results but the experience was fulfilling; I finally started to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  I had been through a couple of incredibly difficult years on and off the bike and I was over the uncertainty and struggle.  I’m so glad that I stuck with it when I was so close to giving up!  Little did I know what was in store….

In 2014 I joined the Pisgah Tavern/Oskar Blues women’s mountain bike team and I was thrilled!  In February, on my 30th birthday, I raced Southern Cross with everyone.  SO painful but fun!  I picked my way through the bottlenecks at the start and despite feeling unprepared I just cleared my head and rode as hard as I could for roughly 50ish miles and 6400′ of climbing.  I thought I was in second but the mystery lady ahead that I was chasing turned out to be a dude with long hair.  I finished 11 minutes ahead of the second place woman-that was a wonderful birthday gift!  I gained some much-needed and renewed confidence and motivation for the year.

photo: Donna Combs Garcia

Shortly thereafter, Dave and I got engaged at Tsali, on the first trail we rode when we visited NC.  Within that week I quit my job and started a new one…

The next month was busy with the team at some regional races and group rides.  At the Southern Classic Series race at Angler’s Ridge in VA we encountered some bizarre 70 degree weather with snow–I loved sliding around in the mud but it destroyed my drivetrain and I suffered some mechanicals.

Warrior Creek couldn’t have been more different and it was a blast to race the hard, dry, fast roller coaster course with Madonna in the Female Duo category.  We held on to second place and the whole team did really well.

A few weeks later I returned to the Whiskey Off-Road, my last race before I got sick in 2012.  The weather was pretty extreme:

I viewed this race as my return to the Pro XC circuit.  I didn’t do very well but I was very happy to be there again.  I was grateful for the opportunity to travel and ride on vastly different and beautiful trails.

Dave had been out west for work since the engagement and I traveled back with him after the race.  We got to explore some trails in Sedona, Oklahoma, and the Grand Canyon, where we had a harrowing experience on the primary overlook.  I think I experienced every possible emotion during that trip.

From there I stayed in the area and participated in our team’s weekly women’s mountain bike rides from The Hub into Pisgah, and did the Karl’s Kaleidoscope 50 mi. race, Pisgah Enduro, Summer Short Track, and Aiyana XC races:

where we GOT MARRIED!  Suffice to say tht it really was the best day/weekend of my life.  The full gallery is here

There was no time for a honeymoon as cyclocross season with Don Walker Cycles was quickly approaching!

That’s quite enough of an update for now; now that cyclocross has wrapped up and the new year is in full swing, please stay tuned for more!  Thanks for reading–

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