Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Dream Come True


I am going to the Olympics!  I am beyond thrilled and it has been an amazing weekend. Luckily, Katie Holden, was there to capture it all.  Above is a video that she created of the entire experience.  Please excuse some of the choice excited words that were thrown out there in the moment. 

The Olympic team was set to be announced on Friday, June 15th and I was waiting in high anticipation of this moment for a long time. I thought maybe I would get a phone call or an email, but I definitely knew that they were going to post the press release on the USA Cycling website.  So, my parents were up at midnight browsing the website, and that's how the day began.  I don't think I have ever pushed refresh on a website so many times.  I don't think my family and friends have ever pushed refresh so many times.  It was just refresh...wait ten minutes...refresh....refresh...refresh...and then, oh wait, refresh.  We thought they would post it at various times, but there was really no rhyme or reason to it.  It only took until 11 AM for my sister, Sabe, to have enough with the waiting and all of the nervous tension. She set out to get some answers and called USA Cycling directly herself.  She befriended the receptionist, she called the director of communications, she called the director of communications' cell phone, and then finally went back to her friend at USA Cycling.  She found out they were putting the final touches on the press release, but it turns out there were a lot of finishing touches. 

 I am going to the Olympics!  Side of the road celebration photo:Katie Holden

I finally couldn't take it anymore and extracted myself from the house to push refresh on my cell phone in a different location. I followed JoJo and Katie to Sugarbush to wait around while they practiced some downhill runs before their race this Sunday.  Sabe rode her bike over to meet us.  Jojo and Katie made me wait the twenty minutes for them to take a downhill run to check so I would at least be around someone when I found out the news.  Those were some of the longest twenty minute segments of my entire life.  The entire afternoon passed with no word and we drove over Applacian Gap to head to a Little Bellas mentor gathering for burger night at a local farm.  
 Celebration with my friends. Those are the Olympic rings (in case you couldn't tell)

The drive over App Gap has spotty service so we couldn't check.  Then, Zeke, a Middlebury Ski Team friend who we haven't talked to in six years sent Sabe a text saying, 'Congraaats!'.  I was driving, and Sabe and JoJo started frantically loading pages on their phones. Then, Jojo gasped, smiled, and said 'pull the car over'.  In that moment, I knew I had made it.  I was wearing a bikini (because we were possibly going to a swimming hole) and I pulled over on the side of the road.  This is where the Olympic celebration started.  I never pictured myself celebrating my Olympic berth on the side of the road in a bikini (slightly awkward). I was so happy to be surrounded by my favorite people and even more thrilled that I got to celebrate with my good friends from the Little Bellas, my coach, Andy Bishop, and his family, and, finally my family throughout the evening.  The whole evening is captured above.

This is really a life long dream come true.  It takes a village to get an athlete to the opportunity I found myself in now.  There's truly a vast and deep support network behind every athlete and mine is no exception.  There are so many people that helped make this dream come true, and I'm so grateful that I could celebrate this victory with some of the big players on Friday night. This victory is also their victory.  Thank you to my mom and dad, Sabe, and jojo for providing the biggest support and for being my loudest cheerleaders.  Thank you to my coach, Andy Bishop, for constructing the path to this dream.  Thank you to Bill Knowles and iSport for making me stronger post hip surgery than I have ever been. Thank you to everyone at Specialized for taking a chance and picking me up when I hadn't even raced for a season, fully supporting me, and making damn fast bikes. Thank you to In The Arena for helping me realize two dreams: getting more girls on bikes and going to the Olympics.  There are so many more. Thank you.  
 Here's the fortune cookie fortune that I opened at the Bishop Family's house.  I like it. Photo: Daria Bishop

Sabe said it perfectly during the celebration.  In this overwhelming moment, I said "I don't even know what to do!" 

Sabe replied, "Keep on the gas"

Exactly.  We are halfway there. 

Lea

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Waiting Game

 The view from the top of Plattekill, NY.  Some sweet singletrack descending awaits my Specialized Epic

I have returned home back to Vermont simply relieved after the last Olympic qualifying round in La Bresse, France.  The fourth stop of the world cup tour was an absolute pressure cooker and I was probably under the most pressure I have been in my entire athletic career.  In an ideal world, I would have gotten a great result at the Czech Republic world cup and it would have taken the qualifying pressure off of La Bresse.  Alas, 37th place after a start crash was something I was really proud of but not exactly part of the qualification plan.  The goal was to have a smooth, solid race in La Bresse and that was a fairly tall order considering the course.  La Bresse was one of the most technical courses to date.  We climbed up the side of a valley with the most tricky, technical part coming at the top where I was most tired.  Then, the course was a succession of steep chutes and knee high drops one after another.  It was demanding.  To put it in perspective, in both races, the race leader crashed on the last lap descent about two kilometers from the finish line.  I have never seen the men's leader, Julien Absalon, crash.  It was technical.

I had a great start sitting well in the top fifteen.  I was so glad to make it past the pavement and onto the dirt unscathed.  I sat in the top fifteen for the majority of the race floating back a bit as the laps ticked away.  It was a bit conservative but I think that's exactly what I needed to do.  Finish and finish well.  I had one crash where I flew head first into a crowd of spectators.  The french were awesome.  They picked up my bike and me from the awkward position and got me going again.  One crash was a really solid performance in a race that saw countless crashes.  I ended up in sixteenth and I finished with a relieved smile on my face. 

Now, it's a waiting game to find out if I made the Olympic team.  They name two American women to the mountain bike team on June 15th.  I'm trying not to think about it too much.  I did the best I could under the circumstances and hopefully it will be enough.  As for now, I am absolutely decompressing in Vermont with some time at home (finally!).  Jojo threw me an amazing surprise birthday party in La Bresse, France complete with all of my friends on the circuit and a decadent french chocolate birthday cake.  It was amazing.  Then, I came home and my sister, Sabe, threw me another surprise birthday party with my Vermont and Middlebury college friends.  There was croquet, a delicous taco dinner, and a homemade german chocolate cake (my favorite...my sister has baking skills).  I feel so lucky and loved. The kickoff to my twenty ninth year has been one of the best yet.  Let the decompression, training, and Vermont adventures continue.  Next, it's onto the hometown world cups (Mount Saint Anne, Quebec and Windham, NY) and then onto U.S Nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho.  It's going to be a great month.

Thank you so much for all of my support and the cheers sent my way.  I wouldn't have this opportunity without it. THANK YOU.

Fingers and toes crossed,

Lea

 Training with my sister, Sabe, in Vermont.  So happy
 Jojo and I visited our friend, Schreib, and her pygmy goats on her farm.  I'm sold. 
My surprise Vermont birthday party.  The ideal Vermont evening and lawn for some croquet
 On second thought, the lawn needed some cutting. My croquet game face
 Surprise Birthday Party!  Awesome!