Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Fever

I am completely consumed by the Olympics.  I've been glued to the tv ever since they have begun.  It's hard to believe that I'm actually going over there and competing in the Olympics.  It seems surreal.  In the build up to the games, I've had a phenomenal training block at home in Vermont.  I've been doing lots of motorpacing with my coach, Andy, and racing lots of weekly Wednesday Night races at Catamount.  I've felt fantastic, I feel prepared, and I'm ready to get over there and let it rip. I leave for a training camp in Germany on Tuesday, and then, after that, arrive in London on Monday, August 6th.


 An incredible show of Little Bellas Olympic enthusiasm.  I am bringing each and every one of these with me to London (there are 28 to be exact)
Throughout this entire process, I'm just absolutely blown away by the support I've received from my family and friends, Vermont, the mountain bike community, the Little Bellas, and the country.  It just reminds me that it truly takes a village to get to this point....and a lot of hard work not just from me, but everyone around me. I can't even begin to name everyone who has had an influence in this dream coming true, but I can name some of the key players.  I wouldn't be here without my family who have provided relentless support in so many ways.  My mom is the loudest cheerleader out there and my dad just built me a jump in the backyard to practice taking the 'a' lines.  My sister, Sabe, is the best training partner ever.  She is fast and has pushed me past my limits.  Jojo, my girlfriend, is a rock and keeps my laughing and smiling though it all.  My coach, Andy Bishop, provided the blueprint for this dream, and I provided the pedal strokes.  Bill Knowles, Vermont Orthopedic Clinic, and iSport are the reason I came back from hip surgery and the 2010 season on the couch much stronger.  Bill Knowles gave me quads and power. Specialized provides me the fastest bikes in the world and fantastic race support.  They gambled, took me on board after a season off, and I appreciate that immensely.  In The Arena has been a bedrock of support allowing me to go for this dream while simultaneously empower girls through cycling with the Little Bellas.

 A shining example of amazing support: a fashion show of banners my mom made.  From left to right: jojo, Katie, Sabe, my mom (Lucia)
I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am without my coach!  We are celebrating the night I got named to the Olympic team (l to r: Daria Bishop, Baxter Bishop, Sabe, me, Andy, Yeti, and jojo)
 My mom is famous for her amazing cake! Here's what greeted jojo and I on our return from the Olympic qualifying world cups
 Olympic support pouring in from everywhere.  My Aunt, Uncle, and cousins sent me the tastiest congratulations for making the Olympic team
My neighbors got me an Olympic ring cake.  They are awesome!
 Practicing on the jump in the back yard.  My dad rules!

Thank you thank you thank to everyone!  This has been an amazing experience already and I haven't even arrived in London yet.  I am so excited.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

National Champs and Olympic Preparation

 The final sprint in the National Championship Short Track.  Game face. Photo: Dave McElwaine
 The Little Bellas' suspender day.  Showing off their crazy faces
When you are a Little Bella, sometimes you ride with your pet frog.  It's fantastic
 My cousins, part of the important cheering crew at Nationals
 Specialized teammate Todd Wells and myself happy to nab a stars and stripes jersey

It continues to get more exciting. I just returned from the National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho and I’m thrilled that I brought a stars and bars jersey home with me. The weekend kicked off with the marquee event, the cross country, on Saturday.  We climbed up straight up the mountain on a fire road for ten minutes and descended down loose rocky switchbacks to be spit out on the flats and rock garden below.  I started the race off right and nabbed the hole shot. My plan was to race aggressively, lead from the beginning and see where it took me.  My plan worked out for the start loop, but, once we hit the first lap climb, it turned out Heather Irmiger had the same plan.  She shot off the front and had thirty seconds on the entire field half way up the climb.  Meanwhile, my legs weren’t quite in line with plan A and I wasn’t feeling the best on the first ascent.  I was honestly starting to get worried as I fell back to fourth and I put plan B was into effect, ‘wait patiently for my legs to come around’.  Thank goodness they did.  As we started to climb the second lap, and each lap after that, my legs felt better and better.  I clawed my way up to third and then second.  I maintained the gap to the leader, Georgia Gould, sometimes closing, something losing time, of about one minute and ten seconds.  I finished in second place, and I was content.

Day two of national championships brought the Super D in the morning and the short track in the afternoon.  I signed up to do the Super D to defend my title from last year, but I was a bit reluctant wanting to stay safe for the big race in August.  Regardless, I tried to hit the five minute climb as hard as I could (my legs again felt like they were fighting me) and let it loose on the fifteen minute descent.  I felt great on the descent and had a respectable ride.  It turns out so did Kelli Emmett and Lizzie English who were absolutely gunning it.  Kelli beat me by the exact same margin, twenty seconds, that I beat her last year.  Hats off to Kelli.  She was absolutely motoring it on the descent. I ended up in third a bit disappointed, but happy that I made it down safely. 

The short track was my last hope for a national champion jersey.  I was hoping that all of my previous efforts would open up my legs for this last event, and they did.  My legs felt fantastic. I was immediately on Georgia Gould’s wheel from the start and we distanced ourselves from the pack.  I called upon the ‘maple syrup tactic’, stick to Georgia’s wheel until the right moment arrives in the later half of the race.  On the last lap, I tried to make that ‘moment’ happen on three instances.  First, I tried to pass through the start/finish area and drifted in the gravel.  Second, I tried to pass on the flyover bridge, but that didn’t work either.  My last chance, because of limited passing room to the finish, was the small, narrow climb.  Georgia drifted right and I jumped on the opportunity.  I sprinted around her and tried to keep the pace high especially in the potential passing zones.  Georgia couldn’t come around me and I won my first elite endurance title.  I’m excited that I’ll get to wear a Specialized national champ kit in at least one or two races next year.

Now, I’m at home winding up for the Olympics.  I’m resting and resetting, doing a short strength block, and hanging on with all my might to Andy’s scooter while motorpacing.  I’m also finding time for the essential Vermont elements to help my Olympic mojo; creemees and swimming holes. I’m still in search for the perfect Vermont maple creemee and I’ve definitely found some good contenders.  Also, our Little Bellas Sunday sessions are taking a break for the month of July, but Sabe has been running very successful and lively week long camps at Catamount Outdoor Family Center.  I’ve been visiting these camps, signing some autographs (I’ve been asked to sign bikes, lunch boxes, and my favorite, a big piece of bark), holding court in question and answer sessions, and riding with these little shredders.  It’s been a blast.  I have two favorite questions so far.  “What state is the Olympics in?” and “Is this a dream come true?” My answer was “yes, this is my dream come true.”  In that moment, it hit me.  I am going to the Olympics.

I’m truly amazed by all of the support close friends, family, Specialized, Vermont, the cycling community, and USA are sending my way.  I can’t say thank you enough. It’s a really something special to be able to represent in the big one, the Olympics.  I’m soaking it up and am thrilled to head over to London.

Keep sending the good vibes.  It’s working!
Lea

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

World Cup Podium!

 Photo: Mike Gladu
It just keeps getting better and better. I had another dream come true this past weekend at the World Cup in Windham, New York.  I stepped onto my first world cup podium.  This is a goal I've been going after for years and it feels great for it to finally come true.  I've been close in a handful of other world cups and it was looking like Windham was shaking out to be the same.  I started a bit slower than I wanted to and resolved to pick off girls one by one on the long climb.  I rounded the first of five laps in ninth position and then moved up to sixth position on the next lap.  I felt fantastic.  I stayed in sixth position for the rest of the race trying to close on one of my favorite fellow racers, Marie Helen Premont.  Beginning the last lap, I felt like I was totally capable of closing the gap and I was going for it.  Then, I was knocked off track by a mis-shift and my chain dropped.  I had to stop briefly and run up a short single track section.  This erased any time that I had put towards getting onto the podium and I crested the last lap climb solidly in sixth.  But, this world cup, more so than any other race I've ever seen, is proof of the fact that the race isn't over until you cross the finish line.  Anything can happen.  More than halfway down the last decent with about five minutes to go, a spectator yelled, "She has a flat.  You can catch her".  
 Photo: Mike Gladu
I went absolutely ballistic and caught fourth place struggling down the descent with a front flat.  I was so incredibly amped that I crashed with about two hundred meters to go in the race.  I've never gotten up so quickly from a crash and I sprinted in to clench my first world cup podium. 

Luckily, Ashley Chase from WCAX was there to record the entire weekend on camera for the local news.  She did a fantastic job of capturing the excitement.  Please see the two part series below!

Climbing the mountain to London - Part 1 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Climbing the mountain to London - Part 2 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

I feel like my fitness is exactly where it should be and I'm even more excited for the Olympics (if that's even possible).  I'm off to National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Send some good energy my way.  

Lea