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!