Sunday, April 20, 2014

Little Bellas Salinas Sessions

Photo: Dave McElwaine

It's been a really exciting past month for the Little Bellas with the launch of our first official Little Bellas national chapter in Salinas, California.  We designed our new chapters to carry the momentum created by our national camps in these areas and give the girls more opportunity for consistency outside of just one fun packed weekend.  In order to drum up some attention and participation numbers for our Salinas sessions, I went into a middle school in Salinas to present about life as a professional athlete, my London Olympic experience, and the new local Little Bellas chapter.  I showed a slide show along with my presentation so the students could experience more of what I was talking about.  One of the most popular slides and stories that I told was about my 'wizard' in the photo below.  This was taken on the main jump at the Catamount Classic, my Vermont hometown race and the finals of the national series last year (no pressure, right?).  My mom made triangle hats out of newspaper to hand out to the crowd to cheer me on.  The kid in the right of the frame is holding up one of those hats and claims to be my wizard.  He gave me twelve percent more power for the race, and it worked.  I won the race.  Thank goodness my wizard was there, and I really hope he shows up for my comeback races this season. Out of all of the questions I got after this presentation, the multiple questions about my wizard topped them all.  'What kind of wizard is your wizard?' 'Have you met your wizard before' 'Will your wizard come back?'  All very good questions that I didn't really have answers to.  I realized that I need to find out more about my wizard.

Thank you wizard for working your powers.  Please come back soon (photo: Dave McElwaine)
 Salinas School Visit

 School visit selflies
One more of the many school visit selfless
All in all, it was a really fun school visit and I presented throughout the entire school day to ten separate classes. I gave out a lot of flyers, took a lot of selfless (I now know more than I ever thought I would about selfless), and signed some autographs.  I even got asked to sign a kid's forehead which is definitely a first and possibly a highlight.  Another first was signing the bottom of a girl's shoe.

Following the school visit was one of our biggest Little Bellas camps of the season, the Sea Otter Classic.  Unfortunately, I couldn't race Sea Otter or ride much with the Little Bellas this year because of my hip injury.  But, it was an amazing event nonetheless. Always, one of the highlights of the season is the lemonade social with the pros at this event.  As usual, the pro women came out in full force to support our program and inspire the girls.  The Little Bellas met a star-studded cast of pros, including four Olympic cyclists and ten professional cyclists. Four time Olympian, Katerina Nash, Chloe Woodruff, Joanna Petterson, Erin Huck, Katie Holden, Maghalie Rochette, Mary McConnelog, Kate Courtney, and Rebecca Rusch stopped by just to name a few.  The pros were peppered with questions like when did you start riding, how many bikes do you have, and what is your favorite food. Katie Holden talked about how she jumps over trucks in South America, seriously.  Katerina told us that her new favorite pre-race meal is mango with sticky rice.  Chloe started riding by competing with her twin sister on the commute to school.   Mary McConnelog revealed her former identity of an opera singer and even treated the girls to a couple of beautiful notes. Maghalie totally put me on the spot and challenged me to rap which, of course, I had to do, but only after Mary dropped a beat.  The things these girls get to learn at the Lemonade Social.  Thank you to all of the pro women who dragged themselves, dusty and tired, to inspire the Little Bellas.  It never ceases to amaze me how generous the pro women’s field is especially when it comes down the the Little Bellas.

 Sea Otter Lemonade Social

 Sea Otter Fist Pump? (photo: Nic Coury)
I found another Lea in our Salinas Sessions.  I am excited. 
Then, today, we officially launched our Salinas sessions.  We trained the mentors during the afternoon in the midst of one of the most festive Easter parties in Toro Park I've ever experienced.  Literally, five thousand people were grilling and enjoying this park while we were riding and practicing skills.  The Salinas Little Bellas, some new faces and some Sea Otter campers, donned their new primal jerseys and tackled the on bike easter egg hunt with vigor.  The new crew of mentors are fantastic and this program is off to a great start.  I can't wait for Little Bellas color day next weekend. 

Hoppy Easter!