Ossola Sport

Irena Ossola – Dedication and Determination

BC Superweek

Currently, I am in Vancouver, Canada for BC Superweek.  It’s a series of 9 races in 10 days (6 to 16 July),  7 of the 9 races are criteriums. Short fast races. like 1-2 mile courses and we do about 1 hr on it.

Today is the rest day and we’ve done 3 races already. It’s really tough but I’m loving it and it’s getting my legs back into racing mode.
The first day was rough and sucked a lot. I didn’t do very well and dropped off the pack and was pulled out of the race. this was really hard mentally as I’m always expecting myself to do well and keep pushing and be on top.  So it was really disappointing and lit a fire in me. I hate doing that bad in races and it hits me mentally.
The next day I pushed hard and stayed in the race the whole time and even with 5 laps to go put in an attack and broke away solo for 1 lap. they caught me but still, i did something and put in a move which i’m proud of. I finished with the pack and solid.
Yesterday was 1 of 2 road races. 105km and pretty tough. I stayed in the pack again and it went well. with 2 miles to go i was in good positioning but then it was the 2nd to last curve and a girl swung wide and pushed me into the weeds. literally road on the side walk for about 1 block. then got back in but had to put in a big effort to get back up and so wasn’t there for the final sprint. finished again and good solid effort and push and feeling good.
I’m happy with how I’ve raced and now its been solid and body is feeling good.
I’m hoping the rest of the races go well and I am resting very hard today.

checking out the fitness spot where my friend works

recovery power to the max!!

easy cruise

10 November 2017, What Really Happened

The other day I was picked up by my host here in Knoxville, TN.  She said she didn’t know what happened to me and figured she would ask in person for the actual account.  At this, I realized most people don’t know the actual account of what happened.  So I thought I would post with the explanation and some pictures of what actually happened.

IMG_2594  IMG_2332    IMG_2066

 

 

10 November 2017

4 hour training ride became a horrible near death accident at 3 hrs in Santa Fe, NM

This is what I am told, as I don’t remember the accident and don’t remember anything until about mid December (1,5 months after the accident). I was riding on West Alameda above the round-about, coming down the hill toward the Silar rd round-about. So I had slowed to 22 kph/14 mph, as I am apprehensive of round-abouts in the USA and the drivers ability to use them. As I came down the hill this man turned in front of me and I collided with his car. He says he could not see me because the sun was in his eyes, but the woman behind him could see me and she was scared when he turned in front of me and saw the collision. I was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe, NM, and then flown by helicopter to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque.

I am very lucky to still be alive.  My dad say’s he got a call that day with the doctor asking how fast he could get to the hospital because they didn’t know how long I would live for.

I’m so grateful for all I have and have experienced, but going through this is just a little motivation to anyone that is thinking “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t”, because YOU CAN, it’s not that hard to just try.  I am coming back from a near death injury and something that I can’t make excuses for.  I live my life to the limit and love all in my life.  Everyday is a gift and I am grateful for that.

 

IMG_E1841IMG_1843IMG_1842

 

List of the injuries I sustained:

TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury

Dissected carotid arteries in my neck

Broken orbital –  leading to orbital transplant surgery

Broken nose

4 broken front teeth – leading to root canals and crowns on those teeth

Broken scaphoid (wrist) – leading to surgery for screw placement

Broken hand – leading to surgery for pin placement

Broken humerus and surgery for a plate (arm)

Broken collar bone –  leading to winging scapula

2 collapsed lungs –  leading to 2 chest tubes

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 6.10.49 PM

Hospital stay:

Coma for 6 days

Hospital for 2 weeks

Rehab until 16 December (20 days)

IMG_1872

After I went to live at my mom’s and recover in Taos, NM. I went to therapy about everyday for speech (my head), my hand, or physical therapy for my body. I continued improving slowly but the process has been long. It is not just physical but a mental recuperation as well. Many have been close to me and helping me through this process.

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 6.05.16 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-20 at 6.04.39 PMIMG_2243

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 3.17.08 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-21 at 3.12.57 PM

I have gradually reintroduced myself to riding a bike and now racing. I am a go-hard kind of person, so for me to just sit and wait to get better doesn’t work for me. I have been on the bike slowly since the hospital and as my hands and body allow me, I am back to riding continuously.   Now I am in Knoxville, Tennessee for the USA National Championships. I am learning to be patient with myself and understand that I won’t be in the same fitness or mental state as I was last year.  Nearly 8 months and I am still alive

I am thankful to all my sponsors that stood by me during this period and supported me.  They are so wonderful and help me to come back strong and want to be better.  Currently I am not with a team and this is hard as expenses are 100% on me. Travel, registration, lodging, etc. are big and something more for me to handle.  But there is also a positive because in this way I can choose what races to go to and recover at my own pace.  If you are interested in supporting this process or know someone that might want to sponsor please contact me:  ossola.irena@gmail.com

Races so far:

Javalina Chase, NM

Redlands, CA

Gatineau GP, Canada

UCI World Championships Qualifier Gran Fondo, Canada

USA National Championships, Tennessee

IMG_2425

 

Below are some pictures from just after the accident.  They are quite gory and show the real side of what happened that I won’t post on facebook.  So if hospital beds, stitches and blood don’t bother you, then be my guest to look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 6.15.14 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-20 at 6.14.42 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-20 at 6.13.27 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-20 at 6.14.19 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-21 at 3.14.00 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-21 at 3.20.49 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-21 at 3.19.10 PMScreen Shot 2018-06-21 at 3.19.56 PM

Back to Life

The past couple months have been tough. Loaded with doctor’s appointments, training, and trying to organize my life for racing and travel.

I went to California for Redlands. And SURVIVED!!! I raced everyday, which is pretty incredible. I didn’t feel so great, but getting through to each day was pretty incredible. Especially considering I had my accident about 6 months before.

IMG_3730

I went back to Santa Fe with a new drive to train and push hard to get fitter. I started doing 2 a days with a morning spin then a later workout. That was also tiring and not so easy on my body. But it pushed me and was good overall for my fitness.

IMG_4008

Working hard with my friend Sam in Santa Fe

Then at the end of May I left for Canada and am here now. I raced the UCI GP Gatineau Road Race and Time Trial. This was a real check of my fitness and push to see how I am progressing. I finished and felt good, but it was a tough race that put me in my place. I need to keep growing and getting better. It hasn’t been that long and I have to understand I won’t be where I was for a long time.

I need to increase my fitness and feeling better also. I am now at my coach’s house outside of Toronto and training here until Nationals next week. I leave then (18 June) for Tennessee and am excited to race that again this year.

IMG_3976

The amazing dentist Dr. Kris that I ride with and is helping to fix my teeth.

IMG_3983

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am having to learn patience and to curb my expectation because I want to be just as good as I was, but also have to consider that I was in this accident about 7 months ago and in the hospital for almost 2 months. I have to understand my body won’t be back to where it was for a while.

I have a lot of therapy and self growth to go through. It will take a while and I can’t expect to be just right back to normal again. When I see old friends or people I know they are surprised to even see me racing. Which to me is also surprising because I love to race, but understandable as most people that have gone through what I have wouldn’t be here or at least what I am working towards.   And that is just it, I love to race and be on my bike. So I guess that’s what keeps me going and in this sport. I want to pedal and get better.   I just have to be ok with progress at my own pace.

I know it won’t be fast, but that is hard for me to completely understand and accept I want to be better and ok now. Back to how I was and normal, but it won’t. I have to be ok with my hands, shoulder, head and body for needing recocery and go slow. So I will get it…. Eventually.

IMG_4057

Some of the Vitamins that keep me going strong and recovering right. From Health Product Distributors!!

After the Near Death Accident

The accident happened November 10th

Now my hands are staring to do better and my body is also on the recovery. I feel the struggle in a lot that I do, but overall I am improving slowly.

IMG_2628hand therapy for my broken hands

IMG_2774IMG_2697The vitamins helping to get me stronger IMG_2755

I feel the difficulty when I get dressed and my teeth are the biggest issue. I just had 4 root canals on my front teeth, and will have crowns after they are extruded a little (pulled down). I also have lots of doctor appointments these days: occupational therapy for my hands, speech therapy for my head, and other for my teeth and face.

IMG_2864

IMG_2901

IMG_2908

Training I am doing what doctors allow me to do. I can not give too much information on this, but I stay busy and am happy to continue forward and helping my recovery.

Mentally I am doing ok. I am staying positive, and although many said I would have down days along the way, I have kept myself busy with training and appointments to not allow myself to have the time for down days. Since I have so many appointments and I am involved with keeping my body healthy by training I don’t allow myself to have a lot time to think about what is crossing me.

Sometimes I can’t believe what all of this has done to me. Had this not happened, I would be in Europe racing right now and feeling great. I would be on a top team and working to be better. Instead I am here in Santa Fe, with my hands just coming back to me, my face having a giant scar across it, my teeth being knocked out, and a TBI that I may never fully recover from. But even through all this I guess I am always an optimist and believe in myself to get back to normal and feeling good.

IMG_2594

Tour de Kermesse

Yesterday finished up my Tour de Kermesse here in Belgium and The Netherlands.
17 races in 34 days

Finished up with 2 wins, 1- 3rd, 7- top 10 , 15th in a UCI 1.2 RR, and all but 2 top 20. The last couple felt like the end of a stage race, all money in the pain bank to get stronger. So much fun and such strong racing here. Pretty solid overall I think. And an incredible experience meeting new friends and racers.

Thank you to all those that helped me make this possible.

Heres a quick zoom through the past couple weeks in pictures

 

Netherlands

IMG_7582 IMG_7584 IMG_7633 IMG_7742

 

Bike paradise, real life ginger bread, important recovery

IMG_7785 IMG_7803 IMG_7801

The tower in center UtretchIMG_7808

Back to Belgium

IMG_7862

 

Winning on Monday / 12 Aug

IMG_7960IMG_7901 IMG_7874

 

3rd on Wednesday / 14 Aug

IMG_7921 IMG_7917

 

 

IMG_7758 IMG_7927

 

IMG_7929 IMG_7943

Loving Life

IMG_7954

Cobble Stones and Chocolate, gotta love Belgium.  So sweet and yet so cruel

IMG_8023 IMG_8015

Race day #17

IMG_8063

Racecation- Belgium and Netherlands

Over the past 20 days I’ve been in Belgium and The Netherlands solo racing.  Just me, my bike, and a rental car.  The first 3 days were a bit uncertain what would play out.  But I came up with a rough list of races and ran (or rode) with it.  Things came together with host housing over that first week. Through friends and connections, I am so grateful for those that let me stay with them during this time.
Once I started the first couple races I realized how much racing there is here and just wanted to do more.  I put together my map/list and got busy sending emails to preregister.  The process was a bit difficult not knowing Dutch, because the websites were all JUST in Dutch.  But figuring out that Weg means road (for the races), Vroumen is woman, and elite … well means elite.  I could get my way through the information to what I needed.  I learned that some races are invite only because they try to set up the race for a certain participant to win.  I was in one of these and interestingly enough she didn’t end up winning.
Most of my drives to get to a race are between 40min and 2 hrs.  Which the Belgians think is incredible to travel 2 hrs for a race.  When I told them in the US most people have to fly just to attend a 1 hr Crit their jaws dropped.

race maps

In these post Tour de France crits in the Netherlands last week I raced with some of the best in the world.  Marianne Vos, Annemiek Van Vleuten, Chantal Blaak, Anna Van der Breggen.

IMG_7613
And overall the level of racing in every race I’ve done is a step higher then that of the US.  So that dream of racing in Europe that most American cyclists have, we’ll it has some substance.  Cause this is the place that will make a good cyclist a great one.  And kick the shit out of a beginner.

-The speed is faster in the overall general time of the race
-There is more and constant attacking, so very little time to relax or recover or sit back.
-Much more aggressive riding as a pack and individuals.  If there is space to move into, it will be taken very fast
-Close riding and no/few crashes.  Lots of touching, elbows rubbing, and leaning on each other.
-Everywhere is free game, if there’s not a barrier you can ride there.  I can’t even count how many curbs I’ve jumped, sidewalks I’ve cut across, gutters I’ve ridden and trash cans I’ve avoided just to save myself in a race or to get in a better position and move up.

IMG_7508

My first week I spent with a host family in southern Belgium. Near Kortrijk, which is very close to the French border. They are really nice and their daughter, 14, is the Belgium junior cycling champion. I traveled out from their house to the races which were mostly road/circuit races.

IMG_7509

My second week I spent in The Netherlands with a friend/guy that my coach used to coach. He lives in Utretch which is a really nice city and good location for racing.   I had heard that the Netherlands was big for biking, bike paths, and commuting by bike. But didn’t know it was this incredible. Almost every road has a bike path or bike lane, and if it doesn’t then the road gives priority to bikes. Everywhere people are getting around by big cruiser granny bikes. Its amazing!! The weather doesn’t seem to bother them either, even if there is sideways wind and rain there were still people on the paths getting wherever they had to go.

IMG_7633

Bike parking in the Netherlands

IMG_7607 IMG_7582

 

 

Racing this week was mostly crits, the short nascar style racing. But these were not the normal 1hr hard-easy-hard-easy- sprint kind of American crits. These were all out almost all the time, 1-1hr30min crits. Involving technical courses, cobbles, punchy little hills, and fans everywhere cheering. Also unlike the American crits, when a break gets away it actually has a chance of staying away. Most of the races I’ve done has a breakaway take it to the finish. This keeps the race really fast and aggressive. As I’ve established myself as a strong and aggressive rider that likes to break away, I’ve noticed now that when I attack either the top racers come with me or bridge up to me for the break. It was a lot easier not being known and just getting away solo and powering away for the finish.  But I guess this is a good thing that I’m being marked.

I’ve been pushed and stepped up my level of racing to read the race and what is going to happen based on the course, racers, conditions, and distance.   These are the key ingredients for how the race will play out.  I’ve learned so much over the past couple weeks and it’s incredible what this experience will do for my ability as a cyclist.  I’m living the dream and grateful for every day that I’m here and can go out to ride or race on these amazing roads in this amazing place.  Even through the wind, and rain, and crazy weather it’s beautiful out here and all the towns and cities are really unique.

IMG_7499

I’ve had the chance to do a little exploring.  I went to Amsterdam for a day and explored the small winding streets with so many canals, bridges and shops.  Since I stayed in Utretch, most people don’t know about this small city, but it is the perfect size to get out for a small ride or see the center, it’s kind of like a mini Amsterdam with less tourists.

IMG_7712

IMG_7684

  IMG_7667

IMG_7706

This upcoming week I’ll be back in Belgium, staying with the family again and racing in Belgium. I’ll have 6 races over the next 10 days. The races will be back to road race/ circuit style racing. And good too as I’ll have top world tour races coming up and need to be in 120km distance race shape, and not 60km race shape.

I’d like to thank Health Product Distributors for all their support and helping me to race so strong.  Using the Rejuvenate product and vitamin supplements I’ve been able to stay healthy, in top form, and recover so much better after races.  I feel the difference in fatigue and energy level using the Mayomag (magnesium supplement), and mix Rejuvenate in all of my recover drinks post race.  Thank you for being a part of this journey.

USA Pro Nationals and Europe

Quick Recap:

USA- Knoxville and Louisville

June 25th I raced USA Pro Nationals for Road Race.  I felt good and stayed with the front part of the group for the majority of the race.  Unfortunately, I missed the last move up the climb with 2 to go and was stuck in no-man’s land until the group caught me.  Finished 22nd, which I was wanting a better finish.  But I have to learn from the mistake and move on.

IMG_6391IMG_6484

 

 

July 2nd in Louisville, KY I raced USA Pro Nationals for Criterium.  I really like the course and felt good going into it.  The pace was fast and aggressive from the start.  When I missed the breakaway of Erica Allar and Lauren Stephens, I knew that was the one that could/would stick and I wasn’t going to make the mistake again.  So I worked hard to bridge early.  But that effort was futile as the main group was still going hard and the breakaway was also moving fast.  So I got caught, took a couple laps to regain energy and attacked again.  I was bridging up to the break when a crash caused a neutralization and stop of the race.  When we started again I was put 30 seconds after Erica and Lauren, and 15 seconds in front of the main pack.  With 6 laps to go.  So I knew it was now or never. So I gave it all I had and pushed those final laps with everything.  In the final lap I was getting so close to the break and half a lap to go I caught them. Using my speed I attacked around them, but they got on my wheel.  I was in full power mode and kept drilling it.  But they stayed on me and in the final turn Erica attacked for the win.  I gave it everything and finished with the Bronze.  I was really happy with this finish and a lot of people said how amazing I made that race to watch.  So exciting and never giving up.

IMG_6908IMG_6835

EUROPE

July 10 I flew to Brussels, Belgium to meet my SAS-Macogep team for our next race.

13-16 July we raced the BeNe Women’s Tour.  Starting in The Netherlands and finishing in Belgium it was a hard and fun race.

IMG_7164IMG_7163IMG_7255

 

 

Stages-

Prologo 1.9km- 70th – In such a short race I was just 18 seconds behind the leader, but many factors that add just 1 second and change a lot.

1- 127km Road Race- 40th-  Focused on positioning and had a lot of fun getting back into the feel of european racing.  Hard, fast, close and aggressive.  With strong wind and rain at a couple points it made for a hard race.  I stayed in the front group when the main pack split and finished in the sprint, but my legs didn’t have the kick I needed to be top 10.

2a- 98km Road Race – 23rd. Fun race and stayed in good positioning the whole time.  Just a small cobble section each lap but didn’t break up the group so it was a full group sprint finish.

2b- 10km Time Trial – not good because of a mechanical problem and my back wheel was rubbing on the bike frame the entire race.

3- 112km Circuit Race- 13th-  Very fun circuit and very technical.  Felt like an american crit race.  Always looking to move up and positioning.  I had fun going with attacks and my legs felt good.  In the final lap I focused on moving up and trying to position well.  Would have liked to work for my teammate for a good finish, but we didn’t communicate as well as we should have and I could only hope she was on my wheel and would pass me in the finish.  Next time.

 

Belgium-

After the BeNe Women’s Tour my team went back to France and I have stayed in Belgium to keep racing.  I have a rental car and my phone and a list of races I want to do.  Initially it was a bit of a nervous adventure as I had no lodging and just an airbnb set up for 4 nights.  Now I have met some people and with contacts organized housing for the next couple weeks that I’ll be here.

 

18 July – Strijpen-Zottegem- 90km circuit of 8 laps-  1st

With just 1 day of rest between the tour and this race I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel.  But I stayed relaxed and in good position at the start.  There were a couple early attacks but nothing to go.  Then halfway through the first lap on an uphill I saw an opening and made a move.  Not thinking I would have a gap, but I did.  So I kept motoring and got more time.  If I stayed away it was going to be a long day.  So I passed the start/finish and with 7 laps to go thought, oh boy.  Each lap I just focused on my turns and staying aero in the wind.  At one point the car said I had 1’25”, so I thought I was gaining a lot of time.  Then with 2 laps to go the car said I had 55 seconds.  With this I thought the group was chasing and I had to put in a big effort.  So I pushed and knew if I could get to half a lap to go with that time I could make it.  Finally after the main hill/small climb the car came up and said “congratulations”.  This was a relief but I still powered until I saw the finish.  I raised my arms and felt this great victory and a victory to show how strong I am.

IMG_7317 IMG_7321 IMG_7326 IMG_7333

19 July- GP Glineur- 7th or 8th

For this race I knew I would be marked from the start.  I also knew my legs were pretty tired from yesterday.  So I stayed patient and in good positioning. A couple solo attacks went but were brought back pretty soon after.  In the last half lap (of 4 laps total) a girl attacked hard where her team had been sitting in the whole time.  The team blocked for her at the front so the effort to catch didn’t succeed, she took it to the line almost getting caught at the finish.  The last 1.5km was a straight road slight uphill, about 4%.  I stayed patient, and in a good position for the sprint.  But when the sprint arrived and time to kick my legs wouldn’t surge. I finished solid in 7th or 8th but wanted better.

24 July- Boezinge- 40 laps-

A more competitive race with a couple of stronger racers and teams.  In particular, Jolien D’hoore, the Belgium national champion and world champion on the track was there.  The race was aggressive as there was a prime every lap of 10 euro. I attacked in the early laps and got a break.  I was solo for about 3-4 laps until I noticed someone with me and it was Jolien.  We worked together for the following 20 laps but the group brought us back.  In the pack there were more attacks, and I also stayed aggressive trying to get away again.  Then with about 12 to go a group of 3 got a way.  They got some time and distance.  With a lap to go they were getting closer.  I attacked with 1/2 lap to go to see if I could get a gap leading into the finish but the group was going very hard.  In the final turn a girl went very far wide and pushed me out almost into the wall.  I jumped onto the sidewalk and avoided a trash can before getting back on the course.  At that point I was too far back to make the sprint for 4th place.  The break ended up making it to the finish and taking the podium.  I wanted a better result and worked hard to get away.  But sometimes the risks and attempts just don’t come through. It was hard racing though and I feel myself getting so much stronger

_DSC0263

_DSC0294 _DSC0328

I’ll be in Belgium until the 31st July, then to The Netherlands until 10 August, then back to Belgium for more racing.  The next big team race will be Plouay on 26 August in France.

Yellow is host housing, orange was this week, blue is 30 July -8 August, red is 8 August – 20 August

Back to Racing

Since my cramping episode and recovery in Santa Fe I’ve been on the upswing and back at it full force.
IMG_4821 IMG_4859 IMG_5054 IMG_5044
Gatineau, Canada

In May, once I recovered from the cramping and was back to riding I started feeling good again and training started to build.  I started with some easy rides and just built on time rather than intensity.  At the end of May my team had a race in Canada, Gatineau GP, so that became my next level for intensity.  Despite not being on the bike for about 1 month (mid april-mid may) I placed 19th.  And this was a hard international race (UCI).  So my coach, director and myself were pretty happy with this result and shows that my base and natural talent shine through even when my training is not able to be there.

IMG_5219 IMG_5247

Mid May to Beginning June- Winston-Salem

After Canada, I went to race in North Carolina, Winston-Salem, where I wasn’t feeling as great for this race, but still finished and supported my team.  It was a good effort to push me but the tough hills and just being on a new bike with the wrong fit ended up causing me quite a bit of back pain.

IMG_5333IMG_5372

Oklahoma

Post North Carolina, I went to Oklahoma and raced a 3 day race series (June 2,3,4).  I finished 5th, 7th, and then the last day put in a huge “go big or go home” effort to win by attacking and going solo for the first part of the race.  Unfortunately, I was caught by the bigger teams in the race, so I finished top 20.
This was a huge effort and showed my strength to stay away even without a team there to support me.  So in Oklahoma I really started feeling my race legs and strength again.  They were some good results and a launching for the rest of my season.

IMG_5564 IMG_5695

Santa Fe

For the 2nd week of June, I was in Santa Fe, NM (home), for 1 week.  Where I was training hard and really getting ready for the races ahead.  I met with my newest sponsor, Verde Food/Juice, which is a local company that makes cold pressed juices and nutritious food.  I am really excited for this partnership as I can promote the quality product and use it while I am training to keep me fueled and going strong #fueledbyverde.  Since I do so much juicing and cleansing, this is something that will really help me going forward.

IMG_5650 IMG_5694 IMG_5781  IMG_5985 IMG_5954IMG_6072

Minneapolis, Minnesota- North Star GP

I left for Minneapolis, Minnesota June 13th and raced a 5 day stage race with a composite team. 14-18 June.  North Star Grand Prix is one of my favorite US stage races and it turned out to be a great event this year and I had so much fun with my composite team.  Here is a breakdown of my results and the stages each day:

14- Stage 1- St. Paul TT- 43rd – This year TT bikes were allowed for the 8mile flat out and back course.  This put me at a disadvantage since I couldn’t bring a TT bike.  I had to use my road bike, and despite putting in a good effort, still couldn’t compete with the aerodynamic power of the TT bikes.

Stage 2- St. Paul Crit- 6th- I had a lot of fun and went for some intermediate sprints, to contest the sprinters competition/jersey.

15- Stage 3- Cannon Falls Road Race – 100km- 6th.  I worked hard in the finishing circuit to be placed well and managed to hold onto 6th place.  The uphill finish was hard, but I felt good and legs are strong.

16- Stage 4- Uptown Crit-  12th- This is my favorite stage of the race, and probably favorite crit in the US.  I went for intermediate sprints and was sitting 5th place in the competition.  I didn’t have very good positioning in the final lap, so despite being capable of top 5 in this course I made a couple mistakes and paid the price.  Still solid with 12th though

17- Stage 5- Mankato Road Race- 100km- Circuit- 20th- The hill was tough but I positioned myself well and went up feeling good.  A break got away with about 30km to go and my teammate was in it, so I didn’t need to work to bring it back which was good.  We caught them at the top of the climb the last time through and just 1km from the finish.  My teammate finished 10th and I held 20th at the line.

18- Stage 6- Stillwater Crit- 30th-  This race is famous and so hard.  It is all about the first 2 laps, as this is where the selection is made and front group decided.  I warmed up and felt good.  When we went up the climb the first time I worked to get to the front, but was still hard to move around people and push myself up also.  The descent is so fast and tight that not much ground can be made up.  I didn’t make that front group selection unfortunately.  I still put in a tough fight, but also know my weaknesses and where I have to work harder and get stronger.

Overall finish at North Star GP: 27th GC, 6th place in Sprinter competition.  It was a great race and felt strong.

IMG_6133 IMG_6182 IMG_6209

Knoxville, TN- USA Pro Nationals

Now I’m in Knoxville, Tennessee getting ready for USA Pro Road Race Nationals on Sunday, June 25th.  This is a race where I can really shine and show what I have as a cyclist.
I’ll also race USA Pro Criterium Nationals on July 2nd in Louisville, KY.
Then after these 2 races I’ll be heading back to Europe for the second round of big euro racing. I’m happy to be coming back stronger and hungrier for the remainder of the season.  The past few months have been a big learning experience and I’m feeling great and super strong going forward
IMG_6320

Racing in Europe and Cramping

Over the past couple months I have been in Europe experiencing the infamous racing of the Spring Classics. Traveling between France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, and finally to Germany from where I left to fly back to the USA. It was a challenging time of hard racing, travel and training, but I enjoyed it so much and experienced a lot that can not be experienced racing in the US. We raced in Women’s World Tour races, which are the highest level of professional racing for women. I was riding alongside world champions and national champions. The races were faster and the courses more difficult than anything I had ever experienced. But this was perfectly suited for me. I am an endurance rider through and through, so the faster, longer and harder the better.

At the end of March we raced 3 races in Belgium, I learned so much and my 66th place at Gent-Wevelgem proved that I can hang with the big dogs.

IMG_3902 IMG_3785 IMG_3873

After the block of racing in Belgium, my team and I drove back across France to Bordeaux where my Costa Rican teammate and I stayed with my director. We had 3 weeks of training (which included lots of workouts and weekend races with junior men… very fast) before the next big race in Belgium.  I was feeling great for the first 2 weeks and crushing workouts and races.  The plan was that at the after this training block we would go to Belgium April 21st to race the 23rd and then travel to Czech Republic for a 4 day stage race.  After which I would fly back to Canada.

IMG_3972IMG_4232 IMG_4230IMG_4415

However life did not go according to plan.

The 3 weeks of hard training became 2. The Saturday (1 week) before Liege-Bastogne-Liege- April 23rd (a women’s world tour race), I began having muscle cramping in my legs. My first thought was OH SHIT, because I am not a stranger to this feeling, and when it comes on I know its not good and will last more than just 1 or a couple days. So I quickly went into fix it mode and did my best to rest my legs, get hydrated, and eat super clean with no sugar or carbs at all.

IMG_4256IMG_4397

I was getting better and feeling recovered by Thursday, but the 14hr road trip on Friday to Belgium did not help my situation. I arrived that night tired and legs very fatigued.

IMG_4452

So unfortunately, despite all my efforts to feel good and race well on Sunday, it was not meant to be and I could not finish the race. I started and almost immediately started having cramping. I pushed and pushed and tried to get it to stop, but my body was done and telling me to rest. So at 25km (40min) I pulled over and got in our team car. It was a very difficult moment and quite heart breaking. Because I had worked so hard for the entire month and was so focused, but to end my race like this was so disappointing.

After the race, my director sat down with me and we decided the best option for me was to fly back home to New Mexico and recover and find the solution to this problem. He saw the difficulty I was going through all week and knew this was not the simple cramp that passes after a day. It was a week of struggle, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

So I got on a plane in Frankfurt Germany the next day and flew back to New Mexico.

IMG_4507 IMG_4496

That was last Tuesday (April 24th). I immediately went to Urgent Care for testing and got to work contacting all the doctors or connections I knew to try and get advice or find a specialist that could help with this cramping issue. The first constructive piece of advice, and what I had already heard before, was to consider a muscle biopsy. This would give more indepth information into how my muscles work and if there could be any myopathies or diseases involved that cause me to go through this.

Over the course of the week I tried to get the best rest I could as my legs were still having some signs of cramping. I took 4 days completely off the bike and just doing some light swimming. And also doing a 3 day juice cleanse. This helped flush out my system and clean the toxins still left in my kidneys from racing and training. I really love doing juice cleanses (when I’m not in hard training) because I can get a reboost to my system and not have to think about my diet or food. Its all laid out for me and I just get to drink the amount I feel I need. I debated going for 5 days, but Sunday I began to feel a bit drained and for best muscle recovery after the cramping I needed some protein, so I began eating some avocado and fruits. That was also the first day I tried riding and it felt really great. Given, it was only 20 minutes, but still, sitting on the bike and pedaling was amazing!

IMG_4530 IMG_4541

 

 

 

So of course just as my legs are starting to come back to normal I get news that my biopsy is scheduled. Well I should say starting to, as Monday I had a slight cramp while on the rollers, but it also became a good thing for the biopsy.

Yesterday I went in for surgery and the biopsy was completed along with a kidney ultrasound to see if there is any irregularity in my kidney size or function.

IMG_4700

Now I’m in recovery and taking it easy for a couple days as my muscle heals. It is quick recovery so I am looking forward to getting back to my active life of training and racing soon.

It has been a crazy couple weeks and as I lay in the hospital I couldn’t help but think how it was May 2nd and I was supposed to be in Paris. But instead I was in the hospital in New Mexico about to go into surgery. Crazy how life works and just when you think you’ve got it all planned out it all changes in a second. I’m grateful to be able to have this testing done though and hopefully get some answers. I’ve been having this problem off and on for about 3 years and still don’t know what causes it and why.

This is a big step forward for my career, and now that the test is over I can focus on my recovery and getting back to training for my next race.

Finding the Positive in the Negative; Cramps, Iron Deficiency, Fatigue

So many times in life something happens that we think it’s negative and will ruin the plan we have set for ourselves. When in reality, it actually is something positive. Where we don’t realize until after the dust settles and learned the lesson, that this event or change was something good for us.

I experienced this just last month as I was finishing up my training in Tucson and getting ready to travel to Europe for racing. For a couple weeks I was feeling fatigued and tired in my cycling, I was having difficulty with intensity and pushing at a harder pace. Nothing had really changed in my routine, I was still taking my vitamins and rejuvenate, getting rest, and eating healthy. I had just finished a large block of training and so thought I was probably still tired from that. My last day in Tucson I tried to go for a hard group ride, but without surprise I couldn’t stay with them when it started to go faster. I was mad at myself and frustrated with the extreme tiredness I was feeling.

When I arrived in Santa Fe I began having some leg cramping and decided this was my body saying it needed rest. So I decided to take the rest of the week off the bike and have a blood test done. The test showed my Iron levels were extremely low (lower then I’ve ever had). My running coach from high school said this is almost certainly the reason for my fatigue. I’m not vegetarian, but I was eating almost no red meat over the winter. So I began taking a supplement for Iron, eating red meat everyday and only doing some light swimming to relieve the cramping.

By the end of the week I was feeling better and ready for my travels ahead.

IMG_2823IMG_3376

I arrived in Europe and only had some slight cramping, but was able to work it out quickly. Over the next couple weeks I had my team training camp in Spain and a big international level race of 4 days. The camp went amazing and I felt strong and revived. In the race I was the best for my team and improved my finish each day, arriving 18th on the 3rd day.

 

IMG_3234IMG_3416

When I arrived in Santa Fe I was nervous, scared, and frustrated with all that was going on with my body. I know I was eating more sugar than usual (because of the tiredness, my body was craving sugar), and this was one of the causes for the cramping. But besides that I was doing everything good for my body. This time of feeling down and tired felt so negative and like I wouldn’t be as strong as I know I should be. I was especially nervous for Spain and that I would begin riding with the team and in the race and struggle to keep up.

Now looking back, I feel this was a slap in the face and an awakening in so many ways.

–       The lack of intensity and tiredness telling me something was off internally.

–       The overall fatigue telling me to take it easy in training as I was potentially overtraining without adequate recovery.

–       The cramping telling me to rest and not keep digging.

I took the time to evaluate my problems and adjust what I was doing in order to come out better. And I have come out so much better. I am always having to remind myself that rest and recovery is so important. Sometimes it’s more important then actual training. Because as much as I know I can push myself, the body is also not a machine and needs rest and to be listened to.

Considering this period of turmoil, one thing that I was consistent with and know helped me to recover quickly is taking supplements and rejuvenate. I know if I had not been taking magnesium, essential fats, the mighty multi and most important the Rejuvenate, I would not have been able to recover in just a week from the fatigue. My body can feel depleted of energy and iron, but the base I have built by taking quality supplements allows my body to jump back quickly.

IMG_2771IMG_2888

There are so many elements and pieces to this puzzle in the life of a professional athlete. So that when just one piece is off the image can become skewed, but as long as the other pieces remain solid it doesn’t take much to make the picture complete.

Through this sport and through my life I am always learning and these are the lessons that at first I think will ruin me, but actually make me stronger.

 

IMG_3708 IMG_3591