Resolutions, What?

I used to make long lists of resolutions and self improvements (ENTJ, much?), not just at New Years but at my birthday in August or any other life-milestone occasion. The last few years have been so transitional and formative that these lists and time spent in contemplation was good for me. Did I accomplish the things I listed? Some. Am I still working on items that have been on my self-improvement lists for years? Sure! But this January was the first year that I don’t feel driven to create a long list of resolutions, items to focus on or goals to reach. That’s not to say that I don’t have any, but that the ones I have are continuations of ones set long ago. For example, this spring I’ll finish my master’s degree. I’ve been working on that since the thought that I might want to continue my education first crept into my mind while at Mars Hill. Out of that will come another set of educational and professional goals to focus on. Cycling is also continuously pushing and changing my goals. Every 6 months is a transition between disciplines bring around a new set of seasonal goals and check ups on long term ones. So why rush to make a list merely for the sake of a new year when the things I want and need to accomplish will work themselves out in perfect time. Maybe there will be a time when change isn’t constant and the new year will provide the opportunity to readjust and focus on new things. But I don’t feel like that will really ever be the case. Because honestly, if I’m not always climbing then there’s a reason for the stillness.

2014 Goal: Control

Ah, the new year. A time when you can’t help but reflect and make some sort of commitment to the betterment of self!

2013 has seen my final (at least for now) collegiate cycling seasons with Cyclocross Nationals and BMX Nationals as highlights. It’s also brought my first season of racing cyclocross on my own. I knew that not being on a team would present its own challenges, I’ve been lucky to have the guidance of a coach for my entire time cycling. I also didn’t want to waste the season: my fitness, skills, time, and money are too valuable to have a mediocre season. I didn’t want to lose fitness, and personally need the external motivation and accountability that a coach and training plan provide. Balancing school and work with cycling is nothing new, but I wanted the time I spent training and racing to really matter.  Learning from my almost non-existent summer mountain bike season, I knew things would have to change for cross season.

Lucky, I was able to get my former collegiate coach, Hugh, to be my coach for this season! Hugh limits the number of private clients he takes on so he can focus on their development in additional to coaching the Mars Hill Cycling team. I can’t say enough how having a training plan and coach helped me. Sure, there were days I slacked off, and workouts that were missed. But then there were days that I got over myself and did it anyway. And then there were the days that I was super excited about my training sessions and made it count even more!

Looking back at my cross races from this season, I made a few mistakes. I got upset and raced stupid. I lost focus and made technical errors. My barriers were terrible at the beginning of the season, I’ve never wrecked trying to dismount so many times! I even had my first major racing wreck (at the Mars Hill race nonetheless)! But when  I worked all those things out, and let each race be a lesson, I had good races! I felt like I was racing were I should be, I was smart, and I wasn’t disappointed with my result. It excites me to think about where I’ll be next year with more riding, more training, more racing knowledge under my belt.

So all in all, I’m pleased with my season. For the next year I’m going to keep building, keep learning, and keep improving. I know it’s a long, steady road. As much as I wish it was quick and easy, it’s not. My genetics, time, and priorities aren’t going to lead to pro-cyclocrosser Laura. But they’ll take me far enough.

I used to make all sorts of goals and resolutions for the new year. But my birthday, start of the school year, and work anniversaries provide much better opportunities for goal setting. So I’ve learned to choose a word for the year. Last year my word was “achieve.” I lived up to it, achieving long time goals, and succeeding in my first year of full-time employment in my field.   This year I’m choosing “control” as my word. Oh no, a type-A personality choosing to focus on control?! Yes, control. With more control on my time, food consumption, work tasks, school tasks, cycling time, social interactions and personal balance I know I can rise even farther up, and hopefully develop some good habits along the way!

So here’s to 2014, you’re looking bright!

Class of 2013!

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So, this happened. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Sports Management, minor in Business from Mars Hill College on May 11, 2013.

Five years of classes, commuting, balancing school, work, and life, experiencing new things, finding new passions, having old passions affirmed and stoked up, meeting people, gaining new friends…the list could go on and on! But it has all added up to a blinged out piece of paper that makes me smile every time I look at it

It’s quite surreal that I’ve finally done it and gotten my bachelor of science in recreation! It’s also surreal how attached and how ingrained being at Mars Hill became in just two years. I’m really going to miss being there, interacting with the amazing faculty, traveling with the cycling team and making friends. My experiences are more diverse and my understanding of the world has increased so much in the past two years. Not to mention the knowledge gained in my field of study and the ideas and philosophies that have been passed on to me.

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It was also a special day since my sister graduated from Mars Hill College too! It’s because of her that I even started to consider MHC, and then the rest is history!

A few thanks and shout outs:

  • To Kyle for being patient when my assignments took the place of us time, taking care of the house, encouraging me to ride and train even when I didn’t feel like it, putting up with traveling for cycling, and giving me back rubs when I’m stressed
  • To my family for being supportive and proud and never being dismissive of my choices
  • To my sister Becky who first mentioned Mars Hill College
  • To Hugh Moran for welcoming a newbie with open arms to the cycling team and hence starting something incredible in my life
  • To Dr. Andersen for understanding my Type A personality, my needs as a non-tradition traditional commuter working student, and for sharing his experiences and thoughts about recreation
  • To the cycling team kids for just being who you are and never making me feel inferior despite my lack of experience (also, for some of the funniest moments of my life!)
  • To Tim, my boss and inspiration, who has supported me while letting me find my own way to achieve my goals, as well as being so flexible with my work schedule
  • To my friends who have been understanding of my social absence due to cycling and schooling
  • To the faculty of Mars Hill College who have instructed me, praised me, and supported my as a part of the cycling team,  especially to the Registrar’s Office for keeping my records and transcripts error free!

There really aren’t enough words to express the impact Mars Hill has had on me. All I know is that I was were I was supposed to be for the last two years, and that they were amazing!

Here’s to 2013, looking back at what I’ve achieved and looking forward to the next adventure!

2012 Goals

I love new years, birthdays, changing of the seasons, marked transitions like graduations and such. For me, all of those events serve as a refocus and evaluation of what I’m doing, what I want to do, who I am, my qualities, failures, flaws, and inspirations. And if 2011 serves as any indicator, 2012 is going to be amazing!

My biggest goals for 2012 definitely revolve around cycling for the most part. After all the fun and accomplishment I’ve had this fall, I’m charging on to bigger things (better fitness, skills, results) in 2012.

Academically, I’m motivated and excited about what 2012 will bring and of course am aiming to maintain my 4.0 gpa (oh yeah baby!).

Personally, I want to keep growing, learning to love and give, work hard, do my best and continue to nurture the qualities and values that matter to me.

So that’s it in a nut shell. If you’re curious about the specifics, keep reading. But if not, I’ll get over it.

  • Race 1-2 Charlotte Winter Short Track Races
  • Race 1-2 Charlotte Summer Short Track Races (as part of training for fall mtb season)
  • Top 10 finishes in cross county and short track in fall collegiate mtb season, as well as at Nationals
  • Do dual slalom, 4X, and downhill gravity events at collegiate level
  • 4.0 GPA Spring and Fall Semesters
  • Attempt five 5k’s (only as supplement to cycling training, spring/summer)
  • Top 10 finishes in collegiate cyclocross
  • Race 2-3 NCCX series races (includes NCGP), with top 15 finishes
  • Make something every week (bake, cook, whatevs)
  • Take multi-vit on the daily!
  • Simplify

Almost Full Circle: N.C. Cyclocross Grand Prix

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who was exploring the world and learning about possible career paths. In her meandering, she learned about an event that was the product of a recreation employee at a park who had graciously taken time to talk to her about recreation. So, one sunny Saturday in November she headed off to a park and was exposed to the coolest thing ever: cyclocross.

Even though she wasn’t aware of the impact it would have on her life then, that day marked the planting of a little dream that seemed very out of reach.

Several years later, after being at many such events, each fueling an admiration of the sport and desire to be amazing, that girl got the chance to race cyclocross.

Super happy!

Cyclocross is ground zero when it comes to bike racing for me. It was the first competitive cycling event that I was exposed to outside of the Tour du France. While I love mountain biking and have had an absolute blast racing, cyclocross has been at the back of my mind. I was super excited to race my first cyclocross race in October and have been looking forward to racing at the North Carolina Cyclocross Grand Prix (NCCX GP), where I watched cyclocross in amazement for the first time years ago.

I love the Grand Prix. I love working it and being an observer. And finally, I can add participant to my list. In addition to the awesomeness of racing, the Grand Prix is held at Jackson Park, my own local park! This year was the largest GP to date, with over 700 racers! Several pro cyclists also came down to race the elite races and get UCI points. All the races were fun and amazing to watch.

I raced the ACCC collegiate race both days. This is the first year (that I’m aware of) that collegiate races have been held at the Grand Prix. Since I haven’t been training for cyclocross specifically since returning from nationals, I decided to do the collegiate race, even though I wouldn’t get any points for myself or my team, instead of the regular series categories.

Saturday was cloudy and a little on the chilly side. I didn’t get a great warm-up and didn’t even get a chance to pre-ride the course. I felt like I had a decent start and went hard for the first lap. It hurt, so on the second I lost a lot of time. By the third however, I was ready to go hard and finish strong, but got pulled as I started my fourth lap. There were only three B girls racing, but all the collegiate riders raced at the same time. I ended up 2nd, which is technically a podium finish!

Now, for anyone who is familiar with the NCCX GP, they know about The Wall. The Wall is a steep bank that is incorporated into the course every year. Some people ride it, others try valiantly, and still others fail miserably. As a mountain biker I was pretty confidant that I could handle it, after all, climbs are a big part of mtb! Well, I failed. It was sad, so I ran the bike up following my disheartening attempt. If I had one goal for my racing, it was to ride the wall!

Sunday was sunny and warm, perfect racing weather in my mind! I know there are many cx-ers who will disagree with me. I got a great warm-up and got to pre-ride the course, which had some additional curves and fun stuff thrown in. My start wasn’t great, but I caught up with the main group as everyone turned off the road and into the twisty-turny things. I felt strong and good! I found a great cadence and settled in. The added turns and lessened straight-aways were great for me, I loved swooping and cornering up and down. I settled in behind a guy from VT, and while he would drop me on the road/straight-aways, I would catch up in the turns. I didn’t have the strength to pass and maintain a lead, so I camped out behind him for the remainder of the race. I didn’t get pulled, and even lapped some chick from App! However, the greatest moment for me came on the second lap, when after failing to ride the wall my first time around, I charged up the wall with all my might and with a lot of effort made it up and over the top! Booyah baby!

I’m not sure of my place on Sunday’s race, but it doesn’t really matter. I made it up the wall, felt strong and fast and had an amazing time!

I cannot wait for next year when I’ll be officially racing cross and can say that I have indeed made it full circle!

Thanks to Spin-Tech for the use of one of their baller demo Scott bikes! I cannot say enough good things about these guys….they are generous with their time and equipment and some of the nicest people you’ll meet. They go above and beyond just sponsoring the Mars Hill team, and I am eternally grateful!

Check out Cyclingdirt.org for amazing footage of the races!

Weldon Weaver Photography for awesome photos

Mountain Bike Season Wrap Up/Thank Yous

I’m not quite sure where to start…. less than a year ago when I started to consider attending Mars Hill College, the idea of being on the cycling team was just a dream, a hope that I could try something new and see what happened. Something that I would fit in between work and school. I never would have thought that six months later I’d be a Cat A, racing in the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals, or well, even be legit on a bike! It’s amazing to me, and I’ve never been happier!

Even though my placements at Nats don’t really reflect it (21 XC, 20 STXC), I felt at the top of my performance and fitness at Nats. It was really affirming to me racing against so many talented and experienced riders. I’m already looking at my goals for next year, definitely looking for top 10 placement and top of the podium for the team. I also can’t wait to add the gravity events to what I race.

This entire season has been amazing. I’ve learned so much, improved more than I thought was possible, done the hardest and most fun things in my life, and found something that I know I can be truly great at.

There are several people that I want to acknowledge for the role they’ve played in helping me get this far.

First of all, is my amazing husband, Kyle. Not only does his support and encouragement help me attend school and follow my educational/career dreams, but it also encouraged me to ride my bike, get fit, and go hard. There were many rides (ie hills) when I did not like riding and was so frustrated with my lack of fitness and abilities. Kyle would tease, encourage, and push me to go faster and harder, and now I can finally give him a run for the money on the trail!

Second, Coach Hugh Moran! His openness to an absolute noob who wanted to ride bikes is amazing! While there were a few elements that combined to make my decision to go to Mars Hill, the openness and encouragement that I found not only from Hugh but the rest of the team definitely made a huge impact. His support and direction as I started training were huge and have continued to help me get to the fitness and skills that I have now.

Next, my sister Becky! Without her suggesting that I check out her school and genuine excitement about Mars Hill, I would have definitely been attending Brevard, getting a degree that I wouldn’t be as excited about and probably not riding my bike. Thanks for sharing your insider’s knowledge and friends with me!!

Of course, huge and eternal thanks to Spin-Tech Training – O’Neill, Frank, and Jay! Thank you for taking pity on me after the first power testing and for the training sessions (which are awesomely killer btw) which have gotten me to a fitness level that I wouldn’t have otherwise have reached in such a short time. I cannot rave about Spin-Tech enough… I cannot stress how much improvement you will see if you go train with them!

Thank you to Bio-Wheels Asheville for the great deal on my awesome Jamis, and all the tune-ups that helped keep my bike race ready! She hasn’t failed me yet! They are super friendly and helpful, so go and check them out too!

Last but not least, my Mars Hill Cycling team! You are all amazing and funny. We’re definitely a special group of kids, but that makes me love us even more! And did I mention that they are all super talented? Being the youngest on the bike, I have a long way to go, but have perfect peer examples of the fitness and skills needed.

And to everyone else who has encouraged me, inspired me and believed in me, thank you! It fuels my motivation and dedication to the sport that I now call my own and has grown into a passion.

Cyclocross

It’s official. No, it’s now legitimate. I am in love with cyclocross.

Every since the first time I witnessed that excitement that is ‘cross, I’ve been in awe, amazed, reverent, inspired, and a little jealous. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to do that?”I thought to myself, but quickly dismissed the thought. No, it’s way too amazing, hardcore and challenging. Still, my love has grown through working events, the people and the culture that surrounds and exemplifies cyclocross. My dream of doing ‘cross got a little closer as I got older and more dedicated to doing the things that interest me. And then, something amazing happened. I got to join the cycling team at Mars Hill, have an external motivation, got some fitness and skills….and finally, got to race cyclocross.

It was amazing! It was everything I thought it would be and more. I felt like I was grinning almost all of the race. There were moments of course, but that’s part of the ride. There aren’t words really, but it does feel like a huge affirmation. This is something that I’ve felt I would love, and I do!

So, now to get through the rest of mountain bike season (conference this weekend, nationals at the end of the month in New Mexico!), and see what I can do with cyclocross!

Special thanks to Frank at Spin-Tech for the loaner bike! It was a dream come true to ride cross! And WNC people, go check them out for awesome training and more!