Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Happenings

Wow - over a month since my last post. That's got to be a record. To say I've been busy would be  obvious - who isn't? Warm temps, sunny sky, lots of outdoor adventures to be had. And as the world keeps spinning madly on, I'm frequently reminded that each day is an opportunity to live it to the fullest.

My mantra is building steam - surround yourself with passionate, authentic, real people who love to live and live to love. Life is too short to not be chasing your dreams and laughing and sharing that experience with those you love. It's why we are here, isn't it? I like to think so.

And now - some photos that capture what's been happening this summer....
Moonli the amazing office helper.

Haystack Mountain. As in Haystack Goat Cheese from Longmont, CO. YUM! This is about 3 miles from my house. Notice the wide shoulders and open fields? Boulder County is full of them. AMAZING.

Benjamin reading a Monarch Crest map and deciphering the code. Sitting at about 11,400 feet.

Buddies chilling out during the Monarch Crest Epic ride.

Such a great day with friends! Andy, Mike, Therese, Benjamin, Yours Truly, and Becky. Thanks to Mark for taking the photo!

Coached at the USA Cycling Women's Talent ID. Watch out world - these ladies are coming for you!


Coryn and I head banging for Ivy. There's more to the story - all you have to do is ask.


Dead Prairie Dog. Part of living is dying. Make sure you live your life to the fullest!

Summer camps kicked off with the USA Cycling Boulder Mountain Bike Talent ID. These 14-22 year old rode circles around me! This was the only opportunity I had to get them in one shot standing still on top of Flagstaff Mountain.

Next up: Seattle for the Marymoor Gran Prix, Master Track Nationals and Wedding Planning!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Letting go.

The sound of a collision brought my attention upward as I was pedaling my bike on the infield at the velodrome. Two riders went down. One slide down with his bike. The other hit headfirst and his body went limp as he tumbled down the track like a rag doll, stopping between corners three and four. I stopped my bike immediately and jumped the waist high infield railing hurrying to see if there was anything I could do. His body twitched as the last signs of life pulsed through his body. His face turned blue and a medic was on the scene immediately, trying to get some sort of response out of him.

His teenage daughter who had been racing with him in a field of 30 competitors was still on her bike, circled by where he lay limp, and started screaming. She slowly rolled by, nearly crashing as she looked at her lifeless dad.

Minutes passed. I tended to the other injured rider. I still had hope. We all had hoped. Come on Vic, move! We want you here. Your family needs you. We all need you. Please don’t go.

The medics had tried resuscitating him for nearly an hour. They huddled around him, taking turns doing chest compressions and using the defibrillator. A local emergency team showed up with fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars – all trained professionals well versed in what to do when something goes wrong.

But he was gone.

In the next hour I went numb. The race had stopped immediately and everyone went to the infield. Everyone sat there, speaking in hushed tones not knowing what should happen next as the medics continued to try and bring him back to life.

My mind reasoned that this was different then when Ryan died, yet it wasn’t. When someone finally told his daughter that he was gone, her primal sobs brought back the longing and despair that I felt when I first heard the news in the police precinct.

“No, no, no, no!” She cried as she rocked back and forth in the middle of the infield in her mother’s arms.

The ground gave way beneath her and I wanted to hold her up, wanted to rock back and forth with her as her new reality settled in. I wanted to tell her uncomprehending mind that time will heal. That it will get easier. That grief is a gift.

Instead I stood there in silence acutely aware I witnessed another tragic death. Except Vic was only an acquaintance to me. I didn’t know him well other than earlier in the night we had raced along side one another. What impacted me more was hearing his daughter scream and knowing what she felt. That she has a long road in front of her.

I bargained that at least his daughter and wife were there in his final moments, but that doesn’t make it easier. If I had been there when Ryan died, would I have done anything differently? Part of living is dying. We all have a choice on how to let that ultimate reality dictate what we do with the remaining hours, days, months, and years we have left.

An hour later I packed up my things and headed to my car. I was one of the first to leave but had the furthest to drive. I sat in silence for the majority of the two-hour drive home. I took stock of my life: Am I doing exactly what I want to be doing? Yes. Am I settling in any way? No. If I were to die today, was today a good day? Absolutely. Is there anything I would do differently? Get this damn book out there. Do those I love know it? Yes.


Her sobs echoed in my head that night, a reminder that she’s the type of person I want to help. That despite how hard life can be, it is worth living and that an incredible amount of growth and strength blossoms out of grief. The beauty of loving someone is being able to let go and know they’ll be in your heart forever.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Living in the Boulder Bubble.

Oh man, oh man! Not a lot of blogging going on lately. Not a lot of writing, either! Sheesh!

But we moved to Boulder and closed on two houses within a week. Been racing a bunch, packing and unpacking boxes, getting plugged into a new community, working some USAC talent ID camps and enjoying summer living.

The riding here is amazing. Five minutes from the new pad takes you onto wide shouldered country roads, meandering through the rolling hills that are green from the afternoon thundershowers that come marching in like clockwork. The grocery store rivals Seattle's (FINALLY!) and there's a Trader Joe's in town.

"The only thing that would make this place even better was if there was a blueberry farm," I mentioned to Benjamin on our first ride as residents and taking in the scenery that reminds me of the Northwest.

The next day while riding to a crit (HECK YES! No more 2+ hour drives to the bubble to race!) I noticed a U-Pick blueberry farm less than 5k from the house! BOOM!!!

Yep, paradise. Now I know why no one travels outside of the bubble - you don't need to!

Monday, May 05, 2014

A drop in the bucket.

I can't believe it's here. I'm nearing the end of my book. I just wrote the final chapter with the biggest takeaway message I could muster: urging people to live their lives without settling, by following your dreams and not conforming to the status quo. To risk to love. To leap. To play.

What a process and journey it's been to write my memoir. I hope you all enjoy it. I hope you take the messages I've intertwined throughout my story and apply it to your life. I hope in doing so it brings you happiness, acceptance and peace.

Wow, what a ride. It's been three years in the making. More if you count the back story. And I wouldn't speed it up or slow it down for anything. What a gift.

What's on your bucket list? DO IT.


Thursday, May 01, 2014

Acceptance

Acceptance.

It's something I always strive for. A place in my heart, mind and soul that feels calm, peaceful and is full of gratitude.

Acceptance.

It can apply to things big and small, hardships and good times.

Acceptance.

When do you know you've reached it? I think it's when you can look back and go Holy Shit! What a ride. 

Acceptance.

When you can say, I wouldn't change that experience for anything. The experience becomes a part of who you are: wiser, tougher, smarter, stronger, happier for it. 

I'm writing one of my last chapters on acceptance of Ryan's death. There wasn't a specific day I woke up knowing I would be okay, it was a culmination of multiple events. Thank you to all of my friends, family, dogs and events that helped me create a little more acceptance every day. I am so grateful for each of you. Thank you.



Next up: CELEBRATION!!!!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Out of body experiences...

That's strange, I thought to myself. I tried getting ahold of Benjamin via FaceTime multiple times that evening. It was his day off from commuting up to Boulder and I figured he must be out riding or something.

I tried him again. This time the call failed.

Give me 15 minutes, he texted.

I was sitting in the lobby and figured my crappy connection in Mexico was the culprit. Dave and Ali sat across from me and we started talking about the day. I was getting tired and ready to go to bed, but wanted to make sure I connected with Benjamin since we hadn't spoken all day. I also didn't have an Internet connection in my room.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a red sweat shirt wearing person walk down the hall. I do a double take.

"Hey there," Benjamin says.

"No way!" I respond, jumping up from the couch and enveloping him in a hug. He got got me. Like I got him in London.

"Hi baby. Did you get got?" he said, kissing me on the lips. "I wouldn't miss this."

It was the night before competition for the ParaCycling track world championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico. His presence instantly soothed me. The week leading up to the race had gone relatively smooth but his presence meant complete support no matter what happened out on the track. No disappointing looks, no "woulda, shoulda, coulda's"- absolutely positive vibes and a booming, encouraging voice willing my legs to push harder and faster.

He booked a flight, arranged a dog sitter, got a hotel room at the hotel we were staying at and brought his bike for transportation between the hotel and the track without me having a clue. I suppose having been to Aguas at least 5 times prior helped - he knows the lay of the land and the hotel staff all know him by name.

On race day I saw him enter the track bleachers while Karissa and I were doing our warm up. It must have felt strange to not be on the infield. His previous profession was built around infield coaching. For the first time in seven years he came as a spectator.

"You could have Ben read your splits if you like," Ian the high performance director said to me about 15 minutes before we were ready to start the 3km pursuit.

"That's okay. I'll have Andy do it. But when we make the final, I'd like that a lot," I replied, wiping the sweat from my brow. The velodrome was hotter than hot. It's an indoor 250 with an inflated doom roof. Air is pumped in from outside and coupled with the lights, people and reflection of the sun, it heats up to 110 degrees by 1pm. Our seigneur doused us with cold, wet sponges that dried within minutes of skin contact.

"It's time girls," Mike the assistant coach tells us. We're dressed in team USA skin suits, aero helmets and cycling shoes.

I walk across the infield, with Karissa following me. We're about to go as hard as possible for roughly 3.5 minutes. The Tiemeyer track tandem with double disks is perched in the starting gate. We walk around and straddle the bike, clipping in and preparing for an explosive start.

I can feel Benjamin. I know he's there and I don't have to look at him. I'm focused on the effort at hand. Visualizing for the final time a perfect start, sensing the pain and detaching from it.

The countdown timer starts with a beep. 15 seconds. Beep. 10 seconds. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, BEEP! Off we go, my nerves aroused as we round the first two corners. We pump our legs harder, faster, settling into a fast tempo and getting the bike up to speed as quickly as possible. We settle into our saddles, and I extend through the aero bars. Andy yells our splits, which gives us immediate feedback for how hard or how slightly easier we should go.

The laps tick by. Our swift start has us struggling toward the end. We start to fade with 1km to go. I'm battling inner demons, pushing through the pain and narrowing in on the tunnel vision of staying glued to the pursuit line as much as possible. We're losing ground. The Kiwi's catch us, which momentarily makes me loose focus. We push. We pull. We cross the finish line.

We spin around the track a few times as I try gulping air, try getting some blood back into my brain. I pull over and Karissa jumps off the bike quickly. I collapse on the top tube. Rick, another coach, catches me as I'm about to fall over. I can't lift my leg over the handle bars. I'm spent. I gave it everything. We finished with a 3:35, 13 seconds faster than our time in LA. One second faster than Karissa's 10 year standing national record. I try walking down the ramp and can't. I grasp a hand rail. I don't know where Karissa went. So I sit down, unable to muster up the energy to walk across the infield. I can't catch my breath.

I had given it everything.

Ian walks over and checks on me.

"I'm sorry, I tried as hard as I could," I wheeze, leaning forward and ready to retch.

"Don't apologize. Giving it everything you have is all we ask," he responds.

"I wish she wanted it as bad as I do," I whisper, looking up as I start a coughing fit.

After twenty minutes, I walk back to the pit accompanied by a mechanic who holds my arm. Karissa is there, changing back into her street clothes. Benjamin calls to me from the railing and asks if I'm okay. I give him the thumbs up. Yes, I'm more than okay. I just gave a ride at the world championships everything I had. And though the result didn't stand a chance compared to the Kiwi's, it was a remarkable improvement for us. But we have a long, long way to go.

I start coughing again. I can't quite catch my breath and feel like I might puke, sneeze, cough and shit all at once. My body is shutting down. I'm delirious.

"Karissa, do you want to cool down?" I muster.

"I already did," she responds. Was I gone that long?

I clamber onto the bike and can't quite make out what people are saying to me. I'm floating between consciousness and blacking out. I did it. I pushed my body to the limit and didn't die. And as crazy as it sounds, I can't wait to do it again.

I can't wait to do it again.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Happenings

Life takes interesting twists and turns. Six years ago, my world was rocked. Three years ago, I met Benjamin. Two and a half years ago, I moved to Colorado. In 2012, I spent a month in Mallorca, Spain, had our house near the wildfire evacuation zone, and surprised Ben in London for the games. Last year I started tandem racing on the ParaCycling team and this year I'm headed to Mexico for my second world championship aimed to guide Karissa to some rainbow stripes. And in the next few months, we're relocating up to Boulder. Oh and we're getting married!

Needless to say, things have been busy around here. I've been working on my memoir daily with my June due date coming quick. Ben quit working at USA Cycling and now works at Stages Power Meters. Moonli and Makiah are happy and silly.  Things are good, really, really good.

video


Earlier this week the team headed up to LA for some track training on the velodrome. We've been stationed in the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and making trips up north to get in some quality training before our big competition next week. I called Gary, Ryan's dad, and let him know our training times and hoped to meet up. I love to keep in touch with him and make an effort to see him and his wife Anita every time I'm in town.

"You sure didn't take the traditional path in life," Anita commented at dinner. Her eyes were wide, portraying what I registered as fear. "I could never not have a steady job or paycheck. Yet, Jen, I got to hand it to you. You make it work."

"I'm not sure how," I admitted. Her fear triggered my own. How am I making this work?

"You're doing it right, girl," Gary championed. He is always supportive. He shakes his head in wonderment at me a lot, but it's nonjudgemental and makes me giggle when I think about how crazy most of the shit is that I do.

I admit, it's tempting to quit everything and get a real job. Climbing a corporate ladder would satisfy my competitive itch. But I know as soon as I do, I would find myself unhappy in a matter of weeks. I need constant movement, constant pressure of improving as a person and an athlete. As nice as a steady paycheck sounds, the idea of regular office hours and the same type of work sounds absolutely boring. Bring on the unknown. Bring on the adventure. I'm all about the journey.

And you know what? When you are open to a journey that takes twists and turns and you accept things for what they are and make the most of them, big and exciting things happen.

Make it work. That's all you have to do. Don't settle for mediocracy. Take life by the horns, choose what you want to do and follow your dreams with reckless abandon.  You never know if it's going to lead to Aguascalientes, Mexico for a ParaCycling Track World Championship.