Tag Archives: kimberley turner
Kimberley, our domestic elite spokeswoman and team organizer, recaps her challenges and victories at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
A little over one week ago I finished racing in the inaugural 3-day women’s race at the US Pro Cycling Challenge, an experience I am proud to have been a part of, regardless of my own results. Almost as soon as the race finished, I had to shift my focus to the cross-country move that is now in progress (which deserves it’s own follow-up post), and so I am now finally catching my breath and reflecting on the weekend I worked so hard to prepare for. For the first time in several months, as a passenger in a rather uncomfortable truck loaded up with everything we own, I have nothing but time.
The US Pro Cycling Challenge is a high profile race that began in Colorado five years ago, but that until this year, highlighted only men. Like the thousands of cycling fans that flooded our state to see pro tour teams race, I too trekked up Lookout to add my cheers to the sufferfest, and last year I loved having the opportunity to watch the Denver finish from the NovoNordisk tent. But unlike those other fans, for me it was bittersweet. I was thrilled to see Colorado host such a high profile race, and the community support was absolutely mind-blowing to me. The fact that I had to climb a lightpole to see over the buzzing crowd at Civic Center Park highlights this. I had no idea there were so many fans of this rather obscure sport I fell in love with. But while I was simultaneously energized by the community enthusiasm, I yearned for professional women to have their own race… our own race. As the race continued to grow each year, I was cautiously optimistic that the organizers would lend their ears to the growing voices that begged the question… “But why isn’t there a women’s race?” This wasn’t just about us bike racers wanting equality, but the community wanting to see strong women who inspire and encourage their daughters, sisters, mothers. So when almost one year ago the announcement was made that the 2015 US Pro Cycling Challenge would include a 3-day professional women’s stage race, I was thrilled.
Even then, just thinking about what this race would mean, my heart skipped a beat, and I knew without a doubt I wanted to be there. Not just watching and cheering, but racing. However, given the significance of the race, and the fact that it would be a team invite-only race, I knew that obtaining a spot would be a challenge. Pro teams would be building their strongest roster, and there would be many more riders hoping to race than teams to take them on. My heart sunk with the realization that even if I focused all my training efforts on this race, much was still outside of my control. Much like the rest of bike racing, much like the rest of life. It was right about then that I realized that rather than being discouraged or abandon this dream, I could do something about it. So early this spring I decided I wanted to develop an all-Colorado composite team to race at the inaugural women’s US Pro Cycling Challenge. If I was feeling this frustration at wanting so desperately to race but not being able to, I knew other women were too. A composite team like I was envisioning wouldn’t change the world, at least not in one race, but it would provide an incredible experience for five other hard working women.
I wrote what I hoped would be a convincing proposal, sent it off to Sean Petty, and then did my best to find the right balance of demonstrating my investment, but not being annoyingly pushy. A few months later I got the invitation I’d been anxiously waiting for, and soon everything was abuzz with excitement and planning. I was introduced to Robert Carroll, a local man who was also passionate about women’s racing, and we began collaborating to make this team the best we possibly could in a relatively short amount of time. Together we selected five other riders from three other teams, and had our first team meeting the end of June, less than two months from our first race. Between then and last Sunday, we brought on several great sponsors, including Pactimo, who crafted the amazing kits for the team, Empire Nissan, who provided professionally wrapped team cars, RAD (Real Athlete Diet) food for the weekend, rock tape, and DU’s Daniels School of Business. Alison Powers, a retired racer and former national champion in all three road disciplines, volunteered her time to serve as our team’s DS. To chronicle the extent of the time and energy poured into this project, and the people who made it happen, would make for a post longer than anyone would care to read. But suffice it to say, I am humbled at the support we received and the way people rallied together to pull this thing off so successfully.
My own race results weren’t quite what I had hoped, at least partially thanks to the over 1000 ill-timed wildfires blowing smoke into our state. The smoke-laden air proved a formidable opponent to my asthma-cursed lungs, but I did the absolute best I could given the conditions. During the Loveland to Fort Collins stage, I remember being blown away by the fact that we could barely see the mountain we were about to climb. In the four years that I’ve lived in Colorado, never once have I breathed air that bad. I didn’t achieve a top ten finish, or even a top 20… but to be quite honest, to me, the race was still a success. The team wasn’t primarily about my own results, but the culmination of months of effort for a purpose beyond myself.
This race’s success was in the costumed fans lining moonstone pass, pumping their fists in their air and cheering themselves hoarse as I suffered my way to the top. It was in the two sisters who shyly came up to me as I was warming up on the trainer before my time trial, hoping I would sign the back of their t-shirts… and in the mother who asked if I’d be willing to take a picture with her small son, who’d recently been told by a friend at school that “girls don’t do sports.” I was there, along with Olympians and world champions, to prove him wrong.
In three days of racing, I experienced the perfect platform to enhance the dialogue about how great women’s cycling is and can be when we’re given an opportunity to shine. I had the opportunity to talk with the Denver Post, was unexpectedly featured on 9news as we pinned our number before the road race, and happily talked with Boulder-based Mary Topping of ProVeloPassion about our endeavor. The fact that news sources picked up this story is because I believe it’s one worth telling, regardless of our individual results. This collaborative effort to make a place for more women in professional bike races was a success, and I think it could be a great model to be repeated at other major races such as Tour of California, Tour of Utah, etc. I was talking with a friend and mechanic who was working with Mavic for the week, who confided that he was so glad that the women’s race was filled with true racing… not a “group ride with a sprint finish,” an unfortunate stereotype that many people believe characterizes women’s racing. Although originally I was disappointed that four years had to go by before adding a women’s race, I am glad the US Pro Challenge waited until they could do it right, which they absolutely did. The women’s race was a huge success on all accounts, as the photo below illustrates. As I carefully unpinned my numbers and reflected on the previous three days, I was filled with gratitude at the whole experience, and the familiar hunger for more. I folded those paper squares, and placed them in my “numbers from favorite races” box… a favorite race indeed. And with that, my 2015 bike racing season is a wrap!
Kimberley not only races professionally full-time, she’s working full-time too. So you have to get in training where you can. So she’s commuting as a part of her training. Read more!
About four months ago I entered into the previously foreign world of bike commuting. I had accepted a full-time research assistant position working on an SAMHSA-funded integrated care grant at Aurora Mental Health Center, and a primary consideration was how to maintain the level of training required to continue to race at a high level. I didn’t make this decision lightly — it was more agonizing than you can imagine, despite being what would still be classified as a first world problem. After lengthy discussions with my coach, and asking one of the more unique pre-hire questions my future supervisor had ever heard (“…but is there a shower?”), I accepted the position.
In doing so, I moved away from a fairly flexible, purposefully-pieced-together, part-time job which had accommodated a high-volume training schedule while still leaving me enough time to foam roll and watch an episode of Orange is the New Black before leaving for work. I look back on those days the way working athletes with children must look at me — with a bit of nostalgia, envy, and the wistful whisper of “she has no idea how good she really has it.” I remember when that life felt jam-packed!
The biggest challenge of this chosen transition lies in the fact that despite taking a full-time, “real adult” job, I fully intended to continue to train and race at an elite level. Which brings me back to bike commuting. I work close to 20 miles from my house, which, at the times I’d be traveling, would be either a horrendous 50 minute drive, or ~70 minute ride. For me, the choice was clear. I might as well have asked myself, “would you rather sit in a car and waste close to two hours a day and come home angry, or be on a bike for those same hours getting your base miles, and skip the car ride?” No question. I was lucky to find a fairly straightforward route, and even luckier that the answer to my odd pre-hire question was a confused “yes.”
In the weeks leading up to my transition, I contacted to friends who I knew rode their bikes to work, and began to research cycling backpacks, panniers, and other commuting essentials. Like most other domains of my life, I was approaching this whole bike commuting endeavor with the attitude of “If I’m going to do this, I need to do it RIGHT.” We’ll save the discussion on whether or not that’s a healthy life strategy for another blog post 😉
Three weeks later and a few hundred dollars poorer, I was ready. I had my cross bike repaired after cracking the frame in my first (and last) cross race of last season and turned it into a bonafide commuter, complete with fenders, a rack, and an annoying little bell for even more annoying hipsters I might encounter along the way. I bought a pretty great chrome backpack for nice days when I would ride my road bike in. I ordered ortlieb panniers so one or two days a week I could pack it full of food and clothes for the other days, so I didn’t have to carry as much. And a college friend who designed an awesome new line of high-visibility bike lights called Orfos (http://www.orfos.bike) sent me a demo pair for me to try out, in anticipation of the dusk ride home. (Full review on those coming soon).
I was all in, and strangely excited to step into this new world. In a way, it felt similar to those biologists who dedicate themselves to observing the habits of some elusive species, following them, learning about their dynamics and behavior, and then somehow, at some point, the researcher finds himself feeling at home in their world. But I didn’t feel at all at home stepping into my new found role of “bike commuter”. Despite the thousands of miles I’ve ridden, this was foreign. I was out of my element. You might point out that the bike is paramount to both bike racers and bike commuters. And yet in spite of this shared mode of locomotion, there are fundamental differences between these two species, an assertion I feel confident most racers and commuters would support.
Now almost four months later, I have been accepted into the commuter tribe. There’s something communal and warm about seeing the same people almost every day as we make our way to wherever we all go. People I feel like I’m starting to know but have never talked to. Some are going the same direction, and we pull up to the same stop light around ~7:45 each morning. Others I pass on the trail, with a curt head nod, or friendly wave. Like the woman whose bike is so heavily loaded with packs I first thought she must be riding across the country, but after seeing her every morning and evenings for months, have come to infer she must actually need that much stuff every single day. Or the man who pulls a cart behind his bike, carrying an aging rottweiler curled up in a bed. Then there’s the youthful mom, who rides with a small backpack and glances back every few pedal strokes at her son furiously spinning his legs behind on his pint-sized piccolo. These people, and more, are becoming endearing.
The balance has been tough, don’t get me wrong. After my commute home, I drop my bag or switch bikes and am back out for another hour or two of intervals or steady riding. I get home, shower off, eat dinner, and pull out my Trigger Point kit while we watch an episode of True Detective. Almost every night I am in bed by 9:30. Getting in bed this early is a more difficult task than I expected, but experience has taught me that insufficient sleep makes everything harder, and turns minor challenges into insurmountable obstacles. I now deeply regret those days of childhood when I refused to take my naps, and instead sneaked out the window to play outside instead, so proud of evading something I now see as an indulgence.
I would be the first to say this is not an ideal schedule for someone pursuing high-level racing goals. But it’s what I have, and every day I do the best I can. When all is said and done, the fact that I get to ride and race my bike makes me pretty darn lucky, and I never want to forget that. The sacrifice, meticulous planning, and balance required are tough, but racing my bike is glorious and strangely restorative. I do not make that statement naively. I know crashes and illness and injury, broken bones and broken dreams. But there’s a reason I keep coming back. When I am racing I feel free. My soul is happy. My heart is light. And that makes everything that it took to get there worthwhile.
I have found a certain sense of serenity in choosing not to allow one or even a few things to define who I am at my core. I race my bike, and want to keep doing it at a higher and higher level, but my identity should never be solely tied to being a bike racer. I love training hard and pushing my body to new levels, but a Sunday ride to ice cream is not without merit. Sometimes it’s ok to release a bit of self-imposed pressure and trust the journey. Something you take a chance on something that feels scary and uncertain. And sometimes you enter into a new world and find yourself feeling more and more charmed by the people who inhabit it.
Kim snags the top step in the CSU Oval Criterium! Read more on how riding a little less may have helped her ride to victory!
This Sunday I drove up to Fort Collins to race the CSU Oval Criterium. Although I had the opportunity to race twice in Arizona for the early season VOS and TBC races, this would be my first Colorado Race. As I was driving up, I made the decision that I wanted to start it off well, with exciting and aggressive racing, risk taking, trusting my training, and mental fortitude. I told Marcus, “I think I can win this race!” This goal was immediately threatened by a bit of unexpected traffic due to multiple accidents, adding a solid 30 minutes to what is typically an hour drive. I had even planned what I thought would plenty of margin for the drive. I began to feel a bit frazzled, compulsively glancing at the clock, as one by one, the minutes remaining before my race start elapsed. I took a breath… this entire year has been a lesson in controlling the controllables, and breathing deep and finding calm in the many variables that are outside my grasp. For anyone who thinks bike racing has no relevance to “real life”, you are mistaken. Bike racing has taught me invaluable lessons about planning well but taking the inevitable surprises in stride, in a way that has served me well far beyond the race course.
We arrived at the CSU campus 45 minutes before my start time, and Marcus dropped me off as close as he could get to race registration before finding a parking spot. Thankfully I’ve now developed quite a streamlined routine, so although 45 minutes from car to start line is far from ideal, it’s not impossible. Registration completed, bibs/jersey/shoes/helmet/sunglasses on and beet juice drinken (why Marcus, equally fluent in the pre-race checklist, pumped my tires and put chain lube on), and I still had 15 minutes to spin around before the start. I returned to my previously set goal, before the traffic and rushed preparation and premature adrenaline rush. Despite all those, I wanted to win this race, and there was no reason why I shouldn’t. One of my biggest challenges in racing has been learning to take risks and push beyond my comfort zone. Trusting that the training I’ve done is enough, and my legs can handle the load. So I decided that today, there would be no giving up. I would allow my body to get to a new level. Far too many people are held back by the fear of what they may not do that they never find out what they can do. I resolved that I would rather fail because I’d exceeded my limit then finish having not even attempted to reach it.
From the first lap I raced aggressively, driving pace, attacking, chasing, counter-attacking. I was in a glorious place of mental clarity, purpose and determination. I timed my moves well, and trusted my training. As the race went on, the field was slowly whittled down, with several riders losing contact with the group, and several more just hanging on the tail end. With five laps to go I was still feeling strong, and began to put myself in position for the finish. I marked two of the other riders, who I judged as among the strongest, and patiently waited, as the familiar cat and mouse interactions unfolded. With one lap to go, one rider went, attacking hard off the front, but my marked riders didn’t jump, and neither did I. We kept the pace steady, and I made sure to stay near the front. In too many races, I’ve been forced to let off the throttle in my finish as I tried to move around riders who’d run out of gas before the line, and I wanted to finish this race knowing that I had given it all. We were closing the gap between the lone rider ahead, and caught her with less than 500 meters before the finish. I began my sprint earlier than I typically do, before the final bend of the oval that the course is named for, and didn’t look back.
In this moment of temporary pain, as I kept my eyes just beyond the finish line, I took my first win of not only this season, but of the last two. My entire being felt a rush of something I can only describe as gratitude, pride, resolution, and acceptance all rolled into one soul-warming experience. It was almost as if in this win, some of the broken pieces were coming back together. This year has been the most challenging one I’ve had in quite a while. A broken neck, sub-par race results, personal and professional challenges and changes, and set-back after set-back left me wondering if everything I was doing was in vain. Despite my best attempts, some of these circumstances and additional time commitments impacted my training, and my volume was slightly lower than it has been in previous years. I questioned whether I would have built enough base or be in form by race season, but I knew I could only do my best, which I had. After the race I jokingly said to my husband, “I guess not riding as much this year served me well!” He gently smiled, and replied, “I think adversity serves you well.” Although the circumstances of this year are far from what I have chosen, I have done my best to take them in stride and become a stronger person. I have been learning that measuring effort solely by outcome will sooner or later leave you feeling uncertain and discouraged. Hard work, integrity, and endurance in the face of trial is never in vain. It may take longer to see why or how, but it will come. This past Sunday I got a small taste of that delicious fruit that comes from never giving up.
Naked Women’s Racing has a mission to grow the sport of women’s cycling from the ground up – through support of new racers in our various programs – and now at the top of the ranks too as we embark on our domestic elite status for 2015. Are you a Cat 1/2 female cyclist who is concerned with growing the sport too? Perhaps you can guest ride with us! Read more from our NRC/NCC veteran, Kim Johnson.
Although I am only 26 years old and wouldn’t consider myself even close to being a veteran in the sport, I’ve raced at the elite level for long enough to see a trend emerge. Every fall, social media is abuzz with the latest news about who is joining what team, which team is folding, new sponsors stepping up to support a women’s team, etc, and then usually late in the fall official rosters are posted. There seems to be a flaw in the system, and one that hinders the growth of high-level women’s racing (but a flaw, I will also note, that does not have an easy solution). The addition of new teams is excellent, but over the past few years, they have tended to replace teams that folded. So instead of a new sponsor bringing up a fresh group of talent to join the mix, riders seem to shuffle, in a musical-chairs type interchange based on what vacancies are available. As a rider who has worked incredibly hard over the past few years to make the jump to the next level, those spots seem to be painfully few.
I have hope that that can change. Despite my personal setback (a fractured C2 the day after Gila, which relegated the majority of my season to “brisk walking” in a neck brace), I saw stirrings in the world of professional cycling. More and more women rising up to call out inequality as they saw it and question the rationale of missed opportunities simply because of a second x chromosome. Momentum continued to build in women’s cycling; for the first since the 1980’s, women had a stage at the Tour de France, and by the end of the season, 3 major US Stage Races (the Tour of California, Tour of Utah, and US Pro Challenge) had committed to giving women several stages of their own in 2015.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to race at numerous professional level races throughout the US, and am incredibly thankful for Naked Women’s Racing’s support of my endeavors and the opportunities I have had to guest ride. At the same time, the logistical chaos and meticulous planning that it’s taken to get to these races have highlighted a challenge in women’s cycling that many of us know all too well: there are more talented, qualified riders than there are teams to support us. This year a new layer was added, when a large number of races were given UCI status, making them officially team-only events. In laymen’s terms, this means that in order to race at the Tour of the Gila, for example, a rider would need to be a registered member of a UCI or domestic elite team. Before this change, it was challenging to be a solo rider doing her best to stay in contention in a race dominated by team tactics and the UHC Blue Train, now it would be impossible to even show up at the start line.
I spent a few days in a state of inner turmoil, contemplating my upcoming season and my goals, and discussing this dilemma with my ever-supportive husband. On one hand, I could re-adjust my goals and expectations, plan a few regional stage races, but focus more on local races and maybe a few NCC criteriums here and there. That way, I would plan for what I knew I could do. On the other hand, I could target “dream big” races like the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour of the Gila, and do everything in my power to secure a guest riding position, while accepting I may not be able to go. The idea that I could be training so incredibly hard for something that was completely out of my power to accomplish was heartbreaking, but the thought of letting go of a goal simply because of unknown was unacceptable.
A few nights later I lay in bed, far more alert than I ever want to be at midnight, and was struck by a thought. If you want to go, and it’s team only, make the team, and go! I pushed it out of my brain space of realistic options — never trust any seemingly brilliant solutions you come up with after midnight — but the next morning it was still there. The deep desire to race at my target events was what catalyzed my midnight problem solving session, but the realization that this could move beyond myself was what kept in there in the morning. Just as I’ve poured out blood, sweat, and tears just trying to get to races, so have many other talented, hardworking women. Cycling is as brutal a sport as it is glorious, and it can be easy to feel defeated or like luck is always against you. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve seen my scars and asked casually if I should “probably just quit cycling?” But the reality is, far more cyclists ride waves of ups and downs than a fairytale-like rise to professional status. Evelyn Stevens is a lovely individual — but her tantalizing story is a rare one. I’m not here to whine — there’s plenty of that, and it does no good. Rather, I am trying to provide context to what Naked Women’s Racing is gearing up to do this year. One low-budget domestic elite team will not solve the problems that women’s cycling is facing, but it will provide a logistical way for 4-8 more women to show up at the start line than currently can.
I proposed this nascent idea to the leading ladies of Naked Women’s Racing, and they were on board! Over the next few weeks, we will be slogging through the paperwork that is required, and by the end of March we will appear on USA cycling’s list of Domestic Elite Teams. I am incredibly excited to see what will come of this step, and we are proud to be able to open up an opportunity for more qualified women to race at a National level. In addition to the category 1/2 riders already on the team, we are hoping to extend an guest-riding invitation to regional riders who would like to target NRC and NCC races. Please contact us if you would like to be considered, and stay tuned for updates!
Kimberley has had some ample time off the bike due to suffering a broken neck but she’s back on the bike! We couldn’t be more thrilled! In the meantime, you can read about her progression on her blog from Gila, to injury, to back in business!
Kimberley had a great start to the 2014 racing season due to her hard work over the winter. We think the rest of the year will be very similar for her! Read about her first race of the season, Valley of the Sun.
While I fully intended to post throughout the fall and winter, chronicling the ups and downs of winter training, that just did not happen. Between taking on a new position in one of the three jobs I juggle, putting in ungodly hours on the trainer each week due to the bipolar weather tendencies of Colorado, and trying to stick to my new years resolution of keeping …READ MORE ON HER BLOG
Kim shares her season wrap up, finishing strong and prepping for a fun off-season.
After over a month of blogging silence, I’ve decided to share a bit about my season wrap-up. I finished Cascade (my last posted race report) definitely bummed; I had wanted so badly for it to provide me with some solid results for my race resume, and instead it did the exact opposite. Read the rest on Kim’s blog.
We had two ladies, Maria and Kimberley, representing at Cascade last week. With a prologue and 5 grueling stages, this Pro race is no joke. To make the time cut is a small victory among the 100+ professional women who show up. While we wait on Maria’s report, catch up with Kimberley.
Though this season has not been great for avoiding crashes that come with racing NRC races with Kimberley, she has never quit and shows grit when pushing through the pain of the crash. Read more here.
Kimberley, though one of our youngest, shares her vast knowledge of cycling experiences. She’s wise beyond her years! Read if you want to learn how to become a better racer!
After a somewhat strange spring, I am finally allowing myself to hope that the days of spending hours on the trainer might just be a thing of the past! (at least until next year…). During the month of April, nearly every week we had snowstorms that made it impossible to ride outside, first because of the actual storm in progress, and then, for the remainder of the week, the accumulation that refused to melt. Right when it did melt and showed promise of an outdoor training ride, the pattern would repeat itself. And this happened for 4 weeks straight!
Let me say that, living in Colorado, trainer time is both expected and accepted… during the months of November through March, I will likely put in more hours on my trainer than the road, but April?! It was a month where I had to dig up a little extra mental strength and focus to stay motivated, partly because at this point, I was going on five months of trainer time, and also because with my bigger, target races coming up, this was no time for shortened training sessions (my coach usually has my cut my time down by about 1/3 when I have to do them on the trainer… thus a 4 hour ride becomes 3… which still seems likely an impossibly long time to ride in one place).
Now that I’ve done a little retrospective ranting, I’m pleased to say that I’ve been riding outdoors since returning from my race at Gila. After a few days completely off the bike to give my body a boost in the healing process, I got right back on track with my new training plan. This month is all about maintaining my form through Nationals, doing some longer rides to keep the endurance and some shorter, harder workouts to keep the speed and the strength — but not so much that it puts me into a state of over-training.
A well-respected racer once told me that she did much better “off the couch” (under-trained) than she did over-trained. This is not to say that it’s best not to train, but rather illustrates the importance of finding balance as an athlete. The majority of athletes (myself included), especially endurance athletes, have a greater proclivity to doing more not less. For me, the value in having a coach is just as much to tell me when to rest as when and how to train. The planning my coach and I did to put me in my peak condition for Gila ended up being timed near perfectly, and so now the difficulty is in maintaining that. Typically, a true peak can last only about two weeks, which is why it’s important for racers to identify key target races. Very few people can win elite-level races all year long, but it is possible to do reasonably well all season, and very well at select, carefully placed races (unless, of course, you are a superhuman species, of which there are a few in the peleton).
Now that I’ve gotten slightly off topic discussing my current training, I will return to what I originally intended to write about: lessons learned from winter training. I know you may be thinking, “umm… this is a little late. It’s beautiful out, and I’ve relegated my trainer to only pre-race warm-up purposes.” I wholeheartedly share your excitement for trainer-less training, but if any of these five nuggets ring true for you, tuck them away for next winter
1. Mental state is huge. If you approach the trainer like an enemy to be reckoned with, every minute will be excruciating, and a three hour base ride nearly impossible. Instead, find a way to make peace with it and accept the hours you will spend on the trainer or rollers, and the experience will be much more pleasant (note: I say “much more pleasant”… not completely euphoric and joy-filled… I have to be realistic here!)
2. Trainer time is a perfect excuse to watch the kind of shows you can’t justify watching otherwise. I, with only minimal shame, will admit to you that this winter, I went through all 8 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (I somehow missed the craze as a teenage girl, but don’t worry, Meredith and McDreamy still managed to find their way into my adult life), 4 seasons of Gossip Girl (similar story here), and several other random shows I started but didn’t find catchy enough. This is a time to indulge in shows with minimal to no redeeming value… because, hey, the redeeming value is coming from the work you’re doing on the bike, yes? The more brain power I have to use absorbing a show, the less energy is available for my workout. I realize this logic may be fundamentally flawed, so, feel free to watch Ted Talks if you prefer.
3. This one parallels #1. The toughest months, in my opinion, are December through mid-March. For me, this is because I usually take the month of September or October (whenever my racing finishes) off the bike, and do other fun, active things as a kind of physical and mental “reset.” So, when I do start riding again, it’s because I’m really missing my bike and am excited to ride again. This unadulterated excitement typically lasts through December before some rides start to become tedious, and some mornings I feel tired and would rather read a book on the couch than slop through the snow to my “training shed” (Marcus insists it’s a training studio, to try to make me feel more hard-core… it’s a shed). It’s far enough from both the post-season rest month and the first race that it can be hard to stay motivated. But this is the time that it’s most important to refocus, recenter, and push through the fatigue or boredom. I once read a cheesy ad in a bicycling magazine that said “races are won in the off season,” and although I can’t remember what they were trying to get me to buy, the phrase stuck in my head.
By the middle of March, the excitement of upcoming races starts to build, and I see each training session as a chance to prepare for the season. I picture myself attacking, chasing, bridging… there is purpose that will be seen in a relatively short amount of time. My point here is this: if it is past March (which is now is) the hardest part is done. And, in the future, when you find yourself in that few-month period where focus and motivation can wane, you at least have the knowledge that it is not forever. Knowing that hard times are inevitable can actually help them to be more bearable (and this is true not just in cycling, but life…but that’s its own post). If December rolls around and I wake up not wanting to ride, and I had expected and accepted that kind of inevitable dip, I can move past it and do what I need to do despite not loving that one ride. In contrast, if this lack of passion for the sport I love hits me as a complete surprise, I am at risk of internalizing it as some fundamental character flaw: “I must not be a very good athlete”… “What if I NEVER want to ride? How can I do this 6 days a week for months and months?!”… “I’m going to have a horrible race season… I don’t want to train today, and it’s only December!” My point is, that this negativity is avoided when I accept occasional lack of motivation as a normal part of any athlete’s life, and can use it as an opportunity for developing mental strength.
4. For those rare winter rides that can be done outside (minimal to no snow on the ground, but most likely still bitter cold), don’t underestimate the power of winter gloves (or the misery that the lack of them can bring). I can say that during winter riding, I have never said, “man, I really wish I would have had thinner gloves!” but I have, on multiple occasions, ended up struggling to ride with painfully numb fingers that refuse to shift. In the same way, clothing choice can make or break a winter ride. I know it’s a hassle to have to carry more clothes than you might need for the entire ride, and especially in Colorado, the weather can be hard to predict. But, unless you have someone at your disposal to pick you up in a warm car at any point during your training ride, I’d suggest bringing more than less.
Being cold has a strange way of turning an independent, logical and intelligent person into an irrational, miserable, whimpering primal creature who’s actually wondering if she will die here on this mountain (I say “she” because that primal creature has been yours truly several times in my riding “career”). Even if you’re an experienced rider, it can be hard to predict what level of clothing will keep you comfortable during your ride. One thing that I started doing was keeping a “clothing log” as part of my training journal, where I’d write what I wore, what the temperature was throughout the ride (including any inclement weather I faced) and how comfortable I was. This way, on those days where I still go back and forth on whether to bring the heavy or light booties, I can look back and remind myself what has worked well (or not so well) in the past under similar conditions.
5. Although winter, for me, is not an “off season,” I still see it as a time where I strive to add balance to my life, both on and off the bike. This is another aspect that helps stave of the physical and mental “burnout” (both acute and chronic) that can inevitably come up during your life as a bike racer. Since graduating from college, I’ve realized how much I miss using my brain on a regular basis. I don’t have anything specific to study for, I’m not doing research and writing papers, and as silly as this may sound (especially if you are one who currently finds yourself in the trenches of college or grad school), I miss that. I am constantly exercising my physical body, pushing it to its limit, but my mind is so often fighting off boredom. So, during the winter, I consciously add “balance,” both physical and mental. This past winter, this came in the form of: yoga, knitting, nordic skiing, cooking and baking (I got really excited about homemade raw bars, juicing, etc), practicing my violin which I previously hadn’t picked up in months, reading books in Spanish, studying for my GRE, and tutoring a few hours a week for both extra money and to keep myself sharp. My point here is that if ALL your life consists of is bike racing, sooner or later you’ll hit a breaking point. I’ve learned that for me, whether I’m at a place in my life where I can train 20 hours a week or 8 hours a week, balance is crucial, and without it, everything falls apart.
So, with that semi-coherent rambling, I give you five tips for winter training success. But for now, it’s beautiful outside, so enjoy the sun!
Kimberley finished one of the toughest and hilliest races around, Tour of the Gila, with the Pros (guest riding for our friends I AM THE ENGINE). Despite getting tangled up in a crash on the second day, leaving bone exposed, she finished all the stages and in a better time than the year prior. Read about all 5 days of racing on her blog: