Friday, January 27, 2017

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 race season wrap up-TAKE TWO and Happy New Year!

This post should be labeled Happy Holidays and while I wish everyone a very Happy Holiday season,  my 2016 race reporting is (surprisingly) not done yet!

Shannon and I made the last minute decision to bookend 2016 with another stage Cuba!

New race season stats:  1100+ miles and 100+ hours of racing.  Holy crap! 

We learned about the Titan Tropic at Interbike in September.  Titan Tropic is a second year event and this year would be the first year Americans were competing.  Who could pass up an opportunity to race bikes in Cuba?  Not us!

Coordinating and preparing for an International stage race on such short notice was a bit challenging, however every opportunity to travel and compete in events like this feels like an opportunity of a lifetime.  I was incredibly grateful to be traveling to Cuba and I'm pretty sure I was beaming the entire week!  One of my favorite aspects about International stage racing is the anticipation of arriving to a new country.  This definitely takes me out of my comfort zone because I'm a planner and preparer, however I have learned to embrace the unexpected during these trips.  In some respects, knowing that I have to be flexible with my normal 'plan' takes a bit of the pressure off!  The adventure component of this trip increased to a 12 with the passing of Fidel Castro.  We arrived on Day 7 of Cuba's 9-days of mourning.

San Marti airport in Havana was small and security was lax.  There was a crowd of people outside the airport and we quickly found the race representative coordinating our transfer to our hotel.  We were also greeted by Havana's Old Cars.

The outside of San Marti Airport
 Our hotel in Havana became Titan Tropic race central for a few days
 Our first afternoon in Havana we went for a townie ride exploring the city.  I was surprised by how safe and clean the city was.  While there weren't bike lanes, the cars for the most part were respectful. 

One of my favorite things about stage racing is that your fellow racers become family by the end of the week.  Titan Tropic was no different. 
 We found the ocean.  The sunset was amazing.
 The pre-race meeting was very official.  There was an English translator,
however it seemed some of the information got "lost in translation".
On transfer days-days we raced to a new location-we loaded our belongings up
into this truck to meet us at the new destination
The race provided us with bottled water for the week.  
I get thirsty and got to know the water distributors well.  
Race bikes resting in the racks before the first day.
Gearing up for a week of exploring Cuba by bike! Shannon and I raced in the Mixed Duo category.  We have to stay within 2 minutes of each other throughout the race and work together to go as fast as possible.  What this looks like is Shannon carrying most of our gear to keep me light and fast.  I draft off him when appropriate and he even gives me a push to help me accelerate-usually when I'm trying to grab hold of a group to draft.
Home is where you ride to.  In this case it was Soroa, Cuba.  Another thing I love about stage racing 
is the anticipation of finishing and seeing our home for the night.
This tree is 600+ years old.  It was breathtaking and much more beautiful in real-life
The Americans know how to recover from a long stage in Soroa. 
Giving my bike some love....
 Just another morning gearing up to race my bike with rad people in Cuba!
 The Americans performed quite well.  Tinker Juarez finished 5th overall and Kevin Hines 10th!
Some of the Americans.  We always welcomed morning clouds.
They would give way to the scorching sun midday.

Locals cheering for us from horseback.
Horses were the primary mode of transportation in the remote parts of Cuba. 
Scenes from the saddle:  a local smoking Cuba's finest export
More scenes from the saddle:  Ox are used for most of the heavy farm work.
The finish in Vinales
Accommodations in Vinales.  Despite the snoring, I actually slept quite well in the tents....
Vinales was also my first experience with dump ditches......
Tree ornaments.  I'm pretty sure nothing dried the entire week with the humidity. 
Our bathing accommodations made from palm leaves
The famous mogotes in Vinales.  Vinales is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Smiles for Miles

This photo captures the reality of a stage race; I'm pocketing a Honeystinger waffle in my cheek.  Proper and consistent fueling is key to successful stage racing! 

This is quite possibly my favorite photo EVER! 

On Day 4 Shannon succumbed to stomach issues.  He vomited multiple times throughout the stage and couldn't eat for 24 hours.  I had to push/pull/drag him to the finish.  The Titan Tropic medical team took excellent care of him, giving him a liter of fluids for dehydration and Rantadine for his stomach.  He was able to race strong and defend our lead for the final day of racing.  

Me pulling Shannon for once.  

Just riding Cuba! 

Cuba has excellent dirt! 

After just over 21 hours of racing, we finished 1st place Mixed Duo.
Teamwork makes the dreamwork.  
We finished on the beautiful white sand beaches of Caya Jutias.

The most beautiful finishing venue ever! 

Here is a video that Titan Tropic by Gaes made summarizing the week.  
Shannon and I can be seen at :18, :28, 2:12

.....and here's a video that Shannon and I made.  Check it out!  

I traveled to Cuba wanting to race hard, but also wanting to experience and learn about the Cuban culture.  This was our 4th stage race racing Mixed Duo.  Shannon and I have the teamwork pretty well dialed.  With the exception of the occasional snafu; like when Shannon almost took me out by hooking my handlebars, or when he ran me over when I crashed, we worked together flawlessly.  I think we are even better racing partners than we are riding partners because we shut up-there is no time for husband/wife bickering- and focus on working together to go faster.  Sharing the race experience is very special to us.

I found Cuba to be a charming country to visit.  Cuba is beautifully diverse, both the landscape and the people.  Cubans are proud of their country and very welcoming of Americans.  While I gained a better understanding of the country, there is still so much I don't understand. 

What I know for sure is that this experience whet my already damp palate for more international stage racing.  Cheers to 2017.  May it be full of health, travel, bikes, and adventure!    

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2016 race season wrap-up

I recently wrapped up my 2016 mountain bike race season.  This one was special for so many reasons.

It started with a trip to Chile for the 6-day TransAndes stage race.  This happened to coincide with with the 5-year anniversary of my original breast cancer diagnosis.  I have already written about this trip so I won't repeat myself, but Chile was quite the memorable experience.  I hope to duplicate the adventure many times in new (to us) countries!

After Chile, I didn't miss a beat and pushed through 8 more months of racing.  Total stats for the season were approximately 800 miles of mountain bike racing in ~80 hours!  4 wins and lots of podium finishes.  While the season results were great, I am most proud and pleased that my body held up beautifully.  I did not succumb to a single illness or injury all season....not even a cold.  I am grateful for good coaching and nutritional support.  I am most grateful for a body that has been poisoned by chemicals, radiation, and surgeries, yet keeps bouncing back.   I love this resilient body of mine!

It would be misleading to say that nothing has changed with my body from cancer treatment.  I have had two rounds of chemo (2011, 2013), radiation, and countless surgeries.  I need to take lymphedema precautions and some body parts don't work the same.  I was also forced into surgical menopause at the tender age of 38 which comes with its own set of challenges.  I continue to take a cancer medication that depletes my body of estrogen and thins my bones.  However I have not been good at just accepting the new normal.  I strive to defy it and push my body to be its old self.  

While I don't like to give unsolicited advice to others, here are a few mantras I find useful for myself:  

Never give up.  Never give in.  
Be kind to my myself. 
Winning lies in trying more than results. 
No excuses.
Find peace and happiness in what I do everyday.  

My short off season will be full of beautiful Fall mountain bike rides, skills practice, hiking and trail running with Dizzy, weight workouts to balance out the imbalances from the repetitive action of riding/racing my bike for thousands of miles this year, stretching, and after a long season of training a welcome lack of structure.  

Spending time with my BDF during the off season

Here are some memorable photos from the season:

 On the start line of the Park City Point to Point  
My final race of the season
75 miles, 10,000+ feet of elevation gain.  8.5 hours race time. 

 Crossing the finish line at the Park City Point to Point in 6th place Pro Women

 Shannon and Me after Pierre's Hole 100k in Grand Targhee, Idaho
 On my way to the win at the Wasatch Back 50.  Jordanelle in the background
Top step of the podium for me and my Pivot Mach429SL at the Wasatch Back 50

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Learning about Lymphedema

As an Occupational Therapist I learned about Lymphedema in school.  As a breast cancer patient I became at risk.  This past week I attended the continuing education seminar, "Practical Applications of Manual Lymphatic Therapy: Enhancing Patient Outcomes in a Variety of Care Settings".  Not only did I get some CEUs for my OT licensure, but I brushed up on current research and treatment for lymphedema.  

What is Lymphedema?
According to wikipedia, Lymphedema is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system, which normally returns interstitial fluid to the thoracic duct and then the bloodstream.

What does it look like?

Here are 10 take home points from the seminar:

1. Lymph nodes serve as a vacuum to pull fluid through vessels. They also cleanse and purify our body and stimulate WBC production. When compromised through removal and/or radiation fluid build up can occur.
2. Lymphedema occurs in 25% of breast cancer patients.
3. There is no cure for lymphedema. There is treatment.
4. Manual lymph massage can be very effective. To a certain extent, fluid can be re-routed to other, stronger lymph nodes. I do a quick lymph drainage massage every night. 
5. The latest research supports no limit on exercise! The key is to gradually build the duration and intensity of any new exercise.
6. If swelling is present, wear a compression garment while exercising. If no swelling, compression is optional. Yay me! I hate compression sleeves when it is hot out.
7. Protect affected area from sunburn, abrasions, and constriction. I will continue to wear my sun sleeve while mountain biking. Partially to protect my arm from the sun, partially to protect it from abrasions from rubbing up against trees/crashes. 
8. Clean and apply antibiotic cream immediately to any cuts/abrasions to reduce infection risk.
9. Stretch the crap out of affected limb. Scar tissue build up and adhesions will further compromise any remaining lymph nodes after surgery/radiation
10. A great position paper on exercise and lymphedema:

**If you do have lymphedema secondary to breast cancer treatment, I recommend seeing a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT). They have over 100 hours of specific training whereas a "therapist trained in Manual Lymph Drainage" can have as little as 6 hours of training**

Monday, May 16, 2016

3 years, my soapbox, and all things bike!

Today I am celebrating 3 years of remission! Three years is a HUGE milestone, but my motto is every single day that ticks by that I'm in remission is worth celebrating!

What's not worth celebrating is the (too) many women who are not in remission and have progressed to Stage IV breast cancer, for which there is NO CURE.  I am finding myself becoming more and more of an advocate and supporter for increased awareness and research funding for Stage IV breast cancer and here's a few reasons why:
-30% of early stage breast cancers will progress to Stage IV (metastatic breast cancer).  So while this affects me personally, it also affects many of my close friends that I have met through breast cancer.  I will repeat.  There is NO CURE for Stage IV breast cancer.
-While 30% of early stage breast cancers will progress to Stage IV, only 2% of all breast cancer research funding goes toward investigating Stage IV breast cancer.
-Each year ~40,000 women (and men) die from Stage IV breast cancer.  Despite progress in treatment, this number has remained virtually unchanged for 30 years!

Ok.  Off my soapbox and back to bike racing!

This Spring has been exceptionally full.  Since my last post I got a new race bike, raced a ton, bought a travel van, and was featured on Reebok's blog!

I'll start with the new bike since everything seems to be centered around biking.  I am the lucky new owner of a Pivot Mach429SL.  This is quite possibly the fastest and most fun bike in the world and I am so grateful to Pivot Cycles for their support.

My new ride is a sweet one!  Pivot Mach429SL

I am also grateful to my other supporters including:  DNA Cycling, Stan's NoTubes, Go-Ride bike shop, Xpedo pedals, Kask helmets, Ergon, Bliz eyewear,  HoneyStinger, Shimano, and Carborocket!

In addition to the new bike, Shannon and I purchased a travel van.  We weren't exactly in the market for a new van especially since one of my personal goals is to declutter and simplify.  Having a driveway full of vehicles isn't exactly in line with that, but this particular van was a better deal and in better condition than I thought possible so we are chalking it up to a 'happiness investment'.  It already has seen many adventures!

Our new 'home' on wheels.  2012 Nissan NV high top.  
#vanlife is freakin' awesome! 

Over the past few months racing adventures have taken me back to St. George and Moab, Utah as well as Prescott, Arizona.   I have even had a few podium appearances!

 3rd place podium at NUE True Grit Epic 50 miler.
My legs were just okay for this race, but strong enough for a podium! 

 Finish line high 5s

 2nd place podium at Moab's Thaw Massacre marathon race

 Carving between the rocks at Thaw Massacre

 Dizzy dog enjoying Moab's desert

 Post-race shenanigans  in Moab

20 miles into Epic Rides Whiskey 50 where I finished 17th in a heavy-hitting pro field
Prescott, Arizona is unique scenery and nice climate,
although it rained most of the weekend we were there

Finally,  Reebok contacted me wanting to share my story on their fitness blog.  Over the course of a few weeks I put 'my story' into words.  I won't deny that this process was emotionally taxing, but hopefully my story will help dispel the myth that women should sleep and rest through cancer treatment.  I can't tell you how many people encouraged me to do just that!  And it's not just little 'ol me telling folks to exercise, there is solid research showing that exercise not only helps you tolerate treatment better but also reduces risk of recurrence.   And for folks not undergoing cancer treatment, maybe my story will motivate a few to get out and exercise!  You can read my story here:  Reebok blog