Thursday, July 24, 2014

One Year

One Year (and one week to be exact) I started chemo for the second time.  Although only one year has passed since STARTING chemo, so much has happened since then.  Radiation, oophorectomy, lots of doctor's appointments, and even more healing.  Throw in moving twice in the past three months, which in and of itself can be considered a major life event, and we have had an eventful past twelve months to say the least.

One year ago I was in disbelief that I had to go through chemo again.

I am not sure what my point is exactly except that even though treatment feels like eons ago, it wasn't, and we are both still healing.....

Which brings me to training.....

Since this year is all about healing and listening very closely to my body, I am a 'self-coached' athlete for the first time since turning pro back in 2006!  I have had some amazing coaches, who have taught me a lot and helped me get very fast on the bike, however at this moment I am not ready for the type of structure and intensity I have done in the past.  While I definitely try to have structure to my current training program and purpose to my rides, I have to be incredibly flexible based on what my body and mind is telling me each day.  At this point, there is a very fine line between pushing to gain speed/fitness and recovery.  (Note: lingering fatigue from cancer treatment is a common side effect and can last for a very long time.  Personally, although you won't find much literature on this, I feel that cancer treatment prolongs recovery after hard workouts/races, however from experience, I also know that this too improves with time).  I know I need to push myself in my training, but I also require increased recovery (both physically and mentally), which impacts how often I am able to get good, hard training sessions in.  This is compounded when I race as even more recovery is needed.  While I admit that sometimes it is a bit frustrating when I bag a planned session because my body is telling me NO!, it is also interesting to experiment with my body and discover what it is capable of.  I have always been one who enjoys the 'process' of training (almost) as much as racing itself.  I guess you can say that I love the 'art of getting fast'!  Another change in my self-coached program is that I have incorporated more weight-training into my regimen.  While I have always done weight-training in the off-season, for the first time I am continuing it through race season, and since there are only so many hours in a day and a finite amount of energy that can be dedicated to training, my time on the bike is impacted.  That said, being post-menopausal due to cancer treatment/surgery in addition to my current cancer medication that causes rapid bone loss (Aromatase Inhibitor), maintaining muscle mass and bone integrity is vital for my health.

Photo break:
Snowbird ICUP Pro Women podium.  I felt really good at this race and loved the course.  
I love this podium picture too.  Current stars, future stars, and me in the middle!

The Utah pro crew.  I feel like a giant between the two midgets:)

Thanks Angie Harker (Selective Vision) for capturing this 
awesome photo of me doing something weird with my tongue!

 Summer trip visiting family in Iowa.  Had to bring the bikes.
 Visiting the in-laws.  Iowa feels like a tropical forest compared to Utah.

Back to the blog:

So although things are a bit complicated in getting back to where I would like to be, overall
life is going very, very well.  We are feeling settled in our new home in Park City and love, love, loving it!  I pinch myself every day that we live in such a beautiful and peaceful place.  My summer has been filled with lots of awesome mountain biking, hikes out the back door with Dizzy, and weekly moose sightings!...and some pretty exciting racing right around the corner.  Steamboat Stinger, Wasatch 360, and Moab Rocks stage race to name a few!

Dizzy feels right at home on 'his' lounger.  He likes to chill in the cool mountain breeze.

The neighborhood moose taking a snooze next door!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Last week I received an email from a HuffPost Live Associate Producer asking if I would be able and willing to participate with other athletes in a live discussion on how sport had a positive impact on healing from cancer treatment.  The "other" athletes included headliner, NY Giant Mark Herzlich, who also discussed his new book, Alex Niles, writer and former collegiate soccer player, and Jake Gibb, Pro volleyball player and Olympian.

Despite being right-smack-in-the-middle of moving, I did not hesitate to say YES!

The morning of the discussion, while still in my "moving" clothes from the day before, I had a short conversation with the Associate Producer and set up the webcam in my living room full of moving boxes.  The rest of the morning was spent figuring out a somewhat presentable 'studio' in our home full of boxes, finding respectable clothes to wear, and prepping my favorite accessory-my bike-for a studio backdrop.  Somehow, I was ready to go and 'on-air' by 11:45 that morning.

All dressed up for HuffPost Live wearing slippers:)

The discussion in its entirety can be seen here.  It was truly inspiring to be in presence of other athletes who have returned to high level competition after cancer treatment and I was honored to be included in the discussion.

Fortunately for me I had my hair cut earlier in the week.  Since I was showered, dressed up, and styling presentable hair, we took a photo!

36ish weeks and four haircuts since completing chemo

In other news, I raced my new green rocketship at Deer Valley this weekend.  I can say with absolute certainty that I love this bike!  Deer Valley has some of the steepest climbs around and the Pivot Les 27.5 makes them feel effortless.  Cornering has taken some adjustment as the bike is so quick and I was oversteering a bit, however I am getting it more and more dialed every ride and railed Deer Valley's tight switchback downhills faster than ever!  Good enough to finish 4th in a solid Pro Women's field!

The smile says it all:  I love racing! 
Photo: Trevor Hooper

Up next is my first MRI since completing Round 2 of treatment.  While there is nothing that is especially concerning to me at the moment, I will happily take positive thoughts and energy for negative scan results; especially at 8:00 tomorrow morning:)  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Wasatch Back 25 and other happenings....

I posted a little teaser photo of my new ride last week.

Racing my new bike at the Midweek race in Park City Photo: Lori Leger

It is a Pivot Les 27.5 hardtail.  The 27.5 represents the wheel size.  There are now three standard mountain bike wheel sizes.  The 26", the 29" and my new 27.5".  Pros and cons can be argued for each wheel size, although even though I only have a few rides (and one race) in on my new bike, I am feeling confident that the 27.5" wheel size is the perfect wheel size for me.  Once I have done a few more rides on varied terrain, I plan to write a comprehensive review of my new bike.  Something to look forward too.....

In the meantime, my mountain bike race season is ramping up.  This past weekend I raced the Wasatch Back 25.  It is a lumpy, chunky, rough 25 miles so it was a no brainer to ride my Pivot 429C dualie!  After over two hours of racing I beat my goal race time of 2:20 by 6 minutes and ended up finishing 2nd overall.  That said, there is always the goal of getting faster, although I do feel like I am making progress in that direction.  My race starts are improving and I am not coughing up a lung after the race.  Progress!  Additionally, all the core work I have been putting in to regain post-abdominal surgery strength is paying off.  This was my longest, roughest race of the year and my back held up nicely.

Some photos from the weekend:

It was a warm, dry, and dusty day in the Wasatch.   Photo: Lisa Palmer Leger
Lori's photos always make me look fast:) Photo: Lori Leger
Leading a group of super fast Summit Bike Club girls up the climb Photo: Dusty Powers
A few minutes into the race.  My starts are still hard, although improving.  Photo: Lori Leger

There are so many highlights from the weekend, however the bottom line is that I love riding/racing my bike.  It makes me feel strong, healthy, happy, and most importantly.....alive; something I strive and work hard for every single day.

Shannon and I also have some other exciting news.  We are officially Park City homeowners.  We pick up the keys tomorrow!  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pivot Les 275

 A little teaser on my beautiful new ride.  Stay tuned for a full review.  I want to race it a few more times first!

Monday, May 19, 2014

3 Hours of Mesa Verde

12 Hours of Mesa Verde is in its 8th year and is more popular than ever.   Shannon and I have raced this race four times!  We keep coming back because of the super fun course, great vibe, and awesome promoters.  Despite technically being a 'grassroots'  race, it draws some of the fastest racers in the country and sells out year after year with this year being no exception.

Typically, Shannon and I race co-ed duo.  We alternate laps over twelve hours, which means we are each on full-throttle for six hours.  This year we opted for a more manageable 4-person  team which means only three hours full throttle for each of us; hence 3 Hours of Mesa Verde.

Shannon, Dizzy, and I spent the weekend camping in a borrowed pop-up A-liner.  While the pop up was by no means luxurious, camping with heat when nighttime temperature dips below freezing is much more my style!

Our team killed it!  We finished fourth in a super competitive field.  While my lap times were not as speedy as last year, they were respectable for where I am at with recovery.  My body may not quite be where it was last year, however my bike is certainly working hard to make up the difference.  My Pivot 429 carbon dualie is the PERFECT ride for the Mesa Verde course.

Since I don't have many photos from the weekend, here are some of my beautiful bike:

 Pivot 429 Carbon weighs in at 23 lbs 9ounces as pictured.
I am loving the SRAM XX1 1x11 for racing.
My Mesa Verde gearing was 30x11/42.
 I love my Ergon saddle and grips.  With mild post-chemo neuropathy in my hands,
 (okay, maybe not so mild.  When my hands are cold I can't change a flat
or unlock the door to my home), 
having proper positioning and increased support on long rides is imperative
 Stan's NoTubes 29er Race Gold wheels.  When paired up with Continental X-King Protection tires, 
I have simply the lightest most reliable wheel/tire combo on the market
 Beautiful Enve handlebar, stem, and post.....nothing but the best for this 429!
 Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti pedals are insanely light weight, but do not sacrifice a stable platform.  
Side loading bottle cage fits my size Small frame perfectly. 
I run a gel flask holder on my bike.   Don't want to waste time reaching my pocket for fuel!

I should note that Kris at Go-Ride built this bike up for me just before Mesa Verde.
He is incredibly tedious and detail-oriented.
My bikes always work beautifully after he works on them!  

Every time I ride this beast I feel grateful to have such an incredible bike that not only rips races, but is so much FUN to ride!

Soaking in life's grandness from 7000+ feet!
Always smiling on this bike!

So while I love, love, LOVE my 429 carbon dualie, I am pretty excited to get this new bad boy built ASAP!  Not only is it the sweetest color ever, I am thinking sub-20 lbs.  Ridiculous!  Did I mention life is grand?

Pivot Les 27.5 carbon hardtail!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Comeback #2 ?!?

The past few months since my last blog post have flown by.  A lot has happened.  We sold our home in Salt Lake, moved into temporary housing in Park City, made another trip to the desert, have been home shopping in our 'spare' time, and competed in my first race of the season.

Phew.  That's a lot for anyone to wrap their head around, let alone a couple who just finished their second round of cancer treatment in three years!

Despite the chaos.  Things are good.  Exciting things are happening in our life and we are happy and healthy.

As for 'training', our personal craziness and my body's post-treatment need for increased rest and recovery, has resulted in a toned down training program from 2013, when I was my fittest.  This didn't exactly help me exude ass kicking confidence going into my first race in a long, long time, however with a bit of a perspective and expectation change, all was good.

We headed down to St. George for 6 Hours of Frog Hollow.  Shannon and I were registered to race co-ed duo, where we alternated racing the super fun 15-mile lap over six hours.  This is one of my favorite places to ride and happens to be the same exact race that served as my 'return' to racing after my initial diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer in 2011.

Our race plan was to first and foremost have fun.  Sounds easy enough considering I love racing my bike, but honestly I wasn't sure if turning myself inside out in a bike race would still be fun for me.  My body and mind have been through a lot.  Would I still be mentally strong enough to push hard when I was tired?  Would it still be fun?  So with that plan in mind and my uncertainty about how I would respond (mentally and physically) to racing, I had to distance myself from being competitive with other teams (friends), opt out of the often fun pre-race smack talk, and just ride my own race.

The Le Mans start (from the St. George news)

Shannon killed it on his first lap.  He rolled in a few minutes behind Chris Holley in 2nd place in our category.  I took off for my lap, and although I felt like I was riding well, I was soon overtaken by Amanda Carey on the single track part of the climb.  I tried to hang on....kind of.....but she is wicked fast so I mostly just continued at my own pace.    Over the remaining four hours, teams were nipping at our heals and of course we were trying to chase down the leaders, but I stuck to my plan of riding my own race and Shannon continued to race really strong.  Between laps I focused on fueling and hydrating instead of worrying about lap splits.  In the end, we finished 3rd in a very competitive field, but more importantly, I had fun!  I absolutely still enjoy racing!

Finishing up my 3rd and final lap

Greeted by one of my favs at the finish

Great photo in the St. George News race coverage

A pretty badass podium!

Next up is 12 Hours of Mesa Verde on a 4-person team.  Last year, the week after Shannon and I won this race, I was diagnosed with my recurrence.  This milestone comes with a heavy dose of emotion, although I can't think of a better way to celebrate my health and resilience one year later!

Dizzy has acclimated well to our new (temporary) home