Friday, November 6, 2015

Diabetes Awareness Month

I was giving an interview the other day when I was asked, How does diabetes impact your daily life?

I was stuck for an answer. Diabetes is woven into the fabric of everything I do, but not in a particularly invasive context. With the support of my health care team, I never felt as though diabetes were a limiting factor, an unmanageable burden or, even, my most pressing problem on any given day.  

I have to make sure my glucose meter is warm enough when I go skiing so that I can take a reading on the slopes.

Seriously. That was my answer. It was the best I could do in the moment and, really, a frozen meter is a source of annoyance. So, too, is the amount of diabetes stuff that I have to carry around. I used to leave the house with cash in my pocket and little else. Now? I have a purse. I hate carrying a purse. On the bike, it’s all crammed in my jersey pocket along with the usual staples for any cyclist: food and cash, cell phone, a couple of air cartridges and a spare tube. Now, though, my pockets are packed. That’s mildly irritating. And the stuff of diabetes isn’t just in my pockets, but in my mind. Throughout the day, I stop to check my blood sugar or do quick calculations before eating or exercising. For a myriad of reasons, I have to pause to consider diabetes. I have to call in prescriptions, argue with insurers, coordinate the mail-order supplies with my travel schedule.

That, I suppose, is my daily life with the condition. It’s a lot of nuanced, unimportant things when taken in isolation but, when added together, take up the extra mental and physical space of living with type one. For me, it’s not some lonely grind. It’s a series of small reminders, like tiny breezes, that move through my day. Some days, the breeze is more like a steady wind, and others, it’s a hardly noticeable draft. Yet, I also find that diabetes better connects me to myself, making me more aware of how food and exercise impact my body, and giving me the motivation to be proactive about my health.

The reason, of course, that diabetes is just one small – albeit important – part of my life has everything to do with advances in diabetes care and the support of my amazing health care team. I realize how lucky I am to have been born in a country where I can access the tools needed to help me better manage my condition. I am grateful beyond measure to those scientists and physicians who have devoted their careers to making my life a little bit easier. During Diabetes Awareness Month, I recognize how many people are not as fortunate, and don’t have access to the basic tools and resources needed to live with diabetes. While I worry about keeping my meter warm on the ski slopes, there are mothers and fathers worrying about how to procure those items on which the lives of their children depend. The TT1 Foundation is nonprofit organization pursuing a mission of education, empowerment and equal access to medicine for everyone affected by diabetes. To achieve their goals Team Type 1 recently donated a years’ supply of test strips and 900 glucose meters to Rwanda. If you would like to help further that mission, you are welcome to donate here:

That, to me, is the essence of diabetes advocacy: Compassion. For some, diabetes awareness is about education, or dispelling the myths surrounding diabetes, or increasing dialogue about those things which matter most to the millions of people impacted by diabetes, or creating better access to diabetes care. All of those things are really about that one thing – that shift to compassion. It’s about understanding the condition beyond rhetoric in the media or the context of addressing a public health problem. It’s about exercising empathy, and considering what it is like to carry through life all the stuff of diabetes. It’s knowing that every day is different, and that the pockets get filled every morning, and that the calculations start all over. It’s gratitude for having the very ability to do it again tomorrow. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Eight Months of Cycling in One Blog

Racing a bike is really a long learning experience. After the second stage of USA Pro Challenge, I met one of the riders in my charge at the broom wagon, where she had ended her day. She stepped out, looked at me, and started to cry in frustration because she knew she was stronger than her performance on that afternoon. I told her that some lessons just hurt more when you learn them. At the end of every season, I do two things. First, I take inventory of what I learned in that stretch from February through September, where some things went really right, and some went really wrong. In every season, knowledge will be imparted in the hardest way possible, and it’s up to the rider to translate that into future races….which brings me to the second thing: I set goals for the year ahead. Then, I take a week off the bike, enjoy some early fall hikes in Colorado, pay no attention to my diet, and get ready to begin training once more. When that time comes, here will be my best takeaways from 2015:

REMEMBER TO RECOVER. I spent most of my 2014 season so exhausted that when I wasn’t pedaling, all I could do was drink espresso and watch test patterns on the television. It was a strange sort of pseudo-vampire lifestyle, where I learned that if I got up early enough in the morning to train, they played reruns of the Tonight Show and it still wasn’t funny. I also learned that failing to manage my energy levels will wreak havoc on my body, and leave me feeling mentally exhausted. I vowed to make a more conscious effort to structure my rest and recovery. Last year, before Gateway Cup, I called my husband and told him that I was completely over bike racing. This year, I’m actually disappointed that my fitness is well-dialed, and I can’t use it in just a handful more races to come. The lesson? Pushing boundaries is great. Pushing boundaries without a plan is a disaster. 

Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Feb.
WATCH AND LEARN. Some people find it tempting to grab an early dinner instead of sticking around and watching teammates race, or decide to chill in the hotel instead of standing in the hot sun to observe the turning of pedals. Not only is this kind of thing a forfeiture of obligations when you are part of a team, it really deprives the rider skipping out a valuable opportunity to learn. Sometimes, you can gain a lot from observing. Many of my teammates are stronger crit riders, and watching their lines and how they take corners, when they conserve energy and when they expend it, can be really valuable in setting me up for my own races. I learn something every time I watch them. Whether it’s choosing the fastest path to the finish or putting on a rain jacket mid-ride, finding a faster way to change a tube or adjust a cable, you can always learn skills from others.

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. The culture of cycling is such that we have to depend on one another. I’ve been grateful more than once to get home safely from a precarious ride thanks to the efforts of friends. When you race for a team, you rely on others to help you win. A good teammate will block for you when you’re up the road instead of chasing and bringing along the field. (I can’t tell you how many times I have seen teammates sprint against one another. In truth, I think this should be cause for removal from a team.) They will position themselves to give the strongest rider the best chance at success. They don’t expect you to waste your efforts or sacrifice yourself when they know they cannot perform in a given race. But what those teammates do off the bike is no less important. The good teammates sit down with you and help you set goals. They cheer from the sidelines. They always have a positive word. They are the friendly, encouraging voices when you hit a rough patch in a race or on a ride. They are honest about your weaknesses, and they are willing to help you work on those things that need addressed in order to be successful. Good teammates respect your pre-race rituals, share their bananas, greet you post-crash with ice and Advil, and offer to look at your derailleur even when you tell them you think you have it fixed. They are open to feedback and learn from better, more experienced riders. After spending the last year racing with the best people I know, I make sure to give credit to those who really make a difference on race day and all the days in between, and I am always conscious of whether I am contributing positively or making things harder for my teammates.  That combined effort is probably the single most gratifying part of racing a bicycle.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE TEAM. The only reason we get to play at bike racing is because we have sponsors who give us the resources we need to be successful. It’s an amazing gift. These people are investing in us and our dreams. When I was working off the bike during USAPC, I realized how hard it can be to acquire good sponsors. Wearing logos while being a good ambassador in the sport of cycling and those shout-outs on social media allow sponsors to make the most of their support. I have a very real appreciation of those companies that invest in us, and it’s only right to represent them in the way they wish to be represented.

Saturday Night at Gateway Cup
THE ROAD AHEAD. I have been home from my last races of 2015 for less than a day, and I have already begun the process of setting specific goals for next year. I looked at what I did well, and where I needed to improve. Right now, I’m ranked third in the state in criterium. I’m happy with that. It’s my best crit ranking in a while. At the same time, I have a long way to go to be really successful in bigger, harder, faster crits. In the short term, I have some specific training goals to help me improve in areas where I lack skill, like cornering and sprinting. I am working on conserving more in races by staying in the saddle instead of wasting energy jumping out of every turn. I am trying to focus on reading the race and not fighting the rhythm of the field. I’m increasing the intensity of my intervals, and I have committed to one ride each week at race pace during my off season schedule. I have numbers, metrics and data markers that I want to hit as time progresses. And, of course, I am sharing those goals with the people who can help me get where I would most like to be in 2016.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Race Reports and Some Love for my Colorado People.

This post is part race recap, and part a story about the awesomeness that exists in the Colorado cycling community. 

I’m already about eight races into the season, and feeling generally good. I’m definitely racing better than I was at this time last year, and I am having more fun, too. 

Racing and training take a lot of time, and I have two kids and a business. Sometimes, the opportunity costs of being on the bike seem more significant than other times, and it’s easy to get frustrated when you are leaving your family or training twenty hours a week and still sucking. I went into the 2015 season really questioning my commitment to racing. I was weighing it all out on one particularly frustrating day when a good friend and fellow bike racer, Cesar Grajales, looked at me, sighed in exasperation and rolled his eyes and said, Oh my God, Becky. Just race your bike. You like to race, so go do it. Stop worrying about what bike you have or what components you need or what kit you are wearing and just go race your bike. Shut up and race.

Sometimes, when I am having bad days, I repeat those words to myself: Shut up and race. 

Moments before my day ended.
And I realized how much I really do care about racing earlier this season when, at a small collegiate crit, an official on a moto made a mistake. I was in a chase pack with a group of girls when we overtook the group up ahead. They responded a half lap later with an attack, and we broke off again. Despite still being in contention, and with more than 30 minutes of racing left, we were pulled as “lapped riders.” It’s early. Everyone is figuring it out, including the officials. Some of the girls were busy ranting at them, which isn’t so much my style. (Mistakes happen and, really, another piece of good advice comes from my friend Meg Hendricks - who has the best attitude in the peloton - in the form of the following question: Is losing a bike race the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?) I was, however, really disappointed. Had I been in the lead pack, it wouldn’t have even been an issue, so I was really focusing on everything I should have done differently. It was good, though, because I was disappointed enough to recognize how much I really do care, and how much my head is still in racing.

I am now squarely focused on doing this because I love it. I am more focused, less stressed, and I am having a ton of fun. Shut and race your bike is working. And I am sharing that fun with some other girls who have also found themselves caught in the same head spin that was my 2014 season. 

Two weeks ago, I raced Boulder Roubaix. My friend, Emily, had pegged this as one of her top races for the season. She’s definitely good at riding dirt, and has the fitness to rock a race based on pure power. The night before, we made a race plan and I was totally willing to work for her. We got to the race with what should have been plenty of time, but because of a huge parking debacle, we found ourselves scrambling to get to the start. When we got there, we found four portable toilets for 900 racers. Emily finally made her way to the front, only to unzip her jersey and realize that I had pinned her numbers to her base layer and bibs, thus hopelessly trapping her in her kit. We frantically tried to free her before the start of the race or before she peed down her leg. 
Emily gets into position!

The field was together for most of the race. We reigned in a bunch of early attacks from Naked Women’s Racing and Stages Cycling. The race broke apart on a late climb, where we found ourselves in a small group of six chasing the lead group, who had a 30 second lead on us. Two of the girls couldn’t hold the pace, so we whittled down to four. The four of us worked really well together for a lot of miles. We joked that we should do a composite team time trial. When we turned on the last set of climbs, I saw Emily go for it. I knew she was going to break away from the group and try to get in position for the finish. I followed her, and she and I worked together to build a minute lead on the other girls, and to try and narrow the gap from the first group. We never did catch them, but Emily was 12th, and I was 13th. More importantly, we had such a fun race. It was one of the best times I have had in a bike race in a long, long time. At the end, Emily looked over and said, Thanks for reminding me how much I love to race my bike. I know. I so know. We all need reminded once in a while.

In case you are wondering how much fun was had, Mary Topping captured it on camera:
I swear. Emily is HAVING FUN.

I was looking forward to doing it all over again last weekend. I was ready for a 60 mile road race with a long dirt section until the weather failed to cooperate. The forecast in Colorado often changes with little notice, and it went from warm and sunny to snow and rain in a day. The dirt sections were turned to mud, and the course was deemed “unrideable.” I decided to just register for a crit the next day instead of taking the whole weekend off. By mid-day Saturday, I was totally regretting dropping that $40. 

I had awful stomach cramping, nausea, fatigue. I was lightheaded and felt simply terrible. I tried to head out for some openers in case I decided to race the next day, only to ride an easy 45 minutes before throwing up on some unsuspecting homeowners lawn while my cycling partner mechanically ate a Clif bar and tried to look away. I headed home, and went to bed. I slept from 4:00 Saturday afternoon until 7:00 Sunday morning, at which point I tried to rally and make one last attempt to race. Dennis was airing my tires while I made drink mix and found my kit. I sat down and tried to eat a handful of crackers and get some water in my system. It didn’t happen.

At that point, I called it and went back to bed. It was a bummer. But then, a few hours later, my friend Peg called to check on me and to tell me how well she had raced, and then I saw that my teammate had come in seventh in his race. I was too happy for them to feel badly about missing one afternoon of crit racing.

I have a two week training block now before doing my next race, which is one of my favorites: Boulder’s Koppenberg. I love that race! Last year, I skipped it to do Gila. This year, I weighed the options, and decided I would rather be home to do the race I love than spend a lot of cash and suffer five days in the New Mexico heat. I think my head is where it needs to be, and I am looking forward to an awesome 2015.

My favorite Colorado race:!koppenberg/c81z

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three days, six riders, and no toilet. Valley of the Sun.

Things spectators like to yell during a bike race in a misguided attempt to make you feel supported when you are sucking:

You’re looking good!
Keep it up! Just one more hill!
Only 25 more miles to go!!
If you think it’s bad now, wait until the next stage!
If you’re not back here in twenty minutes, you can walk home.

I heard various iterations of these sentiments at Valley of the Sun in 2014, and I was determined not to repeat that this year. My training has been better and more focused, and I felt stronger. It’s also helpful to know the course in advance. 

Ready to roll.

Things got off to an ominous start as I was packing my car to meet my borrowed teammates from CRJ/Reynolds Racing. (Dennis Furuta, STOP READING NOW BECAUSE THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU WILL TRIP OUT ABOUT THE COST OF MY NEW PHONE.) I couldn’t figure out why the stupid trunk on my Chevy Cobalt wouldn’t close, so I just kept slamming it down as hard as possible and dropping expletives while my neighbors looked on, shaking their heads….until I realized I was slamming said door on my phone. I then threw the device on the front seat of my Cobalt, jumped in my car because I was running late, and dropped an entire Trenta Iced Coffee ON THE PHONE. Ultimately, I don’t know if it was my hulk-like strength or the coffee, but the phone just sat on my seat, pulsing and vibrating, and nothing else. It took me some extra minutes and some dolla dolla billz, but I managed to get on the road in a reasonable time frame. 

I met up with Danial, Peg and Troy, and we drove to New Mexico for the night. We hooked up with their old teammate, Tim, and grabbed dinner at the finest restaurant to use plastic squeeze bottles, also known as “Applebees.”  Tim was busy recounting his adventures doing some crazy endurance race where he was forced to hike all night up Boulder Canyon and back float with a backpack over his head and worry about when his toenails would fall off, which pretty much made the rest of us look like a bunch of Nancies. Danial was busy dozing off next to me most of the time, like some kind of narcoleptic…which seemed weird but plausible, given that we’d been driving and sleeping on the road for a solid day.

We crashed at a Quality Inn near Albuquerque, and woke up early the next morning to the woman at the front desk rocking a 70s porn ‘stache and reeking of an old ashtray, and to the free continental breakfast of refined carbs and bad coffee. We cruised out of there and made it to Phoenix earlier than expected. 

I’m going to make a controversial statement here: I don’t like Phoenix. The town literally consists of skeezy restaurants and fern bars, a Subway, a crappy foodmart, a burger shack, and, inexplicably, a town museum (maybe they wanted to commemorate the day they scored a Subway franchise). Smattered in there are a few good bars and some decent fusion cuisine, but you have to drive through wicked traffic and brave herds of drunk college kids and old people driving Hoverrounds in bike lanes (for real) to get to them. 

We got to our rental house, which was nice, and unloaded bags and bikes. We decided to spin the legs, and everyone got ready to head out for some openers. We rode north of town along Indian School Way, and found ourselves on a nice stretch of country road. Danial went ahead to get in some intervals, and Troy stopped to make some adjustments on his TT bike. Peg and I kept a solid tempo until, moments later, we heard barking dogs. I looked up, and there was a pup going right for Peg’s thigh like it was the fried chicken at Claim Jumper. I yelled, she stopped pedaling, and eventually, Cujo retreated. 

About every two feet, another pack of dogs would attack. At first, we thought they were pets people hadn’t kept fenced in, but we quickly realized these were stray dogs. They didn’t respond to commands, and they came at us in groups of six or eight. I’d really like to thank all the courteous and concerned passing motorists who would angrily swerve and honk at us on their way to Wal-Mart or a monster truck rally or a Larry the Cable Guy viewing party or wherever else they were going while we were trying to avoid getting mauled by canines. Nice.

Finally, we decided we were over the whole debacle and were talking about how quickly we could withdraw our annual contributions to the ASPCA when we heard a lot of barking. I looked over and two tiny little dogs were bounding toward us. I waved Peg on, and told her to keep going since they were small. Seconds later, they were joined by two German Shepherds, a Boxer and a bunch of other big dogs, and all were aggressively chasing us. I swerved quickly to avoid one of the Shepherds, and clipped Peg. She went down, which only seemed to encourage the dogs in their charge. We finally decided to just throw down some watts and try and get out of there. We made it away from them, and elected to get our race packets at the bike shop.

After driving to the wrong bike shop, we finally found our way and got our race numbers. It was super busy, and a poor man’s Burt Reynolds with a crazy toupee was doling out packets and giving riders instructions. In the middle of all the confusion, we met up with Josh, another teammate who had driven down in his personal car. 


I was first off the next morning in the TT, and Peg was a few minutes behind. I was expecting to be well under 38 minutes for the 20k Time Trial, but the course was super windy and I hadn’t been feeling great. My stomach was rolling during my warm up. I attributed it to early season nerves and the heat, and I just kept drinking water to try and remedy the situation. In the end, I was right around 40 minutes, which left me super disappointed. Peg was also over her goal, but we were consoled by the fact that everyone was posting slower-than-expected times. 
Warming up with Peggers!

The guys went out next, and had solid results. By then, the crosswinds were scaring the ever-loving crap out of everyone, so I don’t think anyone was really hammering it except for the Tri guys for whom this was THE race of the weekend. Troy started complaining that he wasn’t feeling quite right and, by the time we got back to the house, he was pretty sick. He went straight to bed, and we started giving him fluids to see if it was dehydration. After a lot of liquids and rest, he seemed to be okay.

We had a big, family dinner at the house that night. I love me some food. I am pretty equal opportunity with post-race nutrition. Admitting you ate two huge bowls of cereal or a Krispy Kreme donut is pretty weaksauce compared to gorging yourself on the sketchy cash-only taco truck parked behind a Home Depot. But for the sake of good performance, we kept it healthy. Another teammate, Mitchell, brought over a salad and Peg and I made some pasta and salmon for dinner. This was not easily executed. For starters, we could not locate a can opener to bust out the Fire Roasted Tomatoes from their tiny tin prison. I resorted to using a screwdriver and hammer, and picking the shards of metal out of the can by hand. I managed this with only a moderate amount of bloodshed. And we had no salt or pepper, so we sent Josh to go get some by knocking on the doors of random neighbors.

Danial went to bed, like, seconds after dinner. By morning, we all knew why. Dude was siiiiick. He had chills and a fever, and was throwing up about once an hour. This was bad enough, but to make things worse, Troy and Peg had a busted loo in their bathroom, forcing them to use the one remaining in the house. And now, Danial was setting up camp in there, and it had become some kind of strange biosphere of disease. The situation reached a critical breaking point, however, when I broke the flusher off the toilet. THERE IS NO GREATER PANIC IN LIFE THAN A HOUSE FULL OF NERVOUS BIKE RACERS AND TWO PEOPLE WITH THE FLU, AND NO TOILET. 

TT Podium



Mitchell, in full chill.
Ultimately, we left Danial to die in the house with provisionally-working potty, and went to GO RACE. Danial made plans to fly home. 

I gotta tell you, I wasn’t feeling it. I was warming up for the road race, and my head totally wasn’t in it. I got to the line without a hint of nerves because I was still lamenting internally about my craptacular time trial which was, in my mind, the best bet for me to podium. (And by podium, I don’t mean 4th.) So we went out, and I just kind of sat in for a bit. I found myself getting pushed to the back, and then I kind of freaked out because I knew that, once we hit the base of the first climb, I was going to get dropped like a bad habit if I stayed in that position. As we approached the turn off to the climb, I noted that all the girls were bunched up in the shoulder when we had full use of the road. I made the decision to go wide, move up the outside, and hammer my way to a good position on the hill. I yelled at Peg to get on my wheel, but she couldn’t make it over in time. I picked up a couple of other girls and, at the crest, we fell off from the first group of about ten riders, leaving us to chase with a lot of people behind us. 

Troy about to die.
I realized I could totally catch the field since they were dropping more women who couldn’t hang in on the fast and flat stretches. Ultimately, we ended up with a chase of eight riders, and six up the road. At one point, we had about a 30 second gap, but we could never quite close it. Still, I was totally happy with my race. I made solid, smart decisions and the chase group worked really cohesively until the final climb. 

Peg finished just after the chase pack came through. We then went to work the feed zone for the guys. By this time, unknown to us, Troy was feeling really lousy. He was going to make a go of racing, but he was in rough shape. I saw him come through on the first lap, and I could tell he was hurting. The cherry on top of the sundae was the heat, and the fact that the volunteers ran out of water for the neutral feed. I saw a dude from KHS MAXXIS come through and beg me for the bottle I was holding, and I just had to shake my head sadly. 


The last day of racing was the crit, which takes place a few blocks from the homeless shelter next to a bar that looks like the one where Jodie Foster got raped in the Accused.  I woke up with ZERO ambition because I was pretty much guaranteed to finish in the same place in the GC. I was nearly four minutes down from the girl sitting in third, and the next person behind me was five minutes off. No one is making that up in a criterium. Then, however, I saw the race communique. The chick ahead of me was relegated TWICE during the road race for drafting off the dudes, and was assessed a five minute time penalty. That put us less than 60 seconds apart. 

I had a great position at the beginning. I have no excuse for letting myself fall back in the race except that I lacked the confidence to race it more aggressively. Peg had a killer start, and I was trying to follow her line because she was racing much smarter, but I just didn’t make good decisions. Ultimately, we broke off in a chase again, with about a 20 second gap. 

Peg on the front!
At this point, I was trying to motivate greater effort and cohesiveness on the part of the riders chasing, by which I mean I was alternately imploring them and yelling at them. It did no good. One chick from Holiday Rock flat out said, I’m kind of over racing today. Freaking helpful. Most of the other riders had teammates up the road, so they really had no incentive. And there was this CRAZY CHICK from Strava Racing who was the single most terrifying person I have ever met on a bicycle. My seven year old daughter corners better than that on her Huffy. People kept begging her to just not kill them.

Troy was yelling at me to be more aggressive, but I finally committed to just sitting in and doing as little as possible until the last lap. I figured I would just smash it then and at least get ahead of the rest of the chase…which worked, except that it didn’t matter because the officials scored the entire chase with the same time. This left me 4th in the GC. I protested because I should have been third by nearly 20 seconds, but it wasn’t my day.
Totally sitting in. See everyone work? See Becky sit up?

The guys fared better, and Mitchell and Josh came close to breaking the top ten. 

After podiums, we all piled into the car with our sweaty selves, and made the 12 hour drive home, in the snow and ice, but not before deciding to test our bellies with a combination of tacos and pizza.

So, all said and done, it wasn’t awful….it wasn’t great. I got to see several of my Colorado friends race, including Meg Hendricks and Kim Turner, who were supportive and wonderful as always. I spent a lot of time in a feed zone talking junior development with the great guys at Prestige Imports, and I'm now collaborating on a women's development team for 2016. Lots of exciting stuff! I am happy with the result at this point in the season, and I am looking ahead to 2015.


GC Podium