I recently read a short story for my AP Literature and Composition class and, long story short (no pun intended), I have never felt so understood in my life. Who knew that a piece of literature written in 1905 could be #RELATABLE? And that got me thinking: If this story is in a high school curriculum 112 years later, then I’m not the only one who can relate.
The story is “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather. Here’s the lowdown: Paul works as an usher at a theater after school. Unlike his classmates, he has a passion for the theater and an appreciation for art and creativity. The world of the arts offers him something he can’t find at home or in school: a sense of belonging.
I'd like to relate a few excerpts to my own life because they're relevant to anyone who has felt like a square peg in a round world. We tend to think we're alone in feeling this way, but that's never the case. I hope that you'll be inspired to be undeniably YOU by the end of this.
“Paul never went up Cordelia Street without a shudder of loathing. […] He approached it to-night with the nerveless sense of defeat, the hopeless feeling of sinking back forever into ugliness and commonness that he always had when he came home. The moment he turned into Cordelia Street he felt the waters close above his head. After each of these orgies of living, he experienced all the physical depression which follows a debauch; the loathing of respectable beds, of common food, of a house penetrated by kitchen odors; a shuddering repulsion for the flavorless, colorless mass of every-day existence; a morbid desire for cool things and soft lights and fresh flowers.”
Being a young adult is a constant state of contradiction. A bittersweet existence. You have everything to be thankful for – yet – somehow, you feel more burdened than you do privileged. You have a bed to sleep on and food on your plate, but young eyes always see the bitter “invisible ink” written all over sweet commodities. A respectable bed, no matter how comfy it is, is a place of inescapable introspection. A family meal, no matter how delicious, is just part of a routine existence for those who have tasted the flavors of other places. I suppose it’s both a burden and privilege to know people worth knowing in places worth going.
“He was now entirely rid of his nervous misgivings, of his forced aggressiveness, of the imperative desire to show himself different from his surroundings. He felt now that his surroundings explained him. Nobody questioned the purple; he had only to wear it passively. He had only to glance down at his attire to reassure himself that here it would be impossible for anyone to humiliate him.”
There’s a reason so many people are drawn to mountain bike culture. The community is so inclusive and diverse. Whenever I’m in it, I forget about my worries, my insecurities – everything. Like Paul, I have a desire to stand out from the crowd, but it’s hard to do this without feeling self-conscious in a place dominated by small-town mentalities.
But the difference between me and Paul is the fact that I don’t change myself according to where I am and who I’m with. I didn’t conform when I didn’t fit in in school. I didn’t grow my hair back out after receiving rude looks and comments from close-minded strangers. Little do they know, the things they're making fun of have opened so many doors for me. I’ve found that the more I embrace my individuality, the more opportunities I'm presented with. I have chosen to define myself by my character and personality, which has proven to be a darn good insurance policy for my identity.
My power is knowing that I still have something to offer when Darth Veda the bike racer isn’t on fire. I can still be proud of myself even if the thing I happen to do the most is no longer the thing I’m the best at. I can be:
- a full-time consumer of food
- a part-time bike rider
- an occasional unicyclist
- an entrepreneur
- a writer
- a positive role model
- a friend
- a chocolate connoisseur
- a humor enthusiast
- the reigning ping pong champion of the Gerasimek household
Sure, it’s not the easiest transition to go from 3x national champion to losing fifteen pounds of muscle mass, but I plan on getting back to that level in the near future.
Paul’s story ends tragically because he didn’t have the confidence to be himself in environments that made him stand out. Instead, he spent all of his energy being a chameleon to avoid attention. If he had stuck to one color, he might’ve inspired another person to do the same and found the camaraderie he was looking for all along. We’re afraid that confidence will draw attention to our insecurities, but the truth is: It actually highlights our assets. That’s why confident people appear to have no insecurities. So instead of being a chameleon, be a UNICORN. Because unicorns have been themselves since the beginning of time and everyone thinks they’re awesome. That’s why they’re always on inspirational posters.
When I return to the world on the other side of my phone screen, I’ll have my work cut out for me. But maybe that’s life’s way of giving me a clean slate to set new limits when I’m ready to take on that challenge. For now, I need to learn how find inner peace when I’m not in constant pursuit of something huge. I need to learn how to be okay with the fact that some of my competitors went from beginner to Europe in two seasons, living out a dream I’ve had for five years. I need to learn how to be happy for them, not jealous, because they still earned it. I can rest easy knowing that I did absolutely everything I could to be where they are right now, so it’s clearly not meant to be. At least, not right now.
Pursue your passion even if no one supports or understands it. Don’t be a chameleon. Stick to one color & inspire another.
Regardless of what happened in Canada, I didn’t scratch my original plan to fly to Missoula, Montana for another junior UCI race. I woke up at 5am eastern time and waited for my flight to Minneapolis.
Right after my mom left me at the gate, I was told my flight was delayed. Bummer, but not the end of the world... unless, of course, it makes it nearly impossible to catch my connecting flight. This was my chance to practice for The Amazing Race! However, a second delay made even that impossible. So, when I touched down in Minneapolis with TEN HOURS to spare, I got comfy and started writing. Between long periods of writer’s block, I watched episodes of The Amazing Race (seemed fitting), ate beef jerky, and stayed hydrated. Unfortunately, I did not pack 10 hours of food and I was desperate. So don’t judge me… I decided to hunt down some french fries. I’ll spare you the boring play-by-play and just say that I can’t read maps. I must have walked for 30 minutes or more before I found the flippin’ Arby’s. Fries never tasted so good. Having been awake for almost 24 hours, I touched down in Missoula and met my hosts, Bryson and Steve. I FINALLY made it.
On Sunday at 2:30, the gun went off. Starting at 4,000 feet with 2,100 feet of total climbing, I knew that I needed to be steady and consistent. I purposefully held back at the start to avoid blowing up on the first long climb. The hardest part was knowing where I was in the race and not having the physical capacity to change it. But I stayed positive and focused on having consistent lap times. On the second lap, the blazing sun disappeared and hail the size of large blueberries began pelting me (mid-race ice bath!) It was the weirdest thing! The course went from dry to muddy in a matter of minutes. The third lap was so grueling, but I was determined to finish strong. I popped out of the last descent and sprinted as hard as I could up the gravel road and through the final grass stretch.
This is incredibly hard to say, but I got last. And you know what? I’m (almost) okay with it. Why? I did everything I could to perform at MY best. If I controlled the known variables, why should I beat myself up about the unknown ones that are out of my control? I acknowledge that I’ve come a long way, but I also realize that there’s a long road ahead to get where I want to be. I might need to take a mental break during my journey, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Hitting the reset button is hard because it feels like wasting time, but in some cases, it yields the results you’ve been looking for all along.
After Missoula, I hitched a ride back to Draper, Utah where Bryson took me to see Dr. Massimo Testa (BMC pro team doctor) to discuss the physical limitations I’m experiencing. I was touched when he introduced me as a “past and future champion.” It made me think, “I’m cool with that temporary title. Even if I never bring “present champion” into fruition, that’s still something to be proud of.”
To sum up my analysis: I have low iron and I've moved out of the acute phase of the mono and into the chronic phase. I might have bad days here and there, but it's not affecting me every day. And chances are, I'm on the tail-end of it because it's been a year. There’s no way to predict how long it will be until I get my race engine back, but when I do, I’m NOT going to waste it.
"I CAN and WILL be one of the best."
Last year, at the same race, I exemplified the highest possible level of suck that exists in the universe. But I had a valid excuse: Mono. Low iron. Hypothyroid. You know, the ingredients for the ultimate trifecta of slowness. If you follow my blog, you’ve already read about “the dark days.” This year I thought, "Well, I know for a FACT that I’m going to do better than last year! Without a triple threat of slowness plaguing my body, imagine what I can do when nothing is wrong with me!” I had nothing to base my expectations on, but at least I had the comfort of knowing I would surpass last year’s performance.
On the line, my body was filled with that terrible heaviness and weak feeling that only comes from nerves. I thought to myself, “There’s nothing to be nervous about. No one expects anything from you. Heck, no one is even paying attention to you because you’re not on the “Ones to Watch” page of the race brochure! Who wants that kind of pressure anyway?!” The gun went off and I was towards the back within seconds. I tried not to let this discourage me so early in the race, so I reminded myself, “Race your own race. Use the first lap to warm up and pick off girls one by one.”
For half a lap, I followed a fellow American, glad to have someone to pace me since no one else was in sight. She eventually put another rider in between us and managed to get away from me before the end of the first lap. From that point on, I rode alone. I experienced a lot of different emotions during the last two laps. I was frustrated and angry that the race started exactly the same as last year. But I didn’t give up because I still had the power to make it end differently. It’s not over until it’s over. Anything can happen, right?
I wish this post was leading up to some miraculous comeback where I turned into a rocket and plowed through the whole field on the last lap (like Sonic the Hedgehog.) BUT, life does not grant us turbo boosters when we ride over a sparkling, golden root or blinking rock. Nor does it bless us with Pocket Rainbows.
When I crossed the line, I pulled off and tried to stay composed, but I couldn’t hold back the tears. Sobbing to my mom, “It was last year all over again.” I couldn’t say any more. I tried not to think about how I just fell below my absolute lowest expectation.
On the 6 hour drive home, I fought as hard as I could to keep it together. But the dam broke and I felt an emotion that I’ve truly never felt in my entire life. Defeat. We’ve all had our fair share of bad races, but this was different. I just kept thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” In the heat of the moment, we all tend to say things we don’t really mean. But this time, I can honestly say I meant it. As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt this huge pang in my chest and a lump in my throat. And it stayed there because I believed those words for the first time.
I really thought this race was going to mark the beginning of a comeback 3 years in the making. After recovering from a back injury, autoimmune disease, and mono, I thought nothing could stop me. I 100% believed that I would be back on the podium in no time. I never doubted that. I thought, “I’m healthy, I’m doing the training, I have loads of motivation… There’s no way I can’t succeed.”
This mindset can make or break you, though. In Canada, it broke me. Telling myself that I couldn’t fail because I checked all the boxes set me up for huge disappointment. All athletes know it’s not that simple - there’s always something. I underestimated the time it takes to bounce back from my illnesses. I shouldn’t have expected to be at the top of my game after a summer of no physical activity.
What has bothered me the most these past few seasons is having to say “I CAN and WILL be one of the best” instead of “I AM one of the best.” I know that tons of athletes experience this – the struggle to reincarnate the champion you used to be OR to reach a previously unknown, but believable potential. For me, it’s both. Earlier this year, I had my national champion jerseys tucked away in my closet, out of sight. Looking at them didn’t make me feel like a winner. It made me think, “I went from THAT to THIS.” And not just in terms of results. I’m also referring to the kind of racer I was then and how I FELT. I want that feeling back more than anything. The snap in my legs, the hole-shot sprints, the aggressive riding style. THAT is what I’m fighting to get back. But who knows? Maybe I’m not that kid anymore and I’m evolving. One thing is for sure: I’m not giving up on past Veda, but I’m also not writing off future Veda, either. As for present Veda… I think she should cut herself some slack.
I recently put my national champ jerseys back up on my bedroom wall with two wall decals that read: “She believed she could, so she did” and “Set goals, demolish them.” No one said how long it should take to demolish a goal. I suppose the longer it takes, the more satisfying the demolition. Well, mine has been a long time coming, so I’m practicing my best “I came in like a wrecking ball!” I’m not writing myself off just yet and you shouldn’t either. Thank you to the people who support me as a person first and athlete second. In times like these, that keeps me going and reminds me that I still have something to offer. Special thanks to the guys at DNA Cycling. Their unwavering support & kindness has added so much positivity to my life.
After a long hiatus from racing, I was really anxious to kick off the 2016 season. It was pretty exciting to jump right into the largest and most competitive 17-18 UCI girls group that has ever taken place on American soil. This race was my first chance to grab some UCI points and I knew everyone would be vying for them, so I anticipated a battle for each and every position. I had a second row call up, the gun went off, and I settled into the ...pace line, somewhere in the middle. My main goal was to stay in tune with my body and focus on how I feel rather than what place I’m in. I treated it as an opportunity to see where my race fitness is at and familiarize my body with high intensity again. All in all, it was quite a shock to my system, which I expected. I almost cracked the top 10, crossing the line in 11th. I anticipated a similar result considering the fact that I’ve been doing mostly base training and very little high intensity. With that being said, I was neither disappointed nor thrilled. I was just glad to have some sort of starting point and something to build from. A week later, I was lining up at Bonelli amidst another big field hungry for UCI points. It rained off and on all day, so the course was sloppy, making things a lot more interesting. I had another second row call up and the gun went off. I started hard to get a good position before the singletrack because it was hard to make up time and pass in the sketchy conditions. After the initial surge, I dialed it back a bit and paced for 4 grueling laps. I kept it steady on the first two laps, kicked it up a notch on the climbs on the third lap, and emptied the tank on the last lap with an attack on the last climb, securing the my gap on the girl behind me. I knew I hadn’t cracked the top 10, but I was really happy with my performance. I proved to myself that I still have the mental fortitude and grit that has led me to success in the past. Once my upper-end fitness shapes up after I get some more racing and training under my belt, I know I will unlock my potential. I have a good feeling about the second half of the season. Time to go home, kick training up a few notches, and head to Missoula, Montana in June. I want to send a big thank you to the guys at DNACycling for supporting me this season.
After a month in Tucson, we packed up our tin casa and headed to Utah. We were all a little bummed to be leaving Catalina State Park until we turned the corner and saw the majesty of Snow Canyon State Park in the town of Saint George. The towering red canyons, white sandstone “quilts,” and black volcanic rocks made Tucson seem like a washed up celebrity. See for yourself.
Just when I thought things were looking promising, our family suffered an extremely unfortunate incident.
I was surviving the winter - but I was counting the days until team camp in California in February and the first race in March. Just when I thought things were looking promising, our family suffered an extremely unfortunate incident.
My mom has always been my training partner, from the very first day. She's driven me all across the US and been there for every single event of my life. She was right there with me in the below zero temps. And when it got so cold that my water bottles would freeze, she'd drive the car at 5mph for two hours with hydration, food, and extra layers on hand. Following me up hills and driving me down so I wouldn't freeze... over and over and over. She's always been as committed as me and we work well together. She thought it would be nice to break up the winter training with a fun clinic at an indoor bike park. In the first 5 minutes, she was startled and fell sideways off a ramp onto the concrete. This incident has caused months of excruciating nerve pain. Unable to walk for months, she's still suffering and working hard to get her life back. I lost my only training partner and, in a way, my mom.
I lost my only training partner and, in a way, my mom.
I didn't know what to say or do because that was the first time in my life that I saw tears of despair, fear, and sadness on her face.
When the end of March rolled around, it was time for me to fly out to California for the first two ProXCTs (read about the races here). I was concerned about my mom's well-being since it involved serious nerve complications; however, she sent me off with lots of positivity and convinced me that she was going to be okay. I called her frequently, but I found out later that she wasn't telling me what was really going on. Upon my return home, I didn't know what to say or do because that was the first time in my life that I saw tears of despair, fear, and sadness on her face.
Boy, was I wrong.
I won't sugarcoat it or draw it out any longer. The gun went off and my fuse burned out like a firecracker. Girls were passing me left and right and I couldn't understand why. I was like a sloth on Benedryl. I didn't have any power in my legs and I burned up in the first 15 minutes. I thought it must've been from my long travel day 2 days prior. But I couldn't dwell on this for too long, because I had to focus on recovering for the next race.
The next race rolled around and I wasn't fazed by my last result anymore. I loved the technical course and I was pumped to show what I was capable of. Annnnnnd, my legs were duds. I had never been so embarrassed in my life. I just finished at the bottom of the barrel with USA on my jersey. I wanted to run and hide.
Something just wasn't adding up. I put in way too much training to be doing this poorly. Even on my worst day, I should have done better.
Something wasn't adding up. I put in way too much training to be doing this poorly. Even on my worst day, I should have done better.
Based on my inability to assimilate training and sustain high power in races, I was encouraged to skip the first week of the trip and get my blood tested for low iron. My fear wasn't that I would discover that I had low iron, but that I didn't. I didn't want to find out that there was no valid explanation for the level of suck that I was demonstrating. Then I would be left wondering, what is wrong with me?! I convinced myself that, even if I had to skip the next two ProXCT races, I would still make it to Nationals. I couldn't fathom a scenario that didn't involve attending the biggest race of the year. It just wasn't an option. Period.
I couldn't fathom a scenario that didn't involve attending the biggest race of the year. It just wasn't an option. Period.
She hung up, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "You have mono. No nationals."
The phone rang.
My mom picked it up & listened.
She hung up, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "You have mono. No nationals."
I covered my face and burst into tears as soon as I heard "No."
That moment was the last kick that knocked me to rock bottom. It wasn't necessarily the news at that very moment that broke me, but the collective weight of every fallen domino crushing me. I was so busy travelling and looking forward to the next race or the next destination that I didn't really have time to dwell on things or feel sorry for myself. But this time around, life just froze and I couldn't rely on an upcoming adventure to distract me from how I felt. Everything just hit me at once.
I feared that I would never be able to prove what I'm capable of, especially when I was lucky enough to have the support I needed. Above all, I was afraid to set my dominos back up in fear that they would just get knocked down again.
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Thanks for reading.
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Bonelli ProXCT #2 (Round 3)
After Bonelli, the Whole Athlete / Specialized caravan headed about 7 hours north back to San Anselmo for a few days before the one and only Sea Otter Classic. I will cut right to the chase and tell you that I ended up injuring my knee in training and was not able to compete. Rather than dwelling on this, I will proceed to tell you what a great time I had leading up to the race!
We couldn't pass up the picturesque waters of the Bolinas Bay, so we planned to visit Stinson Beach to soak up some rays and even out our permanent knee and arm warmers. After an energizing breakfast at Mana Bowls, we rode back to the team house just in time to grab our swimsuits and catch the bus. The winding road along the coast was breathtaking and I was so excited to put my feet in the sand!
I want to take a moment to thank the people that make it possible for me to pursue my passion with the utmost support and guidance. I am especially thankful to have Dario Fredrick, coach / team director, on my side. His advice and encouragement throughout my frustrating setbacks has made me a better person in more ways than one; hence the Whole Athlete logo that encompasses the well-rounded athlete. I am excited to continue working with him as I strive to achieve my goals. I would also like to thank the team's head mechanic, Josh Snead. He always goes above and beyond to make the bikes look impeccably clean and new. He's basically a bike wizard (hence the beard) and I always learn something new from his vast knowledge of mechanics. I also appreciate the comic relief that he provides on every trip! I also want to thank my awesome parents for making huge sacrifices so I can gain valuable life experiences. They truly do everything in their power to help me follow my passion and that is absolutely priceless. I would never be doing what I'm doing without them!
Without further adieu, I would like to thank all of our sponsors. I am genuinely honored to represent these top-notch companies and products.
Go to the sponsor tab and click on the company logos to visit their websites! Give em' a like on Facebook too!
The team house was a beautiful accommodation in the town of Yorba Linda, with a welcoming swimming pool and an incredible view of the city. This was all very enticing, however, the next few days were to be spent in preparation for the 1st race of the season on Saturday.
Bonelli Park (#1)
Saturday, March 14, 2015
The whistle blew and the Whole Athlete girls were one, two, and three going up the initial climb. I fell back and tried to establish my own rhythm and aimed for consistency. However, during the second lap, one side of my back became unbearably tight with each climb. Based on my previous experience with back issues, continuing would make matters worse, so I forced myself pull out of the race to avoid further damage. It takes a lot of discipline to make a decision like that at a time when you really want to prove yourself. However, it's my responsibility as a racer to make decisions that my future self will thank me for. This was one of those times. In the big picture, these early season races are just training for what's to come. I naturally have high expectations for myself, but sometimes I have to remember to keep my goals realistic and just focus on continually bettering myself.
Fontana City National
Saturday, March 21, 2015
My class had a generous number of competitors and I was determined to get top 3. Without any results from Bonelli to base my expectations on, it was hard to formulate a strategy. I decided that I would match my competitors' pace in the beginning and then turn up the intensity on the second half. At the line, I discovered that we were only completing 2 laps, so I knew that any mistakes would be hard to recover from. I needed to push on the climbs and ride smooth on the sketchy descents.
The deafening whistle blew and I took the lead immediately. Throughout the 1st lap, it was hard to keep track of my competitors in the mix of Cat 1 women ages 15 and up. I followed one girl for quite some time before she dabbed and I managed to slide past her on a technical climb.
See team press release here
4 / 11 / 15 - Bonelli Park ProXCT (#2)
4 / 18 / 15 - Sea Otter Classic
Special thank you to . . .
Dario Fredrick ( team director / coach )
Josh Snead ( head mechanic )
All of our sponsors
That's enough math talk for the day. Let's cut to the chase. For those of you who don't know, the Month of Mud is a local mountain bike series in western Pennsylvania. However, an unusally warm, dry Fall made it the month of imaginary mud this year. The series is unique because it consists of short track, cross country, Super D, cyclocross, and (in past years) a mtb time trial. This series is close to my heart because it was my very first mountain bike race / series back in 2009 (take a walk down memory lane here). I got second overall for Expert Women last year, so I was determined to come out on top this time. Being that my training is on the conservative level at this time of the year, I knew I would have to dig deep to come out ahead of anyone training specifically for the series.
Race #1 - Moraine State Park XC (14 miles / 1 hr 36 min)
This is the most technical of all the courses. I knew that I had the skills to ride the entire course, but morning rainfall made everything very slick and dangerous. This meant I had to change my game plan. Instead of attacking the technical sections like I usually do, I decided to ride conservatively in the sense that I chose to run many sections as opposed to riding and possibly sliding out and damaging my derailleur. Jill took charge from the beginning and held a commanding lead throughout the race. Hannah and I were like a slinky. . . together, apart, together, apart . . .
I based my nutrition on how long the race was in previous years; however, times ended up being approximately 20 minutes longer than usual due to slick conditions. It wasn't a great feeling when the Osmo I had been sipping from my Camelbak disappeared and my last ProBar Bolt had made it's way into my mouth with a third of the race still to go. The course was mentally and physically exhausting, but the strength training I've been doing helped my upper body endurance. I believe I held a good steady pace for the length of race, but Hannah's end of the slinky beat mine to the last step. I was happy that my bike and I finished without any mishaps and was motivated for race #2.
This course was completely opposite of the first one - short, non-technical, and fast. There weren't many opportunities to pass and it would be difficult to catch anyone who got away. My strategy had three parts: get into the woods with as many men in between me and my competitors as possible, ride as hard as I could, and win. I shot off the line like a rocket and made it into the woods about 4th in a group of 25 men and women. I led the women for the entire race and finished up with a win.
You know how they say trail mix is just M 'n' M's with obstacles? That's how I felt about the cyclocross race in the "trail mix" of disciplines in the series. They just had to throw it in there so the "Cross Queens of western PA" could thwart my spot in the overall standings. Well ain't that dandy. I decided it would be a good idea to take my dusty cx cross bike for a test drive, but when my elbow stopped my leg every time I made a turn, I realized my growth spurt had destroyed the small chance I had at a level playing field come race day. I anxiously waited to compete in a 40 minute steeple chase against some freakin' fast ponies - on my mountain bike.
On top of that, I soon discovered that the course required mountaineering skills. As if the nearly vertical "climb-up" of death wasn't hard enough, two barriers were placed directly after it on the hill. A second set of barriers were placed not too far from that. The course was short, so we ended up going over those obstacles 9 times! I could almost hear the ironically cheery voice of Effie Trinket from the Hunger Games saying, "May the odds be ever in your favor!" I had to channel my inner Katniss Everdeen and defy the odds! On the bright side, the course actually featured some singletrack and logs to satisfy the mountain biker in me.
Long story short, my Zone 5 fuse was a lot shorter than I predicted and I felt like I was suffering as much as a tribute in the Hunger Games arena. After a battle with Stephanie for second for most of the race, she gunned it with two laps to go and my legs couldn't respond. I felt her blow by me and, in my mind, I was standing and sprinting to keep up. In reality, I was spinning granny gear and going nowhere. I fought hard to the end and finshed with a third place. I would rather headbutt a cactus than do that race again. Without further adieu, here are some photos of me having the time of my life. Enjoy.
A good start was still crucial since we had to funnel into the singletrack immediately after the paved road climb. Once I established a really good position entering the trail, I settled in and wondered how far back the other ladies were.
It was only a matter of time before they caught me . . . But I didn't panic like I usually would have. I let them pass me and aimed to stay glued to their tires for as long as possible. I was actually very surprised by how fast they were pinning it on the descents. I began to question how long I could maintain their pace, so I backed off knowing that I had a lot of race to go.
It was definitely tough for me to hold back and let my competitors gain on me, but I knew that I needed to reserve some gas for the second lap or I would be in big trouble. I rode solo for a long time, catching glimpses of third here and there. On the second lap, I gave it my all. It was one of the most memorable efforts I've ever put forth and I really tested my limits. In the end, I did not catch my opponents, but I wasn't too upset because I knew I couldn't have pushed any harder. At the same time, my fourth place result put me in a pretty suspenseful position going into the finale . . . I HAD to win the last race to take the overall series title!
The tiebreaker. The finale. The ultimate showdown! The final race couldn't have been any more suspenseful! I crushed this course last year and I was hoping history would repeat itself. I was sweating nervously on the line. Oh, not about the race. I was preoccupied with the fact that I was getting my wisdom teeth removed the day after the race. I shook my head to clear the embarrassing visions of a drug-induced Veda speaking jibberish like in all those YouTube videos.
I was staged one minute behind my biggest competitor. I knew that if I made up enough time to just see her, I was already winning, so that was my goal. The course was physically demanding with the long, loose descents and punchy climbs. About two-thirds into the race, I launched off the A-line jump and found myself right behind my competitor (she took the B-line). I already made up the minute separation, so I was confident that I could at least stay with her for the remainder of the course. But things started to go downhill (literally and figuratively) from there. Suddenly she was out of sight and I panicked inside. I knew I would beat myself up afterwards if I allowed the gap to grow after I made up all that time. I pushed as hard as I could and kept my eyes peeled for her. As I neared the end, I could only hope that she didn't reestablish the gap. I crossed the line and, without a moment's hesitation, stuck my face in front of Mr. Bywater's computer screen . . .
Veda Gerasimek - 0:41:41
Hannah Brewer - 0:41:17
"Aw man!" I grumbled with frustration. I guess my homemade pumpkin cookies weren't a big enough bribe for the Sherriff. Maybe I'll give him the whole pumpkin next time.
A lot of people would say that second is the first loser. In reality, you either win or LEARN. Winning is relative and the stars do not always align at the right time and place. Sometimes your opponent is more skilled or faster or simply outperforms you. In that case, second is a great accomplishment if you gave it your all. I'll never strive for second, but I will accept it, own it, learn from it, and use it as fuel. Just ask Dahn Pahrs, he knows what I'm talking about!
DNA Cycling - A humble thank you to DNA Cycling for not only supporting the Whole Athlete / Specialized Team, but my individual goals as well. I am honored to represent such a high quality and personable clothing company.
OSMO Nutrition - I have always been amazed at how effective your products are. OSMO has made a huge difference in my performance as an athlete. Your products have been a complete game changer for me.
ProGold - A big shout out to Progold for keeping my bike running smoothly throughout the whole series! I cannot imagine how many mechanicals I would have if I didn’t use your products! You are a life saver.
Probar - My taste buds would like to thank you for providing healthy and delicious fuel for my body on and off the bike . . . I am addicted to the Berry Blast BOLTS!
Today we feature part 2 of Veda's interview! "I will never forget why I started mountain biking and I want to ignite that same spark in other kids....
As a kid, I always looked up to women that were personable and approachable, not always the ones that won or got on the podium. My results are very important to me, but carrying on the legacy of the people who inspired me is just as important and necessary to develop the next generation of female racers / riders."
Meet Veda Gerasimek! I contacted Veda after reading her great article in Mountain Bike for Her issue #2 (http://mtb4her.com/mountain-bike-for-her-issue-2-augustsep…/)
She's a fantastic young lady who is going after he dreams and providing the next generation of female riders a role model they can really look up to.
Veda's interview will be posted in two parts, look for Part 2 on Thursday!
Coming off of our best year to date, the Whole Athlete Cycling Team would like history to repeat itself come 2015! However, we cannot continue to uphold this level of success without YOU.
Beginning at just $20, you can have delicious snacks delivered to your door & SUPPORT the following causes:
Proceeds will go to National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) & will help fund the WA team's upcoming season.
Food + more kids on bikes + help the WA team = Triple win situation!
It's a small price to pay to have a BIG impact on multiple platforms.
More about the team's chosen social cause (NICA): http://www.nationalmtb.org/
Buy goodies here: http://www.playhardgiveback.com/wathlete
A lot has changed since my first World Cup experience in 2010. When I was 11, I entered the 12-34 Cat 3 Women Citizens race. You know that song, "One of These Things is Not Like the Others, One of These Things Doesn't Belong . . . ?" Standing at only four feet tall, I had to constantly assure people I was in the right category. There was no way that I was doing the quarter mile kids race after I just rode the entire race course with Georgia Gould and the Luna Chix the day before. I was obviously at the bottom of the barrel, so my parents sat me down and made sure my expectations were, let's say, realistic. All they wanted to do was protect my fragile ego and they felt that telling me that I wasn't going to win was the way to do it. As it turns out, telling me that I may get last resulted in me defying the odds. This race was a turning point for me. Oh, you're probably thinking because I won the 12-34 category as an 11 year old . . . but that wasn't it. It was the first race that I would cross the line in front of my mom. It turns out that a fragile ego was hurt that day - it just wasn't mine : ) The innocence of my early adolescence led me to believe that I was, indeed, a "World Champion" after winning. I looked at my parents with a furrowed brow as they laughed hysterically. The podium ceremony was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I was star struck watching all the big names get bombarded with media and flashing cameras. I anxiously waited for my turn in the spotlight. The commentator's booming voice announced, "That's a wrap for our World Cup podiums. Now onto citizen podiums." People fled in every direction until the populated hillside was barren. Just me, my parents, and a few citizen competitors were left standing. Despite my height deficiency at the time, the top step put me on a level playing field with my competitors. I sheepishly put my hands up as a lonely flash emerged from my mom's point-and-shoot camera. You would have never known that thirty professional photographers were crowding the front of the stage only a few minutes earlier. I might not have been a World Champion, but my slightly less glorifying win motivated me to get to the next level.
Four years later, I'm 15 years old and racing in the 12-34 Cat 1 Women class. It was going to be one of the longest races I've done (4 laps, about an hour and 40 minutes), so pacing was going to be a huge factor. I lined up bright and early at 8am and took the hole shot immediately. I was actually holding back because I didn't want to burn up; so I was surprised to find that I had a big gap going into the switchback climb. I maintained my position for the first two laps; however, at the end of the second lap, I wrecked at a feature called "Kabush Falls." My foot clipped a big rock that separated the two line options and I landed at the bottom of the steep grade. My bike smacked the back of my legs so hard that they seized up, forcing me to sit on the trail for a good minute. I dented my helmet, ripped my skinsuit, and blood covered my leg. I've experienced this kind of impact before, so I knew that I needed to force myself to get back on the bike and allow my calves and hamstrings to loosen up. The tightness would only get better the longer I rode. Coming through the feed zone, no one knew if the woman ahead of me was in my class or just another pro in the field that I caught up to (because she had an odd number plate.) I felt like my pacing was pretty accurate and I pushed the climbs since I had a lot of confidence on the downhill. Unfortunately, at the end of the last lap, I crashed on a sketchy 90 degree gravel turn at the bottom of the "Mini Wall." I wasn't going too fast - I just didn't have enough strength left to maintain control. Most of the impact went to the left side of my face, scratching up my Oakleys and bruising my chin and jaw. I was horrified because I felt something rolling around in my mouth! Nervously, I spit it into my glove. Head turned and only one eye half open, I realized it was only a piece of gravel. I tasted blood but I was ecstatic that the fortune my parents spent on orthodontics was not in vain. That relief alone was enough to power me through the finish. With almost everything bleeding and aching, I rolled across the line in 3rd.
I'd say my last race of the season was a success. I felt strong and threw down some hard attacks. I would have never been this consistent without the right hydration and nutrition combo. Osmo and ProBar kept me fueled through one of the longest efforts I've done so far. If you want piece of mind when it comes to race nutrition, check out both companies and experience the benefits yourself.
Thanks to Adam Morka for the great shots!
I have exciting news! I feel incredibly privileged to have my article published in Issue #2 of MTB4Her. It is about female role models, a subject that is very important to me. Check it out here! http://issuu.com/mtb4her/docs/mtb4her_issue2-aug-sept-2014?e=11507097/8807802
Following a successful state championships (in which I earned 3rd in the pro/open category,) I began to feel some burning on one side of my lower back / top of the glute. I thought it was typical muscle strain from being hunched over the bars, so I shrugged it off. The next day, the burning nearly doubled in intensity and my eyes welled up with tears. Being my stubborn self, I kept riding thinking it would work itself out. The day after that, I didn't even make it through one climbing interval before I had to call it quits. I was flustered because it came on so fast and the pain was increasing every day. I immediately scheduled appointments for acupuncture, electrotherapy, and sports massage . . . all in the same day. The 45 minute drive to and from the physical therapy center, the simultaneous treatments, and the stress was the last thing I needed so close to nationals. I felt run down and ragged, but it didn't break me down mentally. I was NOT going to let the 5 consecutive months I spent on the trainer go to waste. If there was one thing I could control, it was my attitude.
If there was one thing I could control, it was my attitude.
Lucky for me, Dario Fredrick (of Whole Athlete) came to the rescue! He gave me a virtual, remote bike fit as I emailed videos and photos from all different angles. He corrected so many small details that seemed impossible to notice online. After this, my pain decreased quickly, but I had to resist the urge to jump back into training and risk the small chance I had of racing at nationals. Only a few days from the 2 week cutoff, I was able to complete a 45 minute spin without any pain at all. I smiled from ear to ear - something I hadn't done in a long time! I ramped up my training little by little, hoping I had enough time to get my fitness back to where it was when I left off. As the difficulty of my workouts increased, I was surprised to find that I didn't lose too much power. The bike fit was the main problem solver, but I truly believe my positivity was a factor. I honestly surprised myself with how hard I was willing to fight - revealing my commitment to the sport and my passion to succeed.
I honestly surprised myself with how hard I was willing to fight - revealing my commitment to the sport and my passion to succeed.
I also recovered just in time for the Pro XCT in Wisconsin (aka WORS Cup), marking the beginning of a 3 week adventure consisting of 2 Pro XCT races and Nationals! I could tell that my mom was a little nervous about leaving my dad home alone for that long . . . She left multiple sticky notes around the house with things like: keep the car clean, how to do laundry, instructions on running the dishwasher, etc. My dad assured us that he could take care of himself and he returned the favor by providing a free "How to Hitch a Trailer, Change a Tire, and Check the Oil Tutorial." I couldn't blame him for being apprehensive after my mom declared, "As long as I don't pull into any dead ends, I'm sure I'll be fine!" My mom and I have been on many road trips together and we sort of got used to the red glow of the check engine, check oil, or low gas lighting up her face. Somehow we always survived and got to where we needed to be. This, however, was going to be 3 weeks... a lot of things can go wrong in 3 weeks!
I only did one hard workout leading up to the race, so I was anxious to see if my body would still be familiar with race level intensity. Long story short, I blew myself up and had one of my worst races ever. I'm not going to lie; I beat myself up over my poor performance. I was hoping for a good result and a boost of confidence going into nationals. Instead, I walked away with disappointment . . . And then a surge of determination!
It's all or nothing at nationals.
In WI, I learned that getting the hole shot is not always the best thing to do. I applied this lesson and held back a little when the gun went off. Going into the woods, I found myself in the 4th position. I dropped 5th place after about half a lap. 3rd was not in sight, but that did not stop me from believing that I could catch her. At the end of the second lap, I spotted her only two switchbacks ahead of me on the grassy climb. I hit the A-line and was right on her wheel going through the feed zone! A wave of adrenaline rushed through me as I came to the realization that a bronze medal was achievable.
A wave of adrenaline rushed through me as I came to the realization that a bronze medal was achievable.
It's so comforting to look back and know that I didn't have to think twice about many important factors.
Osmo and Probar provided me with optimal hydration and fuel . . . And both products are easy to eat / drink because they taste SO good! The biggest factor would have to be the machine that gets me from point A to point B . . . my Specialized bike! But it wouldn't be a smooth running machine without SRAM components and Progold Lubricants. Comfort & style are also factors that play a significant role. My DNA Cycling kit feels like Cloud 9 and looks like a million bucks! Hello bibs that don't give you "sausage legs!" Another comfort factor would be ESI Grips. They feel great under your hands and they're made in the United States. Oakley combines the last two factors perfectly. I have a really small face and they are the only glasses that feel snug and look pro.
To me, Nationals was (and always will be) much more than just medals and podiums.
To me, Nationals was (and always will be) much more than medals and podiums. One of the most memorable moments was teaching some younger kids how to wash bikes with Progold products! At the end of my bike cleaning training camp, they convinced their parents they "needed some product to keep their bikes shiny."
Kids don't lie, so take their word for it and visit http://www.progoldmfr.com/
On Monday, my mom hooked up the trailer (in a surprisingly short amount of time) and we were ready to head home. But it wouldn't be an adventure without a little travel trepidation! Before we even reached the top of the driveway, we felt a huge THUD and my mom hit the brakes with wide eyes. I clutched the armrests with fear. She exclaimed, "The trailer is unhitched! Run down the driveway and get Josh (team mechanic) before it rolls down the hill!" My legs were smoked from the race, but the fear of our trailer rolling away propelled my feet way faster than I thought I could go. In the pouring rain, Josh and the guys helped us get on the road once and for all! (Sh,h,h,h... don't tell my dad!)
I knew I couldn't leave Vermont without trying a Maple Creemee! After discovering that almost all of the ice cream places were closed, I finally found one. Yummmm! What better way to leave Vermont than a Maple Creemee and a rainbow?!
Being on the Whole Athlete / Specialized Team has given me the opportunity to test my limits and see what it takes to be a top-notch racer. I want to thank Matt McCourtney and Dario Fredrick for taking a chance on me and believing that I can accomplish the goals that I set for myself. Both of you have taught me so much and that means the world to me. Next year, I am determined to come back faster and stronger.
Angelina and I were forced to start behind ALL of the other categories; so I knew that I would have to be smart about passing in order to maintain my speed and catch the Cat 1 women who started two minutes ahead of us. The whistle blew and I went off like a rocket. I attacked the technical climbs, literally hanging on by a thread and gasping for air. I knew that once I crested the top, I would recover quickly. I felt fast and smooth on the loose rocky descents. I honestly never felt like I was going so fast in my life! I was able to catch six of the cat 1 women. My first lap was just under thirty-one minutes and I wasn't about to let up at all. I just kept telling myself that the lap was only six miles and, after the second climb, it was all downhill. My second lap time was only a minute slower than my first and I walked away with a 1st place finish in the 15-16 Cat 1 Women. I am super happy with my performance and gained the confidence I needed going into states in two weeks.
Congrats to Angelina for winning the Cat 1 17-18 category!
FUN FACT : My average heart rate was 195!!! Woah!
Note: I have known these women ever since I started mountain biking when I was 10. I have been looking up to them for as long as I can remember. It is amazing to be competitive with them after all these years. I have so much respect for these ladies because they are fast AND wonderful people!
I love the morning of this race. It's like a bunch of excited pregnant people walking around smiling because they have apparently forgotten about the pain they are about to endure. In a matter of a few hours, that will all change. Those smiles turn to despair as all you hear are hopeful pleas that the dark skies will brighten with lightening, thus ending the race . . . or the wishful thinking that a teammate won't return before the cut-off so you don't have to go for that last agonizing lap. You'll even hear teams rationalizing how they'll only lose one spot on the podium if they just call it quits. That about sums up a race that lasts an entire day - yet, we always come back for more. There's just something about it. I'll admit, I feel pretty cool saying I basically did three XC races in one day. Heck yeah!
Our strategy was to try double laps for the first 8 laps and go to singles towards the end. I raced the first two laps, which put us about 15 minutes ahead of the second team. Betsy did two more smoking fast laps and we increased the distance between our competitors to an entire lap. Due to an abnormal breakfast, I had terrible stomach cramps the entire race. It felt like someone was punching me every time I hit a rock (and there were a lot of rocks!) Luckily, I didn't have to worry about other factors affecting my performance. I knew I could count on ProGold Lubricants to keep my Specialized bike running smoothly (despite the muddy course), OSMO to keep me hydrated, and Probar to keep me fueled up. However, after five laps I was just about as useless as a broken pencil. The hermit took one for the team and completed one extra lap! We ended up with 11 laps (2 laps ahead of the rest of the competition) and my teamie posted the fasted female time - woot, woot!
I cannot thank Betsy enough for partnering up me! She is one of the nicest people I have ever met - and one of the speediest too!
I also want to send a shout out to Jim Harman, race director for EX2 Adventures. Their events are always well-organized and a lot of fun. Mr. Harman has supported me since I was 11 years old when he allowed me to participate in this race as the youngest competitor to ever do it. Thanks for believing in me!