Mapping Out, Reflecting In

Where would I be without my sponsors? Without one of them, I couldn’t even figure that out. Hans van der Maarel of Red Geographics is a cartographer, and a cycling fan. This year he has offered to be one of my supporters because he believes in me, and in the sport of cyclocross. In turn, I believe in him and what he does. In a time when visualization means more than a description, when photos are worth more than a thousand words (or 160 characters), he produces maps. “Isn’t that was google maps is for?” you may ask? Well it is more than maps. It is spatial analysis, dataset comparison, projection creation, or fun project production.

Hans created the infographic you may have seen earlier this summer. The map traces my 2016-2017 season, from start, to finish. Beyond looking rad, it provides me time for reflection, showing me my race density, travel distances, and results.

Infographic created by Hans van der Maarel of Red Geographics

Speaking with Hans about his work also offers reflection back to my own education. Fun fact: While pursuing my undergraduate geology degree, I also pursued a certification in GIS: geographic information systems. Frankly, I loved it and it was something that I saw as the most tangible application of my studies. If not a tool for an academic job I pursued, I saw myself working strictly as a GIS analyst. For me, the most obvious application given my background was to environment and ecological projects: studying land cover changes, sea ice, sea surface temps; natural disaster frequencies and changes in intensities, hydrological watersheds, erosion investigations; rainfall vs drought. At least in my short academic stint working in GIS, I found every part thrilling: finding the dataset or the means to physically acquire it (much data comes from a census, satellite images, or catalogues of physically collected data. I enjoyed needed to go physically collect data, ie water or soil samples in my case, but that means the area of study has to be pretty small); finding a way to manipulate it to study it properly, creating the perfect visuals. People often ask what I would do after cycling. When I cross my last finish line, I may very well find myself at the start of my GIS career. [Many of my friends from school are stuck at desks working whilst I go out and ride. My friend Stephanie has actually acquired some position in which gets to use remote sensing satellite data and land change data to write cool papers like this one.]

While I was a scientist using mapping as a tool as a means of analysis, Hans is the Mapper himself. He is contracted by various individuals and companies to set up visualizations of data, compare datasets, or create cool projects like weather maps or projections onto objects, like globes (for anyone that thinks this is a trivial task, I ask you to explain to me how to get a flat map on-to a round object. All taken from a world that is neither flat, nor round. And please- be precise).

Hans also sells software products and provides training and support for these products. So hopefully that means he can be my software sponsor once this racing gig falls flat! #SponsorForLife (but seriously I  remember nothing from college except the sweet large pizza, breadsticks, and TWO soft drinks deal from Cousin Vinny’s that was DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR until 4AM for only $9.99. Damn I miss that. So I really would need a lot of emphasis on the training and support side…)

Hans and I have a lot in common. We have both found something we are passionate about and have pursued it. For him, he has pursued his passion for maps as a career and is a fan of cycling. I have found a passion for cycling to pursue as a career, and though I am not a “fan” of mapping, I certainly also have a passion there. (Though I do casually map. Check out the maps I make daily on strava, which also house a ton of data such as speed, cadence, power, calories, etc. See, data and visualization lurk behind every image and every activity).

Looking back at the past season I had, and looking on to the season about to start, I get to use what I have learned to plan for the future. I still hit Rochester first, but then I go to Iowa for 3 races including a world cup, skipping Vegas this year, then on to Wisconsin for 2 races including a world cup. Then with no break, straight on to KMC then on to a new race for me, Baltimore, as it is a part of the US-Cup.

Infographic created by Hans van der Maarel of Red Geographics

Then, finally a break. For those wondering, I am not sure about how much European travelling I will be doing this year. I do hope to make 2 trips over, but the timing will be based on how I am doing here on the US, and managing fitness and fatigue. Coach Kyle will likely have something to say about it, as will my own mindset. I hope to have achieved a level of National domination before next aiming for World domination, but I have learned that the quest for world domination is a great leap towards training for National domination.

It is a long, twisting, tumultuous road through an American woman’s cyclocross season, even more-so through her career. I invite you to stay tuned in closely to the circuit this year, because I anticipate one of the most exciting racing seasons to date.


Check out redgeographics.com and reach out if you have any data  that needs analyzing, visualizing, or just want to have your own cool season info-graphic done! I know I have a few ideas for this season’s! think… #tubeless

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