Long time no talk. I keep meaning to get to writing, but, this is not going at all how I expected. This being my season, being a team manager, no longer working a regular person job.
I used to think the most stressful thing about CX prep was waiting from season to season to see if you have a team to ride with, and not finding out until August. Well, it turns out it is more stressful to find out you are running a team and not getting shit together until August.
News Flash: I have taken over management of the Stan’s NoTubes team. We picked up a presenting sponsor with Maxxis Tires, and the team is still supporting Amy D Foundation (ADF) riders. All of this is really good news. I am glad to have continued support from the people at Stan’s NoTubes, and super stoked that Maxxis saw the value in the program and came on board. Just as exciting is the continuation of the Amy D Foundation programming with not one, but TWO riders! But this means that I have jumped from being a development rider on a fully supported program to running a program that is supporting 4 riders (KK and Christa, the ADF riders, myself, and Fernando Riveros, a late addition to the pro Stan’s NoTubes p/b Maxxis roster). Honestly I thought that this would mean booking some extra flights and ordering a few extra things. I think this is the equivalent of thinking having a child means you put it in a crib with a bowl of milk and it’ll be chill (what do you mean leaving my child in my car while I am at work isn’t adequate day care!?).
I know this is the stuff that shouldn’t be said. All should be calm on the management front. But, I have spoken with a lot of athletes (especially retired females) and the consensus is that my feeling this way is not abnormal. So I am writing this down in the event that some other person gets the opportunity not to become just a privateer rider wrangling a program, but also management of other people.
Dealing with the coordination between sponsors and the team and equipment and then athletes is a full-time job. Let’s not forget keeping up a strong front and balancing being polite and gracious with being strong and standing up for yourself. This would all be almost fun to manage if I didn’t let the stress sit on my shoulders, keep me up at night, make me skip workouts to figure things out. I am taking on not just my stress as a manager, but my stress as an athlete, and any stresses that I accidentally put on riders. (A good manager will always take the negative responsibility).
I thought the stress would go away when racing started, but it has only gotten worse. The emotional stress of figuring shit out has left me mentally flat and unable to race. This causes more stress and anxiety, has strong financial implications, as well as long-lasting ramifications on what the resume looks like for future sponsor outreach. Do you see the positive feedback cycle here?
Let me give you a look into one of the very simple problems that I have had:
- 9 bikes needed to be built. Bikes and parts were shipped 3 different places. 3 different crank lengths, 5 different stem lengths, saddle setback, etc. I have 5 bikes with 2 different crank lengths built in place, and send parts and frames out for the others elsewhere.
- When athlete X gets their A bike, it turns out they have the wrong crank length. I assumed I shipped the wrong cranks to athlete Y. Then I found out athlete X has 2 bikes with 2 different crank lengths. I tell her to swap with athlete Y at the next race because again, I assumed I shipped something wrong.
- Rochester CX comes and goes. My right hip is in pain, my right calf is tighter than I have ever experienced. Race goes like complete shit.
- I have Coach Kyle come out for a fit because despite having the exact bikes as last year, my body hurts pretty badly. I go through all of the torques on my bikes and shoes after this fit, because I know what can happen when too many people start turning bolts.
- Jingle comes around, still sore but I am feeling a little better about everything. Race is mediocre at best.
- Week after Jingle, I am staying at my parents’ house in Ohio and bend down to calibrate my Stages power meter (a 170mm crank arm I put on the bike I arbitrarily chose to be my A bike). I look across, and see a tiny “165” on the inside of the driveside crank. What. The. Actual. Fig newtons. For nearly 3 weeks I had been riding a bike with a 165mm crank arm and a 170mm crank arm. I never noticed because I have a few other bikes, and those are the ones I had done my measurements and fits. This explains the right side of my body feeling like shit.
- I miss my mid-week workout due to not having a proper bike.
- I had incorrectly judged the placement of the missing 165 cranks and sent an athlete away with the wrong equipment. Now I would need to find another way to remedy this. The stress goes on.
- Various people work very hard to find a quick fix for me for the upcoming Trek race. I got some 170 cranks from neutral support, so I was set. I also find a way to get the athlete the cranks they needed swapped.
In theory, this was a small issue that by bad luck was made worse (I had a 1/3 chance of picking the bike with the wrong cranks to swap with my power meter) that is easily fixed. But add in that this was effecting my racing performance and in theory mirrored my management skills, and you may be able to see why mentally it was crushing. You can have the best equipment and the best people working on it, but sometimes shit still happens. For all of you people out there wondering how it can happen, how often do you lose a sock in a freaking wash cycle? Yea. You can’t even keep a pair of socks.
At Trek, Friday’s C2 the start goes much like my other starts, and it is so hot that I just sit in to save something for Sunday, because I feel something special for Sunday. You know when you have a feeling, and you know? I knew.
Sunday came. I felt great. It was around 90 degrees F, I love the heat, and I felt good on the course. I felt so good, I was running Speed Terranes (Maxxis “file treads”), if that shows you how confident I felt.
The start wasn’t going bad until it was. I hit my rear brake and started to lose my rear wheel. I couldn’t get unclipped in time to save myself so I land on my knee, hard. I come out of the corner near last. I chase through pretty well, but keep having problems unclipping with my right foot. I think about pitting hoping it is my pedal, but I don’t.
Three times I have to come to a complete stop to unclip. Before the barriers, I take a look. yup. my cleat was totally loose. I had just tightened them last weekend, but I needed to replace them. The shoes are over a year old. I have no spare shoes, so I can’t even pit for any. I yell my problem into the pits and a few laps later Drew sadly holds a cleat up and shrugs. [update, the carbon on the bottom of the shoe is broken, hence why the cleat will not stay put]
I almost quit the race because I start to feel unsafe on the bumpy course, bombing around with one foot just resting, arch on my pedal. I have to run the steep pitches because I can’t climb them with one foot. I can’t sprint. I stay in because of the equal pay, and if I just finish I get more money than I otherwise would if I were 10 places up. [On the day that Trek gives women equal payout in a World Cup, otherwise we get about 1/3rd of the payout of our male counterparts].
I was devastated.
I finish 26th or so. My worst performance in literally years. I can’t help but think that this would not have happened if I had caught the crank issue sooner and had never touched the cleat to begin with.
This was just a large, full-circle example of the stresses of the early season. And it took me a while to see the bright side, but I have seen it now. Or at least I have watched a few of the episodes of Full House, now streaming on Hulu, and I can come up with a wholesome moral: Working through these stresses is only making me stronger. Seeing the support and positivity of the community reminded me that this response from them is why I got into the sport, and why I love it. The people I ride and race with, the people who support me, and the complete strangers along the way are the inspiration to keep fighting.
Understanding that I am going through some growing pains as an athlete and otherwise, I am working every day to keep on top of things, not let my athletes and my team down, and to get my own head in the game (don’t let me forget that I have some things to ship out as soon as I finish this post….)
Luckily, some of the fight came back to me at Not-Providence/KMC Cross Fest. There is a lot that can be said here, but I will leave it at the fight. It was a tactical race, I was alongside fellow racers the whole time, and I fought back. I was present in the moment and I didn’t let anyone take anything from me (or at least, not as much as they wanted). Friday I could have fought harder at the end, where I ended up 6th due to simple bad positioning, but I remembered that disappointed on Sunday, and after I crashed fighting for 3rd and spent the last lap in 6th, I pulled out my grit to fight passed 5th, and then really honed in to sprint at the line for 4th.
This is a long season, and even moreso, maybe a long career. However much I want to believe that I can be the best me all the time, that I can be ever-improving, that just isn’t the case. We are all humans, we have our physical and mental ups and downs. Like the stock market, we have to stay in through the dips to reach the highest peaks!
Stay tuned as I hit the courses at Charm City, and then the full Stan’s NoTubes p/b Maxxis and Amy D Foundation Crew hits the midwest at Cincinnati and Louisville!