Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I'm moving....

I'm saying goodbye to Blogger.com and moving over to Wordpress.  You can follow me at:


Monday, December 17, 2012

Thank you...

Due to my overwhelming exhaustion last night, I cut my blog fairly short.  I had so much I wanted to say, but my eyes wouldn't stay open.  I actually fell asleep with my hands on the keyboard.  I did, however, get the best sleep I've had in months.  Something about two hard days of riding, a happy heart and of course, an Ambien, makes one sleep like a boss.

When I think back to those two years in Boone when I owned a road bike, I laugh.  Just because you wear spandex and ride around with a bike on your car, doesn't mean you're a "cyclist".  I had no motivation, lacked heart and wanted to be able to keep up without putting in the work.  I sold my bike when I moved to Mammoth and cycling became a distant memory. 

I have spent the last 5 months pedaling my heart out.  I have smiled with pride and cried in utter disappointment.  I have puked, nearly fainted and crashed my brains out in an attempt to better myself.  Some people ask, "Why do you put yourself through so much misery for a bike?"  It's hard to explain, but it just feels so right. 

I would have never been able to start this journey on my own.  So, I want to take a moment to thank a few of you who have lit a fire under my ass this year. 

Brian Archer.  My brother.  You've been doing this for 20+ years and your wisdom is so helpful.  Thank you for building my bike, taking me on "Epic Death Rides" and lifting my spirits when I'm broken and discouraged.  Mom would be so proud of us both this year.

Jamie Williams.  My sweet friend.  You have stuck by me through everything...good and bad.  You've never judged me and always understood my heart.  You are a class act and I'm lucky to have our friendship.  Thank you for pushing me to race 'cross.  I've fallen in love and can't imagine my life without it.  You inspire me daily.

Kim Bishop.  You took a chance on me and allowed me to be a part of a great group of ladies.  I never thought I'd be so passionate about anything other than snowboarding....this is it.  Thank you for guiding me, supporting me and giving me opportunities I wouldn't get otherwise.  I look forward to to hearing your voice again soon... "Last lap Megan! You gotta give it all you got, NOW!"

Dwayne Letterman.  Without you and MSG, I wouldn't be here.  Thanks for taking it on for another year and putting up with my crazy butt.  Your passion for cycling is inspiring.  You're doing a great thing with the college team and I look forward to watching them grow.  Thanks for all the tips and motivation this year.  Next year, I'll kick some ass!

Jordan Lewis and Grace Bishop.  You guys rock my world!  I've been honored to be a part of your lives.  You both have so much heart and I expect big things from each of you.  I'm serious when I say, you WILL go somewhere in this sport.  Just keep your head up, eyes focused and always remember where you came from.  Never expect anything to be given to you on a silver platter.  Expect to fail sometimes.  Expect to hurt.  Expect people to take advantage of you.  Never give up.  Eyes on the prize, kiddos.  You've got this.

Connor and Nolan Tankersley.  You guys have cracked me up all season.  It's been a pleasure watching you guys race.  Stay strong in heart and mind.  Keep working for what you want.  I can't wait to see you guys race road next year.

Aaron Casey.  Thank you for helping me get stronger.  Hard work pays off.  I see so much potential and I will get there.  Also, the "tough love heckling" motivates me.  It also makes me wanna punch you in the neck.  Love ya ;)

Larry Bishop and Jimmy Bennett.  You guys have been my 'pit bitches' all season.  Thank you.  I'm such a junk show before my race and it's nice to have people taking care of you when your head (and stomach) are spinning like a top.  I love ya both like family and can't wait to get really awesome and make y'all proud!

Autumn Lewis.  My peer, but also my 'race mama'.  You're a beautiful soul, lil lady.  Thank you for being my friend and my voice of reason when I'm having a meltdown.  You put things in perspective when I can't.  Sorry I cried like a bitch on your shoulder yesterday.  Racing makes me emotional.  I can't wait till Nationals and Worlds.  You're the best ;)

To all the people I've made friendships with this year...thank you.  It's been a tough couple of years back in the South and I desperately needed to find my niche.  I look forward to seeing each of you at future events and spending quality time heckling everyone we see.  It's been a blast, kids.  Wisco and Louisville, here we come!

If you're not specifically on this list, don't take it personal.  There are so many more people to thank and ALL OF YOU have played a part in this year being one of the best yet.  I'm blessed and fortunate to have such a great CX family and I know it's only going to get better.  Thank you for the cheers, the heckling (I deserved every bit of it) and the love.  You all make me ride harder when I don't want to.  You motivate me to be a better cyclist.  You fill my heart with love.  Thank you for accepting me for who I am and realizing there's more to me than a megaphone and fairy wings.  I'm forever grateful. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

You can't teach heart

Exhausted.  I am utterly exhausted.  My quads are aching, arms burning and head pounding.  The only thing working correctly in this broken body is my heart.  It continues to be filled, more and more each day, in spite of those who try to break it into tiny little pieces.  My heart may be battered and scarred...but it's full.  You can't take that away from me.
I'm a feeler.  I feel things.  I feel for others.  I feel hardcore.  I might act like a total hard ass, but what you can't see is the truth.  My heart secretly sits on my sleeve.  It's a curse...and a superior blessing.  When other's feel, I feel it too. 
After today's race (day 2 of the NCGP in Hendersonville, NC) I had a meltdown.  I hammered through the finish and made my move off the course.  I used my cool down as a moment to gather my thoughts, catch my breath and do a little crying.  Yeah, I know...big surprise.
It wasn't the race I had hoped for.  I'm not actually sure what I expected after an all-out smash fest on Saturday, combined with over an hour of clinic work.  Doesn't matter.  My heart always wants more than my legs can give it.  I'm always falling short of what I know I can accomplish.  So I pedaled in the parking lot, far away from the crowds, and cried my eyes out. 
I couldn't hang on to anyone today.  Not even my own teammate.  I would pass multiple chicks in the turns, run-ups and whiz by them in the woods.  They would always catch me in the flats.  As a friend lovingly joked, "You mean they passed you where you actually had to pedal?".  Funny, but true.  Even yesterday was a better race in terms of how I felt.  It's ironic because I moved up one position today.  24/31.  Not the top 50% I had hoped for on either day.  Aaahhh, so is life.
As I was coming back to our pit area from my epic meltdown, I ran into Grace.  This 11 year-old is a serious, serious beast on a bicycle.  She is going to be something special, and actually, already is.  She consistently beats me every single race...it's all I can do to keep her in my sight.  Apparently, she had been bullied around by a junior boy in front of her.  She felt her effort lacked something and this upset her. 
As she was explaining this to me in tears, I started crying again.  I was right there with her.  I understood her heart and could sympathize with her desire to be competitive.  Being young is hard.  Being a young athlete, in my opinion, is harder.  It's difficult to make sense of the bad days.  I explained how this was a great learning experience for her and next time she'll be in a different mindset. 
"Take away everything that happened to you today.  Just you on the course...no one else.  Do you think you rode as hard as you could?  Do you think in spite of all the bad things going on around you, you gave your very best effort?"  Grace answered, "Yeah". 
That's all you can ask for, isn't it?
Children are all HEART.  They lack the hard wiring to be thinkers.  So in a sense, young athletes are organic.  With the exception of a very few, these kids haven't been tainted.  It's pure love.
As for me, I'm still working on it.  Luckily, I've found a handful of people who really understand me and that's comforting.  The world is a scary place when you feel like you're all alone.  As for my bike racing, I'm still working on it.  I have potential.  I may never be on an elite podium, but I can bet your ass I will be taking some chicks to the tape in the near future.
Little "Gracie" way back in the day with my nephew, Nathan.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Keeping it Alive...

We often forget about those things which give our lives meaning.  We concentrate too hard on the quantity and not so much on our quality of living.  Luckily, we have moments of clarity and beautiful people to bring those moments into greater focus. 
Being someone who is 95% heart and 5% head, I can appreciate those with similar characteristics.  I have been an athlete since I was 5 years-old (I'm 32. Do the math) and know game of competition very well.  Even now, old and washed up, I feel it like a fire burning in my blood.  So, when I see kids giving everything they have, it moves me.  I wear the 95% on my sleeve.
I watched my 14 year-old teammate, Jordan, race his first 1/2 race this past weekend.  This kid has moved from a cat 4 to a cat 2 in one season.  He's got the stuff, yo.  He has a legit, heart-felt love for the sport of cycling and you can see it in his eyes.  He's a pretty happy-go-lucky kid too...his cup is always "full". 
Talk about leaving it all on the course!  If you grown men had half the heart this kid does, you still wouldn't be as awesome as him.  It's amazing to watch.  He races because it makes HIM happy.  He trains because HE knows you can't sit on your butt and expect success to fall in your lap.  He's respectful of what he's been given and doesn't posses a sense of entitlement.  I hate to sound old and like my mother, but kids these days expect the world to be given to them on a silver platter.  Blasphemy.
Jordan makes me want to be a better cyclist.  He makes me want to be a better person.  This kid reminds me you can be serious AND have fun.  Watching him race nearly moves me to tears because...I get it.  In a world full of bullshit and lies, it's a beautiful thing to see so much spirit in someone so young.  When your spirit is gone, you've lost everything.
So thank you, Jordan Lewis. Thank you for restoring my faith in the younger generation.  Thank you for motivating me to work harder on the bike.  Thank you for allowing me to be one of your biggest fans (besides your mother, of course!).  I wish you nothing but joy in cycling and look forward to being a part of your fan club at Nationals next month. 
Gut check moment...what are YOU riding for?

A Case of the Mondays...on Tuesday.

Today hasn't been the best of days.  Not sure if my emotional state is due to the lack of sleep from two nights ago OR the surplus of sleep I received last night.  Whatever the cause, this roller coaster has taken a nose dive.  It was all I could do to start my workout this afternoon, with the hope I would pedal my way out of this hole.  Didn't work. 
Although I seem like I have it together, neatly arranged in my little box, I really don't.  Every single day I have spent back in Tennessee has been a struggle.  Some days easier than others.  While I have made a temporary life for myself, ultimately this is not where I want to be. 
I feel like I can't breathe.  This house smothers me.  I love my family with everything inside me, but being in a house with them makes me lose my mind.  I can't get a moment of peace.  Ever.  Enough is enough.
Today has been an emotional challenge as well as a physical one.  I just want to pull the covers over my head and tune it all out.  Leave me alone, world.  I don't feel like playing today. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Take 'em to the tape

"So, I think I'm gonna race 'cross this year."  Those were the words I can remember saying with such excitement.  I was awesome at traditional sports growing up and had no doubts I would be good at cyclcocross.  I gave running a try, ran a half marathon and decided the pain in my IT band just wasn't worth it.  I really had nothing else, other than my mountain bike, and being an athletic "has been" wasn't my favorite choice.  Getting old sucks...let's face it.  I needed a little competition in my life. 
I bought my mountain bike in April.  My brother built the Surly in May.  I got as many rides in as I could.  I rode a 25+ lb steel frame bike with a standard and Shimano 105.  I went on every road ride I could, sucking wind and lagging behind.  Thursday night rides up Buffalo Mountain nearly stopped my heart.  At the end of the summer I road nearly 70 miles with 4,000 ft of climbing on that beast.  Steel might be real, but it hurts like a bitch. 
The guys asked me to come work at the shop in August.  Trevor was nice enough to put me on his Stevens Prestige 'cross bike since he wasn't riding it.  The MSG series kicked off in September.  I totally thought I had this.  I was SO wrong.
I had no idea what I was doing.  My dismounts sucked.  My remounts sucked.  I couldn't breathe.  I couldn't pedal.  I always got the hole shot but couldn't stay up front.  I was a one-lap-wonder.  I wanted to quit.  Race after race...I died.  "When am I going to get better at this shit?!"
I hired a coach.  I raced Cincy3 and the USGP in Louisville.  They changed me.  I started getting better.  I busted ass during the week so I could produce something other than a disappointment on the weekends.  I got a Garmin.  I produced data.  I rode the shit out of the trainer.  I got my ass handed to me a little more.  Then....BOOM.
I got faster.  I got stronger.  I beat chicks that smashed me earlier in the season.  I rode sand pits without getting off my bike.  I rode nasty, muddy slop that I once could only ride on my mountain bike.  I used tactics and passed people when it mattered.  I suffered for the cause. 
Last weekend was huge for me, placing 16 out of 27 ladies at the NC State Championships.  NC brings the heat, no matter what category, and I was super stoked to finish mid-pack.  Mars Hill absolutely kicked my ass the day before. 
Spiral of Death at MSG finale.  Unicoi, TN.
MSG held the series finale today in Unicoi, TN.  I have statistically raced poorly here in past races.  My motor always seemed to fail me.  Today I just wanted to keep my 2nd place spot in series points.  That was my ONLY goal.  Let's just say I surpassed it.  From hole shots to log hops, I killed myself today.  I kept my series position and walked away with a smile on my face...after I puked, of course. 

CX 4 Series podium.  Grace Bishop, 1st.  Megan Archer, 2nd.  Jenna Carico, 3rd.
Training...it pays off, kids.  I've watched my body transform into something I don't even recognize anymore.  I'm a cyclist.  This is something I've actually had to work my ass off for.  For once in my life, I had to rely on my desire to work hard with no natural talent.  Cyclocross wasn't something I could just hop on a bike and be good at. 
As I lay here utterly exhausted, I can honestly say I left everything I had on the course today.  I'm inspired.  I'm hopeful.  Most of all, I'm thankful for a body that allows me to do such great things.  So, hello Cat 3.  I welcome you with open arms.  I will kill myself all summer to be good at you.  I'm a sucker for the glory that comes with being better than myself.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Planning for Change

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?  I remember being in my early 20s and someone asked me this in a job interview.  I was such an epic shit show back then.  I'm still a train wreck, but a much more polished version of my former self.  I had so many plans for my life.  I honestly believed work ethic and cut-throat desire was all I needed to achieve my goals.  No one ever told me I couldn't do something.  I never understood the need for a back-up plan. 

When I finally graduated college at the ripe age of 27 (old for a college kid), I just knew I would hook up with the job of my dreams.  I was constantly getting criticized over my degree choice and everyone told me I wouldn't make it.  Commercial Recreation and Tourism Management.  Sounds good, right?  Nothing prepared me for a completely saturated market.  While being interviewed for a position with the NBA I was told, "It's not what you know, it's who you know". 

It took me a few more years of mistakes to realize where I had gone wrong.  Plans don't work.  Nothing is fool-proof.  We can wish, hope and pray till the ends of the earth...but sometimes it's not in the cards. 

My answer at the tender age of 22 was this:
"I'll be working with my rec degree, married with at least two kids.  I'll be able to pay off my student loans and I'll have a house.  I'm smart.  I can make it happen."

10 years later my reality is this:
I've never been married (blessing in disguise).  No kids.  I made a tough decision to move back home after the death of my mother...living with my father, brother and nephew (dog and cat).  I have a car that is falling apart.  Can't afford to buy a house.  My student loans hang over my head on a daily basis.  I couldn't get a job using my rec degree so I went back to school. Earned another degree that makes me less money than I was making before.  Plans don't always work out. 

Now before you nail me for bitching and moaning, hear me out first.  While I have lived through some shit you might see on an after school special, I'm dealing as best I can.  I'm taking the hits and learning from them.  I'm using the negative as fuel to gain the positive things in life that we're all seeking out.  I'm not always happy about my place on this earth, but incessantly striving for success. 

I joke about learning things the hard way.  Every lesson I've ever learned about life has been a result of some type of heartbreak.  Love.  Work.  School.  Every single aspect of my existence has benefited from my poor choices.  That's part of it.  While some people prefer to live life quietly in the shadows, I pride myself on living it aloud.  It's too short to be walking on eggshells.

No one prepares you for this.  As a high school student, I was told "YES YOU CAN!".  All you have to do is want something bad enough and it's yours.  I'm here to tell you, this isn't always true.  Be prepared to adapt and overcome.  Be strong.  Find ways to stay positive in the midst of dissapointment.  You're gonna be ok.  Plans don't always work out.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Payout

As I sit here on the verge of what I HOPE isn't the flu, I think back to the first cross race of the season.  I wasn't fully aware of the journey I was getting ready to embark on.  I had no clue how to train properly and no real goals, other than not coming in last.  The past 3 months have made an impact on me that I can't quite put into words.  I'm not the same person I was...and I'll never go back.
MSG and Mars Hill put on one hell of a suffer fest.  I've had two weeks off since Louisville and spent most of it working while attempting to stay on top of my training plan.  My initial thought on the race was this: "If I can ride Louisville, I can ride anything".  My coach decided to rip into me as he heard me comparing the two.  "This course will murder you!"  During pre-ride, I understood what he meant.
I'd love to see the elevation profile for this course...crazy steep!  I was concerned about my gearing and my lack of bunny hopping skills in the woods, so I opted for the mtb option.  Jamie decided to ride hers and offered to let me use it for the Cat 4 race.  It goes against everything I personally believe in, but I had to think about my series points and how I could have the upper hand.  The mtb was my upper hand. 
I took the first (and only) opportunity to pass someone about 2 minutes into the race.  We had a fairly long climb right after the start and my mtb gearing allowed me to motor past her.  I just had to keep her there...and I haven't been good at this all season.  Once I made it through the woods, I had a chance to have a little fun and recover.  The downhill section was SWEEEEEEEET.  I knew I had a chance to lengthen the gap, so I pedaled hard and enjoyed the ride. 
My heart rate was through the roof and I had vomit chunks in my throat.  I honestly didn't think I could finish the race and was hoping I would black out so I wouldn't have to.  I will not quit a race voluntarily, but at this point I would have been happy with a mechanical.  The taste of blood in my mouth was forceful and I just knew my head was going to explode...but it didn't.  And the race went on...
I managed to keep position and finish with two chicks behind me.  Nothing special by any means, but I did gain series points in my favor.  I'm a sucker for competition.
NCCX State Championship was the following day and I had zero expectations.  I was happy the Mars Hill race was behind me and looking forward to a much bigger field in Charlotte.  26 other ladies would be joining me for one of the most enjoyable courses I've raced all year.  Jeff Welch put on one hell of a show!
I got a shit start and got pushed out of the front group.  We immediately hit the run-up (which was steep as hell) and I took the inside.  The top was an epic junk show.  Chicks and bikes everywhere.  I threw my wheel out in front of a small group of girls fumbling around and immediately jumped on my bike.  Bug or windshield...it's your choice.
The course was a fun, twisty and technical roller coaster ride.  The sand pit was smooth like a baby's butt and I busted right through it.  There's no better feeling than riding the sand pit with people cheering all around.  The woods were tight and the barriers were FAST.  I nearly ate one when I came off the bike a little too hot.  Just ask the leader of the men's Cat 3 how fast the barriers were...haha.

 NCCX Cat 3 Catastrophe
I was feeling pretty good considering how hard I raced at Mars Hill, except for the pain in my left leg.  I've been having issues with it blowing up and I'm certain it has to do with my fit.  It's OBVIOUSLY off.  Anyway, I was riding strong until I ate shit.  I came around a fast, off-camber turn and apparently hit a hole.  My rear wheel spun around like a top and I flew over the handlebars, twisting both ankles and taking a shifter to my quad.  I screamed like the lead singer of Gwar.  I just watched all my hard work fly by me like I was sitting still.  Oh, that's right...I WAS sitting still.
I shaved 30 seconds off my last lap because I had to bust ass to get my position back.  I played cat-n-mouse for a while and settled in to wait for my big move.  As I climbed out of the woods, I saw my mouse drop her head...done deal.  I stood up, ripped through my gears and took off.  That was the first time I had ever waited patiently to pass someone.  Tactics and training actually pay off.  I finished 16/27.
I'm stoked again.  My hard work is starting to shine through and my strength is improving.  I am no longer a "One Lap Wonder".  I can hold threshold for an entire race...what a concept!  Granted, I'm a little ole Cat 4 racer, but I'm getting better every race.  I could actually be good at this. 
My non-cyclist friends often make comments about me being this amazing bike racer.  I laugh hysterically because they have no idea.  I think it's sweet they think such great things about my cycling, but I know the truth.  I urge them to check out the truly great athletes and have their minds blown.  I don't ever see myself in the ranks of Katie, Katerina or Georgia, but if I can be better than I was last time....that's winning.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ashevegas Redemption

Cyclists spend so much time focused on numbers.  It doesn't matter if you're an amatuer, pro, fast or slow.  Most of us are constantly training for something...even if it's just to compete with ourselves.  "Hey man, what's your data for yesterday's ride?"  Garmin this.  Strava that.  Power tap...my ass.  I've only had use of a data gadget for about two weeks now.  While they are necessary for proper training, I must admit how nice it is to ride without all the beepity bullshit. 
(Mind you, I'm currently uploading my data for Coach Aaron)
With that being said, today was one of those "have-fun-but-still-get-my-workout-in" rides.  Yes, I wore the Garmin, but with no intentions of killing myself just to play catch up.  After last week's Bays Mtn performance, I just wanted to remember why I started mountain biking in the first place.  Because IT'S FUN.
Me and the bro went to Bent Creek outside of Asheville, NC.  I had never played in this area and was looking forward to doing so after a tough work week.  We met up with a couple Ashevillians (Stephen "Trips for Kids" Janes and Tom tha Damager) and headed out for what would be one of my favorite days in the woods in a VERY LONG TIME.
The first climb was a total sufferfest for me.  Super steep mtb climbing makes my vomit chamber unhappy.  I DID NOT puke...I only wanted to.  To be short and sweet...today was full of single-track, technical climbing, swoopy downhill and all around epic goodness. 
And this shop kitty did NOT crash.  I repeat.  SHOP KITTY DID NOT CRASH.  Take that, suckas.
Finally, the rollercoaster ride starts going up again.  I needed today like a crackhead needs a crack pipe.  I felt like I had skills again...rode some great lines.  I also picked some real shit-eating lines and managed to make the best of them.  I didn't feel the need to smash the pedals all day long, but still did some serious work.  I'm a content, happy Megan.  I performed well today.  There is hope for me once again.
In the words of Stephen Janes, "This should get you through until AT LEAST Tuesday." 

Post ride recovery

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Lone Ranger

Have you ever wanted something so bad, so terribly bad, that it breaks your heart in two?  I'm not talking about someone of the opposite sex or a dream job.  I'm not even talking about something material, like a car.  What I'm referring to is much deeper...raw even.  Have you ever worked so hard to get "somewhere" and feel you've failed miserably? 
I finally rode my mtb for the second time since CX season started.  I've dropped the ball on keeping up with my 3x a week mtn rides.  Cross has taken over my life, but I should have been giving myself at least one day a week to train on the 29er.
Anyway, I was excited to ride with my friends, but my excitement soon turned into dry heaving...soon followed by the rush of disappointment.
Cue heartbreak now.
In my defense, I've been considered a "cyclist" since July of this year.  I don't even count my first road bike in 2006 nor my two sucky-ass DH seasons in California.  I've been consistently riding since July.  5 months.  You can't even fully develop a newborn in some chick's uterus in 5 months.  Does that make me feel any better...not really.
The fire of competition in my soul is so hot it burns even me.  I don't know where I got this blessing/curse, but I can remember being so upset about losing a basketball or volleyball game in HS that it made me cry.  Furious crying resembles break-up crying.  Break-up crying is just ugly.  It's pretty awful to watch.  Thank God no one has that shit on video.
I spent most of my mtb ride busting ass to catch up to my friends.  So much ass busting that I had to pull over and dry heave.  My heart rate never got above 160, which blew my mind because I felt hellaciously awful.  The downhills were fun...they always are.  My technical skills don't suck so much, but my motor can't keep up.
I'm admitting to the world that I spent the entire drive home crying my eyes out.  I don't know if it was the stress from not sleeping all week, work stress or bike stress.  Most likely a combination of all three.  Shit.  I'm cougar-aged and a mtb ride made me cry.  WTF.
I need to remember how this feels when I don't feel like training.  Sucking sucks.  Heartbreak sucks.  Why do you think I have been single for so long?  I'll sacrifice loneliness to save my heart from getting crushed, but I refuse to sacrifice my cycling goals for the same.  I just have to press forward and let this be a building block for future endeavors.  I will survive.  I will overcome.  I can't be slow forever...I hope I'm right about this one.
On the bright side, I climbed a bunch of crap I've not been able to on previous rides.  While slow, I managed to ride 'em out...no stopping...no hike-a-bike.  Ok, so I had to hike my bike after the near-vomiting...whatev.  50 yards of hiking isn't bad considering I was hiking nearly 80% of all mtb climbs in August.
My legs are trashed, my emotions are worn out and my heart is on the mend.  Today was another "training ride" that I will come to appreciate when I have a cycling breakthrough.  And there WILL be a breakthrough.  I've been crushin' pedals too hard to become a failure. 
"The only failures are those too afraid to tow the line."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Live now. Die later.

My two loves together as one
As some of you might recall, I started this blog in February as a training journal for my first half marathon.  I was a "runner" then and very determined to make running my jam.  Unfortunately, I have a serious mechanical defect that prevents me from running well and keeps me injured most of the time.  The mechanical defect being my entire lower body...I wasn't created to run long distance.  The injury being my IT band.  I hated the act of running but loved the high I felt afterwards.  On May 5th, 2012 I ran my first half marathon...and most likely my last. 
After a long hiatus and new motivations in my life, I decided to bring the blog back.  It has since become a way to live out loud.  I can put my sarcastic, pessimistic spin on life and bitch about it however I please.  Every now and then I make people laugh.  This blog has been an amazing outlet for my hopes, fears and everything in between.  Most recently I've used it as a way to journal my latest conquest...cyclocross.  Rarely, I use it to document life as it happens...and unfortunately for you poor souls, tonight is one of those nights.
I had a job interview today which ended up being a total waste of my time.  This opened up my cynical side for a few hours of deep thinking.  Even after two degrees and countless jobs in every field possible, I still have no clue what I want to do.  Money has been a big issue lately and I've been losing sleep over taking my current job as a full-time position.  I would take an hourly pay cut but have benefits.  Sounds like a winner, right?  Not really.  Paramedics in Tennessee don't make any money.  In fact, we make less than UPS drivers and most definitely have more responsibility.  I knew what I was getting into when I decided to do this, but it still blows my fragile little mind.
For real though...wtf am I doing?  The free spirit inside me says, "keep it real, girl!"  She lives in the present moment and doesn't fret about the past or the future.  Life is raw, decisions are made solely on feeling and happiness is the key.  The financially lacking worrier inside me says "you need benefits!"  This is the part of my soul I could drown on a daily basis.  She constantly worries about money and all the other bullshit that comes with it.  She is also the crazy bitch that internally pressures me to settle down.  She really stresses me out.
I dropped out of college to go on tour with Widespread Panic in 2002.  I moved to Boone and spent many wonderful years on ski patrol, living the college town/ski bum life.  I moved to Mammoth Lakes and lived a western life as a snow bum/climber/dh mtb'er/coffee shop hipster/car-livin' free spirit.  I was devastated when my mother died and I moved back to Tennessee.  Lately I've realized my free spirit isn't so free anymore. 
I hear people say things like, "That's just part of it.  You grow up, get old and crap happens."  But is it really?  I'm going to throw the bullshit card now...don't hate.  I'm not buyin' it. 
I've been doing some serious soul searching over the last few months.  On one hand, I love my bachelors degree and the field it's in.  On the other hand, I love emergency medicine and sacrificed a lot to obtain my paramedic license.  Why can't I find a balance?  I don't expect to be rich and never had the idea I would be...I just want to be at peace with it all.
Peace.  That's all I'm looking for.
I'm putting the "feelers" out and looking for ways to put my knowledge and education to good use.  If I could just figure out how to incorporate my bicycle into the equation...
Be here now.  Live in the present moment.  Repeat after me...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Now serving confidence hand-ups!

Yes kids, it's been a while.  I slacked after Cincy3 and failed to post ANYTHING.  The week was a total bust and my performance was less than stellar.  I took a week to gather my thoughts and work my ever-loving ass off.  I got home from Cincy around 1am Monday and had to be at work 7 hours later.  I pulled off 48 hours of work in 3 days...one of which was my birthday.

Soo, I guess I should say a few words about the Cincy3 festival.  Well, it was hard.  I don't have a lot to say about Saturday because I sucked big ones.  I didn't come in last which is an accomplishment considering it was the biggest field of sandbaggers I've ever seen ;)  But seriously, those Ohio Valley 4's are FAST!

Cincy3 flyover
Sunday was COLD and frost-covered.  My head blew a gasket after pre-ride.  I was so far up my own ass I couldn't see straight.  I was terrified and torn to pieces over a stupid off-camber section.  I've ridden harder stuff on my mountain bike, but I couldn't rationalize anything.
Boy am I glad I decided to race this one!
Although my soul was sucked dry and I was ready for the Jesus bus to come, I had a good race.  I was next to last, but raced my heart out for position.  The best part of the race was my epic crash...
Hmm, something looks fishy here...
Long story short...
I was taking the inside line in a turn because I didn't want the girl behind me to pass.  I took it a tad too sharp, started to go down, tried to push myself back up using one of the stakes, I went over the handlebars, stake bent to the ground...
This is the moment when I made a terrible decision.  I thought the stake had cracked at the base, so I let go.  Bad move.
Ever had a gun go off right in your ear?  Course stakes sound pretty close to the same thing as they smack you across the face.  I just knew I had knocked my teeth out.  I immediately stood up, grabbed my bike and ran through the "camel hump" section.  I screamed like a little piggy and cried like a big baby.  I screamed in tears asking my friend if I was bleeding...
"Tony!! Am I bleeding?!"
"No Megan, you're ok.  Just go.  You're ok!"
I cried for half a lap as I pedaled my brains out.
I had all my teeth, beat the girl who crushed me on Saturday and had a bruised imprint of a course stake across my jaw.  Good day of racing, I say!
And I heckled Jr. Elites like a boss!
Did I mention our pit area was next to Katie Compton?
J-Willy, Katie, Grace (the crusher), and myself


Fast forward to this past weekend.  USGP Louisville!
Spending a nice Fall morning sucking wind and pushing 190 bpm
What does a girl do when she's 10 races into her first CX season?  She goes to the USGP and prepares for the apocalypse!!  Most people race a few seasons before they attempt something like the Lou.  I have a sick addiction to pain, so I figured it would be a good experience if nothing else.
Friday.  Pre-ride.  I made it half a lap before I came to a screeching hault.  180 degree turn into a sketchy off-camber section into a steep, rutted downhill into a steep uphill into a steep downhill into a steep, rutted uphill.  You following me?!  It sounds easy and seems even easier on a mtb.  I was about to crap my pants...or cry...wasn't sure which at this point.  I made many attempts to ride into this section but gave up and went back our pit. 
"I can't believe I paid money to race this weekend.  What was I thinking?"
After pouting and feeling discouraged for a bit, I decided to give it another go.  I forced myself to figure it out.  I tried to imagine being on my mtb.  I squeezed my butt cheeks together and held my breath...and rode that shit.  I had to tripod around the turn, but I rode it.  I was fully prepared to run this section during the race due to all the Cat 4 carnage, but never had to.  I rode past girls laying on the ground and flew by girls walking their bikes down the hill.  For once I felt like a bad ass. 
I fully expected to be last, but to my astonishment I was 11/17.  Best race of my very short CX career!  I rode hard, tested my ability, surpassed my expectations and actually finished before a handful of other chicks.  I was full of joy and very proud of myself. 
Longest.sandpit.ever.  Sucked out my soul.  I actually had vomit coming up by lap 3.  I rode the short one, ran the long one.  I was suicidal in the sand.  I felt like dropping to the ground and making sand castles. 
The stare
My teammates killed it too!  In spite of mechanicals, Tony Williams had a strong finish in men's Cat 4 and Grace Bishop is now known as "The Crusher".  Mike Stewart brought his A game too...does he have any other game?  I don't think the man has a B game.  Everyone represented the Dirty South very well!
And thanks for the birthday surprise...
I had a goal of breaking the top 10 on Sunday, but my legs were toast.  Running the long sand pit wore me down pretty fast.  I managed to hold 13th place in spite of crashing through the fence before the concrete stairs.  The field was so damn fast! 13/15 is respectable in my eyes, all things considered.
And the CX Gods said,
And it was good...
Silent heckling Katerina Nash
I made a few friends along the way...
Tim Johnson:  Thanks for being a good sport and taking my heckling while using the port-o-potty.  You're a super rad dude.
Yannick Eckmann and the California Giant Cycling Team:  I DO love your berries!  I'm glad I could make each of you chuckle in the midst of pain.
J-Pow:  Even the man in front gets crap.  Just because you're fast, doesn't mean you're too good for my megaphone.  We love you!
Ryan Trebon:  It took me two weeks, but I finally made you crack a smile.  I can die a happy girl now.
Ben Berden:  I know you think I'm a crazy American girl.  I am.
Katie, Georgia, Katerina:  It made my day when you guys actually laughed DURING your race.  Silent cheering always makes the pain go away.
Adam Myerson:
What can I say?  You're the man.  I also think it's pretty rad that you haven't ripped out your earrings during a race.  Of course, you can actually ride a bike and most likely spend more time on it rather than on the ground.  I have yet to master this.
Jimbo and the Shamrock crew:
Yes, I stole this from your Facebook.  Thanks Shamrock!
Thanks for the inspiration.  The megaphone is the best invention ever.  You guys are hysterical and I look forward crossing paths in the future.  Hit up the MSG crew if you're ever down this way!
My little dude, Cade:
One day you're gonna make it big.  When this cougar gets really old, you'll be making money and smacking bitches.  I will sell your childhood autograph and make my retirement.  I am a paramedic and we make shit money...you're welcome.
(But seriously, you're a cute kid)
I can walk away from this past weekend with confidence.  Yes, I still suck...but much less than I did a month ago.  Cincy3 and the USGP have taught me more than I thought possible.  I can almost call myself a cyclocross racer.  Maybe I'll actually be good by the time I hit the women's masters class.  I'm not too far away....meow!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Steps Forward and 10 Years Back

I'm back.  You can't get rid of me that easy.  I'm a fighter.  I'm antsy.  I gotta spill my heart over lavender candles and an eccentric musical play list. 
Last week was a glimpse into my previous life as a train wreck.  No...I never totally rid myself of my emotional tendencies...but I have learned how to cope.  At least I thought I did until, well, last week.
I woke up Saturday morning with a hopeful heart and eagerness to hang with my CX family.  I packed up the car and began to make my way to Farmhouse.  My happiness was short lived and I lost my motivation somewhere between Gray and Unicoi.  I arrived with coffee in hand and zero desire to race.  I was also exhausted from my extremely busy work week.  That combination alone is enough to squash any and all motivation one might have to wake up early and suffer on a bicycle.  I was doomed from the start.
After a few cat naps under the easy-up and a conversation with inner child, I attempted to cheer up.  Something just didn't feel right.  I wasn't my super strong, happy self.  In fact, I was feeling more like my former self.  The 21-year-old super sappy, nothing-will-ever-be-ok, life sucks, I'm so depressed and desperate-for-something, grumpy self.
And everyone noticed.
I thought my race might make things better.  The backside of the course was like a dream and I had hopes of finishing in the top 4.  After the first lap (per my usual) I was fully aware that I was going to suck.  I tried to make a few moves to salvage any hope of not being last.  I managed to stay ahead of two other girls.  I didn't even come close to podium.  Cue emotional break down....now...
I took a moment to sit in the grass and get some sort of oxygen flowing back to my brain...I felt AWFUL.  Once I could feel my face, I quietly pushed my bike back to the car and took a seat in the front.  I tried to hold back my tears, but it was apparently my time to cry.  I sipped my recovery drink as I let my emotions flow.  My week had finally come to an end.
I'm not sure of the exact moment I discovered the microphone...
It's amazing what a blonde wig, a tutu and a PA system can do for one's mental health.  I began to announce the mountain bike race.  I started heckling people in the crowd.  I could hear people laughing.  I felt the doom and gloom lifting.  This was redemption.
And then it was time to visit my old stomping ground...BOONE!
I drove up that afternoon to spend the night with the amazing Shaw and Sarah Brown.  These two have held a special place in my heart of hearts for years.  The Boone Town Throw Down was on the docket for Sunday and I just knew if nothing else, Boone would cheer me up.  Good lord...did it ever!
Nothing but the best entertainment at The Brown House

My very special CX pumpkin!

Podium girls

Some very special old and new friends on the ASU bus

Thanks to Kris Bedsaul (AVLCX) for capturing this amazing action shot!
Showing the brains behind NCCX some podium love!
Race #7 of my CX career was definitely my best performance.  I felt good, I rode smart and I had a blast.  I think I could have gone a little harder in some areas, but overall I am pleased.  The Cat 4 class was the biggest I've experienced at 24 riders.  I was 17th...which isn't good...but sometimes it's not about winning.  I know some of you might disagree...but opinions are like assholes....
Spending time in Boone reminds me of how much I loved living there...always hard to leave.  Thanks to Sarah, Shaw and the entire Boone crew for the hospitality.  You guys are too kind!
So how do I work on myself?  Well, as far as my cycling is concerned, I now have a coach.  I sat down with Aaron Casey this afternoon and discussed my plan for the next year. 
I want to be faster.
I want to race road.
I want to ride my mtb.
I want to take my sprinting strength to the next level.
I want to maintain threshold for more than 1 lap.
I want to compete for podium rather than trying not to come in last.
I want to SMASH the CX circuit next year.
I honestly see potential in these little legs...just need help getting there.  I think if I focus on my ultimate goals and am willing to sacrifice the filler, I can do this.  I have a supportive crew that will see me through and my determination is explosive.  I simply need to keep my head on straight and resist the urge to fall into my own personal traps. 
I've heard a few people make comments like,
"Aren't you a little old for this?"
"Really? Cycling coach?"
"Why do you need to race your bike? Can't you just enjoy riding it?"

Well...no, I'm not too old. 
And...YES.  A cycling coach.  Accountability is always good.
And lastly...I can enjoy riding my bike.  But it feels good to kick someone else's ass...and being last sucks.
I'm still dealing with some other demons in my personal life.  There are also a few question marks in my career making me a little uneasy and confused. 
On the bright side, Cincy3 is this weekend.  I'm hoping this will be a great cure for the blues. 
My name is Megan...and I like to ride my bike till I puke.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Family-Sized Mac and Cheese

I did it.  I ate an entire box of mac-n-cheese tonight.  Is this pretty standard for me?  Well, yeah...but I think I used it as more of a comfort.  I was full after the first bowl but I ate the rest to possibly numb whatever it is that's been eating at me this week. 

As I sit here and listen to "Black Metal Radio" on Spotify, I feel the urge to break stuff.  I've been feeling like this for a few days and off and on for at least 32 years.  This is my "end of my rope" state.  This is when the sun goes behind a big black cloud and I feel like running through the streets with an assault rifle.  I could physically harm someone...not that I would...but I could. 

I'm not one to keep my feelings on the inside.  When I'm happy, everyone feels it.  When I'm angry, I blow up...big time.  I've been majorly stressed out this week and things look pretty hopeless.  I wish I could tell you I had hope, but I don't.  Trying to give me a pep talk is pretty hopeless as well.  There is absolutely nothing anyone can tell me when I've reached my emotional capacity that will bring me back to life.  It's like a virus...just has to run it's course.

I passed up my workout last night.  Just wasn't feeling it.  The combination of my poison ivy discomfort and my emotional state was ready for a beer and Benadryl.  Bullshit?  Yes.  I won't pretend I'm some bad ass who, in the face of distress, still sacks up and does work.  I gave in and at this very point in time don't really care.  Motivation destroyed...

There are currently a few things in my life that cause me a great deal of stress.  I know I'm supposed to take the high road and "keep my head up" but the people who tell you that don't always have a clue.  I need peace and quiet.  I need space.  I have none.  I'm constantly surrounded by a mob...at work...at home...and everywhere in between. 

Not my best week. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bicycles Are Stupid

I'm taking advantage of this weak moment so I can delight in my accomplishments in the future. 

Right now it's dark.  I'm in a deep hole of pity.  I'm pouting.

"Nut up!" 
"Brush it off!"
"Don't be so hard on yourself." 

Blah blah blah blah.  Kiss my butt.

Every day on the bike isn't awesome.  You don't always have a breakthrough moment worth blogging about.  Sometimes you suck.  Sometimes you crash.  Sometimes you do both.  In this very moment I'm furious.  I'm tired of being hurt.  I'm tired of being covered in cuts and bruises with swollen body parts.  I'm tired of sucking.  The only way to get better is to ride.  I spent most of my morning hiking my bike and being a little bitch. 

This morning I tried riding Warriors again.  I thought I was ready.  I thought I could handle Darwins.  I haven't been on a mtb since Interbike.  I think wrecking my brains out during Dirt Demo scared me a little more than I realized.  I rode like a 5 year-old today.  The leaves scared me.  I didn't ride a lot of stuff I normally would.  I've actually ridden harder stuff at Dupont.  Where did my mental balls go??  Has cyclocross made me soft?  I could see a HUGE difference in my motor, but my skills are shit now.

This is my fault.  I haven't been riding trails.  I have no one to blame but myself. 

I'll eventually get over my sour mood.  I'll eventually get back on my mtb.  Hopefully I'll stop acting like such a brat and continue with my day in a more productive manner.  For now, I'm going to ice my swollen body parts and work on putting my bottom lip back where it was before I started whining.

End rant.

Monday, October 15, 2012

When Your Best Isn't Good Enough

Expectations can be motivating.  You set specific goals with the best intentions and desire to attain them at some point in the game.  Sometimes our best just isn't good enough.  Sometimes we can't get our heart and head in sync.  This weekend I couldn't transfer my heart and mind into my legs.  My heart's desire was big.  My brain knew just what I had to do to get where I wanted to be.  My legs couldn't deliver.  I literally pushed myself to a near unconscious state.  I can honestly say I left everything on the course.  How many people can honestly say the same?
Saturday's course was more like a grass crit.  It was sunny, warm and the ground was dry and fast.  My technical skills would not be needed.  I had to depend on what little fitness I had and hope my fast-twitch muscle fibers would forget to blow up after the 1st lap. 
Have a good race, ladies.
Hole shot...again...shit!!!!  Really?  I honestly don't try to get the hole, but I seem to get up there anyway.  I have serious power in my legs...still haven't harnessed the energy for more than a lap.  On the bright side, I kept the lead much longer than normal.  Megan 1, CX Satan 0.
Autumn making me look awesome again.
  Grace eventually passed me when I took the turn out of the woods a little too wide.  I went through the tape and into the trees.  I rode it out and lost first place positioning.  Ok, so now I'm second.  Less pressure.  Let's do this. 
My legs were dying.  I kept looking back and Jenna was always right there.  I pulled away a few times, but she was having a great day and passed me in the barriers.  Ok.  So now I suck.  Keep pedaling.  I was in my dark place at this point and wanted to throw my bike.  "This shit is stupid".  Yep.  That's what I was thinking.
Jenna pulled away in the gravel.  I couldn't stay on her.  We climbed the hill of death and I caught her back.  I was focusing on her recovery.  She wasn't pedaling much, especially where she could coast.  I put my bike in the big ring and pounded my pedals as hard as my body would let me.  I was an inch away from her wheel.  I was trying to get in her head.  We came to a slight downhill and a sharp turn.  I stayed with her.  We rolled into the gravel and around a few more turns.  I was on her.  Into the woods, I stood up and tried to pass her before the single track.  No such luck.
We came out of the woods and onto the hardest part (for me) of the course.  I had nothing.  She gapped me and made the barriers.  I had nothing.  She took off to the finish line.  I had nothing.  Jamie yelled "If you want her you gotta go NOW!"  I had nothing.  I shook my head in disgust.  I had nothing.  I pedaled as hard as I could to the finish as to not look like a total D-bag wuss. 
I saw spots.  I couldn't focus my eyes.  My head felt dizzy and my lips were tingling.  "Get your ass off the bike before you black out and skin up your face."  So I got off my bike and laid in the grass.  I could taste blood.  I just kicked my own ass.
I was infuriated because my body didn't do what I wanted it to do.  I have an amazing cycling family with more support than a newbie could ask for, so I got over being butt hurt pretty quick.  I grabbed my cowbell and started cheering for my team.  They are AWESOME.
I finally participated in the MTB race for fun.  I was DFL.  I got beat by a dude with flat pedals.  No biggie.  That's pretty standard for me on my MTB.  I'm always last and I get beat by a lot of people with flat pedals.  I still finished and I got an extra 30 minutes of training. 
LITERALLY following in Duckman's footsteps.  Not a bad place to be.
Sunday.  Ashevegas.  Pisgah Brewery CX race.  Need I say more?  I got to see a lot of my friends from Boone (I miss ya'll tons!) and hang out with some of my favorite people.  I was trying to prep myself for a "no pressure race" but given my competitive nature, I knew I was kidding myself.
My race summed up in a few sentences...
Start line.  Got second behind hole shot.  Felt great for a second.  Hit the woods.  Got passed...a lot.  Legs said SCREW OFF.  I died.  I couldn't get in my big ring.  I superman'ed my bike on the 3rd lap at the barriers (and saved it).  I got really pissed off.  I got really tired.  I kept thinking, "HOW MANY DAMN LAPS ARE WE DOING?!"  We finished.  I suffered.  I got UNpissed off.  What more could I expect from trashed legs?!  Exactly.
First lap.  Still feeling good...
Lap 392,184...my inner child was crying
Good news?  I wasn't DFL!  Bad news?  I gotta suck it up and realize I'm not going to be great overnight.  Patience.  Gotta find some...
Now to the fun stuff...

This has been a very interesting weekend to say the least.  I'm learning things about myself I never thought possible.  My cup is full.  It would be pretty difficult to make things any better right now.  I'll take it.  God knows I deserve it.