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The trip to Colorado Springs started out with it’s ups and downs (perhaps omens). Waking up at 3:30 to catch a 6am flight, I checked my phone, and saw an email from United, telling me that my flight had been delayed 3 hours. Great, I could go back to bed… or not. Of course they add in that one extra line that the flight may still leave at the normal scheduled time, so we should be at the airport 90 minutes prior to the regular scheduled time anyways. I’m sure this never happens, but none the less, I rolled out of bed, and got myself to the airport. Now, because of this delay, I would miss my connection in Chicago, and I was very worried what this would mean for my arrival time, seeing as how few flights there are into a small airport like Colorado Springs. The United staff at check-in had their plates full, with the flight delay causing lots of trouble, but they were very helpful. My agent found a flight that would get me to my destination, 9 hours later than expected… but rather than stop there, he kept searching, made some more calls, and found another flight (that may or may not have already been overbooked), and got me into COS only a few hours later than expected! Plus, an upgraded seat in executive for one segment of the journey always goes a long way in keeping customers happy! So far, not all was lost.
I got into COS, had my bags, and bike waiting for me on the carousel, and quickly made my way over to the US Olympic Commitee staff who were there to drive me to my accomodations at the US Olympic Training Center. This amazing facility not only has dorms for athletes, but a cafeteria (with dangers like a McDonalds soft-serve ice cream dispenser for athletes to help themselves!), sports facilities, weight rooms, and any athlete services you could ever need like massage, chiro, etc.
I checked into my room, and quickly threw my bike together to try to get in a good ride in between storms. Of course, being in Colorado, even a short ride becomes a scenic adventure. In only a short time, I stumbled upon the Garden of the Gods. An amazing park with the most unbelievable natural red rock formations, protruding out of the ground. I stood in awe for a few minutes, before I realized I better head back, to avoid the dark grey clouds that were coming my way.
I was really looking forward to the racing in Colorado. My form had started to come around in the two weeks leading into this race, with higher power numbers, and speeds than I had previously seen. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a chance to test that form…
Qualifying and the first round of sprints in the morning went off without a hitch. The evening session began with the quarter finals, and I was up against Baranoski. I have a faint recollection of the race, with me making a move with 3/4 lap to go. I remember racing to the finish with Matt trying to come around on the home straight. I remember getting ready to throw my bike at the line. And then a big blank.
I don’t know what happened. All I know is I hit the deck, hard. Pictures later on showed me sliding, unconscious, across the concrete track. I woke up, about 25 seconds later looking up into a circle of paramedics. I’d later find out that I was ‘combative’ (a term the paramedics used) before I truly regained consciousness (aka, I wasn’t the happiest camper letting the paramedics move me around). As they rolled me to the ambulance, I took an inventory of how I was feeling. I was sore everywhere, and certainly had a decent amount of road rash, but one thing I could tell for sure was that my right collarbone was fractured. Arriving into the ER, I was immediately subjected to a plethora of x-rays and CTs. I heard whispers from the technicians, suggesting that things might be worse than I suspected, but they refused to tell me one way or another until a doctor saw me.
Finally, I was given the news. Aside from all the road rash down the right side of my body, and on the left side of my face, I was told in addition to my collarbone being fractured, I had a broken scapula, and bruised lungs. After receiving 6 stitches to my left cheek, I was admitted and told that an orthopaedic surgeon would talk to me the next day. Thankfully, Travis had taken the ride to the hospital with me in the ambulance, and had kept my worrying mother up to date on the progress at the hospital.
The following day I waited a painstakingly long time for the surgeon to review my case and discuss next steps. Because surgery was an immediate option, I was not allowed any food, and could only suck on a few ice cubes for fluid. Finally, the surgeon informed me that he would definitely recommend surgery to repair the clavicle, but that the scapula would be a much more difficult (and perhaps unnecessary surgery). However, he thought that it would be best for me to get home before undertaking surgery, for recovery and check-up purposes. The hospital was not ready to release me yet though, as I had started to develop a minor fever, and my lung bruising was still an issue.
The following morning, I was told I was in a good enough state to fly, and so arrangements were made for me to fly out of Denver that afternoon. There were still other issues to deal with however, like how the heck I was going to pack two bikes, with a single arm. Lucky for me, Joakim, and Audrey, two teammates from Quebec, had also flown in for the race, and so with their help, (or rather I should say, with my minor assistance, and them doing all of the labour) we were able to get the bikes packed, and I was ready to go.
Once home, the adventure had not yet concluded. Now, I had to find a surgeon who could operate, as soon as possible, to fix my clavicle. Most wouldn’t even see me for a consult for weeks, but luckily due to numerous sources searching, I was able to find a doctor quickly, who scheduled the operation for later that week.
Due to the quick nature of events, I went to pre-op, without having had a chance to really discuss with the doctor what he was planning on doing. The pre-op nurse was nice enough to page the doctor, who called and went through his plans, and then added in a “Oh, by the way, another doctor, Dr. Nauth, will be doing the surgery”, as he said bye. Needless to say, it was quite a shock, and in hindsight it is a very good thing I had that discussion. If I had gone into surgery the following day, and without knowing, a completely different doctor than I was expecting showed up, I’m not sure what I would have done.
Surgery the following day, only had one memorable experience. In previous surgeries, I had always remembered being on a bed, being rolled in the OR, looking up at the ceiling. This time however, I was given instructions to walk into the OR. Needless to say, it was an interesting experience, looking around at the tools that were going to be used, the doctors scrubbing in, the nurses bustling around getting everything ready, and then hopping up on the operating table, lying down, and passing out into an unconscious bliss.
Here I am now, almost a week post-op. The first couple nights were very tough, with pain levels way above what they were like following the original accident. Coming out of surgery they must have forgot to tell me that they had used a local block on my shoulder, which would fade drastically by that evening. Sleep has been touch and go, but things are slowly getting better. I am able to get through a somewhat regular day (if regular means relaxing on the mattress we brought into the living room, and watching Netflix most of the day). As time goes on I am moving more, and the pain is dissipating. The road rash is healing nicely, but will undoubtedly take a while before it completely disappears.
One lesson I am re-learning is how quickly atrophy occurs. In less than two weeks since the crash, I have lost 10 pounds. I am already getting antsy to resume some kind of exercise and training soon. While the next few months will likely not involve much racing, I am looking forward to the chance to really get back to the basics, and rebuild leading into what are undoubtedly going to be some busy years coming up!
As for short term goals, right now I just hope to recover enough to be able to hold my future nephew any day now!!
In March, the UCI announced a new qualifying system for the World Cup season, and World Cups. Rather than each country automatically getting spots for the World Cups, individuals now have to qualify themselves through summer UCI races, accumulating points at different level races. So instead of finishing exams, and having a chance to take a break, it was quite the opposite for me. One week after finishing the school year, I was off to Europe!
Most of the UCI races are in Europe, and so I would have loved to spend quite a bit of time there, gaining experience, and points at the same time. Unfortunately, my funds were limited, so I picked a two week span with two consecutive races, in Belgium, and then Spain.
Arriving in Belgium, I was shocked! There was enough depth for a World Cup race, but this only meant that I would gain even more from the experience at these races. I qualified well in Belgium, but in the end, it was apparent that my tactics were a little bit rusty. It had been months since I last raced the sprint at Pan-Ams, and almost a year since my last keirin! I came away with good experience, but not the results I was hoping for. Luckily, I had a week until my next race in Valencia, Spain, so I had the opportunity to tour two very interesting cities, Ghent, and Brugge while still in Belgium. These old cities had some incredible architecture, and of course before I left, I had to test out a few of the amazing Belgian Chocolate shops!
Next up was Valencia, with even more riders. The excitement began even before the racing, with some disagreements between commisaires and team officials, but luckily all was sorted out in time. Being the solo rider from Canada, I was put in the French team’s pit area (I guess they think all Canadians speak French!). It was very interesting to see not just how many riders, but how much staff and coaches these teams brought with them to these races! These countries are taking the summer qualifying races seriously! I raced much better tactically in Valencia, but I left wanting more!
Valencia was one of the coolest cities I have ever seen. There was such a sharp contrast with the old city, and the new and modern City of Arts and Sciences. The old city had narrow streets, with markets and shops filled with hundreds of iberico hams (Spanish version of prosciutto), and only a short distance away, a whole city with the craziest, most abstract architecture. And of course, the best way to get around was on ValenBICI (Valencia’s version of Bixi bikes!), with bike racks literally every second intersection.
A quick trip to the beach to dip my feet in the Mediterranean completed my time in Spain. Overall, the trip was an amazing learning experience, racing against the top riders from Europe. I sharpened my tactics, while gaining some qualifying points.
Coming home, I must have caught a bug on the plane, which wasn’t very good, because in less than two weeks I was off to T-Town! After having been sick for a solid 10 days, I made the 6hr drive to T-town on Thursday, and raced the Keirin Cup the following evening. T-Town has always been one of my favourite places to race. The atmosphere, with thousands of spectators, and a field full of international riders on a regular basis can only be described as amazing. The following week was another UCI qualifier in T-Town, and luckily for me, my wonderful Mom made the drive down to cheer me on! Of course, a trip to T-town would never be complete without a little bit of drama, including a last minute change in schedule, being called to the line right after a 20 second warmup sprint on the rollers! My legs and tactics finally started to come around, with a 5th place finish, thus getting a few more qualifying points.
Next up on the schedule is the US Grand Prix of Sprinting in Colorado Springs this week, so stay tuned!
To say this past week at the Pan-Am Championships had its fair share of excitement is an understatement. After what was the easiest travel to a race we have ever had (3.5 hours, direct flight) we settled into the Marriott Airport hotel temporarily for the night, as we would not be going into official accommodation until the next day.
Well, only about 3 months later, I figured its finally time to sit down and get this out written out…
In the final few days before August 7th, time felt like it went from a snail pace, to warp speed. Training, eating, and recovering were the only important tasks I was focused on. Three days before I raced, I had the amazing opportunity to see my fellow teammates win a Bronze medal in the Women Team Pursuit. And of course, I was very lucky that my family arrived a couple days before my racing. It felt like it had been quite a while since I had last seen them, so being able to relax with them really helped to calm my nerves and get me ready for the big day! They even gave me a sneak peak of the custom VELOCE t-shirts they were going to wear on race day that they had laboured over (Yes, my family goes all out!)
After years of preparation for one race, it was finally here! I woke up early that morning and went to the dining hall as usual. It felt just like a normal day. I went back up to my room, did a quick double check that I wasn’t missing anything in my bag, and rode over to the track. As I started my warmup, the crowds started funneling in, and yep, you guessed it, the Veloce’s were one of the first to arrive! After a quick wave to my ecstatic mother, I was back focused… turning over the legs, getting the blood flowing, and getting my mind ready.
And then, it was time to go. I tightened my shoes, grabbed my gloves and helmet, and walked over to the staging area. I still vividly remember those last few minutes waiting. A few quick words with my coach, drawing my starting position, tightening my helmet, putting on my gloves, and getting to the start line. And that is when it hit me. I was about to represent Canada on the world’s biggest stage, the Olympics. I looked around for a brief moment, took in the cheering crowds, knowing that my family was making the most noise out of anyone else in the building. And then I felt a silence creep in…until a gunshot! And it was off!
Right off the bat, things weren’t going well. A bit of miscommunication between me and my coach had me at the back of the pack. I quickly analyzed the situation, changing tactics accordingly, while still being ready for anything. My legs felt great, and I was ready to go. At 2 laps to go, I saw the move, and fought for the wheel, but it seemed like others had the same strategy as me. I crossed the line in 4th, disappointed, with only the top 2 riders qualifying directly to the next round.
But I still had a chance in the repechage, so I quickly refocused and got myself ready to ride again. After a better start this time around, I was confident that I could pull something off, and finish in the top 3 to qualify for the second round. I knew I had to conserve, and make my move at just the right moment. As we approached the end of the race, I was running out of time to make my move, but I couldn’t find the space to get out of the boxed position I was in. And then as we came out of the last corner, I saw some sunlight. A slight hole had opened up above the rider in front of me. As I started to go for it, the rider in front swung up out of his lane, and closed the door. I was left with no where to go. In the end I finished 4th, and the rider who had swung out of his lane was relagated. And just like that, my Olympics were over, with a 13th place in the Men’s Keirin.
It has taken me some time to really analyze how the Olympics went. I had set high goals for myself, and ultimately didn’t meet them. But looking back the experience I gained was invaluable to my development as a rider. The lessons I learned are just going to help me going forward, not only as I begin preparation for Rio 2016, but in every day life.
With my racing over, I could spend some more time with my family. We spent the first day touring Olympic Park, and admiring what amazing facilities London had built for these games. Then we went to markets, on the London Eye, for a cruise on the Thames, and played tourist, soaking in as much of London as we could.
One very cool part of the Games was the Oakley SafeHouse. My entire family and I would go there just to relax, or to eat some great BBQ’ed food, or to catch some of the ongoing events being displayed on big screens, and of course, Oakley was generous enough to even give us custom Olympic eyewear! Big thanks to Oakley for their hospitality during the Games, and for many great experiences!
And then it was time for the closing ceremonies. We were all sad the Games were coming to a close, but the Canadian Track Cycling team decided to go out with a bang! Design courtesy of Zach Bell, we built a huge maple leaf, out of the ponchos that came in our HBC kit, and a LOT of safety pins. We proudly waved our homemade flag as we marched into the packed stadium, only to find out the disappointing news that the TV cameras didn’t notice it! So for all of you that have not yet seen this beauty, here it is:
None of us could believe how many different acts performed at the ceremony. Just when we thought that was it, another act came on, until the torch was finally extinguished, and passed on to Rio.
The best part of the Olympics for me, was being able to share such an amazing experience with my whole family. It was an event that I’m sure none of us will forget. Having all of you there cheering, Mom, Dad, Elisa, Lucas and Luch, after years of your everlasting love and support, meant the world to me. Without all of you, I would never have been able to even get to the Games in the first place.
As race day creeps closer, my excitement continues to build. I’m reminded of the years of work I’ve put in to get to this stage. Everything I’ve done, from the moment I took up cycling back in 2004 has built to this event. And yet it seems like only last week that I took my first ride around Forest City Velodrome, and only yesterday that Olympic qualification started.
The Olympic Village is an experience in itself, with thousands of the best athletes from all over the world in a single location. The food is amazing, with choices of cuisines from all over the world, and of course a McDonalds. The McCafe line is always the longest in the dining hall, with the high demand for a good cup of coffee (and caffeine!). The village houses over 17,000 athletes, coaches and staff, and yet the layout of buildings is so well done that even with the abundance of green space, it only takes about a 5 minute walk to get across the village to the dining hall. Of course, for us cyclists that translates into a 2 minute bike ride, since we are always trying to save our legs from a bit of extra walking.
At this point in the game, it’s very tempting to get caught up in the distractions of the village, with all these choices of food, video games, and even a Beats studio where we can make appointments to work with a professional producer. But again, the reminder of the work we’ve all done to get to this point, keeps us focused on the main goal: to give our everything, and to represent our country to our highest potential come race day.
The Olympics bring about new and greater sources of pressure, and distractions, but I am remaining calm and relaxed in my final build up. One of my main focuses over the past year has been working on the mental side of training. This has involved everything from distraction management, to imagery. I feel a significant amount of my improvement over the last year can be attributed to this. The value of mental training is often forgotten, and isn’t given as much significance as physical training, but it really gives me the ability to get more out of every training session I complete. Being that extra bit focused, or motivated during each training effort rather than just going through motions has had a huge effect on my performance. And the other skills I’ve learned from my mental conditioning coach have been invaluable to my development as an athlete. Rather than focusing on outcomes, I’ve learned to focus on the processes and steps involved to achieve my goals. For me personally, this has allowed me to thrive under pressure, and to be prepared to give my best performance in 5 days time!
It’s been a big week!
Two years ago, when Olympic qualification started, I’m not sure I really thought it would happen, but just yesterday we got the official announcement! Along with Tara Whitten, Zach Bell, GIllian Carleton, Jasmin Glaesser, Monique Sullivan, and Laura Brown, I have been selected to represent Canada at the 2012 London Olympics in track cycling!!
It’s been a tough couple years, accumulating points at the World Cups and World Championships around the globe, but it’s all been worth it to reach this point. The process to qualify Canada a spot at the games just finished 6 weeks ago at the World Championships in Melbourne. We’ve had our fair share of highs and lows. Personally I was thrilled to be the fastest Canadian at the world championships in the sprints, qualifying with a new PB of 10.281, but we also found out that we narrowly missed out on qualifying the Team Sprint by one position. Luckily, Canada still earned a single position in the Men’s Keirin event.
Now that we had qualified the spot for the country, the coaches had a hard decision to make. Which of the three sprinters on the team was going to be given the honour of representing Canada at the Games. It was decided that trials would be held to help choose the rider. Two time trials were going to be taken into consideration: a flying 500m, and a 500m accel, being dropped off from a motor bike at 50km/h to simulate a keirin event.
When I first heard what the events would be at trials, I was a bit worried. In the past, I had never focused my attention on these longer types of efforts, and was unsure how I would fair. I knew I just had to put my head down and prepare myself as best as I could for these trials in the 6 weeks we had to train.
The weeks leading up to trials were anything but boring. Tension was high, but I did my best to focus on the job at hand: prepare myself to ride the fastest 500m possible!
Before we knew it, the day of trials had arrived. I had never been more motivated in my life, and I used the energy to ride to new personal bests each time I got back on the track for another effort! After two days of trials it was all over, and the times I had set remained the fastest of the sprint group.
After three extremely anxious days of waiting, while I was sitting in my convocation ceremony, I received the official email from Cycling Canada… In one day, I received my degree from McMaster, AND got the nomination to ride the Keirin at the 2012 Games!
I just want to take this opportunity to thank all the coaches and staff from Cycling Canada for their hard work and dedication to the team, and of course I want to thank my family and friends for their love and support. Without all of you, none of this would have been possible!