What a start to the year…

I’ve been a little quiet around here since December when I completed my Countdown to Christmas. There’s really been no particular reason other than being super focused on training and prepping for the race season. Change is in the air and I’ve been a busy little bee. I have been more than thrilled to be riding not one, but two of the most amazing bikes in the industry this year!

My new road bike is the Giant Propel Advanced SL 1, and this thing is sick!!! I train on my road bike a lot and every now and then I’ll jump into the occasional crit, but I think this year it might be a lot more than occasional! I would have a guilty conscience if I didn’t race her, so I definitely need to add a few crits to my calendar!

For cross-country, I’m riding Giant’s Lust Advanced 0, and WOW!!! Back in October last year I had the opportunity to demo this bike at OCNP. I was seriously blown away by the performance! A few years back I was riding and racing a full suspension 26er that I really loved. Carlos had already been on a 29er for a year at that point and he wanted me to give it a shot too. Between seasons I was getting my rear shock serviced and so I decided to try out the big wheels. I really liked it because the larger wheel made up for my beginner skill level and I could monster truck my way through things. As I’ve improved as a rider and racer, AND was looking into a new bike, because who doesn’t want a new bike?!? I stumbled into this Giant demo. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the mid size, 27.5 inch wheel, and I was very pleasantly surprised! It was like I had all the sweet features of my 26 going through the trees and the quick acceleration I remembered, yet I had better control and I was able to really pop my wheel over obstacles like rocks and roots. I am excited that this is my very first women’s specific mountain bike. I knew the size would be a perfect fit for me, since I have very long legs and a short torso. It comes equipped with my favorite SRAM 1×11 drivetrain which I switched out the chainring from a 30t to a 32t, and I might play around with a 34t here and there. A super cool feature on this bike that would be awesome for Enduro racing, or off-season riding is the dropper seat post. To save some weight I switched it out for my Thompson Masterpiece, but I can’t wait to play with it on a trip to the mountains later in the year! The tight wheel base along with my Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo’s hook up like a dream through the trees and even in the loose gravelly terrain of Austin’s hill country.

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As February rolled around, and I had only had a handful of rides on my new beauty, I found myself at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville for the opening race weekend of the TMBRA State Championship Series. We’ve had an unusually wet winter here in Texas, so there really wasn’t much mountain biking going on. I battled with sickness for the months of October and November, then after a trip back home to El Paso during the Christmas holidays, I returned with the flu. Any cyclist who’s had the flu knows that the recovery period after is anything but an ideal time to prepare for racing. In the last year we have been fortunate enough to work with two coaches. They were both great learning experiences and it helped us a little more in figuring out what we like, and what we don’t like. In addition to our extensive fitness background, last year Carlos decided to get certified himself through USA Cycling as a coach. Who better than the person right next to me who knows me better than I know myself sometimes, knows what I can and can’t do, how much I can handle, how much stress I may be dealing with, or even how well I slept that night, to be my coach?!? He stepped up to the plate even more so than in previous years, laid out my training plan, and started analyzing my data. Coming back from illness he brought me back up to speed way better than I would have ever done myself, or even previous coaches at that. So with a shorter block of high intensity workouts than originally planned, a bike that I knew was awesome yet I still didn’t have many hours on, and it being the first race of the year, I had no idea what was going to unravel out of it all.

I lined up with TEN girls at the start, (that’s big for a Texas Pro field) and I was all in! That course is super fun and a great test of fitness in my opinion. It’s literally on the gas the entire time. We got to race four laps of the shorter UCI style course which was about 4.4 miles and 550 ft of climbing per lap. Coming off the start line I was fourth, passed a rider on the first climb which left Christina leading and Jessica close behind. There were a few new features to the start loop this year with a series of BMX style jumps that I had to really focus on so I wouldn’t catch too much air. And then there was a little extra punchy climb leading into a descent to finish it off. Going into that climb I was able crank it up a bit and I was now in second. Christina had already formed a small gap on me and I could see her up ahead or even through the trees in different sections of the trail.

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The gap stayed between first place and myself, and I was able to hold my position in second. I had a solid race, rode really well, my bike was absolutely perfect, and my fitness was better than I thought it was going to be! So it was a great surprise and also a really great way to start the season!

After Rocky Hill, my focus continued onto the next race, The Mellow Johnny’s Classic, which was an ‘A’ race on my calendar. The trail is on private land and so it’s not commonly open to the public. Fortunately there were a couple of pre-ride dates a few weeks out from the race, so we were able to get a fair amount of time out there. By race day, I had the trail completely dialed in. I knew every turn, every obstacle, every line I was going to take. I was well rested, my nutrition was on point, I was focused and mentally ready, but I can’t quite say I was mentally ready for the way it all actually played out…

There are lots of awesome changes going on in the world of mountain biking right now. Scott Tedro of Sho-Air has put all his focus into growing the sport of mountain biking and has brought so much momentum into the racing world, with equal payouts for the men and women, huge dollar amounts added to the pot, and creating a US Cup series of four top-notch races for North American riders to collect UCI Points. I was also SO EXCITED that for the very first time my family back at home was going to finally get to see me race via live stream on YouTube!

I had a second row call up to the starting line. As usual, the front row was filled with World Champs, National Champs, and Olympic medalists. As humbling as the whole experience can be, I couldn’t ask for a more accomplished group of women to put myself up against and show me where I’m really at. So, the countdown began, the whistle blew, and we were off. There was a slippery ‘S’ turn immediately off of the start. I went through it clean, had moved up a few spots, and was focused straight ahead on the climb that was to come. Then my world got flipped upside down when a rider on my right hand side from Mexico, clipped her bars with mine. It all happened so fast that I don’t even know who did what. All I know is I was focused on what was ahead and there was no saving myself from going down. I had no idea how badly I was injured. Laura, the girl who went down with me was able to continue riding, so I was assuming her and her bike were okay. The first thing that I looked at was my bike, to make sure nothing was broken. The cable for my remote lock out had been ripped off and my bars were twisted way too far to keep riding. I was standing there alone trying for dear life to pull my bars back into place, but they just wouldn’t budge.

It’s amazing how things happen. About 99.9% of my rides and races I carry a multi-tool with me, and that day just happened to fall into that 0.1%. The plan was for me to use Carlos’ tool since it is smaller than mine. On my way to the starting line, I realized I forgot to get it from him. I told myself, “You do not need a tool. If you need a tool your race is over anyway.” Boy was I right on the money with that! Had I actually carried a tool that day, I know myself, and I would have totally straightened my bars, taken the cable off completely, and continued riding. I truly feel like it was a blessing in disguise, because my elbow was shredded up and bleeding really bad. The course is so technical that you must have 100% focus to ride it, and especially to race it.

So I sat at the medical tent with them pouring water over my wounds, knowing they were about to send me off to get stitches, and I couldn’t keep from having flash backs to this exact race two years ago. That was the first year I raced in the Pro field and was on day two of racing. My front wheel went straight into a rock on a descent, and I went flying, only to land on the same elbow.

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I was awestruck and angry all at the same time. I couldn’t even put my emotions into words. I was SO SAD that my family didn’t get to see me. I literally made it sixteen seconds into my race before the crash, SIXTEEN! I was going 19.8 mph when I hit the ground. This wasn’t what I had mentally prepared for, this wasn’t it at all. I think my sadness even overcame any physical pain I was in.

Poor Carlos had no idea how to handle everything either. Whenever he knows that something is hurting me, physically or mentally, he tries to quickly take care of it to make me feel better. He’s the whole reason I used to ride and race with full-blown downhill knee pads! That was the only option he gave me after being so banged up all the time, otherwise he threatened to sell our bikes all together! LOL! Naturally, his first response to me was, “This isn’t worth it! Nothing is worth seeing you hurt like this!” The drive to the Urgent Care place was quiet. I was trying to make sense of it all. The only conclusion I could come to was that God MUST take me for one tough cookie!!! That’s no joke there, because I KNOW He will never give me anything I can’t handle, and this felt like I was right on the edge of what I could handle. I am so thankful that I’m not severely injured. My elbow was so bad that they actually couldn’t stitch it, so they used butterflies instead. I didn’t think I had hit my head, but after seeing the crack in my helmet, I realized apparently I had. My neck is really sore, and I’ve got road rash throughout the entire left side of my body. But ultimately, I am even more thankful for my Faith, my husband, my family, and all of my friends, because those are the things that have helped me be positive. Gods plan is so much greater than mine, that this is nearly a bump in the road, to something even better than I could have ever wanted for myself! In no way would I ever wish this to happen, or be injured, but is this worth it???20140304-161702.jpg

Absolutely!!! This is living! This is the Carlos and Lisa story! This is what we’re all about…Overcoming. Living each day to its fullest. Doing what we love. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.

But today, I choose to live. I choose to be happy!

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