When I started racing mountain bikes in 2017, then got my pro card from USA Cycling in the fall of 2019, I had no idea that the “dream season” I had planned for 2020 would not happen. But of course, that is the same story that everyone experienced in some way. COVID-19 interrupted lives globally, and like everyone else, my only control was over my own response to the pandemic.
As a middle school English teacher and bike shop employee, I was still working in-person and full-time through most of the pandemic, so I chose to see the widespread cancellation of racing as an opportunity. I made my circle exceptionally small, choosing to ride only with my boyfriend for most of 2020. Instead of racing, I traveled to ride and train on new trails whenever possible and doubled down on my training at home. I put in long training miles and completed personal endurance challenges, as well as maximizing the potential of Zwift for training and racing purposes.
In the end, 2020 turned out to be a standout season.
Much of that was due to finding my motivation outside of racing. In the end, racing is only a small part of the picture. I ride bicycles because I love bicycles. I found as much joy in exploring new gravel roads, attempting bikepacking for the first time, and practicing bunny hops in my driveway as I did in racing. Even the endless hours on the trainer through the winter months were fulfilling as I checked off Zwift routes and found encouragement in hitting new PRs throughout the year. Just as much as with riding itself, I dug into the science of nutrition, training, performance, and mindset and started making adjustments to my routines in order to maximize my performance. Nutritionally, one of the key changes that I made was moving away from plain water during training rides to using Osmo Active Hydration for both training and racing. Whether on the road, dirt, or trainer, I found it incredibly beneficial to ride with a hydration mix in my bottles.
Now, a year and a half later, as the 2021 season is coming to a close, I have been reaping the rewards of the skills training, endurance miles, and research: in the five races I’ve competed in, I have been in the top five of open/pro women competitors each race, despite facing the challenges of moving to a new state, starting two new jobs, and making the switch from primarily cross-country racing to marathon-distance races.
The best part is that even though racing has returned, for me, being out there on a bike is still all about #ridebikesbehappy!