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Many of you have heard of my exam-taking ordeal from last year. Thus, I won’t go into excruciating detail (except maybe about that equation about lateral forces that omg I never saw in school, seriously you guys? – jk) and will leave it with: I replaced bikes with books. Voluntary house arrest was tough, but I got through them relatively quickly as a result. It also meant that Nittany last year was a disappointing mid 20’s finish followed by some DFL’s.

This summer I got back into cycling, but not with any sort of prescribed training regime. I did try one that my teammate Kacy Wander graciously provided for me, but these training plans just don’t work for me. Sounds strange coming from a bike racer, right? Thing is, I got into racing because I like riding bikes. I was an injured runner that picked up a rusty Schwinn and rode up and down Chicago’s amazing lakefront path from the need to exercise (long distance athletes can understand the drive). I started riding with Illini Cycling to get to know routes, not for racing, and only tried it because the guys were like: “Um, you’re pretty friggin strong so … you should race” – for a whole year.

I’ve been what can be considered a “cyclist” for just about 10 years now (my starting point I’ll say is when I got the Giant OCR2 and wore spandex finally). I’ve had my highs and lows, I’ve quit from enragement at the sport for a couple years, but I keep coming back to it. I just can’t get away. This summer, I reconnected with what I love about cycling, which actually isn’t the solo pain fests (although there is definitely a time and place for those, I do enjoy a good intervals workout, and I have all the respect for my cycling friends/competitors who can put on the suffering) but spending time with friends in the beautiful great outdoors. Mark Gallagher showed us an amazing route out to New Hope for a century. While riding from Boston to Provincetown on the Outriders 30th Anniversary 126 miler, I got lost and rounded out at 150 miles, and in the process met some wonderful people who helped me with giving me water en route, even treating me to dinner afterwards and driving me home from the ferry station. Elisabeth Grindcore and Willem showed us another beautiful route out to Tabora Farms replete with gravel and stream fordings (it felt so Oregon Trail). On a different century, Stephanie Knast rode around with me for another 10 miles so we could get in a century and it was so great to have her company. I laugh for so many miles whenever I ride with Cassi King. I saw the most beautiful sights while riding through the Headlands and Marin beyond the Golden Gate Bridge in SF with both of the main local groups; I also climbed 15000+ ft and rode over 15 hours while in the Bay Area.

Was I training pretty damn hard this summer? Yes. Did it feel like training or work? Not at all! Such sights, such people, such appetite afterwards. I’m less bike racer who trains, more someone who just likes riding bikes a touch too much who happens to race. Anyways. This is a long explanation for: there are a multitude of different ways to be a bike racer; this is the method I chose for myself.

With all this “training” from the summer, I lined up for Nittany oddly calm. I knew I put in the work, and from this point on, what happens, happens. Whistle goes off, and I’M OFF. I ride past the front 2 lines and find myself in FIRST after the holeshot. Assuming the field would pass me any minute, I threw on the gas and … no one passed me. Where is everyone? Next lap, Shaina did pass me, but then the next one I passed her! 3rd lap, she passes me again, as did a couple others … and finally in the final lap: omg, it was so hot you guys. Donna Tozer encouraged me best she could, but in the end, her beastliness was too much and she nabbed 4rth while I placed top 5 in the 1st race of the MAC series!

This top 5 finish is not my work alone, but also the work of all of the great people I rode with this summer. Thank you for helping me get strong, and enjoying the great outdoors with me. Y’all rock!

It feels great to be back y’all! Thank you to the Nittany CX Race organizers for your hard work in putting on this race. Also, thank you Bill White for the great photos!

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