Monday, 18 March 2013

I left my heart in... South Carolina?

Turns out that whole "back to reality" thing only lasted about two weeks... After some mad studying and assignment writing, Sam Wagler and I headed down to Rocky Bottom, South Carolina to meet up with the rest of Team Ontario Cycling for a week of the most beautiful road riding available in North America (or the world, for that matter).

Amazing group rides were the theme of the week; up and over Caesar's Head (twice in one day, no less!), up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, the infamous Cashiers ride, and the traditional OCA sprint day were some of the rides we were lucky enough to be able to do. If there were ever any doubts about my love for biking - whether mountain or road - those South Carolina descents effectively abolished them! I was super confident on my Norco Valence around all the tight corners and fast-paced descents; quite a change from how I used to be! My bike just seemed to carry me perfectly around the apex of each corner, which was a pretty wicked feeling. I'd like to give a special shout out to eLoad Endurance for donating so much product to the camp. Those gels really kept me going on the multiple 5+ hour days!

I've gotten a lot of questions over the past while about biking, school and managing the two... Specifically, how am I (and WHY am I) a student if I'm never at school? I have a few answers to that question:

Firstly, school is important. I am very well aware of that fact, and I intend to finish my education. As much as I love biking, I know that there has to be a life after an athletic career. So, I am setting myself up for the long term. It's not necessarily easy, but it has to be done! That being said, there is also no rush. I think there is value in completing everything to the best of your ability, and if that means finishing a degree in five (or even six) years instead of four, then that's what I will do.

Secondly, I've recently realized that life is too short (I know, so cliche) to not pursue the things that you love. In the words of Macklemore, I've decided to "choose love over a desk" and follow my heart! This means giving 100% of what I am to mountain biking (the training, the racing, the whole shebang) as well as studying Kinesiology. Cycling is my number one priority right now, but a part of me also loves what I am studying... so a balance between the two is a keystone of my happiness.

Lastly, as much as I love biking, I need the mental break from training/the training mindset sometimes (is it ironic that school provides that mental break?). I love to learn; sure, exams add some stress, but the opportunity to learn every day is a pretty good motivator for staying in school.

I hope that answers some of the questions I've been fielding! I've got some pictures of the week in South Carolina for all you visual types... be warned, these pictures may cause some serious sun-envy!

Got some people up on the slack line this week. You'd be surprised at how useful a tool it is for biking!

First time? No problem, he crushed it. 

The traditional coffee stop in Cashiers

Evan McNeely, ladies and gentlemen... specifically ladies ;)

Bowl so hard. (Does loving puns this much make me a nerd?)

2500m of climbing later...

A FRIGID South Carolina mountain bath.

The climb up to Blue Ridge... pictures can't do it justice. 

So much fun having other girls to ride with!

The trusty steed that carried me up the mountain... little did it know, it was in for the most fun descent in North America!

Now that I've got about 4 weeks of training camps in me, I can't wait to get on my mountain bike and race!! I've grown to love road riding over the last few months, but nothing can compare to the feeling of mountain bike tires on dirt. 4 weeks and counting until the first race!

I'll end it on that note. I hope you all got in touch with your Irish side this weekend! All for now :)