Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Sea Otter Classic

After finishing second year university, I was lucky enough to kick off the summer in style at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. I flew down on Wednesday and met up with the rest of the Norco Factory Team crew (minus a few XC guys and gal). After a long winter apart, it was great to see these guys again! I definitely missed my second family over the long winter months.

We headed to the venue on Thursday for a solid day of preriding and dialling the new bikes in. Man, did it ever feel good to get on my Team 9! The Sea Otter course seems to be built for a 29er... wicked-fast open descents and tons of fire roads give the big wheels a huge advantage.

Friday marked the first test of the year with the STXC. Lets just say it was not ideal... I felt pretty good, but I don't have the speed there yet. Happily, it's still April, and I feel like my fitness is right where it should be for this time of year. We spent the rest of the day on Friday relaxing and getting ready for the main event on Saturday; for me, this meant trying to convince myself that I love the heat... not sure that this was effective, but I was at least prepared for how hot it was going to be on Saturday!

Funnily enough, I wasn't really nervous for the XC. I rolled up to the start line with a decent call up and just felt like I was loving life! I had an okay start, but failed to remember how much the speed picks up right before we exit the Laguna Seca race track and hit the dirt. This meant that I had a pretty crappy position heading into the first dirt climbs in the race, but I managed to hold my own. I didn't feel all that great on the climbs, but I couldn't have felt more comfortable on the descents! Man, do I ever love my bike. I wasn't super happy with my result, but I felt like I rode reasonably well and I know exactly what I need to work on. 2013 is looking good!

After the race, we spent a couple of days in sunny California riding as a team, taking some pictures and video, and (of course) mini golfing. Lespy should probably stick to mountain biking... his short game could REALLY use some work. The highlight of my post race adventures was getting to ride the new 650B Norco Revolver!! What a wicked bike. It literally felt like the bike was made for me; easy to handle on the descents and super responsive on the climbs. Definitely the best of both worlds. Can't wait to race that bad boy this year! Big thanks to Norco Bicycles and everyone else who supported me this week! It's back to Ontario now for a couple weeks of local racing and training before heading off to Europe for some World Cup action. Giddy-up 2013!

Enjoying the early morning sunrise with my Norco bros.

All smiles for 650B!
I'm a sucker for a good sunrise
Mini-put yo. 
Sharks AND the dark... who knew mini-put could cross off two things on my fears checklist?
Monterey knows where it's at. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

pay it forward

In high school, we were introduced to an idea known worldwide as "Pay it Forward". You've probably heard of this concept, but if you haven't, it goes something like this: when someone offers you a kindness, you respond not by repaying that individual but by "paying the act forward"... ie. doing something kind for someone else. To me (and likely to most of you), this seems a natural way of acting. Sure, we all have our bad days, but for the most part we try to treat others how we want to be treated; with kindness, respect, sympathy and generosity. Recently, I have found myself the recipient of seemingly un-repayble generosity. What I mean is that over the past few months, I have been shown kindness to a degree that I would never, EVER have expected.

It would be wrong to say that these people and their actions have "restored my faith in humanity", as so many people seem to say when they encounter such kindness. To say that would imply that the generosity I have been shown is an expected act... something that is lacking in the general population as a result of corruption. On the contrary, these people and their actions have taken my understanding of benevolence and altruism and uplifted them to an entirely new level. I am honestly astounded and immeasurably grateful for the kindness shown to me by these people. If the act to be paid forward should be in relation to the magnitude of the initial kindness shown, then I am up for a daunting task. I am working on paying it forward, but "thank you" seems like a good place to start.

Imagine for a moment the life of a student athlete: we work hard at school, we train every day, and when our season comes around we are fortunate enough to travel the world competing in our sport. Yeah, it's a pretty sweet deal. I hope that I am never too self-absorbed or entitled to forget how lucky I am to be a cyclist and have the opportunities that I have been presented with. I feel selfish accepting benefaction from people who are trying to help me reach my goals - it doesn't seem fair that I should be so lucky to have people and organizations supporting my cycling endeavours while other kids may never have even been able to afford a bike to ride. I think that being an athlete is an inherently selfish occupation... herein lies the duty of athletes to ensure that they pay forward every kindness they are shown, no matter how small. Heck, maybe we should even be the ones initiating the cycle! This is something that I will endlessly strive to do, and know that this attitude has been inspired by the people that have shown me unprecedented kindness.

People often say that there are "so many people behind every athlete"... people supporting them financially, emotionally, with product, with everything you could possibly think of. I would like to change this way of thinking. To me, it seems that there are so many people surrounding every athlete - the athlete is just one member of a highly cohesive team. In individual sports it is often overlooked that the athlete has a team of people without whom success would not be possible. It may be a finicky distinction, but I think it is an important one. So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has offered their support for the 2013 season. I don't like to make lists, as I think it takes away meaning from each individual contribution, but on this occasion I will stray from tradition. So, keep in mind that every person listed has had an immense impact on me as an athlete!

A thousand times thank you to the following:

Alannah Snell
Morning Glory Cycling Club
Norco Bicycles (and good old Uncle Havi!)
Queen's University - PHEKSA
Ontario Cycling Association
Dan Proulx
My parents (obviously!) and the rest of my amazing family
Rebecca Turner and Suz Dickie (how would I have ever passed my classes without your notes?!)

These are far from the only people who deserve a thank you from me, but I will leave it there. Thank you for believing in me and helping me to achieve my dreams! Your support has given me the opportunity to succeed, and has made me a better person in the process. I can't thank you enough.


In the spirit of Random Acts of Kindness/Pay it Forward... I found this on my locker at the school gym. There are so many ways to brighten someone's day!