First, I just want to say a big congratulations to all those athletes that will be representing the US in Rio this August. It is a real honor and I look forward to watching you all!
With the USA Cycling federation announcing the Olympic selection today, I thought it might be a good time to collect my thoughts. The track selection was announced back in March, but in all reality, I knew I wouldn't be making the team 8 months ago. My heart goes out to all those on the long team who are facing disappointment today. For some, it is probably a shock. For others, something they probably knew for awhile, but seeing it official in print is always hard.
For me, working toward the Olympic team is something that happened several years out. I'd say I started that process for earnest in the summer/fall of 2013, when I went on a solo trip to Europe to try and make the step to international track racing. That was hard trip (athletically and logistically), and one I will always look back at, amazed I even made it happen. Then, from fall 2013-fall 2015, it was a lot of team selection camps and some world cup races.
What was going through an Olympic selection like? In track, you don't race all that much, but the camps become almost like races, as they are the selections moving forward. Sometimes camps felt like a game of survivor... sometimes they were smaller and felt very focused on an event... and sometimes they felt like that was the last selection and there was no margin for error.
You know, it is very special to be part of the national team, represent your country, and even be trying to accomplish something so lofty as making an Olympic team. You get to train with the best athletes in the country. You train at the best facilities. You have access to great coaches and trainers. You get to race all across the world at the very highest level - sometimes winning medals. You get to become the very best of yourself physically and athletically speaking. All that is very amazing.
However, to be honest, I can say I probably did not enjoy the journey as much as I should have during the time. Just writing that list above, makes me think to myself: how could I not have enjoyed and appreciated it?!? But, for me, I know I really let the stress and pressure get me. In the end, I didn't care so much about the journey, I really wanted to achieve the goal. And being so laser focused on a goal really made it hard to take the process in stride. I suppose there is probably a life lesson in here, but I don't know if I have actually learned it, although I hope I am beginning to.
What was my biggest take home from all this? The one thing I can most definitely say that I have learned is how to be responsible for myself to put my best foot forward. As an athlete, there are always so many things out of your control. I have always been someone who has wanted to just fit in and not create a fuss, but performing your best is about knowing your specific needs and having the confidence and preparation to make that happen. Easy to say, but what does that concretely mean? For me, that meant mailing my rollers across the country so I could warmup before practice in my dorm room, because I knew the normal warmup wasn't enough for me. That meant traveling to camps in Colorado a week early so I could acclimate to altitude. That meant spending more time at the LA track so I could get better technically on the indoor velodrome. That meant not expecting someone else to figure out my bike fit or equipment for me, and gaining knowledge and spending the time and money to make changes. You come across a lot of different types of athletes during your time in elite sport, those who are molded, and those who mold themselves, and I really tried to become the latter of these.
At the end of the day, sometimes you just aren't fast enough, and that is all there is to say. That's sport. That is what we all buy into when we decide to play the game. It is natural (but not very useful) to think about the what-ifs.... but that is why it is so important to minimize those ifs along the way. Yeah, in retrospect, I might have changed somethings, but I can only be satisfied with the decisions I made at the time. And I can only be proud of those accomplishments and improvements I made along the way. For sure, looking back at the athlete I was 6 years ago, to the one I was going into the Olympic year, it is a huge transformation. I mean, huge.
As for now, I wish I was rebounding from the disappointment better and had my head and heart in bike racing more, but I continue, as I hope that that will return this year. I do love racing, and I hope to re-discover that again, as the year continues.
Of course, nothing would be possible without the generosity of some wonderful individuals. I am indebted to so many people, and I do not even want to make a list, as I know I cannot include everyone, as it would go on a very long time. But especially in the past year, I want to thank Rob Van Houweling, Jack Vincent, Giddeon Massie, and James Hibbard. Although my outcome did not show it, your assistance in time and resources this past year made me as well prepared as I could have been. It brings me much solace knowing I was the best I could be in these areas.
Relationships certainly are taxed during this process: travel, financial expenses, me being an emotional roller coaster.... My husband has been nothing short of amazing, and for that I am know I am the luckiest person alive. I love you Michael! My family and friends have been so understanding. Thank you and I love you all.
Not really sure how to end this post - with about 6 months to digest it all, I can say confidently is that I will probably have more insight and perspective another 6 months. 😌