Behold, Fall 2013:
1. Rode my mountain bike a lot
The sport of mountain biking got the most love from me this semester. I went all-in, traveling and competing with my school’s cycling club to seven USA Cycling collegiate races. We had a blast camping and competing at venues across the state against other collegiate teams.
I put all my focus on biking this fall because it’s my last semester at Baylor and my last chance to be a member of the school’s team. Since I don’t have any NCAA eligibility anymore, and no urgent running goals other than get back into training, I figured this was a good time and maybe the only time to really get some good riding in before I make running everything again.
I freaking loved this season! Biking is obviously much lower-key than NCAA Track and Field, and while I took the races seriously I didn’t have any outside pressure to perform. Mountain biking is similar to running in that you have to stay mentally engaged, it challenges you aerobically, and you get to be outside competing in beautiful places. But it’s different because the fittest girl doesn’t always win! It’s also about finesse – your technical skills on the trail can take you a lot further than interval training. My technical skills are MUCH better than last year though, after all my summer practice in Austin, and it was really satisfying to actually be able to use my aerobic fitness and push myself in a race. It was great to try to work into a new sport, where a different required skill set challenged me in new ways.
I crashed every race weekend at least once, but I got up and finished all the races. It wasn’t too bad, and wearing my scrapes and bruises to class the next few days after a race always made me feel so hardcore.
I was happy with the season – I got 2nd or 3rd in all my races, depending who showed up. It was a huge improvement from last year, and I ended up qualifying for and getting to race at collegiate nationals in North Carolina! I got 45th/80 there, which I am proud of because one year ago I was 100% brand new to this sport.
2. Baylor Cycling Club: a new athletic and leadership experience
As much pride as I drew from being an athlete at Baylor for five years, I have to say people in the cycling club and other club sports are the real “student-athletes” on campus. The NCAA athlete experience was fantastic at Baylor and I wouldn’t change it. We were treated very well and our coaches had high expectations from us – often I felt like a pro athlete who did school on the side. Club athletes on the other hand have to run the team themselves, without the help of athletic scholarships, coaches, and an entire athletic department dedicated to their success. They organize the club, buy equipment, plan trips, register for races, host competitions, raise funds, participate in the community, keep up with their studies, and most importantly, COMPETE year-round.
I’ve been in the club since Fall 2012, and became an officer last spring. It’s really cool to have been part of the leadership, and see how the student leadership has matured, grown the club, and shaped it into an organization that provides so much fun and so many opportunities for its members.
3. Running is still #1 in my heart and my future plans
I’ve heard a few folks ask me if I’m still running, or just mountain biking now.
My response to this is Think I give up that easy!? But I guess I haven’t been vocal enough about my goals. Or I can just blame Facebook (which is ironic because I’m still not actively using the site right now), because I think I’ve been tagged in a bunch of biking photos this semester. Guess I need to start sending selfies from 6:30 a.m. practice at Cottonwood. Sorry, I know, Facebook is the easiest way to get this gestalt idea of how people’s lives are going, and I can see how my profile would be misleading.
But still. No. Just no. I still run. I still love running. I still want to run for a post-collegiate team. I still train. I’ve done a few races this fall.
This semester I’ve trained with my old XC team, and did a meet with them (the HBU Invite, ran an XC 5k in 17:30 woohoo). Feeling my fitness returning after 6 months off due to injury last school year is simply exhilarating. I’m experiencing the purity of running, re-discovering the joy that it is to feel my legs turn over, to have to dig again, and to be able to open up and run uninhibited by nagging pain or heavy legs. I can feel my talent asking to be unleashed, running these workouts and races months earlier than I thought I’d be able to. It’s weird and awesome and I love it.
4. I’m graduating grad school in December!
I love my school and my faculty but I’m ready to be done! And so is my bank account. Hoo boy. I am experiencing the typical pre-grad anxiety of oh em gee there is a lot to do before December, but whenever things get too bad I can always count on a run to bring me back to feeling alright. Something about that physical effort just pushes all the other thoughts out of your brain. This semester, more than any other in the past, I’ve experienced running as a drug that gives me a high, and an escape from my own negativity.
With this master’s degree, I will become the most educated child in my family. This is a total joke because my siblings are all quite brainy (engineer, special ed teacher / 4.0 UT grad, and a legit accountant-in-training) and I’m pretty sure they’re going to be more well-read, well-written, and/or well-paid than me in the future. Naturally, I’m planning to milk it for all its worth over Christmas.
WHAT’S NEXT? : the question of the hour for any soon-to-be-graduate.
In January-May I’m going to move back to Austin (hey parents hey), work a part-time job, and visit / interview with the post-collegiate running teams I’m looking at. I’ve had conversations with a few coaches, but most of them asked me to visit before we discussed anything serious. Since I spent all fall cavorting around to my mountain bike races, and most of the team contracts begin in June, I decided to do visits in the spring with the goal of joining a team in the summer.
TL; DR: This fall, I rode my mountain bike, got back in shape as a runner, I will graduate in December, and move to Austin in January.