It's been a tough few months. When asked what's been happening, I tend to reply "life stuff".
Cycling has been a huge part of my life ever since I was a kid. I always found a huge amount of pleasure in just pedaling. For the last 6 years, just pedaling faster and racing has been a pretty big feature but the enjoyment remains the same. It's something that is difficult to explain to non-cyclists but which fellow fanatics instantly relate to.
Racing as an amateur requires an acceptance of the realities that are inherent with taking that road including (but certainly not limited to) squeezing training around a hefty work schedule, compromising on rest and using all of your annual leave (plus some) to grab opportunities to race on home shores and overseas. For all the downsides, it also means security in paying bills and buying stuff, something which I am frequently reminded to be grateful for - particularly after a glance at the number of top cyclocross women driving hard for sponsorship late into the season this year. Things are certainly progressing in women's racing but the rose tinted specs are well and truly off when looking at how tough that full-time pro gig really is.
Something that nobody can escape, pro or amateur, is the "life stuff". 2017 dished out a fair amount of that for the Cowbell Crew but without doubt the most challenging was helping a loved one battle with terminal illness.
Ultimately, despite great determination, epic support from my whanau, adopting Plan B, C and D contingencies to adapt to what was happening around us, and many, many late night erg sessions (often after work and caring responsibilities were taken care of for the day) I didn't make it to the start line of the World Cyclocross Championships in Valkenburg. But man...I was so, so close. Of course I was sad about it but 2017 also dished out some of my fondest racing experiences ever including racing as the snow fell in Misterton supported by my brother in the pits and nailing the infamous Mt Krumpit climb in the dark at Jinglecross lap after lap with a crazy crowd yelling, "Go, New Zealand!". And, as cliché as it may sound, a great many things were achieved off the race track.
My ambition to fly the fern at the World Cyclocross Championships remains unchanged and persistence will get me there. For 2018, Plan A is the tried and tested path of racing in Australia with a stonking women's elite racing scene for the winter Down Under followed by a stint in America for next level apple pie and World Cup goodness. While I'm enjoying some home time, it would be rude not to saddle up for Karapoti given it's my local race so I've recently become reacquainted with my Air 9 RDO which has helped get the smile back on my dial. Next month, I'll take the BSB to Havelock North to knock out the Triple Peaks on skinnier tyres. Then in June it'll be all on to get my Australian National CX Series title defence under starter's orders.
Of course, all of this will involve a good chunk of just pedaling.
To all those who are losing or have recently lost loved ones, don't overlook the benefits of returning to the basic principals of just turning those cranks in circles.
Kia kaha. Pedal damn it.