Wednesday, May 11

Natz Update #1

Hello fellow teammates, parents, alumni, supporters, sponsors and anyone else interested in our team,

Welcome to the first Natz Update. I hope these can be a quick daily summary on what’s happening with our NatzCrew :)

There are eight of us racers this year who are at Collegiate Cycling Nationals, broken down into five people racing all three races: Mackinzie, Kevin, Becca, Dessie and Zander. And three people joining in just for the team time trial: Alex, Adam, Maddie.

Yesterday was a travel day. We met up at Whitman at 3.45am PT, drove to Pasco airport, made two flight connections during the day and eventually landed in Asheville NC at 7pm ET. We then picked up our two rental cars, including a HUGE pick up truck, which will be how we carry all the bikes, and drove to Weaverville NC, where we are staying for the extent of this trip (we will be flying back to Whitman on Monday). The Road Race and TTT will take place in Marshall NC and the Criterium will take place in Burnsville NC.

RACE SCHEDULE (east coast time!) for our crew:
Friday May 13- 8am Women's Road Race
Friday May 13- 12pm Men's Road Race
Saturday May 14-11.15am Women's Criterium
Saturday May 14-1.45pm Men's Criterium
Sunday May 15-Team Time Trial day, exact starting times to be announced but beginning at 9.30am with the men

Today we unpacked and put together our bikes. We are so happy that they all arrived in pretty good shape and that we didn’t have to go back to pick up bike boxes from the airport that got delayed sometime during the travel!!! Yay! We also slept in, relaxed, got massages from Dave (thanks Dave!!!!), further dialed in our bikes and rode one lap of the road race course as a means to stretch the legs and also preview the course for the Friday races.

Some noteworthy highlights:
-There are HUGE ants here
-Lots of birdcalls at our rental house
-Maddie got to sleep 13 hours last night (the rest of us aren’t entirely sure how she managed to do that..)
-Zander’s parent’s brought us even more baked goods (it’s too bad gluten doesn’t sit well with me because we have so many yummy looking baked goods and bread stuff around)
-We got a brief downpour in the middle of the day for all of about 5 minutes (welcome to the east coast)
-Turns out the owners of our rental are related to someone from the outdoor program at Whitman that many of us know.. small world

Stay tuned for another update tomorrow!


Tuesday, April 12

Home Race

The weekend with the least amount of travel and the most fun and exciting, but also the weekend with the least amount of sleep, most work and most stress. Generally home race crit day is my favorite race day of the season and this year was no exception. Alex did a fantastic job this year directing our third annual on-campus crit and an overall wonderful weekend of collegiate racing and shenanigans. Lucas also did a great job managing the hundreds of volunteers for the weekend. And of course a HUGE thank you to everyone on the team, all of our volunteers, parents, friends and other team supporters, without which this weekend would not be possible. THANK YOU!!!!

For the last two years it’s been absolutely amazing to play a significant role in the home race, especially the on-campus crit, and watch it all come together. This weekend and through the past months I’ve found it difficult to step back a bit and let Alex take control of the home race. It’s not that I didn’t think he could pull it off (quite the contrary), but old habits die hard and this race holds a soft spot in my heart. I’ve found one of the most difficult yet rewarding aspects of leadership to be the process of delegation and mentorship. Being able to give someone a task/project/position and then stepping back and allowing them the space to figure it out and do it themselves. Watching small mistakes and fumbles occur, realizing that there is more than one way to get things done and providing moral support (and some few nudges in the right direction) without stepping in to do it myself are all much more difficult in practice… However, watching someone step up to the task, problem-solve and become more confident through the process gives me so much joy and satisfaction and pride. It truly is the rewarding side of leadership.

Now for the races.

The road race was a big personal growing experience for me. In the 30-60 minutes before my race start I just couldn’t seem to find a good mental space. I passionately didn’t want to race and could feel the negative emotions building in the back of my head. I was aware of this yet couldn’t seem to do anything about it. I’m not new to this experience: this has been pretty common in the past couple years, especially sophomore year. I did what I always did and hoped against hope that it was just nerves after all and that it would go away once I started the race. But of course it didn’t: it just got worse. It was a nice day and I was riding with a group of female cyclists and yet I wanted nothing more than not to be in the race. I was consigning myself with dread to the upcoming two laps when I had a thought that I’ve never followed through with before: I could just pull out. I can pull out after the first lap and I’m not going to catch on fire or get struck by lightning. And then I wouldn’t have to endure two more laps regretting that I ever started the race, trying to make myself be happy about racing, mentally beating myself up for feeling this way, and then beating myself up for being hard on myself. On the other hand if I pull out early I’m going to have to answer over and over again the ‘what’s wrong?’ question and ‘why did you pull out?’ and I’ve pretty well internalized the saying that no matter how bad I feel or how terrible I do in a race, the important thing is to finish and give it my best. And now I’m considering not finishing… And then I had another thought: this is my race and my life and I should know better than anyone what I need and should be able to make a decision for myself without weighing in everyone else’s response or outside pressures (even if I’m putting them on myself). Nevertheless that made me feel better all of a sudden: I could be done with the race at the end of the lap! And I did it. I pulled off after the first lap, told Miles not to send people to look for me and then spun off to join my sister who was corner marshaling and we had a dance party for the rest of the race. I was so unbelievably happy as I rode over to join my sister: something I never expected to feel after quitting a race. I felt like this massive weight had lifted off my shoulders. My mood had done a 180 in about 3 seconds. It was a freeing and enlightening feeling to go through with that kind of decision. As I take on more and more leadership roles, I’ve found it easier to put everyone else’s needs before my own: felt obligated even to put my own needs last. I grind myself into the ground with mental and physical fatigue for the team and everyone else I care about. And most of the time I’m happy to do so. But I’ve been starting to realize lately that to take good care of others, I must also take good care of myself. If I’m in a bad place, I don’t have the energy or enthusiasm to take care of others and besides of which everyone deserves to put themself first sometimes. And to me this race was proof that I could follow through with a decision to take care of myself (something I hope to make more of a habit in the future).

On the flip side of the racing experience, the crit on Sunday was awesome! Like last week’s crit, I felt in control and in good position pretty much the entire time. Unlike last weekend however, this race was much faster paced with more shuffling of the group, a larger group, more attacks, and plenty of tight corners that made good positioning crucial. After the first couple laps I realized I wanted to be in the top five of the peloton in order to avoid the majority of the slinky effect. So I maneuvered myself up and pretty much stayed in the top five the entire rest of the race. I was able to counter all the attacks, never felt as though I was struggling to stay on, took some turns on the front and even gave Dessie a couple lead outs for primes. It was pretty much all I could want out of a crit race. At the end, another woman managed to squeeze onto Dessie’s wheel ahead of me going into the final corner and instead of fighting for the wheel while being on the inside of the final corner, I dropped back marginally and got squeezed out of position. But that’s racing for you and given how good I felt during most of the race, the final sprint not panning out great wasn’t that big of a deal.

And then to top it off, during cool-down Dessie suggested we go into the fountain and that suddenly seemed like the best idea ever. So we ran over, hopped into the giant birdbath and gave our legs an ice bath. Relaxing with a friend and teammate after a satisfying race in sunny warm weather, on campus, and surrounded by the sounds of bikes and laughter felt like the epitome of summer and what biking means for me.

Congratulations to all my teammates this weekend! Helping put on a race and also racing is a lot of work and yet you all performed fantastically and even sported fairly chipper faces in the wee hours of the morning while setting up the courses. A couple specific shout outs: Our new senior Dino got 3rd in the crit after crashing in the road race the day before and kept a good attitude throughout the entire thing! Zander had his first weekend as an A racer, which is always a somewhat brutal transition, but he put in amazing effort! Josh was an honorary member of the men’s A TTT team and he looks supa fly in the skin suit (apparently his contribution to the team’s speed was also supa fly)! Maddie and Adam both made good decisions to ultimately not race the crit due to sickness (feel better!)! Fiona raced the TTT!!!!!! (so glad to have her involved with the team again)

Full results can be found here.

Next up is Tour of Walla Walla, hosted by Allegro Cyclery, one of our big sponsors. Some of us will be racing, others will be taking a much-needed break, but we will all be out there on Saturday with our team trailer for the crit in downtown Walla Walla. Come seek us out! Races start at 8.20am and go through mid afternoon. We will be promoting our new fundraising project at the races-stay on the look out for more details about that (also check out our FB page for more information). Also Saturday is admitted student’s day so there might be some future team members poking their faces around the vicinity! All very exciting stuff.


“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things.” Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, April 5

Take a Pull

By Becca

It’s the epitome of irony, really. We spend 2 weeks down in California, ride nothing but hills, and here I am, cursing at a little kicker. Or two kickers on top of one another, to be exact. The distinction didn’t really matter, honestly, because my legs burned either way.  Dessie was ahead, pacing me so I could help pull on the flats.  There was no one else with us.

How did this happen? Well… It may sound familiar to a few people. 

Short version: Becca needs a new strategy.

Long version: The small pack of women’s A’s were on the back stretch of the loop (which we would be doing 6 times for 48 miles) with a headwind. It was only two laps in, so no one had the intention of attacking yet. We were going through a nice pace line, shifting through leaders, when I get to the front. I wanted to warm up my legs a little more, so I bumped up the speed. But only a little bit. I swear, it was only a little bit. After a few moments, I flick my arm to let someone go…

Except that I had somehow popped off the front of the pack and I was now going solo. 

Now, many smart people at this point would go, “Huh. I am 2/6 laps in. Do I want to go 30+ miles by myself? Answer: nope” and would slide back into the group. Well, for some reason, my thought process was, “Well, okay. Let’s see how this will work out.”

So, no. No, this was not an attack. People told me afterwards that I was ballsy (how does one spell that?) for attacking so soon and trying to hold it, but no. This was a pull. As usual, there was no plan.  

I began to regret my decision after a full lap by myself. 

Suddenly, I heard the most wonderful sound in the world: “I got you, girl.” Dessie had bridged up from the pack and had caught me. This had to be the happiest moment of my life. Graduating college, my wedding day, the birth of my first child…none of those will compare to this one moment (insert dramatic sniff here for effect).  

So, here we were. TTT’ing it for the next 5 laps. She would pull on the hills (and a lot of the flats, actually), I would pull on the wind section and the flats, and we would waterfall it down the long descent.  It was so wonderful yet so painful. And that hill. Oh, that hill.

Now, this story doesn’t exactly end with Dessie and I going across the finish line hand and hand (lucky Dino and Haley). No, my legs finally DIED on the last lap (on that stupid double-kicker hill, actually) and I let Dessie go. Two other girls caught up to me, and dropped me as well. Funny how your legs feel after pounding it out for over 30 miles.

We all meet back at the car and laid out on the grass. We had an hour before our TTT race. Mackinzie, Dessie, and I looked at each other.  All three of us were in a line, threatening to doze off in the heat of the sun. “Could we, you know,” I asked, “Just do our TTT on the ground? Take turns sleeping on our backs versus our fronts?” 

“I approve,” Mackinizie said. “Becca, take a pull.” I nodded and rolled over onto my front. Best pull ever.

Monday, April 4

Bellingham Race Report: Dino

The race in Bellingham this past weekend was my first experience of a full collegiate cycling racing weekend. I was super excited and nervous for the weekend not just for my own races, but to watch my teammates as well!

Overall, the weekend was awesome—and we lucked out with some pretty great weather too! Saturday morning for the Road Race was pretty cold but at least there was no rain! The road race was a blast. Unfortunately, only a few miles into the first lap, the leaders took a wrong turn and consequently about a quarter of the field found ourselves on a very busy highway. This included myself and my two Whitman teammates!  I was bummed at first because I was feeling pretty strong and I wanted to see how I compared to the other girls in our category. But these things happen and it was good to have experiences like these in races! Almost immediately after the wrong turn, another teammate and I found ourselves riding together just us two. We turned it into a kind of practice ride for our TTT later that day and we had a great time riding together and pushing each other. We ended up passing quite a few of the other girls in the race and that felt pretty good! The wind and the hills definitely made for a long and hard day out on the course for two of us.

The TTT went pretty well later that day (I think it was all of that extra practice we got during the road race ☺ ). I think we worked well together and we both enjoyed working hard for each other and pushing each other. It was really tough to race again, just a few hours after the road race, but luckily it was a short course!

Sunday was the crit race and I was really nervous going into it. Last weeks crit at UW was really tough for me because of the hilly loop! Luckily, this course was very flat and I surprisingly felt strong the entire race. Without the hills, the pack stayed pretty compact for most of the race and it was fun jostling for position and strategically picking lines through the corners. It was awesome to see so many of my teammates lining the course cheering for us and it definitely helped me stay “in it” during the race. The 30 minutes went by really quickly and I wished the race could have been longer!

It is pretty amazing to participate on a team that is so helpful and supportive of everyone. From sharing cooking and cleaning duties to cheering each other on during races, I can always feel the amount of love everyone has for one another.  I can’t wait for this coming weekend for the home race!

Sunday, April 3

WWU race weekend-a trek up to Bellingham

Bellingham is one of my favorite race weekends because it’s so beautiful and I love their courses, but it’s also one of our longer drives at 7ish hours each way. To make matters more complicated people have to be certified by the college to be able to haul our trailer and there’s a different certification that people can get to be able to drive our small busses that we call ‘Turtle tops’. Since we have a large team but not very many certified drivers, we end up with a minimal percentage of our team serving as drivers to cover all the shifts...which is especially rough on the way back from race weekends when everyone is tired and nobody wants to drive… (no endless varsity budget=no paid drivers) But you know, building character and good life learning experiences and all that…

We lucked out with beautiful weather over the weekend. It’s always hit or miss with Bellingham. Some years it’s raining and at least one team gets stuck in the bog that serves as a parking lot on Saturday and other years we get blessed with sunshine and dandelions.

The wind on Saturday caused the false flat in the road racecourse to be even worse than usual, but the occasional direct beam of sunshine still made it better than pouring rain for sure. I rediscovered the joys of soloing off the back while cramping up and mentally kicking myself for forgetting to bring any food along. Shout out to Sam Waples for hanging out next to me for a bit and keeping my spirits up! A former NWCCC member and one time race accomplice from back in freshman year when they raced the Men’s B and Women’s A together, it was nice to see him return to cheer all of us on. It was also nice to see so many other conference members and supporters out on course cheering me on: without it I’m pretty sure I would have bailed a good two laps earlier. This is something I love love love about our conference! The support, goofiness and openness throughout the conference is truly amazing and something I learn to re-appreciate weekend after weekend.

The TTT was predictably difficult (imagine legs on verge of cramping and giving out as soon as I start pedaling). They evened out a little through the TTT and I managed to keep with the group at the very least to complete our first race TTT. It felt good to work altogether and I think we are only going to improve from here! Congrats to all the TTT teams out there, this is the heart of collegiate cycling: working together as a group to achieve something more. We must remember to wear funny socks in the future tho!

Saturday night it was truly wonderful to be done with dinner by a little after 7pm. This gave us plenty of time to do homework or chill on the back deck next to the fire pit our homestay had set up for us. Big thanks to our homestay folks (Richard and Coqui)!! It was so wonderful to let us invade your house for the weekend and your hospitality was amazing. Thank you Thank you!!!

Sunday was crit day and there was no pouring rain! Yay! The course is flat and doesn’t have any sharp corners so it’s great for pack tactics and sprinters. Our team is fortunate to have three women’s A riders which meant we made up half the peloton during the crit (any potential women racers out there, please join with a whole bunch of your friends bc we really need more women in the sport!). We were able to control the race the entire time, take first place in all the primes and deliver Dessie to the finish line first, so I’d call it a great success. Plus I was actually in the pack the entire time and had so much fun participating in the race, feeling pretty good in the sprints and contributing to our overall team success. One thing I especially love in the crits is that everything is compressed into a fairly short period of time and, if I’m with a pack, it’s constantly engaging because I’m on high alert the whole time for when people might make a move, how to protect and work with my teammates, when to make a move, reading the field and the other riders’ intentions, etc. There is hardly every a dull moment. It’s like a chess game with adrenaline, and higher stakes. And with teammates to work with, I have even more to think about and a greater goal to work for than just myself. Overall it was just a fantastic way to end the weekend and the most fun I’ve had racing in a long time.

Results can be found here.

Next up is our home race!!! Lots of work ahead of us, but also lots of fun and no travel! Our Criterium will be on-campus again which is super exciting. Hope to see some of you there and maybe see some of you helping out in volunteer positions (see the facebook event page for more details).


"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." 
– Ernest Hemingway