Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lessons in the Life of a Neo Pro

 Being on the road in my brand new lifestyle reminds me a lot of Josh Baskins (Tom Hanks) in the movie, Big. All of a sudden, I have opened a world of adventure, stress, excitement, and responsibilities. Here is a letter from Josh to his parents. It's funny how it parallels my life on the road now and role on the team.

"Dear Mom and Dad,
They said that I could write you and let you know I was okay. So far, they're treating me fine. I've got enough to eat and I'm perfectly safe. They say that I'll get out of here in about a month. In the mean time, it's a lot like camp! I watch TV and even get outside once in a while. I know you miss me. But try not to worry. I think this experience might even be good for me. I love you very much and I know that I'll see you soon."

Josh Baskins (Tom Hanks) after his transformation in Big
 So, in case you haven't seen the movie and just continue to think I'm a weirdo, I'll highlight some differences. I've definitely gone from the "lead singer" on the local scene in racing to the sound check guy in a band. It's definitely a behind-the-scenes role but still an important one. I leave my ego at the door and look for opportunities to chase and kill, nab sprint or QOM points from other teams all for my GC leader or to make sure my sprinter isn't sprinting for 2nd or 3rd if there is a break down the road. My past few races have consisted of me doing my job for the first 3/4ths of the race and then blowing, watching the finish from afar. I think much of this is due to me still learning the ropes and/or doing my job well. I try not to look at the results behind the top few riders and when I do, I sort of keep one eye open, cringing as I scroll to page 2 or page 3 and see my name. Then I think, man if I could have just hung on, maybe I could have helped in the finish-- but we always think "what if" after the race, right?

It's funny how last year when I would ride these races, I would sit in and watch and wait, thinking well if I chase that I won't have any for the finish and now my first reaction is chase and kill, chase and kill--what's a finish? On a pro team, you sacrifice. You accept that other people have strengths and you pay your dues and work so that your team can reap the rewards. I learned that if you have a shitty day, you don't unload your frustrations with your individual performance on your team (you cry and boo hoo over the phone to your boyfriend on an isolated walk far far away from the team :)) You think of covering moves as a way to get stronger so that you can contribute more to the team later. Team sports. Wow. First, roller derby, now cycling. Maybe I should have played basketball as a child instead of running because it probably would have been a better parallel.
So, guess what? There is no "I" or even "Jennifer Wheeler" in team. Pshaw! I'm like an expert at "Words with Friends" (a.k.a Scrabble on my iPhone), and I couldn't find it.

But to be a better contributer, I just need to add a little more smarts to the mix--and some fitness (This week marks 8 weeks back on the bike after my 5 week sabbatical after my surgery! Woo hoo, upswing baby!). You know, smarts like attacking at the right time and from the right places, reading the race, chasing the right mix of people, etc. Perhaps all these things could keep me out of the corner in the dunce hat after the race.

But alas! Tomorrow is a new day and a new race. We will see. It's all new to me--and yes, I often wonder, um, why am I doing this again? Oh yes, because you don't want to miss an opportunity in life to see what might be. And when I try to figure out what to sell next to support myself or find the energy to fit in an hour or two of contract work at a stage race, I think, you do this why? Because you want to see your picture in Cycling News--no, because you should seize the day--no, because you like the cute outfits--no because you get to ride a pimp bike--no, because you don't want to miss an opportunity in life and say, I wonder what might have happened if...--hmm, yes, that's it.

In the meantime, check out these celebrity sightings!

A picture in VeloNews magazine

Protecting Sam (our sprinter) in Sunny King

Controlling the front in the fastest neutral of my life at Redlands

Getting my collar "popped" at the SRAM video shoot

People magazine's "Celebs are just like you" when they forget their sunglasses photo