Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Premier Access

After finishing my Spring cycling tour in Europa (That's what we seasoned Europeans call it), I returned to the States (That's what I thought only Europeans called the US, but apparently everyone actually does. I was just stuck saying Amuricah so I didn't notice). Upon my arrival, I now had a pair of $180 G-Star Jeans which no longer look trendy and glamorous on me as they did in Dutch mirrors but instead make me look dumpy and manly in American mirrors, some Dutch novelties such as Wine Gums and Stroopwafels for friends, and most importantly, 25,000 United miles, which bumped me to Premier Status!

I'm in the Denver airport for my connection flight to the Joe Martin stage race in Fayetteville, AR, (I guess AK is Alaska, not Arkansas--HA! Luckily, my readers are smarter than I am) and I was so overwhelmed with my experience as a Premier passenger that I had to blog. Let me just say this is the life! Even though I am on the cusp of "Member" and Premier SILVER Member, apparently United thinks Silver is the new platinum because I have gotten rock star treatment. I was relieved to know that United works differently than financial institutions. Let me explain. Before cycling, I wrote elearning courses and once we wrote a course for bank tellers. I learned that before helping you, tellers scan your accounts to determine what level of service to give you. Given that I have at least $100-$150 in my account at all times, you would think that I would be a Premier customer at the bank, right? WRONG! I was known as a negative asset (I use past tense here because I think now I'm more like $50-$75. I used all my money on those dumb jeans that promised me fame, fortune, and a handsome lover.)

Anyway, last night I went online to choose my seats, and you wouldn't believe all the options available. When I was just a MEMBER, I scoffed at all the seats with extra legroom available for purchase, disgruntled and asking if they were going to just leave them empty and squish everyone by the bathroom because we didn't want to pay $44? Now, I happily click on the seats online for FREE. I relished in this moment, clicking 6A and then thinking no, maybe I want an aisle and trying that seat out on the seating chart. I ultimately decided on 6A and clicked next for my next flight from Denver to Tulsa where complimentary FIRST CLASS was available. Yes, ma'am. I am in seat 1D, boarding group 1...for FREE! I'm just going to sashay into the plane in my TIBCO sweats and backpack and say "Oh, excuse me, Steve Forbes, I think I'm in 1D....Yeah, I want the window...sorry." I'm sure they'll look at me in my black polyester blend hoodie and Camelbak hanging out of my mouth and think, "Oh, she must be new money...scoff." But I'm ok with that because I'm Premier, bitches!

Speaking of classy, when I cut everyone by using the Premier Access line at the Tucson airport, I noticed there was some decorations on the counter top--a few framed photos, some flowers, etc. I looked at the counter top for the "Members"--but not too long, I didn't want to make eye contact--and it was empty. So, I thought that Premier members must just get a little flair to make check-in feel more like home. When I got closer to the counter, I saw that it was a Barbara Streisand shrine and the photo was a photo of the ticket agent with a photo of Barbara Streisand. For a moment, I thought Barbara had died and got a little sad, but then I noticed that the ticket agent was wearing a Barbara Streisand tie and a button-down shirt that had Streisand Convention 1994 embroidered on the pocket. I realized that this guy was just CRAZY ABOUT BABS!

If this is what his work counter--no, I mean the general public United ticket counter--looked like, I couldn't image what his home looked like. Did his doorbell play the theme song from Funny Girl or Yentl? I thought about making awkward conversation and saying something like, "Oh, I loved Prince of Tides. Did you?" but he was frazzled and running around, so I didn't want to bother. A few minutes before, he had said, "Is everyone in this line a Premier member?" I know he wasn't talking to me even though he looked at me. My curls this morning must have reminded him of Babs. I'm sure when I get to Premier Gold--yes, Silver isn't good enough for me anymore--he'll know me by name. I sure they all get a list of Gold members and their bios to learn so they can ask provoking questions that enable gold members to talk about themselves and their success for hours. I'm going to start learning my lines!

Babs as a Jewish Boy--I didn't get past the first 10 minutes.

Babs in a risque movie that my mother let me watch in elementary school.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Energie-What?

I'll start this blog just like the race announcer started every race at the presentations of the Energiewacht Series. "And now we have...(sing) TIBCO to the top! TIBCO to the top!" Also imagine him dancing on his tip toes and moving his index finger up and down to his original medley. "Nummer 53, 'Hennifer Wheeler'..." or Wheleer as it was spelled on some results.
TIBCO to the Top! TIBCO to the Top!
After a disappointing flat tire 30k into Flanders right before the first set of cobbles, which made it impossible for me to catch up, I was excited to start the Energiewacht tour. The race was six races in 5 days with two time trials and four races. Funny thing is that I had looked forward to the time trials all winter and neither went well for me, but each road race, I got progressively better and ended the tour with a 7th place. My teammate and I got into a break about 2k into the race, so we rode with 8 other riders for 137k for 3:30 hours. That's a long time. I remember about 40k in feeling like I really needed to go pee and imagining all the possible scenarios of me somehow relieving myself. I thought about how much pee a chamois could hold and then imagined the unbearable chafing that would occur. I imagined pulling over and just getting off my bike, calling it quits, explaining I had to pee. I imagined that wouldn't go over well with my team or director. So then the rest of the race I spent sucking in and repositioning myself to try to comfort my bladder. I really wished I had a penis so I could go to the back of the break and pee--it was that bad. That was the only time in my life I wished I had a penis so I wanted to note it in this blog.

Anyway, once we were on the final lap of 34k and our gap had suddenly gone from 4:00 minutes to 1:25 minutes, the thoughts of having to go to the bathroom quickly passed and it was motor time. As the finish approached, I knew I was supposed to attack with 5k to go, so I did and I didn't get anywhere, so I sat up and drifted back and attacked again at 3.5k to go. This time I got a huge gap, about 200m and just hammered as hard as I could at that point. Nicole Cooke, former world champion, soloed up to me and passed me just outside of 2k, the rest of the break quickly on her tail. Then I caught them and attacked again, getting another big gap. I thought for sure this time I had it but was so in pain and shock that I couldn't think of anything but riding as hard as I could. Around 700m, Nicole Cooke comes flying by me on the left (I should have been on the left.) and I stood up to chase her but quickly sat back down, as I wasn't going anywhere. My mind was like GO GO GO GO! but my legs were saying No. (Isn't that an R.Kelly song? Oh wait, that's my mind is telling me no, but my body...yeah, my body is telling me yes! I wish, that were the case for me in this situation.) Then the rest of the group that was left comes flying by me at 200m. Nicole had stayed away and captured the win--she is amazingly strong. I rolled in 7th and my teammate sprinted for 4th. We couldn't help but feel utterly disappointed that after 3:30 hours, we rolled away with no win, no podium. So, of course, we hugged it out! Girl power! No, we talked about it for a little bit, but decided the what if scenarios would just make us crazy and waited to get wise words from our director, who had some for us. She is really amazing. I leave her nameless because she doesn't like to be on blogs, especially not mine--not after I rode on the Dutch freeway illegally in a TIBCO jersey! Eye-yi-yi!

It's funny how on the first road race I was dropped, the second road race, I unsuccessfully attempted to lead out my teammate in the final sprint (but I was there), the third race I missed the break of 11 that went about 3k into the race, and then lead my teammate out for the field sprint. And finally in the last stage, I go for the win but feel more disappointed in myself then any of the other stages. I think when you actually get a taste...or I should say a distant sniff...of what winning a stage at a huge European race would feel like, you forget about all your other baby step achievements. But I guess that's what makes people good is to always keep looking forward.

Confession! I was so discouraged after Flanders that I started listening to "motivational" videos recommended by a friend. Yep, imagine me and Tony Robbins just cruising around Holland (I almost typed Tony Little there." No, I'm joking. It wasn't Tony Robbins. Sometimes, though, when you're real down on yourself you need more than a good pump-up song to get you going. You need to take it up a notch and dig into the Rocky and Arnold files.

Here is my one of my favorite videos that I downloaded and listened to about 10 times during Energiewacht.



My favorite line is about how winners aren't the ones who can hit the hardest but are the ones willing to take the hits and get up, and not point the finger and say you're not where you want to be because of anyone or anything--cowards do that.

I think that line captures mantra I really try to follow after every failure--Note: I may allow myself 1 to 1.5 days of wallowing in Speculous and Stropewaffles. If I crash, it's because I didn't have an out or I put myself in the wrong place or I couldn't hold my bike up. If I don't win, it's because I couldn't sustain my effort or I played the wrong card or I let myself get pushed around. These are all things I can control and change. If I blame others for my failures in races, then I'll go crazy trying to change things I can't fix. Honestly, I think that's the only way to have a pattern of success in life--well, for me.

To close the blog, I will include some of my favorite photos thus far!
Jennifer Wheleer #53

Lauren Hall and I snagging the front row for Energiewacht Stage 5

Custom laundry bag and Flanders Race Bible

Team presentation--before every race

Flanders--Look at that scenery

More Owls--Hooty Hoo!

I am Specialized Dutch style!

Jezus Leeft the Building!