Vail Grind Pre-Ride – 2012

4 Eagle Ranch – Fatima

          According to Anne Marie I did great on my first race this season, which was May 1st. Not just according to her but also three other people. Me, myself and I. It was also according to my parents, my sister and the rest of the people who congratulated me. I might have not finished in the top rankings but I sure did finish the race.

When I got to 4 Eagle Ranch I was terrified. All these thoughts just came to my mind. Like “what if I fall, what if I can’t do it, what if I finish last?” It was just question after question. I had questioned myself that day all during school. I had butterflies in my stomach and I was a knot of nerves. I was so close to backing down!

I decided not to when I heard wise words from idols, which gave me confidence and the ability to re-believe in myself. Rita said, “don’t be scared you know you can do it!” My parents said, “don’t give up, challenge yourself to do something you know you can do.” Anne Marie told Nora and myself, “If there’s one thing I am going to tell you it’s this… don’t worry about being first or last, try your hardest and it’s ok if you fall, everyone does.”

That was only part of her inspiration to me. I really don’t remember the rest. When it was time to start the race I thought to myself “if the little girls can do it, I can do it”. When I said that I knew my nerves were starting to go away. I heard the announcer say “okay guys (not guys obviously) we are going to start at the countdown of 5 (wasn’t countdown of 5). Ready set go”. That was the beginning of my first challenging race. I saw people in front of me and I was staying behind so I peddled faster but I knew that if I started pushing myself really hard, I was going to be exhausted the last few minutes. I was getting to the finish line and I had done my first lap!

I kept going and going just believing in myself. Every lap I pushed a little harder and harder I knew that we were close to being done. We were five minutes in to finishing the race and I was feeling like I was going to faint but I knew that if I finished it, it would feel so good. Besides I was almost done. If I started it, I would finish it. I peddled faster and harder. All during the race I had a smile.

I ended the race and thanked God for giving me the courage to finish. I got off my bike and I thought to myself, I just accomplished a big task in my life. It felt awesome to finish the race. I was so proud because I knew I had worked my butt off! Anne Marie and everyone else there was just hi fiving me and saying good job or way to go. I went home feeling great about myself. I was tired after but hey remember “beauty is pain”, or how they say in Spanish, “la belleza cuesta”. I look back and am satisfied with myself. I knew that without the support of my team, the pressure of my coaches, or the inspiration from my family I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

The first 8 weeks – A Coach’s Perspective

The Angels are a tough group of women and a tough group to coach.  They are smart, strong, funny, and have a big work ethic.  Because of these amazing qualities they should be an easy group to coach, but that isn’t always the case.

These women 12 months ago had NO IDEA what they were getting themselves into or what they were doing when it came to biking.  They have gone from “deer in the headlights” to women that we expect great things out of.  That is a hard balance to coach.  We (mostly I) have extremely high expectations of these girls on their bikes and sometimes that is simply unfair.  There are times that I need to tell myself, and others tell me, that my expectations are too high.  That makes me take pause, reflect on what our goals are and see if we are going after them. 

The last few weeks have been tough weeks for me and the Angels.  We have new girls, old girls, new bikes, “old” bikes, new sponsors, new needs, a new Youth Foundation orginizational structure, new personalities, new parents,  etc.  Many of these issues did not arise last year and present challenges.  These things make you evaluate your goals everyday and say, “what are we trying to do, and are we doing it? And if NOT, why not?” These ideas have gone through my head constantly in the last 8 weeks.   There are about 3 people that this team looks to for direction out of our 17 girls, about 10 volunteers,parents, etc.  And I am one of them.  So I need to look critically at what we are doing and that is what I have been trying to do.

Last night was our first big race.  It wasn’t big in terms of importance, it was big because there were a lot of people there and it was longer than our others.  There were a ton of nerves to calm and things to do.  Number plates, registration forms, new volunteers, etc.  One of the unfortunate parts of our sport is that there can be some significant setup.  In these types of situations you can forget that the girls are only 1 year or less into this process.  And you forget because they ARE so smart, funny, mature, stong and have such a great work ethic. 

Once the girls get their bikes together, start getting warmed up and riding is when all expectations go out the window.  That is important.  We expect the greatest and best work from them in practice, in school, and in the community.  Once they toe the line and get ready to race, the thoughts of greatness HAVE to leave our head as coaches and mentors.  We would not be doing our jobs if we had expectations of where they are going to place, times, etc.  There are just too many factors that can change during a race.  The reason to get rid of these expectations on race day – if you haev expected their best during training then you are pretty much guaranteed that they are going to give it to you on race day.  They are competitors, and that is what competitors do. 

Maybe I should have kept someof those expectations, because they would have been exceeded last night.  Our team is not exactly what I would call a “cold weather team”.  I think beaches and the ocean is a little more up their alley than snow and cold.  Last night was a huge test to their toughness.  Showing up in a grey, cold and rainy night, the girls first question wasn’t, “do we have to race?”, it was “where are the arms and legs?” and “do we have an extra vest?”

They then got on their bikes to warm-up in the rain and cold.  There were a lot of nerves as some of the girls had only been on a bike a handful of times.  This is extremely intimidating.  What I watched next was incredible.  The girls went out racing and then the weather came in.  There were points where it was raining sideways, and the Valley got snow later that night, so it was very cold to be biking.  It was downright not fun to be out in.  As I watched some of th older girls come around for their second lap, I heard my name yelled and one of the girls that raced earlier came running over and said, “I won!”.  I certainly did not expect this.  Not because she wasn’t able to, but you try not to expect too many victories when you are coaching a team that is new to the sport.  She was holding her new Streetswell Jersey that was given to the winner.  I don’t even get a Streetswell jersey, but then, I don’t win either. 

As the rain continued to come and the Pro/Expert race was canceled, it was time to load the bikes again.  This is not easy to do when your fingers do not work from the cold.  But the weather never phased the girls.  They realized what needed to be done, helped me load the bikes in the pouring rain and then helped each other.  As we finished that project, there were still 2 girls missing.  As we went down to the finish area, 1 was just crossing the finish line, covered in mud.  Bikes don’t work very well in the mud. 

Then we saw our last girl, with her bike over her shoulder, running up the hill towards the finish line.  Many of the women in her race class turned around half way and quit, this young lady asked”If I walk and finish, will I get points for my team?”  As soon as she heard yes, she chucked her bike on her back and started running. 

Alot can happen in 40 minutes.  You can go from nervous, intimidated, and scared to being an inspiration to others.  Many do not know about our team yet.  Those that have learned about them and started supporting the Angels are inspired everyday by the courage it takes to try something new.  To Yoanna, Estefania, Kaytlyn, Karen, Rita, Nayeli, Anya, Nora, and Fatima, thanks for going fast.  And to Tam, Anne-Marie, Amanda, Amy M., Jen, Amy O., Justin, Christy, and Kirsten, thanks for helping them do it.

Being a part of the Ells Angels – Fatima

Being on the Ells Angels is such a privilege because not everyone gets the same opportunity. There are people who don’t get to ride bikes or have the support of a team. Each individual shines in their own way but as a team we brighten up the whole community. It is such an honor because everyone respects you. They are always pointing out things you are wearing, saying cool bike or cool uniform. That makes you feel like they recognize you, they know who you are. When you are in a crowd of people that have different bikes and they point out mine, it is a great feeling.

Our uniform, our bike, our equipment is not what defines us. What defines each one of us is the commitment and the effort we put out there on the bike. Whenever I am on the bike in a race, or wearing something that has Ells Angels or anything to do with our team, I wear it with dignity. I go out there and I want to show off our team, I want them to know that there are some girls who worked there butt off and fall but still manage to push themselves to something better. They see us working hard as a team.

Being on the team makes me feel loved. Loved in a way that I know others see a future in me. And in the way that they care for me, and will always be there for me no matter what. The coaches believe in me and I know I will do great. When I’m with the team I feel good about myself also because I challenge myself at races to do even better than last time. The team pushes each other to show others anything is possible. When people say something is impossible I believe otherwise because the world itself says I’m possible.

The things that make biking possible are our sponsors, the coaches for making the team, our family for supporting us, and each other. Since there are people that do work for us we should return the favor back. That goes to my point of what community service is to me.

Community service is helping people who need it or just helping around the world to make a difference. It is getting out there and being the change that we want to see. It is helping with our own hands to make a change. Whether it is a good or bad change it is giving a hand. It means lending a hand out to the world. Like Gandhi says, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Beaver Creek Race – Anya

Words can be powerful motivators. We can use them to bless or curse others; encourage or discourage; hearten or dishearten; embolden or frighten; exhilarate or dispirit; inspire or deprecate.

Yesterday I was really struggling on the Beaver Creek Bike course.  I really wanted to give up like really, really, really badly.  My negative thoughts had overpowered my positive ones and I was totally at the point where all my struggles on this course were getting in the way of what I was doing good.

            I am kind of shy and don’t talk much to the other girls besides Bernie. Anyways, I finally realized why I was put on this bike team; why I chose to go for mountain biking and not per say track, or lacrosse. I need encouragement and that I have been getting on the Ells Angels. Girls I don’t even know, that even go to a different school want me to succeed and try my best. To do things I have never done before. The Positive atmosphere is the best I have had in awhile. The words “ Good Job” or “keep going, you got this!!” is the best thing I have heard in a long time. The coaches support me in everything I do and want to achieve and I appreciate it so much!!!! This positive atmosphere is starting to help me answer my biggest unanswered question: what am I living for? And I know now because of this team and I want to thank them so much because of it. I never knew one bike race could change my life forever and I am so excited to keep doing this. Thanks for everything!! I am really excited to be on this team this season.