No Rain, No Flowers

By Erica Leonard

Phew! These past six weeks have sure been action packed. I’ve hardly had downtime to really take in everything that has happened so I thought it was finally time to take a second to reflect.

At the end of April, I finished off my first year of university at McMaster! I can’t say I wasn’t glad to be done… but I can gladly say I finished off my exams extremely happy and ready for some down time! Which was short lived…

Then back to work.

Right after exams I got back to work at my summer job, woodworking at Innovative Wood Worx, a wood-shop located in Barrie. Another side to being a student athlete, is being an employed student athlete. Although I have an amazing sponsorship program through my team, Highgate Racing, there are many expenses that I have to juggle, like rent! Who knew being an adult wasn’t all fun and games? Honestly, I have been the most fortunate to work for a company that allows me to take the time to pursue my career in cycling, and a team that has created a bursary for athletes like myself who have to juggle multiple expenses.

Aside from school ending and work starting up, there has also been a lot of RACING! The first Canada Cups in Quebec were certainly an adventure. I set out to Quebec with my friends Sarah Fabbro and Soren Meeuwisse, and later Sidney Mcgill and started the first ever, girls trip!

Racing however, was an interesting matter. I wasn’t sure how my fitness would fare after my year at school, and after working full time during the weeks leading up to these races. Sure enough, I didn’t end up performing nearly as well at these races as I have in years past. I was happy with myself for following a strategy I had of “not blowing up in the first 2 laps” since our races were 5 laps. Ultimately, I was listening to my body and trying to be smart. But yea, I wasn’t overly impressed by my fitness. Things took a turn for the worse at Mont Tremblant when I attempted to manage my laps again and “not blow up in the first two laps” but there seemed to be a misunderstanding about the 80% rule. About half of the women’s field got pulled before the second lap, myself included. Admittedly they had made an error, but it was also a blow to my already fragile confidence at this point in the season. Sometimes its easy when you’re in a vulnerable mindset to take setbacks a little too seriously.

Sidenote: I’ve been working with a sports psychologist for the past two years, Lisa Veloce who recently helped me come up with a network of confidence strategies to combat moments like this. ( I seriously recommend seeing a sports psych if you also experience confidence issues like me!) She has also helped me utilize the 24 hour rule: You have 24 hours to be pumped or bummed about a performance. In that case, you aren’t allowed or able to let one performance define you, you just keep working hard and looking ahead.

Now, that’s not to say ignore your accomplishments or forget about bad races. The Quebec races made me realize how strong our women’s field is, that in fact just riding and training is not all it takes to get a top 10 in Canada. Everyone races with all of their heart and soul out there and getting a good result is EARNED. So with a revamped respect for our sport and the girls I was racing, I decided to keep looking up and forward.

But first, back to work.

The next weekend I raced road provincials, which, after a mechanical, became a grueling training race both mentally and physically! Had the pleasure of riding with my teammate Ali Vanyzendoorn and capturing this awesome picture! LOVE my team.

Then back to work.

But then! I headed to Quebec again, this time for my first ever women’s UCI Road Race, the Gatineau Grand Prix. It was an incredible experience, first of all to be able to travel and live with my team for the first time, it really felt like I was doing something important and big. This became apparent when we arrived at the race start and there were all of these teams that I’m used to seeing on Instagram and in magazines lined up beside me! I’m proud to say that I had a strong race and fought my way until the race was over, but even more so that I finished smiling and happy for the experience.

This is where my timeline starts to get really crazy. In between Gatineau and the Horseshoe Canada Cup, I made a quick trip to Vermont to see my boyfriend’s (Tyler Clark) graduation! This trip holds a special place in my heart since it was the first trip I’ve done that WASN’T biking or school related! And because Tyler didn’t know I was coming <3

We drove back to Ontario the next day! Time for the Horseshoe Canada Cup.

It was an extremely hard course, and I fought my way through every lap, telling myself to “be smart” and “push but don’t die”. I managed to do that, playing a little on the safe side at times but came out with my best result yet and feeling the fittest that I had in a long time.

After this race I finally had a chance to consider all of the training and racing that my coach Kyle Douglas and I had been planning and executing. I found myself appreciating all of the work I had put in and was finally realizing that I had been improving! Note to self: see?? just because you’re not where you want to be doesn’t mean that you can’t get there! NEVER GIVE UP NEVER SURRENDER

Then back to work.

Now back to current time: this past weekend. It honestly was such an amazing weekend, but I can’t begin anywhere else than, AT THE MOVIE THEATRE!

THE INCREDIBLES 2 was amazing. AND SOLO (the latest star wars movie) so automatically excellent weekend.

Saturday was the day that I got to part-take in Soren’s Fast and Female event at Hardwood Ski and Bike. It was an incredible day meeting so many young inspiring girls, and fellow ambassadors. We all fed off each others’ energy and positivity and had an amazing day! Highlight for me was when all of the girls came together and did the dance that I had choreographed for the day!

Then Sunday, race day. It was a hot one, with lots of highly competitive women showing up to race in the elite field. I was nervous. But with a recent makeover to my bike, and some anxious legs, I was ready to go. With an average heart rate of 192 the whole race, I was giviner. Coolest part of the race was definitely being on home turf and hearing everyone cheering for me, especially in the feedzone. I finished with my best result to date, and feeling the happiest I have in a long time about myself.

I am 100000% sure that my improvements wouldn’t have been possible without my supporters like Kyle, and Dee (my team manager from Highgate), my parents Val and Jube, Ian for the dunk bottles and Merv for looking after my bike! Huge thank you to Tyler for helping me find confidence over the past couple of weeks and for keeping me smiling. Everyone who I’ve mentioned and more have helped me keep my head up and have kept me pushing myself because I CAN.

I hope that if you’ve stuck around long enough to read this all, you take away that sometimes you might be feeling down on yourself but I promise you that if you stick to what you’re striving for, you can and will get to where you want to be. Now for an office quote that I used after the race and almost made myself cry from being cracked but also really happy:

Oh yea and thanks to Hardwood Next Wave for giving me water and fruit after the race to keep me upright!!!!