Rider Diary: Whitney Allison
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Since my stream of freak bad luck a few weeks ago, I've been wanting to follow up with a blog post saying "it's all okay!" but never found a good moment or specific topic to write about. I finally have it. Once I got my stitches removed in my friend's kitchen, I was good to go for training, which left me two weeks until San Dimas after pretty much three weeks off the bike. I'm so glad to have such an awesome coach, Adam Mills of Source Endurance, that I can just trust to give me a recipe for bike success. That he did (it was brutal)! Although I had barely done anything above threshold and knew that San Dimas and Redlands were going to hurt, it maybe hurt a little less than I thought it might!
Fast forward to Joe Martin and I am riding the best I ever have. I got my first top ten in an UCI race during the Stage 1 time trial with teammate Katie finishing 9th. Stage 2 I got to be a protected rider for the first time since joining Colavita which was incredibly challenging when you've been a worker for four seasons! I was in the front group with 500m to go before an ill-timed freak mechanical. Stage 3 I found myself in a break for half the race and was still able to contribute. And Stage 4 I finally made it through the crit in the front group and even in a break!
For me, those little steps were so meaningful and important accomplishments for personal goals. I'm back and I'm so excited for what the rest of the season holds for me as an individual and even more so knowing how I can contribute to our team unit.
Entry #15 - When It Rains It Pours
I always thought phrases like “when it rains it pours” were annoying. Maybe a series of bad events are related and you need to step back and figure out why it’s “pouring”, or maybe you have a bad attitude and that is fueling a series of events. I’m a huge fan of hard work and generally believe if you work hard, sooner or later you can reach your goals. I had that put to the test lately with a series of negative but unrelated events.
Right before training camp a couple weeks ago, I got really sick...like fluid in the lungs, emergency nap, sinus compression, achey sicks that you just have to wait out. With the travel, the cold turned into this quite long, drawn-out experience. I had really been looking forward to camp and that cold just had me barely functioning for the first part and I don’t remember the first ride. While that’s not the end of the world but definitely one of those things where you can’t really enjoy what’s going on fully and can’t really sleep either and recover. And then I got unexpectedly laid off from the part-time job I loved when they shut down the marketing side of things. Crap. And then my husband’s team, Elevate Pro Cycling, got hit by a van at their camp while I was in San Diego. While he’s okay, three teammates have some pretty crappy injuries.
This week, I finally started to feel better from the cold and start to feel like myself on the bike and during my first plyo workout of the year, I..uh...missed the box jump and cut my shin through the muscle and down to the bone. With the cut to the muscle, it needs a couple weeks to heal before I can ride much less really walk. Definitely a bummer this time of year leading into our first team race. Let’s just say the hospital bill was a big blow too coupled with the job loss. While it’s not the end of the world, it is a blow.
I have let myself feel all the feels but what has been so amazing how much friends, family, and especially my team have been so generously and genuinely kind and supportive. All you can do is lean on your loved ones for emotional support and adapt and move on. Colds leave, jobs can be found, wounds heal and fitness comes back. You can only control what you can control and the rest you have to adapt to. Despite these bumps in the road, I know that I will get to emerge stronger and maybe a little bit wiser.
Tis the end of the season. In many ways, the season seems to have lasted and eternity and in other ways the six solid months of racing almost non-stop went by in a moment. Cycling is so complex mentally with the highest highs and the lowest lows. Having a solid support system is essential for long term success and happiness.
Colavita-Bianchi was truly blessed this year with an amazing group of women. Women who would give you the best damned leadout or share their clothes with you when your luggage didn't make it. Our staff was top-notch too with Ande as the first badass pro lady mechanic in the peloton, Amanda always getting attention with those crazy purple skates and the best massages, and Mary the master planner and scheduler...we never had to wonder about a grocery store run. Ultimately, the racing-hours of being on a team fail in comparison to the number of hours we have to put up with each other between events. I'm so grateful for such a solid group in and out of the races.
First and foremost, the opportunity to even bring us together would never be possible without the endless support from Colavita. They have been such a long standing supporter of not just cycling, but women's cycling. All of our sponsors together give us tools for success- thank you to Bianchi, Shimano, Rudy Project, Clif Bar, Castelli, Fine Cooking, Vittoria, Chamois Butt'r, and Saris.
Entry #13 - Racing at Home
An odd part of life as a professional cyclist is you sometimes feel like you don't belong anywhere at all. A huge portion of the year consists of traveling all over the country to race and coming home to recover to do it again. This year I haven't had a chance to race near home at all this year, so I knew having inaugural Women's Pro Challenge go through Fort Collins was going to be a real treat. I just didn't know how much of a treat it was going to be!
The race was definitely tough with the winds and then all the climbing, but man, you'd be hard pressed to find crowds larger than what we experienced that day between Loveland and Fort Collins. Slogging up to the top of Rist was accompanied by so many familiar faces cheering me on. Bingham was even more full of support and complete with a huge party bus. I so happened to be with Amanda Miller at the time who used to live in Fort Collins and we definitely shared at excited giggle of seeing so many friends and supporters at home. Three Colavita gals, myself included, finished in the top 20 for the day.
I am so proud to be apart of a community that so unabashedly supports women's cycling and had the highest volunteer turnout out of any men or women's stage. My community also pushed for us to get a legitimate road race for the first ever Women's Pro Challenge because they thought it was important. I am thankful. I can't imagine a better place to belong.
This week I've gotten to show off where I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, to some of my teammates as we preview the US Pro Challenge Stage 2 course for the women. The race route starts at The Ranch in Loveland and heads up Buckhorn Canyon, up the back side of Rist Canyon over Bingham Hill and finished in Old Town Fort Collins. Although the course isn't incredibly long, it's going to be a tough one, especially as the only road race for the women's 3-day stage race...add in some altitude and a lot of climbing too.
I'm really proud of my city being so supportive of women's cycling. Two years ago, the city really facilitated me putting on a criterium for the women during the US Pro Challenge before any events were offered for the women- they supported financially and every other mean possible. To me, I can't think of a better town to feature the first women's road race for the US Pro Challenge over a very similar route to the men. As a city official once told me "how could we not support the women too?" And supporting the women they are.
Summer is full swing at home in Fort Collins. All the vegetables are growing like crazy and winter seems like a distant memory. When I'm home on Wednesdays I work at the Native Hill Farm stand for my family's coffee company, Peritus Coffee Roasters selling our coffee. I also spend ample time oogling and buying the most beautiful organic vegetables from Native Hill which are grown a whopping 1.5 miles from my house.
Today, they had huge bags of fragrant basil which for me meant one thing: pesto. One of my most distinctive memories growing up was when my family and I lived in Italy for half a year for my dad's job. We were visiting Cinque Terre and I was bonking in a bad way. I was so excruciating hungry which is absolute misery for an athlete and even more so for an 11-year old athlete. After we checked in to our hotel, we booked it for the closest restaurant and I ordered a huge plate of pesto pasta. I believe this was my first pesto experience, but my mom would have to fact check me on that. I've never had more delicious food than that and still think of it each time I make pesto.
Needless to say, I bought the huge bag of basil from the market today and ran home to make pesto. Here's how it went down:
- 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 8 cloves garlic (I love garlic!)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I used walnuts)
- 1 cup Colavita extra-virgin olive oil
- hefty pinch of red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Food process the basil until it's nice and ground. Add in the garlic, nuts, cheese, and spices and pulverize until uniform. Once everything is uniform, stream in the olive oil. Add in pepper or salt to taste if needed. You could even add in a little lemon if it needs brightness.
My favorite way to eat pesto is definitely influence by my Italian experience: with pasta. But I also love it on pizza almost equally. You can use it a spread on a sandwich, make the best breakfast with eggs, potatoes, greens, and pesto or stuff into fresh ravioli with some cream cheese or blended cottage cheese for a treat fit for a queen. For a vegan version, skip the cheese and choose buttery-tasting pine nuts for richness. I freeze my extras in sandwich bags and pull them out throughout the year. There's nothing like finding a ziploc of pesto in the cold, dark depths of winter!
A few weeks ago, the team headed to the first ever Farm to Fork Fondo in Orange County, New York. It was pretty much the best kind of sponsor-related event I could ask for- we were "forced" to take a pizza class and eat wood-fired pizza Saturday and Sunday after a skills clinic, we were again "forced" to ride in the beautiful countryside of Orange County, New York for 100 miles with stops at farms where they prepared us snacks highlighting the local, seasonal produce, using Colavita products. Big bummer, huh? With my love of cooking, growing food, and riding, I was pretty excited to do this with my teammates.
I had a pretty brief layover in Dallas Friday and of course my flight was running late. Luckily my second leg was a little delayed...and then more delayed...and then more delayed...and then cancelled at 1am and of course I didn't have my bags. Ugh. That's okay...I decided with 8am boarding Saturday, it just made sense to find a nice string of chairs and set up camp at the airport.
A pretty uneventful and sleep-filled flight later, I arrive a few hours before this pizza party I've been looking forward to. My teammates come to pick me up from the airport. I see the bags come out for my flight and I think "wouldn't that be funny if my bag didn't show up"...moments later it turned to "oh no, my bag isn't going to show up." With a downed bag system, I was SOL on any news.
I hop in the van and we drive to our hotel. Jess is kind enough to let me borrow some clothes (sorry I smelled so bad by then Jess!) and after a brief shower we drive through the pouring rain and cold to the outdoor pizza class with Zaza and the Perfect Pie. It was excellent pizza that was only taken up a notch by being famished and by my weird travel adventures.
I get wind that my bag should arrive that night between 6-10pm.that night. Thank god, I'm thinking, since we have to leave for the Fondo at 7am. I had a dream that my bag arrived and I woke up feeling jazzed...and then realized...ugh. Once again Jess, Katie, and Mary rallied to piece together clothes for me so I could do the cold, rainy ride. Vee Kingsley was kind enough to let me borrow her cycling shoes and I was set enough to ride...in the rain and cold.
The first few miles were brutally cold and wet and I was uncomfortable, delirious, and not excited about the day. As the day wore on...the sun came out (sometimes), the scenery was beautiful, I warmed up, the food was great, the company was even better, the farms were welcoming, and I ended up having an amazing time with the best teammates I could ask for. The team phrase this year is "hold the rope" and although it's easy to see how it applies in a race working for a common goal, half of it is off the bike and this weekend really displayed that for me. It was incredible.
I did end up getting my bag Sunday night after the Farm to Fork Fondo and about 12 hours before we turned around and departed home. Yes, my bag made it home that time.
Granola is one of those things that is both delicious and often incredibly overpriced. Making homemade granola is as easy as throwing lots of delicious things in a pan and baking until crunchy. Granola travels well too- throw it in a ziplock and you'll have extra room in your bag when you're done...always a bonus for long trips! It doesn't matter too much what ingredients you use just as long as proportions are about the same. My granola ingredients are influenced by what's on sale and any particular cravings.
- 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 1.5 cup chopped nuts (I used walnut here)
- 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup coconut flakes
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
- 1/2 cup Colavita olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3/4 cup dried fruit, chopped if necessary (I used cranberries)
- 1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix dry ingredients together, followed by the wet ingredients and spices. (Save the fruit and chia seeds for later). Spread on a sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until crunchy and golden brown. Remove from oven, add the dried fruit and chia seeds, and stir to loosen up the granola and mix in the fruit and chia seeds. Cool completely before storing. Other fun additions: dark chocolate chips, rainbow sprinkles.
Recently, I've enjoyed eating mine with plain kefir and fruit...banana and berries or peaches...whatever is available and in season. Sometimes a dollop of nut butter if I'm feeling extra fancy.
Upon returning from Tour of California, I had a repair guy in my house repairing my refrigerator. He learned that I race and was asking about if I do "that big Colorado one", meaning the Pro Challenge. I explained that this was the first year it'd be offered to women to which he confusedly replied "well that seems a little ridiculous in this day of age!" Little did he know that I just returned from the first multi-day AMGEN Tour of California women's edition.
Being able to participate in that first women's AMGEN was a huge honor and I hope that the event only continues to add more and longer and harder stages for the women. Seeing the finishing climb in Tahoe thickly lined with fans was awesome. There is still a misnomer in cycling in particular that women are incapable. One of my favorite books I've read is Born to Run where for ultra-endurance, women are often the top of the sport because we're designed for endurance versus shorter events. I like to imagine a world where my gender doesn't constrain people's expectations of me where deserved. Maybe too instead of having podium girls being used as objects at women's events maybe we can have cute puppies giving big slobbery kisses.
After Erica sprinted to third in the criterium at Stage 3 in Sacramento, we headed to the Bianchi set up in the expo. We were swarmed by people excited to see racers and it was the most celebrity-moment I've felt. It dawned on me to most of the people there, it didn't matter if we were male or female that we were just as exciting to someone not involved in the sport and just as awe-inspiring. To me, it showed that running the men and women's races on the same days would only enhance the experience for the fans who could see twice the racing and get even more of the awe-inspiring interactions.
I hope that AMGEN Tour of California Women's Edition exceeded expectations for the owners and that the event will not only continue but expand in years to come.
Entry #7 - A Day in the Life of a Pro Cyclist on the Road
After the criterium in Charlotte, sougneiur Shish, and riders Jessi, Jess, and myself headed down to Greenville, SC, for the week before our TTT and criterium nationals this weekend. That means, a solid five days at Candlewood Suites Extended Stay before we see racing! What does a typical day look like? Here's was Monday for me:
8-11am: wake up, breakfast, power juice (coffee!), get caught up on my job with Studio Hyperset, secure a new coffee account for Peritus Coffee. Jess was awesome and found us a route with Ride with GPS that included Paris Mountain.
11am-4pm: Depart for ride with Shish-made Colavita- polenta-blueberry pancakes for ride food. We were all very pleased when we hit the quiet countryside and enjoyed the big rollers north of Greenville. We topped the ride off with Paris Mountain and then worked our way back "home."
4-7pm: relax, recovery food, massage by none other than the Shish, catch up with my main squeeze on the phone. Our team has a NutriBullet which is so awesome for fruit and veggie filled recovery smoothies.
7-10pm: Shish-made dinner of Minestrone soup (Jess told us that Minestrone translates to "soup of things" which was a great description of our tasty mish-mash bowls of health!) Finished up my remote work and started on a few more coffee things and this blog actually. Wind down, relax, sleep, repeat!
Whitney fact: I love baking. I'm not super sure why...maybe because you can't help but be happy sharing homemade cake with your favorite people. About a month ago, my fiance and I had an engagement party and I knew it was a good excuse to make an incredibly awesome cake. I stumbled upon an Olive Oil and Whiskey Carrot Cake and knew it was meant to be since it combined so many of my favorite things: Colavita Olive Oil, bourbon, and cream cheese frosting. I'm a big fan of balance in life so while my life does include olive oil carrot cake, it also includes epic kale salads like my body craves. Here's the recipe if you dare.
It's the final few days before I leave for our first race, the Gasparilla Criterium & Action Sports Festival in Tampa, Florida. We're practicing for spring here in Colorado with a steamy 77 degrees today. What do the final few days before leaving for the first race of the year look like?
Over the next few days I'll be hitting up those final pre-race intervals and really taking care of myself. I have a final PT adjustment, a massage, and one last yoga class at my favorite studio lined up for self-care. Bike and house cleaning and emergency freezer burritos are also on the agenda. Nothing is worse than coming home to chaos if it can be avoided.
I'm really looking forward to getting the first team race under our belts and get this season rolling!
We've had snow and numbingly cold temperatures pretty much every day here in Fort Collins for the past week and a half. While I do fancy myself to be pretty mentally strong when it comes to indoor training, it was a sweet relief to get out on a cold but snowy day on mountain bikes and play bikes in the snow. My sweet 1.5 year old reservation mutt, Harley, also accompanied me, my fiance Zack and roommate Jake on our snowventures. She'll go full throttle for an hour and a half while we're slogging through the snow totally in her element. I really enjoyed the coverage of the Rudy glasses from the bright snow and head-to-toe Castelli is the only way to ride both warm and stylishly.
It's hard to believe three days ago, I rode for three hours outdoors with just shorts and a jersey and for the past two days, it has been snowing constantly. That's Colorado for you! Even though I don't get to enjoy it outside yet, I was able to get a really fantastic fit on my TT bike yesterday from Brad Brown who also fit me on my road bike a few weeks ago. The difference between a good and bad fit are so fantastic and I highly recommend it anyone looking to enhance their performance and comfort while riding. Hand and knee pain disappeared and I am now able to put out more wattage with less effort. Less than a month before our first team race in Tampa!
It's been a pretty low-key week this week. In total contrast to last week, we enjoyed unseasonal highs in the 60s...minus four inches of snow Wednesday. With all our sunshine in Colorado, that meant very warm weather!
This week also included a solid bike fit by Brad Brown at Peloton Cycles. It has made a world of difference to get a proper bike fit! I wish I had a pictures, but alas...
We're now just over a month away from the beginning of the team's racing season which means a new and challenging training block. It's during this time full of hard intervals and plyo that I begin to feel like I could easily be some sort of crazy athletic secret agent straight out of James Bond or something....maybe that will be on the agenda next year ;-)
Finally, after a long training day and no carb-filled thing in the house, in a moment of desperation, I whipped up this risotto with Colavita arborio rice:
- 1 tbsp Colavita olive oil (I used garlic flavored)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb Colavita arborio rice
- 1 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
- 6-7 cups chicken stock, water, or combo
- 2 cups parmesan, romano, or a combo
- 2-4 cups chopped dark greens (I used collard greens)
- black pepper
- grilled chicken (optional)
- Heat oil and butter, add onion and garlic and saute until softened. Add rice and stir. Add 1 cup wine. Stir continuously if you can, otherwise, stir often and keep adding water 1 cup at a time. I ended up using just over 6 cups of stock. Stir in cheese and collards until collards are right and cheese is melty. Add black pepper to taste and top with chopped grilled chicken. Yum!
Colorado is home to many professional endurance athletes and many leave and head south for winter. I tend to pretty much stay put for winter with my desk job in years past and now my family's coffee roasting business (Peritus Coffee) and my fiance's training center (Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies). In the depths of winter, it can definitely be a challenge to keep up with training. This year I've been lucky enough to ditch my desk job for more flexible part-time work and also utilize the training center instead of just trainering it up in the basement. Those changes have meant more volume and higher quality training and an overall happier mental state!
Team Colavita training camp came at such an ideal time...in fact, it snowed the day I left. The escape from winter made me so hopeful and excited for spring, and even more so, the racing season! Camp went by so fast and so wonderfully...we have great teammates, great support, and a great schedule! Although I'm back in my winter wonderland, each day has a little more sunlight and the temperatures are slowly getting warmer. Spring racing is just around the corner and I can't wait.