“He who chases two rabbits, gets none” I have heard this proverb countless times in my career. For the past years the balance of being a full time student and an elite athlete has weighed heavily on me. With the conclusion of this semester at Penn State I am done chasing two rabbits and am focusing solely on cycling. I have a two year leave of absence approved through the university and I will return to finish my last 16 credits and graduate with my Electrical engineering degree after the Olympics. The decision to leave school and focus on cycling was a very tough one for me. For the past 13 years school has been all I’ve known and my main focus. It was a very strange feeling not scheduling classes for the Fall or making any plans for next semester, a little bittersweet. I have no doubt I will go back and get my degree I just have another dream I want to fulfill for now.
The time time has come where I am too close to not give cycling my full focus and attention. I know my training and especially recovery suffered while I was at school and that really bothered me. I balanced both long enough and it is time to give each my full attention. In the fall of 2016 I will return to Penn State and complete the last semester to get my degree, giving that my focus. Until then I am 100% in to train for the Rio Olympic Games and become the best track sprint cyclist I can. I know the next two years will be the toughest of my life but it is the struggles that define us. I feel I am ready for this journey and it is what I want most right now. The time and journey will be dominated by a long series of small decisions but this was a major one for me; postponing graduating college and almost guaranteed employment in January to ride my bike. I have the rest of my life to work and be an engineer but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I intend to make the most of it!
While I was at Penn State I was training full time and taking 19 credits of all Electrical and Computer Engineering courses. It was hell, I was up at 6am every morning and either in the gym or on the rollers by 7:15, class all day then homework and bed at ten to get up and do it again the next day. The discipline and hard work paid off though and I was able to make great progress while I was at school and keep my grades up. I finished off this semester with a 3.85 GPA which kept my cumulative GPA right at 3.84. I was really happy with my grades and my ability to balance everything. My form on the bike improved greatly from time on the rollers and my strength from the gym improved as well. The only big question was will it transfer to the bike on the track.
As a bit of a pre-season opener and to see where my form was I decided to make the trip to Frsco, Tx for the Matrix Cup just days after my last final. I spent a few days on the track trying to get the legs to come around and get used to riding on a track again. I have always liked the Frisco track and thought it would be a great time to see where my times were and how much of a hole I had to dig myself out of this season. As it turns out my form was pretty good! After a few times on the track tweaking my 200 approach I was able to turn a 10.383s 200m. This was just 0.04s off the time standard for the International Elite program through USA Cycling which is the time standard I need to meet in order to race world cups and have some great European race opportunities. I was absolutely thrilled with the time and I have confidence I will make the time standard later in the season. The rest of the event in Frisco went well with some great battles against Dave Espinoza and the other riders. I was able to win the sprints and the kilo and got second in the flying lap after my SRM had a major issue just before I went off. All in all I was very pleased with the trip and where my form is currently.
In the weeks since the Matrix Cup I have had a major building block with tough two a day sessions to get ready for great racing in the month of June in T-town. I have been able to transfer more of the strength and speed I worked on at school to the bike and am riding faster and stronger than I was even during the Matrix Cup. I am looking forward to a great month of racing at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center followed by a great training block during July and some great racing in August as well. In August I will be racing National Championships in Rockhill, SC and I am hoping to get a trip together to Europe to race some Grand Prix events internationally before Pan- American Championships.
This is a time of major uncertainty for me since there are no guarantees in cycling but it is the time I have looked forward to for a number of years. I am humbled to have the opportunity to chase my dream and live it for a few years. None of this would be possible without the generous support of my team and sponsors as well as my family, friends and all of you who support me. I know I am taking a huge chance and betting on the underdog but I know together we can do this and compete in Rio not just watch it on TV. BELIEVE!!