Last time we checked in with Rachel, she was just transitioning out of a full time job and making the big decision to pursue racing full-time. In between that time she has been making a big push and upped her race schedule and training program. Even though a major injury last year brought a short end to her season, she has still managed to secure herself as an official member of the GT Factory racing team for 2016 along side fellow female rider Anneke Beerten. We sat down with her to get the story about her injury, the steps she's taking for recovery, and a look into what changes this
year holds. Enjoy! Tell us about the accident. I understand you were racing in Park City, Utah, during the crash? What happened?
It was stupid really. Well, aren't most crashes? I had just gotten home from Crankworx and had a pretty rough crash up there injuring my wrist. I was so obsessed with finishing out my planned season on top, once I got home I should have listened to my body and taken a week off. But instead I got right back in my SUV and drove the 10 hours to Park City. During Friday's practice, I was feeling great, surprisingly. My mind was solid on the technical tracks and physically I felt strong. Towards the bottom of a couple stages you came into a 4 berm section. I pressed hard into the dirt on the first 3, but on the 4th one my front tire didn't hold and I washed out. The berm was so much looser than the previous 3, I just forgot and carried way too much speed. It happened so fast I just remember an immediate, direct impact and then felt the wind knocked out of me. My body and bike barely moved once I hit the dirt, which is sometimes the worst thing that can happen. The energy from the crash was dispersed solely into one area, my right knee! When did you realize how bad it was? How did that affect the rest of your race season?
I tried to get up immediately and act like everything was cool, but my body had other ideas. That's when I knew it was bad. Last year at Whistler I crashed and ruptured my Bursa Sac in my right knee which hurt a lot! But this was like 10 times worse. I wanted to throw up, but at that point people were gathering around me so I just tried to play cool. The worst part besides the pain was that I was all alone! And all my friends were practicing and I drove up by myself. Kyle was in Canada and my family back in California. I was thinking how the hell am I going to get to the hospital. Thankfully my buddy Anne Galyean had practiced the day before a bit and came to my rescue! She was like an angel! I've been racing since I was 10 and have never broken a bone. I thought for sure I blew a ligament. I never thought it was broken, because once I got to the hospital and was in the waiting room the pain kind of just stopped. When we got the X-ray back the doctor notified me I shattered by Tibial Plateau! I didn't even know what the hell that was. He said I would need surgery that Monday and I was lucky I did it in Park City since the orthopedic surgeons see that injury quite often.
My season was over, which obviously sucked but ironically on that exact same day, minutes apart, Kyle received a call from our Realtor that we got the house of our dreams! So at least, I was able to focus on something else for a bit. How long was it before you started the recovery process of getting your leg back in shape?
I was in a full leg cast/splint for 6 weeks. Non-weight bearing with minimal bending. I ended up not needed surgery which was amazing. The surgeon said it was in fact shattered in 5 places, but that bones were all within 3mm of each other. He explained that over time they will find their way back and mend even stronger than before. I got a second opinion when I got back home and Dr. Murphy said the same thing. After the 6 weeks were up I began bending my leg to 45 degrees, then to 90 and so on. After I ditched the crutches I had a pretty awesome cane that my 80-year-old grandma gave me. The day before I left to Rampage I was given the okay to walk without the cane which worked out perfectly. I was right at 2 months post break and things were really healing beautifully. Even though my season was over it was nice to be able to still go out there and support Kyle! At that point I had been driving him nuts. Going from 100% self-sufficient to needing help getting into the shower left me quite edgy at times! I understand you are working with a personal trainer now, three times a week. What made you choose the Rynopower gym?
After getting the okay to start physical therapy, I started working with Ryan "Ryno" Hughes right away. I knew I didn't want to waste any time getting back on the bike. My legs are skinny, but after not using my right one for almost two months, I swear our lab Frank had bigger legs. Ryno has lots of experience dealing with his own injuries from MX and was able to formulate a very minimal and easy workout plan to start. We started small and just added different movements and exercises on each week as I got stronger. Ryno focuses a lot on balance training and hand-eye coordination, things that are necessary to be successful on the bike.
I also struggle with being an aggressive and confident racer, both things Ryno was really good at while racing. We have been working on mental strength just as hard as the physical. Rynopower Gym offers a lot more than just your standard training regiment. It is a place that you can go and be surrounded with like-minded athletes. When you leave there you feel encouraged and inspired to push harder. What does your training routine consist of?
3 times a week I do a structured circuit workout targeting all the muscles used for riding. The training programs build on each other and really show progression. They encompass weights, balance exercises, strength movements, mental strength training, hand-eye coordination training and a bunch of other secret stuff! The workouts are definitely hard and intense, but so is racing, so you can't be afraid of a little pain in the gym. How big of a role does diet and nutrition play in your training?
I live by the rule, "What you put into your body, you get out of your body!
" I do not live by any strict diets or nutrition plans, I just try and eat healthy with a very balanced diet. Lots of green veggies and high protein meals. To be honest, the biggest role diet plays in my life is making sure I eat enough. I am a tiny person! This year I set a goal to gain 5 pounds in the off season, bumping me up to a big 115 pounds, lol! It has been freaking impossible! My metabolism is on a whole different planet. I know I shouldn't complain and one day I will be grateful, but I know the extra strength and weight will only help! How important is stretching and flexibility?
Both stretching and flexibility are very important. When muscles are tight your body is at a higher risk of injury. I have a bad lower back. Sometimes when my hamstrings are really tight my back hurts more than normal. Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscles! Sometimes after a big injury, it's harder to come back mentally than it is psyically. Tell us a bit about the process of gaining your confidence back?
My body healed in two and a half months. The bones mended back together and according to the Doc are stronger than they were before. But even though I know all this, and know the biggest pain of the entire thing was that I wasn't self-sufficient for a couple months, I am still freaking struggling mentally! This was my first big injury, so maybe that has something to do with it, but I have still been nervous to hit drops and technical sections that I was able to do last year. I'm not embarrassed to admit it. Everyone deals with things their own way, I am just more frustrated at this point.
I told myself I just have to be used to being uncomfortable more often on the bike. I recently started riding my Moto again which has been a great confidence booster. I know that by the time the season starts I will be where I want to be mentally, it was just a shocker that it is taking longer to get over. You're back on GT again this year, but this time as an official member of the factory racing team. Tell us a bit about the team dynamic and how you feel about being on the Factory team?
When I first found out I had been selected to join the GT Factory Team I was ecstatic! As a California native, I have always been prideful to ride for a brand started in my home state. But now to be representing them as a Factory rider, I mean shit, dreams do come true. I left my job at Crankbrothers to ride my bike professionally and make enough money to live off. This year it became a reality!
So how do I feel? I feel stoked and excited and also a little nervous because when I look at my team mates I realize I am grouped in with a pretty bad ass group of riders. Riders who all have amazing personalities to match their amazing skills! I mean GT really nailed it in the hiring process and put together a marketing master piece! Winning races and getting on the podium is really, really important, but so is your personality. Cause at the end of the day we can't win every race. I haven't even met all the team mates yet, but I can tell you this, they have already inspired me to train harder and ride faster. I mean, I don't want to be the slowest one at Team Camp next month, lol! What does your race calendar look like this year? Any major changes or additions from last year?
This year I will be competing in 4 EWS events (Chile, Argentina, Colorado, and Whistler), the Big Mountain Enduros, and the SoCal Enduro series. I am really excited to be heading back to South America. Last year was my first time to Chile and I absolutely loved it! The country is beautiful and the people are so nice and hospitable. It is going to be a great season! Will you be entering any race disciplines other than Enduro?
I was thinking of maybe racing some dual slalom at Nationals or Sea Otter, try it out. I have a pretty good coach, it's just getting me to listen to all of his advice is the problem. What venues are you most excited about?
I am really looking forward to the newly added Pacific North West stop of the BME tour this year. They haven't announced where exactly it is yet, but from what have seen of the riding up there, any spot will be awesome! I am also looking forward to heading back to Rotorua and hopefully improving my result there. In your opinion, what area of your riding would you like to improve on the most?
Oh Gosh, well, after last season I realized I have no idea how to ride in wet roots, so I would really like to improve that! We don't have roots here in SoCal. In February, I am heading up to Bellingham to go ride with my best friend Ella who is staying there this winter! I know that place has roots so hopefully, I will get a bit better! You're getting close to "tying the knot", how's everything going with the wedding plans? Are you guys getting married in full bike gear or going the traditional route?
Oh ya this November! I am soon to be Strait, lol! Planning is going good. So far no stressing out or Bridezilla moments, but we aren't anywhere near crunch time yet, so I am sure at least one break down will happen. We are definitely not having anything bike related at the wedding. Mountain biking is our passion, but it is also our job, so at the end of the day you have to know when to leave work at home. Which is one reason why I think Kyle and I get along so well, we both understand that. It was kind of funny though. When we were picking out our venue, the women giving us the tour told us how one time a groom rode his bike down this steep embankment into the ceremony. She looked at Kyle and asked, "is that something you would be interested in doing?!
" We both just laughed.
Thanks to GT bicycles, Sombrio, Vittoria tires, SRAM, Rockshox, Ergon, Alpinestars, Bell helmets, Oakley, FiveTen, RynoPower, and Crankbrothers for all the support to make my dreams happen.Congrats and good look with the 2016 season Rachel!
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