I know, I know, this post is WAY OVERDUE. But Homestretch applications for 2019/20 are being accepted NOW so I wanted to share my experience & encourage everyone to apply.
I had the privilege of being accepted as a Homestretch athlete for March and April of 2019. At first I was super nervous and had no idea what to expect. I had an understanding of what the foundation stood for; equality in sport, but little about how the experience of being housed with several other athletes would go. Who else would be there? Would it be a hostel situation? Would there be any fridge space?!
Honestly, I went in with little knowledge, high nerves, but also an open mind and high hopes. I was hoping that being a resident of The Homestretch Foundation would boost my motivation for the season, provide new training stimuli, and connect me with other women in the sport. Being stuck in Minnesota was taking a serious toll on my mental health due to having no other women to ride with and training exclusively on the trainer throughout the extreme winter. I needed a serious boost to revitalize my drive and passion for cycling, especially since I had a team to represent and a full race season on my calendar.
I’m not going to detail every moment of my Homestretch stay because I believe in respecting the privacy of the athletes who were there with me and the moments shared. I also want to keep the mystery alive for those looking to take part in their own experience. But I do want to provide a little highlight real of moments that meant the most to me.
Racing TBC with encouragement & support.
Presenting to local athletes on Sports Nutrition.
Laughing at Leah’s nightstand collection of sparkling water cans.
Evening serenading by Lauren Hall & Stephen Pedone.
Local mural hunting with the gang.
I got two tattoos in town.
Countless repeats on Mt. Lemmon.
Crushing my Lemmon PR.
Movie night watching & discussing Afghan Cycles w/ Farid Noori
Seeing Kathryn Bertine speak her journey at Tucson Storytellers.
Persy the cat attempting to get all the attention.
Climbing Kitt Peak with Lauren Hall.
Getting to ride with Nicole Pressprich and company.
Friday Stretchy spins with the locals.
Athlete Q+A night at a local bike shop.
Crying on the floor with triathlete pro Frankie when we were both just the most exhausted athletes.
Binging MFM with Mia on drives to rides and TJs.
Picking up trash with Ellen and Sean.
Guest speaker insights.
I got to have real, authentic, and unfiltered conversations with athletes about the gender pay gap, inequalities in race promotion, and challenges facing women in the sport. We talked about ourselves; being open and honest about our own journey. We talked about other riders, mostly in an aspirational way, but also some brutal honesty on those we felt bring down the sport. I definitely got the vibe that those in the house would trust each other’s need to vent at times and that there was a ‘what happens in homestretch stays in homestretch’ kind of vibe. Seriously tho, 99% of the interactions were uplifting, inspirational and motivating. I felt like my opinions and those of the athletes around me mattered and were appreciated. Of course the conversation wasn’t always serious or sport related. I was introduced to ASMR (seriously, wtf has the world come to) and Schitt's Creek (Netflix it, you can thank me later) while living here.
My absolute favorite part of this experience, which wasn’t really a part but the whole vibe, was getting to live as an athlete. Yes, I still had to work, but I was fully expected to be the best athlete I could be. Go to bed early, analyze the data, leave for races, take naps, get out and train, eat well, take care of my bikes, etc… I didn’t have the typical distractions of being at home that can take away from training and recovering well. I was also met with respect when saying ‘I’m an athlete’, instead of a strange look or eye roll.
Regardless of the level of athlete staying in the house, and there was a large range, everyone was expected to improve themselves and be a motivator for others. I was definitely worried that there would be a competitive atmosphere in the house, but that didn’t happen at all unless we were out to crush it on the bike. At the house, everyone was supportive and while I was a resident, there were also mountain bikers, cyclocross, road cyclists, a triathlete, crit racers, a couple male cyclists… it was diverse which was super inspiring and lessened the potential for competition within the house. It was awesome watching your housemates on live streams when they were off racing or seeing the results of how others did. It truly felt like being part of a community. I think for female cyclists, that part can really be lacking because we all sacrifice so much for a spot to compete and can be very isolated from other humans while training hard.
Overall, I’m so thankful for the experience and people I met while there. It was not a hostel and more comfortable than most cycling host accommodations. There was not enough fridge space (is there ever?…). If you are in a spot of craving amazing training conditions, motivation, support, friendship, and a reason to try a little harder, I definitely recommend submitting an application. If you are reading this but aren’t an athlete looking for residency, please consider donating to The Homestretch Foundation to help keep the property running and help advocate for athlete equality.
What do I regret? Not seeing ‘The Thing’ and forgetting my cowboy boots. Next time!