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InsideOut client: Heather Beaver... USA Cycling, Gran Fondo National Championships - 2nd Place AG!

Caroline Kavanagh | December 30, 2023

Heather Beaver, #2 - podium. Age Group 50-54, USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championships. Heather captures 2nd Place in AG, at USA Cycling’s Gran Fondo National Championships in Fredrick Maryland. She dubbed this performance as a "Top-Ten lifetime moment." Exceptional indeed! Heather's road to this achievement involved setbacks and challenges. But disguised in each adversity she continued to see an opportunity. She adopted a positive mindset and re-focused on her goal, one step at a time. Heather pivoted after two bike crashes last year which were out of her control. Instead of analyzing every aspect of the lousy situations, she focused on every quality she possessed that enabled her to overcome it. We all have obstacles in life. If you’re an athlete, then you know how important it is to make a commitment – to be the best version of yourself. It requires things like getting up early to train, meal prepping and setting goals. But no matter how hard you work or how determined you are, athletes will fail. The quest at that point is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back "in the game!" As 2023 comes to a close.... I share Heather's victory and race recap in order to inspire and motivate! The new year ahead will likely bring challenges in life and sport. It may even feel at times that every possible thing is going sideways and all forces of nature are working against you. No matter how frustrated you become, or how many additional challenges you face, giving up will only solidify the fact that the challenge is molding you in an unsatisfactory manner. Rise up! Expect adversity and resistance and be prepared to overcome it.


Sometimes improvement can’t be measured in wins, losses, time or distance. Self-improvement and success is connected to one’s determination in the face of unexpected obstacles. Rebound, pivot and reset.


Keep moving forward and you will be rewarded!


Below is a little bit about the Gran Fondo Series and then Heather's recap.


Enjoy! THE GRAN FONDO NATIONAL SERIES Gran Fondo National Series® has managed and produced more than 60 gran fondos including the Gran Fondo National Championship since 2012. Today, this national championship, which utilizes a time section format, is officially recognized by the America’s governing body of Olympic cycling and is recognized as the official USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championships.

Founded in 2012 by event director Reuben Kline, Gran Fondo National Series is the largest and most competitive series of gran fondo cycling events in the United States. Gran Fondo National Series was the first series to implement timed-segment racing into US gran fondo events and has crowned Gran Fondo National Champions and Gran Fondo National Series Champions since 2012. Starting in 2020, the Series entered into a partnership with USA Cycling to bring the existing Gran Fondo National Series and the one-day Gran Fondo National Championship into the portfolio of official USA Cycling National Championship events. Participation in the Maryland event has been consistently strong over the past several years. The 2023 National Championships drew over 1,000 cyclists from across the nation, along with many family members and spectators. To compete for the USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championship, riders must first qualify for a starting slot. Qualification slots are awarded based on rider’s placement in official Gran Fondo National Series® events over the previous 18 months prior to the USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championships. THE LEAD-UP "I was frustrated as hell to crash so many times last year, as I'd been excited about road racing and disappointed to be taken out before I could even get going and see what I could do. After those crashes, though, and now missing several ligaments (3 in my shoulder and 1 in my knee), Gran Fondos seem to be a better fit for me than the classic style cycling race. Gran Fondos are a combination of untimed sections where everyone can relax a bit, as well as timed sections. I realized I like to be able to ride and recover, before I have to hammer and hyper-focus. A great combination.


In the lead up to Nationals I was fit, strong and ready to race, which was a result of hard work over many months. I'm aware that racing results are often a product of several factors; how your body is feeling on the day, the weather and who shows up to race. In the end the only thing I can control is my effort, mindset and willingness to endure. I was up for the challenges ahead of me. Vermont Gran Fondo - Qualifier I got unlucky with the weather for the Vermont Gran Fondo. However, the bad weather worked in my favor as I was willing to gut it out through some pretty uncomfortable conditions while others chose to stay home or pull out mid-race. The bad weather meant I didn't draft, but I did utilize a few of my great strengths, which is the fact that I've figured out my nutrition and had optimized my training.


RACE RESULT: Vermont Gran Fondo Finish: Gold - 1st Place AG: 45-54 USA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

“Gran Fondo” is an Italian term which translates to “big ride.” They are usually century (100-mile) rides through the countryside and feature several significant climbs. The National Championships took place in the mountains of Frederick, Maryland and included 4 timed race sections with about 9,000 feet of elevation.


Heather on an uphill segment - looking strong and relaxed. Smiling never hurts :)

All of my qualifying century races this year have happened in inclement weather, including this one. We were expecting light rain and mild conditions in the 60’s, but instead received a steady drenching rain between miles 25 and 50, with temperatures dropping to about 55 degrees. This was followed by dense fog on the mountain ridge and driving rain for the last 10 miles. A lot of cyclists dropped out of the race due to hypothermia and that would have been me, too, had my husband John, not met me at every aid station with fuel and dry clothing. A complete wardrobe change helped me finish the race. Given the conditions and several crashes on the course, my goal shifted from “race to survive, finish and keep it rubber side down!” I’m pleased to report... I did just that!


This was the absolute toughest race I have ever competed in and probably the coldest and wettest I’ve ever been on a bike. RACE STAT: USA Gran Fondo National Championships Finish: Silver - 2nd Place AG: 50-54 Thanks to Val Hopkins for the excellent coaching and training — I feel the strongest I’ve ever been! And to Caroline Kavanagh for nutritional planning and advice. And of course John, who is team Beaver’s MVP and the secret behind much of my successes. And thanks to all my cycling and triathlon friends who’ve ridden many miles with me and shared cycling and endurance sports advice.

I have no idea what’s next, but whatever it is, I’m up for the challenge!" ........ Summary Greatness in sport and life emanates from a combination of a tireless work ethic and steadfast dedication. It doesn't mean there won't be up's and down's. Heather's nutrition focus began over four years ago and within those years much has transpired. This story is merely a snapshot of Heather's "story" which illuminates her sheer power of perseverance, resilience and the human capacity to prevail against the odds. I am inspired by her unwavering tenacity, perseverance, and consistency. Everyone experiences adversity but it is how you cope and learn from it that enables you to thrive; it doesn’t need to be seen as a threat or feared, it can create new pathways and opportunities. Use it as a chance to grow and develop, increasing your confidence in readiness for inevitable challenging situations. Congratulations Heather in accomplishing one of your "Top-Ten lifetime moments." This article is my way of both acknowledging your triumph and motivating you for continued success over future walls to reach new levels of greatness. Bravo! To everyone else.....As we enter 2024 remember.... Don't allow fear and trepidation to creep in when facing walls and obstacles. Instead, develop a mindset and culture where walls are looked at as not only opportunities but embraced as a blessing, as something meant to be overcome and to bring out the best in you. Happy New Year!


Keep Rolling....


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