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Megan Jastrab blog: The Balancing Act

Megan Jastrab (Rally Cycling)
Megan Jastrab (Rally Cycling) (Image credit: Rally Cycling)

Before my first day at Milligan College in Tennessee, in the Fall of 2019, I had only been in the US for about five days, as I had just returned home from junior Track Worlds in Germany. Great start to college - jet-lagged, banged up from a crash in the Omnium, and focused on training for junior Road Worlds

On the plus-side, I was highly motivated by my results on the track, but that chapter was closed and I needed to refocus on the Road Worlds. 

All went smoothly for the first week of college, learning where everything was on campus, buying books, and having a limited workload with mostly only syllabus readings (you know the drill). Fortunately, I already had completed two semesters of college at Mt. Sac in California, and I was more-or-less prepared for what I needed to do related to college. 

However, there was still that limiting factor of only 24 hours in a day to accomplish things like studies and tests, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and spending time with friends and family.

The question was: where were the training blocks going to come from to prepare for the junior Road World Championships in Yorkshire? 

Then the second week came, and so did the workload of both school and training. I am the type of person who likes to have everything written down on a calendar and planned out to keep me focused and organized. 

I went ahead and filled in my calendar with all the test dates along with all the days I was going to be missing during the month of September for Worlds in Yorkshire and Collegiate Track Nationals. As it turned out, I would be missing two and a half of the first five weeks of college, due to racing. 

I got to know my professors almost immediately. I sent emails notifying them of my many upcoming absences, so that I could work with them to re-schedule assignments and test/quiz dates, if they were amicable to the idea. 

I spent a considerable amount of time crafting that email so that it would come across in the best light and reassured them that I was capable of handling college and racing with their continued input/feedback.  The last thing I wanted was to get on the wrong side of the professors and lose their support, especially since they didn't know me or my work and study habits. 

The next thing I needed to figure out was how to balance everything, by being as pro-active as possible. Prioritizing and being realistic about my priorities each day, week and month are what I believe made everything possible. 

It may seem like common sense to some people, but taking the time to sit down at the beginning of each week to figure out your priorities is something I think is skipped too often. 

I had my goals for September set out crystal clear in my mind and on paper, as well as how I felt I could best achieve them: perform well at Junior Road Worlds with no regrets and keep A's in each of my classes. 

What I mean by 'no regrets' is that I didn't want any unnecessary events or situations to distract me from training and I wanted to be the best that I could be on race day. I didn't want to finish the race saying I could've, should've, or would've. If I finished the race knowing I did everything I needed to do to be ready, I would be satisfied and walk away content with my results.

Now that I had things prioritized, staying on schedule was key – don't waste the 24 hours in a day. This meant I would go to my morning classes (usually 8-10a.m. or 8a.m.-12p.m.) and then grab a snack and head out for training. Thankfully, my coach didn't have me doing any training rides that were over 3 hours, which helped a lot. 

My focus for training was about maintaining endurance, while increasing power. 

After training, I would clean up, get some food then jump straight into studying. I always included adequate time to recover from training each day – recovery sleep. If you asked my roommate about it, she would vouch for me in that if I was up past 10 p.m., it was an extremely rare occasion. 

I met some fantastic people during the first month at Milligan, but I was not willing to skip training sessions to hang out with friends or stay up 'til midnight and sacrifice any recovery sleep. If I started to sacrifice my training or recovery, the first thought that would come to my mind was my performance at Worlds and not having any regrets.

Motivation allows amazing things to happen and, when you combine that with confidence and a bunch of other key elements great things happen. As a junior cyclist, Worlds is the biggest race that we can compete in. I always thought it would be awesome to qualify for the national team and represent the US at a World Championship race. It was a goal that I had set for myself during my first years in racing – my motivation. 

Having had a successful European 2019 spring trip, as well as recently achieving two gold medals at junior Track Worlds, I had some confidence in my abilities. The knowledge of how I compared with my competition from around the world provided additional motivation to keep me working towards the possibility of a podium. I honestly don't know if there is better motivation than that. 

I went into Worlds knowing that I did everything I could do to be race ready. Don't get me wrong, I was still nervous, but I knew I had prepared the best I could and was confident that my teammates were also prepared for the race. 

It paid off! Team USA took home the gold medal in the junior women's road race at the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, as I crossed the finish-line first. 

I feel that I was personally prepared and confident in my abilities going into this race because I was organized, kept my priorities aligned with my goals, was motivated in both school and training, and had the necessary support to make everything work cohesively. 

Thank you to those people who supported me balancing both school and racing: My parents, coach, friends, teammates, and the staff at Milligan College. It's all in the balancing of what's important to you and the strategy to achieve it – be race ready!