I broke my collarbone in my very first race. It was a local road race in Georgia, I showed up and had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was 2011, I was in college, and I had started falling in love with cycling. I was competitive but in all honesty, I should have never started out in such a big field . . . of 12.
I probably should have quit, but like I said, I’m competitive. I was not going to fail out of cycling like this. I got back on the trainer during my recovery. Three weeks later I won the next race.
If you don’t know my story yet, you will see how that competitive spirit early in my career helped me when I faced the biggest challenge of my life - recovering from a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).
In 2016, I was racing for my pro team at an early season race in California. I don’t remember, but I’m told that while leading out my teammate for the sprint, my handlebars got caught in the metal fencing surrounding the course, sending me over my handlebars and directly on my head.
My dad tells me he got a phone call saying, you have to fly to this hospital right now. My mom, dad and grandpa were on the next flight out. When they got to the hospital, they discovered I’d been placed in a medically induced coma. My grandpa slept in a chair next to my hospital bed for three weeks.
I don’t know where I will be without my family.
I spent three weeks at the ICU in California before I was airlifted to a rehab center in Colorado at Craig Rehabilitation Center, one of the best spinal cord and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation centers in the world.
I spent six weeks at Craig, but I don’t remember much. I do remember waking up thinking I’d never ride a bike again. My family likes to remind me about the paintings in the rehab center that had bikes on them and I’d ask the nurses to cover them up as I’d say “that’s what did this to me”.
From what I remember, in rehabilitation, they were walking me around in a brace to become more active again and I was in speech and occupational therapy. However, the biggest obstacle for me personally was the depression that comes when you feel your whole life being taken away from you in one second in a crash and then having to pick up the pieces of everything. And the uncertainty of not really knowing what's next.
The worst part for me was the discharge from the rehab center. When I was in, I just wanted to get out. Then when I got out, I was like, oh no. Now what do I do?
I moved back in with my Dad as I couldn't take care of myself. I couldn't feed myself.
I tried to quit cycling. I was done with it. You guess how long that lasted… Three weeks later, I was back on the bike on the trainer because I still couldn't ride outside.
I just kept riding my bike and on my first ride back, I rode with Timmy Duggan. He was a US national champion and Olympian who also suffered a TBI during his career. He took me out on my first outdoor ride and he said “Lauren, you're going to overcome this. The doctors might say that you shouldn't be out on your bike, but it helped me enormously.”
I took that as a sign that I could come back so I kept going but I never had the intention of racing. I just wanted to ride my bike and get fitter and go to grad school but eventually I got a little bit too fit because I was riding my bike too much. Back in grad school I started racing at a collegiate level again and won a few races there, including the Collegiate Nationals Time Trial.
The first big gravel race I won was Crusher in the Tushar while in graduate school. I was like, oh, I got some kind of grit with this gravel thing. Interesting.
Journey to CINCH
In 2020 when the world was shut down through COVID-19, I was invited to be on a podcast with Tom Danielson and his wife Kourtney. They run the CINCH pro cycling team. The podcast was about a bad crash that happened in the Tour of Poland. It was very similar to the crash I’d had so they wanted to talk about safety around courses and finish lines. We hit it off on the podcast and that’s when the idea started of me joining their team.
Tom started coaching me and I just started seeing amazing results. Their nutrition program was a game changer for me. It was evident when I won Unbound Gravel in 2021. His guidance took me from being a good rider to a really good rider.
At CINCH, they have this thing called the three sigma approach to nutrition. It's all about the purpose, the composition of your food and the timing of your food. Using food more as a tool to see physical improvements for me was game changing. It wasn't just my legs doing all the work, it was me fueling the engine that I have. I stopped thinking about which foods will make me skinny and instead started thinking which foods are going to make me a really fast athlete. And I started viewing myself more in the lens of performance.
I used to laugh at it because two years ago if I had a bad workout or a bad performance at a race, my coach would be like, ‘Lauren, you did not eat enough carbohydrates. You did not eat enough before your race’. And I would snap back, ‘I eat plenty of food’. Now since wearing the Supersapiens biosensor, I believe every word because I can now see the numbers and like wow, I was underfueled going into this event or into this workout. So this has been a game changer because now I can approach it as a scientist.
I have the live glucose number on my Wahoo head unit which has been such a great learning tool. In addition to a high carbohydrate drink mix with 90 grams of carbs per bottle by NeverSecond (C90), I’m currently trialing 30 grams of carb gels every 30 minutes versus every 20 minutes. From the responses I’ve had on the Supersapiens, I’m now leaning towards taking a (C30) gel every 20 minutes. I love this scientific approach, I’ve even made an excel spreadsheet for myself with all the data.
I like giving my all in everything I do, I’ve always been this way. Being competitive I guess is another way of saying I want to reach my full potential. Such an adverse life experience like experiencing a TBI put pain into a new perspective for me. I started seeing it as temporary and something I do as a privilege. No one is forcing me into Unbound or Crusher, I’m choosing to put myself through it. When I won Unbound in 2021, I didn't even get a call up to the startline. Everyone was like “Lauren who?”. In 2022, I started with number one on my back. I hope that acts as inspiration for everyone reading this.
What is your nickname: LDC
Did you scan over or under: Over
How do you take your coffee: I have a really nice espresso machine and I like to make latte’s. Around races I try to limit dairy and gluten so I use oat milk. Yet in the off season, I use regular 2% milk for the foam! My latte is a reason for waking up in the morning.
What’s your highest glucose score: I often get 95 on easy recovery days but it’s hard for me to achieve that on harder training days. I get around 75 for those from huge fluctuations in glucose.
What’s your lowest glucose score: So so bad. I think it was in the single digits, like a 9. I ate cereal before my ride then got on my bike and bonked hard. The timing of eating my breakfast is important, I've learnt.
What is your prime time: I like to eat 2 - 3 hours before a ride if I am up early enough. Some of the gravel races start at 6am so I have to wake up at 3:45am to eat at 4am. It’s not fun but I do it because that’s what it takes.
What’s your favorite race day breakfast meal: Gluten free pancakes with lots of carbs!
Post race meal: Mexican food. Maybe a burrito, enchilada and a margarita because all the work has been done and it’s time to relax.
What’s the most positive behavior change you’ve made since using Supersapiens: So many, but if I was to choose, I’d say the frequency of how much I eat. Eating before I get the feeling of getting hungry and not just relying on my body telling me to eat something but looking at the numbers.