Culture

Day in the life: Lea Davison

Nine questions with two-time Olympian Lea Davison about her life at home in rural Vermont.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought professional cycling to a halt. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to understand how their lives are continuing amidst the shutdown.

Two-time Olympian Lea Davison is rarely at home during late March. Instead, the 36-year-old is often attending springtime mountain bike races in Southern California, or pedaling long base miles at a training camp in warmer climates.

This year is different. Pro cycling’s shutdown amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has meant that Davison is staying home in chilly Vermont, where she lives with her wife, Frazier. She is still training every day, but instead of intense intervals, she is also skiing and going on long hikes.

Prior to the pandemic, Davison was targeting a third Olympic berth. Now that the Tokyo Olympics have been delayed until 2021, Davison says her plans have not changed — the plans are simply delayed by one year.

Location: Sunderland, Vermont

What are the current regulations for where you live about going outside?

In Vermont they put a stay-in-place order in last week, but an exception to that is outdoor recreation, thank goodness! The government encourages everyone to recreate close to home, so we’re not driving to some trail network two hours away.

Davison (left) and her wife, Frazier, have been hiking and skiing near their home in Vermont. Photo: Lea Davison

What races were you planning to do have been canceled or postponed?

There were a lot. The two U.S. Cups this spring in California (Vail Lake and Bonelli Park), plus Sea Otter, the Nove Mesto World Cup, and the Olympics. I’m not sure yet if we have an answer on the World Cup in Andorra or the UCI World Championships in June.

What are you doing today?

The weather is pretty good, so I’ll go out for a ride and then do a strength workout with Frazier when she’s off of work. I’m not doing too much structure with rides; just endurance pace and long rides. I told my coach that I can’t do max intervals right now. Emotionally and physically I’m just not there. I don’t need to be doing that, so I’m in maintenance mode. I don’t need to be on an ideal training schedule, which usually as me doing strength workouts in the morning and then my ride. So, I can wait until Frazier is back and do them then.

Davison does a strength workout in her basement. Photo: Lea Davison

Are you doing workouts? If so, what specifically?

I quarantined myself before the whole coronavirus thing really got going. I came back from Spain from doing this crazy stage race (Andalusia Bike Race, February 25-March 1) and I got sick and they thought I might have the coronavirus, so I got tested and it came back negative. This was back in February, when there actually were still tests. I had a sore throat and pain in my chest. I couldn’t walk very well, or ride my bike. They gave me the test and a CT scan of my lungs because they were afraid I had a pulmonary embolism, and thankfully I didn’t have that. It showed that I had pneumonia developing in the bottom of my right lung. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to get on antibiotics and get it early. I didn’t travel to the U.S. Cup in Vail Lake, and it forced me to stay put during this chaotic time.

So, my workouts started with just going on walks and hikes in the backyard. Then slowly I got riding again after the 10-day course of antibiotics. Now we’re doing some riding, and backcountry skiing, and doing some strength workouts again.

What indoor gear are you using?

I have a full basement gym and rollers. Haven’t used Zwift yet but I signed up!

What is your motivation to train right now?

The Olympics. It’s still the Olympics, and the qualification process — whatever that may look like.

Davison is still riding every day. Photo: Lea Davison

How are you communicating with friends and family?

Texting and FaceTiming a lot. I’ve discovered that you can set up a group FaceTime and it’s pretty easy. But the first time I tried to do the group FaceTime with my family, it was [sister] Sabra and I yelling at our parents through the phone to get them set up. Now they’re set up.

Have you received any helpful advice?

I’ve read some good articles. One was from the Harvard Business Review and the title was ‘That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief. It focused on the different stages of grief and how they relate to the pandemic, and they added some extra stages to the classic ones. The main point is that we are all scared that if we let our emotions out right now that we’ll be in a permanent stage of sadness. That’s not true. If you let your emotions out, they will move through you, and then they will be gone after a period of time. You need to allow yourself to be sad, that way you’re not spending so much energy resisting it. It’s like, ‘I need to be tough and put on a brave face.’ In reality, this shit is real.

Also, I only allow myself a certain period of the day to tune into news about COVID-19, otherwise it becomes too overwhelming and I don’t sleep. Also, I watched this great video of a Skype call with this doctor in New York City, and it’s been the most comprehensive thing I’ve seen. It actually made me feel more relaxed and empowered for the first time. Finally, I’ve discovered that my main source of anxiety is food, and whether I have enough of it. I train a lot so I’m always hungry. I ordered this really cool thing called MissFits, and they deliver a box of vegetables and fruit every week.

It’s the little things that excite Lea Davison these days. Photo: Lea Davison

When do you think you’ll race again?

I think the fall, maybe. That’s my very unofficial analysis.