Our awesome little team of six for the Furnace Creek 508 awoke at dawn, grabbed some Starbuck’s for breakfast, and chamoised up for a shake-out ride on the tandems. In addition to the four of us racing, our two crew members, Max and Andy, saddled up on the spare tandem at our host house to join us for a short spin. How often do you see three separate tandems out riding together?

I’m pretty impressed with our ability to get up and running smoothly. My pilot, Jim Ryan, is a very experienced rider, and we were able to start, stop, shift to an optimal gear, and communicate really well together. We dialed in our bike fit (as much as possible within the constraints of the bike) and I feel confident we’ve optimized our positions.

The best piece of advice I received this morning was from our other tandem pilot, Paul Kingsbury (owner of Kingsbury’s Cyclery in Elmira, NY). He said the biggest adjustment as a stoker is that I will feel the bike do things that weren’t caused by MY input. I thought about that several times during our 9-mile ride this morning.

We rolled with my Cardo BK-1 bluetooth communication device. It’s a super-cool helmet-mount system that allows two riders to talk to each other. I’ve been testing it out in training the past month or so and I’m sold that it’s a really great system for two riders. If our crew is really smart, we’re also going to connect to one of their smart phones so we can communicate with the support van.

Communication will be key for this race.

 

Lorri, Jim, and crew member Max (in the background)

Lorri, Jim, and crew member Max (in the background)

 

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past month thinking about the experience of riding a tandem and also being supported by a crew. This is very different for me. I’m an independent girl. I live alone. I run my own business. I have no family. I’m used to doing my own thing. So, for the next couple of days I’m integrating into a six-person team and allowing others to advise me and take care of me. It’s a pretty neat experience.

There are so many funny soundbites about riding a tandem. But here are my thoughts as I embark on a journey from the stoker’s seat:

  • Trust is key. I need to trust in the bike. The bike will do what it’s meant to do if we don’t screw it up. I need to trust my pilot. I couldn’t pick a better pilot. Jim is a super-experienced ultra-endurance rider with experience as a tandem pilot on this event. He’ll take good care of me.
  • It’s okay to let others lead. I’m used to being a leader. I’m not used to being a follower. Following can feel uncomfortable to me. My role this weekend is not to be a leader. But I can be the very best follower I can be.
  • I can be a contributor. And that will be more valuable than being a leader in this situation. I will pedal. I’ll cheer. I’ll help out whenever I can. And I’ll let others lead.
  • Intuition is also very important. A stoker can’t be on auto-pilot. I can use verbal and non-verbal cues to help guide me.

We’re all packed in the van now and transferring to the host hotel in Valencia. We’ve got race check-in and safety checks on both the bikes and the support vehicle. We’ve got the race meeting this afternoon, with all 700 riders and support crew. And then it’s off to the grocery store to stock up on 24-hours of food for riders and support staff. We’ve been discussing nutrition options, ranging from all liquids to a variety of real food and sports nutrition products, to eccentric snacks like tootsie rolls stuffed with coffee beans.

I won’t likely update the blog until after the race is finished on Sunday, but you can follow our progress here:

If you’d like to follow along, you’ll find the official FC508 webcast here:

http://www.the508.com/2013web/

You’ll find time splits for our team (Northern Spring Peepers) here:

Northern Spring Peepers Race Page

And you can get live (well, every 20 minutes) updates here:

Northern Spring Peepers SPOT Tracker

Wish me luck!

********************************************************************************

Thank you again to Gary Brustin and Jan Medina for their sponsorship of my race. I wouldn’t be sitting in this 15-passenger van on the 5 in Los Angeles, discussing pickle juice and chamois creme if it wasn’t for their support.

This morning, I’m hopping on a jet plane (probably a prop plane, actually), bound for Los Angeles to meet up with my team for this weekend’s Furnace Creek 508. My journey leading up to this day followed a crazy, twisted road with a few bumps and potholes, but somehow I’ve arrived intact.

If you recall, five short weeks ago, I agreed to join the record-holding two-tandem 50-plus team, the Northern Spring Peepers, for this 508-mile race. I knew it would be a challenge to ramp up my volume to train for the event, but I was ready to take it on. I had 4 weeks of available training time and then a week to recover and stay fresh for the event (what some folks might call a taper).

The first phase of my training was to increase both my duration and climbing. I planned a series of three-day blocks with 10,000-15,000 combined feet of climbing with recovery between blocks. My first two weeks were going as planned. Well, maybe not quite as planned, as my teammate Pamela and I got a little carried away and rode 136 miles with 8,000′ of climbing to start my second week of training. But we survived, and I knew that I’d be able to complete my stages of FC508. I totaled 24+ hours that week, with 321 miles and almost 15,000′ of climbing.

The following week I planned another 20+ hours with 20,000′ and was on track when tragedy struck — I was hit by another cyclist while riding. I was very fortunate that my injuries weren’t too severe — no broken bones, but lots of soft tissue damage and my right leg was deeply contused (and is still sore almost 3 weeks after the collision). This basically destroyed my training plan. I was conflicted: I needed to train, but I needed to heal my injury. I completed a few rides, feeling very slow and suffering with pain. I cancelled my planned tandem training weekend with my partner, Jim Ryan, in Oregon. I decided to be conservative, and let myself heal.

So, weeks 2 and 3 I only rode about 12 hours total (150 miles with 7,000′ of climbing). My 4th week, I climbed everything I could, knowing that would be the biggest bang for my training buck. My leg still hurt, and I still felt slow, but I needed to do some damage control so I didn’t completely lose fitness. I was able to ride 17 hours, for a total of 200 miles and 17,000′ of climbing. My last long ride was a solid 75-miles with 7,000′ of climbing.

This week my goal was to recover and then keep my legs fresh. I’m feeling pretty good, so I guess I met my goal. We’ll see how I feel later today when I go for a spin with my tandem partner.

This year’s Furnace Creek 508 has been a challenge for the race promoter, before we even hit the start line. Apparently, two separate parts of the traditional course were washed out with flash floods, forcing a re-route of one section and a van shuttle of the other section. Then, the federal government shut down. Since the route goes through two different national parks (Mojave and Death Valley), the promoter hustled to find alternate routes (and obtain permits for those routes). At this time, we don’t know if we’ll be permitted to ride the 508-mile course, or if the race will be shortened to 356 miles (an out + back route to Trona that skips all the really cool desert land). While I’m certainly disappointed, I think we’ll still have a great experience.

The modified route for my tandem team would be 177 miles total (instead of 240 miles). We would ride stage 1 (107 miles with 6,000′ of climbing) and stage 3 (70 miles with 4,000′ of climbing). The other tandem team (Paul Kingsbury and Wanda Tocci) would ride stage 2 (70 miles with 3,000′ of climbing) and stage 4 (107 miles with 5,000′ of climbing). Wait a minute! How did my team get more climbing? So while the overall race distance has been reduced, the impact for each of our teams is not that significant. We’ve still got our work cut out for us.

Of course, the logistics of changing from a 508-mile point-to-point race that begins in Santa Clarita and ends in 29 Palms about 33 hours later to a 356-mile out-and-back race that begins and ends in Santa Clarita less than 24 hours later means changing lodging and such, but our awesome team has handled all this without blinking.

So now, we just wait and find out which course we ride. We all packed for the long course. We have flights and lodging based on the long course. But I’m guessing we’ll end up riding the short course.

Later today we build up the tandems (they were shipped out from New York), go grocery shopping, have a test ride, and prepare the support van. Today’s also the day we all get to know each other. Actually, the other three riders and two crew members all know each other already, so I guess it’s the day that I get to know everybody else. On Friday, the bikes and the vehicle both have to pass safety checks and we have rider meetings and dinner and spend the night in Santa Clarita. And then on Saturday, we roll out @ 9:30am.

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a bit nervous. Of course I’m nervous. I’m jumping back in, still injured, riding 177 miles and 10,000′ of climbing in less than 24 hours. On the back of a tandem. With a man I’ve never met. I’m nervous and excited and feeling surprisingly calm. I guess the reality of what I’m about to undertake hasn’t sunk in yet.

If you’d like to follow along, you’ll find the official FC508 webcast here:

http://www.the508.com/2013web/

You’ll find time splits for our team (Northern Spring Peepers) here:

Northern Spring Peepers Race Page

And you can get live (well, every 20 minutes) updates here:

Northern Spring Peepers SPOT Tracker

Wish me luck!

********************************************************************************

I want to take a minute to thank a bunch of folks who’ve helped me arrive here:

Gary Brustin and Jan Medina for their sponsorship of my race.

Pamela Levine for being the best training partner ever.

Winnie + Dan Brehmer for loaning me a wheelset when mine was destroyed in the crash.

Annie Gianakos for scraping my broken body off the pavement, taking me to the hospital, and nursing me on the day of my crash.

Jason Pierce who dragged my tired butt around on the bike and shared all his accumulated wisdom about FC508.

And all my friends and teammates who’ve shared rides with me, listened to my stories, calmed my fears about being injured, and supported me on this crazy, bumpy journey!

Aug
27
0

This Just Got Real!

I’ve done some incredibly crazy things in my riding career.  Some really impulsive things.  Some things that, if a coaching client asked my opinion, I’d say “no way, Jose!”  Like what, you ask?  How about riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the California AIDS Ride when I hadn’t been on a bicycle in decades.  Or the time I agreed to race a 24-hour mountain bike race even though I could barely ride a mountain bike (and had never ridden one at night).  Or building up a touring bike and riding solo self-supported around New York for 3 weeks.  Or attempting the Death Ride when all I’d been doing that season was road racing (and no long endurance).  Yup, these might all be considered crazy…..or stupid.  And sometimes the result is less than magical.  Once in a while it’s amazing.  Let’s hope the latter is true for my next challenge.

Less than a week ago, one of my cycling friends from my hometown of Elmira, NY, contacted me about an opportunity to join the record-holding two-tandem relay team at this year’s Furnace Creek 508 on October 5th – 6th.  My initial reaction was that I would be happy to help him find someone to fill the team.  Both the riding and funding to participate in this event were beyond my grasp right now.  But somehow, over the course of a few hours during our discussions on Facebook, I agreed to do it, assuming I could find personal sponsorship to cover the expense.

So, I contacted my personal angels, folks who have supported me in my crazy dreams for many years, and thanks to the generosity Gary Brustin and Jan Medina, I funded this latest endeavor.   Now I had no excuse not to participate.

 

 

So, let me tell you what’s crazy about this event.  It’s called the Furnace Creek 508 (as in 508 miles).  The route begins in Santa Clarita, CA and ends in Twentynine Palms, CA, via Mojave, Death Valley, Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek, Badwater, and a bunch of other similarly significant-sounding desert towns.  It’s one of the premier ultra-cycling events in the world.  I’ve known many folks who’ve done it in the past and they’re all serious endurance bad-asses.  I see the crazy rides they do and think “why would you want to ride a bike for 20 or 30 or 40 hours at a time in the dark and the extreme heat and the rain?”  Luckily, as part of a relay team, I’ll only be riding 230 miles with 17,000′ of climbing.  Since I completed the Death Ride in July (125 miles with 15,000′ of climbing), I could see that the mileage and elevation were within reach……if I’d actually kept my endurance up the past 6 weeks.  And, since it’s a relay, there are breaks when the other team is riding.  So really, it’s only 4 segments of an average of 65 or so miles, right?  I can ride 4 65-mile rides over the course of a day and a half.  No problem!

But, to add to the fun, I’ll be riding this event on the back of a tandem.  With a man I’ve never met.  Maybe he won’t notice if I’m not actually pedaling?  Yup.  A tandem.  Now, I’ve tandemed exactly twice in my cycling career:  once in 2002 with a man I’d gone on one date with (and decided there would not be another date after that experience) and once in 2006 with a man who was riding a tandem solo from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the Panama Canal.  The latter filmed his adventure which was later featured at the Banff Film Festival, so I got to see myself on the big screen.  But that’s not exactly the resume of someone who’s ready to undertake a serious (or seriously crazy) endurance event as stoker of a tandem.

So, all the stars aligned and I just got an email welcoming me to the team.  And it all makes sense now.  I’ve got my work cut out for me in the next month, but I’m in good hands.  My tandem partner is the legendary Jim Ryan of Seattle.  He’s a 9-time Furnace Creek 508 finisher (solo, 4-man, and 2 tandem).  He’s a FC508 Hall of Fame member.  He’s a FC508 record holder.  He’s ridden other crazy endurance events like Race Across the West (RAW).  And he seems like a really nice guy.  In last year’s race, he met his tandem partner for the first time the day before the race and they survived.  Heck, they set the record for their division.  Joining us on the other tandem are Paul Kingsbury (owner of Kingsbury’s Cyclery in Elmira, NY) and his fiance Wanda Tocci.  They were the other tandem on last year’s record-winning team.  I’ve ridden with Paul once before (not on a tandem) and he assures me we’ll have a great time.  Joining us will be our support crew, also veterans of the event.  What could go wrong, right?

So, for the next month, I’ll be logging the big miles.  I’ll be climbing the long climbs.  I may even meet up with Jim in Oregon for a training weekend.  And I’ll make sure to update this blog with training updates as I prepare for what might be the craziest, most impulsive event I’ve ever ridden!

Yup.  This just got real!  (gulp)

I don’t write race reports very often but what the heck!  I don’t win races every day, either.

On Saturday, Team Velo Girls mountain bikers headed down to Ft. Ord (Monterey, CA) to race the final in a season-long, 8-race cross-country mountain bike series.  This long-running series is put on by by Keith DeFiebre of CCCX, and I’ve been racing it on + off since 2005 (when I barely knew how to ride a mountain bike).

Last year, I decided to try my hand at single speed mountain bike racing.  It seemed like a good fit for me at the time, since I couldn’t race the beginner category (I’m really not a beginner) but the sport category is filled with uber-serious mountain-biking chicks whose technical skills put this roadie-who-mountain-bikes to shame.  Short mountain bike races (about 90 minutes) fit well with my weight-loss goal at the time since I wasn’t able to deficit calories and ride long durations.  In 2012, I raced the first 3 races of the series and then my roadie life of coaching, racing, and training for the Death Ride got in the way.

Honestly, I don’t mountain bike nearly as much as I should.  If I dust off the bike (or dust up the bike) a dozen times a season that’s good for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy mountain biking, but it doesn’t alway fit into my coaching + training schedule.  But interestingly enough, when I pulled out my mountain bike this spring, I found my technical skills were pretty good this year.  I wasn’t riding as conservatively as in the past.  I’m not sure why this is, but I wasn’t fighting it.  And I was feeling fit and having fun, so I looked at the race calendar and realized the only race of the season that would fit into my schedule would be the series finale in August, so I committed to racing it with my teammates.

In preparation for Saturday’s race, I pulled out my Sycip single speed and did a few rides.  As suspected, I was fitter and stronger than last year.  I was able to ride a harder gear and still manage all the climbing at Arastradero Open Space Preserve on the Dirty Velo Girls rides.  It felt easier than last year.  And, with the harder gear, I was riding faster, too.  All good.

Single speed mountain biking is fun.  It presents a new challenge for me as I have to think about optimizing my gearing (not too hard because you can’t climb, but not too easy because you lose time on the flats).  I have to capitalize on momentum (you can’t brake on the descents leading into the uphills or you suffer on the climbs).  I have to think about when to recover so I have the energy needed for the challenging bits.  So, for someone who’s ridden Arastradero for 10 years, which can get kinda boring on a geared bike, it adds a whole new element of challenge and fun.

I was excited to get out and race with our four Team Velo Girls mountain bike team members:  Julie K. Cristina, Jessica U., and Simone.  These girls have been super-active this year, racing a bunch, leading beginner rides as well as our weekly Dirty Velo Girls rides.  They’ve been recruiting, encouraging and supporting women who are new to the sport.  And they’ve had a ton of fun doing it!

I was excited to race on Saturday because it would give me an interesting perspective on how my fitness had improved in the past year and a half (since my last single speed race).

And I was excited to race just because I love racing.  I also love my friends who race mountain bikes (and don’t get to see them often enough).  And I love the fun, supportive vibe at mountain bike races.

I had planned to change my gearing to a smaller, harder cog for Saturday’s race, but I didn’t have time this week to change the gear and test it out, so I stuck to what I had on the bike (the gear I had raced with last year).

My alarm went off at 4:00am on Saturday and I was ready to go!  I ate my usual breakfast of hot quinoa with apples, raisins, cinnamon, coconut milk, chia seeds, and coconut.  My cooler was packed and I snacked during my drive to Monterey.  I drank a couple of bottles for good measure to stay hydrated during the race.  I downed some GU Chomps and GU energy gel during my pre-ride (and during the race).

I arrived in time to pre-ride the course once on my geared bike (to progressively warm up and save my climbing legs) and then finished my hour-long warm-up on the single speed, riding the opening climbs a few times to bolster my confidence.  As I age, my warm-up is more and more important, and I find that 45-60 minutes is just about perfect.  I really liked the course:  swoopy singletrack, lots of sand to keep you alert, the awesome berm section, and lots of climbing.  I knew I could climb faster than many of the girls due to my gearing.  I was concerned with the extended flat sections because I knew I would lose time there.

And then, the familiar, standing at the line waiting for the race to begin:   smiling, laughing, chatting with friends and other racers.  All the women, regardless of age group, start together in the race, which is great, because it increases the pool of women competitors.

The opening climb felt great, although I lost time on the lead group of girls because I didn’t have the gearing to keep up with them.  Bummer, as one of my goals for the race was to stick with Simone, our rock-star climber, until the first descent.  Cristina and I climbed together and I realized she had a harder gear than me.  She was climbing really well, and I started to think she would dust me on the descents and I’d never see her again.  We stayed together for the first half of the first lap, until I was able to pass another racer and lost her.  But with her harder gearing and her ninja technical skills, I kept expecting to see her right behind me again in no time.

I saw teammate Jessica ahead and made her my next target.  I caught her on a climb and we stayed together for a while until I was able to out-climb her on an extended climb near the end of the first lap (thank you SS gearing), but she was never far behind and knowing she was there kept me motivated to ride hard.  I had to dismount and run part of one long, steep climb, as Jessica inched ever closer.  With Jessica looming, I railed the descent because I knew she was at an advantage with her gearing and skills.  I’m pretty conservative and was impressed that I went balls to the wall, and then promptly bit it.  Luckily, I landed pretty softly, jumped back on the bike and jammed to keep her out of sight.  There’s definitely an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” tactical advantage to mountain bike racing so my goal was not to let her see me again.

As I started my third lap, I saw teammate Julie at the top of that stupid-steep climb.  She was my new target now, and try as I might I just couldn’t catch her, but she kept me motivated through the third lap.  I passed some guys and kept pushing hard.  I got sloppy a few times and reminded myself to stay focused.   I was able to finish 30 seconds behind Julie.

I rolled into the finish, first in single speed, and ahead of about half the field of geared girls.  I felt great.  I toyed with the idea of racing again on my geared bike with the sport girls, but my schedule was tight so I passed on the idea.

All in all, a super-fun day and I met all my goals (except for sticking with Simone):

#1 — support my teammates

#2 — have fun

#3 — improve on my last single speed race a year and a half ago (my average time was more than 2mph faster)

#4 — race smart but aggressively

#5 — don’t get lapped by the fast guys

#6 — win (yup, that was my goal)

 

Team Velo Girls at CCCX #8

 

The team had a GREAT day at CCCX!  Simone, Julie, and I took the WINS in our respective races.  Cristina picked up 2nd and Jessica placed 4th.  Simone, Julie, and Cristina also WON the series and Jessica placed 3rd overall.  Congratulations to my super-amazing teammates on a GREAT season, and thanks for letting me come out and play in the dirt with you on Saturday.

Happy New Year! I know, it’s January 6th but I reserve the right to wish you a happy new year at least throughout the first month of the year. This week’s links focus on some of the bike-related blogs I really love.

http://www.ecovelo.info/ — Eco Velo is a fabulous site focused on the bike commuter lifestyle and is, unfortunately, being retired by the creators. But, they’re keeping the awesome content on line for all of 2012 so check it out while you still have the chance.

http://ladyfleur.wordpress.com/ — Velo Girls alum, Janet LaFleur, has created a fabulous blog focused on her bike lifestyle experiences. The writing is solid, the photos are beautiful, and the topics are sometimes gritty and sometimes whimsical. If you love cycling, women, bikes, the bay area, you should share Janet’s experience.

http://norcalcyclingnews.com/ — Norcal Cycling News has taken on many different iterations over the years, but it’s still got solid readership focused on norcal bike racing. If you love bike racing, this is a must-read, with a good mix of gossip, editorials, interviews, and news.

http://counterattackingreality.com/ — Rand Miller is the best local underdog you love to love. His blog focuses on his pro racing experience with more than a touch of sarcasm and heckling. Rand makes you believe that if he can do it, anyone can.

http://bethbikes.blogspot.com/ — Beth Newell is one of the funniest writers in the bike world. I’ve watched her struggle and rise to stardom over the years and am thrilled she’s racing in the big leagues now. Let’s hope she holds true to her promise and blogs more regularly again in 2012, because her writing is spurtle-my-coffee-on-my-keyboard funny.

I know you’ve been thinking about it. you see everybody else doing it and they’re smiling and sweating and glowing with success. and you wonder if maybe you could do it, too.

guess what? you COULD do it!

it?

bike racing.

since 2002, Velo Girls has been developing women bike racers. we teach them skills. we help them improve their fitness. we create a team-oriented environment. and we support them like the rock-stars they are.

in 2006, we introduced the Women’s Development Racing Program sponsored by Tri-Flow Lubricants aka the Tri-Flow Program. there had never been a program quite like this in the bike racing world. we won some awards for our innovative program. and since that time almost 80 women have learned to race their bikes and have continued to race their bikes as Elite and Masters-level athletes locally, regionally, and nationally.

so quit thinking about it and start doing it. yeah, you!

our first Tri-Flow Women’s Development Racing Program of 2011 begins in just a couple of weeks. we’ll train together twice a week, culminating in participation in the Bariani Road Race in beautiful Yolo, CA. we’ll learn lots of skills. we’ll do some high-intensity workouts to transform ourselves into road racing warriors. and we’ll learn about race preparation and tactics. and we’ll have fun. yeah, you!

and if you like racing, you’ll have the opportunity to continue with Team Velo Girls. if you find that bike racing isn’t your cup of tea, that’s okay, too — you can check this one off your bucket list and move onto swimming the English Channel, climbing Mt. Everest, or competing in an Ironman triathlon.

the first program of the 2011 season starts on February 16th. we’ve got a great group of women already registered and space for two more team members. yeah, you!

email coaching@velogirls.com for more information. yeah, YOU!

while a plump groundhog in Punsxutawney, PA is making news by seeing or not seeing his shadow today, there’s another February 2nd milestone that’s just as worthy of media attention. today is National Girls + Women in Sports Day. woo hoo, says me!

of course, just the fact that we need a national day to recognize something like the privilege (and right) of girls and women to participate equally in any activity starts the wheels in my head turning.

many of the athletes I work with are too young to remember Title IX. oh yeah, it’s a hip women’s activewear company, right? um, no, it’s federal law that was enacted in 1972 that prohibited discrimination in education (at least in federally-funded institutions). best known for it’s impact on athletics, by providing supposedly equal opportunities for men and women in scholastic sports, it also applied to other educational programs (such as vocational education). and while critics complained that Title IX reduced opportunities for male athletes, women applauded the fact that they were now considered equal in the eyes of the federal government.

yeah, I was only 7, so what do I know? what I do remember about the date (June 23rd, 1972) is that my sister Susan was supposed to graduate high school. graduation was cancelled due to the devastating flood caused by Hurricane Agnes. our house was spared (by about 1/2 mile of Chemung River flooding to the north and 1/2 mile of Seeley Creek flooding to the south). we were ready to evacuate. my father helped sandbag the river. and I vividly remember walking around in the days post-flood, seeing half washed away homes (that looked like doll houses), inches of stinky mud and muck on all the streets and in the stores, and houses (and cows) floating down the river. the five bridges that separated one half of my hometown of Elmira from the other half were washed out. my father couldn’t get to work (on the other side of the bridges). and high school graduation was cancelled. Hurricane Agnes proved to be a blessing in disguise, because my poor little town of Elmira, NY underwent a HUGE transformation due to the economic recovery.

so I guess I missed the news about Title IX.

a few years later I signed up for my first softball team. I was younger than all the other girls and we had a winning team, so the coach never let me play. I guess he hadn’t heard about Title IX either. ball sports weren’t really my thing anyways, so there! I will admit, however, that I was a pretty darn good bowler, but I never really considered bowling a sport.

I was a tall girl — 5′ 10″ since 4th grade. yeah, I was tall. tall and skinny and gawky. not graceful at all, even though I’d been studying dance since I was five and twirling baton since I was 2. I was not an athlete. then again, were any girls my age considered athletes? they were tomboys. we didn’t click. I climbed trees and built forts and rode bikes, but the girls who played sports with balls were just weird.

in junior high school, the basketball coach tried to recruit me to play for the school team, but I was involved with CCD after school. by high school, I’d missed my opportunity. it was too late. all the girls who had been playing for the past two years were athletes. I was not an athlete. so I stuck to what I knew — books and music.

I finally gave in and joined the track team my senior year because I thought it would be good for my college applications — you know, make me look well-rounded or something. it took me a month of daily training before I could run a whole mile without stopping. the coach declared me a sprinter. I ran a half marathon to defy him (he said I couldn’t do it). I couldn’t walk for days afterward. in the spring, I was recruited for high jump and long jump (because I was tall). I earned a couple of varsity letters, won a few trophies and some award for being outstanding in field events. but I was not an athlete — I was simply doing it for my college applications (and the boys on the track bus were a nice bonus).

I missed my opportunity with sports. I went away to college, did college things, thought about rowing crew, changed my mind about rowing crew when I found out the team had to run to the boathouse (in Ithaca winters) down the big hill at 5:00am. yeah, I was definitely not an athlete.

post-college I dabbled with step aerobics and bought a bike but I was too focused on advancing my career to really spend any time being healthy. it wasn’t until my late 20s that I quit smoking, started inline skating, skiing, and playing volleyball. but I still wasn’t an athlete — I was simply doing these sports for the social aspect (meeting boys in the ski club).

before I knew it, I was 30 years old and moved to sunny California, where everyone was an athlete. what was I doing here? I sure didn’t fit in. I wasn’t an athlete. but then something happened. I started riding a bicycle again, after more than a decade of not riding a bike. I liked it. it stuck. I was an athlete!

in many ways I regret the fact that if I had any athletic potential at all, I missed my opportunities as a child and young adult. I wish that I’d been one of those sporty girls from the sporty families that did sporty things. that was not my family. and our schools, at the time, didn’t encourage female athletes.

I look at the difference between my youth and that of my nieces — now all in their 20s. they grew up playing soccer and softball and basketball. they swam and dove. they could basically play any sport they wanted to play. the opportunities were there for them in their schools and in their communities. they were athletes, thanks to Title IX. they had the opportunity to participate in sports that weren’t part of school sport programs when I was a girl. they could compete. and excel. and grow as individuals because of their experience in team and individual sports. they learned life lessons. they learned how to be competitors. they learned how to be team players. they learned how to win and how to lose. and they are healthier, well-rounded individuals because of these opportunities.

so, if you’ve followed along with my ramblings all the way down here, I’ll ask you to celebrate the opportunities provided by Title IX. encourage a girl (or woman) to be fit and active and participate in sport. volunteer with a program for youth. mentor that young cyclist. give a shout out to the youth sailing in the lagoon. nudge your wife or girlfriend to join in that group ride or run or dance class. be thankful that the youth of today have the opportunity to develop as athletes, and more importantly, as individuals because of Title IX.

Due to popular demand, we’ve added a bunch of dates to our 2010 coaching calendar:

Bike Skills 101 — Fundamental Bike Handling Skills sponsored by BicycleLawyer.com — Jul 17, Sep 18, Nov 13

This 4-hour clinic is the foundation of everything else you’ll learn on the bike. This is the clinic where we teach the old dogs new tricks and the newbies the fundamentals. You’ll learn about balance and weight distribution and how that affects your ability to ride your bike safely and confidently. We’ll learn skills like riding with no hands, emergency stops, and how to look behind you while holding your line, how to steer, and counter-steer. After just four hours, we guarantee you’ll be a better bike handler and have much more fun on the bike.

Bike Skills 102 — Fundamental Mountain Bike Skills — Jul 25, Oct 2

It’s time for a little dirty fun! We’ll teach you the basics (and not-so-basics) of balance, weight distribution, and how to use the terrain to your advantage. Learn to rock, roll, hop, and jump. Master the art of steep climbs. Learn to descend with confidence and skill. After just four hours, we guarantee you’ll be a better bike handler and have much more fun on the bike.

Bike Skills 103 — Cyclocross Skills + Tactics — Aug 8

Have you been wondering what’s all the buzz about cyclocross? It’s a fun but challenging sport that’s beginner-friendly and appropriate for the entire family. And best of all, it’s happening at a park near you! In this four-hour clinic, you’ll learn all the skills needed to get started in this incredible sport, including mounts, dismounts, and how to shoulder and carry your bike. We’ll also share information about bikes & equipment, the local cyclocross racing scene, and how to train for a successful season. We’ll finish off the day with a simulated race and de-brief. You’ll need a mountain bike or a cyclocross bike for this clinic.

Bike Skills 201 — Climbing + Descending Skills — Jul 18, Sep 18, Nov 13

What goes up must come down, right? In this 4-hour clinic, we’ll teach you how to climb like a pro – seated climbs, standing climbs, short climbs, steep climbs, extended climbs. And then, we’ll teach you how to come back down again, focusing on a fast straight descent, and then a technical switchbacky descent. Pre-requisite: Bike Skills 101 or equivalent experience.

Girls Got Skills sponsored by Jan Medina Real Estate — Oct 16 + 17

This is our corner-stone clinic, and includes 16 hours of “you” time in the company of other cycling women. This clinic is a must-do for recreational cyclists and racers alike! We cover individual bike handling skills, group riding skills, climbing and descending, and training principles (including a time trial to determine heart rate training zones). You’ll walk away from this weekend with a renewed love for the bike and the cycling community! Please note, this is not a beginner-level clinic. You should feel comfortable with your equipment and be able to ride at least 4 hours/day to participate.

happy summer! by this point, you’ve probably had several solid months on the bike, completed a century or two, and are thinking “what’s next?” don’t let another year pass you by wishing you’d learned to road race.

Velo Girls has just the program for you if you’ve tossed around the idea of racing — the Tri-Flow Women’s Development Racing Program. in this award-winning, innovative, learn-to-race program, you’ll work with a small team of other women just like you — women who are ready to challenge themselves to try something new. you’ll meet with the team twice a week — once for high-intensity training and once for endurance and skills training. you’ll learn everything you need to know to successfully complete your first road race — and hopefully continue racing during the summer months. and you’ll be supported with expert coaching, a team kit (jersey + shorts), a training plan, and email support.

I’m especially excited about an addition to the program for this summer! Kristin Keim, JFKU Doctorate candidate in Clinical Psychology/Sport Psychology Graduate, will be interning with Velo Girls. the mental part of the sport can be equally as challenging as the physical aspect, and Kristin will help you conquer your demons and perform at your best mentally.

so what are you waiting for? email coaching@velogirls.com for more information. or click on over to https://www.signmeup.com/68201 and register now! consider this your personal invitation to challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible!

the 2010 Bariani Road Race Tri-Flow group

Savvy Bike is thrilled to announce our 2010 clinic + camp schedule! In 2009, we had more than 800 participants in our various programs. Almost all of our 2009 clinics sold-out weeks in advance, so I would encourage you to register early for any programs you’d like to participate in! I can’t wait to work with you in 2010.

Velo Girls Indoor Training Series – Feb 2nd – April 8th, 2010
Beat the winter blues with the return of our 10-week Cinderella indoor training series! Each 90 minute session will help you build strength, power, and speed and is the perfect compliment to your outdoor riding. Bring your bike, a towel, a couple of bottles, and your stationary trainer for this women’s-only training series held at Mike’s Bikes in Palo Alto. Space is limited so register today! BONUS! Register for the full series and receive one free registration to Bike Skills 101 (valid through June 30th, 2010) — a $105 value!

Tri-Flow Women’s Development Racing Program – Bariani Road Race — Feb 3rd – Mar 20th
The Tri-Flow Women’s Development Racing Program is designed to be a small, focused training program that teaches women how to road race and supports experienced racers who aren’t part of a season-long team. Because of the small group size, each woman will receive very personalized attention. This six-week program will prepare women to race in the Bariani Road Race in Zamora, providing both skills and fitness training. The entire group and coach will race together, and we’ll provide full logistical and strategic support on race day.

Bike Skills 101 – Fundamental Bike Handling Skills – Feb 13th, Mar 21st, Apr 24th, Jun 13th, 2010
sponsored by BicycleLawyer.com
This 4-hour clinic is the foundation of everything else you’ll learn on the bike. This is the clinic where we teach the old dogs new tricks and the newbies the fundamentals. You’ll learn about balance and weight distribution and how that affects your ability to ride your bike safely and confidently. We’ll learn skills like riding with no hands, emergency stops, and how to look behind you while holding your line, how to steer, and counter-steer. After just four hours, we guarantee you’ll be a better bike handler and have much more fun on the bike.

Bike Skills 102 – Fundamental Mountain Bike Skills
– Mar 28th, 2010
It’s time for a little dirty fun! We’ll teach you the basics (and not-so-basics) of balance, weight distribution, and how to use the terrain to your advantage. Learn to rock, roll, hop, and jump. Master the art of steep climbs. Learn to descend with confidence and skill. After just four hours, we guarantee you’ll be a better bike handler and have much more fun on the bike. This clinic is highly recommended for roadies who are racing cyclocross and would like to learn more about all-terrain riding.

Bike Skills 102 – Cyclocross Skills + Tactics – coming summer 2010
Have you been wondering what’s all the buzz about cyclocross? It’s a fun but challenging sport that’s beginner-friendly and appropriate for the entire family. And best of all, it’s happening at a park near you! In this four-hour clinic, you’ll learn all the skills needed to get started in this incredible sport, including mounts, dismounts, and how to shoulder and carry your bike. We’ll also share information about bikes & equipment, the local cyclocross racing scene, and how to train for a successful season. We’ll finish off the day with a simulated race and de-brief. You’ll need a mountain bike or a cyclocross bike for this clinic.

Bike Skills 201 – Climbing + Descending Skills
– Mar 21st, Apr 24th, Jun 13th, 2010
What goes up must come down, right? In this 4-hour clinic, we’ll teach you how to climb like a pro – seated climbs, standing climbs, short climbs, steep climbs, extended climbs. And then, we’ll teach you how to come back down again, focusing on a fast straight descent, and then a technical switchbacky descent. Pre-requisite: Bike Skills 101 or equivalent experience.

Bike Skills 301 – Group Riding Skills
– Apr 25th, 2010
Wheelsucking is an art! Whether you’re a racer or a recreational rider, group riding skills will help you ride longer, faster, and farther. We’ll learn draft theory and basic pacelines, beginning with partner work and progressing to more complex group riding skills and introductory racing techniques. Pre-requisite: Bike Skills 101 or equivalent experience.

Bike Skills 302 – Racing Skills + Tactics – May 8th, 2010
This four-hour clinic will teach you all the individual bike-handling and group riding skills you’ll need to race your first (or your 10th) criterium or road race. In addition to skills & drills, you’ll receive expert coaching on race preparation and logistics, and an introduction to tactics. We’ll finish the day with a training race followed by a de-brief. Pre-requisite: Bike Skills 101 or equivalent experience.

Bike Skills 303 – Advanced Racing Skills + Tactics – Feb 20th, 2010
Take your racing to the next level! In this 4-hour clinic, you’ll learn to “make the race” by incorporating individual and team tactics — and we’ll teach you the skills to do that! Bring your teammates for maximum learning. Liza Rachetto will be joining us as guest coach for this clinic. Pre-requisite: Bike Skills 302 or equivalent racing experience. Pre-requisite: Bike Skills 302 or equivalent experience.

Girls Got Skills sponsored by Jan Medina Real Estate – June 5th + 6th, 2010
This is our corner-stone clinic, and includes 16 hours of “you” time in the company of other cycling women. This clinic is a must-do for recreational cyclists and racers alike! We cover individual bike handling skills, group riding skills, climbing and descending, and training principles (including a time trial to determine heart rate training zones). You’ll walk away from this weekend with a renewed love for the bike and the cycling community!

Alpine Altitude Adventure (aka Death Ride Camp) – June 25th – 27th, 2010
This weekend camp is designed to help prepare participants for the rigors of endurance riding at high altitude. Based in Markleeville, CA, this camp is appropriate for Death Ride participants and others who wish to gain high altitude experience. Daily mileage options range from 25 – 75 miles. Registration fee includes camping (Friday + Saturday), SAG on rides, cycling nutrition, Saturday breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sunday breakfast, and lots of fun with cool folks. Thursday and Sunday night camping options available for a small fee. You are responsible for transportation to/from Markleeville, however participants will be encouraged to carpool.