Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a bicycle and that’s pretty close.

I will never regret the day I started riding a bicycle again in 1999. Little did I know it would change my life in amazing ways. And I will never regret my decision to become a cycling coach in 2001, because it’s kept me on the bike, for better or for worse, even when I had no desire to ride.

As I wrap up another 2-week tour, it’s always surreal looking back on the experience. You can lose yourself in 2 weeks. You can find yourself, too. You can connect with the world in ways that are completely unlike your everyday life at home. You can experience every emotion in the spectrum, from overwhelming joy and awe to debilitating pain and fear. You can see, hear, smell, feel, taste the world around you. You can connect with others or completely detach. And, if you’re very lucky, you will do all of this.

I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to do what I do. I have an amazing partner who supports and encourages my wanderlust and my independence and loves me even more when I come home. I have the perfect bike built by a friend and talented builder who has built four different bikes for me over the years. And I have a job that allows me to sneak away for a bit to lose myself and find myself and, ultimately, become a better version of myself.

Thank you, friends, for following along on my adventures. Your love and engagement add a component of fun that inspires me to share more. I can’t wait to take you along on my next adventure!

You can see my full touring photo journal here:  http://www.instagram.com/savvybike

 

I’ve been lying to everyone and it’s time to make amends.  You see, when asked about Christmas, I always tell folks I “don’t do” Christmas.  And that’s true.  I don’t celebrate the holiday in a traditional way.  I don’t have family, so I don’t feel obligated to participate in any dreaded family get-togethers.  I haven’t purchased a single gift nor have I mailed even one card.  There are no candles in the window nor carols at the spinet.  And I’ve lived this way for close to two decades.

 But the reality is, I really do love Christmas.  Besides the stress that surrounds the holiday, I have some lovely memories of big family dinners, Christmas Eve midnight mass, our annual Christmas choir concert featuring “O Holy Night,” and Christmas morning with all the grandchildren.  I used to decorate a tree each year and I still have a box of ornaments (in storage) that I collected in the first 30 years of my life.  I used to send out hundreds of Christmas cards.  I used to bake dozens of cookies for family, friends, and co-workers.  I even used to host a Christmas caroling party at my home.  So, what happened?  How did I become the girl who didn’t “do Christmas?”

 The transition happened gradually, shortly before I moved to California in 1998.  My grandmother, who had been the anchor of many of our family traditions, passed away.  My father picked up the reins and we started some new traditions without her.  And then my father died.  And then I moved to California.  The first winter I lived here, I travelled home to upstate New York for the holiday.  It was just me, my mother, and my sister (who also used to live in CA).   My other sister had estranged herself from the family, and, as the mother of the only grandchildren in the family, she deprived us of sharing the experience with children.  So we went from a two-day celebration filled with tons of family and friends to a depressing week where my mother didn’t get out of bed, my sister drank 2 bottles of wine each night, and I started to hate the holiday that I had always loved.  Although my mother lived another five years after this, that was my last Christmas in New York.

 The following year, I started riding a bicycle.  I hooked up with three other riders (all training for the California AIDS Ride) and we rode together for 4 days over the Christmas holiday.  We called ourselves the “Christmas Orphans.”  We each had a different story, but what we shared was the fact that we were alone for the holidays and that we all rode a bike.  On Christmas morning 1999, we rode a 30-mile route in San Francisco.  We continued to be friends and this ride became a holiday tradition.  Over the years, the other three moved on to other traditions, I continued on, and today marked the 15th Annual Christmas Orphans’ Tour of San Francisco.  In these 15 years, I’ve only missed twice:  once when we cancelled due to torrential rain and wind and once when I was recovering from surgery.

 One year, there were only 2 of us on the ride (it was pouring rain).  One year, there were close to 100 riders (thanks to a calendar listing from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.  Everyone comes from a different place, many of them with connections to me, and they share the desire to participate in a fun, social ride on Christmas morning.  And, no matter what size the group, we bring smiles to the faces of all who see us, dressed in Santa hats, elf costumes, and riding decorated bikes.

 

Alyson + Lorri at the Golden Gate Bridge

Alyson + Lorri at the Golden Gate Bridge

 

The Christmas Orphans’ Tour of San Francisco is a unique ride.  It’s not a long ride, totaling just 29 miles.  It’s not a hard ride, with less than 1,500’ of climbing.  It’s not a fast ride, since we keep the group together (no matter how slow the slowest rider is) and we stop to enjoy the view, take photos, and maybe even have a cup of hot chocolate.  It’s a social ride where old friends and new friends get to see the city in a new way.  On Christmas morning, when everyone else is sitting around their Christmas tree, you can see the random art in the city – the murals and mosaics, the sculpture and the architecture, and, on a clear day like today, the amazing views of the bay, the bridges, and the ocean.

 It’s been fascinating for me to see how our beautiful city has changed in the past 15 years.  The infrastructure for bicycles has improved dramatically.  The ballpark was built and has changed names a couple of times.  Parts of the city have been developed while other parts have become less desirable.  I’ve noticed more folks are out and about running, bicycling, surfing, and walking (and today’s beautiful weather definitely contributed to this).  And I still see the homeless, the needy, and the hopeful on street corners and hidden in the nooks and crannies of the city.

 So, my reality is that I DO celebrate Christmas.  And I DO give gifts.  My gift is bringing together random strangers and friends to share in this amazing experience.  I give folks who might be alone the opportunity to spend time with others.  I give folks who don’t celebrate Christmas something to do on a day when many folks are busy with family.  I give myself the opportunity to continue a tradition that has been very meaningful for me.  And the other riders give me the opportunity to share this with them.

 It’s amazing to me that I’ve continued this tradition for 15 years.  I don’t think I’ve ever done anything else in my entire life for 15 years.  But then again, I’ve never loved anything or anyone the way I love my bike.  And love is actually what traditions like Christmas are all about.

 Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

The Christmas Orphans at Fisherman's Wharf

The Christmas Orphans at Fisherman’s Wharf

 

 

 

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!

Sep
23
0

Tears for Fears

I rode my bike yesterday.  Yeah, I know, no big deal, right?  I ride my bike about 250 days a year so why was yesterday special?  Well, I cried on the bike yesterday.  These weren’t tears of pain, but tears of fear, and they caught me completely off guard.


I’m not sure why I was so affected by yesterday’s ride.  I crashed a week ago (only my 2nd road cycling crash in 14 years, hit by another cyclist).  My only other crash was in 2002 when I was hit by a car.  I was very fortunate and my injuries were very minor (soft tissue damage) but it meant that I have only been on the bike twice now since the crash.  The first time on the bike, I felt fine mentally, except a bit of nervous energy when I returned to the site of the crash.  But yesterday, I was nervous even before rolling out the door.  I think the death, on Wednesday, of a woman about my age, riding on a road I’ve ridden at least a few hundred times, due to a collision with a motor vehicle, left me feeling a bit uncertain about my own safety.


I’m a super-defensive rider.  I like to believe I see and anticipate every potential risk.  I don’t ride on roads that I perceive as dangerous.  I’m extra cautious when riding during twilight hours (because vision is limited).  I learned great tips for “thinking like a car” from Velo Girls sponsor Gary Brustin (BicycleLawyer.com).  I teach participants in our skills clinics that YOU DON’T HAVE TO CRASH YOUR BIKE.  I believe that.  I’ve had close calls with automobiles pretty much every ride I’ve ever done, and yet I’ve kept it upright.  But suddenly, yesterday, I was very nervous.


Not a quarter mile from my house, a woman almost hit me while she was talking on the phone.  Two miles later, a man in a big white truck with jacked up wheels and NRA stickers all over the cab, intentionally tried to spook me by swerving into me.  When I rolled up to the red light, stopped next to him, he turned and laughed at me, then floored it and sped off.  As I started my first climb, I realized that the cars felt faster, closer, and more distracted than usual.  I kept asking myself “why do these cars need to drive so darn fast?”  I almost turned around at that point.  I just had a nervous feeling about being out on the bike yesterday.  And that’s when I cried.  


And I don’t really know why I cried.  I know plenty of folks who have died while riding a bicycle.  I know plenty of folks who have died while not riding a bicycle.  I know folks who’ve suffered severe, life-changing mental and physical injuries.  I’ve had plenty of close calls myself.  I’ve been the victim of hatred and violence while riding my bike.  Maybe my tears had nothing to do with riding a bike at all.


I decided that the worst thing I could do would be to call my ride short.  I needed to keep pedaling, to regain some confidence, to calm my nerves.  I made route decisions based on my mental state, avoiding certain roads that I knew would be busy on a Sunday afternoon.  I found myself being a bit more conservative than usual, controlling my speed a bit on my descents and being hyper-aware of blind turns.  I noticed a larger-than-usual number of bicycles with both front and back blinky lights (thanks in some part, I’m sure, to a fabulous blog post earlier this week by Mike Jacoubowsky of Chain Reaction Bicycles).  


And then, I chose a small climb I haven’t ridden in many years.  It’s a bit off the beaten path and I thought that would be good for me.  As I settled into my climbing rhythm, I felt a calm settle over me.  The road was deserted and lovely.  As I peaked, I had the most gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay, Mt. Diablo (recently ravaged by wildfire) and Mt. Hamilton.  I regret not taking a photo, because the late afternoon light created the perfect contrast and depth on the bay and the east bay hills.


The rest of my ride, drivers seemed to slow down.  They seemed more considerate.  They waited to pass until it was safe to do so.  They gave me more room when passing.  Not a single car buzzed my elbow.  I received a few friendly waves and a smile or two.  And I started to realize that the number of automobile drivers who respect cyclists and want to share the road with us far outweighs the number of automobile drivers who might harm us (whether intentionally or unintentionally).  


And I finished my ride the way I always finish my ride with a victory salute as I rolled down my street, celebrating the fact that I made it home alive.  Yup, I’m always aware of the risk.  We should ALL be aware of the risk of riding a bike.  But I think, too often, we forget.  Or we hide our emotion as a coping mechanism, allowing us to continue participating in an activity that really is dangerous.  We forget, until someone is injured or killed and we can’t forget anymore.  


I love riding my bicycle more than just about anything in the world.  And I’ve ridden a bicycle for 14+ years, longer than anything else I’ve done in my life: any job, any home I’ve lived in, any boyfriend, any anything.  Riding a bicycle makes me feel free!  Riding a bicycle clears my mind and helps me manage my life stress.  Riding a bicycle makes me feel that I can succeed at anything and has greatly improved my self esteem.  Riding a bicycle completes me.



I always love the anticipation associated with participating in a new event. The interwebs make it easy to while away the hours viewing photos and videos and reading race reports. Yeah, it’s great to read the official data (maps, GPS, rules, etc), but I like the real-life stories of folks who’ve experienced the event.

Now that the reality has set in that I’ll be riding my inaugural Furnace Creek 508, I spent some time today clicking around and sharing other riders’ experience. I thought I’d share with my friends + fans.

2012 FC508 blog from Jim (my tandem captain). I’m happy to report that Big Bertha has been retired: http://pancake508.blogspot.com/

2012 FC508 blog from Paul and Wanda the other tandem on our team: http://www.kingsburyscyclery.com/?p=191

Stunning photos and time-lapse from Scott MacDonald Photography: http://www.scottmacdonaldphotography.com/2012/12/06/the-furnace-creek-508/

FC508 YouTube Collection, because a video speaks a million words: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=03027EAC14FC9819

I can’t thank Gary Brustin and Jan Medina enough for supporting me in my Furnace Creek 508 quest. Without their support this wouldn’t be possible. I’m really looking forward to this event. I can’t wait to add my blog and photos to the interwebs for eternity.

Wondering how this came to be? Read my original Furnace Creek 508 post here:

http://velogirlscoaching.blogspot.com/2013/08/this-just-got-real.html

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.

Whoever created my schedule this summer was crazy!  What’s that you say?  I put together my own schedule?  Well that explains everything.  Indeed, I’m crazy.

Since mid-June, I’ve spent more time away from home than at home.  My life has been a constant go-go-go.  And, of course, the bike has been an integral part of that action.

In June, I spent two weeks in beautiful Markleeville, CA, home of the Death Ride.  I held my 5th Annual Alpine Altitude Adventure camp with a great group of riders and also rode the Alta Alpina Challenge on one of the hottest days of the year.  I rode my favorite mountain passes, practiced yoga at studios in Carson City, Truckee, and South Lake Tahoe, visited the farmer’s markets, hiked with my dog, and did some advance work for The Specialized Women Sports Camp where I’d be coaching in August.  I even went stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe for the 1st (and 2nd) time ever!

 

Lorri and Annie at the Death Ride

 

July was non-stop action, with another week in Markleeville, capped off by my fastest Death Ride ever!  I somehow slipped in a bunch of Savvy Bike clinics, bike fits, and on-the-bike coaching sessions, as well as prep for the 8th Annual Menlo Park Grand Prix presented by Kit Order.

 

Janelle Kellman of Kit Order with Lorri at the Menlo Park Grand Prix

 

The day after the race, I spent my 48th birthday with off-load and then hopped on the redeye for New York to spend an amazing week visiting long-lost family and friends and attending my 30th High School Reunion.  I rode my bike 6 days in 6 different places, including a group ride and a ride with a high school buddy.  I met with cycling and fitness friends to work on plans to bring coaching programs to NY next summer.  This was the first real vacation I’ve taken in a long time, and I even completely ignored work and email for a few days.

 

Lorri and her nieces riding in upstate NY

 

When I returned from NY, I had one day at home before heading up to Truckee to coach the road cycling programs at The Specialized Women Sports Camp.  What a fabulous weekend of clinics, riding, yoga, SUP, and seminars in a stunning setting.

 

Lorri and her athletes climb Donner Pass

 

And now I’m back and ready to settle in for a while, with awesome Bike Skills clinics, AIDS LifeCycle Training Ride Leader Certification clinics, bike fits, on-the-bike clients, and even some road and mountain bike racing to finish off the summer.  I’ve loved every minute of my crazy summer, but I’m thrilled to be back home in Northern CA — the most perfect place on earth to ride a bike!

Life is short.  Live each day fully.  Enjoy summer.  Make memories!