Saturday, May 31, 2008

Career Change

In November, 2000, I worked for Charles Schwab. At that time, the bottom fell out of the world as we knew it. Schwab employees were informed that there would be a company-wide lay-off within the next six months. Never in the history of the company had there been a lay-off before. We didn't quite know what to expect.

Rather than sit around worrying about it, I went on a good, long, expensive vacation. I took a bike tour to New Zealand and Australia for the entire month of April, 2001. I knew that within days of my return, we would be informed of the lay-offs. So, I had a month to contemplate what my next career move would be if I was laid off.

Crazy as it sounds, I decided I wanted to ride my bike for a living. I wasn't young enough or genetically gifted enough to be a pro racer (and women can't really make a full-time living as a bike racer anyways). Instead, I thought about becoming a bike messenger, a bicycle tour guide, and a cycling coach. We all know how that story ended.

I had decided that I didn't want to be a bicycle tour guide because they work too hard. Instead of simply riding a bike everyday, tour guides drive a van, haul luggage, solve problems, have to smile and be nice to the tourists, and are basically on call 24 hours a day. Since I'm kinda lazy and not a very nice person, I decided that wouldn't be a very good career match.

Alas, one of my friends has a bicycle tour company -- Undiscovered Country Tours. He's been asking me for years to work with him. I finally gave in, and this weekend I depart for the wine country to lead a week-long tour. I guess we'll see just how lazy and not nice I really am.

Friday, May 30, 2008

More details from Hernando on Hellyer Hoedown

Hi all.

Please spread the word that we're going to have live video/audio feed again of the Friday Night Racing - courtesy of your NCNCA President, Casey Kerrigan. It's viewable at:

And remember, this week is put on by Velo Girls and La Dolce Velo. Free food/drinks/mayhem. Infield is open, only through volunteer monitored gate. Have fun, be safe, love to see you there.

If you've any questions about the racing below, email me. If you've any questions on if you are 'qualified' to race, please email me. These races are so much fun! come out, you'll love it.

Schedule for 5/30: PLEASE NOTE - this is a lot of short, fast racing to toss in, so we'll be running it quickly and without stops. Be ready, because if you hold up the start ... there will be heckling. Organized crowd heckles are the (obvious) next evolution in the vibe of our AWESOME HELLYER STANDS! (and remember, heckling the announcer yields double points)

5'ishpm - track opens
7pm racing starts (reg open all night, but get in early if you can)
Cash Prizes, Peet's Coffee certificates, VOLER clothing!!! ... and maybe some special Velo Girls love, as well.
Kiddie Kilo riders all receive ... something fabulous.

1. Sprints - Round 1
2. 40+ Scratch Race, 25 laps
3. Women's Points Race, 30 laps @ every 5
4. Sprints - Round 2
5. Women's Kierin - Round 1 (OMNIUM!!! Points = placing in each round [1st = 1 pt, 2nd = 2pts, etc]. Rider who competes in all Kierens AND Chariots with lowest point total of night wins glory and riches.)
6. p1,2,3 Scratch Race, 30 laps
7. 3,4 Scratch Race, 25 laps
8. Women's Celebrity Death Match Chariot Race - Round 1
9. Kiddie Kilo
10. Sprints - Round 3
11. Women's Celebrity Death Match Chariot Race - Round 2
12. p1,2,3 SNOWBALL, 15 laps
13. 3,4 SNOWBALL, 12 laps
14. Women's Kierin - Round 2
15. Sprint Final
16. p1/2/3 Miss-n-Out
17. 3,4 Miss-n-Out
18. Women's Miss-n-Out

- - -

Thanks ya'll,
michael hernandez
friday night promoter/announcer/hooligan

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hellyer Hoedown Dance (er Race) Schedule

There's lots of fun on hand for Friday's Hellyer Hoedown at Hellyer Velodrome. Make sure to come early and socialize, listen to the great rocking country tunes, and have some beer and Armadillo Willy's BBQ. Gates open at 6:00 for all the fun.

Then, at 7:00pm all the racing action begins. This just in from Hernando, race director and head cowppoke:

if you're a category 3 or 4 racer, come and play with us. there will be races for you.

if you're a category 1/2/3 racer, come and play with us, there will be races for you.

if you're a woman racer, there will be Celebrity Death Match Chariot races like last week ... only more of them. It was too much fun not to do that again.

if you're a woman racer, there will be WOMEN ONLY KIEREN races all night long. fun, safe, crowd pleasing.

if you're a MATCH SPRINTER - the sprints are on, but back to the first night's format of 12 racers. If you'd like to sprint, please email me. Thus far on the lineup: Gio, Matias, Hatfield, Marzio, Hartner, Kieran, Nolan, and Millar. 4 open spots only.

The 40+ Scratch race will be the only masters event of the night. All 40+ riders are invited to race their category the rest of the evening.

There will be surprises.

And don't forget the Kiddie Kilo -- fun for the younguns, too! If your child wants to race, bring their bike and helmet (mandatory).

Thanks again to our friends at La Dolce Velo for sponsoring this event and helping Velo Girls provide you with fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bike Skills 201 on June 8th is SOLD OUT!

Our Bike Skills 201 (climbing & descending) clinic on June 8th is sold out. We've opened a waiting list and will potentially open a second session in the afternoon if we have enough interest. If you're interested and hadn't registered yet, go ahead and sign up for the waiting list. We'll need to make a decision on adding a second clinic by early next week, so please don't wait!

Calling all Cowgirls (and boys)

Hey everybody! We still need some volunteers to help out with the Hellyer Hoedown on Friday night. If you've got an hour or two or four, I can put you to work. We need folks to help set up in the afternoon, folks for registration, folks to ring the bell during the races, and folks to help at the gate (to smile and keep folks from entering the track at unsafe times).

I'm also looking for folks who can bring a dessert or two (cookies and brownies are great) when they come to the races.

If you'd like to fulfill that Cowgirl or Cowboy fantasy, throw on those boots and a 10-gallon hat and let me know you can help out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thanks for a Sweet Ride!

La Dolce Velo. Have you heard of them? They're Rob and Jacquie Mardell -- longtime Team in Training supporters/coaches and Jacquie is a Velo Girl, too! In 2001, they started a little bike shop in their garage, primarily helping Team in Training friends.

As time passed, their business expanded and they followed their passion by opening their own shop -- LA DOLCE VELO.

In addition, they offer coaching and training and even organized triathlon training programs! Good stuff. And they're right in San Jose!

Well, La Dolce Velo stepped up to the plate to help Velo Girls promoter the Hellyer Hoedown on Friday -- yay!

Send 'em a big thank you when you've got a chance: Contact Rob Mardell or Jacquie Mardell

Better yet, stop by the shop and show them a little retail love!

Countdown to Hoedown -- T Minus 3 Days

Wow! So, Friday night track racing at Hellyer Velodrome has been much more popular than anyone expected this season. In the past, there might be half a dozen spectators. This season, the bleachers are FULL with cheering fans. It's great for the racers and great for the sport.

Velo Girls
is sponsoring this Friday's races. Our theme is the Hellyer Hoedown -- a little country & western party with music, BBQ, and beer. Of course, when we planned this event, we didn't expect the crowds we're now anticipating, so I'm looking for some additional cash sponsorship to help underwrite the costs of the event. Admission is free, so there's no income potential there.

So, if you know of anyone who might be interested in helping out with a little cash sponsorship, please have them contact me at

Friday, May 23, 2008

Photos from Hellyer Friday Night Live -- May 9th, 2008

I'm not the most sophisticated blogger or photographer or person for that matter, but I posted some interesting racer & people photos from the most recent Friday night races at Hellyer Velodrome on a Flickr account so folks can take what they'd like. And I guess I should apologize for the jumble of this blog post. Sheesh! Bad formatting -- sorry! Just look at the pretty pictures, okay?

You'll find the rest of them here: Lorri's Flickr photos from Hellyer May 9th

Friday night racing is a great party this year, thanks to the efforts of Michael Hernandez and Sabine Dukes! I'm heading out to spectate again tonight.

And next week, Velo Girls is sponsoring the races, with an emphasis on women's racing. Our theme is Hellyer Hoedown, so grab your cowboy hat and boots and come on out for a good ole time! We need lots of volunteers to help make the night a success, so if you're interested, ping me at

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Velo Girls Coaching Launches New Bike Skills Clinic Modules for 2008!

I've been coaching skills clinics since 2003. I've taught newbies and racers and everyone in between and I happen to think I've done a damn good job of developing a curriculum that meets the needs of a variety of riders. My goal has been to help riders ride safely, efficiently, and comfortably and have a little fun on the bike while they're at it.

Our programs have evolved over the years, from our beginnings with a two-day women's camp (which we still offer), expanding to a one-day men's clinic and even some co-ed offerings. In addition, we've got an award-winning six-week learn-to-race program that's unlike anything else out there. But this year, based on participant feedback, we decided to add something very different and it seems to be a big hit.

For 2008, we're offering a series of 4-hour clinic modules -- an ala carte offering of pick-and-choose-which-skills-you'd-like-to-focus-on. We've called this Bike Skills and we're offering four distinct clinics:

Bike Skills 101 -- Individual Bike Handling Skills These are all the skills that help you as an individual be a better rider/racer. Everything in this clinic focuses on your understanding of balance and weight distribution. It's definitely a transformational four hours. Whether you've been riding for six months or six years, I guarantee you'll leave this clinic with a better understanding of the bike and the ability to ride in a safer, more controlled way.

Bike Skills 201 -- Climbing & Descending Skills
Interestingly enough, the biggest fear I've helped riders overcome is descending. So, in this clinic we focus on technique for both climbing and descending. We start out with a few "parking lot" skills to help riders focus on balance and weight distribution, and then we hit the hills to focus on both fast, straight climbs/descents, and also technical climbs/descents.

Bike Skills 301 -- Group Riding Skills Good stuff for both recreational riders and racers. We teach you how to be safe and efficient when riding with others -- whether it's with one other rider or a group. We'll examine a variety of conditions and learn how to choose the appropriate skills for those conditions: rotating pacelines, reverse pacelines, echelons, etc. Fun with friends -- what more could you ask for!

Bike Skills 302 -- Racing Skills & Tactics
-- This clinic evolved from our Criterium Racing 101 clinic, and covers nuts to bolts the skills needed to begin racing or improve your racing skills. We work on group riding, starts, sprints, lead-outs, and lots of tactical exercises to help you improve your racing experience.

Our first set of clinics was two weekends ago. We offered Bike Skills 101 for Women and sold out not one, but two clinics! 41 women participated in our 4-hour basic skills clinic (and many of these women have registered for future clinics as well).

This weekend is our second clinic, Bike Skills 101 for Men. At this point, I think I've got 10 men registered, which is great considering the fact that most men don't sign up for classes. Yes, I have an MBA in Gender Relations. And I never thought I'd put it to use like this, but it's definitely influenced the way I approach teaching men and women. And I know that men are less likely to participate in a clinic.....yadda, yadda, yadda.....

Anyways, if any men are still interested, registration closes at 9:00pm tonight.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ride of Silence

Tonight is the 6th annual Ride of Silence. This ride originated as a way to honor those who've been killed or injured in bicycle/auto collisions and also a way to raise awareness of bicyclists' rights to share the road. I've never participated in this ride, but plan to do so tonight.

I've known too many riders who have been affected by errant drivers.

I was hit by a car on July 10th, 2002, right in front of my house. The driver, an 85 year old woman, stated that she didn't see me, even though I was wearing a bright red jersey, orange and yellow helmet, and the sun wasn't in her eyes. I suffered broken ribs, lots of road rash, and too many expenses. I was too timid at the time to seek legal recourse.

If you're a cyclist, I encourage you to find an event near you and participate.

The Ride of Silence...

Tonight we number many but ride as one
In honor of those not with us, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons
With helmets on tight and heads down low,
We ride in silence, cautious and slow
The wheels start spinning in the lead pack
But tonight we ride and no one attacks
The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Remembering those we held so dear
Tonight's ride is to make others aware
The road is there for all to share
To those not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride

- Mugai

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I am Lanterne Rouge

The Lanterne Rouge is the name for the competitor who finishes in last place in a cycling race such as the Tour de France. The phrase comes from the French, meaning "Red Lantern", and refers to the red tail lights attached to the last carriage or wagon of a railway train (as an indicator that no wagon has been lost).

In the Tour de France the rider who finishes the grueling three-week competition in last place overall, rather than dropping out along the way, is accorded a special distinction. Riders may often actually compete to come in the very last place rather than just near the back of the pack of riders that finish. Often the rider who comes in the absolute last place in the Tour General Classification is remembered, while those who finished a few places ahead of him are forgotten to history. Even though the rider may only be a domestique, he is rewarded with a great deal of prestige. The revenue that the rider will generate from his last place finish is much greater than had he finished in second to last place. Some riders intentionally try to put themselves in this position, some acquire the position while assisting their team leader in his own performance, while other riders resent finishing last and only do so because of some sickness or injury.


This past weekend, I competed in the Kern County Women's Stage Race in lovely Bakersfield, CA. This was my third time racing this grueling event but unlike 2004 and 2006, this time I hadn't planned to really compete. I was simply participating because I wanted to share this experience with my teammates. We had decided last winter that this would be a team race for us, and even though I haven't done much racing this season, I wanted to be there to bond, help my teammates, and get a good weekend of training under my wheels.

The format of the race is such that you race four events in three days. In order to move on to the next event, you have to complete each stage. Your overall placing (General Classification or GC) is the total of your time for each stage.

On Friday, Stage 1 is a flattish 10-mile time trial. On Saturday, you race two stages: a flattish circuit race with two small "hills" in the morning, followed by a serious 8.5 mile hill climb with almost 3,000 feet of climbing in the afternoon. And on Sunday, Stage 4 brings you the Iron Mountain Road Race -- a hilly 48-mile race with about 4,000 feet of climbing. Given my current level of fitness, stages 1 and 2 would be my favorites. The hillier stages would be throw-aways for me.

We tried to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the heat in Bakersfield, but it was still pretty oppressive. Each day, we felt more dehydrated and sunburnt and bloated. Even at night, each time you went outside it felt like someone had opened an oven door. Not ideal racing conditions for a bunch of fog-dwellers, but we made the best of the situation and stayed as cool as possible.

Stage One -- Bena Time Trial (Friday Afternoon): I've always liked this stage. I'm a pretty good time trialist and I've consistently had good results on this stage. I haven't been riding my TT bike, so I decided to do it "old skool" on my road bike. In 2004 and 2006, my time for this stage was 30 minutes and change. I decided I would pace for 28 minutes. In the past, this had been a morning stage, but this year we would race at 1:00pm -- in the heat of the day! What I didn't count on was the effect of the heat along with a headwind on both the out & back sections of the course. Long story short, I left it all on the course for a 34-minute effort. Good enough for 15th place in our field of 23 women, but definitely not stellar.

Stage Two -- Walker Basin Circuit Race (Saturday Morning): I love this stage! It's flat and fast with three short power climbs. I've always had great success with this stage and I was looking forward to it this year as well. But I also knew I needed to help one of my teammates. This is her first race season and she was struggling with the mental aspect of the sport. Friday had been hard for her, and I was afraid she would pull herself out of the race, so I made the decision in advance that if she fell off the pack I would go with her and help her finish the race. Near the end of the first lap, that's exactly what happened, so I pulled myself out to help her. While it would've been fun to hang with the pack, it was more important to me to help my teammate. We worked together for a couple of laps and then chased up to another teammate who was working with a roaring mouse racer. The four of us worked together and had a little tactical fun to finish of the race. Good stuff.

Stage Three -- Havilah Hill Climb (Saturday Afternoon): This was a new stage for me. The old hill climb was 13 miles on the west side of the mountain. This "new & improved" hill climb was supposedly 10 miles of a steeper grade on the east side of the mountain. But there was some discrepancy in the exact distance -- some folks said 10 miles, the race bible and chief referee said 13 miles, racers from last year said 9 miles. It was a bit confusing. Anyways, with several hours to spare, we drove over to Havilah and tried to find some refuge from the sun. Try to visualize 81 hot, sweaty bike racing chicks lounging around a "town" of about 50 residents. We stayed cool in the historic school house and opted not to do a warm-up (we were just too hot).

When the race began at 3:00, I knew that two of my teammates were hurting. Again, I had decided that I would ride with whomever needed me, at their pace, just to help her finish. When my first teammate popped early in the race, we began the long, mentally challenging climb (still of unknown distance). I wasn't quite sure how I could help her or what I could say, but I babbled on and tried to encourage her and keep her moving forward. Half a dozen times she told me she was done and I somehow encouraged her to keep going. At one point, we stopped in the shade, took a breather, re-grouped, and I convinced her to get back on the bike. As other racers passed us, they all shouted encouragement. I kept thinking of the irony of the situation -- this particular teammate is a much better climber than me under normal circumstances, but here I was helping her up the hill. My legs felt great and it was a bit challenging for me not to push it, but I wanted to help her.

About three miles from the top the broom wagon came up behind us. I could see our other teammate sitting in the passenger seat. She had abandoned the race. I felt very, very sad, but tried to keep my emotions in check so I could help my teammate who was still climbing. At two miles from the top there were boys with bottles of cold water followed by nurse Katherine with baggies of ice -- thank you! A mile from the top, Robert Leibold (the race promoter), was playing the Woody Woodpecker theme on his clarinet. It wasn't until this point that I knew my teammate would make it and I'm not even sure she was convinced of that. As we rolled up to the finish line, the last racers on the course, all the other racers who were already there, gave us a big round of applause. I felt a bit embarrassed (I shouldn't have been last), but then I realized it didn't matter. This wasn't about me. This was about helping my teammates and that's what I did.

Stage 4 -- Iron Mountain Road Race (Sunday Morning):
Sunday morning was low-energy for all four of us on the team. The thought of one more day on the bike in the extreme heat was a bit daunting. The heat had taken it's toll. For one of my teammates, the effort of the day before, along with some bad recovery drink, left her unable to eat for almost 24 hours. With mixed emotion, after succeeding with the first three stages, she made the wise decision to abandon the race.

My other teammate, although she didn't finish the hill climb, was allowed to start Sunday's race with the understanding that she wouldn't be placed in GC (general classification -- the overall standings for the four races combined). But I knew the day would be a struggle for her. She doesn't do well with the heat and the hilliness of the course would be a challenge. So, in my mind, I again made the decision to work with a teammate rather than race for myself.

So, for almost 48 miles, we pacelined, TTed, giggled, rode hard, sweat, and basically just preservered over a hot and hilly course. Again, my legs felt great and I knew I could go much harder, but I held back to help my teammate. There were times I didn't think she'd finish, but she did. This was a big accomplishment for her -- beating her nemesis -- the hot & hilly road race. It wasn't pretty, but she succeeded and I feel we both learned a lot about each other during those four hours.

General Classification: At some point, I realized I would earn the coveted Lanterne Rouge. I was really excited about this. Yeah, part of me wondered what others would think about me. Did they think I was weak? Or slow? Or fat? Or old? Did they judge me? But the other part of me realized that it didn't matter what anyone else thought. I made the choice to sacrifice my own races so I could help my teammates. And it was the most fun I've ever had at Kern. Maybe next year I'll come back and actually "race" it. But this year was about giving myself to others and that sure felt great!


There's No Shame in Being Last!

Just yesterday, I was performing a bike fit on a woman who is training for AIDS LifeCycle. In our two hours together, we chatted about a lot of stuff, most of it surrounding the experience of ALC. This was her first ALC and I've done it four times, along with a bunch of touring, so she was picking my brain. At one point, she said "I don't care how fast I ride, but I don't want to be last," at which point, I pulled out my Red Lantern from this weekend and shared my story with her.

Since I began coaching, I can't tell you how many times women (racers and non-racers) have shared that thought with me -- they don't want to be last. There's some stigma in the athletic world at being last.

Let me tell you, there's no shame in being last. I've been last plenty of times. And I've been first a few times, too. And most often, I'm somewhere in between. There's no shame in being last and I've got a pretty red lantern to prove it! This weekend was just about the most fun I've had on the bike. I spent more hours than any other rider out there. I had the "best" time of the weekend -- because I was able to let go of my ego and be a good coach, teammate, and friend.

I'm pretty proud of being last! I hope you'll find some wisdom and self-love in my story as well.