Monday, December 13, 2010

munday funday -- 13 December, 2010

imagine a world that was designed for the bicycle.....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

the long way home

who doesn't like a little challenge? after a month off the bike in October, doing nothing but physical therapy and coaching clinics, I wanted to get back on the bike, add in some yoga (more on that in another post), and just find some consistency in my riding, my energy levels, and my mood. during October I'd also been focused on weight-loss and my caloric deficits, combined with the end of Daylight Saving Time, seemed to be affecting my sleep patterns. I needed balance. I needed energy. I needed a goal -- something that was consistent and achievable and that would motivate me.

so I gave myself the goal of riding at least one hour every day in November and December. I set no parameters besides time -- I could go long or short, flat or hilly, road or dirt. I would listen to my body, vary my intensity, and keep it fun.

I started a day early, with a challenging mountain bike ride with Team Velo Girls at Waterdog on October 31st. it hurt -- mentally and physically. in the 12 years I've been riding, I've had some extended periods of time off the bike, but usually due to illness, not injury. when you return to the bike from illness, you expect to be winded and to feel weak. I didn't expect this after my hiatus in October. this first ride was a wake-up call for me.

so, November 1st came and I rolled. pretty easy at first. road + dirt. 7 days in a row for a modest total of 10 hours. and on the 8th day it rained. and I was tired. really tired. I ramped up a little quickly, I think, with 10 hours on the bike that week as well as 2.5 hours of yoga and swing dance. so I gave myself permission to take a nap instead of a bike ride. it was the correct decision.

week #2 went well, but again, I had one day that I was just completely exhausted. so I gave myself permission to nap instead of ride. I decided that I hadn't failed at my goal by missing 2 days. I was still out there riding and being consistent, and that was the intention of my goal. in those 6 days I was able to ride 10 hours and also danced for 1.5 hours. I was learning how to manage my time to add in the riding and yoga. I was making time for myself!

week #3 and my body was happy (as was my mind). I was sleeping well, the weight-loss continued, and with the exception of one significant bonk, I was having great rides! I started doing some more challenging rides. most of my rides have been solo. I was having fun riding by myself, something I haven't done in years. I was listening to my body and going easy on days I needed recovery and hard on days I wanted challenge. and I was mountain biking a lot. all is good.

week #4 and I planned to ramp up my yoga. I finally found the time of day and styles of yoga that really worked in my life. my goal was to practice 5 days this week. life is good and I'm finding balance. I'm really happy. I'm smiling so much that I'm starting to annoy myself. unfortunately, a silly sleeping injury (seriously) kept me off the bike and out of the yoga studio for 3 days. on Thanksgiving day I got back out on the road for 3 hours in freezing cold. and I'm proud that I was able to maintain my caloric deficit in the face of Thanksgiving dinner. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday included more rides (road and mountain) and my first ever double-header yoga day.

November was a good month. I got on the bike 24 of 30 days. I rode almost 40 hours for a total of more than 400 miles, including 5 mountain bike rides. I practiced yoga 6 times and took 4 dance classes. I feel consistent. and happy. and very mobile. my head is in a really good space. I promised myself at least an hour a day -- just for me -- and I was able to achieve that.

one of the ways I've been able to fit this all into my schedule is to combine my bike + yoga time. no, I'm not stretching on the bike, but rather I'm riding my bicycle to yoga class. I have this silly 5-mile rule -- I don't drive my car if I'm going somewhere that's within 5 miles, so this fits right in with yoga class. I can ride the short way (only about 15 minutes), take class, and then take the long way home, the scenic route. the road less travelled. I've enjoyed riding through the hills and canyons of Hillsborough and Burlingame. I'm rediscovering roads I haven't ridden in years. I'm swearing under my breath at the 15-20% grades that pop up out of nowhere and then applauding myself at the top of those hills. I'm admiring the mansions. I'm noticing the subtle changes of fall: golden and red leaves transitioning from tree to ground. and I'm enjoying every single moment on the bike.

how often do you go out of your way to discover a new road, climb a new hill, or check out a new vista? too often in the past, I found myself "training" and forgetting what it is that I really love about the bike -- the same thing that I loved as a child -- the freedom! I was so concerned with the destination that I missed the journey. so I'll encourage you to give yourself the gift today of freedom. and fun. and cycling. go ahead, take the long way home!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

turning wheels for kids 2010

were you one of those lucky kids who had a bicycle? wait! don't all children have bicycles? nope, and that's a down-right shame. Susan Runsvold thought so, too, so in 2003 she began planning what she hoped would be a project with her own friends -- collecting donations to purchase a few bikes to give to children who might not otherwise have one. in 2005, Turning Wheels for Kids was born.

Turning Wheels for Kids has grown to become a fabulous holiday tradition. with the support of the silicon valley community (individuals and businesses), each year the organization is able to purchase 2,000+ children's bikes. and then 700+ community volunteers (including Velo Girls) come together on one day in December to assemble these bikes. it's a festive, fun-filled day and the end result is that 2,000+ children from all over silicon valley will receive the holiday gift of a bicycle.

join us on Saturday, December 11th, for the annual Turning Wheels for Kids Big Bike Build. Velo Girls will once again have a co-ed team of volunteers for the event and we'd love to have you join us. the Bike Build is held in San Jose from 8:00am until all the bikes are built (usually around noon). you don't need to be a bicycle mechanic to participate and we welcome men + women (and mature youth, too). it's a great holiday tradition.

if you'd like to join the Velo Girls team, just email

Monday, November 29, 2010

munday funday -- 29 nov, 2010

as many times as I've watched this video, it still brings a smile to my lips and tears to my eyes:

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! whether you celebrate this day in a traditional manner with friends + family or in a less traditional way (for me, on the bike), I hope you'll each take some time to reflect on the blessings we have and the opportunities we've been given. since this is technically a bicycle-related blog, I'll share some of my bicycle-related thanks.

I'm thankful that I ride a bicycle. yeah, that pretty much sums up my life, so if you have a short attention span, you can stop reading now.

I'm thankful for all the amazing places throughout the world I've visited while riding my bicycle. I've been fortunate to ride in New Zealand, Australia, and Spain, but even more fortunate to explore every nook + cranny of the amazing state of California, as well as Colorado, Oregon, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Alaska. there's no better way to really experience the country than on the seat of a bicycle.

I'm thankful for all the really cool people I've met while riding my bicycle. my life has been filled with folks who've shared a few miles or many years with me.

I'm thankful for the personal challenges I've experienced while riding my bicycle. I've ridden up mountains, in the dark, snow, cold, and rain. I've ridden on the dirt and on highways. I've done things I never would have thought possible -- all on a bicycle.

I'm thankful for all the extra yummy + delicious guilt-free calories I've been able to consume while riding my bicycle.

I'm thankful that I've been able to build a career riding my bicycle, and that in doing so, I've enabled lots of other folks to share in the benefits of riding a bicycle.

I'm thankful (and hopeful) that I love a sport that I can continue to participate in long after most folks have resigned themselves to the couch. I plan to be that little old lady you see with the long silver ponytail under her helmet.

yes, I'm thankful for riding a bicycle!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

getting there by bike

I've long been a bike commuter. it began with my desire to get more training time in way back in the winter/spring of 2000. I was training for my first California AIDS Ride and felt that my weekend long rides + weekday spin classes just weren't doing it for me. at the time I was working in San Francisco and living in San Mateo. each way, the commute was about 22 miles. interestingly enough, I found that the total time commitment to commute by bicycle was similar to the total time commitment of commuting by car or taking the train. yeah, car traffic was pretty crazy + unpredictable back in the day.

so I started commuting to work. my decision to do so was pretty impromptu. I decided one Saturday morning to try riding to San Francisco from home, checking out a possible commute route and timing myself. so I bought a set of bike lights, declared myself a bike commuter, and, two days later, I jumped in.

my first commute was a great adventure. I had no plan. I didn't really have the right equipment. I had too much stuff to carry and didn't have a good way to carry it. I had nowhere to park my fancy new road bike. and once I arrived at work, I didn't have anywhere to shower or prepare for the day. I remember walking to the nearest gym (where my employer had a deal for us), proudly stating that I was preparing for the CA AIDS Ride, and expecting them to let me shower for free. the desk clerk felt sorry for me (or maybe I just stunk) and let me shower -- that one time. after that, she informed me, it would be $10/day. when I got back to my desk, I emailed our Team Schwab cycling club list to find out where there was a shower on-site. unfortunately, there was nothing in any of the buildings near me except one secret, private shower that had been built for the CEO of the company. he had moved offices and no one was using it, but my contact suggested I could sneak in + out and no one would notice. and that's what I did for months.

my commute home was equally as adventuresome. less than a mile from my office, I nearly killed myself trying to avoid a muni bus. I ended up with my front wheel in a muni track and took an embarrassing tumble onto Market Street. I got a flat tire 3 miles from home and didn't know how to change it so I rode home on it. but I survived and was ready to try again.

I quickly learned that I couldn't carry so much stuff on the bike. I started emailing files home instead of carrying paper (yes, this was pre-access-at-home days). I left three pairs of shoes at the office (brown, black, and blue pumps -- I was set for every occasion) as well as a warm winter coat. I stored a complete set of toiletries (including towel, wash cloth, blow dryer, and curling iron) at my office. go ahead, laugh about the curling iron, I dare you! and I tried a bunch of different bag systems, finally settling on an oversized lumbar pack from REI to carry just my clothes, wallet, and palm pilot.

as you can see, it took some planning. and preparation. and a few attempts before I had a seamless commute.

I continued to commute for the next year (while I was still working in SF). somedays I would ride to work and take the train home. somedays I would ride both ways. somedays I would add on some extra mileage just for fun!

and while my original goal was to increase my training time, what I learned was that there was a HUGE emotional/mental benefit to bike commuting as well. when I arrived at the office, I had already achieved something great. I was able to check something off my list before work even began. and I found I had more energy and less stress than if I had been sitting in my car, stuck in traffic, for 60-90 minutes.

since that time, I've continued to commute and errand by bike. I actually went car-free for two years -- a big accomplishment living on the peninsula (during a time when CalTrain discontinued weekend service). I transitioned to a cyclocross bike with mounted racks and panniers and eventually to a touring bike. I still have a five-mile rule: if a trip is within five miles, I dont take my car. there were some definite lifestyle changes involved in these decisions, but overall, I'm thrilled with the fact that I choose to live as car-lite as possible.

commuting and erranding by bike is a great way to save money, contribute to our environment, reduce stress, and stay in shape. but it can seem like a daunting lifestyle change. Velo Girls would like to help you learn how to make this change. one of our members, Torea Rodriguez, took my May Bike Month Challenge, and has forever changed her life. on Wednesday, December 1st, she's going to share her experience with you.

join us at Mike's Bikes in Palo Alto for our 2011 Velo Girls membership kick-off, where Torea will be our featured presenter, discussing the ins + outs of transportational cycling -- 6:00pm - 7:30pm.

you'll find details of this and all our rides + events at

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

put a little bang in your yin yang

energy. it's an amazing thing, right? we've got it, we don't have it, we want more of it, we have too much of it.

I have observed that the more energy I expend, the more energy I have. funny, isn't it? when I'm active, riding my bicycle, I feel energized and alive and ready to conquer the world. I'm on a roll and there's no stopping me. when I'm inactive, not riding my bicycle, I feel tired and sluggish and depressed. yeah, there's something to this energy thing.

so, I've returned to practicing yoga. my objective is to balance my physical being -- all the years of high-volume riding coupled with poor posture and bad ergonomics in my office, as well as a couple of serious past injuries. what I didn't expect was to balance my emotional being as well.

in the past, I've practiced Bikram yoga, an intense, athletic form of yoga that's practiced in a heated room. Bikram is Yang.* Bicycle riding is Yang. participating in both has created some interesting imbalances in both my physical and mental self. Bikram is physically challenging for me. there's no half-way for me in Bikram. being a wee bit competitive in nature, I push too hard, I stretch too far, and I end up sore, tired and potentially injured. and then I quit.

my favorite yoga studio, Being Yoga in Burlingame, offers 40+ classes a week. most of these classes are Bikram, but a handful are other styles of yoga. so I've decided to check out some other styles. interestingly enough, these non-Bikram classes are offered in the middle of the day, a time when my energy starts to flag and I find I need some activity to push me through the afternoon.

enter Yin yoga. wow! it's a form of deep yoga with poses that are held for a long time (some of them 10-15 minutes in duration). instead of focusing on our muscles, Yin goes deep into the connective tissue -- ligaments and tendons -- exactly where my broken + abused body really needs some focus. let's see, Yin yoga + Yang cycling = balance. that makes sense to me.

the other interesting concept behind Yin yoga is that it's very meditative. being a wired, ADD, hyper personality, I've never felt comfortable with meditation. yeah, I think a lot on the bike, but mostly my mind is pinging and ponging between a gazillion ideas at the same time. so for me to actually shut off my mind and focus on just one thought, one mantra, for an extended period of time seemed challenging. but I found that it was actually quite easy to be in the moment. and I also found that it helped my mental focus at other times, too.

balance. it's a funny thing. oil + vinegar. sonny + cher. yin + yang. it's all starting to make sense to me now.

*If you want to learn more about Yin + Yang and the theory of contrary but interdependent forces, start here:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

grant yourself permission

many years ago, when I first became a cycling coach, one of my clients shared this little nugget of psychological wisdom. she wasn't referring to cycling, but I found it an important lesson for just about anything in life. I immediately stole it and began using it as the preface to my skills clinics. it's simple yet brilliant.

I know you're on the edge of your seat waiting to learn what this piece of advice might be. of course, if you've participated in one of my clinics, you know exactly what I'm about to type.

"grant yourself permission to be a beginner."
it's okay to not be perfect at everything you do. it's okay to go through the learning process. it's okay to be right where you are right now. it's okay to fail and try again and learn and improve. it's okay to be a beginner.

whether you're learning to ride a bicycle or race a bicycle, mountain bike, or even ride a unicycle, it's okay to be a beginner.

something happens to us in adulthood that creates a mental challenge for us to learn something new. we've become successful. we have college degrees, jobs, and healthy relationships. we know how to balance a checkbook and do laundry. we can multi-task. we find it difficult to ask for help. and suddenly, it's not okay (at least in our own minds) to not be perfect at something. we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed. and when we don't find immediate success, we're embarrassed and frustrated and (all too often), we give up before we've really given ourselves a chance at success.

I always chuckle when someone says "it's just like riding a bicycle." if that were true, I wouldn't have been able to build a successful business that focuses on teaching adults how to ride and race their bicycles.

although most of us rode a bike as a child, many of us stop riding for a period of time (usually our 20s) while we're living life in other ways: college, career, family, etc. and then, when we decide it's time to ride a bike again, we're faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. something has changed since childhood. we have fear. we understand pain + mortality. we have a job to go to on Monday. we've forgotten that riding a bike should be fun. we worry about what others will think of us. we feel judged. we've forgotten what our body feels like and how to interact with a bicycle.

so instead, we try to manage the bicycle. we try to fix it and control it and conquer it. and because we don't understand how a bicycle really works and we no longer listen to our body in quite the same way we did as a child, we fail. we crash. we're afraid. and we're frustrated.

I experienced this myself. I rode a bicycle from tricycle to 10-speed Free Spirit through my early 20s. it was my transportation. it was my freedom. I rode to the playground. I rode to school. I rode to my boyfriend's house. I rode to parties. I rode to my job. I rode everywhere. and then.....I stopped riding.

in 1999, after a decade-long hiatus, I decided that it was time to ride a bike again. I had moved to California and everyone here was healthy. they worked out at the gym and they played outside. they rode bikes. and I wanted to ride a bike, too. so I dusted off my 10 year old Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike and started riding. and I failed. I was afraid of everything: cars, getting lost, falling off the side of the road, going downhill. and I was frustrated that I was afraid. and I was frustrated that I had failed. and I was frustrated that I was frustrated. how was it possible that I had ridden a bike for more than 20 years but now I was a complete failure?

but those of you who know me well know that I'm stubborn. I really, really wanted to ride my bike. I was obsessed with riding my bike. I registered to ride in the California AIDS Ride, a 7-day ride of almost 600 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I had nine months to train. it seemed impossible. I would conquer it. and I did. within three months, I had ridden my Hard Rock almost every day. I completed my first century on the Coyote Creek Trail (solo), riding back + forth + back + forth. I eventually conquered my fear of riding on the road and ventured away from the bike trails. and then I started riding with groups. before I knew it, I was commuting in the dark from San Mateo to San Francisco. and then I was leading rides for Team Schwab and for the California AIDS Ride. but I still wasn't a perfect rider and that frustrated me.

when I was given the opportunity to change careers in 2001 by Charles Schwab, I decided that I wanted to share the amazing physical, mental, and personal transformation that I'd undergone by riding a bicycle with others. so I became a coach and a personal trainer and founded Velo Girls, one of the first women's-only cycling organizations in the United States. and then I began the process of deconstructing the physics of riding a bike so I could teach others in a way that was logical and progressive. I wanted to break down those barriers that kept adults from riding, kept them from succeeding, and kept them from having fun. I wanted to help adults understand how to ride with their bicycle (not on their bicycle). I developed a series of skills clinics that I tested out on our very first racing team. those clinics were the foundation of Girls Got Skills, our racing development program, and our four-hour Bike Skills clinics.

and the rest is history.

so, if you're frustrated or afraid or embarrassed, you're not alone. I was there and hundreds of adults with whom I work each year were there, too. it gets better. but the first step in learning is to give yourself permission to be a beginner and be patient with the learning process. if you do, you'll open up a world of possibilities for yourself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

sometimes you just gotta get dirty!

I remember way back when, in March 2002 when I founded Velo Girls, I said we would never do two things. one of those things was race. the other was mountain bike. neither of those proclamations lasted very long -- I'm smart enough to listen to our members and develop programs to meet their interests. we started racing in the summer of 2002 and added weekly mountain bike rides (called the Dirty Velo Girls) in 2003.

this fall/winter, join Team Velo Girls members on our Mountain Bike Adventure Ride series as we head out to the best of northern California's mountain bike trails every Sunday. these intermediate-level rides are guaranteed to be fun-filled adventures for everyone! all women are welcome.

this week's ride is Saratoga Gap @ 10:00am. RSVP to you'll find details on the Dirty Velo Girls Mountain Bike Adventure Rides and all our other rides + events at:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grab your Crayons!

It's that time of year -- time for the Velo Girls annual Club Jersey Design Contest! So pull out your crayons, watercolors, colored pencils, or your laptop and get those creative juices flowing. Your design could earn a place in Velo Girls history, worn by women throughout northern CA and the world!

Here's the 2010 winner for a little inspiration, designed by Team Velo Girls member Bonnie Osborn (and her partner in crime, Ken).

The deadline to submit your design is December 15th, 2010. You'll find all contest details here:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2011 Begins Now!

2011 will be here before you know it! What are your goals for the next cycling season? Are you planning to race road or mountain? Participate in the Cinderella Classic? How about a century or double or the Death Ride? Whatever your goals, the foundation of next season is built now!

Join Coach Lorri Lee Lown and Team Velo Girls on our new series of 2011 Season Prep Rides, beginning this Saturday, November 20th, and continuing through January. These rides are designed to help you build your base endurance for the 2011 season. We'll start with two-hour rides and increase the duration and intensity each week.

Rain or shine, join us at Woodside Town Hall, ready to roll @ 9:00am. Fenders are highly recommended for wet rides. RSVP to

Please note, these coached rides are open to current Velo Girls Club, Team, and Lifetime Members only. If you're not a Velo Girls member, you're welcome to participate in one ride but are encouraged to join --

You'll find details on this and all our rides + events at:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sweeping the Streets for a GREAT Cause

Velo Girls is thrilled to support the 5th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep, a super-cool event that benefits the San Francisco Food Bank. Check it out, grab your bike, and join in the fun on Saturday, December 4th.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just Added -- Bike Skills 301 (group riding) -- Oct 24th

You asked and we listened. Everybody wants to learn how to safely and efficiently ride with a group, whether that's one riding partner or a 50-person peloton. So we added another session of our ever-popular Bike Skills 301 (co-ed pacelines + group riding) clinic to the fall calendar on Sunday, October 24th.

This 4-hour co-ed clinic will teach you the fine art of wheel-sucking. Whether you’re a racer or a recreational rider, group riding skills will help you ride longer, faster, farther, and safer. You’ll learn draft theory and basic pacelines, beginning with partner work and progressing to more complex group riding skills and introductory racing techniques. We highly recommend that you participate in our Bike Skills 101 clinic prior to registering for Bike Skills 301.

Also on the calendar for fall 2010:

Bike Skills 102 (co-ed mountain bike skills) -- October 2nd

Girls Got Skills (2-day women's cycling clinic) -- October 16th + 17th

Bike Skills 101 (co-ed fundamental bike handling skills) -- November 13th

Bike Skills 201 (co-ed climbing + descending skills) -- November 13th

More details about these and all our clinics can be found at

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gravity Magazine for Women in Action Sports

I know all about labors of love. When I founded Velo Girls in 2002, it was because I felt a passion to help women improve their health (physical and mental) through bicycle riding. I was recently interviewed by another "labor of love" -- Gravity Sports for Women. During my interview, the editor told me that Gravity Magazine has been two years in the making. And this week, they've officially launched! You can check out the feature article here:

Gravity Magazine + Velo Girls

And here's a little more from the passionate woman who wants to promote and celebrate the women who "do." Check out her magazine. Follow her on Facebook. And support the women who support the women who do!


Gravity Magazine, Women in Action Sports is new on the scene so we would like to take a minute to tell you what we’re all about. Please kick back, and enjoy:

Gravity Magazine is the female reincarnation of every action sports publication ever made. Well, maybe not in the literal sense, but we dream big.

Our website is custom-built for those athletes who do not merely throw, catch or kick balls. It’s for those who jump off cliffs, scale rocks, shred powder, ride waves and grind pavement. We are compelled–in the face of an ever growing female presence–to shed light on an overshadowed segment of action sports: Women!

Not because boys are less badass than girls, or because “women can do it too,” but because women have been doing it, are doing it, and will continue to do it; they just haven’t received the proper media coverage–until now. Gravity Magazine highlights women in every faction of the extreme sports world: amateurs, professionals, artists, photographers, publishers, instructors, and everyone in between. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit publication, we are committed to the representation, empowerment and support of women in all action sports through features, videos, photos and more.

To all of the inspiring women who have graciously lent us their time to help fill the pages of our website; and to all of our generous contributors without whom this would surely never have materialized: A big resounding Thank You!!

We genuinely hope you enjoy exploring our online publication. Our company and website will be evolving in the months to come. Keep coming back for updates, events, news and dedicated coverage of extreme females in action sports. If you are a female athlete or a woman involved in the industry, we would LOVE to talk with you! Please feel free to drop us a line for inquiries, comments, suggestions or to GET INVOLVED! On the flip side, we are always looking for writers and content contributors–shoot us an email!

A note from Gravity Magazine, Women in Action Sports Editor in Chief,

Alayne Chappell

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bike Skills -- on the road

New for 2010, Velo Girls Coaching Services has partnered with organizations in other parts of CA to bring our Bike Skills clinics to YOU!

August 1st -- Chico, CA -- we're offering Bike Skills 101 (Fundamental Bike Handling Skills) in the morning and Bike Skills 201 (Climbing + Descending) in the afternoon. Both of these clinics are co-ed and hosted by the guru of Chico Cycling, Rodney Cox.

August 8th -- Sacramento, CA -- we're offering Bike Skills 101 in the morning and Bike Skills 301 (Pacelines and Group Riding) in the afternoon. Both of these clinics are for women only and hosted by the lovely ladies of Bella Fiore.

Space is limited in all these clinics (and registration is filling quickly). You'll find on-line registration for these and all our clinics here:

Monday, July 19, 2010

it's not all about the road bike

Velo Girls Coaching Services has two upcoming clinics for the dirt crowd, too!

Bike Skills 102 -- Mountain Bike Skills -- Sunday, July 25th

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 both mountain bikers and cyclocrossers.

Bike Skills 103 -- Cyclocross Skills + Tactics -- Saturday, August 7th

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! Join guest coaches Julie + Paul Bates in this four-hour clinic where 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.

Details and registration for these and all our clinics can be found at

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Carolyn's CCCX Season Wrap-up

Hello Velo Girls,

The last race of the CCCX XC series was June 27th and the pressure was on - I had to take first place in the final race of the series to place first in the overall points for my category. My opponent had been injured and not feeling well and I have been feeling strong so I though my chances were was not going to be easy but I at least had a shot at winning.

Well - it just wasn't my day! No excuses - I just didn't have it in the legs to put out a hard effort for 4 laps around the thrilling sandy Fort Ord course. I held a close gap for the first and second laps and made up some time on the third lap but for the 4th and final lap my tank was empty and my legs were screaming for relief!

I had amazing friends and Velo Girls teammates there cheering (who put on a strong showing in the beginners race I might add!) but I didn't have any top-end speed or uphill power and just couldn't keep up.

This time around, in my second year of racing CCCX I learned the following:

1) Don't let the lead pack get out of your sights - it is easier to chase someone down when you can see them!

2) Keep pedaling no matter what (Thanks Lorri for this one!)

3) Always push a bigger gear (Thanks Aaron for this one!)

4) Hard training up to Sea Otter and less-than-organized training after Sea Otter does not a CCCX champion make - darn it!

5) Don't underestimate the importance of keeping a clean and well lubed bike

6) It's not a matter of if you will get Poison Oak at Fort Ord - it is only a matter of when!

I am pleased with my progress overall and making the jump from beginner to sport this year was one I made with some big-time fears. I'm pleased with my performance overall in the series and will be back next year chasing the elusive winners jersey. I am also proud to report that my husband Aaron took second overall in the beginning mens division in his first year of mountain bike racing!

I am transitioning my training now for a 100 mile mountain bike race in Lake Tahoe this September - no race reports from me for a while but I look forward to reading more road race reports from you skinny-tire crew soon!

Your itchy teammate (thanks to the poison oak!),


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

how to do the Death Ride without really dying

After coaching last week's Velo Girls Alpine Altitude Adventure camp, I wanted to share my top tips for Death Ride success. I've participated in the Death Ride three times (2010 will be my 4th). There are lots of ways to approach an event like this. Here are my best suggestions:

#1 -- Have a Plan. If you don't have a plan, you're less likely to keep on schedule, make the time cuts, and keep going when the day gets challenging. In your plan, include details like your time goals (print these out and put them on your bar, stem, or top tube), nutrition (what to eat + drink and when), and clothing.

#2 -- Stick to your Plan. Don't get lost in the moment. Revisit your plan during the day as needed.

#3 -- Have a Partner. In my experience with the Death Ride, I've found having a partner encourages accountability. Discuss with your partner in advance if you'll ride together the whole day. If not, when/where will you re-group. Discuss your challenges and how you will support each other during the day.

#4 -- Pace Yourself. Ride at YOUR pace -- a pace that is sustainable for the entire day. Don't get caught up in the excitement of the early morning hours and try to keep up with the hammer-heads. Remember, some riders will be much faster. Some riders aren't planning to complete all five passes. If you start out too hard, too soon, you're likely to suffer later in the day.

#5 -- Go Easy on the Easy Parts. Yes, that's what I said. Resist the temptation to hammer on the lower grades and the flats. Allow yourself to recover on the easy terrain and conserve your energy for the hard terrain (when you really need it).

#6 -- Remember to Breathe! Altitude affects individuals in different ways. In general, you will feel the effects at higher intensities. Try to prepare mentally for the negative effects of altitude (shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, headache, and nausea). Don't linger at the top of the climbs, but rather at the bottom. And don't panic when you suffer the effects of altitude -- remember that when you descend many of these negative effects will disappear or lessen.

#7 -- Freshen up for Five! As you pass through Markleeville, take a quick break to change clothes (a clean chamois will make you very happy), grab an icy cold drink from your cooler and your favorite treat, and an Action Wipe. We leave all of this in our car on the route so we can make a quick stop to refresh before the final climb.

#8 -- Don't Try Anything New. The day of the Death Ride is not the day to experiment with your nutrition, hydration, clothing, or equipment.

#9 -- Expect the Unexpected. For many riders, this is the most epic and challenging day they will have spent in the saddle. Over the course of 10 hours, anything can happen. Try to be flexible and roll with it.

#10 -- Don't Forget your Lotions + Potions. At 5:00am you're probably not thinking about sunscreen and lubrication. Here's your reminder. Apply early and apply often. I'm a big fan of Betwixt + Zealios and will be taking extra little sample-size packets with me on the ride.

#11 -- Celebrate your Victories! Participating in the Death Ride is a great accomplishment. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed and unhappy. Remember to smile. If someone says "good job," even if you feel awful, just smile and say thank you. Ring a bell or holler at the top of your climbs. Appreciate the great feat you've accomplished.

#12 -- Be in the Moment. Stay focused and aware, especially when descending. Although the roads are closed to cars (on Monitor and Ebbetts), there are 3,000 bicycles on the road. Be aware of others and your interactions with them. Ride safely, don't take undue risks, and have fun!

#13 -- Honor Mother Nature. It's true, you'll experience lots of different weather on an event like the Death Ride: cold morning temperatures, blazing sun and heat, and (most years) rain, hail, thunder, lightening, and chilling temps in the afternoon. Even if it's 90 degrees mid-day, it's likely to be cold + wet later in the afternoon. Don't ditch your layers before climbing Carson (you might very well need them).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Velo Girls Coaching Services announces additional 2010 clinic dates

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 -- 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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Six Weeks to a Century

Join Team Velo Girls members in preparing for your late-summer events! This series is designed to increase distance and climbing weekly, while riding some of the best routes the bay area has to offer.

July 3rd (Saturday) Tiburon Loop from San Francisco -- 38 miles with 2,200' of climbing

July 11th (Sunday) Portola Loop from Burlingame -- 50 miles with 3,200' of climbing

July 18th (Sunday) Calavares Loop from Fremont -- 60 miles with 5,600' of climbing

July 25th (Sunday) South Bay ride TBA

August 1st (Sunday) Los Gatos Loop from Canada/92 -- 75 miles with rolling hills

August 8th (Sunday) Point Reyes from San Francisco -- 80 miles with 6,000' of climbing

Details for the series and all our Velo Girls rides, clinics, and events can be found at

Contact to RSVP for the Six Weeks to a Century series rides.

Monday, June 21, 2010

ladies, start your engines - NOW!

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 for more information. or click on over to 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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

falling off the bike

There was a recent thread on the Velo Girls email group that prompted this post. In that thread, a rider commented that a specific local century ride was dangerous because the roads were in poor condition and that these roads caused at least three crashes during the event. With no disrespect to the original poster, I feel obliged to share some thoughts about these assertions.

Roads do not cause crashes. Unskilled riders cause crashes.

I've had the opportunity to ride and race my bike all over the world. I've ridden my road bike on baby-butt smooth pavement, on cracked and pot-holed farm roads, and on dirt roads (including an epic 1/2 mile dirt climb on Happy Canyon just this past weekend). You can ride your road bike on sand, gravel, grass, and ice. If you limit yourself to riding on perfect pavement, you might as well just ride loops in a business park (there are plenty of them in northern CA). Some of my most memorable rides are those that took place on less than perfect roads -- these are the challenges we remember long after the ride is over.

When I first began riding a bike again as an adult, I was scared of everything. Instead of riding intuitively, I tried to manage every obstacle and bump on the road. I tried to control the bike instead of working with the physics of the bike to allow it to do what it's supposed to do. I was nervous and I didn't understand how my bike worked. And somehow, I never crashed (although I probably should have given the way I rode).

So, how do riders not crash when riding on variable terrain?

#1 -- always look where you want to go. this means looking at the horizon view and using your peripheral vision to see what's directly around you. by looking ahead, you have time to change course or respond to any obstacles on the road ahead of you. there is almost never a reason for you to look down at your bike or to look down at the road directly in front of your wheel.

#2 -- learn to evaluate what is an obstacle and what is an inconvenience. your bike, at speed, will roll over just about anything you might encounter on the road. while a bump, rock or hole might be inconvenient, most of the time it won't cause you to crash. true obstacles would be tracks or cracks that are running parallel to your line of travel or deep holes that are bigger than your front wheel (and even then you might be able to roll it).

#3 -- maintain the appropriate speed for the riding conditions. momentum is your friend. speed is what keeps the bike upright. it's basic physics. if you reduce your speed too much, it will be more difficult to roll through those bumps and holes.

#4 -- steer your bike with your hips, core, and mind, not your hands and handlebar. do not use your bar to try to steer around an obstacle. the bicycle is a rear-driven vehicle. you steer the bike from the saddle, using your hips and your core. subtle changes in direction (ie riding around an obstacle) require a subtle motion. I tell riders that you can just "think" about making a directional change and it will happen. directional changes are initiated with your body -- your hands (and bar) will follow. we only steer with the bar at very low speeds.

#5 -- learn to modulate your speed without using your brakes. brakes are designed to stop the bike. braking disrupts the physics of propulsion. so practice using other methods to modulate your speed: stop pedaling, put less torque/pressure on the pedals (aka soft pedaling), sit up a bit to create more drag. these are all very effective methods of slowing yourself down and don't use the brakes.

#6 -- if you do need to brake, focus on smooth, steady brake pressure.
do not brake during a turn, in gravel or loose pavement, or directly on an obstacle. if you need to to reduce your speed quickly over a short distance, learn proper emergency stopping techniques.

#7 -- stay alert but relaxed. maintain your focus, but keep your upper body relaxed and soft. your arms and legs serve as shock absorbers on the bike -- they're your suspension. drop your shoulders, bend your elbows, and keep a firm but relaxed grip on the bar.

I've spent the better part of the past decade studying the bike, how it works, how the rider interacts with it, and developing methods to teach riders all of this. If you haven't participated in one of our skills clinics, I highly recommend the experience. Past participants will tell you that our clinics have literally changed their lives and made riding a safer, more enjoyable experience. Riding a bike doesn't have to be hard. It doesn't have to be a painful experience (physically or mentally). Whether you've been riding for 2 months or 20 years, I can guarantee you'll learn specific skills that will make you a better rider -- and help prevent you from falling off the bike.

Details on all our clinics here:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

how can we be there if we aren't going anywhere?

Velo Girls, Michelle Goldberg and Patty Namba, participated in a unique fundraising ride. Michelle shares her experience:


A little background on 100 MILES OF NOWHERE..... Three years ago, Elden Nelson of fame, decided to ride 100 miles in honor of his wife Susan's battle with metastatic breast cancer. He wanted it to be a ride with no destination, just to ride for the sake of riding, and rode it on his rollers.

Last year, he had the ride again but opened it up for people to join him. The only requirement was that you ride nowhere, again, just for the sake of riding and supporting folks fighting cancer around the world. There was an entry fee, but all "sponsors" gave 100% of the entry to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. A special call out to Twin Six, as they have been a HUGE supporter of and Susan's battle that eventually took her life, working with Fatty to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to LAF!!!

I had registered last year, but wasn't able to do the ride on the arranged date due to having the nasty Flu. This year, Fatty has the ride again -- version 3. He loosened the requirements a bit - you still had to ride nowhere, but you could do as much or as little as you wanted to ride and you could do it on any day. I told my friend Patty about the ride and she, being as insane as I am, thought it would be a great experience. We had decided that if we couldn't each do 100 miles, we would at least do 100 miles as a team... hence Team PaMi was born.

Team PaMi started out with a warm up on the Los Gatos Creek Trail for the first 10 miles. As the trail got very crowded, we moved our adventures to the city streets of Willow Glen. After riding several streets to design a loop, we settled in on a 1.1 mile course with a minimum of stop signs and car traffic. Around and around we went... and went.... and went.

Mile 25 brought us to our first break as it was time for lunch.

Mile 35 brought us to our second break and tent setup for LiveSTRONG. Our roadie, Heather, got us set up with rocking tunes and a TV showing Lance racing in the 2005 Tour de France. We had lots of LAF/LiveSTRONG brochures available and even Guidebooks in case anyone wanted/needed one. We had some visitors, but it was generally pretty quiet for Heather, who manned the tent while we rode.

We kept riding, and riding, and riding, around and around and around, with a few visits to the Creek Trail to break it up a bit. Neighbors were starting to wonder. One neighbor, sitting on her porch, eventually fell asleep watching us go around and around and around.

At one point, I asked Patty if we were there yet. Her response was "How can we be there if we aren't going anywhere?" So very true that was.

As the afternoon winds started picking up and temperatures started dropping in anticipation of the rainstorm expected on Sunday, Team Pami had already accomplished our goal - to ride 100 miles as a team. We rode a total of 115 miles in all - Patty finished up with 60 miles, yours truly with 55 miles. Of those miles, we did about 18 on the Creek Trail. That meant about 37 times around the hood. Patty said she'd never ridden that many miles never shifting her gears. I shifted a bit on the Creek Trail to mix it up a bit.

The day was almost like a time-lapsed series of photographs. Every few minutes we saw changes in the houses we passed, cars parked on the street, people walking their dogs. Quite the experience!

Fight Like Susan!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

my Bike Month challenge

May is Bike Month. Actually, every month is bike month in my opinion, but May is the month in which we try to raise awareness of just how awesome the bicycle is for transportation, recreation, and life in general. The highlight of bike month for many folks is Bike to Work Day (BTWD), held in the bay area on Thursday, May 13th.

I've been riding a bike since 1999. Since that time, I commuted to/from work in the financial district of San Francisco (23 miles each way), commuted to school in Los Altos (22 miles each way), and commuted to my job at a bike shop (3 miles each way). I also lived car-free for two years from 2001 - 2003. I've worked at home full-time since 2006 and each year on BTWD I feel just a little left out that I can't bike to the office (unless I really wanted to ride from my bedroom to my home office).

As I've been thinking about my role in the cycling community in relationship to BTWD, I realized that my goal is to encourage other women to consider bicycling as a viable, safe, efficient, and fun means of transportation. So, I've given myself the challenge this month -- go car-free for the entire month of May! There will definitely be challenges (like travelling to races or clinics). And I'll do my best not to avoid trips because I'm not going to drive there (something I found I did while I was living car-free).

I've had a "five mile" rule for as long as I can remember. If a trip is five miles or less, I don't take my car unless absolutely necessary (carrying large loads, car wash, oil change, etc). I'm pretty good about it, but lately I've found myself rationalizing use of the car by bundling my errands or having a tight schedule.

So, for the month of May:

I plan to log my daily transportation activity to share with others.

I also plan to share bike commuting tips + tricks via my blog and the Velo Girls yahoogroup.

I also challenge Velo Girls members (and others) to join our team (aptly named "Velo Girls") in the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition's Team Bike Challenge. Go ahead, sign up, and challenge yourself to ride instead of driving. You can do it! It may take a little more planning and a little more time, but you'll contribute to a greener environment, save money, and earn a great sense of accomplishment.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Melissa -- a solo warrior

Team Velo Girls member, Melissa Hick, shares her experience at her very first criterium:


Wente Vineyards Classic Criterium: April 25, 2010

Photo by

So here goes. My first race report for my first-ever crit! Angela and I went to Livermore on Sunday and raced the Wente Criterium. We arrived at about 11:30 a.m. that morning for our 12:50 p.m. start time ready to go. We were both nervous/excited for the race, but I think my nerves rubbed off on Angela a bit. I was literally twitching with anticipation the whole way there.

I set up my trainer in the shade and got a decent warm-up as I watched the Master's 45+/55+ and Junior races. Our race started at 1 p.m. (a few minutes behind because of a bad crash during the master's race) with a full field of
Cat 4 racers.

Next thing I know, we're off! I clipped in without any issues (thank goodness) and headed for the first sweeper turn with the pack straight for the bots dots. Good thing I went to the Early Bird clinics because I knew I could roll right over those bots dots and not get squirrelly.

Even though Angela and I didn't have the best position at the line at the start, we worked our way up to the pack. The pace was quick from the get-go and I just kept telling myself to stay on a wheel and reserve my energy! The pack set up for the next tight, right turn, and then we were on a long straightaway. We were flying and I was having a blast! I stayed with the pack for about 3 laps and even though the mentor riding with us during the race kept encouraging me to stay on the wheel in front of me, eventually I popped off the back.

When I came around for the fourth lap, I was a "solo warrior" as the announcer called it. I kept going, paying attention to how I should set up for each turn and powering through the windy straightaways. I was out there by myself for a bit and each time I came through the start/finish line, the announcer and the crowd cheered me on. That really helped me keep going even though my legs were not happy.

I got lapped by the pack a couple times, and with 3 laps to go I saw Angela and a Tibco II rider behind me so I jumped on a wheel and hung on for dear life. We worked together for the rest of the race, but when we came around for the bell lap, the officials were flagging us because there had just been a crash. We moved around the girl laying on the pavement, worried about what had happened (still not sure exactly). We finished up our last lap with a "photo finish" - me on Angela's wheel crossing the line.

All in all, it great fun and I can't wait to do it again. Thanks to all my amazing teammates who wished me good luck/congrats. Who's ready for round two in Livermore for the PG&E crit?!

Friday, April 23, 2010

"my life has forever been changed!"

Team Velo Girls member, Kerri, shares her life-changing experience at the BOGGS V 8 hour mountain bike race on April 3rd:


The quick short summary of Boggs is that we camped, we froze, we got snowed on, we rode some awesome single track, we cheered each other on, we finished strong!

Six of us went up to Boggs Mountain State forest near Cobb, California. I bet you don’t know where Cobb, Ca is now do you? It is about 3 hours from here, north of Calistoga. 2 teams of two, Carolyn and Gnat along with Cristina and Amy conquered the the course in a relay fashion. Lorri and I attempted the 8hr solo event.

There were many racers on the course at all times making it intimidating for me. The race started off as a mass start (600 registrations sold but many of those are teams therefore not all out on the course at once). The race was a circuit of approximately 9 mile laps. Our Velo Girls teams alternated doing one lap at a time. The challenge of this was that in between laps it was easy to get quite cold, the starting temperature of the day was 29 degrees. The saddles on our bikes were frosted over and my camelback tubing was frozen. I enjoyed heating up water to thaw my camelback before the race, I knew at this time it was going to be a fun race.

My goal was to complete 5 laps of the course and I plugged away one lap at a time. The first 3 laps were challenging for me as I felt that I was being pushed off the course for being too slow. On two occasions people tried to pass me during inopportune times therefore bumping us both off our bikes (one a tight switch back, the other in a rocky narrow turn). It really frustrated me. Also during the first lap as I approached a turn on a newly added section to the course (therefore I had not pre-rode it) there was a guy heckling at me yelling “let off the brakes girl, the bike’s meant to go forward, etc.” He had a group of 20 plus people roaring in laughter at me. I was literally humiliated. I was even shaking in the knees despite the fact I knew I shouldn’t let any idiot get under my skin.

I was left feeling frustrated, like I didn’t belong out there and ultimately feeling like “what am I doing, I just love to ride my bike, this isn’t what I signed up for.” As I approached the end of lap 3 I had settled in and decided to forget the race. I am not a quitter and I will finish my goal of 5 laps. I am going to forget about the other people out here and enjoy my “leisurely Saturday ride.” I then approached lap 4 and 5 in a relaxed approach, pulled over to let people pass so I could save my sanity.

During lap 5 I was encouraged by my self talk of “yep, last time I’ll see this on my bike” as I went through each section of the course. At a moment I was deep in on the course, all by myself, snow started to fall on me and I LAUGHED and SMILED to myself. Character building. I really had a blast at this time, my skills improved throughout the day, I was feeling very comfortable on my bike and simply amazed at how my skills were coming along. I really settled into riding the fast swoopy sections of the course, loving the feel of my bike. I rode every section of the course and for the girls who raced, they will attest that there were some tricky sections.

At last I approached the final fire road climb out, the race was over from here... I did it... 5 laps.

As I wheeled into the finish line I was greeted by the cheering of my teammates, Gnat, Carolyn, Cristina and Amy but wait what was Lorri doing, motioning me to keep going and yelling “you’re in 2nd place, you can’t stop now, you gotta do one more lap.” Umm, what??? But... I was done... my whole mental game was to be done now?! But wait, 2nd place... really... I’m not gonna give that up without a fight. So Lorri nicely opened a cadbury easter egg for me, shoved it in my mouth... and away I went... for lap #6... with a smile still on my face.

Once again, just me and my bike, and the official “last lap.” My legs were starting to feel tired but I didn’t care, I was newly energized. During this lap people started talking a lot, the men were asking “are you doing this solo? Wow, 6th lap, this only lap 3 for me.” Another woman, after descending behind me on a fast technical section, complimented me on my bike handling skills. Several encouraging conversations occurred on this lap, what a change from the start. Counting down the miles, for certain this time, I crossed the finish line.

8 1/2 hours on my bike, ~50 miles, 8000ft of climbing and still in 2nd place! I was greeted by my WONDERFUL teammates cheering me on and it felt so amazing! I can’t say enough how much I appreciate our team, what a great group of friends!!

The mental game of this race was absolutely crazy to me, I went from feeling discouraged, humiliated and frustrated to feeling proud and excited and that YES I did belong on that course! I had 8 hours of bonding with me and my bike and I really think I am a better rider because of it.

Mountain biking has been a very empowering thing for me! Since moving to California I must say the find for me has been discovering the dirt, my life has forever been changed!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

a year in the making

Team Velo Girls member, Carolyn Thompson, shares her experience racing mountain bike cross country at Sea Otter Classic for the first time.


Well the day of reckoning came and went for me on Sunday April 18th - the location? Sea Otter Classic of course!

Since last spring when I decided I would try my hand at Sea Otter for the first time in 2010, I've been thinking about (and stressing about if the truth be told!) doing well at Sea Otter. In January I got serious and put together a training plan with 14 weeks of focused training leading to a peak for this race. I slogged through hours on the trainer while it was pouring outside and dark before the end of my work day and muddy slippy rides on the weekends. I set my goal as top 10 in my age group knowing that was a stretch goal but a realistic one I hoped to achieve with dedicated training and focus!

I got lots of advice from past racers and our very own Lorri Lee Lown - all of which was playing over in my head as I lined up on the front starting line! This years course started the racers on the race track between turns 4 and 5. Quick de-tour: Can I just say as an avid motorcycle race fan and frequent spectator at motorcycle races at Laguna that I was out-of-my-mind excited to be racing on "the" race track at Laguna!! For part of our warm up we spun up, and then jammed down the infamous Cork Screw turn and I was bubbling over with excitement the entire time! Ok end detour back to RACING! With teammates Kerri Stevenson off in the heat ahead of me a Mariska Vodegel in the group behind, I held my own on the front line at the starting grid. 30 seconds ladies...and we are off!

As if she was shot out of a cannon, the skinny fully kit'ed rider from Specialized I noticed as serious competition before was out in front and in the blink of an eye she was rounding turn 4 headed for the Andretti Hairpin (Turns 2)! I got on the back of a train of 4 or 5 girls but they were taking their time and I wanted to get a jump and put some space between me and others before we got off the track and onto the trails. My legs were feeling good, heart rate a little higher than I'd like but this is racing, so I click up a few gears and pull past all of them, enjoying the pristine tarmac on the race track as I headed, IN SECOND PLACE!!, around turn 11, up turns 10 and 9 before jumping off the track onto the rutted sand run-off section that puts us out on the trails.

The fire road climb bring a passer or two from the group chasing but I bring them both back using momentum from the downhill sections to pull me up the short climbs. The fire road had a well beaten line in it that was free of the scary loose gravel that was there during both of my pre-rides so I was able to push it faster there than I expected - it didn't hurt that I was catching girls from the group in front of my giving me a few rabbits to catch up to. Two girls from my group pass me and this time the pass sticks and I push to keep with them on the final fire road climb before we get to the first section of beloved single track.

We hit the single track and I'm in 4th place now and know I'm fast in that section of the course, I push up a gear and crank and quickly bring them into sight. Someone from the group before us is slowing the train down in front of me which only helps pull them closer in and just like that I'm hooked back up to the train of ladies fighting for top 5! We cross the road and start the single track climb up to the infamous "Beach". I keep in contact with the girls ahead and make a few passes to get past those holding us up. A number of folks kindly pull over when they hear the train of ladies huffing and puffing up the hill and I holler out "one more back" so they keep the spot open for me as well - they gladly do! Climb over and we hit the roller fire road up to the "Beach". I make a pass, putting me in 3rd or 4th but she doesn't give up easily and keeps right with me.

And now the "Beach"...condition s were perfect and I should have been able to stay on but I lost it part of the way down and had to drop a foot - Drat!! I get passed by one, two, three girls...grrrrr! Not happy! I flail with one foot out and one more passes me and I realize I've got to run this baby - so I'm off and running. Finally out of the sand I remount and jam but the damage is done and the girls are out of sight. With my delusions of fame, fortune and top 5 smashed I push on knowing I can still meet my goal of top 10 but can't slack off. The single track uphill after the beach is a non-stop route of short, steep uphill kicks without much relief in between and my hard effort at the start is showing because my legs are not cooperating and I struggle to get up the hardest stuff. Finally at the top I gear up and descend the fire road and then regular road before using all my momentum to propel me up onto the next fire road at about the 45min
mark - time to GU!! Yummy Mint Chocolate!

I climb the short fire road leading to the final single track of the course, pushing through the single track I reach to top very pleased with my single track skills for the day. Then I see it...the trail that has been giving me heart burn since my first pre-ride...3 deep rutted out sections back-to back that I had yet to ride all the way through. My fearless riding partner and husband Aaron had shown me the right line, pumped me up that I could do it but it was up to me to make it happen! I couldn't afford to get off and walk for fear of who was behind me so on I went. Section 1 & 2 = not so bad! Ahead of me looms the third and hardest section - I know the race line is on the far right and that it is initially blocked from view by a shrub so trusting Aaron's advice, and ignoring the 2 boys walking it on the left!, I push on to the right, hollering out to the walkers below that I was riding and on the right. And like that it was over - I had lived,
was not horribly mangled and had actually made it down! Yippee!

With my daemons conquered, hoping I was still top ten I pushed on the final fire road climb up Skyline. My legs were screaming so I did what I could to survive the climb, passing others and getting passed some of the time. With relief in sight and cheers coming from all around I took the hard left down the final trail to the track. I made it through, almost...had to drop a foot due to bad gear choice on a short uphill...and was back onto the sacred ground of the race track with my wheels pointed downhill finally! I put on all the gear I had, channeled Nicky Hayden's MotoGP cornering skills and mashed down turn 6, whipped around turn 5 and finished pushing all out!

I did meet my goal of top ten - 9th out of 21 for my category, but I'd be lying if I didn't was I was disappointed to not be in the top 5! In the end I know that I left everything out there on the race course and am pleased with where my training put me in the end. I have more improvements to make and better race form to achieve throughout the year but this Velo Girl is proud to be in the top 10 racing against some really top notch competition and to have my first Sea Otter race under my belt!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Amy's Goals -- met at Bariani!

Team Velo Girls member, Amy, recently participated in the six-week Tri-Flow Women's Development Racing Program. Here's her report from her first race:


First things first: Happy Birthday to my sweet Delaney! 7 years old; I can't believe it!

Bariani Road Race (as in Bariani Olive Oil):

I was nervous the whole 2 hour trip to the race. To be more accurate, I've been nervous for the last 2 weeks, feeling the passing of time acutely. I keep thinking about this crazy bike year: Last year at this time, I was a committed recreational rider (newly picked by Trek to do this blog!), and thinking that anyone who raced was either super-fit or just plain crazy. And there I was a year later, on Saturday, in the car on my way to my first race...nerves and anxiety on full blast. On Friday we had hosted a birthday party for my daughter and ten of her friends, then my two-year-old appeared to have the stomach flu. Not the most relaxing or focused way to spend the day (and night) before my first race, but perhaps it took my mind off of my worries. Saturday morning, I finished prepping my gear, and Declan looked well enough to leave with the grandmas (who had both flown in to celebrate Delaney's birthday) which meant Chris could come with me (hooray!). In the car, despite the deliberate non-cycling conversation, I kept focusing on one aspect of the race: would I be able to clip in to my pedals and at least leave the start line with the pack?

Read the rest of Amy's race report along with her photos here:

Amy's Blog on Trek Women Who Ride

Registration for the next six-week Tri-Flow Women's Development Racing Program is now open. As an added bonus, we'll be working with Kristin Keim, professional bike racer and Sports Psychology PhD candidate. The program is limited to 10 women and you can register here:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sand and Climbs and Sandy Climbs

Here's a race report from Team Velo Girls member, Cristina, from the CCCX race on March 14th. Medals are cool and so is Cristina!


Hey Y'all, here's my race report from our most recent Mountain Bike race, last Sunday.

How did I spend MY first morning of Daylight Savings? On my bike, of course!

Crystal clear skies, fresh seaside air, frogs croaking in the ponds, and the buzz of neighboring Laguna Seca. That's what racing at Ft. Ord is all about. Oh yeah, and sand... and climbs... and sandy climbs.

We had two racers in the Beginner Women's group of 4 ~ Edith and myself, while Carolyn rocked it in the Sport category. This race was a little longer than the previous race @ 17 miles. The 3 lap course consisted of many mean dirty climbs, swoopy hard rutted downhills, fast ice plant infested meadows and a couple sneaky sections to keep us on our wheels.

After my previous experience racing at Ft. Ord, where I took it easy and just cruised the whole time, finishing with the desire to do another couple laps, I thought I should actually "try racing" this time. So my first lap was fast, but tough. I powered up all the climbs (no cylcocross style run-a-bike for me!), bombed some jarring downhill, and cranked my way along the flat sections. I finished the first lap feeling tired, but pretty good. Lap 2 caused me to question why I didn't fuel better before the race. Pedaling on, I tried to hydrate myself better and slowed my pace a bit... remembering at each death-climb that I had to do this one more time. Lap 3 came with a crash: zero energy and total body ache. I wanted to quit. I stopped, listened to the frogs, gazed at the trees, and made mental notes about proper fuel and hydration for next time... duh.

We all finished our races, Edith and Carolyn both knocked out 3rd places in their categories ~ with some super fit and challenging ladies racing against them. I did finish, took 4th out of 4, and actually got a medal.... my first ever medal for anything athletic. Thank you, CCCX, see you next time... and next time I promise to be more prepared.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

spring is in the air!

and that means it's time to bring back our weekday evening rides! Velo Girls will once again be partying in the PM on both the asphalt and the dirt:

Dirty Velo Girls dirt ride: starting Thursday, March 18th!

It's time to get down + dirty with the Velo Girls. Join us on this all-levels, beginner-friendly dirt ride at Arastradero Open Space Preserve in Palo Alto. Mountain bikes + cyclocross bikes are welcome. Post-ride, we'll head over to the Alpine Inn for recovery food, beverages, and girl-talk! RSVP to

Midweek Madness road ride: starting Wednesday, March 31st!

Join us on this fast-paced Velo Girls tradition (since 2002). This ride focuses on group riding skills and high-intensity training. Rolling from Woodside Town Hall promptly @ 6:00pm. RSVP to

Monday, February 22, 2010

two doses of dirt this weekend for Team Velo Girls

Hello Velo Girls!

I just want to thank Velo Girls for giving me numerous cycling options on Saturday. I could have joined the girls on the Cinderella training ride (short or long), or perhaps train alongside the Tri-Flow gals, shoot, I even had an invitation from my husband to join him on a ride.

Well, last minute Friday night, I decided to drive 35 minutes south to San Martin and park in a freshly cut pasture to join a few hundred other mountain bikers for the first South Bay XC race. The race was held at Harvey Bear Park, and I just have to say how AWESOME it was to be able to race so close to home! I mean, seriously, left the house at 8am and was back for lunch at noon!

The race was interesting to say the least. The race director informed us at the race start that the race would have probably been fast and furious had it not been for the rain and the cows. Because of these two factors the trail had been turned into swiss cheese. And swiss cheese it was…. Right from the get-go, the trail was festooned with hoof holes and of course, do I even have to say it? cow dung. (Which reminds me… I need to rinse my bike off.)

The 9 mile loop takes you up into the hills with a 1000 ft climb at the start. I really love climbing but after 30 minutes of bouncing over hill and dale, I was really glad when the trail started heading down. But, it was a false break. The loop winded down again, but the challenges didn’t end. At one point the entire trail was covered in thick, knee deep mud. Of course, after Lake Sonoma, this was cake… right? Right?

The fun didn’t end there though. After an extremely bouncy downhill, which I’m sure is the source of my current back ache, I looked up to see a particularly LARGE BLACK COW standing in the middle of the trail. What’s a girl to do? Well, of course, what any Velo Girl would do in this situation… I started yelling, “GET OUT OF MY WAY!” And to my surprise, it actually worked! Wow. Me - cow herding. Who would have thought? You might think it was just luck, but I tell you, a few minutes later, a whole herd of them started galloping (do cows gallop?) across the trail. I used my new skill again, and sure enough they listened. They didn’t look really excited about it, but I don’t think cows get really excited about anything. They just chew whatever they chew and move along.

Well, soon after this episode, my journey came to an end as the loop circled back and the race ended with a fast downhill back to the finish line. Yaaa! First race completed!

Well, maybe I should have used the day to put more miles on my legs or practice group riding skills, but really sometimes a girl can’t ignore that little tickle in her ear whispering….”Let’s go race.”

See you on the trail or on the road!

Mariska : )


Hello Teammates!

I wanted to share my race report for the South Valley Endurance Dirty Gears race that took place out at Fort Ord today!

SVE's Dirty Gears race series is new this year and there were lots of cool new things (USA Cycling sanctioned race, chip timing, swag bag with GU products plus t-shirt, and hot soup and oreos at the finish line!!) and not so cool things (no great place to warm up and spotty course markings causing many to get lost) about this new series. I'm sure they will dial out the glitches for their next race and I look forward to racing at their events again!

The course was 13 miles deep in Fort Ord on many trails that have been part of the Sea Otter course in the past. The beginners were all sent out onto the course at the same time so I was racing with guys much of the day which was
pretty cool! After an initial hike-a-bike hill there was some killer single track that was a blast to ride. I was able to make a number of passes in that section and was having fun! Then came lots of deep sand, a steep road climb up to more sand and then rolling single track down to the finish.

I came out with a 2nd place medal and a new-found appreciation for being a good trail site-reader. I don't often ride trails for the first time during a race so keeping up a race pace while riding unknown territory is new experience for me and a skill I am glad I pushed myself to work on today.

Happy Sunday from your very dirty (and sandy) teammate!