Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Christmas Confession

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

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

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

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

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

Alyson + Lorri at the Golden Gate Bridge

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Christmas Orphans at Fisherman's Wharf

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why I'm Happy to Have Food Allergies

I've had breathing issues my entire life.  I was born with pneumonia.  I was told I was weak and fragile and had bad lungs.  I never participated in sports (although I could somehow play the oboe).  I had childhood allergies (never defined, but treated with prescription medications) and exercise-induced asthma.  And then, as an adult, I smoked cigarettes for nearly a decade.  Not the makings of a cyclist, but somehow, I found myself on the bike.

When I got serious about cycling, I visited the pulmonologist, who confirmed that I'm allergic to just about everything in the world, that I have temperature- and exercise-induced asthma, and early signs of COPD.  But, I wanted to race my bike, so I endured years of allergy shots (treating environmental allergies but not food allergies), allergy medications to counter the symptoms, and an inhaler to clear my lungs.  But never did this doctor recommend that I eliminate allergens from my environment.

A few years ago, I started working with a different allergist, who recommended I remove all allergens from my environment.  This included eliminating certain foods, my dog (I couldn't do it), carpet, and covering my bed and pillows in anti-allergen cases.  I do the best I can.

The foods were the easiest to eliminate (although this takes very conscious decision-making, especially if eating in a restaurant).  My home is as allergen-free as I can make it.  I struggle when traveling (motel rooms are filled with allergens like dust, dust mites, and mold) and mountain biking can aggravate my allergies to grasses and trees.  But all in all, I've been able to relieve my symptoms by making some lifestyle changes.

Interestingly enough, when I removed my food allergens from my diet, amazing things changed in my health.  My immune system seemed to improve, maybe because it wasn't constantly being stressed by my diet.  My lungs were stronger (proven through breathing tests).  I no longer needed to use an inhaler for cycling, except in very cold temperatures.  My weight stabilized.  My energy increased as did my sleep quality and my mood.  I no longer suffered headaches and a stuffy head.  My skin cleared up and the hives that had plagued me for many years disappeared.  And my recovery time on the bike improved dramatically.

So, why am I happy to have food allergies?

  • I learned to cook.  My most significant food allergy is wheat.  Wheat is in everything, not only obvious foods like bread and pasta, but also hidden in things like salad dressings and sauces.  To eliminate wheat, I needed to learn how to prepare foods from scratch.
  • I learned about great foods I had never tried before.  When I first started eating wheat-free, the gluten-free trend wasn't popular and GF foods were not readily available.  So rather than substituting GF bread or pasta for regular bread or pasta, I substituted other foods.  I discovered corn (tortillas, polenta, chips) and I embraced the humble potato.  
  • I became acutely aware of what I'm putting into my body.  I rarely ate pre-packaged foods, but when I did, I learned to read labels and evaluate the ingredients.  I also started to pay attention to how I felt after eating certain foods.  Did my energy level spike or drop after eating?  Did I feel full?  How did I feel the next day?

Because I'm also sensitive to oats (and many times oats are contaminated by wheat), I had to find a substitute for my favorite breakfast food -- oatmeal.  After some research, I decided to experiment with quinoa.  While many consider quinoa a grain, it's actually a seed, very high in micro-nutrients and is a complete protein.  Quinoa is high in calcium, magnesium, and iron, and is a valuable source of fiber.  It can be cooked in much the same way you would cook rice and can be prepared as a cereal, a pasta, or added to other foods (like salad) to give nutritional value and texture.  All hail the super-food quinoa!

I thought I'd share my favorite breakfast.  It's pretty easy and very filling.  It keeps my energy levels super-high and it's really yummy.

Caveat, I like texture foods (and this is no exception).  I like crunchy peanut butter; not creamy.  I prefer a smoothie to juicing.  I like chunky soups.  I like Almond Joy (not Mounds) and peanut M&Ms (not plain).  I'd rather eat food with a crunch than those that are smooth.  And my breakfast is no exception.

I prepare this in the rice cooker but it can also be prepared on the stove.  It takes 20-30 minutes to cook so you can set it and shower or pump up your tires or walk your dog.

Lorri's Happy Morning Crunchy Breakfast Quinoa (approximately 600 calories):

Prep Time:  10 minutes

Cook Time:  20-30 minutes


1 tsp coconut oil (optional)
1/4 cup quinoa
half an apple (cubed, skin on)
handful of raisins
cinnamon to taste
1 1/2 cup water
coconut milk
raw coconut flakes
chia seed
sunflower seeds

Coat your rice cooker with coconut oil.  Add quinoa, apple, raisins, cinnamon, and water and cook.

When cooked, add coconut milk, coconut flakes, chia seed, and sunflower seeds to taste.

Enjoy your day!

the main ingredients

the toppings

ready to go in the rice cooker

the finished product!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's a Savvy Bike Shop-a-Palooza!

Whether you were out fighting the Black Friday crowds or plan to shop small + local for Small Business Saturday, I wanted to share a special discount with all our Savvy Bike clients + fans. 

The 2014 Savvy Bike calendar has been published and you can register on-line for all of our camps, clinics, and bike fit. And now through Monday, December 2nd, you can save 20% by using promotional code SBS. 

Here's a preview of what's on tap for the coming year.  Holiday shopping couldn't be any easier! 

The Tri-Flow Development Racing Program

Introduced in 2006, this award-winning program is designed to help you bridge the gap from club rider to team racer. In a six-week series of workshops, clinics, and rides, we'll teach you everything you need to know to begin road racing and then support you at your first race. This program is limited to eight riders each session. A solid level of cycling fitness is required. Program fee includes custom team jersey, USA Cycling License, race registration fee, twice-weekly team training, and a group training program. Contact to schedule an assessment.

Team #1 – Bariani Road Race (Feb 9th  – Mar 16th, 2014)

Cinderella Kick-Start Clinic – Jan 18th

Are you planning to ride the Cinderella Classic on April 5th, 2014?  If so, this is the PERFECT clinic for you.  We combine the best skills from our Bike Skills modules, along with important information about nutrition and bike maintenance, to start you off in the right direction for a successful event.  Then, join us for our progressive training ride series that begins the following week and you'll be crossing the finish line in style!  Meet other women who will be riding Cinderella and have a GREAT day of bike-love learning.

Alpine Altitude Adventure (aka Death Ride Training Camp) – Jun 20th – 22nd, 2014

Join us for a fun, co-ed training weekend in Markleeville, CA, home of the Death Ride.    This 6th annual co-ed weekend camp is designed to help prepare participants for the rigors of endurance riding at high altitude.  Based in Markleeville, CA, this camp is appropriate for Death Ride participants and others who wish to gain high altitude experience.  Daily mileage options range from 25 - 75 miles.  Registration fee includes camping (Friday + Saturday), a Friday skills clinic, SAG on rides, cycling nutrition, Saturday breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sunday breakfast, and lots of fun with cool folks. 

Bike Skills 101 – Fundamental Bike Handling Skills – sponsored by – Feb 8th, Mar 15th, Apr 26th, May 31st, Jul 13th, Aug 17th, Sep 13th, Oct 18th

This 4-hour co-ed 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.   This clinic is a pre-requisite for all other Bike Skills road cycling clinics.

Bike Skills 102 – Fundamental Mountain Bike Skills – Mar 1st, May 10th, Jul 27th, Sep 28th, Nov 8th

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 – Fundamental Cyclocross Skills + Tactics – Aug 24th

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 sponsored by Jan Medina Real Estate
– Feb 8th, Mar 15th, Apr 26th, May 31st, Jul 13th, Aug 17th, Sep 13th, Oct 18th

Bike Skills 201 is a continuation of what you’ve learned in Bike Skills 101.  What goes up must come down, right?  In this 4-hour co-ed clinic, we’ll teach you how to climb like a pro – seated climbs, standing climbs, short climbs, steep climbs, extended climbs.  And then, we’ll teach you how to come back down again, focusing on a fast straight descent, and then a technical switchbacky descent.  Pre-requisite: Bike Skills 101 or equivalent experience.

Bike Skills 301 – Pacelines + Group Riding Skills – Apr 6th, Jun 8th, Sep 14th, Nov 9th

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

Bike Skills 302 – Racing Skills + Tactics – TBA

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

Bike Skills 303 – Advanced Racing Skills + Tactics – TBA

Are you an experienced racer?  Are you ready to step up your game for 2014?  In this six-hour clinic we'll focus on individual bike-handling, group riding, and racing skills. In addition to skills & drills, you'll receive expert coaching on race preparation and logistics, as well as tactics (both individual and team).  We'll finish the day with a training race followed by a de-brief.  Register with teammates to enhance your learning!  Pre-requisite:  Bike Skills 101 or equivalent skills clinic, or a minimum of 10 race starts.

Bike Touring 101
– May 17th – 18th, Oct 4th – 5th  

Have you thought about touring on your bike but don’t know where to begin?  We’ll unravel the mysteries of supported, fully-loaded, and semi-loaded touring for you.  This clinic includes a two-hour seminar on the topics of equipment, bicycle choice, what to bring, how to pack, camping, cooking, safety, and choosing your route.  Then, we head out for a weekend of semi-loaded touring with a 50-mile hilly option or a 25-mile rolling option, both ending at Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel in Pescadero, where we’ll have dinner, spend the evening, soak in the hot tub, and sleep.  The next day, we pack up and return to the start.  This is a fully-supported event and includes ride nutrition, dinner (Saturday) and breakfast (Sunday), SAG, and your accommodations at the hostel.

Monday, October 14, 2013

2014 Velo Girls Membership is LIVE!

I had intended to post 2014 Velo Girls membership by October 1st, but I got a bit distracted with Furnace Creek 508, a training trip to Pactimo in Denver, and the flu.  Of course, the flu.  So, a few days late but you can now register for 2014 Velo Girls membership.

New for 2014:

  • Pre-pay a discounted professional bike fit from Savvy Bike with a Velo Girls discount.
  • Add a discounted Savvy Bike 4-hour Bike Skills clinic to your membership.
  • Register for our Cinderella Kick-Start Clinic with a Velo Girls discount.

Another exciting change for 2014 is that you can order all of your Velo Girls clothing DIRECTLY through Pactimo.  And (drumroll, please) Pactimo will ship your order directly to YOU!  We will not be combining clothing orders with membership this year.  Our first clothing order will take place in December 2013 for delivery in February 2014.  We will re-open the team store monthly throughout the year so you can order when it's most convenient for you.  Stay tuned for an exciting new design!

As an incentive to register early, use promotional code "earlybird" to receive a 10% discount on membership if you register before November 1st, 2013!

Friday, October 4, 2013

It Takes Two, Baby!

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

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

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

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

Communication will be key for this race.

Lorri, Jim, and crew member Max in the background

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

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

  • Trust is key.  I need to trust in the bike.  The bike will do what it's meant to do if we don't screw it up.  I need to trust my pilot.  I couldn't pick a better pilot.  Jim is a super-experienced ultra-endurance rider with experience as a tandem pilot on this event.  He'll take good care of me.
  • It's okay to let others lead.  I'm used to being a leader.  I'm not used to being a follower. Following can feel uncomfortable to me.  My role this weekend is not to be a leader.  But I can be the very best follower I can be.  
  • I can be a contributor.  And that will be more valuable than being a leader in this situation.  I will pedal.  I'll cheer.  I'll help out whenever I can.  And I'll let others lead.
  • Intuition is also very important.  A stoker can't be on auto-pilot.  I can use verbal and non-verbal cues to help guide me.  
We're all packed in the van now and transferring to the host hotel in Valencia.  We've got race check-in and safety checks on both the bikes and the support vehicle.  We've got the race meeting this afternoon, with all 700 riders and support crew.  And then it's off to the grocery store to stock up on 24-hours of food for riders and support staff.  We've been discussing nutrition options, ranging from all liquids to a variety of real food and sports nutrition products, to eccentric snacks like tootsie rolls stuffed with coffee beans.  

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

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

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

Northern Spring Peepers Race Page

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

Northern Spring Peepers SPOT Tracker

Wish me luck!


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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Fastest Five Weeks In The History Of Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northern Spring Peepers Race Page

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

Northern Spring Peepers SPOT Tracker

Wish me luck!


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

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

Pamela Levine for being the best training partner ever.

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 23, 2013

tears for fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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