Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Harder Than I've Ever Been Hugged

I’ve been volunteering with my local high school mountain bike team for the past 2 months. Each week, I teach a hard, 90-minute, power-based indoor training session. Most of the kids are super-focused. A couple are a bit distracted. But all in all, we have a lot of fun together.

I like kids. I don’t have them and I’ve never wanted them. But I like them. They’re real.  They’re honest. They don’t play games. They want to please you.  And they love seeing results.

Las night, a new girl joined the team. She’s the daughter of the head coach’s co-worker and I was told in advance that she’s never participated in sports, doesn’t really exercise, and suffers from depression. She was a trooper and jumped right in. It was really challenging for her, but she stuck it out and completed the workout.

After training, we all discussed upcoming events and all the boys (yes, we have all boys on the team, except one other new girl who wasn’t there tonight) introduced themselves and they all chatted and laughed together.

As we were leaving, she lingered a bit and then ran up and hugged me harder than I’ve ever been hugged. I thought she might cry. She told me that she had so much fun and had never felt the way she felt during and after the workout.  I’m sure she didn’t know it, but she was experiencing that endorphin high that we all love.

I’m sure you’ve read articles that extoll the mental health benefits of exercise.  Physical activity will improve your mood, your memory, and your cognitive function.  As we age, it keeps us young.  For the young, it can keep them focused and combat the symptoms of ADHD.  For me, it relieves anxiety and depression.  It calms me when I’m wired and lifts me up when I’m down.

It doesn’t take much exercise to yield benefits.  30 minutes a day will improve your life.  The key is to make time for yourself on a consistent basis.  And who knows, you might feel like hugging someone, too!

fitness is my drug of choice

Monday, December 1, 2014

World AIDS Day Ride

Today is the 26th World AIDS Day.  This morning I participated in a WAD ride sponsored by Positive Pedalers, an international cycling club that focuses on erasing stigma of HIV/AIDS by being a positive presence in that community (and to those outside that community).  The ride was followed by a ceremony at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.

2014 World AIDS Day Ride in San Francisco
2014 World AIDS Day Ride in San Francisco

I was a young adult in the 1980s.  I worked in theatre during these years, a community especially hard hit in the early years of HIV and AIDS.  I distinctly remember my first friend who shared his positive HIV/AIDS status with me.  His name was Wayne, he bore a striking resemblance to David Bowie, and I had a terrible crush on him.  I haven’t thought about Wayne in many years.  As I feared, a quick google search yields no results.

Wayne and I worked together on a children’s theatre tour in the Washington, DC metro area.  For 10 months, the two of us, along with three other actors, toured schools 5 days a week.  We travelled together, performing at two schools each day, in a van packed tightly with costumes, sets, and sound equipment.  The five of us became very close.

One day, sitting in a Burger King on lunch break, Wayne told us he had tested positive.  I remember thinking it was a death sentence.  I cried openly.  So did everyone else.  I held him close.  I wondered, since we weren’t very educated about transmission in those early days, if I could contract HIV because I had shared sodas and cigarettes with him.  But mostly, I was devastated.  I mourned, because he was symptomatic and I knew he would die.

Over the years, I’ve had countless friends and colleagues who were HIV positive.  I’ve known countless others who have died of AIDS.  It’s been a part of my entire adult life.

More than a decade later, in 1998, I moved to the San Francisco area.  Wanting to find a volunteer opportunity, I registered to participate in the California AIDS Ride, a 7-day, 600-mile bicycle ride that raised funds and awareness for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  When I registered, I did so because I wanted to improve my health and I wanted to feel a part of my community.  But, like many participants, as I trained and then completed the ride, it became more about HIV/AIDS than about me and my goals.  And what I learned through that experience was that there were many folks who lived with HIV and AIDS and also rode their bicycles in that event.  AIDS was no longer a death sentence.

There’s a prevailing feeling, especially among our youth, that AIDS is not dangerous.  It won’t kill you.  It’s a thing of the past.  There are drugs to treat it.  And that’s the demographic that’s seeing an increased diagnosis of HIV and AIDS.

So, today, I ask you to think about AIDS.  Remember that we’re still fighting this disease.  And, if you have the opportunity to influence a young person about the risks and prevention, please don’t hesitate to take action.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Big, Fat, Hairy Goal

I rode my bike today and the internal dialogue went a little something like this:

“Yup, this sucks.  I should’ve taken a nap instead.”

“No, you need to get on your bike.  Be consistent.  You’ll get your fitness back.”

“That really old man on a mountain bike with sneakers just passed you like you were standing still.  Was he laughing at you?  You could always just turn around and ride home now.”

“Stop comparing yourself to other riders.  Maybe you can find some remote place to ride where there’s no one else on the road and no one will recognize you.”

“This is miserable.  Don’t you always say that if it’s not fun, don’t do it?  This is definitely not fun.”

“Whew!  2,000’ of climbing in 20 miles.  It sucked, but that’s a solid ride.  Stop beating yourself up and enjoy the cruise home.”

“I guess this is better than the ride this weekend.  Wait a minute, it might even be fun again.”

“That cute guy keeps talking to me.  Maybe I don’t look so miserable after all.”

“Wow, that was the best ride ever!”

I’m not a natural athlete.  I’m not a genetic freak like many of the riders I know.  I didn’t even participate in any sports or fitness activities for the first 30 years of my life.  In the past 15 years, since I started riding a bicycle, I’ve had to train really hard just to be a mediocre rider.  And now, after 3+ months off the bike, it feels impossible that I’ll even be mediocre again. 

I find it impossible to remember that just a few months ago I could climb mountains and ride my bike all day.  I think back to the awesome events I rode in the past 12 months (Furnace Creek 508, US Paralympic Track Nationals, La Vuelta Puerto Rico, the monthly Strava Gran Fondos, a ride around Lake Tahoe, and the Death Ride climbs, and can’t see myself ever being able to do that again. 

I often feel hopeless when I’m on the bike.  It really isn’t fun.  Honestly, it’s pretty miserable, both mentally and physically.  It seems like the road back to fitness will be impossibly long and difficult.  But I love riding my bike.  Just not right now.  I have to remember the love.  And I know that the best way to regain my fitness is to get out there and ride my limits (which are very low right now) consistently.  I need to log the hours.  I need to embrace the misery.  And I know, day by day, week by week, it will get better.

I turn 50 next year.  My friend Ren decided that we should push our limits and race the HooDoo 500 together to celebrate this milestone.  It’s a big, fat, hairy goal.  But it’s 10 months away.  Luckily, we’ve already chosen some milestone events to keep us motivated.  So today, I rode for Ren and her lovely wife, Tiffney, and their two beautiful daughters.  They’ve had a heck of a year, with the birth of a child, breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and career changes.  So we’ll be celebrating them at HooDoo 500, too.

Thanks for getting me out there today, Ren (even if you couldn't make it out with me)!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

all, nothing, or something

It’s been an interesting summer for me.  I ended May with some of the best fitness in my 15 years of cycling.  My mileage was solid and I’d been climbing like crazy.  On June 10th, I suddenly found myself ill.  After extensive testing, I learned I had parvo-virus.  When a teammate first mentioned this was a possibility, I laughed, thinking that parvo was a disease that dogs get.  Little did I know that a different strain of the same virus is one of the 5 childhood diseases.  80% of us in the United States get parvo as a child and are then immune for life.  I guess I’m just part of the lucky 20%.  
Parvo-virus is a pretty nasty virus for adults.  When a child gets it, they run a fever, get red, rashy cheeks (it’s called slapped face disease) and quickly recover.  When an adult gets it, they get the fever (mine was 103.8 for 2 days) and then severe, debilitating pain in their joints.  This temporary arthritis usually lasts 6-8 weeks.  I’m now at 6 weeks and 4 days (but who’s counting?) and still have pain in my knees and severe muscle fatigue.  Of course, as a cycling coach, this isn’t ideal, and the condition has basically kept me off the bike except for work for the past 6 weeks.  
Summer is filled with my favorite cycling opportunities, including The Death Ride, a 125-mile ride with 15,000′ of climbing that summits 5 mountain passes in Markleeville, CA.  This year marked my 7th Death Ride, but I wasn’t really able to ride.  Instead of attempting the full ride, I met my riding partner at mile 70, after she’d already been on the bike for 7 hours.  She’d completed the first 4 of 5 passes, and faced a long, head-wind ride along the Carson River valley and then the final climb up Carson Pass.  I figured since I’d be fresh, I could pull her in the headwind and then pace her up the final climb.  Our plan worked like clockwork, I was there at the time in the ride when her motivation was rock-bottom, and she was able to complete her very first Death Ride with time to spare!
 So, now I’m re-setting my goals.  I’m learning that moderation is key.  When you’re used to riding crazy, long, hilly, epic rides, it’s hard to justify chamoising up for an hour or two on the bike, but that’s what I need right now.  I’m still suffering pain and fatigue, and I’ve lost significant fitness, so now I’m re-building fitness and riding for the mental health and social benefits.  I’ve got some  goal events on the horizon, including the Arthritis Foundation’s 6-day People’s Coast Classic in Oregon in early September and the Canary Challenge with the Velo Girls team later that month.  I don’t typically ride charity events, but I thought these would be good events to keep me motivated and on-track during the challenging re-building period.
I’m learning that life isn’t all or nothing.  Sometimes, SOMEthing is the best option!

Amanda and Lorri at the Death Ride

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hi Viz and High Style!

I'm pretty excited about our 2014 Velo Girls club kit!  We've juiced up our colors to design a super high-visibility kit by Pactimo.  You can order on-line now through Monday, April 7th and all orders will be shipped directly to you by Pactimo for delivery in early May.

We're offering the Summit Pro Women's Short Sleeve Jersey, the Continental Women's Sleeveless Jersey, the Ascent Pro Women's Bib Shorts, the Ascent Women's Shorts, and the Evergreen Lightweight Wind Vest (unisex).

The Summit Pro jersey and Evergreen vest offer reflective piping for additional visibility.  And I can't say enough about the chamois in the Ascent bibs.  I've ridden these bibs on multiple Death Rides (124 miles with 15,000' of climbing) and on the 3-day 375-mile La Vuelta Puerto Rico and they are hands-down some of the most comfortable women's clothing I've ever worn.

All orders are custom made for YOU so make sure to refer to the sizing charts to order the correct size as there are no returns or exchanges.

Click on over to the Pactimo store and order your 2014 Velo Girls club kit today!

2014 Velo Girls club jersey

Friday, February 21, 2014

Vote for Velo Girls in Best of the Bay!

Everybody loves a little contest, right?  Well, we need your help in the CityVoter Best of the Bay (aka Bay Area A List) Readers' Poll.  Once again, Velo Girls has been nominated as the Best Sports + Social Club category.  We've won this contest in the past and are currently sitting in 3rd place, so please, click on over and vote!

With just over a week to go, YOUR vote could make the difference between being a winner and being a wiener!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Can You See Me Now?

This just in! We've got an awesome design for our 2014 club jersey from Pactimo. New this year, we're offering an on-line store with Pactimo where you can order whatever you'd like and everything will be shipped directly to you.

The online store is open now and will remain open through
February 25th. Orders will be delivered at the end of March -- just in time for the Cinderella Classic on April 5th.

At this time, we're offering just three items: the Summit Pro Women's Short Sleeve Jersey, the Ascent Pro Women's Bib Shorts, and the Evergreen Wind Vest (unisex sizing, so order a size smaller than your jersey). If there's interest, we can add items to the store in the future, so if there's something you'd like to order (shorts, arm warmers, long sleeve or sleeveless jerseys), email with your suggestion. 

Evergreen Unisex Wind Vest

Ascent Pro Women's Bib Shorts

Summit Pro Women's Short Sleeve Jersey

For 2014, we've pumped up our logo colors to create a jersey that's highly visible (yet so much more fashionable than a neon yellow windbreaker). You'll find the purple is the same as past years, but the orange and green are "caffeinated" making them highly visible, especially in low light conditions. And how about those vertical stripes? Super-slimming and attractive on all body types!

In the Pactimo store, you can add on base layers, arm warmers, and knee warmers at a 15% discount so stock up on these must-have pieces for year-round riding.

You'll find our on-line Pactimo store here: