Friday, May 12, 2017

Empower the Girl. Ignite the Women.

May is National Bike Month and with that comes numerous cycling related events including bike to work week/day and bike to school day. Last night I attended a Ladies Night at my local Trek shop. I always love these events because it brings women of different cycling ability together to talk about cycling, engage in knowledge sharing, as well as make new friends. 

The store was kind enough to let me have a table to promote the Venus de Miles ride and Dare2tri. It was great to engage in conversation with women who were looking for a ride to challenge themselves. Some set a goal to finish the 25 mile route, others the 60 miler. Being an all women's ride, Venus de Miles provides a non-threatening environment, which was inviting to the women I spoke with. I really hope to see many of them out on the road training and empowering themselves to achieve more.

Ladies Nite included topics like clothing, lights, saddles, bikes (women's specific), and bike fit.  The evening concluded with a panel of four women with different cycling backgrounds, one of which was yours truly. The floor was opened to questions of any topic. It was a comfortable setting so no one felt intimidated and could ask anything. I’m always thrilled to share my knowledge with others and in turn learn something new. I hope that this group of women left feeling excited about cycling, empowered to challenge themselves, and invigorated with their new knowledge.

Today is Global Women’s Cycling Day and on May 14th, Mother’s Day, it’s CycloFemme. I love  their tag line…"Empower the Girl. Ignite the Women." CycloFemme is a global celebration of women created to honor the past from the shoulders of those who stood before us, for the freedom to choose and the chance to wear pants. To celebrate the present with strength and courage, voices raised, moving together. To empower the future of women everywhere, the backbone of positive social change.

I can only hope that what transpires from this weekend's events mimics what I saw last night, but on a much larger scale. 

Enjoy the ride,

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Do epic sh*t

As we age, it’s harder for us to get out of our comfort zones. Push ourselves to try something new or achieve a goal we thought unachievable. What’s so great about being out of your comfort zone? It makes you uncomfortable. But then like magic it makes you feel stronger, empowered and energized.

Betty Designs, a woman owned and run athletic apparel company, launched a line of wrist bands and gear with mantras to inspire as well as empower women. And it works! 

Recently I found myself in a rut, almost like being on a hamster wheel. But in the last two weeks I’ve pushed myself outside my comfort zone. Spring time…time for new beginnings and time to shake things up. Right?

First, I started a weekly hilly ride with one of my local bike groups. I dislike hills and have worked in recent years to embrace them. Telling myself, they break you down only to build you up. Last week was the first ride of the season. It was me and 8 guys. It started out as a bit of a hammerfest with me clinging onto the back of the paceline gasping for air. My head was swimming with thoughts of not wanting to get dropped, but most of all, don’t make them wait for you. Yes, I was out of my comfort zone.

I’m determined to keep this weekly ride and ultimately become a better climber. This group will make me a stronger rider, pushing my limits with every ride.

Today was my second “out of my comfort zone” moment. We’ve been lucky to have a mild winter and a string of warm days. Loathing the black line of the pool and anticipating getting back to open water swimming, I was excited to hear the Otters were taking the plunge this morning.

I don’t do well in cold water, but the desire to get in open water, trumped everything else. So this morning I put on my big girl suit and headed to the lake. The group milled around with excitement of getting to swim open water again…it had been since October. I started to question my sanity until my friend took out her Betty Designs swim cap. In bold letters it said “Do Epic Shit”. It spoke to me and I jumped (okay slowly lowered myself) into 58.6 degree F water. It was definitely frigid, but I pushed myself to swim to buoy 1, then buoy 2. Somewhere between buoy 2 and 3 I just got too cold and turned around. But I felt exhilarated, or was it hypothermia? Getting out of my comfort zone energized me. Made me feel alive again. Zero regrets. 

To keep this theme going we head out east next month to do some crazy rides with some major climbing. It’s going to be tough, but I know in the end I’ll be stronger and empowered.

So go out and do some epic shit and be a bad ass. It’s empowering in a world these days where sometimes you feel powerless.   

Enjoy the ride,

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Later this afternoon I'm going to be inspired by some amazing athletes. As you know, I'm an active volunteer and board member of Dare2tri. Today is their annual MultiSport Clinic. Athletes will rotate through sessions of swim/bike/run as well as yoga. As in past years, I work the bike sessions helping the athletes get set up on equipment (upright or hand crank bikes) and cheer them on through difficult intervals. Kids, adults, novice or elite...I'm inspired by them all.

But these are not the only athletes that inspire me. This blog and my many ambassadorships are all aimed to empower women through sports. It doesn't matter how fast you are, how big/small you are, just challenge yourself and do what brings you joy.

Earlier this week the Venus de Miles team connected me with a women who signed up to do the 25 mile ride in July. She's new to cycling and especially road cycling. I'm thrilled to be able to share my knowledge and help her achieve her goals. She is just one of many female riders who will set challenging goals for themselves with this ride. They inspire me.

This morning I came across one of the #ThisGirlCan ads that is set to the words of a Maya Angelou poem, 'Phenomenal Woman'. The campaign drives home that there's no one definition of what a beautiful woman should look like. There's no age limit to an athlete. Strength and beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, races, ages, abilities...disabled or able bodied.  Watch this video and tell me it doesn't inspire you. Read the full poem here.

I've kept politics out of my blog and articles, but in a political climate that condones "grabbing women by their pussies," and taking away the rights of women, it more important than ever to tell little girls, teenagers...women of all ages, you are stronger than you think, you are beautiful and you can achieve anything you want to. That goes for sports, education, careers, LIFE!!!

In a world of full of princesses, dare to be batman (batwoman). Empower and inspire your daughters, grandchildren, girlfriends, co-workers. Never say "you can't because you are a woman." Dare to push the envelop.

Enjoy the ride,

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Become an ambassador for your sport

So many companies are leveraging brand ambassador programs as an effective yet inexpensive way to spread awareness and adoption of their products. Many companies are going after women to be part of their ambassador programs as a way to attract more females to the sport of cycling, running or triathlon.

Companies have found that using a 1-to-1 approach, the word is spread throughout our communities we engage in and is seen as more credible than advertising. Since women seem to communicate differently than men, social media channels are a key to messaging. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and Strava are all ways ambassadors share their experiences and passion.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been in a few ambassador programs. My first experience was with Strava where I was the Midwest Cycling Brand Ambassador for a year and a half. Last year I was on Pearl Izumi’s first Ride Champion team. This year I’m an ambassador for Venus de Miles. Many programs are only for a year, so I’m always on the lookout for a brand that is important to me and embraces empowering women in sports.

I’m often asked how does someone become an ambassador? Usually a call for applications comes out towards the end of the year so the team can be announced right around the first of the new year. Many of the applications are very lengthy with essay responses. All the applications I’ve completed ask about your social media involvement. Companies are definitely looking for people who are heavy users of social media since it is an immediate means to share and reshare stories, pictures and experiences. Many companies also use certain campaign hashtags as a way to get stories/pictures to trend.

Other qualities companies are looking for in an ambassador is how involved you are with a particular sport. Are you competing? Are you a member of a club? How do you encourage others to be part of your sport? If you are someone who trains alone or isn’t active with any groups, this could be seen as a negative. Ambassadors must be social, give back to their sport, engaging, and less about self-promoting. If you fill out an application that shouts “me me me” then forget about being selected.

Another question I get a lot is what types of companies have ambassador programs. I’ve seen companies including apparel, equipment, nutrition, eyewear, accessories and apps like Strava. Every year I see more and more companies add ambassador programs to their marketing mix.

How do you find out about an ambassador program? Follow your favorite brands on Facebook. Many will post their call for applications there. Some have details about their programs on the company’s web site. Also read key eNewsletters for your sport, as they will run ambassador program press releases from different companies.

Most companies provide their ambassadors with clothing or equipment. Both Strava and Pearl Izumi provided me with ambassador cycling kits. You also get swag to give out at events or activities you host. Most will also give you discounts on their product so you will wear their brand and also knowledgably talk about it. But, as an ambassador you get back what you put into it. I really enjoyed educating folks about the different features of Strava or the products of Pearl Izumi. If I was able to get someone to challenge themselves or try something new, then I was doing my job.

Pearl Izumi even had The Pact ambassadors would sign. The words from The Pact really resonated with me. One of my favorite excerpts is:

“I will be inclusive. Even of the exclusive. I will encourage the beginner, the professional and everyone in between. I will place joy above performance, use my fingers for peace, not profanity, and I will focus on the scenery more than the scene.”

As part of being a Venus de Miles ambassador I received a discount code to use for registration. This year’s event is July 22 in Lake Forest, IL. There both the 5k run and a ride (25 or 60 miles). So if you plan to attend, use this discount code for $10 off registration. The code is only good from February 10-14th so don’t delay.

Discount code: HAPPY10   (valid Feb 10-14)
Be sure to join our team: Echelon Goddesses 

Challenge yourself to ride 25 or 60 miles. The Venus de Miles is a well-supported ride and there are over 400 encouraging women out on the road with you.

Enjoy the ride.