Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Day of the Girl should be everyday

I use this platform to promote and empower women in areas of fitness and cycling. Today is no different. October 11th is International Day of the Girl. It was started as a way to increase awareness of issues faced by girls around the world. More than 62 million girls globally have no access to education and one in four are married before the age of 18. The goal of this day is not only to raise awareness of issues girls face, but what can happen when those problems are solved.

Since its inception, each year this day has a theme:
- 2012 - "Ending child marriage"
- 2013 - "Innovating for girl's education"
- 2014 - "Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence"
- 2015 - "The Power of Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030"
- 2016 - "Girls' Progress = Goals' Progress: What Counts for Girls"

This year's them is "EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises."

Back in May I blogged about Empower the Girl. Ignite the Women in conjunction with Global Women's Cycling Day. Honestly, it doesn't matter how you empower a girl, be it through education or sports. To empower a girl is to bring about positive social change.

Growing up I was lucky that my parents never said "you can't do that because you are a girl." They always encouraged me to pursue my interests. Can't wasn't part of my vocabulary. I'd rather try and fail than never have tried at all. My grandmother was a great inspiration to me. I truly believe she was ahead of her time. An immigrant from Nazi Germany, she came to the U.S. with almost nothing. But she was educated, smart, resourceful and athletic. She worked at the University of Chicago and would swim in Lake Michigan off the Point in Hyde Park. If alive today, I'm sure she would have loved to join me in Otterville for a morning swim.

Today and every day, empower your daughters or mentor a young girl. Never say "you can't do that, you're a girl." Instead say "YES, you can do anything."

Enjoy the ride,

Monday, August 21, 2017

Guess 3 times the charm

Yesterday I competed in the Michigan Titanium for the third time. The first time was in 2014, which was the catalyst for starting this blog. I was training and completed a full distance ironman aquabike. I skipped a year to just have a summer of fun. In 2015 I decided to do a half distance ironman aquabike. This year I planned to try running again and complete another half Ironman distance triathlon. I hadn’t done all three disciplines since Spirit of Racine half ironman in 2008.

I started up my run training again hoping for remain injury free. But 8 weeks into my run/walk training I developed plantar fasciitis. Never had it before and I can say it sucks. Having flat feet seems to make me more prone to the injury. I tried rest but it kept flaring up every time I went to run. So I decided to switch to a half aquabike. That’s a 1.2 mile open water swim and a 56 mile bike. 

I toyed with the idea of challenging myself further and doing it on my fat tire bike. I would have no problems making the cut off times. But as the race got closer, I decided that would be pretty grueling and opted for riding Vermonster instead.

More Injuries

About a month before race day my elbow started to flare up again. It’s called golfers elbow but basically tendinitis. It hurts all the time. I had a cortisone shot back in December and the pain went away but now it’s back. Not only is swimming and biking hurt but just daily life. But like many athletes, I have a very high threshold for pain. So I block it out as best I can until I can have some downtime after another cortisone shot.

I’m thankful to my friend Margaret who introduced me to KT tape and did her best to tape me up. She was kind enough to come over Friday night before I left for Michigan to retape my elbow. In exchange I gave her time in my compression boots. Ahhh, the little things in life.

Otters Just Make Things More Fun

This year a group of my Otter friends decided to sign up for this race. Distance varied from Olympic to half IM aquabike to half IM triathlon. It was great to have them around as we are such a supportive group. Always ready with a laugh, word of encouragement or just a hug at the end of the race. I’m truly blessed to have the Otters in my life.

The Race was On

If you recall last year we were plagued with tornadoes touching down during packet pickup and horizontal rain the last 10 miles of the bike course. This year was better. Sunday was hot, humid, and not a cloud in the sky.

As I warmed up for the swim, to my surprise, Dare2tri’s Operations and Finance Manager, Amanda, wandered over to say hi. We had no idea one another would be there. I wouldn’t see her again until the end of the race when she found out she took 2nd place in the aquabike. Awesome job!!

The swim was uneventful. Just a beautiful calm lake…well calm before 800 athletes churned up the water. My swim time was right on target. I wasn’t sure how I’d do since every stroke was painful. Out of the water with a smile and off to the strippers. They whipped off your wet suit in seconds and on to T1. There I saw Michelle and my new friend/rack mate Bob. My transition times are not the fastest but it takes time to do make up, mani pedi and dry my hair. Yeah right.

Off on the bike course. As in previous years my legs needed time to “wake up”. But finally this year I had an “AHH HA” moment when I looked at my elevation map. The first 8-10 miles is mostly uphill. No wonder my legs were talking back to me. No time to spin your legs and get your heart rate under control. But since this was my third time on the course (little change from previous years) I pretty much knew what to expect. Lots of rollers so spread out that you never got enough momentum going down the hill to get up the next one. You were always slogging up the hill.

At around mile seven I caught up to one friend and sung to her as I went past. Since it isn’t draft legal I couldn’t hang out and chat too long. About mile 10 my legs were talking to me nicer than before and I could keep a good pace. I had a target of 16.5-17 mph avg for the course which in my head was doable. For about the next 8 miles I’d play cat and mouse with a few riders until one woman passed me in her aero helmet and USA tri kit with her name on it. She became my rabbit for a few miles until we hit 3 Mile Rd.

Why they still put us on 3 Mile Rd is beyond me. With all the roads in Michigan they continue to put us on what I call Moon Crater Rd. It was so bad this year that they stationed medics at both ends of the road PLUS had extra SAG coverage to help tend to flat tires. I did not see it but others told me one woman was taken off in an ambulance.

I decided to take 3 Mile Rd slow as not to flat or worse crash. I also decided to use the whole road to maneuver around the holes, cracks and craters. To make things even more interesting, this road includes a 13% grade uphill which means you hit it going back for a traitorous downhill. As I got to the uphill I shifted to an easy gear because I needed to be able to maneuver around people walking up and the Angels pulling a disabled kid in burleys up the hill. It took all my bike handling skills to get through that.

The loop at the farthest point of the ride was uneventful. I continued the cat and mouse game with another rider as well as paying homage to the place I flatted last year. Also I cursed the chip and seal bumpy road that slowed me down.

I hit 3 Mile Rd on the return route and took it slow down the 13% grade and was forced to ride all over the road yet again. It was about this time I was wishing for Chris my fat tire bike so I could just fly through this crap without a care in the world. Thankfully my race was only one loop. The poor full distance folks had to do this road twice in each direction. Ugh.

There was one last turn before the long stretch back. As I rounded the corner I felt silly and asked the cop holding up traffic if this was the margarita bar stop. He looked totally taken off guard and mumbled “I don’t think so.” It gave me a chuckle and a little extra boost to keep going.

Around mile 49 I “chicked” an 18 year old guy. For those of you that don’t race, ages are put on your calf. So you know the person’s age that you pass or that passes you.

The last couple of miles I found my final rabbit. I saw in the distance a bright yellow helmet that I thought belonged to one of my friends. I picked up the pace even more and went after that rabbit. It’s all mind games out on the bike course and finding rabbits is my favorite game. I was thrilled to see my friend as I caught her about mile 55. I gave her an encouraging greeting and told her lets finish this strong. I think I became her rabbit as we raced to the end.

I got to the finish line because my race was swim, bike, DONE. My friend that came in with me still had a grueling hot 13.1 mile run. At least I could welcome her off the bike and cheer her as she started her run.

I ended my bike at 16.7mph avg on my Garmin. Strava of course knocked me down to 16.6mph. I was pleased with the results especially when I saw 7 PRs on my Strava feed. I took 14th out of 26 in the aquabike. They only do it by gender, not age group.

Very happy to be done!

Not sure what fueled me

I always struggle with my nutrition as I don’t like to eat on the bike. It also didn’t help that the roads were bumpy and you didn’t want to go one handed for too long. So all I had on the bike course was one bottle of Tail Wind and 3 Skratch energy chews. Not 3 packages of chews. Actually 3 chews. But somehow I didn’t bonk and I finished strong. I dodged a bullet there.

I did come home and enjoy some Lou Malnati's pizza and my compression boots. Truly heaven. 

Malnati's pizza and compression boots. Heaven after the race!


As after every season I reflect on my training. I just can’t thank my Otter family enough for their support and friendship. It takes a very special group of people to get me out of bed at 445am three days a week, drive 20 minutes (sometimes in the dark) to swim in a lake. But no matter how tired I am, it’s always worth it.

I also owe a big thank you to all my old and new cycling friends who keep me company on literally 1000s of miles. You make it fun.

As for next year, not sure what I’ll do. I’m not too keen about returning to MiTi unless something is done with the bike course. It just gets worse every year. It’s a shame because it is an amazing venue and great volunteers. I just might have to do another summer of fun. Honestly, it’s not a bad way to spend my time.

Enjoy the ride,

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A very very special New Bike Day

Yesterday one of my friends texted me with a picture of her 15 year old son riding a two wheeler for the very first time. I got choked me up. The tears in my eyes were happy tears. It’s not only that her son was experiencing that special feeling we all get when we ride a bike, but because he is autistic.

This week he was attending I Can Shine’s I Can Bike camp and they had been teaching the kids how to ride. First with rollers instead of a back wheel. Over the course of the week the rollers got smaller as each child became more confident. Eventually the rollers were replaced with a wheel. What an amazing concept. Adaptive cycling is truly special.

Riding with rollers instead of a back wheel

To top off this special day, it happened to be his birthday And, what better way to celebrate than picking out a brand new bike. Yep, a super special New Bike day! Today he is at camp riding his very own bike. I joked with my friend that her son’s face will hurt tonight from smiling so much. It’s a good hurt.

Riding his NEW bike!!!
Sure cycling is a great form of exercise, but it is so much more. It’s exhilarating to be able to ride around under your own power. It’s empowering and challenging by pushing you to achieve more than you thought ever possible. Cycling builds confidence and socialization. There are benefits for everyone no matter what your physical or mental status.

I found an article about Patrick McCallister, a cyclists who also happens to have autism. Here’s a snip it on his experience.

“Cycling and autism go hand-in-hand for me. We autistics love rotation, spinning. We love rhythmic activities and can do them for hours. We dislike facial contact. When I’m cycling, I’m in an autistic’s dream world. The front wheel’s spin is absorbing, soothing. I’m moving in a repetitious motion for hours releasing a lot of built up sensory stress.

My cycling buddies — well on saddles they’re not wanting facial contact. All eyes forward; watch the road even when you’re chatting. The autistic obsession I have with talking about narrow interests at length — among cyclists it’s invisible. They’re talking about nothing but bikes and cycling, too.  When I’m among fellow cyclists, everyone is acting like me for a couple hours and I’m not the weird one.

I’ve given up driving, which wasn’t hard. I always disliked driving, because of low sensory thresholds. As I got older and less able to handle sensory stress, the more concerned I got about being able to drive safely. I got a small fleet of bicycles to commute, shop, work, play and exercise on. Bicycles give me a way to get around without endangering others.”

I’m always thrilled when someone tells me they’ve taken up cycling and I see that big smile on their face. It reminds me why I love the sport so much. But when I hear stories like the one of my friend’s son or when I work with Dare2tri athletes, it takes it to a different level.

It’s a good day. A very Happy Birthday to my friend’s son and especially Happy New Bike Day. You earned it!

Enjoy the ride.


Monday, June 19, 2017

What would you do for a new bike?

Race season and training is in full swing. We are pushing our bodies to points we didn't think we were capable. But we don't do it for the bling. We do it because of the high from pushing our bodies to limits we didn't think possible. Okay, sometimes it's for the bling.

This past weekend Mitch was in another room just giggling as he watched a video on his phone. What he shared with me had already been seen by thousands. A father, plugging his insurance company, doing the Stinky Fish Challenge. He bets his wife and two young daughters they couldn't sit through him opening a can of Surstromming (basically rotten fish) and eating a piece. Each person picked their own prize. One daughter asks for a new bike, the younger one wants a Flipzee Girl doll and the wife's prize are diamonds. One guess who I was rooting for.

Be sure to watch the video with the sound on and watch it through the end.

Yes it is funny, but what impressed me was this little girl's determination to get a new bike. She sits there and proclaims it smells like a "toot", but doesn't gag, encourages her dad and just is fixated on that new bike. She wills herself to sit at the table while BOTH her parents and little sister are literally retching from the smell.

It is amazing how we can will ourselves to do something if we keep our eye on the prize. Be it finishing that big race, tackling a big climb or like this tough little girl...block out the stink. Mind over body is an amazing thing and we put ourselves to the test every time we clip into those pedals, zip up our wet suit or lace up our running shoes. You can do anything you put your mind to. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Be strong, be fierce, be bad ass.

I hope her dad came through with an amazing new bike for his daughter. She's going to be a power to reckon with now and in the future. So to this little girl, I say...w

Enjoy the new ride,

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Listen to your gut

Going with your gut is bypassing logic and trusting your instincts, without knowing why. Logic can assist us in looking forward and planning or in reviewing the past, but when you need information in an instant your instincts give you the best guide for making decisions.

Today I was out fat biking on local forest preserve trails with Mitch and a friend. On our second loop we came across a couple standing on the side of the trail with their bikes laying on the ground. The body language between them made me uneasy. She looked extremely upset and he had a hold of her arm. My gut said something wasn't right. Logic said 'don't stop by yourself it could be dangerous.' I was in the back of the group and they wouldn't know immediately that I stopped.

When we got to a trail split I asked the others about what we just saw. My friend said she did call out "is everything okay?" and the man responded "yes". But nothing from the woman. I told them I didn't feel we should leave without going back and hearing from her that she was okay. The fact that she looked in distress and he had his hand grabbing her arm just didn't sit well with me.

So we retraced the trail back to them. They were still standing where we left them. The woman still looking very upset and you could see she was physically shaking. I directed my question directly to her and asked if she was okay. She nodded. Not convinced we continued to ask questions and make sure she was not in harms way. Turned out she fell on the bike for the second time and was very shaken up.

Physically she just had a little road rash but mentally she was really shaken. After chatting with them we were convinced she was safe and went on our way.

I have a healthy respect for going with my gut and trusting my instincts. There's a difference between trusting your instincts and going out of your comfort zone. Instincts warn you something isn't right, while pushing outside your comfort zone isn't necessarily going to harm you. More often then not it helps you grow.

Today I could not have gone home without making sure this woman was okay. Especially with recent reports of women being grabbed on a local forest preserve trail.

Enjoy the ride.

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,