Friday, August 24, 2018

Empowered women empower women

Late last year I received an email that the Midwest Trek rep nominated me for the Trek Women’s Advocate team. I was humbled and honored for the nomination. The next step was completing an application and waiting until June. I virtually forgot about it until the email came with the fantastic news that I was selected to be on the team!!

For years I’ve been an advocate for getting more people, especially women, into biking. I’ve been lucky to be on several advocate teams in the past including Pearl Izumi, Strava, Venus de Miles and Jules Threads. With the Trek program I now have the support of my LBS, the other Trek Women’s Advocates and the whole Trek family. All three groups are committed to "More Women. More Bikes. More Often."

My gig officially starts September 1st, but Trek kicked off the program with a summit at their corporate headquarters in Waterloo, WI. It’s only a 2-hour drive from Chicago so there was no question that I’d attend. Soon after the summit announcement a Facebook page was set up for the Advocate team and the sharing began.

This is the third year of the advocate program and the team has grown to around 100 women internationally. Many are alumni with only 27 of us being newbies. But what we all had in common was the passion for cycling and sharing that passion with others. This year’s summit would host 64 advocates. Just imagine 64 passionate, like-minded, empowered women in one place. The energy couldn’t be contained.

The summit would kick off with a happy hour and dinner on Monday night. We were instructed to be in Madison WI at 5pm. That morning our Facebook page exploded with gals on the east coast unable to get flights out. A storm had shut down airports, canceled or delayed flights. Anyone that’s flown into Madison knows there are no direct flight so connections were compromised. Not living far from O’Hare airport, I posted that I’d swing by and pick up anyone stranded. My motto was “No Advocate left behind!” I ended up picking up one woman who actually was flying in from California and the flight to Madison was cancelled. Yes, total strangers, but so much in common. The 2-hour drive to Madison flew by as we talked about the Advocate program and her past 2 years on the team, cycling, cycling and oh yes more cycling.

That evening the group met in the hotel bar for happy hour. It was great to see women of all ages, all sizes and all ethnicities. I was quite surprised to find out that the majority of the women were MTB riders. As a roadie, I felt outnumbered. After a few drinks, the 64+ women walked across the street to the capitol steps for a photo op and then to a restaurant for dinner. There was a special guest from Trek Racing waiting for us, triathlete Holly Lawrence. Holly spent the evening with the group chatting, signing autographs and posing for selfies.

The first full day of the summit was held at Trek headquarters in Waterloo about a 30-minute bus ride from Madison. When we walked into the conference room there were huge swag bags waiting for us. One of the most exiting items was the newly released Bontrager Flare RT light. You can definitely expect a product review in the near future as I reviewed the previous model for RBR a while back. This new rear light is smaller, brighter and longer battery life.

The agenda was jammed packed with Trek employees covering a variety of topics, a factory tour and time in the Performance Lab. It was fun to watch one of the engineers hop on a bike and ride this crazy treadmill with bumps to simulate different road or terrain conditions.

What I found extremely valuable was the advocates sharing their experiences and what they were doing in their own communities. The knowledge sharing was priceless. There was also a second Trek Factory Racer that joined us, Rachel Atherton. She won every UCI World Cup event and the World Championships, achieving the first-ever perfect season in the history of World Cup mountain biking. Just checkout her winning run at Leogang. Holly and Rachel spent time with the group answering questions, talking cycling/triathlon and posing for selfies.

That evening was a scavenger hunt on BCycles, a ride share program that is powered by Trek. There are docking stations all over Madison tied into a phone app which shows you the station, number of bikes available or if there’s an empty dock to return a bike. BCycles are a great way for people to get around this bike-friendly community.

After terrorizing shop owners, bus drivers and the general public for 2 hours as we gathered pictures of all the required items on our list, we assembled at a local restaurant for dinner. A slide show highlighted the pictures taken during the scavenger hunt.

Day two of the summit included more presentations, head shots (I felt like a celebrity), a visit from the matriarch of Trek, Lainey Burke (John Burke’s mom and Trek board member) and then time to prepare our plans for the next 12 months. The goal of our annual plan is more than promoting cycling and getting more women (and girls) onto bikes. The plan includes events, clinics and seminars that will educate women on different aspects of their bike and empower them with knowledge and skills.

2018-2019 Trek Women's Advocate Team with Lainey Burke

I came home exhausted but also energized and excited about my advocate role. As part of the program each advocate was required to select a local Trek bike shop to partner with for the next 12 months. Without hesitation I picked the one I’ve worked with for years and services all four of my bikes. The Trek Store of Highland Park has always treated female riders with respect and I never felt intimidated to go in and ask questions. The mechanics are more than happy to invite me behind the counter and not only explain what they are doing, but show me. The store has ramped up their women’s events and rides this past year and I can’t wait to be part of their continuing efforts.

If you are a female cyclist in the Chicago north shore you are in luck. Keep an eye out for some exciting clinics, seminars, events and rides starting soon. For those of you in other locations looking for a women’s group to ride with or know someone who wants to get into riding, reach out to me and I’d be happy to connect you with an advocate in your area.

 Empowered Women Empower Women

A different kind of Trek tri-bike prototype?
Enjoy the ride,

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.