This blog documents the racing, training, & riding experiences of me and the participants of PWP

Pedaling with a Purpose

My name is Kristen Meshberg and I am the mother of two children and a category 1 bike racer. I compete nationally in both road and track. I am also a USA Cycling Coach, and help individuals develop plans to achieve their goals. To survive the Chicago winter, I run an indoor workout program called "Pedaling with a Purpose." To find out more about Pedaling with a Purpose or Coaching, email me at: kmeshberg "at" comcast"dot"net

Monday, January 27, 2014

PWP participant Lauren Wissman

Seeing someone come into Pedaling With a Purpose and transition into a bike racer is one of my favorite things about running this program.  It never gets old and is one of the things that keeps me doing this year after year.  Read about Lauren's discovery of competitive cycling:

A year ago I was riding my bike to get to-from class and to pick up dried mango at Trader Joes.  I don’t think that’s called anything besides some frump who rides her bike to get groceries.  Now I’m a commuter and I guess an amateur cyclist. BAM. Funny what cleats, some carbon, and a bike posse can turn you in to.  I’ve always had an obsession with all things sports related.  Growing up I didn’t have cable or X-Box and barely listened to music (before I discovered Simon & Garfunkel around age 10). Most all of my time was spent outside or participating in some athletically driven endeavor: skiing, then figure skating, softball, and volleyball, until I started playing basketball and soccer competitively.  X-mas lists included rollerblades, footballs, Tracy McGrady TMAC 6s (which I never got and still want), and giant dog stuffed animals.  I did get a bike for x-mas one year (this is where my saga becomes relevant). There was probably 8-10 in. of snow and the roads were covered.  I remember having to be stealthy getting out of the house.  At the time, my left humerus was still healing from a recent fracture after hitting a plank of wood off a golf cart path jump on a plastic snowboard.

A soccer career/broken leg/torn ligament/onset ankle arthritis later, I was advised to find a different sport.  It was winter 2012.  Thought!!!! Cycling!!! Group rides!! Outdoors! Chicago… So after some extensive googling I found PWP and emailed Kristen to ask if I could get involved.  I did.  I liked it; mostly since I’m ok with self-inflicted physical suffering (the fun kind), but also because there were Christmas lights and RAD jams and I was sandwiched between KMesh and Kelly ‘the masher’ Clarke.  I went to a team event (which involved beer no way) and before I knew it I had signed up for the Gapers Block crits as an almost monkey.  And there you have it.

What surprised me most about racing is how much you learn just by doing.  The first race at Gapers I hung with the pack, pulled (though I didn’t know at the time) for a lap or so, and ended up 17th.  I realized I wore myself out for no reason and decided to hang back more the next race.  With just some light strategizing I placed 2nd instead.  What I think is the most important when racing is getting your head right, think you can win.  And if you can’t, take some people down trying (not actually though).  In the words of Sarah Rice (Cat 2 SM), “If you’re not hungry, don’t eat.”

Although I’m pleased with the results I’ve gotten this past race season, being adopted by Spidermonkey and having the opportunity to meet so many impressive and positively awesome people in the cycling community has really been the highlight of my intro to the sport.  Nine months ago I barely knew any cyclists; or the difference between clinchers and tubulars, a criterium and cyclocross, SRAM vs. Shimano; and I won’t pretend like I have it figured out now.  Cycling went from 10% of my life to 80%, 98% on weekends:) And I’m 120% happy about it.  I recently spent 8 hours in the snow watching grown men ride around/through/over sledding children for a chance to win Lagunitas and a Pepper Palace variety pack; “your one stop shop for hot sauce, BBQ sauce, salsa, pickled items, jellies and jams, beef jerky, and more!  And it wasn’t strange to me at all.

I tell the friends I have left who aren’t cycle-crazy about our team and tomfoolery.  My parents now ride regularly (Carole just got a roadie and my dad wants to commandeer my CX bike so he can start racing), my aunt and sister are hopping back on bikes again, and I get updates when friends complete big rides, get their first pair of bike shoes or see a Spidermonkey riding on the street.  This thing we do is contagious and I’m truly honored to be a part of it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pedaling With a Purpose 2013-2014 Details

PWP is a winter training program designed to help all levels of cyclists get through the Chicago winter.  

This year will be our 10th year!  In those ten years we've had World level competitors, beginning cyclists, and everyone in between all getting through the winter together.  

This year we will continue with our 3 locations, Chicago, Hinsdale, and Oak Park.  All locations have bike storage available, and a PWP session pass can be used at any of the locations.

New to PWP? Have questions? Feel free to email me at

Looking forward to seeing you in December!!!

Let's Roast Cycles
1116 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Wednesdays 7:30-9:00pm
Saturdays 8:00-10:30am

Hartley's Cycle Shop
24 W Hinsdale Avenue
Thursdays 7:30-9:00pm
Sundays 8-10:30 am

Oak Park:
Greenline Wheels
105 S. Marion Street
Tuesdays 10:00-11:00 am

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Regis' Journey from smoker to World Level Triathlete

This is one of my favorite PWP stories!  Regis, you are awesome!  You better believe everyone from PWP is going to be rooting for you at Worlds!!!

I sucked.  I barely owned a proper bike.  The closest I got to cycling was that I had a Belgian passport and I lived in Logan Square with the other hip kids with bikes.  Oh, and I smoked like a russian submarine officer.  Friends got me to join PWP...

After year one, it motivated me to take on triathlons.  Fuck it, why not.  Pentathlons were a stretch, and I hate horse-riding, but I thought swimming and running were within reach.  I used to run a lot, and I've never drowned.  Why not.  

I had fun, I was hooked and got myself a proper bike (and the looks every triathlete gets when mingling with road cyclists).  It's amazing the little things you a cyclist (at any level): cadence, position, and a really sour arse.  

After year two, I still smoked, I had now done a few triathlons, but I sucked a whole lot less.  My cycling was my strong suit despite years of track and field.  Go figure.  That year, I qualified for nationals. Wow, what?  This is good, and it's clearly thanks to some winter motivation with the PWP clan.  I thought it's pretty cool that a little peer pressure from a few good friends can bring you a lot more than just bike skills and a sour behind.  I had a new hobby and a newfound pride (still the looks form the road guys though).

Then I quit smoking (about time), reduced my intake to a single Boston Cream, and got a little competitive.  I punched through the 2012-2013 session, ran more, swam more, and scored the 4th best bike time at Chicago, transitioned faster than some of the pro's and didn't let one single mother-effer pass me at Nationals on the bike (hail to Kristen).  And holy-mother-of-Jesus, I earned a spot at ITU World's after what was an awesome day of racing.  PWP, it's been a long journey.  Now let's make that Belgian passport proud on Team USA in Edmonton!!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TD Bank Boston Mayor's Cup Sept 21, 2013

The race course

I've wanted to do this race since it started 5 years ago.  It's got equal prize money for the men and women which is huge!  I'd never been to Boston, the course is smack dab in the middle of downtown, and it just sounded fun.   It's expensive for me to get there but the main thing  that always held me back was that it's so late in the season and to tell the truth I'm usually burnt out and ready to be done.  This year I was feeling pretty fresh and even though I haven't felt completely on top of my game all year, I decided to pull the trigger and go. Dana Kotler, a XXX rider from Chicago had just moved to Boston for her Sports Medicine Fellowship at Harvard,  offered a place to crash for the weekend.  I'd had a pretty poor showing at Gateway Cup over Labor Day weekend and didn't want to end my season with that.

The trip could not have been easier.  It was beautiful sunny weather, and everything went really well.  Dana was super awesome and even though originally I thought she would have to work, she ended up being able to hang out the whole time and even race in the 3/4 race on Saturday.

On the bridge going back to Cambridge

The race was the final race of the year in our National Criterium Calendar (NCC), and all the usual suspects were there.  Our current NCC Champion Erica Allar, Laura Van Gilder, the Schneider sisters, Amy Cutler, to name a few.  They all had at least one teammate there to help, and the Colovita Team had a full squad of riders.  When the race started I felt great!  It was such a relief.  They were calling tons of primes and I went early for a three place prime.  I led it out from the backside to get third to Erica and LVG.  In my head I went "cha-ching there's my airline bike fee". Of course I had a lot more costs to cover so I considered going for another one but I knew I really only had one more big effort left so I saved it for the end.  In the end I moved up as best I could but it wasn't early enough.  I stayed with the front group and was passing people until the line, but my effort was a bit late and I only managed 17th place.  It was still a nice chunk of money and while I wouldn't say I was "happy" with 17th, I felt it was respectable.  The podium, predictably, was Erica, LVG and Sam.

After the race we got some dinner and walked around Harvard Square.  The next day we went for brunch and met up with Dana's friend Erich, mechanic at the Hub bike shop, who had just returned from Interbike the day before.  He ended up giving us a full biking tour of the city, which was cool for Dana too since she'd only been living there since July.

I had a great time and was really glad I went.  Another season in the books!  Looking forward to some beautiful fall rides, and of course PWP!!!!

Dana & Erich
Following Erich down Boylston St. where the Boston Marathon Finishes

Lucinda helped me both pack and reassemble my bike.  She's getting to be a pretty good mechanic!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ABR 4 Person Team Time Trial

Daphne, Lauren, me and Stacy on the top step

I love the ABR 4 person Team Time Trial.  I have a great memory of racing this race as a cat 4, on a team with a couple cat 1's.  To this day, it might be the hardest I've ever ridden!

The event is so great because you take turns pulling with a maximum of 4, but minimum of 3 riders, and covering the distance between point A and point B as fast as you can.  You have to finish with 3 riders, so if you start with 3, you must finish with 3, but if you start with 4, one rider can drop out if they are unable to keep up.  The first year I did it we only had 3, so everyone's time counted.  I rode so much harder because I didn't want to let down my teammates than if it had been just me by myself.

I had planned to race with my track teammate Stacy Mosora, and former PWP participant Daphne Karagianis.  Spidermonkey teammate Sarah was to be our 4th person, but she was sidelined with an injury.  At the track the Thursday before my Spidermonkey teammate (and PWP participant) Lauren Wissman offered to fill in.  She's had a fantastic year and had just gotten her cat 3 upgrade that day.

I'm hoping Lauren will write a few more details about her season, but wow has she come a long way from that person who showed up at PWP last winter with down tube shifters and no clipless pedals.  Daphne and Stacy and I were full of advice on what to do when/if you get dropped.....but holy cow Lauren took awesome hard pulls until the very end.  I had known about her cat 3 road upgrade, and I'd seen her race the men's 3/4 madison race at the track, but she forgot to mention that she'd raced and WON a 'cross race the day before!  Super talented, it's going to be cool to see how far she goes!

We had a great time and ended up winning the thing.  We all took strong even pulls and paced ourselves really well.  I really do love this event!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gateway Cup, St. Louis, MO Labor Day Weekend

View from the St. Louis Arch

I love Gateway Cup! It's a series of 4 crits in St. Louis over labor day weekend which marks the end or very close to the end of our road racing season. It's not NCC, but there's good prize money and usually attracts a decent field. It's always great racing and tons of fun. I've been doing these races since 2001, and back then it was my first experience placing in a women's 1/2/3 field. I heard the announcer say today that the series has been going on for 22 years!

My teammate Sarah was out for the series, so I had planned to come down with my husband Jason and the kids, but didn't want to pull them out of school on Friday since they just started. So as per usual I was scrambling in the days before trying to get it worked out. After a last minute plea on Facebook, I ended up getting a ride down from XXX racer Erik Didriksen and his family. (thank you!!!)

Jason and kids planed to drive down on Saturday, and would go to the City Museum on Sunday, and after the race on Monday we planned on hitting the arch on the way out of town.

Thursday night was the Elaine Nekritz State Championship Scratch race at Northbrook Velodrome. This is the biggest race for women all year and if you win you get your name on a cool trophy, and it's a lot of fun. Normally I wouldn't race the track the night before heading to a four crit series, but I couldn't skip this one, and I'm glad I didn't!

Elaine Nekritz Scratch Race Podium

Friday: Tour de Lafayette

I arrived at my friend/host Marsha's house around 1 and got to rest up a bit before riding over to the race. It was an easy ride over and it helped loosen up my legs which were pretty tight from the night before. I was slightly nervous about how I would feel. The Friday race goes all day but our race started at 8:15 pm, so in the dark, with the pro men following at 9:15. They bring in big lights to illuminate portions of the course, but other parts are only lit by streetlights and quite dark. The shadows are pretty scary, and add quite an exciting dimension to the race. When the race started, I felt great! Get--a-Grip Cycles, had hooked me up with some Zipp race wheels, and they were awesome! They handled really well and added a degree of confidence. I was riding quite comfortably, but there seemed to be quite a lot of sketchiness in the field. Almost immediately there was a crash which I was caught behind. In the pit, I saw some blood on the other riders. I was fine, and wanted to keep it that way! After jumping back in, it was more of the same. The dark and the shadows made it very difficult to sense where other riders were and where they were going. At one to go I was in great position. I hit the back stretch in about 4th wheel, and then a rider ahead of me had a shifting issue. She kept it together and did not go down or take anyone out but it scared me just enough to pause and get swarmed when I should have just accelerated around it. That was the defining moment. I rode hard on the finishing stretch and finished 18th. Payout went to 25 so I was ok with that, though definitely a bit disappointed. I hadn't slept much this week so I was looking forward to getting some good rest and feeling better Saturday!

Saturday: Tour de Frances Park

Two years ago at this race on the final lap I crashed and lost a tooth. It was already a fake tooth to begin with so it wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. Today was HOT. So hot. It was hot last month during the Prairie State Series and I felt great! So I was actually looking forward to it. Although waking up today with what I could no longer deny was a migraine did not bode well for a good race. I'd had a headache since Friday but had been trying ignore it. I do get migraines and on a scale of 1 to 10 this was about a 2, but it was definitely a migraine. Going into the race, my legs felt great but my head was pretty bad, and the heat did not help things. The race was a long rectangle around a park. There was a slight uphill on the start finish side and a long slight downhill on the backside. The race was fairly animated with several attacks, and I did not really do any chasing or attacking. I just tried to maintain good position and get through it. When a two rider break got away, I sat in while the field let them dangle for a while and caught them at about 3 to go. A perfectly timed counter by the Primal team stuck and got a solo rider away. On the back stretch at 2 to go another rider attacked and seemed to get a gap. I'd planned to go early, so at 1 to go on the top of the hill I went to the front and led it out. I figured I'd be ok with being in the wind on the downhill. When we turned the second to last corner we had caught one of the riders and I was staying with the surges, and in good position. But after the final corner I quickly realized I'd used up too much energy and had nothing left for the sprint. Riders went whizzing by me and I finished in 20th place. I crossed the line and then collapsed in someone's front yard. The nice family who's yard it was poured ice water on me and I believe they may have saved my life!! I wasn't particularly happy with this race but I did the best I could and any race that I finish with all my teeth is a good race.

Sunday: Giro della Montagne

Day 3 of Gateway Cup, day 3 of migraine. It wasn't the worst migraine I'd ever had, but it was there. And I still wasn't sleeping more than a couple hours/night. Woke up this morning to the dull ache, and knew that it wasn't going to go away. I tried everything I could but really the only thing that helps is riding it out until it's done. I've raced with a low level migraine before, and know that it can be done, but it's not fun. The heat really made it worse. I thought I'd be ok today since it was just a tad cooler than yesterday. The Giro della Montagne or "the Hill" as the race is referred to, is called that because it is in the Italian neighborhood called the Hill. Very fun race, all the houses surrounding the course have parties and there is quite a crowd. There is a slight actual hill in the course, but it's not really much to make an impact. The course is another long rectangle with short sides, and the finish is on the slight downhill side. I've done well here in the past and love the fun rowdy crowd. The race started and I felt ok.... until I didn't. I wasn't actually dropped, but at about 7 laps to go, I just didn't want to be there any more so I pulled out. I think it was the right decision as I felt noticeably better ever since and I still had one more day to try for a result!

Monday: Benton Park Classic

The Benton Park Classic is one of my all time favorite courses. It's a very long course with one long straight uphill side. There's a bunch of short stretches with awesome twisty corners leading to a nice downhill section which brings you to the final two corners. When taken extremely fast you have a ton of momentum for the finish line which is midway on the uphill stretch.

I'm not really a fan of the uphill but I LOVE fast corners!!! I can get a lot of speed---even when I was in second position in the field I would find myself having to brake if I didn't want to go around.

Last year I ended up on the podium just by leading it out through the corners. Given how crappy I'd felt all weekend I wasn't sure how things were going to go, but I actually slept well the night before and woke up headache free! I still had the related neck ache feeling but it was definitely over and I knew I'd be 100% in a day or two. I went into the race committed to doing my best.

The race started and I felt fine. I loved leading through the corners and hated anytime I was not in front and couldn't fly through them. About mid race they called a $200 prime. I decided my chances were better at getting that than making it through to the podium so I went for it. I got to the front before the corner sections and took them just as fast as I could. After the first one I saw that I had a gap, and that it was growing with each corner. I pedaled hard on the downhill and flew through the final two corners. I heard later that I had a decent gap but I wanted to be sure so I still sprinted as hard as I could for the line. A bit too hard in retrospect as I had nothing left when the field went by. I had known that was a possibility but since I wasn't in contention for the overall and $200 would pay for a large chunk of my expenses for the weekend I think it was the right move for the day.

Not the greatest weekend of racing that I've ever had but even with a migraine I had a fantastic time in St. Louis.  I've raced in St. Louis lots of times, but this was the first time I came down without a car, and rode to the races. What an easy, lovely city to get around in!

I guess I'll just have to come back to the Gateway Cup!!
Riding to the races

Friday, August 9, 2013

PWP's Cathy Frampton; ABR State Road Race Champion

Sunday, Aug 4th, I drove south towards Kankakee and proceeded to get lost along following a beautiful river looking for the ABR Two Rivers race course. My luck for the day turned when Project 5's Marilyn Powell pulled alongside me and re-directed me to course.

I heard last year there was only 1 woman at the race, but this year, there was an ok turn-out. Some 4 or so for the 40/50's and another 4 for the open. We would be racing together, however, the open was doing 3 laps of an 18 mi course while the 40/50's were doing 2. I had signed up for the 40/50 race not realizing the difference. My attempts to convince the 40/50 to do 3 laps were unsuccessful, so I changed to the open. 

Within a couple miles from the start, we quickly formed a pace line with everyone taking turns pulling through. The pace wasn't fast, but the atmosphere was friendly and supportive for the newer racers.

Liz So was in the open race. Her cyclocross fast twitch muscles were twitching. She was not satisfied with the pace. She tried desperately to get one of us in the open race to jump with her early in a break. I wasn’t ready to go anywhere yet, still trying to warmup. Noone else seemed inclined to take up her offer so early in the race. 

Well, not even ½ lap into the 3 lap race, Liz jumped - attacking on her own and getting a gap. Our group continued the paceline, keeping Liz within reach. As we went on, the 40/50’s racers were less inclined to pull through, so the three of us in the open race, myself, teammate Katie Isermann, and XXX’s Sue Wellinghoff, traded turns. Nearing the end of lap 2, the 40/50’s asked that we keep out of the way of their finish. Ok. They lunged ahead. It was fun to watch their lead-outs and sprint efforts. Congratulations to Imelda March on her 40+ win with Shannon Pookie-Keaton and Ginger Stephens right on her wheel and to Marilyn Powell for the 50+ win.

Continuing into the final lap of the open race, we weren’t sure if Liz was tiring or not. She was doing a significant amount of work staying just off the front. We got our answer when she reintegrated with the group with ½ lap to go – she was still strong. Looking at the 4 of us, I decided it was not in my best interest to wait for a sprint finish. My teammate, Katie, on the other hand would do well in that situation. So, I started attacking. Each time, Liz was attached to me like glue. I did get a slight gap after one attack, but with a cry from Liz that I might have unfairly crossed the centerline to gain the advantage, I sat up. As the four of us lulled into a pace that made it difficult to keep our bikes upright, I attacked again – but this time I held it out there for a good bit, got a gap, and put my head down to time trial to the finish.

Along the way, I kept looking over my shoulder for the ever-charging Liz So to be on my heels. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Katie did win the field sprint finishing 2nd and taking home the Cat 3 IL State Championship jersey.