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

Friday, June 13, 2014

New Adventures

You might have noticed there hasn't been any race reports from me this year.   I'm taking a break from racing.  The family and I are moving to Idaho and I'm going to be working on a ski resort leading horseback rides.  I will be bringing my bike, and riding and living at elevation.  I'm looking forward to "just riding".

I'm excited to try something new and getting to spend time with my kids, but  I will definitely be back in town in time to get ready for PWP this winter!

Hoping to have some posts from PWP participants' experiences this summer, so send 'em on over!


Friday, May 9, 2014

PWP on the Podium!

Congrats to PWP's Erica Gaddy at the Champaign Urbana Criterium, 2nd place, Women's 3/4 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

PWP's Kelly Clarke (and a bunch of Spidermonkies & other PWPer's) at the LaCrosse Omnium, LaCrosse, WI

Read PWP's Kelly Clarke's report on the LaCrosse Omnium:

Guys, I never knew you could have so much fun. It’s mostly because of my awesome teamies*, but also LaX was a really great series, a fun town to visit, and those Wisco/Minnie gals COME TO RACE, no pussyfooting about it.
*La Crosse Teammates:
Kelsey ‘All City’ Phillips
Lindsey ‘Feels’ Fahey
Lauren ‘BP**’ Wissman
Sarah ‘The Whip’ Rice
Eric ‘Soigneur’ Landhal
Kurt ‘Long Legs’ Breitenbucher (wait, it’s possible to have a name more complicated than Diffenderfer?)
Pete ‘Personal Poops’ Monko
And our favorite ray of sunshine, Zark.
**Bitches Popped
TT
We decided to drive the course when we got into town. This was a very good idea. You should drive the course when you can. Sarah spoke for us all when she said, ‘I would have shit myself if the first time I saw this was during the time trial.’ It was a lot steeper than we expected, but there was a beautiful view at the top.
tt
We stopped to talk about the course – not even the whole way to the finish.
Later, when we arrived for the race, Pete and I decided to ride the course once. On the way up, it started drizzling. By the time we reached the top, it was pouring cold rain. I tried to warm up on rollers, but my feet were so cold they hurt, so I just jogged around for a half hour til my start.
I was not comfortable with dude holding my seat, so I took a standing start. I kept asking him to move so I wasn’t crooked and he wasn’t, so I chose to not be pro and go for comfort. The course is steep from the get go. People were cheering from underneath umbrellas. Water was flowing down the street in a stream as we pressed upward. I’ve done few time trials, but in all of them you get so inside your head. I seem to start out hating myself, and then end up in fight mode. I tried to go at ‘hard, but don’t blow up’ pace. I passed one girl and heaved out a ‘Sorry. Keep it up.’ I passed a few juniors. I wanted to catch the girl in front of me. I kind of just wanted to be at the top of the hill so I could focus on getting dry clothes and being warm again – my chamois probably weighed ten pounds and there were buckets of water in my shoes. But everyone else was dealing with the same conditions. The course flattened out at the top, and it felt good to go from a grinding 8-12mph to 20+. I didn’t catch the girl in front of me, but I did get closer.
There was little room at the top, so as soon as I caught my breath, I thanked the officials and started to head back down. I stopped 200 meters down to wait for Lindsey and Kelsey but also because there was an incredible double rainbow. The sky was opening and it was the brightest rainbow I’ve ever seen. A super friendly Brone’s Bikes girl stopped to chat and check out this awesome scene. Kelsey and Lindsey finished shortly after me and we all headed down the hill. The Brone girl stopped at the turn to meet her boyfriend and adorable puppy. So this terribly cold and rainy uphill time trial ended with puppies and rainbows. And I did well enough for second place, missed first by 3 seconds.
With every race, but especially time trials, it’s natural to think ‘I could have gone harder.’ You always could have done better, and you always could have done worse. It’s a mental game when you’re redlining and your body is telling you to stop, but you want to go harder. I did the best I could for that moment.
Crit
Hella fast, right from the start. Hella fun. Attacks all over the place, constant moving around and fluctuation of speed – everyone was focused, reacting and making moves. The pack rarely settled down. I was trying to stay in good position and not kill myself. I felt pretty good taking the corners at speed with the group – better than last year (this was the first crit I’ve done this year with actual corners). Ten minutes in I thought, “This is the most fun I have ever had.” Lindsey did awesome – she attacked a few times, bridged me back up to the group once without knowing it. She was pretty pro – right there with all these other top notch ladies. Something I noticed is that I was in the drops the entire race. I usually come up to the hoods if things get boring or slow, but it was ‘go time’ the entire race. There was a crash in the last turn. I went inside, so I was able to avoid the shrapnel and loud screeches, but there was tons of brakes. The top gals were way in front of me by the time I jumped for the sprint. I ended up 7th. Wish I could have had a little better position into the second to last corner, but I was still pretty happy with the finish – it could have been worse.
Our other teammates all raced extremely well. Kelsey worked in a chase group with a gal from Minneapolis that we became friends with that day. Pete and Zark raced twice in blazing fast races. Monko took fifth in one! Lauren attacked like crazy and Sarah was nothing short of fierce in their crit. It was a fun day at the park racing, watching races and making new friends.

Pretty sure Wiss and Slice had as much fun racing as I did.
Rad Race
Sunday’s road race started out great. I was sitting second in the omnium, I knew the gal I needed to beat, and the three that I couldn’t let beat me. I had great positioning. Then there was a massive downhill. I tucked into the drops, squeezed the top tube with my knees and decided to go for it no matter how scared I was. My bike started shaking like crazy, waving back and forth frenetically. I was sure I had a flat or some kind of mechanical. I feathered the brakes – no change. I took my hands completely off the brakes – still shaking like crazy. Not like the normal downhill chatter, but like frantically waving back and forth. I scrubbed speed, swearing wildly in my head, ‘Just fucking stay upright. Don’t crash. Stay upright!!’ Ladies whizzed past me. I stopped at the bottom and looked at my bike. Checked the tires, checked the headset – nothing wrong. What the fuck. The official pulled over and asked if I was OK. ‘Yeah.’ I checked the bike for a second longer, then looked up to see the pack no longer in my sight. Took a deep breath and dug in. I would have to go really hard to catch them, but the race was over if I didn’t. It was do or die in the next few miles. The course started going up. Good. I can usually catch people on the climbs. Around the corner I could see the car maybe 500 meters out. But it was early enough in the race that no one was attacking and the pace was still fairly conservative. I chipped away. Girls were getting knocked out on the climb. I couldn’t work with them, because they were seemingly going backwards. Got so close the pace car moved over so I could merge back with the group. But I was breathing so hard, snot and spit running down my face. The pack was maybe 200 meters to the top of the big climb, I was maybe 10 meters from them, and I completely blew up. Well, I didn’t fall over and lay on the ground. But I couldn’t keep up my chasing speed. I slowed way down. They disappeared over the top of the climb. My heart was beating out of my chest. I got over the top and tried to kick it in – my last hope. There was an IsCorp girl that looked like she had some power left. I asked her to do 30 second pulls and work to get back. She said sure, I took a pull, counting to 40 and popped over. She said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have what you need.’ I started to dig in again, but they were gaining distance and I was spent.
My foot was killing me – pretty sure I broke a toe at some point before the race. It had been hurting the whole time, but now the pain was front and center. I wanted to stop, but I thought about how Dean says finishing is important. I decided I had to finish. My Garmin was broke, so I didn’t even have numbers to distract me. I decided this long solo ride would be punishment for not descending well and losing the group. Except it’s not really punishment, because the course was beautiful, the roads were perfect, and I was on my bike! And I had decided just this weekend that racing a bike is the most fun that could possibly be had. It’s just better when you’re in the main group or have someone to work with. I saw Eric. He was yelling to go catch the group. I yelled back, ‘Sorry!’ He was such an amazing support all weekend, that disappointing him weighed much heavier than my own disappointment – not that such a nice guy would actually be disappointed. I was not trying to make the other spectators think he was angry and a jerk, but they might have looked at him weird.
I was trying to psych myself up to bomb the descent the second time around, but my bike still felt kind of weird, like the front and rear wheel were not in sync. Even though I couldn’t decipher a problem with the bike, I decided to Granny it down the hill. What if the uncontrollable shaking happened again and I crashed this time? In the turn before the descent I looked back and saw Kelsey and the IsCorp girl waving. They passed me on the way down. Then Lindsey passed me and said, ‘I’ll help you after this!!’ I took my sweet time down the descent, then booked it at the bottom to catch up with my teammates.
When I came to Lindsey, she started pedaling really fast, ‘I’m going to bridge you back up to the group!’ I tried to get her to take turns pulling.
She said, ‘No, let me do all the work!.’
‘Don’t be a hero, this race is over. Just take turns pulling with me.’
We did. We also saw a colorful rooster. Then the incline came and the pulling fell apart. I felt bad about it, but I left Lindsey behind. I wasn’t sure how many women were ahead of me, and I at least wanted to get in front of the IsCorp girl. I was able to pass a few more people before the end. I finished 16th and not near any of the other racers.
I know it’s good to hang back and work with people, but I always feel like I end up going slower than I want. Maybe I need to get over that. Last year at the Michigan State Road Race, I worked with Chelsea Strate after we got popped off the back. The speed was good and it was great to work with someone. I don’t know at what point you sacrifice speed to work with people. And if my race is over, I want to still get a good workout by working hard. Maybe I am doing it wrong by always time trialing after getting popped off. My goal is to NOT get popped off, though, and stay competitive in the field next time.
Conclusion
It was a great weekend of racing and hanging out with my teammates. I was disappointed I did so poorly in the road race, but as it turns out, my rear hub was really loose, and that is what caused the shaking – NOT user error as I assumed. I still need to practice descending A LOT. I love omniums and I love my teammates. The end.

Making friends at the crit. Photo cred: Anna Schwinn

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

PWP's Katie Kolon experiences the Joe Martin Stage Race as a cat 4


Often NRC (National Race Calendar) races will have beginning category races in conjunction with the Elite/Pro races.  This can be a fantastic experience to see what a stage race is all about and experience one before catting up.  Read about Katie's experience here:

Joe Martin Stage Race (JMSR)

Naiveté
Some of the best things I’ve done in life, I’ve done out of a healthy lack of fear: traveling alone throughout Guatemala immediately after they signed peace accords to end civil war (which wasn’t really over anyway), moving to California after college with no money and no job, and crit racing, to name a few. JMSR was no exception.

Sarah Rice (Slice) wanted someone to go to the race with and my thoughts were that I would visit my friend who lives in Fayetteville, take a road trip, get out of the cold, and race a criterium. I didn’t even know what a stage race was. I quickly found out that in order to race the crit, I had to race the time trial and the road race. I later found out that I not only had to race all the races, but I had to finish each one in order to advance to the next “stage.” That’s why it’s called a stage race, dummy. Even later, I came to understand that people didn’t race for standings as much as time. This changes the game significantly, and especially in terms of team tactics as Slice thoroughly explained.




[Devil’s Den State Park, Time Trial location]


Time Trial
I had no interest in doing a time trial. I heard it was straight up hill with an average grade of 6.8%, so I went to pre-ride the 2.5 mile course and get a feel for it. I didn’t have time to do any warm up and I just tried to go as hard as I could make myself do something that seemed pointless. I almost threw up. I figured this boded well and that I would likely do better in the real thing since it would have at least one point, which would be to not be last.









[TT warm up, photo credit to John Kline]

My time trial was at 9:25am. I woke up early enough to eat and get there with time for a warm up. I did a nice long Kristen Meshberg (Kmesh) PWP-style warm up of 40 minutes including one hard threshold effort and a long block of tempo. Through PWP I’ve learned I don’t need long warm-ups, but I also didn’t think I could warm up too much for such a short and intense ride. I almost missed my start for no good reason other than my clock was probably a little different than their clock. I took off sprinting as fast as I could on the flat section before reaching the hill, and then slowly climbed the next 2+ miles. And my time was 3 seconds slower than my practice run with no warm up! Huh? Everyone said I was in my head too much. This is almost always true, but I actually thought my warm up was too long. I came in second to last, so I guess I met my goal, though in truth I expected to do better.

Road Race
Immediately after the TT, I had to cram some food in my mouth and book it to the start of the road race, which was starting only two hours after I finished the TT. (Side Note: all the races were in different locations and only the crit was in Fayetteville) There were so many logistics to figure out in preparation for the road race beyond just where the heck it started. Slice helped me with a lot of this. She taped the number on my seat post, told me I needed to find out if there was a wheel truck, and figure out if there were going to be neutral people in the feed zone or if I could have someone from PSIMET to hand me a bottle.  It was only a 40-mile course, but it was also going to be 80 degrees and I didn’t want to run out of water.







[Start of the road race]

The race start was very casual and stayed slow way long past when the motos told us we were done with the neutral roll-out. The course consisted of a gradual climb with rollers for 20 miles, and then 20 miles back down. I was near the front, but not in the wind, holding a good position. Slowly people started to try to move up and one woman was vying for my wheel. She kept bumping shoulders with me, and I held my position, unfazed. Eventually the person next to me dropped back and I moved over into her spot. I noticed that although these women were very strong, they weren’t all very confident at riding close together, positioning, or holding a line.

I started to move to the very front at mile 8. Cathy Frampton of PSIMET had advised me to tape important mileage markers to my stem. The first one was “the wall,” a major hill at 8.5 miles, where teams would attack. My plan was to go to the front before the hill and try to hang on as long as I could. But where was this wall? The course map was incorrect. At about mile 10, the strong riders took off up “the wall” and I was instantly dropped. Slice had emphasized that this was the point in the race where I had to burn all my matches to stay on, but I was burning everything just to get up the hill, so that was that.

As the main pack dropped me, I saw not everyone was able to go with them and I had the hope of forming a little chase group. However, we were all climbing and descending at different speeds and everyone seemed to eventually pass me. I thought maybe I could catch them on the decent in the second half of the race. I kept trying to talk myself into going faster as it seemed my heart rate was not that high, but my body started to hurt in ways I have never hurt before and I just couldn’t push myself hard enough to catch anyone. I have learned that I’m really unmotivated to ride hard when I have no one to ride or compete with.  Once I passed the halfway point, my goal became increasing my average speed by going as fast and hard as I could downhill. I got up to 46 mph at one point and got to practice taking a 90-degree corner at 34 mph. When I hit the feed zone with 10 miles to go I noticed that I instantly picked up the pace. I’ve also learned I am much more motivated to perform when people are watching and especially if they are cheering. In the last three miles I actually passed one person who must have bonked because I was going so much faster than her I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t caught her before. Again, I came in second to last.

Criterium
Finally, I got to do the thing I love. I woke up early again because my race was at 7:45am, making it the third race I would complete in a 24-hour period. My body was beat. I got on the trainer and felt terrible. I was worrying about riding with a bunch of women that I didn’t know and who didn’t seem to be super-comfortable riding in a pack. And the crit was very technical with a narrow chicane and some hills, including a steep uphill to the finish. Fun stuff. I just kept telling myself it would all be over in a mere 25 minutes.




















[Deep in thought at the start line, photo credit to John Kline]

I started at the front of the line and maintained a good position as the race took off. I hung on to the main group for the first lap and got dropped on the steep uphill before the finish line. No surprise. But for the first time at JMSR I was having fun. I forgot that I was tired; I forgot that I was coming in last; I just had fun going fast and cornering.


[Chicane around the town square, photo credit to John Kline]

The course was about a mile long, so we weren’t going to do many laps in 25 minutes. There was a long decent followed by a wide 90-degree turn on the back half of the course. I was going over 30mph and taking it faster each lap. On about my 5th or 6th lap, on the long downhill, my chain got jammed between the cassette and the chain stay—derailleur fail or it jumped out hitting the cobbles at high speeds. Neutral support was half a lap away and uphill, so I tried to coast as long as I could. I pulled over, figuring I was out of the race because it would take me the rest of the time to get back to the support tent. A course marshal ran over, quick-fixed my bike, and gave me a push while telling me I can still do it. Thanks, dude!

By the time I got back in, the remainder of the field had passed me. I felt proud that there had been 5-6 people behind me given the competition in my field. I knew people weren’t taking the corners or the downhill as fast as I was, but I had no idea I was that far ahead of people until they passed me. I was lapped at the finish line and got the bell lap. I worked hard to make up time in my remaining lap and managed to pass one woman within seconds of the finish line. Second to last again, but a proud second to last.

Take Aways
My goals for the race were to complete it and to not come in DFL. It was my first time trial and my first road race. In all honesty, I was hoping to do better than that, but with the top women in my field holding times that would have been competitive in the pro race, I realized the competition was stiff. I got DFL overall based on time, but there were five out of 32 women who did not finish all three races, so completing it was more of an accomplishment than I first thought.

I used to think I would never “cat up.” If I continued to do races with competition as hard as this one, it would be a long time before I would be able to. But doing JMSR made me remember that the point is not to always be on top, the point is to put yourself in situations where you are no where near the top of the competition in order to learn and grow stronger as a rider. More importantly, these experiences allow you to value the times you are on top because they allow you to measure how far you’ve come. “Difficult and easy complete one another; long and short measure one another.”

Epilogue: The Curse of JMSR
Weeks before, amidst freaking out about what I had committed myself to, Slice and Kmesh handed me some sage advice. These goals seemed well within reach and I recommend them to anyone considering racing the JMSR.
1.     Don’t get arrested
2.     Don’t break your ass in a crash on the start line
3.     Don’t blow your transmission

Check, check, and check. Based on my recent experience, I am adding two other real and potential dangers of the JMSR:
4.     Don’t step on a nest of baby copperheads
5.     Don’t get caught up in a wide-track tornado

We narrowly escaped both. It was biblical.


[Cloth numbers=classy.]

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 kmeshberg@comcast.net.

Looking forward to seeing you in December!!!

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

Hinsdale:
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!!!