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

Pedaling with a Purpose

My name is Kristen Meshberg and I am a former category 1 bike racer. I competed nationally in both road and track. I am a USA Cycling Coach, and help individuals develop plans to achieve their goals. To survive the Chicago winter, I developed an indoor workout program called "Pedaling with a Purpose."

I now have various locations across the United States. To find out more about Pedaling with a Purpose or Coaching, email Kristen at: kmesh.pwp@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend


I love Memorial day weekend. For the Midwest Bike Racer, Memorial Day means Snake Alley,Melon City and Quad Cities Criterium. The 3 races aren't a series, just 3 separate events. Though this year the results from all three were combined for a Nature Valley Pro Ride Qualifier. I qualified for last year's Nature Valley Pro Ride and it was an incredible experience. Another cool thing about this weekend was that they offered 3 races each day for the women. A cat 4, a 2/3 and a 1/2/3. So if you are a cat 2 or 3 woman, you have the option to race twice, and it's nice to have a chance to shine without all the cat 1's. Very unique and really neat opportunity.

The three races of the weekend are vastly different and there's something for everyone! For the women, the field consists of all the best regional riders, and there are usually a few national and international pros that show up. This year we had Amanda Miller from HTC, Coryn Rivera, Kaitlin Antonneau for Peanut Butter & CO 2012 and Sam Schneider from Tibco. And of course the ABD women's team! This was exciting because it was the first time all year that our entire team would be racing together!!

Unfortunately two Saturdays ago Jason decided to blow out his knee while "looking at squirrels" in the back yard. No I'm not making this up, it is the truth. Of course the 10 years of playing basketball might have contributed but it was the squirrels that did him in. Thank goodness we are so lucky to be friends with the folks at Hinsdale Orthopaedic. Not only are they cyclists themselves, but they are some of the best surgeons around and I felt completely comfortable entrusting Jason's care to them. They got him in quickly and knew right away that he would need surgery to repair the damage. He had it done the Friday before Memorial Day. I'm sure he would have been fine if I had taken off for the weekend, but he was in no shape to be taking care of kids, so I had to pull the plug on my plans. It was a bummer, but in the 5 years I've been racing since having kids I've never had to do this so I really can't complain.

Even though I really wanted to be out with the team, I felt very lucky to have a racing opportunity so close to home. The ABD master's series in Wooddale was great fun. I raced there on Saturday, took Sunday off, and planned to drive out to Quad Cities and join the team for the day on Monday.

So here's what I was able to piece together being stuck at home getting texts and emails of how the team was doing. Jessi was the only team member that had done Snake Alley before. For Sarah ,Stacy, Jeannie and Elena it was their first experience with it. I've done it a few times and though I know I probably won't ever win it, I just love how grueling it is. It is dubbed the hardest crit in the US!! It is a big deal just to finish that race. Elena broke her chain at the start but the rest of the team was able to race it and they did fantastic! Stacy ended up 11th, Jeannie 13th, Jessi 16th (after driving there straight from her High school graduation and having no warm up) . The podium was no surprise with Amanda Miller, Coryn Rivera and Kaitlin Antonneau finishing in that order.

Melon City was on Sunday and this is also a super hard race, that I have no fondness for :) It really hurts doing it the day after Snake Alley and it has a weird speed bump at the bottom of a down hill that really doesn't hurt anyone but still freaks me out. The finish is not a typical sprint but you go up a short hill, and then around a hairpin turn that makes you lose all momentum, and then you must find legs for the sprint. This race is for super strong riders. From what I heard awesome Kenda rider Ashley James escaped early and soloed for the win. The rest of the field was together at 4 laps to go when Stacy attacked. Only Amanda Miller and Coryn Rivera could go with her, and Amanda was able to take second, and Stacy held on for third. Sheer strength!!! Jessi almost took the field sprint but got nipped at the line by Sam Schneider. An extremely impressive finish in 6th. Jeannie raced in the 2/3 race earlier that day and took 4th.

On Monday I drove out for the race and received a very warm welcome from my loving team!! I was so bummed to have missed out on most of the weekend but their spirits were high even though they all told me how tired they were, they had raced all weekend and had even done the 2/3 race earlier that day (where Jeannie and Stacy got 9th and 11th). Quad Cities Criterium I think might be my favorite race of all time. Totally flat, wide corners, and fast! I won this race last year so I got to race in the #1. It was crazy windy and we hoped to get a break going with ABD in it. My teammates were committed to helping me out with whatever it took. Given my current fitness level, I was not so confident, but I was committed to giving it my all. From the gun Amanda Miller(worlds rider, just got 7th in the Tour of California women's time trial invitational) went ALL OUT. Coryn Rivera and I, along with Catherine Walberg from Kenda and maybe a few others were on it. I was maxed out immediately but we had a gap right away. I struggled for a few laps but just couldn't hang on. Kenda fell off and then I did. Unfortunately I was not able to recover in time and when the field came by strung out and chasing, I could not catch back on, hang out and recover. I rode until they pulled me, which stunk but on the bright side I got to see the incredible work of my teammates unfold. When the break I was in was caught, Jeannie was able to counter with two other riders. They got a sizable gap for some time and then when they were caught Stacy attacked solo and rode the last 15 laps by herself FOR THE WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jessi and Jeannie patrolled the front of the pack neutralizing any chase attempts. It was so cool.

In conclusion, I'm thankful for a lot of things; my nice husband and kids that need me to take care of them, good doctors who can fix us, the cool ABD club for putting on fun events close to home and supporting women's racing, and my AWESOME teammates that are so postive and fun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tour De Grove--St. Louis

This was a tough weekend for the ABD Women's Team. We headed down to St. Louis for 3 crits. Only Saturday's was NRC (National Race Calendar) but most people stuck around for Friday and Sunday's races as well. Sarah starred in her own version of planes trains and automobiles. She hoped to save time by flying to St. Louis from Michigan but got stranded in Chicago all day on Friday missing the Friday night race. Elena and I drove down on Friday and Stacy was going to drive down on Saturday and meet us at the race. Friday was successful racing for Elena and I. It was cool, but dry. Elena got second in her race and I had my first field finish of the year!!

I'm kind of proud of this picture I took of Elena's finish from my phone. Not bad!

For the rest of the weekend it alternated between drizzling and pouring, was pretty cold and in general unpleasant. Saturday Elena slid out on a corner and thought she rolled her tubular but didn't so she did not get a free lap--ending her race just like that. In the 1/2 race, a fairly technical crit that looked sort of fun had it been dry, Stacy, Sarah and I felt alright. Immediately from the start Sarah's brake was rubbing, so that ended her race. I flatted early and the pit wheel I got was inflated to what felt like 200 psi. I immediately crashed out on the first corner. I cried like a baby but turned out to be just fine. I got back in and finished avoiding both the carnage on the final corner and the money to end up 22nd. Stacy rode like a rock star--it was exciting to see her off the front for a bit while I was in the pit getting my wheel changed--and she got the last money spot for 20th.

Sunday racing in the cold rain in yet another technical crit with downhill corners was appealing to none of us but we sucked it up, found some motivation and went to the line. Poor Elena crashed out of the winning 3 person break in the slick rainy downhill corner and dnf'd. She is fine, though road rashed. Stacy, Sarah and I stayed upright. Stacy finished with the field in 20th. Sarah and I finished otb in 40th and 23rd. To quote Sarah, "it was kind of like fun, but different." After the race we dropped Sarah off at the airport and Stacy gave me a ride back to Chicago. Elena had gotten done several hours before us so she had already headed home. Turns out Sarah's flight was delayed in St. Louis so she missed her connection in Chicago once again stranding her at O'Hare. Last I heard she'd gotten a ride home from some strangers and hopefully made her way back to Michigan.

Even in all that nastiness we still managed to have a lot of fun. If we can stay positive under these conditions, I think we can handle just about anything that comes our way. I saw a lot of improvement in my racing and we had a great time staying with my dear old friends Tim and Danielle and their two adorable boys. We even enjoyed a fun game of "Chipmunk comes alive in the house after being brought in 'dead' by the cat."


Speedweek is a 7 day crit series spread over 9 days. It starts in Athens, GA with the famous Athens Twilight Crit that has over 30,000 spectators, and ends in Atlanta, GA with stops in South Carolina and North Carolina. I have done some of these races in the past and have always wanted to go back. For a crit rider, it doesn't get much better than this. All the best sprinters in the nation were here with full squads backing them up, as well as the individuals. Rouse, Tibco, Colovita, Primal Map My Ride, to name a few. The Southland is in it's full glory this time of year; sunny and 80 with no humidity every single day. Coming from the horrible 40 degree rain we'd been having around here, it was heavenly.

When I decided to do these races last year I was hoping to be fit and ready to race! Unfortunately given that I was off the bike all of February and much of March, Speedweek became a "race into shape" experience. Also, what better way to get to know your almost complete stranger teammate than going on a 10 day intimate road trip with them? Sarah and I were both a little nervous and figured we'd either be best friends at the end, or it would be very quiet on the way home.
Luckily for us we became best buds!! We both were kind of in the same boat in our results; Sarah who had been in good form, had suffered a pretty bad crash that put her off the bike for a while, so she was trying to get some form back too. Every day was much of the same. Fighting hard, lasting a little longer, and struggling to stay positive. We were so thankful to have the full support of the amazing ABD team behind us so we kept pushing forward and we saw improvement with every race. We both felt very lucky to have the opportunity to be there.

One of my favorite things about bike racing is calling up random friends and asking them for huge favors. My old friend Brian Coll who is a Chicago Cycling Legend, moved down to Atlanta with his lovely wife Diane a few years ago. He is a racer, cycling coach and personal trainer. He did everything from providing us with a lovely condo to stay in, chauffeuring us, making us breakfast, taking us on rides in the gorgeous countryside, as well as cheering for us and giving us motivational pep talks. Thanks so much Brian!! As always it was great to see you.

I'm kicking myself for not taking more pictures, but other fun stuff I got to do was stay with my cool cousin Melanie who lives in Charlotte, NC and have dinner with my old friend Susan who I have not seen in over 10 years since she moved to Columbia, SC. Sarah got to hear a lot of stories about "the old days" and catch up on who was doing what. :) But it was wonderful to see them and I was thankful for bike racing bringing me into their neck of the woods.

It was really neat to see Theresa Cliff-Ryan with full backing of her Colovita team dominate things. However, when Theresa left mid series to go compete in the Pan-Am games, Laura Van Gilder took over the series lead and won it racing as an individual. She is so cool!! Also of note, Tibco sprinter Sam Schneider was hit by a car and knocked unconscious in Athens before the first race of the series! She came out of it just fine and still managed to finish fourth overall. Simply amazing.

All in all not our best results, but we're hoping that it will pay off later in the season. So look out!

PWP Kara and Kathy do Vino Fondo

Kara and Kathy at Vino Fondo

Here's an update from Kara Chmielewski a fellow mom of two who holds down a full time job:

Hi Kristen,

Just wanted to say thanks for another great year of training! I rode in the Vino Fondo in Missouri this past weekend. I almost quit and was on the verge of tears several times, but I finished!!!! It was so hilly...so hilly...actually hills with names. I don't do hills with names. I do now. I did the Midi version - 84 miles. I need to be a better climber, guess I'll have to figure it out before next year. Although advertised as a "ride" not a "race" we had chips. That is my first experience in an actual timed ride. I was so nervous I wanted to puke until I crossed the finish line and then I just wanted a beer. How intimidated was I at the start?? VERY!!!!!! These are all serious rectreational riders and a few race teams. The route was a Tour of Missouri route - totally out of my league. I rode with Kathy Austin from PWP who now rides with me at CES and 3 guys I know from grad school. This was by far the most serious ride I've ever done and it just makes me want to do better next year. Overall, a very cool experience, only 20 women out of 140 or so riders.


Great job Kara and Kathy!!! What a postivie experience! Sounds epic and hard.