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, March 27, 2012

Learn how to go on a group ride

Do you want to go on a group ride but aren't sure how to do it? Long time PWP participant Jen Welch is teaching the basics on group riding in April:

Years ago, I was slogging through a uncomfortably hot century ride with one friend when a 5 or 6 person pace line breezed by us. They made riding look effortless. My friend explained that a group of riders taking turns at the front of the line used less energy than we did, riding side by side.
Now I ride on Monday nights with the Chicago Cycling Club. These guys started the Monday night ride to recover from weekend races. For some folks it's a recovery ride, and for other folks its a training ride. They're very friendly to newbies and eager to teach the basics of group riding.
But even though I was a strong rider, it took me a while to work up my courage to just show up for Monday night rides. So I've decided to spend a few weeks in April teaching the basics before Monday night rides start this year. I've recruited a few of my usual riding pals to make sure we've got plenty of folks to help. We'll practice single and double line riding. We'll help you build up your confidence to ride close enough to benefit from the group, and ride smoothly and consistently to be safe. We'll keep a nice steady pace, probably around 15 miles per hour. Road bikes are strongly encouraged and helmets are required.
I'm always eager to get more women into riding, so I'm especially encouraging women to join us. It's also a great idea for that boyfriend or girlfriend who already rides and wants to learn what the heck a group ride is all about.
The first ride is scheduled for Saturday, March 31 at 1:00 pm. Let's hope this lovely spring weather holds! We're meeting in the parking lot at Northerly Island, so you can ride or drive to our ride. We intend to practice a bit on the island then head south on some bike lanes and ride around Washington Park. The whole ride should take about two hours. I hope you'll join us.
Jen Welch

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Life Story....

I got to be Spidermonkey of the week this week and was asked to write up my cycling life story.

In case you missed it.....

Podium from the 2007 cat 3/4 Superweek. Side note: Amanda Miller (on the right) is long listed for the 2012 Olympics.

Hi I'm Kristen Meshberg and here’s my life story…. just kidding….ok not really. I was not really athletic growing up and didn’t get into cycling until after graduating from college where I drank and smoked a lot. I got a job, moved to Chicago and got around the city on old bike someone gave me in exchange for babysitting. It was such a liberating experience to be newly independent and be able to get anywhere by bike! From my window at the American Bar Association I had a great view of all the bike messengers riding around and it looked way better than sitting at my desk all day so I quit to become a messenger. I lasted for about a year and a half. I still drank and smoked a lot but it was definitely the most fun job I ever had. I also got run over by cars a lot.

One day after picking me up from the hospital the guy I was dating told me he loved me and asked me to quit. I ended up marrying him. I went back to college and got a Master's degree in Elementary Education. I kept commuting by bike and started doing centuries and triathlons. I never really knew what I was doing, never had any proper gear, but I had a lot of fun. While I was teaching I got a side job at Performance Bike on Halsted. I loved working there, and was soon recruited by Higher Gear Bike Shop, who at the time had a shop on Fullerton Ave in Chicago. That's where I met a whole bunch of bike racers, including the one and only Dean Okun. I was introduced to proper road bike etiquette and among other things I learned not to go on group rides with a messenger bag, what a team "kit" was, and I purchased my first jersey. My husband Jason got really into racing at this time and eventually persuaded me to try a crit. It wasn't until everyone passed me at the end that I realized there might be some strategy involved. That's what hooked me. I couldn't wait until the next week to give it another shot. I started racing all the time and loving it. Shortly after I was introduced to the Northbrook Velodrome. Same as road racing, I was hooked immediately. I ended up getting a used Schwinn Paramount track bike for $550 that I've now ridden for 11 years. (It’s still going strong but I’m finally investing in a new track bike this year!!!!)

Though still working full time I went “all in” on the world of racing. I catted up to 2 and raced for the Trek Volkswagen Elite Team. I did a few bigger stage races but struggled in the Cat 1/2 fields. My idea of training was going as hard as you can all the time—I had no clue! After some time of not seeing any improvement I thought I would just hang it up, put that chapter behind me, and start having babies.

I never really thought I would race after having kids, but a couple things happened with the birth of my two children who are 19 months apart; we moved to the suburbs where I didn’t have a car and didn’t know anyone, I gained 90 pounds, and became a stay at home mom. I was very unhappy and desperately needed an outlet. So I started working out and here’s what ensued:

When my youngest was less than a year old I stuffed myself into the spandex and jumped in a few races. Even though I had catted down to 3 I got dropped and lapped every time. I would lug the kids up to the velodrome and get my butt kicked every single week. Without winning a race all year, I ended up winning the last race on the final night of the season and it was as if a switch was flipped inside me after that. By then some other life changing things had already fallen in place: I had recruited my old friend and former Trek VW teammate to help me with my training and another friend had convinced me to start an indoor winter workout program called Pedaling With a Purpose (PWP). I got some solid training advice and PWP provided the platform for me to seriously train. I began to learn how crucial a solid training program is to having a successful season.
I won 7 out of the 8 cat 3/4 races I entered and earned my Cat 2 upgrade, as well as Northbrook Velodrome Female Rider of the Year.
I raced Tour of California Women's Crit, Redlands stage race, Nature Valley stage race, Speedweek (series of crits in GA, SC, NC) Superweek and many more. I actually won (!) Cat 1/2 races a few of which were Elk Grove Village, Illinois State Road Race, Wisconsin State Road race; enough to get a Cat 1 upgrade.
At the end of 2008 I was approached by some sponsors to start a women's team for 2009. I had no idea how to manage a team and everyone I consulted advised me not to do it if I wanted to be a rider as well. But it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. On paper we did really well, but it took a lot of fun out of it for me, almost enough to make me quit racing altogether, but from it I learned a lot and would maybe like to give managing a team another shot someday when I am done racing.
This year I decided to cool off a bit, race on Jason’s team, go into the year without a plan and only race if I felt like it. I ended up racing more than ever and won a spot on the Nature Valley pro ride team--even though I had sworn off stage racing. I won the Quad Cities Criterium in May, a race that I love but had never managed to win. I thought I would just do the first part of Superweek since the races are so close to my house but I ended up contesting the overall, which meant that I had to race the entire 16 day series, the most consecutive days I have ever raced. I finished second overall.
This winter was rough for me and I experienced my first cycling setbacks since having kids. I was sick a lot didn't get my training figured out until it was too late. My whole year fell apart. I was able to pull out a few results, including Illinois Criterium Champion, and help my teammates a bit, but overall it was a very tough year and every race was both mentally and physically challenging. At the end of the year I found myself looking for a team. I was looking for a place where I could have fun with the sport and possibly inspire some other women to start racing. Spidermonkey welcomed me with open arms! I really like the philanthropic mission of Spidermonkey. It puts a bit of perspective on things to think about a cause and take the focus off of yourself for a just a second.
I had a great winter of training this year and am cautiously optimistic about the 2012 season. Cycling has become a huge part of my identity. My kids don’t know their mom as anything but a bike racer. Pedaling with a Purpose is what I do all winter long, and I’ve started coaching individuals, both of which help keep me inspired. Through this sport I’ve met so many cool people! I do know some of you on Spidermonkey already but I’m really looking forward to meeting and riding with you all!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Racing Season is HERE!!

I have had a great winter of training! PWP was (and is for two more weeks) awesome. Newt Cole's Engine Building class added a new and very positive dimension to things. We had great groups in both locations, and I was very healthy until recently but I realized it's just allergy season starting early. My training this winter was opposite of last winter when everything went wrong.

I decided the Kenosha Spring training race would be the first time for me to rock my new team Spidermonkey kit! I knew I was feeling good, but the first race of the year is always nervous. How was everyone else's winter? Where would I stack up compared to them?

My husband Jason decided to race it with me. It's been a while since Jason had done a crit (2008 maybe?) so I was surprised. But he's been training a bit this winter and I was really happy! On the way up we joked about being in a break together.

It was a gorgeous day, a bit windy, but absolutely beautiful weather. While I was waiting for the race to start I rolled up to the final corner to chat with PWP'er Erica Gaddy who had raced the women's race earlier and was watching (another PWP participant) John Cline race the men's cat 4 race. John was in great position coming around the final corner, and then bam! Not sure what happened but he and his bike were somersaulting through the field and someone else crashed into him and ran him over. John is fine, though he suffered a broken rib, a broken collar bone and a possible broken finger. Not exactly how you want to start your season.

This did nothing to settle my pre race jitters. They delayed our race to take care of John so when we finally went to the line they decided to combine the 3s race with the men 1/2's. I just wanted to get the first race of the year over without incident!

There were around 20 guys at the start and at the gun it was a fairly moderate pace. I stayed near the front staying out of the wind when all of a sudden a red blur attacked and it was Jason! I jumped to the front of the field and enjoyed saying a couple times, "sorry that's my husband--I can't chase". We caught him after about 6 laps or so and as we did I tried to encourage him and tell him to just sit in and recover. Imagine my surprise when a couple laps later the same red blur went again! Not sure how long he was gone but after several individuals put in some hard chase efforts, it took two IS Corp teammates to actually chase him down. After that 2 other guys and I were able to just roll off the front. I was feeling good, trading pulls, until I took a nice pull into the headwind section. My breakmates accelerated and dropped me. Luckily another rider was bridging up and we rode together for a while until 3 more guys followed, including my former ABD teammate Konrad Witt. Konrad and another guy were motivated to catch the break so we rode hard and were closing the gap. Right before we got there, one of the guys in the break exploded leaving the leader dangling in front of us. Konrad waited to close it until the final corner and then he and another guy sprinted ahead, and Konrad took the win! I sprinted too, but wasn't exactly going at the same speed. They passed the leader just before the finish and I held on for fourth in our group but one of the riders who finished ahead of me was a lapped rider, so I ended up third overall. Jason reported that he had tried several bridge attempts after he made sure our break was secure, and ended up in another chase group out of which he won the field sprint for 5th or 6th place! We were both thrilled after the race, and I was relieved to have a positive race experience!