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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memorial Day Iowa Races

I've done these races a bunch of times and it's pretty much a love/hate weekend for me.  The three races are:

Saturday-Snake Alley, Burlington, IA

Sunday-Melon City, Muscatine, IA

Monday-Quad Cities Criterium, Rock Island, IL

After much debate, Jason and the kids decided to join me and Sarah and her husband Eric for the weekend.  We got to stay with Eric's lovely sister and her husband and their two kids in Muscatine.  My kids had tons of fun playing and Sidney even received his first marriage proposal from Analise.  (He declined).  My only regret is that we didn't get a picture of all of them together, but here is a video  featuring Analise competing at the quad cities crit.  Jason and Eric brought their bikes and got some great training in.  It made for an awesome weekend and I'm so glad it turned out the way it did.

While we were warming up for Snake Alley Jason found a music store and bought the kids a ukelele.  Sidney actually made a couple bucks busking! 

Snake alley is a gritty technical race with a cobblestone climb and a fast twisty descent.  It doesn't cater to my strengths as a rider at all (the uphill is the hate part)  but I always like the idea of just digging deeper than I ever have and tapping into some kind of pain that only the endurance athlete can appreciate.  (the love part)  Plus the downhill is really fun.  For the first time ever I did not pre-reg, so I was freaked out by the woman at registration who gave me the number 61 and told me that we had that many riders in our field!  Turns out we had actually only had about 30.   It had poured rain the whole way there, but somehow magically cleared up about an hour before our start and our race was completely dry.  The start of the race is very important as it goes from a wide 4 lane road into the cobblestone switchback "snake" that the whole field has to jam itself into.  So if you get stuck behind someone slow, you are in trouble--if you lose momentum you fall over.  It's not really a race where teamwork comes into play, so Sarah and I were just going to wing it.  I wasn't ready when they started the race, and I was the last one from the line.  Not good.  Sarah took off never to be seen by me again.  Going up the first time, I felt a familiar twang in my right quad.   At the track the thursday before, the twang happened during the first race.  Not so bad when it was happening but when I got of the bike it hurt so bad I cried!  I worked through it but still.... scary.  I knew that this wasn't going to be the year that I have my elusive "snake alley breakthrough" ride, so instead of killing myself to get 17th place and possibly tear a quad, I sort of just rode along at a hard (you cannot go up that hill easy) but manageable pace.  I found a couple people to ride with who would drop me on the uphill but I would catch on the downhill and we finished the race together. I ended up in 24th place.  Not great, but in my book any finish of snake alley is worth celebrating.  Sarah finished very well--in the money!

Sarah and I going up the Snake:

Melon City.  Before this year I could honestly say I hated this race.  The only reason I ever do it is because I'm stuck out there in between Snake Alley and Quad Cities.  Even if I'm in great form, I've never felt good in this race.  It's a wide course through a park that has a sweeping descent into a speed bump where you catch air, and then a "looks easy but actually is very hard" uphill, ending in a hairpin turn which puts you into the start finish stretch.  Something clicked this year.  I felt pretty good the whole race and actually did some racing.  IS Corp had about 8 riders and controlled the race.  The road was wet and it rained on us a bit but I felt great over the speedbump -first time ever! I didn't like the thought of fighting through a field sprint in the wet pavement so at about 5 to go I took a flyer.  I was solo for about 2.5 laps, and just ran out of gas too soon.  As soon as IS Corp closed the gap, there was Sarah with a counter attack!  It was awesome.   I had left everything I had out there so that was the race for me.  I was bummed to not get a result, but very happy to have felt good and to have tried something, even if it was unsuccessful.  And I may have to adjust my "hate" status of this race. Who knew?  Sarah did not feel great on the speed bump, and said she felt how I usually felt on this course.
Jason and the kids were hanging out in the beautiful park while we were racing, even if they did get a bit wet.  

Monday is Quad Cities, and I have loved this race ever since I won it as a cat 4.  It's pancake flat with 8 corners, and it's really suited to my strengths as a rider.  The race is 48 years old, and the Quad Cities Bicycle club does a great job running the race and the town makes a really big deal out of it.  If you win it, they treat you like royalty.  I was sick last year, and did not have a great race, so I was really looking forward to racing it healthy this year.  Also, due to the canceling of the Western Michigan Stage Race, they had added the Quad Cities Criterium as the midwest's qualifier for the Nature Valley Pro Chase.  This is a very cool program where they put together riders from qualifying events across the country and form a fully sponsored composite team for the Nature Valley Grand Prix Stage race in Minnesota.  This was a goal of Sarah's and all we needed to do was make sure she finished ahead of the other riders competing for this.  My number one goal of the race was to help make sure this happened for Sarah, and if I could win the race in the process, well, that would be cool too.

Turned out I felt great!  IS Corp again had about 8 strong riders and they did a great job of controlling things.  I went with most of their attacks, hoping to get one to stick, but they would shut it down if I was there.  A couple times they countered and I wasn't able to go, but nothing stuck until about 5 to go.  IS Corp went with another rider in tow, and they dangled off the front for a couple laps.  At 2 to go I decided it was looking like it was going to stick, so I made the move to bridge up.  I jumped hard, on the back stretch, got a gap, and was on my way to the 2 riders.  All was going well until I hit the corner and before I could even do my signature freakout yell, I hit the ground hard.  To me, nothing seemed amiss and I had no idea why I went down.  It made sense when Sarah told me later that she thought I hit the man hole cover.  The road was wet and that was it, I slid out.  I had some nasty road rash, but mostly I was just mad--I wanted that win!  Luckily I'd had enough of a gap that the field could react in time and nobody else went down.  What I did do was cause a disruption in the field so that the two riders were able to just maintain their gap and finish 1/2.  I was bitterly disappointed, but.... "that's bike racing".  My own disappointment was overshadowed by the fact that SARAH GOT THE PRO CHASE!!!!  It was a great experience when I did it a couple years back and I know she's going to have a fabulous time.  I'm really excited for her!!!  

Here's me nursing my road rash before taking that first painful shower.  Not the podium picture I was hoping for.  I do still love this race, and I will continue to call it my favorite.  I guess I'll just have to come back next year!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Northbrook Velodrome Opening Night

Ali Engin was there and took some cool pics.

Racing at Northbrook is SO FUN.   Opening night was last week.  You can race for a separate team for each cycling discipline, and on the Track I race for the George Garner Cyclery Team.  This year I have two female teammates to race with, Stacy Mosora and Elena Dorr.  We have a really great team of guys too which are fun to watch (and even race with sometimes).  That's one of the cool things about track; everyone on the team gets to hang out and see each other race, not just the people in the same category.  Elena, Stacy, and I had a blast, and our men's team did well too.  We had so many Chicago women out racing that we actually two fields of women; a cat 4 field and a 1/2/3.  Cuttin Crew, XXX, HalfAcre, and PACT all had teams represented.  I raced with the women and the 1/2 men, as well as a master's race that is always offered.  Did I mention that this is SO FUN?!?!?!

                    Getting serious before the men's race :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fox River Omnium

Great racing close to home!  Saturday was a fun course in Elgin with a tight downhill/ uphill chicane that spit you out onto the finishing stretch.  It was a local race, but 4 Vanderkitten were there from out of town.  So it was all the usual locals, including our team of 2 Spidermonkeys against 4 Vanderkittens.  Sarah's instructions from her coach were to ride hard and get a workout, so she agreed to cover any attacks and bring it down to a field sprint for me.  There were a lot of attacks, mostly from Vanderkitten, but a few from some other locals including my old teammate (and current teammate on the track) Stacy Mosora.  Sarah covered them all.  I and a few others jumped in very sparingly.  The chicane was fun, but only if you were in front.  It became apparent that to win the race you had to be first into the downhill.  I felt pretty mediocre during the race but on the final lap I gave it my best and attacked hard, but it wasn't quite enough.  Two VK made it ahead of me and that's how we finished.  Happy we made the podium, but super bummed that I missed the podium picture!  We were the last race of the day and when I rolled in after a short cool down, they had already done it.  I was absolutely thrilled with our teamwork.  Teamwork only works if you have a strong teammate and I have a super strong one!!!!!  This race made me excited for races to come.....
Saturday's race:  Kittens and Monkeys

The next day was Fox River Grove, an awesome course with a huge hurtful hill right next to an actual ski jump.   The course was very long and the descent was awesome and fast and wound through neighborhoods.  Sarah and I lined up (she had placed third in the 30+ race earlier in the day--I would have liked to have made that race, but I wasn't able to allot the time that day) and I was able to hang for about 2 laps.  After the second time up the hill I blew up, and then just settled in to try to finish.  We only raced for 30 minutes which was pretty short, and after a while I started to pick people off from the shattered field.  I was getting great speed and having a lot of fun on the descent.  Midway through the race Sarah appeared and helped me pass a couple of riders.  We flew down that hill together but she was killing me on the uphill so I told her not to wait.  We finished 7th and 8th.  Fitness was gained!  After the race I rode out of there to meet Jason and the kids at a family BBQ celebrating cousin Vicki's graduation in Grayslake. It was an absolutely gorgeous ride through some beautiful country that I don't normally get to see.  

Fun courses.  Great Omnium.  So lucky we have this here in our neck of the woods, and totally worth traveling to!  Thanks to Team Psimet for putting on such a great event.

Sunday's hill.  This had to be a warm up lap.... 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fox RIver Grove Omnium--Erica Gaddy

I love getting these updates from clients:  

Erica is a coaching client as well as a PWP Participant.  She won the overall women's cat 4 Fox River Grove Omnium.  She and her team went in with a a plan and executed it!

Great job Erica!
From Erica:  Mission Accomplished!  Thanks for being an awesome coach :)


If you haven't checked out the June issue of Bicycling Magazine, go to the grocery store and pick up a copy.  Inside front cover!

It's true, I do love SRAM :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Speedweek 2013

I wasn't sure I was motivated to race speedweek this year but my Spidermonkey Teammate Sarah Rice very much wanted to go down to race--and it didn't take too much convincing until I agreed to go.

Speedweek is a series of crits that are part of USA Crits and some are part of our National Criterium Calendar.  The series starts in Athens, GA with the most widely spectated crit in the US.  There are over 30,000 people there to watch the race!  Mostly drunk college kids from University of GA, it's a crazy experience and very fun to race.  The series goes over SC, and NC and ends up back in Atlanta.  It's a challenge for people coming from colder climates to get the training needed beforehand this early in the year.  I've done the series a bunch of times and I like going down there because it provides motivation to train over the winter, and in the past, the weather is usually always 80 and sunny, a welcome change from our cold and rainy spring up here in Chicago.  The main reason I like doing these races in early spring is it lays the foundation for awesome results later in the summer.

I had done really well at Speedweek last year and vaguely thought that I was about where I was last year fitness wise, so I had high expectations.  Sarah had a great attitude and wanted to do well, but this was the first time she'd ever raced an NCC Crit, let alone an entire series.

Other than the weather and the great training, some other things that make this trip so great are:  My cousin Lynn comes along for the whole trip and acts as our professional Soigneur.  I get to hang out with my friend Brian and his wife Diane and stay at his awesome host housing.  I get to see and catch up with my Atlanta friend Zak.  And I also get to hang out and stay with my cousin Melanie and her husband Orrin.  This year, our other cousin Molly, would fly down and meet us at Melanie's house in order to help with the drive home.

It had all the makings for a great trip, except that this year the weather was nicer at home--while we were down there it was raining and cold!  And after the first race (Athens)  it was apparent my legs were garbage and I had no speed.  I realized I needed to readjust my expectations.  The next days race was in a torrential downpour.  I did not feel comfortable in this race and dropped out early.  Sarah on the other hand felt great and held on for a money finish! I changed my goal of the series from placing well to racing my way into shape.  Finally at the Walterboro race, I finally felt decent.  I saw the front of the race and even felt good enough to go for a prime.  Sarah continued to finish in the money.  Spartanburg, a great course for me, also went really well.  I felt confident even though it had rained and the course was slick causing multiple crashes throughout the race.  Sarah was feeling good too.  At 3 to go someone ran into Sarah and while she didn't go down, she had to take a minute to stabilize which ruined her finish.  At 2 to go I was in awesome position when two riders crashed directly in front of me and I had to slam on my brakes and ran into a hay bale. The officials gave me a finishing placing, but would not let me finish the race.  Of course I was happy to not be hurt and have my bike be ok but it was SO irritating.

This year there was a new race for the series in Belmont, NC.  It was a fantastic course with a very long uphill section and I would really like to come back and race it when I am more fit.  It looked fun!
Sarah and I and our SC Spidermonkey teammate Grace, who came out to cheer us on at the Belmont race

The final day was Sandy Springs.  It's a really fun course similar to the Belmont course with a long uphill section and a fast wide descent.  I finished the race  (just outside of the money) and was happy with that.  While I had originally hoped for some better results for the series, I definitely gained some fitness and got stronger.

Uncharacteristically we had to pull out our leg warmers and jackets ?!?! for the series,  but the other non bike racing events were awesome and it was another great year!

Cousins!  L-R Pro Soigner Lynn, Me, Molly & Melanie

UCI Para-Cycling Open, Greenville, SC April 20-21

When Kim asked if I wanted to do some road racing with her this year, I was thinking that our first event would be Nationals, in Madison, WI in July, so we'd have plenty of time to practice.  But when she asked if I'd like to do this event, which was a UCI selection for World Cup races, and would be the same course as the 2014 World Championships, of course I was game!  It just meant we wouldn't have a lot of practice beforehand, and the race itself would be the practice.

In Para events, visually impaired people compete on a tandem, with a sighted pilot.  We are a separate category, competing at the same events as other individuals with disabilities.

Traveling as a tandem team is no small amount of coordination, but the race venue could not have been easier to deal with.  The hotel was basically on the start of the course.  There was a Whole Foods across the street plus lots of restaurants.  It made everything so easy.

We did a Time Trial on Saturday, and a Road Race on Sunday.  The course for the RR was an extended version of the TT course.  It was technical, and while we struggled with it, we felt like we made significant improvements every lap we did.

The weather was awesome; for contrast, here's a pic of Kim and I riding in shorts and jerseys:

And here's what Jason and the kids were doing while I was away:

Kim and I gained a ton of valuable experience, which was our goal for the weekend.  Here's us hanging out with some other tandem teams and individual para athletes, some of which are olympians.  It was also cool to see our Chicago friends Joe Berenyi and Greta Neimanas compete after their London Olympics experience.  

L-R  Me, Kim, Greta Neimanas (Chicagoan/Olympian) Clark Rachfal (Olympian) Kara Vatthauer,  Mackenzie Woodring(Kara's Pilot), Mackenzie's partner, Dave Swanson (Clark's Pilot), Alison Jones (multiple Olympian in both Downhill Skiing and Cycling) and a friend.