Monday, March 19, 2012

Good Cycling Karma

A week ago, I watched a Specialized-lululemon video about how their female team got involved in cycling and then eventually into racing. This video took some serious tugs at my heartstrings (yes, the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day) because any woman who’s ever raced a bike or tried group riding can relate to these feelings: “I’m scared to ride on a road with cars”, “I got dropped on a ride”, “I never thought I’d race a bike…especially a criterium”, “how do I change a flat tire?”

Recently, I finally got back on the yoga mat and it got me thinking about how beautiful of a sport cycling really is and just like yoga it really is a “practice”. Think about it for a second. Every workout on the bike is just like laying your mat out in the studio…you come with an open mind (positive mental attitude), you set an intention (or your coach’s scheduled TrainingPeaks workout), you have a focal point so you don’t tip over (maybe it’s that town line sprint sign or mailbox at the top of a climb), maybe you challenge yourself in a new pose (be willing to set a goal, whether it’s short term or long…try…fail…and try again...succeed...set a higher one!), offer strength to those who need it in the world (maybe it’s an encouraging comment to your teammate or advice on how to improve), the power of breath (I’m still trying to OM shanti shanti my way up those hills) and offer love and light back into the world (share your passion with your community).

My local Specialized shop, Phoenix Cycles in Phoenixville, PA asked myself and local female ambassador of cycling awesomeness, Beth Fayant to lead a “Specialized Women’s Day Ride” on Sunday, March 18, 2012. We had about 40 women of all different skill levels from experienced Cat 2 racers to local weekend trail cruisers set forth on a 28-mile tour of beautiful Montgomery Country with a stop at our favorite local coffee shop, Java’s Brewin’ in Royersford, PA. Even though the weather was overcast for most of our ride, it was so great to catch up with some of my sunny disposition-ed Philly/SJ friends like Kelley Bethoney, Dana Hanchin, Barbara Statton, Lara Marek and Sara BM to reminisce about what it was like when we first started out and share our stories with new friends. For instance, Barb and I both had “shifting” issues when we first started riding. Barb said she always wanted to put her bike in the harder gears and mash it, while I didn’t know how (or bother to care how) to get from big to little ring on my 1986 Panasonic w/ those down tube shifty thingies. Side note: high fives to Barb and Dana for showing a few ladies during the ride when/how to get out/in of those big/little rings!

Learning is my favorite…next to smiling. So, I learned a few things today about leading my first group ride:

Learning one: find out from each woman what her level of riding is.
Learning two: split 40 women into two or three groups of different levels to keep the groups together and safe.
Learning three: patience is a virtue…at first, riding slower was taxing but then I got to thinking, “when do I ever take time out to enjoy a leisurely ride?” Channel your yoga practice into the bike, McClure. Be present. Enjoy the moment. Breathe.
Learning four: everyone has a story…ask them how they got into riding…tell them how you got into riding. You’d be amazed at the stories you hear!
Learning five: never stop learning. Be open to suggestions. Give suggestions from a good place and not one of ego (something many athletes and type A’s need to chick-ity check themselves on from time to time.)

By the end of the ride, as my friend Dana Hanchin would say “my love bubble” expanded for this sport (and my friends…new and old) because it empowers women to never stop exploring by challenging ourselves mentally and physically from what we think we can’t do and turning it into something we believe we CAN actually do. Thank you to all who came out to ride, to my navigator and good friend Beth Fayant, Phoenix Cycles, Java’s Brewin’ and especially Specialized who continues to empower us to create a community of support for women’s cycling. As lululemon athletica says, “Do one thing a day that scares you!” You never know. You just might surprise yourself.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Girls Love Clothes

It's no secret, right?!  Women LOVE new clothes.  In this case, this woman loves her some new spandex!  :)

I came home from a week's vacation/work in Mexico to a week of heavy training to make sure that not too much was lost in the time off.  Waiting for me upon my return was a lovely bag of goodies, lovingly packaged up by Grizzly and Incline, and including the prettiest clothing this side of Poland!  Our new kits arrived!

Of course, I have wasted zero time in getting them out of the bags, cuddling with them a bit (new kits are so soft and cuddly) and getting them ready for their first road test.

The hot pink chamois is the biggest change from last year's kit to this year's...and it is AWESOME!  Incline and I were basking in comfortable glory and telling everyone how happy our under carriages were feeling today on the ride.  Maybe that would be a bit too much information for a normal crowd, but the Java ride guys just laughed at us.

I am so very grateful to our new and returning sponsors (some of who gave us some wicked cool logos this year!) and to VERGE for making some of the best clothing that I have had the pleasure of wearing on the bike!   Thank you, VERGE!!  Or, as they say in Poland, "Dziekuje!!"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My First Date

The sentiments about my new 2012 S-Works Tarmac SL4 are similar to something my best friend once told me about her TT bike when she first got it, "it's like dating someone WAY hotter than you." My thoughts EXACTLY.
My new boyfriend is way lighter than my old one (15.5lbs, but who’s counting?), way prettier (sometimes I find myself just staring at it in sheer awe that he chose me), but most importantly aggressive (a common trait we share), faster (something we’re all trying to be), and…stiffer :)
We had our first date at Grants Tomb this past weekend in New York City after only having a week to get to know one another (I know, I move quick). It was a beautiful, sunny morning, except for the 30-degree temps and 20+mph winds (def not my type of racing weather). While it’s still very early in the race season, I’m the type of person that believes in racing into the best I can be and putting myself out there even if I’m not completely ready, so this was a bit of a “let’s test the waters and see what level I have to get to.”
Last year, I raced fields with not more than 20-30 people so showing up to NYC with 40 women already pre-reg’d, PLUS more that showed up to day of register was a bit intimidating for my first race out as a Wasabi Warrior, but I was eager to achieve little victories throughout this race and make my team proud.

My Little Victories:
1) Clip in on first try (Success.)
2) Don’t get dropped (pretty much my anthem)
3) Mark riders that you know are stronger than you and stay with them. (Ouch)
4) Hide- this race was awesome because everyone was a sprinter and I felt like I was with my big can sisters so pretty much everyone’s draft was great!
5) Don’t crash-unfortunately, my eyes were super dry from the wind (my apologizes for any sketchy moves. I seriously rode the entire race in a visual blur)
6) Don’t give up. Ever.
I took the last turn wide so I didn’t get too caught up in a fight for position before the sprint. When I got back into the field, even though I jumped up some places it was a bit late for where I really wanted to be. However, for my first crit back with a brand new bike I’ve been on for a week, going from old Shimano 105 to SRAM Red, LOOK to Speedplay, fighting the cold and trying not to have a full blown asthma attack, I’m pretty thrilled with coming in 12th out of 40 plus strong sprinters and can’t WAIT to see what our team can do together in 2012! Oh, and I can't wait for my second date ;)
Photos by NYVeloCity