May 3, 2010 Posted by Amy King

Wait! There's one more thing you need to know!!!

I know I'm supposed to be done blogging, and I don't mean to take away from my fellow Women Who Ride and their fabulous posts, so please indulge me, BUT...

Do not walk, do not run...pedal furiously to the next Trek Sponsored Dirt Series for Women!!!!!!!!!  The wealth of skills, the incredible coaches, and the absolute fun that is to be had on a bike at this camp is not to be missed.  So do yourself a favor and sign up for one of these!

In one weekend, I learned front-end wheel lifts, manual jumps/drops, how to do switchbacks, straight-line riding, proper climbing technique, and tons more than I even imagined was possible.  And I got to do two very fun rides to show off all my new skills!  The coaches, a bunch that could be very intimidating, are just the right blend of tough and encouraging...and so confident in their coaching that they're confident in you - they know you'll get it!  

I'll be doing this series again; I want more!!  But in the meantime, I have lots of new skills to practice while I ride.  If you've ever had an inkling that you want more skills on your mountain bike, go sign up.  Don't wait!

April 30, 2010 Posted by Amy King

What a Ride!

My friend, Jen and I were talking the other day about where we were in our lives a year ago.  She was commenting on how much she has changed as a rider in just one year, remembering her training for her first century:  how she didn't eat properly and had never gone more than 30, then 40, then 60 miles before on a bike.  And now she's done TWO centuries (one with serious elevation), has interest in mountain biking, and has joined the VeloGirls to expand her repertoire of skills.  Go Jen!  Wow!  I had been thinking about my riding in the last year, too.

A little over a year ago, my husband said, "Hey, Trek is having a contest.  You should enter!"  I read the details and decided that it would be interesting to at least dust off my brain and write about why I rode my bike.  I never would have imagined how much that one essay would impact my life!

I thought I rode a lot a year ago.  I thought I was content with my "relaxed" (aka: slow) riding, enjoying the scenery and exercise.  I thought racers were crazy people.  I thought I wasn't a competitive person.  And I thought I had no desire to go anywhere different on my bike.

But then I wrote that essay.  And I waited to hear if I would be picked.  I didn't think I would be, but I secretly hoped.  And before I knew it, I was making arrangements for the kids to be left over a series of days with Chris and two (very wonderful) friends so I could go to Trek Headquarters and become an official Woman Who Rides.  And it's all been (biking) downhill from there!   

A year is simultaneously long and short.  In this year, I've done a couple of centuries, done my first road and mountain bike races, met and hung out with some truly incredible people, and completely changed how I view myself as a cyclist.  I've taken my role as a Woman Who Rides seriously, and I truly hope that people have seen that you don't have to be perfect or even good on a bike to enjoy it and where it takes you.  Yes, I have had the advantage of the incredible support of Trek (I am a very lucky girl!) and my fellow Women Who Ride.   But Trek started the bike rolling with opportunities.  It was the bike that continued it:  My new Madone and Fuel EX led me to the guys at Trek Store of San Jose and more rides with Lorri and the Velogirls...which led me to consider racing...which led me to do bike skills classes...which led me to my fabulous teammates... all which led me to the bike community I've been searching for for a long time.    

Tomorrow I go to do the Trek Dirt Series mountain bike camp.  I'm incredibly nervous and doubting my ability to learn to ride cool things like wheelie drops and how to ride skinny teeter-totters.  Today, my friend Constance taught her first Boot Camp class at the YMCA.  She did a great job!  I saw her afterward and she was so excited.  She said, "It was completely outside my comfort zone.  But if I don't do something new, I don't grow, so I have to do this for myself."  Perfect.  That is exactly how I could sum up this year.   

March 22, 2010 Posted by Amy King

Women Who Race

First things first:  Happy Birthday to my sweet Delaney!  7 years old; I can't believe it!

Bariani Road Race (as in Bariani Olive Oil):

I was nervous the whole 2 hour trip to the race.  To be more accurate, I've been nervous for the last 2 weeks, feeling the passing of time acutely.  I keep thinking about this crazy bike year:  Last year at this time, I was a committed recreational rider (newly picked by Trek to do this blog!), and thinking that anyone who raced was either super-fit or just plain crazy.  And there I was a year later, on Saturday, in the car on my way to my first race...nerves and anxiety on full blast.  On Friday we had hosted a birthday party for my daughter and ten of her friends, then my two-year-old appeared to have the stomach flu.  Not the most relaxing or focused way to spend the day (and night) before my first race, but perhaps it took my mind off of my worries.  Saturday morning, I finished prepping my gear, and Declan looked well enough to leave with the grandmas (who had both flown in to celebrate Delaney's birthday) which meant Chris could come with me (hooray!).  In the car, despite the deliberate non-cycling conversation, I kept focusing on one aspect of the race:  would I be able to clip in to my pedals and at least leave the start line with the pack?

Continue reading "Women Who Race" »

March 4, 2010 Posted by Amy King

Practice Makes Perfect

Guess what?!  I can ride my bike with no hands!  That's one of the very cool things I learned on Sunday during my training.  I also learned to properly steer the bike (hint: not with the handlbars), to counter-steer, the physics of steering a bike, how to do a proper lead-out, how far I can sprint on a bike, and some other racing etiquette and tactics.  All of these new skills have given me a lot more confidence on the bike, knowledge about the physics of the bike, and were just fun to learn.

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to learn how to do something?  I'm betting that you didn't go to the library to research it.  You likely didn't ask your parents.  You probably grabbed a friend or two, went to an appropriate spot, and...practiced!  As kids, my sister and I were friends with the family up the street (Hi, Winarskis!) with two of the sisters the same age as each of us.  The four of us spent countless hours practicing headstands in their living room, doing god-knows-what on the street on rollerskates or bikes, and finding out at exactly what point did you need to bail from the wagon while riding in it down our super-steep driveway.  And while I was going around the same loop in the office park on Sunday, again and again, trying to get my hands off my bars and my body upright (the key to riding no-handed), a song that my brother used to have on tape when we were kids popped into my head:  Practice Makes Perfect.  It's actually a horrible song, but I couldn't stop singing it!  "Practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect, the more times I practice the better I will be!"  I'm sure the recesses of my brain connected that song with what I was doing:  playing like a kid.  

That's exactly what we were doing!  We had a group of girls, and we went out and learned a skill, one at a time, and did it again and again.  For hours!  When was the last time you did that?  We're not kids anymore, and playtime is not spontaneous very often, but we can still schedule it into our lives!  In fact, scheduling a time to go learn something new from an expert (thanks, Lorri!!!), makes the experience even better!  As adults, many of us feel more comfortable having someone teach us how to do something rather than just figure it out on our own.  We've come a long way from the days of hurtling our body through space just to see how it feels.  And since we're likely carving out time from a busy life, streamlining the process of learning a new skill makes it easier, so having someone show you how it's done makes it more efficient.  This Tri-Flow Women's Development Program is 6 weeks long, and we learn a mind-boggling amount of things every week.  Maybe you don't have the time to commit to something like that.  (Frankly, I need to learn a lot to feel confident racing.)  But there are 4 hour clinics or weekend clinics that will teach you more about your bike and bike handling skills.  It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or not, I encourage you to get out and spend a morning or afternoon playing like a kid again, practicing over and over.  Because practice makes perfect!

February 15, 2010 Posted by Amy King

The Race Is On

My race training has officially begun, and now that I have a teensy tiny bit of knowledge under my belt, I feel it's appropriate to set down a goal or two for my first race.  I have a lofty one right off the bat: to finish.  And even though I was chastised for saying so, my second goal is a version of 'don't finish last.'

So far I've done two on-road skills sessions and an indoor training session.  I am doing some riding on my own too, to supplement my supervised training.  Guided by Lorri Lown (leader extraordinaire of VeloGirls), and two mentor racers, Laurie and Mariska, a group of 5 of us noobs are out there learning the ropes and soaking up tips by the second about racing and riding.  It's a nice group of women, all of us coming from different places on the bike and life. 

I've been riding for almost ten years, and the learning has been gradual and casual; certainly a slow pace.  I'm also fairly laissez faire about my riding, as I figure I'm going out to have fun and get some exercise.  If I forget my water or food, I'm confident I'll figure it out.  This drives my anal husband crazy, and he rolls his eyes as he askes if my phone is charged (for emergencies) and knows in his heart of hearts that it's not.  It's all worked out so far, so why change habits, right?  But change is good, and I'm definitely heading down a road that is not familiar to me!  I'm pretty sure I've already learned more about riding in those two outdoor days than I have in the 4 years that I've been riding on the road.  A friend asked if the rides themselves were tough.  I had to think about that.  I certainly worked hard, got my heartrate up, and all that jazz.  But it was more the mental exertion that took me by surprise.  When you're new to riding on someone's wheel, and within elbow's reach of another rider next to you (we're working on it, right Lorri?), it takes a tremendous amount of effort and concentration to...relax, not freak out, stay in control while going with the flow.  Combine that with thinking about pace lines, your speed in relation to your fellow riders, strategy on how to use individual strengths on the team, nutrition, and general bike handling and you find that 3 hours flies by and your head is about to explode.  On our 'breaks,' we're learning about small details about the race, hearing common 1st time racer faux paxs, and what can go wrong in a race.  And there's more to come!

So when I say that my goal to finish is a lofty one, I'm really not kidding.  And while Lorri hates new riders to have the goal to not be last (she has a valid point: there is no shame in last place when a race is as frought with tiny things that make or break you as it is), I am just hoping that I am not embarassingly last, shelled out of the pack and left to limp along and arrive at the finish line as they're sweeping the confetti off the podium.  I'm hoping that my lower brain has been listening to Chris all these years about preparation, and that my anxious anticipation about this new riding path will help me follow Lorri's instructions to the letter and I'll have a good race.  I know that I am getting some amazingly awesome training and will look back at these 6 weeks of training and wonder how I ever got along without it. 

So, off I go to do Tempo Intervals on the trainer.  I'm having fun with my new training program.  I will think about my race and all I've been learning.  The race is on...March 20th.

January 27, 2010 Posted by Amy King

Relationships

I got out for a mountain bike ride the other day.  It was a relatively mellow ride, as it was Jen's first mountain bike ride, but I came home buzzing...and tried to puzzle out why mountain biking always makes me feel like that.  It's just plain fun to ride dirt.  But I really love riding road, too, so why do I feel so differently after each kind of riding?  I came up with this metaphor:  Mountain biking and road riding are like different kinds of relationships.  Without reading too much into this (!), I offer an explanation.

Road riding is like a long-term relationship.  It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, and is beneficial to your health.  You progress steadily, get stronger, and reach goals; there are many fun spots and hard work, but mostly you do it because you know that this commitment makes you very happy.   

Mountain biking is like a fling.  It makes you feel giddy and just a little reckless.  You try things that would not win approval from your mother.  Since there's no commitment involved; you can do something new every weekend and it can last as long as you're willing to let it.  You do it for the thrill.

So there you have it.  I know every metaphor breaks down at some point.  And in this case, I'm thankful, as one can mountain bike AND ride road without pissing anyone off.  Happy riding!

January 11, 2010 Posted by Amy King

Resolutions and Inspirations

I've been back to my normal routine these last couple of weeks, and I can tell that many people out there made the very typical "get in shape" resolution for the New Year!  The Y has been packed and I've seen lots of folks out there on the roads and paths, biking, running, and hiking.  And while a (small) part of me is looking forward to having things go back to their not-so-crowded ways (I'm pessimistically guessing February), I am also very happy to see so many people out there trying to be healthy!  

If you try, you can find inspiration in the people around you!  Here are some examples:

My friend, Anne, and her husband decided to go out and get new bikes!  She emailed me for suggestions, mostly trying to figure out what kind of bikes made sense for their family - a family who wants to get out and enjoy the area.   The guys at San Jose Trek helped them out, and now they're the happy owners of bikes to cruise down the bike path or through the neighborhood with kids in tow.  I can't wait to hear about their first ride! 

I have lots of friends that had fitness goals met last year:  Several friends did a local half-marathon (my friend, Lisa, did it 6 months after having her second baby!), some trying to beat their previous times.  I heard a rumor that a couple friends are trying for TWO half marathons this year.  My friend, Liz, did the Breast Cancer 3 Day walk.  All around me are strong, fit women ready to take on challenges.

Just yesterday, my friend, Jen, went on her first mountain bike ride (with me).  We talked about being "game" - meaning, getting out and trying new things, even when you may be anxious about it.  I know she was nervous (mostly about falling off a cliff), and she focused on setting realistic expectations for the ride (aka: sandbagging; she did great), but I just thought it was cool that she got out there and tried something new (and something that made her nervous).  

In the Weight Loss Challenge, there are several participants who have lost tens of pounds - we're talking 20, 30, 50 or 60!!  Wow!  Some of these people have been working on life changes for a year, and they've had to work hard.  We saw a picture of the transformation of one participant yesterday, who dropped 60 pounds: proof positive that you can do it.  And I know (because I'm in it) that they find inspiration and motivation from the 3 incredible women who lead us (Rachel, Andrea, and Judy).  They've all "been there, done that" and want us to succeed, too.  

So here's your challenge:  Get out there and find someone or something who inspires you to fulfill your resolutions (fitness or otherwise)!  And by all means, please share your inspirations - I never tire of being inspired!!

December 30, 2009 Posted by Amy King

Unexpected

My normal workout routine has been blown off course this vacation - in some unexpected ways. 

Expectedly, and as a bonus, on Christmas Eve, Chris was off work, so I took a dawn patrol ride with my friend, Jen.  We braved the cold (while we certainly do not have the weather most of the country is enjoying this time of year, 45 degrees is chilly when heading downhill), and rode some local hills.  It was a nice change to have a bike ride mid-week, which dark has prevented me from doing since October, and I was thankful to have my best riding buddy able to join me.

Continue reading "Unexpected " »

November 30, 2009 Posted by Amy King

Girly Girls

A couple of weekends ago, my daughter and I went outside to play around on our bikes.  Chris got some pictures.  And yes, that (7th one down) is a picture of me toppling the ramp and going over.  I saved it on the next one.  It was a great day!

Session2 

Continue reading "Girly Girls" »

November 29, 2009 Posted by Amy King

All Clear

We spent Thanksgiving up in Tahoe, just the four of us.  Got there Tuesday night, played in the snow on Wednesday, skied (yahoo!) and enjoyed a yummy dinner on Thursday, and by Friday had had enough solo family time.  Really.  Enough.  (I should mention here that having a child evading sleep and staying in your room for 3 nights doesn't exactly make you feel enamored of said child...or children in general.  Nerves were frayed.)  So even though we planned on staying until Saturday morning, and there was a bunch of fresh snow on the ground, we decided to exit Friday night.  We were having bike withdrawal in a very bad way.

 Both Chris and I realized long ago that we go a little crazy if we don't get enough exercise.  And even though we were "active" up in Tahoe (in addition to skiing, my daughter & I played a very fun game of chase/ball in the snow), we have gotten to the point where we need a serious butt-kicking to really qualify as exercise.  You could say that we're addicted to that endorphin buzz you get after a good workout.  If I get too far off my exercise routine, I don't always recognize this need, but those around me do.  Chris took his turn early Saturday morning, and then kicked me out the door.  Even though I was in a foul temper and really needed the ride, he still needed to prod me into going.  I contemplated taking it easy; after all, I was in a terrible mood!  But then I realized that that was exactly why I needed to go kill myself climbing a hill.

When I left for my ride, my head was full of noise.  I was having trouble concentrating.  I had been yelling at the kids to stop yelling.  My shoulders were clenched all the way up to my ears.  I started climbing.  I've been working on climbing faster, which is harder.  (I am very good at climbing slowly.  But my friend, Jen, does not climb slowly.  I feel lame slowing her down.  I'm sure my fellow VeloGirls aren't really going to feel good having a slow teammate.  So I'm working on climbing faster.)  I was nearly to the top of the first hill when my brain finally started to clear out.  Do you know this feeling?  It sounds awfully corny, but it's like every breath is taking a little piece of the stress and physically removing it from your head.  My eyebrows were no longer furrowed.  My head felt physically lighter.  It was surprisingly quiet in there.  I climbed three more hills and kicked my butt.  And I came home to hugs from my daughter, a sleeping son, and a fresh hot mocha made by Chris.  Oh yeah, and one huge endorphin buzz.

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