custom kit frustrations...

Well the store construction is almost done and I am deep in the heart of ordering opening inventory.  In case you didn't know, I am committed to serving all segments of women roadies - and that means the plus market (Athena pride!) as well.  I have sought out those lines that carry plus sizes and even convinced one company to make them for me. Now I am moving on to getting the shop kits made.  I have found three great companies that custom kits in "plus" sizes, but I keep running into the same problems: Jerseys go up in size but shorts don't and the sizing in these kits are definitively "euro".  This means that even though they size up to 5XL in women's - in reality this is somewhere between a 1X and 2X.  What 1X women wants to wear a jersey that says 5X on it, even if it fits perfectly?  This is so frustrating.  While I am delighted I can find some that size in the range I am looking for, this leaves my 3X Athenas out in the cold.

I haven't given up!  I am still looking but the choices are getting slim.

On a personal note - my training has gone to s***t in the wake of opening this store - aside from my first and very successful trip up GMR with the clydes/athena forum group.  Never has a group ride been so much pleasure for me.  Encouraging and supportive with "my kind" of people, I never felt more accepted and comfortable on the bike as I did that day.  And it showed in my riding.  I felt like I floated up that mountain.  SO -  I have re-committed to 6 days a week riding and rode 30 miles on Sunday, took Monday off (well, it was recovery day after all lol) and will ride tomorrow.  I got into this game because I ADORE the sport.  I can't forget how to do it!  I figure if I get 4 of those 6 in, that's better than nothing.  Now if I could only figure out how to get STRAVA to record all the painting I have been doing.

nothin's gonna knock this girl down

Ugh - I just realized that it's been almost a month since my last post.  Shameful.  But I don't know where the time has gone.  It's been quite the few weeks.  In one week my cat was killed by a coyote, I had to go to the mayo clinic for my annual "Do you have cancer again" check up and....I was laid off.  From a job I have had for 17 years.  Not that I didn't know it was coming sometime soon, the company has been in decline for a couple years but still. So...this is supposed to be about cycling right?  Not a Lisa pity party?  Well my is.  Not in the riding sense because I have been so busy I haven't been doing much of that.  But..THE UNLIKELY CYCLIST is coming to life as a women's cycling boutique!

Getting laid off forced me to make some life changes and I decided to go for what had been a dream for me for a long time.  I have often wondered how I could be part of the process of getting more women on bikes.  To make them comfortable in the sport - and I have decided to take a pro-active stance.

I am not a big believer in that whole "God's plan" thing, but I have to say that all the elements fell into place for me.  I found a great little store for rent in Costa Mesa, only 10 minutes from my house, negotiated a killer lease and got to work.  Pulling up tile, painting, making it pretty.  Work that will take me until the beginning of October.  Writing business plans, contacting distributors and reps and making my way into this industry.

Its a work in progress - but I hope you come along for the ride.

The Unlikely Cyclist will open the first weekend in October at 17th and Irvine across the street from Kean coffee in Costa Mesa, CA.

I think I can....I think I can...

Well my friends, the time has come for me to commit and get my self in gear for the two races I signed up for - the Amtrak Century and the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo.  Not that I haven't been riding.  I have.  But I like to think of myself as a "tootler".  I tootle around the back bay and snap a few pics.  I tootle up Newport Coast and stop for a cup of coffee at the top.  I mean - this is what I am supposed to do right?  Enjoy the ride?  The problem is that with a 100 mile ride less than two months away, I haven't ridden more than 45 miles at one time in a year.  That's not good.  Truthfully I have been climbing.  Trying to not stop halfway up those hills and not use the granny gear ALL the time. And what I really want to know is - am I the only person that really doesn't get going on their bike for almost an hour?!  Like literally, it can be painful for that first hour.  Sometimes I wave the white flag at 15 miles.   Are age and infirmity setting in?!  I mean - I am 42 this year.  The age at which you start to hear people dropping dead of heart attacks.   I first met my in-laws when they were in their early forties and I thought they were so OLD.  Ha!  This is God punishing me for that obviously.

So - if you see a fat, old lady spinning her little granny gear up Ridgeline, muttering to herself, give her a thumbs up.  Maybe even a little push.  And remind her that she still needs to ride another 40 miles.


Now - I have never been a competitive girl when it comes to sports.  I was always the "GREAT JOB passing me on that hill!  WOO HOO!" girl.  Really.  No cynicism.  My skills on the bike are fair to middling at best and I know it. But then...I found STRAVA.  I started uploading my rides (see my past blog post to note that I once went 6 months before I checked my Garmin) and all of a sudden started getting little medals.  And a little trophy for 7th place.  I blogged about that.  And I was SO proud.  What you didn't know dear readers is that I also achieved one QOM status.  University to PCH.  Which is basically my house to Bike Religion.  Probably late for a group ride hauling ass.  When awarded this QOM I wasn't acutally sure I had earned it.  Maybe I had DRIVEN my bike to the shop and forgot to turn off my garmin?  But no...there I was.  I was 1st and 3rd no less.

I kept it a secret.  Besides, no one follows me on STRAVA so it was my own private joy.  Until tonight:  Uh oh! Rachel Kerber just stole your QOM!

Hey Lisa,

You just lost your QOM on University to PCH to Rachel Kerber by 2 minutes 19 seconds.

Now get out there, have fun and be safe.

-Your friends at Strava

She beat me.  By about 10%.  That B**** is going down.  Stay tuned.

seeing home thru different eyes

I grew up in a small town in northern California - Fairfield. It was basically a small, Norman Rockwell type town whose existence centered around an Air Force base. Fairfield sits on the edge of the Bay Area and only a short drive from Napa.I just heard the “ooohs” and “aaahs” of my wine drinking friends. Napa. The Mother Ship is calling you home....But I have a secret. Napa has not always been what it is now. Sure there was always wine, but there was also a mental institution. And a ramshackle downtown full of hippies and white trash. Those beautiful victorian B&B’s you see now? Not what I saw in the seventies! In the 80’s Napa was where we went to: Dance, at the only New Wave club in the area; Buy pot (see hippy note above) and Drink, because none of the bars carded. There was also a sneaky back way home to Fairfield where said debauchery could continue into the wee hours on a deserted country road in my 68 VW bug. No cops in sight. I promise this has to do with bikes. Promise. I went home for a visit last weekend and my sister and I took a drive out to the wine country. Napa...Sonoma and then Santa Rosa - to NorCal Cylcery. Originally the plan was to drive out to King Ridge Road (google it!), but we never made it. It was a gorgeous drive fueled by 7 eleven slurpees and roadside stand cherries. As I drove my little rental car though, I saw these towns I knew like the back of my hand thru new eyes and I MISSED MY BIKE. Like literally missed it. Like the lover I had left behind. I wanted to be out of the car and riding the countryside. Stopping at wineries and eating over priced antipasti from “Napa Style”. And then came the kicker. That “deserted debaucherous back road to Fairfield” is hwy 121. I saw the bike route sign and wanted to cry. As we climbed into and out of the valley, twisting and turning, I almost wept. I pictured the exhilarating descents and challenging climbs. I even texted my bike hubby - George Vargas - some of you know him :) and told him we HAD to ride this road. No longer was this hicksville, but the perfect ride. Next time I am taking my bike.

free yourself from technology....

Keeping things charged has never been my strong suit. Phones, ipods, my Garmin. I can’t tell you how many times I have set out for a ride only to find that one or more of those is flashing “low battery” at me. At some point my dear husband even began plugging my phone into the dock - probably because he was sick of me swearing at the top of my lungs when I discovered that red warning.My Garmin is a piece of technology that I tend not to think of. For one - that sucker stays charged FOREVER. Seriously, though my general lack of skill on the bike would contradict it, I spend a lot of time in the saddle. 6 days a week with two of those being long rides. A couple weeks back I downloaded the info off my Garmin (which happened to coincide with the need for a charge. The last time it had been downloaded was January 18th. You can tell I put stock in those numbers lol) Do I have a miracle Garmin? Perhaps. But I get about 2 weeks out of it. ANYHOW - when I went out for my long ride last weekend the Garmin was dead. I was planning on climbing as much as I could and would like to see how I was going. Fully kitted out there was no way that I was going to wait 30 mins for a charge, so I hit the road anyways. And had the best ride I had had in a long time. My climbing felt SO strong. I have no idea how fast I went or where my heart rate was but the thing I noticed was that I had FUN. On hills!!!! I stopped obsessing about hitting my max HR, and what my speed was but rode according to how I felt. Pushed myself when I could and hit a nice tempo. This makes me think back to when I was a spin instructor. I taught for 8 years in the dark with the techno blasting. Last year we got new bikes. Those bikes had computers on them and all of a sudden people wanted the lights on so they could see the computers. They freaked out if their computers weren’t working. All of a sudden teaching wasn’t much fun for either of us. Technology had sucked the joy out of the room. Fast forward to now and I realize that I have done the same thing with my own riding. I LOVE riding my bike, but when did it become about training and not for the love of the road. I’m never going to win anything for my skills except 7th place trophies on STRAVA. Yes, they gave me a little trophy for 7th place. Really I just want to ride for the joy of it. I’m taking the Garmin along, but from now on it’s going in my jersey pocket. I just hope I don’t wash it.

annnddd...she’s back!

Hello people! So no - I haven’t stopped riding - just writing. You know how it goes when life gets in the way! But I am back and planning on being back with a vengeance. The theme of today’s column is getting back in the saddle (literally and figuratively) after injury. I dealt with a chronic neuroma in my foot for 6 months. I was still able to ride, but with pain on every pedal stroke. I finally get that healed and go to Yosemite for the first time. After hiking all over the place, I step in a hole on my way to the car and get a high sprain in my leg. MOST PAINFUL THING EVER. And then....I crashed. A runner turned right into my path and we both went down. The only good thing about that was that when my bike flew off, it flew into her thus protecting its precious machinery. I call that Karma. And please note that running in sweats with PINK written across the booty should not be allowed. Hopefully, they were soiled with chain grease.So-all that has passed. I am healed and riding 6 days a week again. On weight watchers AGAIN. And prepping for the Levi’s Gran Fondo again. I signed up for the century this year. Sweet baby Jesus, what was I thinking? Stay tuned for the hilarity that will ensue.

I am Athena - goddess of war! oh...wait....

I didn’t actually hear the term “Athena” in the cycling world until about 6 months ago. My coach (and friend) George Vargas said something about being in the Athena category. Not wanting to show my ignorance I thought - powerful sprinter? WTF is he talking about? And then I googled it. Great. There is a whole category for fat lady roadies. Awesome. I was mildly thankful I wasn’t named after a horse! (sorry boys)Now, I knew this world of cycling was weight centric. Anything where you pull your ass up mountains on two wheels I suppose should be. But I never let my size sidetrack me from what I wanted to do. When George told me he wanted me to be down at 150 pounds for the century I am training for, I thought he must be crazy. I am 5’11. I haven’t weighed 150 pounds since the sixth grade when I was 4 inches shorter. He also wanted me report my weight to him on a DAILY basis. Um, no. I am not ashamed of my size. My fighting weight is 165 Thats high school, size 8 god- it-would-be-awesome-to-be-there-again weight. But I haven’t been there in a long time. At 29 years old in the span of 14 months I gained over 130 pounds. I knew something was seriously wrong. I was sick, but no doctor was able to find why. My blood tests were normal. Medically I read “normal” but I definitely was not. I blame HMO medical and inexperienced doctors for letting it go on so long. But eventually I was diagnosed with stage 3 thyroid cancer and autoimmune disease that had essentially rendered my thyroid completely useless for god knows how long. Surgery and radiation and steroids led to another 20 pounds and I found myself on my 30th birthday in remission, but at 330 pounds. HOLY CRAP. At that point, I decided it had to go. I joined weight watchers and started working out every day, focusing on indoor cycling. It took me 15 months of HARD WORK, but I got down to 175 and was ecstatic. I held that for 7 years. Became a spin instructor. No - I was not skinny, but I was happy with my size. Then over a period of 4 months, I started gaining weight. I felt bad and I knew something was wrong. I had come out of remission. This time my wonderful doctor told me “If you want a cure - you need to go to the mayo clinic”. So I did. Surgery and treatments later, I am not in remission but my cancer is under control. BUT- I still haven’t lost my “cancer weight”. And it’s been 3 years. I am happy and healthy. In two years I rode 11k miles. I run, I teach and I eat well. I cut out 99% of my processed food and eat what roams or comes out of the land only. But somehow, I just cant seem to lose this fifty pounds. I know that my health and medication don’t help, but really it is about the motivation to live on brown rice and chicken. To give up my biweekly lattes and pastry. Everytime I get on my bike, I feel like I OWN my athena title. I wear a kit (albeit an XL one) and I am not ashamed. But I am self-conscious of how it affects my abilities on that bike. And for that reason alone, I hope I find my motivation soon :).

Let’s start at the very beginning...

Struggling with how to start this blog - the BFF says “why did you decide to start riding?”. So obvious! But such a loaded question. Fitness, weight loss, stress relief - all the usual reasons. But there was one more thing: I have been teaching indoor cycling or “spinning” for 7 years. The kind people at 24 Hour Fitness gave me drills to teach my students, ways to make them “feel” as though they were outside on a real bike instead of in a sweaty room on a bike going no where. The problem was, I always felt like a bit of a fraud. Sure I knew how to ride a bike (1976 on a Schwinn with a banana boat seat and no helmet!) but I didn’t know how to ride a REAL bike. Well at least not one with more than 3 gears that I couldn’t ride with a solo cup of alcohol in one hand.Thus began my adventures in the great outdoors on two wheels. After saving for 6 months (a decent road bike is surprisingly expensive) I found my bike. Thats her pictured above right after I bought her: a Specialized Dolce Elite. However - in the search for my bike one thing became apparent: Cycling was a man’s world and they didn’t really want girls in the club house. There are a brave group of women who do this, but our numbers are few. Its like a secret club. So - I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert. Not at all! But I hope that what I have learned in the past two years of riding I hope will help and inspire (and maybe even entertain) you. I am not a “typical athlete” and have had many physical challenges along the way, but I ADORE cycling. The feeling of being on that bike is the best in the world. And if what I have to tell can inspire just one person, that makes it all the better.