by Dania Lees
I like to go fast…. I had my first date on a bike when I was in college at the University of Arizona. I had pain in my knees with running, drinking too much beer (is that possible?) and had gained the “freshman fifteen” and then some. I met a great friend who told me to buy a mountain bike. I went to the bike shop, fell in love with a purple aluminum Raleigh. Didn’t try it, didn’t rent it, just bought it… shoes, helmet and all. But NO spandex, that’s where I drew the line. Spent that night with the bike in the living room and my husband teaching me to clip in and out while he held the bike upright. I showed up the next morning for a group ride. The minute we started to pedal fast, my heart began to race, the adrenaline hit a level it had never been before… and I was in love. I knew I had to keep up; otherwise I would be stranded in the desert in the middle of nowhere. Forty miles later, I finished the ride and the rest is history. I spent the rest of that year between graduating from college and starting medical school on a bike in Arizona, one of the best years of my life.
The Chicago journey begins in the fall of 2000 when I began medical school at Loyola. I wouldn’t see a bike or touch a bike until that following April. Found myself getting the winter doldrums that happens in this town, so I decided to show up for a random group ride in April, meeting at the Clock Tower on the lake front. Needless to say I had an exam to study for that night and needed to be back in a few hours, I was on a mission to go fast. We didn’t go fast… it was a soft, mild pace at 13 mph up to the Botanical Gardens. 3 hours later we reach our turn around point where the ride leader says its time to go in and eat lunch… I said, “screw this” and flew home with 2 strangers that also shared that desire to go fast. Luckily, one of them had found another ride that met at Higher Gear in the city and we tried that ride the following week. I met a guy named Dean who seemed very friendly and started riding with that group throughout medical school and residency. We spent hours on the bike, chatting, goofing off, happy hours after a hot ride etc. I was happy again…
After residency and into my career as an Emergency Room Physician, Dean and Vanessa have this great idea to start Spidermonkey Cycling. I of course jumped right in! However, one thing kept getting in the way…. I kept getting knocked up! I remember I would promise Dean and Vanessa “after this baby I am done, and don’t you worry, I will be back on the bike!” Meanwhile, I would read all the wonderful emails and watch the club grow into an amazing team. Three pregnancies in three years, I missed a lot of rides. Biking however took a whole knew meaning to me with a family. It was the way to recharge and I knew if I caught a group ride, I would be a better mom that day, a better wife, and a happier person.
Our journeys have taken us to live up north in Glencoe, right off of Green Bay and Scott, the place I knew to be the last part of Green Bay where I usually was so excited, exhausted, but knew I had to push hard and once I turned left on Scott I could usually take a breath. We are just getting settled in with 3 kids under the age of 4. Working as an ER doctor and a mother of 3, I may not get to be at every team event, BBQ, etc. But I am not going to give up riding. You may see some girl dressed in an old Spidermonkey jersey, soft pedaling on Sheridan on a Saturday morning, just waiting to be swept up in a sea of orange and black…… Because I still like to go fast!