|Podium from the 2007 Cat 3/4 Super Week. Side note: Amanda Miller (on the right) is long listed for the 2012 Olympics.|
Hi I’m Kristen Meshberg and here’s my life story…. just kidding….ok not really. I was not really athletic growing up and didn’t get into cycling until after graduating from college where I drank and smoked a lot. I got a job, moved to Chicago and got around the city on an old bike someone gave me in exchange for babysitting. It was such a liberating experience to be newly independent and be able to get anywhere by bike! From my window at the American Bar Association I had a great view of all the bike messengers riding around and it looked way better than sitting at my desk all day so I quit to become a messenger. I lasted for about a year and a half. I still drank and smoked a lot but it was definitely the most fun job I ever had. I also got run over by cars a lot.
One day after picking me up from the hospital the guy I was dating told me he loved me and asked me to quit. I ended up marrying him. I went back to college and got a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. I kept commuting by bike and started doing centuries and triathlons. I never really knew what I was doing, never had any proper gear, but I had a lot of fun. While I was teaching I got a side job at Performance Bike on Halsted. I loved working there, and was soon recruited by Higher Gear Bike Shop, who at the time had a shop on Fullerton Ave in Chicago. That’s where I met a whole bunch of bike racers, including the one and only Dean Okun. I was introduced to proper road bike etiquette and among other things I learned not to go on group rides with a messenger bag, what a team “kit” was, and I purchased my first jersey. My husband Jason got really into racing at this time and eventually persuaded me to try a crit. It wasn’t until everyone passed me at the end that I realized there might be some strategy involved. That’s what hooked me. I couldn’t wait until the next week to give it another shot. I started racing all the time and loving it. Shortly after I was introduced to the Northbrook Velodrome. Same as road racing, I was hooked immediately. I ended up getting a used Schwinn Paramount track bike for $550 that I’ve now ridden for 11 years. (It’s still going strong but I’m finally investing in a new track bike this year!!!!) Though still working full time I went “all in” to the world of racing. I catted up to 2 and raced for the Trek Volkswagen Elite Team. I did a few bigger stage races but struggled in the Cat 1/2 fields. My idea of training was going as hard as you can all the time—I had no clue! After some time of not seeing any improvement I thought I would just hang it up, put that chapter behind me, and start having babies.
I never really thought I would race after having kids, but a couple things happened with the birth of my two children who are 19 months apart; we moved to the suburbs where I didn’t have a car and didn’t know anyone, I gained 90 pounds, and became a stay at home mom. I was very unhappy and desperately needed an outlet. So I started working out and here’s what ensued: 2006
When my youngest was less than a year old I stuffed myself into the spandex and jumped in a few races. Even though I had catted down to 3 I got dropped and lapped every time. I would lug the kids up to the velodrome and get my butt kicked every single week. Without winning a race all year, I ended up winning the last race on the final night of the season and it was as if a switch was flipped inside me after that. By then some other life changing things had already fallen in place: I had recruited my old friend and former Trek VW teammate to help me with my training and another friend had convinced me to start an indoor winter workout program called Pedaling With a Purpose (PWP). I got some solid training advice and PWP provided the platform for me to seriously train. I began to learn how crucial a solid training program is to having a successful season.
I won 7 out of the 8 cat 3/4 races I entered and earned my Cat 2 upgrade, as well as Northbrook Velodrome Female Rider of the Year.
I raced Tour of California Women’s Crit, Redlands stage race, Nature Valley stage race, Speedweek (series of crits in GA, SC, NC) Superweek and many more. I actually won (!) Cat 1/2 races a few of which were Elk Grove Village, Illinois State Road Race, Wisconsin State Road race; enough to get a Cat 1 upgrade.
At the end of 2008 I was approached by some sponsors to start a women’s team for 2009. I had no idea how to manage a team and everyone I consulted advised me not to do it if I wanted to be a rider as well. But it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. On paper we did really well, but it took a lot of fun out of it for me, almost enough to make me quit racing altogether, but from it I learned a lot and would maybe like to give managing a team another shot someday when I am done racing.
This year I decided to cool off a bit, race on Jason’s team, go into the year without a plan and only race if I felt like it. I ended up racing more than ever and won a spot on the Nature Valley pro ride team–even though I had sworn off stage racing. I won the Quad Cities Criterium in May, a race that I love but had never managed to win. I thought I would just do the first part of Superweek since the races are so close to my house but I ended up contesting the overall, which meant that I had to race the entire 16 day series, the most consecutive days I have ever raced. I finished second overall.
This winter was rough for me and I experienced my first cycling setbacks since having kids. I was sick a lot didn’t get my training figured out until it was too late. My whole year fell apart. I was able to pull out a few results, including Illinois Criterium Champion, and help my teammates a bit, but overall it was a very tough year and every race was both mentally and physically challenging. At the end of the year I found myself looking for a team. I was looking for a place where I could have fun with the sport and possibly inspire some other women to start racing. Spidermonkey welcomed me with open arms! I really like the philanthropic mission of Spidermonkey. It puts a bit of perspective on things to think about a cause and take the focus off of yourself for a just a second.
I had a great winter of training this year and am cautiously optimistic about the 2012 season. Cycling has become a huge part of my identity. My kids don’t know their mom as anything but a bike racer. Pedaling with a Purpose is what I do all winter long, and I’ve started coaching individuals, both of which help keep me inspired. Through this sport I’ve met so many cool people! I do know some of you on Spidermonkey already but I’m really looking forward to meeting and riding with you all!