Tag: triathlon

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Anna Affias

How I Became a Spidermonkey

Me and Jess after the LP crit

Me and Jess after the LP crit

Where do I even begin? How do I break down the last two years of my cycling life into in a single blog entry? How can I share all my ups, downs and in-betweens in a few short words, sentences or even paragraphs? The only answer I keep coming back to is, I can’t. Ironically, those two words no longer exist in my vocabulary because of what I’ve learned on the bike over the past 2 years. To keep this brief and easy to follow, I’m going to break down the last two years of my cycling life into three categories… before, during and after I joined SMC and found, “my people.”


Forgive me for my bluntness, but 2015 sucked. It sucked for a lot of reasons, but two reasons stand out the most. First, I went through a horrible breakup that nearly broke me to my core, and second, I unexpectedly discovered a family member was very sick. Both unfortunate events happened roughly around the same time and completely turned my world upside down. People kept telling me, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and “you have to go through a little rain to see the rainbow,” but frankly, I didn’t care. The only thing I knew for certain was that I passionately wanted 2015 to be over. Life as I knew it had changed and I realized I had two options 1. I could change with it or 2. I could remain miserable and salty for the rest of my life. Luckily, with the help of close friends and family, a wonderful therapist and some much-needed soul searching, I found bike racing.




 Somewhere in the middle of ‘The Great Shit Storm of 2015’ and ‘Ok 2016, Let’s Do This,’ I timidly entered the world of triathlon. This was the best worst thing that ever happened to me. While I rediscovered my hatred for running and struggled to stay afloat during the swim, I learned that biking fast made me happy. I didn’t know what it meant or where it would eventually take me, I just knew I needed to be on my bike. Pedal stroke by pedal stroke I started to feel mentally and physically stronger. Group riding with triathletes turned into group riding with cyclists, and before I knew it, I was a bike racer. I could write novels and tell stories for days about my first racing season, however, words can’t really do justice for how it made me feel or describe the relationships I formed along the way. The biggest takeaway was, as terrified and nervous as I was to show up and to be seen, I did it anyways and learned it was EXACTLY where I needed to be. It didn’t take long before I started meeting other cyclists and racers… and then… IT HAPPENED… I met the fine folks of SMC and instantly knew I had found, “my people.”

Racing at ToAD 2017

Racing at ToAD 2017



While I didn’t want to hear it at the time, all the pain and misery I went through in 2015 lead me to who, and where, I am today… and so it goes. The more I bike, the more I heal. The more I heal, the more willing I am to take risks and to try new things. The more new things I try, the more confident I become. The more confident I become, the more I accomplish. The more I accomplish, the more passion I develop. The more passion I develop, the more success I find. The more success I find, the happier I am. The happier I am, the more alive I feel. So, on behalf of my past, present and future self, I’m looking forward to discovering more of life’s ups, downs and in-betweens. I’m looking forward to pushing myself on and off the bike, embracing and leaning into the discomfort of change, learning more about my strengths and weaknesses, developing and maintaining my lifelong cycling friendships, and trusting my journey. In the meantime, thanks for a great ride friends, let’s go play bikes!

Scopin the Snake at the Snake Alley Crit 2016 Scopin the Snake at the Snake Alley Crit 2016 Medals from the IL State Championship 2017 Medals from the IL State Championship 2017 Proud to have an early season win Proud to have an early season win

Spidermonkey of the Week – Gayle Stephens

7-04 020

My cycling goal?  Ride until I’m old, really old.

Since retelling a whole life story is of no interest to me and likely uninteresting at best for others, I decided to choose three cycling stories that taught me something.

First, that one can survive a bike crash, gracefully.  I never would have believed this before one June Sunday morning Spidermonkey ride.  I ended up in an ER with a dislocated elbow, endured the worst pain I had ever experienced, and my elbow required surgery.  Today I call it an easy-peasy recovery, one in which I was back on a bike in 10 days and returned to my massage therapy practice in 12 days.  The drugs were amazing and in a way, worth it.  After about four or five weeks, I was back on a team ride and noted at the end that my legs and lungs were the limiting factors, I had completely forgotten about my elbow.

Another story stands out because it helps me laugh at myself and be prepared. One Saturday night ages ago it seems, I agreed to do a local Sunday morning triathlon the next morning.  This was to be a fun family event with my experienced triathlete sister.  I was NOT a cyclist, nor a swimmer, only a little bit a runner.  All was going well Saturday morning.  She opted to begin with me in the next to last heat in a pool.  She left me in the first lap.  Still, I celebrated one leg down!  Next, I found my mountain bike and never made it out of the transition area … serious flat!  Zero air pressure after I rode a few yards.  Completely laughable and, to my surprise, a clear message that I should give it up. But, along comes a kind and generous woman who had already finished the complete event, and said to me with enthusiasm, “Here!  Ride my bike!”   So I did.  To me it was a super fancy Specialized road bike. I felt light and super fast!  In reality, it likely wasn’t as this was a Niles YMCA event, she was lending it to a completely thoughtless mountain bike cyclist/stranger, who failed at checking her tires at anytime before the race.  Lapped my sis on the three loop bike part of the event.  Huge reason to giggle as this was HER event after all.

My last story deepened my trust.  Before I even knew the Spidermonkeys existed, I rode one season on the Monday night Chicago Cycling Club rides whose purpose is paceline training.  One longer than normal ride, it seems we were still northbound and it was getting dark quickly.  Up to then, my only night riding was in the City under streetlights galore, so my wimpy blinky lights were all I had.  I figured out that being in front of a guy with beacon quality lighting was safe.  No noticeable adjusting the speed for darkness had me silently worried.  I could see enough to follow the wheel in front of me but what I couldn’t see were potholes, rocks, etc.  Trust became all I had.  I learned that if the wheels two up were smooth sailing, that was the specific path to follow.  Each block increased my trust and therefore the excitement and thrill.  It was like meditating to me. Trusting me, my bike, the road, the sounds, the skills of all the other riders.  I completely relaxed and gave into trust each moment.  After I was home safely, pure excitement was gushing through my whole being.  I felt my happy heart pounding and a wish to experience more of this.


It was in the retelling of this story to a friend who told me, “You need to date a cyclist!”   So, in a way, I credit her and the Universe for putting Charlie and me together. He’s not a Spidermonkey but rides sometimes with our group. While we met the old fashioned way via friends at a Chicago summer neighborhood fest, our second date was a ride and we’ve had many more since.

I ride just the right amount.  I’m getting to do other things like part-time parenting, my massage therapy biz, so although I don’t ride as much as many of you, I’m still getting to do pretty much exactly what I love pretty much most of the time.

When I’m not cycling, I visit offices and events offering on-site chair massages, making life better for people who work at a desk.  I also see clients privately in my massage space at Lincoln/Roscoe/Paulina, around the corner from Roxanne’s killer spin class.

Sixteen years ago, a friend offered to teach me a 15 minute chair massage routine and I have never looked back since.  The same year, a week long meditation retreat in Northern California deepened my decision to change careers.  I started working as a massage therapist with only three months of training and after a few more months of seeing clients, I began formal education to become a nationally certified practitioner.  I love helping people feel better in their bodies, helping people notice what a powerful resource the nervous system is.  Not just for the health of our approximate 100 trillion cells that make up one human body, but also for our thinking and how we view our experiences, all through bodywork. Life is an amazing and exciting gift. There is no need to suffer inside our bodies while enjoying this gift.


Oh, one photo is of Charles and me.  Another is of Charlie’s son and me, eagerly awaiting the Spidermonkey crew cycling by our Damen Avenue apartment. The last one is me working on a very exhausted Emanuele Bianchi at the Chicago Velo Campus during its construction.  He wrote to me, “Those were 36 very hard days and that massage was something really good for my body.”  What an honor!  And, more recently, I’ve had the honor and luck to work on several Spidermonkeys.


I have a serious interest in helping with Spidermonkey MS Ride efforts but haven’t figured out exactly what that looks like yet.  Stay tuned.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

Lastly, silver LeMond, smallish sized, that’s my bike and me.

Thank you Spidermonkeys for being such a fun and supportive cycling team!   You all are amazing and I can’t wait to meet more of you.





Spidermonkey of the Week – Colleen Klein

by Colleen Klein

Klein - My Cruiser

My beach cruiser!

As I was thinking of all of the words that best describe biking to me….I realized how much those words actually described ME and the way I look at life.

Let me explain, here are a few references to biking (B) and my Life (L) with some of those words:


B:     Every time I get on a bike, there is a sense feeling free and alive when that wind hits your face!

L:     Okay this one is a bit too easy… alive check!  But seriously, many things in life have made me realize we can’t take life for granted, I’m truly thankful for every day and blessed that I can live the life I do.


B:     I LOVE biking, rarely do I ever not get excited to go biking (minus VQ test days)

Klein - Half Ironman transition

Half Ironman Bike Transition

L:     I’m a pretty passionate gal; I love a lot of things….my job (for real), my friends, my family, music, good restaurants, good wine, traveling, etc.  I try to live in the moment and really be invested in time spent with others or anything I do.


B:     Always get back up and on the saddle, if it is on your first Saturday group ride and you can’t seem to clip out in time (not sure who would do that though ;-) ). I always like a good challenge and some healthy competition.  Which is why I started doing triathlons, joined a badass bike group, and continue to find ways to set new goals (a Century Ride, Vineman 70.3, and a bike race?! for 2014)

L:     I’m a sales manager so gotta hit those sales goals!  My parents always instilled an environment where we weren’t allowed to give up; if we committed to a team or activity we needed to be committed until the very end.  And if you are doing it, you might as well do the best you can!  With the right support and attitude it’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish when you stick with it.

Mountain Biking in Patagonia

Mountain Biking in Patagonia

Active/Adventure/Thrill Seeking:

B:     A new challenge, a new path, a new view and those darn stomach drops speeding down a hill keep biking adventurous and thrill seeking.   Cyclocross and Road races definitely terrify me which is exactly why I feel the need to try it….that and I’m dying to race in something where I don’t need to swim first. J

L:     No couch potato here…rarely will you find me sitting at home; I also love to dance (salsa anyone?!), kickbox, do triathlons, ski (or attempt to), hike, travel, etc, etc.  Some may say I do “too” much but I like to stay active and it keeps life interesting


Colleen on the right

Slightly blurry, but I’m on the right

B:     I still vividly remember the day I got my first bike with training wheels, the day they came off, the constant request of “mom – can we go around the block”, going everywhere in town with my twin sister and friends via my hot pink bike.   Getting on a bike today brings me back, makes me smile, and feel like a kid again!

L:     Never take myself too serious…which is why I also bought myself a beach cruiser too!  I don’t always need to be a hard core biker and it’s just SO fun to just cruise around…now I just need a beach where I can do it more often!

Always Learning:

B:     There is ALWAYS more to learn, I still consider myself a new rider even though I’ve biked all of my life and have done tons of triathlons.  However, I just started group riding this summer (thanks to SMs!) and although I’m a pretty strong rider,  I still have a lot to learn…still struggle changing tires, need to improve my bike handling, get better with bike maintenance and mechanics, continue to get comfortable in tight groups, etc, etc.  SO please be patient with me!

L:     I spend any spare money I have traveling, the more I travel the more I realize how small we are in this world and how much more there is learn and see.  Off to Asia in a few weeks, can’t wait!

Half Ironman Finisher!

Klein-bike quote

I love this quote, goes along with my bike/like comparisons!


B:     Umm…Spidermonkeys!!  I’m so glad that some Chicago Tri Club friends introduced me to the SMs, you guys are AWESOME!  This is the exact type of group I needed to improve my skills and hang out with some cool people that enjoy this sport as much as I do (beer sponsor helps too).  Venus de Miles sealed the deal to officially join the club this fall…yes, I’m the girl that is always ruining the pics with my non-SM gear but don’t worry I put my order in so soon enough I will be in the orange and black like everyone else.  Excited for that!!

L:     I’m a social little butterfly, and have a great network of amazing friends and family that I cherish a ton!

Guest Spidermonkey of the Week – VQ’s Dave Noda

Dave Noda!

by Dave Noda

Some questions I get asked often include:

  • How did you get into cycling?
  • How did you and Robbie meet?
  • How is it training with the Spider Monkeys?
  • Really? You’re 5’6”? Come on, are you sure you’re not exaggerating a little, Dave?

So yes, I really am 5’6”…but I am drinking milk and hopefully one day…

I started cycling and endurance training on a bet. Well, not so much a bet, but as the result of one of those times when all my closest buddies were sitting around and came up with an idea: “Hey, has anyone watched that TV show, EcoChallenge?” The more talking we did, the more I thought “Yeah, I can do that. Heck, I could do really good…” And then we talked for the rest of the night about how we were all “in” and we were going to train and work out, really get ready for it.

And then came the day of the registration boom. My friends were nowhere to be found. They would have been quick to reply to an “I’m buying the beers” text, but at that moment I could not locate a single one to save my life.

So my brother and I decided instead to do something similar. We decided to try that thing called a “triathlon.” I signed up for the ruthless, unforgiving terrain of the “Fleet Feet Super Sprint Triathlon” and boy, let me tell you, I was pumped!

For those that have no idea of the distances involved, let me educate you:

  • 0.25 mile swim
  • 6.2 mile bike ride
  • 1.5 mile run

Naturally, I took off from work that Monday knowing I was going to be cooked after this big race!

Yep. I took that Monday off. It’s funny to think about where you come from. I came from a stick and ball background: some baseball, lots of basketball (laugh…it’s ok…you’re reading…I’m not in front of you), and football (keep laughing). The endurance thing was new to me. I had no idea what I was in for, but wanted to do it. When it came to training, my brother and I just knew we could train ourselves. We had both been in the Marine Corps and felt that if we could handle the Marines, we could definitely handle a triathlon. Some of our training consisted of riding our bikes with medicine balls in backpacks for a maximum of 5 miles, but most were 3-mile rides. And don’t get me started on swimming at the Y. Through it all, we just knew “no one–NO ONE–is training harder than we are!”

I’ll save you all a Google search. My time was 58:29.

After the race–and the well deserved Monday off–I knew I loved it. The best part of it was that I truly sucked and still felt that feeling of “wow, I can get better at this.” So after that stellar performance at the triathlon, my brother and I decided to try another one, but this time, why not try that Ironman thing?

Dave Noda!

How I got connected with Vision Quest Coaching

Around 2004 I started looking into actual coaching services. My brother had just joined VQ and he was drinking the kool-aid for sure. He wanted me to try it out, so finally one day, I did. I joined one of the slower rides on a Saturday. (Back then Robbie was still on the USPS Team and a group ride was really just how long you could stay on his wheel.) When my brother told me the ride was 40 miles, I said, “OK, I’m in. Should I book the hotel for the stay-over or will you?” The chuckle you’re having now is exactly what my brother had then.

When I first joined and met Robbie, our relationship was funny. I’m not too hyper-competitive and it seemed like he always saw me on group rides not going too hard or just at the wrong times. He thought I was a slacker.

The moment I remember though was on that first 40-mile bike ride. We were going home and I was cracked, more than you can imagine. But we still had another 7- to 8- mile ride ahead of us. Robbie yelled out, “OK guys, let’s go nice and easy home and not go hard.” People were talking and chit-chatting and there I was in this group of about 50, barely hanging on. (One lady wearing sandals with clips and a frog on her helmet dropped me!) I got frustrated and started pedaling harder, which lasted all of 5 seconds. Then Robbie dropped back to me and said “Hey, how you doing?” I could have lied, but my face and tongue couldn’t. So I told him I was hurting. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home.” He ended up pushing me 7 miles, all the way home, with his hand on my back. Let me tell you how much of an ego-killer that was! But it also told me how cool VQ was. It brought the brotherhood I’d had in the Marine Corps into cycling.

We are all into cycling for one reason or another. For some it’s stress relief, some it’s lifestyle, and some to stay in shape. At first, I did it so that pushing situation would NEVER happen again. Moreover, it motivated me to get better and know that I could make it happen as long as I put in the time. I could move from the back of the pack to the front of the pack (still trying to get there though).

At that time, I was in finance, doing residential loans for the family business since 1995. I have always loved business and looking at Vision Quest back then, I saw so many opportunities! One example was the weekly e-mail. Robbie would send a quick e-mail from Lake Bluff to the local people up there. I would then rewrite it a bit to customize for the Chicago group. (At that time, we were a solid 10-strong in Chicago meeting at the Running Away on Damen.) As we grew, I suggested a weekly e-mail sent out to let everyone know what we were doing on a week-to-week basis. It went from a one-line e-mail to now including videos, pictures, and links to sign up for rides. Another example was membership. Back then, athletes either joined for the full boat membership (annually, all at once) or nothing. We talked about needing a hybrid, something that allowed people to “taste” what Vision Quest had to offer. We scheduled it at times that VQ wasn’t busy, on a specific day each week for 8 weeks. Originally it was to be the same 8-week program each time, but people loved it, so we made it a staple class. It has grown each and every year since.

My passion on the whole is not cycling. My passion is getting people to see something in themselves that they might not even be able to see yet–just like Robbie did with me. Endurance is such a great sport. The older you get and the more time you put in, the better you get. It’s a sport wherein you really can’t size people up as with other sports. And best of all, you have to leave your EGO at the door and be open-minded, for sure.

Dave and Phil Liggett

How is it training with the Spidermonkeys?

Well, I don’t want this to be too long. All I can say is that it’s great. It’s a lot of fun to have a group of people that are such great representatives of the sport, while having fun and being smartasses at the same time. Spidermonkeys has grown each year, now even doing camps in Vegas and holding holiday parties. I can’t say enough about how much fun it is to do the Thursday class and know that everyone is there to train, but also have fun.

Kudos to Dean, Vanessa, and all the Spidermonkeys for being such ambassadors of the sport! I can’t wait til Thursday! We will have a lot to talk about after this blog!

Just admiring the scenery …

and last, but not least …


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