Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Truly Exceptional Woman - Barbara Warren, Ph.D., RIP

Today the cycling community is in shock, learning that a woman who inspired us, motivated us to reach our goals, and told us that we had the power to become exceptional people, has died tragically after a bicycle crash during the Santa Barbara Triathlon on Saturday.

Here is the email I received through Big Ring Racing:
August 28th:

It is with such a heavy, heavy heart that I share with you of the passing of Barbara Warren, last night, Tuesday, August 26th, 2008. She was at peace, and she was beautiful. She will be so missed but she is with God now and her spirit will be with us all stronger than ever, guiding us.

You will feel the spirit of Barbara profoundly today, in this moment she is in our hearts and our thoughts. When the moments, and days, and months pass, and we are living our lives, she will be watching us. When you need strength, tap into the spirit of Barbara, she has an abundance to share and she shares generously and lovingly. She is a gift, she is a blessing, and it has been such a true honor to have known Barbara.

The family would appreciate 24 hours of solitude. We all want to be there for Angelika, Tom, Ingrid, and Katrin, but for now, please, lets give them the time and space that they need.

From the Associated Press
10:14 AM PDT, August 28, 2008

SANTA BARBARA -- Barbara Warren, one of the world's elite endurance athletes in her age group and one-half of a well-known pair of triathlete twins, has died after breaking her neck in a bike crash at the Santa Barbara Triathlon. She was 65.

Warren, of San Diego, died Tuesday at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital when her family told doctors to take her off a ventilator, her twin sister Angelika Drake told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Warren crashed her bike on a downhill road about halfway through the 34-mile cycling section of the race on Saturday, race director Joe Coito said.

Warren was paralyzed from the neck down and was breathing with the aid of the ventilator.

Drake said her sister told the family by blinking and nodding that she wanted to die.

"I talked to her and she nodded over and over and over again. She wanted to leave," Drake said. "No athlete would like to have a life with only their eyes talking."

Warren's two daughters and her husband Tom were also with her at the hospital when she died.

Warren won her age group in the 2003 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii. She competed in the race, the world's top triathlon, 13 times and finished in the top five in her age group eight times.

The two sisters alternated riding bikes in the Race Across America, covering 2,983 miles in less than 10 days.

Warren also competed in a seven-day race across the Sahara Desert, and finished a triple Ironman in France that included a 7.2-mile swim, 336-mile bike ride and 78.6-mile run.

Warren was well-loved among younger triathletes.

Michellie Jones, who won a triathlon silver medal in the 2000 Olympics and won the 2006 Ironman World Title, was also a twin who remembered her fondly.

"She always asked about my sister," Jones said. "She understood the bond."

Warren's twin said she lay next to her sister as she died.

"My heart and my soul are gone," Drake said. "She was everything in my life."

I'm at a loss as to how to even react to this news, but more than mourn her loss at this moment, I want to celebrate her life, and remember her impact on me and on all those who knew her.

I met Dr. Barbara when I was trying to coordinate a "Ladies Night" at the bike shop, and wanted someone to come speak to the women. I knew I wanted a woman speaker, someone who was strong and celebrated her strength, but yet who was not so much of an elite athlete that she intimidated the audience, or talked about training in such a manner that the women could not relate to her. I had no idea I could find one of the most elite female athletes in the world, who was also a professional motivational speaker, who was so personable, and loved people so much that anyone would feel comfortable asking her questions and feel a connection with her.

When I called Dr. Barbara and approached her with the idea of being our speaker at a Ladies Night, she got very excited about it, asking questions about the evening's agenda. I told her it would be for the women of my Friday Girls Ride, and anyone else who wanted to come. She then asked about my Friday Girls Ride, and I told her I had started it so that people, especially women, would have a place to learn to ride and get individual coaching with shifting and bike handling, and have no fear of being dropped. I told her the Ladies Night event would be for women only, mostly because of the fashion show, so we could model the clothing ourselves and talk about what we liked or not. The agenda would include the speaker, a fashion show, and a question/answer time, then a big ride the next day. She agreed enthusiastically to be a part of it.

Then came the part I held my breath for.

"Um, I understand you do a lot of speaking engagements. What... what do you usually charge for something like this?" I asked her, closing my eyes.

"Well," she responded, "what do you charge for your Friday Girls Ride?"

"Oh, it's free. I don't charge anything," I told her.

"Then I don't charge you anything either," she said.

"Oh, wow. That's so great!" I laughed.

"Besides," I could hear the smile in her voice, " I don't think you could afford me anyway."

We laughed, and I agreed. We discussed a few more details of the evening, then she asked if
she might bring a friend. I was so honored that she would not only want to be a part of it, but want a friend to be a part of it as well. Of course!

We exchanged emails over the next few days, working out the details of her presentation. She sent me the working title of her talk: How to reach PASSION AND GLORY as an athlete.

Ooo. I hesitated. This was a bit advanced for us. I wrote her an email with this message:

Hey Barbara,

A little more info about your audience, I think very few of them actually see themselves as "athletes" at this point. I remember being there (mentally). I had been gritting my way through triathlons, and finally even the Wildflower Half, but was still hesitant to call myself an athlete. I still saw myself as a chubby, not-so-athletic woman --about 6 years ago I wore a size 14; I am now in a 6-8, almost where I was when I was in college.

You will be speaking to a group of women, many of whom are reluctant to call themselves athletes, and some who don't even acknowledge that they are "cyclists." Your unique ability to encourage people to not only see their potential, but light a fire under their belief in their potential is what I was hoping to capture.

I wouldn't want the title to scare anyone off by thinking this talk does not pertain to her, because she doesn't race, or is not used to thinking of herself as an athlete. I hope I have stated this such that it makes sense.

I have a hard time coming up with an alternative title, however, because I don't know what you are going to say. Your book titles are pretty powerful on their own, though! Become Exceptional... The Power to Complete Your Goals... these are already tremendous. Frankly, I look forward to reading your books!

Part of me wants you to let these women know that they SHOULD think of themselves as athletes, and that even if they don't see themselves as particularly athletic, if they have chosen to become fit and strong and healthy, they already have an athlete's heart or soul. It is their right to become an athlete, and that most of the things holding them back are constraints they themselves have created.

I don't know if this is any of your philosophy, but this is what I see over and over again. This is the attitude I lived. Even after completing a half-marathon and a century ride, I still protested to people that I wasn't really an athlete, because my brain hadn't quite accepted it. The idea is still somewhat foreign to me, but the results of my life and the medals on my wall, and my "remarkable recovery time" noted by my doctors confirm that truth to me. And even after I'm in my 80s, I will cling to the words: I have the heart and soul of an athlete.

THIS is what I want to give to these women. Is this possible?

Let me know your thoughts.
She wrote me back quickly, telling me that I was a wise girl, and suggested the title: Turning into an Athlete in Heart and Soul.

Wow. Yes. That was it exactly.

Unfortunately, we were never able to have our Ladies Night, as the venue we had chosen became unavailable and the event was not a priority for the shop. I was sad that I wouldn't get to hear her speak, but took encouragement from our brief encounter nonetheless.

In every way, she seemed to approach life with such a zeal that you wondered if she hadn't faced death before, fought it off, and vowed to use every minute the best she could. Few people have that kind of passion, and it was truly exceptional and truly inspiring.

Dr. Barbara's mission in life was to encourage others to become exceptional, to overcome the obstacles that inhibit their personal achievement, and to develop strength of character that would allow them to achieve their goals. Ambition, passion, courage - these are the behaviors she cultivated in people, and these are the traits she possessed.

Thank you Dr. Barbara for
continuing to inspire me to become exceptional, for being a faithful steward of the talents that God gave you, for motivating me to use my time here on earth well, and for cheering for me and encouraging me to be a hero.

May your memory be eternal.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Midnight Madness 2008

Similar to last year, I got all dressed up for the midnight ride in my business suit and pumps. I figure if I go to the office in bike clothes most every day, it's only natural for me to go to the bike ride in office clothes.

Changing only a couple things about my outfit and equipment from last year, I swap out to Crank Brothers pedals and cleats, using pontoon cleats to make walking easier, and carry a Timbuk2 messenger bag with a spare set of bike shoes just in case I find the pumps too painful.

Always a great time, Midnight Madness is the opportunity for San Diego cyclists to come out and ride bikes in the streets and generally be silly. It's like this ride was MADE for me.

My good buddy Steve was there too, all fuzzed up in the Cookie Monster outfit.

Popeye and Olive Oyl were there...
(those are spinach cans tied to the back of the bike) was this loving couple

Dan and Steve and I go to Elephant and Castle for some food before the ride. We know we won't be getting off the ride till after 1:00 am.

For what it's worth, I don't know if Steve has done a ride in his Cookie Monster costume when he was completely sober. Just for good measure, we have a libation before the ride.

Before the ride begins, we make one last stop at the car, and there in the parking lot a girl recognizes me.

"Hey! You're here again this year!" she says cheerfully.
"Yeah! Um, I'm sorry, tell me your name?" I ask her, not recognizing her face.
"Oh, you don't know me. I saw your picture online. It's the first one that comes up when you google image search 'Midnight Madness,'" she tells me.

I'm dumbstruck. "You're kidding me."

"No, really. Wow! This is so cool! Can I take your picture?" She goes on to mention that she hopes my feet won't be hurting like the year before, and then I realize she read my Midnight Madness 2007 writeup.

Wow. This is the first person that I have no connection to, who has known who I am before actually meeting me. I should have got HER picture. I think her name was Melissa or Natalie, or something with three syllables.
Quick shoutout: Wherever you are girl, you gave me a huge smile! Thank you. Please shoot me an email if you see this.

Just before we leave the car, Steve looks up to see a girl passing by us walking her bike.

"Hey! I know you!" he calls out to her.

She hesitates, not quite knowing if the large furry bule guy is harmless or not. He sees her hesitation and laughs, "I'm Steve from UC Cyclery. I work on your bike."

She laughs and then recognizes him. She introduces herself, and when we find out that Meredith has come to ride by herself, we invite her to join us. The four of us head to the staging area.

Back at the staging area, it's pretty packed, but it's not exactly madness. The madness will start after the ride begins.

This is probably one of my favorite photos of the night. This little girl has probably been on a bike in some manner since long before she could even speak. Cycling is so natural for her, it's even a natural thing for her to put her own "baby" on the back. I love it.

Waiting for the start of the ride, I see a rather colorful couple, complete with an automatic soap bubble generator that blows bubbles into the breeze and causes a random man to stop in his tracks, sway slightly, blink, and mutter, "Woah." Woah indeed. They even have their own little disco ball.

Where do people find these things? But I suppose that could be said of my clip-in pumps.

Suddenly from the darkness, I hear my name called. I look to the direction of the sound to see a petite green fairy and a Mexican wrestler. I look at the man in the mask who evidently knows me; the only visible amount of his person that is not covered by a costume is a small space right around his eyeballs.

"Hi!" I greet him cheerily, "I have no idea who you are."

It's Peter from my Velodrome class. Cool! I know people.

The clock ticks down, and the ride begins. People are allowed through the gates in waves, so that there are not too many people jockeying for position at any one given moment.

Dan, Steve, Meredith, and I line up at the start, wait for our wave to shuffle to the front and we take off.

As we ride down Harbor Drive, I see more people I know: Jason who races for DeWalt Big Ring Racing, and Roger from Performance Bike Bonita.

A little further, we see Alison, who also races for DeWalt. We ride together and chat, making the loop around the top of Harbor Island when Allison gets a flat. She calls for her buddies who are carrying a spare tube and CO2. They hand her the supplies and I jump in to change her flat.

Once Alison's flat is changed, we continue on the route. From here on out, it is pretty quiet, but we see plenty of interesting people. Like this girl, who gave new meaning to the term "tail light."

And the "Is-this-Midnight-Madness?-This-is-SPARTA!!" guy...

I thought this fixie guy looked cool with his attention to detail in the little monkey wrench hanging off his belt and his bowling shoes...

Who knew he was also a Mexican wrestler!!

We get to end of Rosecrans where the course turns onto San Diego Ave at Old Town. We only go a couple blocks before we come upon the favorite refreshment stop...

It was remarkable to me how many bikes were parked along the side of the street. It reminded me of the Saturday morning road ride near Solana Beach and the bikes parked outside the Java Depot!

We finish the ride, turning into downtown at about 1am, just as people are stumbling out of bars. It makes for something of an advanced obstacle course, as you never know when some random person will stagger into your path. A woman struggling to stay atop her stiletto heels calls out to us in a drunken bravado, "Hey! Bicyclers! Show us your boobs! And your junk! And your..." As she thinks about what else she'd like to see, I call to her, "Um, you should get out more!" as the crowd chuckles and we glide past her in a swirl of color.

It's moments like these my husband would remind me that smart alec-y comments often get people seriously killed, and I would do best just to ride, smile, and nod.

Before the end of the night, I see Ryan and Gilbert from my Velodrome class. It shouldn't surprise me that a lot of the Velodrome folks are out here. We should all plan to ride together next year, or at least take a headcount of who to look for.

So the twenty miles in pumps wasn't as painful as I remembered, perhaps because I didn't walk so much in the shoes earlier in the evening. All of us who rode had a great time and were glad we came. Before the end of the night, we're talking about costumes for next year!

Steve (Cookie Monster) admiring my fancy cleated pumps.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spot Brand 29-er bike

There are few things as exciting as building up a new bike, especially one that you've been waiting and waiting to build. The journey to my first ride on my own Spot Brand Longboard 29-er begins about eight months before, when I first rode the Longboard belt-drive bike at the Interbike dirt demo in Boulder City, NV.

I love the way it handles and corners. I fall in love with the belt-drive, which translates to instant engagement and propulsion forward with the slightest pedal stroke. The belt-drive is beautiful in its simplicity. In the months to come I will go back and forth arguing with myself about whether I should go belt-drive or geared bike.

I am impressed with the ride quality, handling capability, the fact that it is high-quality steel, and importantly, because the size small actually fits me. I just barely reach the sign at the 29-er amusement park that says you must be at least this tall to ride the ride. At 5'5" and female, my torso makes me too small for most 29-ers. By virtue of the larger wheels, the top tube lengths and standover heights are larger than they are for most bikes. The Spot Longboard 29-er has a shorter toptube and lower standover height than many other bikes in its class.

I ride the Spot Longboard first thing on Monday morning at the Interbike dirt demo, and then am repeatedly drawn back to their booth to ask questions and pet the bikes. I meet the company president, learn more about them as a company, and like everything I see.

Back in San Diego, I continue to think about this bike, corresponding with Jen from Spot for three months before finally deciding to get one.
In late January I contact Spot Bikes and order my bike. The small Longboard is not even in production yet, and it's looking like demand is greater than anticipated. Although I'll have to wait an anticipated 6-10 weeks, I will get one of the first ones off the line. Jen tells me the first frames should be back from weld by March. I decide to go with the geared bike, since I struggle with hills as it is, and I don't need calves that frighten people. I make my first payment and giggle inwardly in anticipation.

I choose the blue color scheme instead of the green, and decide I will build this bike up with red accents: red Chris King headset, red Hadley hubs, and red spoke nipples on Stan's Flow rims.
In mid-March, Jen contacts me to say that they are experiencing unexpected delays. This is their first year of production on this bike, so I am not surprised. I've seen things from a manufacturer's standpoint, and know how often delays take place for any number of reasons.

The month passes, and she contacts me again, keeping me apprised of the progress and letting me know what to expect. She apologizes for further delays, this time because the larger frames went to weld before the smaller frames.
I jokingly tell her they can make it up to me by stamping my name into the bottom bracket. Jen laughs at the idea, and admits she's never heard of anyone doing that. To my astonishment, she says she thinks she can make that happen. I hold my breath and tell her, "No way. That would totally rock!"

Meanwhile, I'm busy amassing parts so I can build this bike. I order my headset from Chris King, and hubs from Hadley, and match them up with DT Swiss RWS ratchet thru-bolt skewers.

At the end of February, my mechanic buddy Steve notices that someone online is looking for a set of blue RaceFace cranks, which I happen to have in my garage. They came off my very first DH bike, a Turner RFX, that is now built up as my XC bike. I contact the guy, who tells me he'll trade me his set of XT cranks with 2 rings and a bash guard for my Race Face cranks. Wow. Just wow.

It's now the last week of March, and I'm at the series finale race for the Southridge downhill series. Donny Jackson always has a great raffle at the series ender, and this time is no exception. Although I did not take first place on the hill that day, I would like to thank Shimano for the XT brakes I won at the raffle. You have no idea how happy this makes me (and my mechanic).

The weeks pass, and I wait for my frame, getting regular updates from Jen at Spot.
Things continue to fall into place.

At the end of May, I get an email from Jen saying that my bike is at paint and should be ready soon. The amount of paint on the frame will obscure the name "DREXLER" that is stamped in the bottom bracket, but we will all know it is there.

On July 11, 2008, I hear the FedEx truck pull up to my house, and I literally spring from my chair and bound out the door. Mr. FedEx is at the back of the truck pulling out a box as I bounce on my toes beside the open door. He looks up to see me and laughs. I suppose he's not used to seeing grown people bouncing up and down and clapping like a kid on Christmas Day.

I slowly pull out the frame, wanting the moment to last. It's been almost 7 months since I decided to order this bike, and it's totally worth the wait.

Over at Steve's house, we begin assembling the bike.

The finished bike.

My mechanic Steve and I go for a ride in Rose Canyon.

I begin getting to know the bike, and know I made a great choice.

Many thanks go to Jen Gersbach at Spot for all her help and many updates, and to the guys at weld who stamped "DREXLER" into the bottom bracket. Thanks go to Mom and Dad for giving me the frame as a birthday present and helping me make up for lost "play" time all those years I was a serious child. You're the best! Thank you's are in order to Suzanne at Hadley for all the help with the hubs, to Jim at Shimano for taking care of the racers at Fontana, to Bill who traded crank sets with me, to Mike at Stan's for taking care of us at the shop, to Paul at DT Swiss who spent time with me on the phone giving me advice about hubs and skewers, and a big thanks to Ron for lacing up my beautiful wheels. Huge big thanks go to my mechanic and good buddy Steve who advised me on parts and helped me put the bike together.

I'm a very happy girl.