In road cycling culture, early season races are where competitors hone their fitness and fine-tune their strategic-sense to be as prepared as possible for the biggest events on their calendars.
Having been competing for a number years, and coming off one of the best offseason training cycles of her career, Karen Meske dropped the ‘tune-up’ from her early-season to win the Roger Millikan Criterium!
What’s more, she backed that up with another solid performance, the very next week, earning a hard-fought third-place podium spot.
The Roger Millikan criterium is one of the most hotly contested early season races in Southern California, so one can imagine Karen’s excitement having taken her first win of 2018 there.
Following this success, we caught up with Karen to talk about what has made her start to the season different than years past as well as what lies ahead for her in 2018 in our four-question Athlete Profile. Enjoy!
Karen Meske seals her first win of 2018 with a long sprint at the Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium. Photo Credit: Richard Lee
Primary Sport/Discipline: Road Cycling
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 8-12hrs
Upcoming Goals: The entire 2018 SoCal road cycling race calendar
Question #1: Congratulations on a great win at the Roger Millikan Criterium, Karen! How did you score the win?
Karen Meske: Thank you!
On the final lap, I positioned myself well, fighting to be second wheel heading into turn three, the decisive turn at the bottom of the hill…
As we were exiting turn three, I ‘jumped’ as hard as I could and passed the first rider in the peloton. I was out of the saddle and hammered up the hill as hard as I could, through turn four, and onto the finish line!
Approaching the finish I heard someone yell another girl’s name from the sidelines so I knew another rider was close to me. In that moment I pushed extra-hard, sprinting with everything I had, until I crossed the finish-line.
I was first!
In other exciting news, last weekend I followed my Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium race win with a third-place finish at the 3rd round of the CBR Criterium series in the Women’s 1-3 Category.
Two podium finishes back to back…not bad at all, right?
Coaches Perspective/Coach Joy: Karen did a great job solidifying her spot on the podium these past two weeks!
She has years of experience and plenty of racing knowledge, so it is very exciting to see her achieve these great results.
In bike racing, I believe experience, which comes with age, can out-perform even the most powerful legs in any peloton.
The unique aspect of these two podium finishes for Karen is that she committed to racing hard until the very end of each race.
Even in the CBR race where there were 2 riders ‘up the road’ in a break-away, she stayed focused on winning the field sprint.
This tactical-awareness is a new addition to Karen’s “quiver of arrows”, so to speak, and is an attribute that will land her on more podiums throughout the season!
I often tell my Athletes that the easiest part of being a cyclist and bike-racer is the training. The major challenge comes when implementing tactics and executing strategy.
With that said, I have challenged Karen to dig-deep and think outside-the-box to find ways to win races in many different scenarios.
Seeing these results come together, after all her hard-work and study, is very exciting for me as her Coach!
It was a happy day for Karen Meske at the Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium. She won the day with a long sprint to the finish. Photo Credit: Karen Meske
Question #2: You worked hard all offseason to start 2018 with some of your best fitness ever. What about your preparation for this race season is different than years’ past?
KM: The only thing that was significantly different during the off-season is that I trained quite a bit with the CBS Cycling Team and other experienced riders in the Santa Clarita area.
That group is very strong, so trying to keep up with them pushed me to my limit quite often!
I should say that I could not have done it without my dear friend Charity Chia, who encouraged me all the way.
Training with Charity and CBS Cycling prepared me to complete all four rides at this years’ 4-Days To Fitness in January, which I have never been able to do.
Coach Joy: Most of us love riding our bikes because of the people we get to ride them with, and Karen is no exception!
Having found a welcoming, yet challenging, group with the CBS Cycling Team in Santa Clarita has provided Karen the opportunity to log many miles during the winter months with a talented group of riders.
Many of these rides had Karen “out-gunned” due to the experience and horsepower within the group. This forced her to develop her group ride savvy, experience, and tenacity, as well as her fitness to a higher level than years past!
As her recent results show, over the course of this training she transformed from surviving these rides to thriving in them!
Given Karen’s history of racing and training, she had a solid foundation of fitness to begin tackling 4+ hour rides with this group of riders, which then pushed her her to complete numerous offseason Gran Fondo’s and Century rides.
All of this work culminated with her being able to ride toe-to-toe with the main group at 4-Days To Fitness over New Years, not to mention these two early-season race results, which is awesome!
Training with the CBS Cycling Team has helped Karen Meske be her best leading into the 2018 race season. Photo Credit: Charity Chia
Question #3: What is one of your biggest cycling objectives for this season and what events are you most excited about?
KM: My biggest objective is to be able to continue training and racing throughout the year.
I am currently in school, doing clinical rotations and completing assignments on top of my regular work duties.
So my goal is to make sure I can keep my riding volume up so I don't lose too much fitness over the school year.
If I can achieve that, I will be happy!
I should mention that I enjoy the series of CBR races and am looking forward to the Chuck Pontius Criterium in Santa Clarita too. I want to do well in all those events. Also, I am hoping that there will be a few Women’s Master’s races along the way to do too!
All in all I am really hoping to continue to train and race when I can this year… I am excited about any race I can go to with good fitness.
Coach Joy: As long as we have been working together, Karen has done a fantastic job balancing her busy work and school schedule with her cycling aspirations to create a life that works well for her.
To maximize her adaptation to training, we are diligent about adding rest around her brutal 12hr. work shifts at the hospital, as well as lightening the training-load when school projects and exams are assigned.
Having the chance to “front-load” training with solid weekend training rides has allowed Karen to maintain her fitness-level throughout the winter. Additionally, this provides the opportunity to add days off the bike during the week, when needed, to ensure she is peppy for her work and studies.
With her current fitness, we are both confident she can jump into any race and be able to handle the intensity and duration the peloton dishes out!
Karen Meske is known to jump into a few Master's races each season for 'extra' fitness. Photo Credit: Sherri Foxworthy
Question #4: What is/are your favorite workout(s) in your training program? Also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with BWC.
KM: Some of my favorite structured workouts are the 15 second sprints I do at the Rose Bowl and the 3x 6-minute 260-270w threshold efforts I execute on Angeles Crest Highway.
This will be my 4th year working with Coach Joy and she has always given me workouts that are challenging but doable.
That keeps me motivated and enjoying my training!
As for a “knowledge bomb”; shorter/harder structured workouts allow me to stay in race shape while I am working and going to school.
With all that said, I want to say, “thank you so much for all your guidance and support over the past 3-years, Coach Joy!”
Coach Joy: I think it’s clear to see that those sprint workouts are really paying off at the races!
Karen has successfully sprinted to a win and won a field-sprint to earn 3rd place. She has won each of the sprints she has contested over the past two weeks, which is excellent!
It is great to see the structured workouts we put together have made an immediate impact on Karen’s performance at the races.
With that said, I always try to assign workouts that will align her racing and group-ride goals. In this case the sprint efforts and short threshold intervals do very nicely.
Volume isn’t always the key to success, nor is it possible for every Athlete to maintain high volumes of training throughout the year, so keeping Karen’s rides short and “to the point” allows us to avoid burnout that accompanies a busy work and scholastic schedule.
By not dumping too much workload on her in training, she has maintained great life-balance, which is the key to longevity in Endurance Sport.
I am excited to have another season to work with Karen and help her learn new tactics, strategies, and skills that can take her racing to the highest level possible.
But outside of her racing success, it has been great to see Karen show up at her favorite weekend group rides and go ‘turn for turn’ with her friends.
That success alone is a great return on her training investment!
Karen Meske is a proud member of the SkyFlash Race Team and enjoys the ladies she rides and races with. Photo Credit: Hector Castillo
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Karen Meske’s racing success as much as we have enjoyed sharing it with you.
For any Athlete, confidence is key to top-level performance. And without exception, confidence is earned through purposeful training, effective workouts, and detailing the unique aspects necessary to achieve success for your goals.
At Big Wheel Coaching it is our passion to help every Athlete develop their confidence to the highest level possible through potent training. With that said, we think the famous NFL Quarterback, Roger Staubach offered great wisdom on developing confidence:
“Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a result of something… hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication.”
In summary, confidence is earned, just as an Athlete’s best fitness!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching