VQ & You Articles

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Ever since leaving the structure of high school sports, I have struggled to maintain any regular exercise routine. In my younger days, this was not much of an issue, but the lack of activity began to weigh heavily on me as I entered midlife, literally. My weight increased to 240 pounds which really didn’t look or feel very good on my 5’8” frame.

In 2012 I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and that was the shock to the system I needed to make a lifestyle change. With exercise and changes to my diet, I lost 45 pounds. But by the spring of 2016, I was losing the motivation to stay active and my weight had risen to 206 pounds and still climbing. I never became one of those people that didn’t feel good if they didn’t exercise. The running that I had been doing had become another chore that no number of race t-shirts could motivate me to like. I had a bicycle, but really didn’t know how to use it as anything other than a mode of transportation. This was also around the time I noticed I could no longer keep up with my wife when we would cycle together.

She had started...

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Deep down, I think I’ve always wanted to do a triathlon. I was afraid I couldn’t master swimming though. Over the years friends tried to teach me how to swim freestyle, but I could never get the hang of it. I was just a spazzy mess.

I turned my attention to doing my first marathon for my 30th birthday. That led to running marathons throughout my 30s. The year before I turned 40, I committed to doing something big to celebrate entering that new chapter of life. I settled on a half-Ironman--big and way out of my comfort zone. So in August 2016, I started swim lessons to learn freestyle. Somehow I managed it and wasn’t a hot mess in the water anymore.

As I was trying to figure out how to train for this big event, my neighbor suggested Vision Quest Coaching, having cycled with them for years. I took the free class (maybe my second time ever on the bike). Dave H and the VQ gang welcomed me with open arms and I was hooked. I spent the fall doing drop-in classes to get the hang of cycling.

In late December, I met with Robbie for a performance assessment and we talked...

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For me, triathlons started way back in the late 1990s when I opened a small business out of my condo. The idea began forming in this vacuous block of concrete known as my head when I turned into the Tasmanian Devil at the end of every day until some meaningful exercise could be had.

With expenses tight, I turned to daily walking or light running along the lakefront. While walking near Ohio Street Beach and Lincoln Park, I’d see swimmers plugging away at the training ground along the lake wall and think, “Wow, that’s cool!” And then I’d think, “Wow, if only you weren’t deathly afraid of swimming in open water, it would be even more cool.”

For a while, I took up martial arts (karate, taekwondo), eventually transitioning to boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (and getting my ass kicked at most of it), but I continued walking to the lake on occasion, seeing the swimmers and thinking, “You’ve got to climb the mountain and conquer that fear of open water.”

Around June 2012, after five years of on-and-off preparation and two bouts of prostate cancer, I did one of the...

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I joined VQ in May 2016, having moved back to Chicago from Minneapolis. I had been a member of a group riding club there and wanted to continue. VQ was recommended to me, so I signed up for a class package online. When I showed up that first Tuesday evening, I immediately knew I had found a good spot for myself. I could sense the camaraderie and felt very welcome right away. This was a group that would help me push myself to improve my skills and stick with it. I switched to a membership a couple weeks later.

I had been athletic and very active in high school and college, but had let it go when I got busy with work, kids, etc. I often complained that I was just too busy to get back into it in any purposeful way. Then I was laid off--or “between jobs” as I preferred to think of it--and had no excuse. I got my hybrid bike off the rack and started riding, feeling very proud of the 5-10 miles I would do on a daily basis. Before I knew it, I was riding 25-30 miles five days a week and loving how it felt. I needed that sense of purpose each day and the feeling of being...

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Who I Am

Two of the bikes have power meters that I have been using over the past two seasons. And I love riding. But I don’t race--never have and never will. I’m 58 years old, and when I ride with groups (once a week, mainly in the summer), I’m always the oldest, sometimes exceeding the average by two to three decades. When I started this a couple years ago, I had to accept that the group I chose was fast and I’d get dropped sometimes--so would other, much younger, guys. Last season, I stopped riding with them because getting dropped more often than not isn’t fun. I concluded that, well, I’m getting old. I’m strong for my age, but age happens.

Why I Joined Vision Quest this January

First, New Orleans. Every December, we go to New Orleans for a “food-cation”. (New Orleans food is the best, but it’s not low-cal.) Then we come back and my partner goes into holiday cooking mode. Because she’s a fantastic chef and because we finish teaching in early December (both Northwestern professors), we indulge in...

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Ta-Dah! Vision Quest!

By Heidi Musser (originally written for a Memoir/Creative Writing Workshop) Today, as every Tuesday and Thursday, I entered the Vision Quest Highland Park hallway at 6:30 am. The life-loving energy of everyone I pass so early in the morning is indescribable. It's like arriving on a different planet. What is Vision Quest (VQ)? It is where I train for endurance cycling. Indoors, when the weather is cold and unfavorable, on my single bike, locked onto a trainer, and outdoors, when the weather is warm and pleasant, on my tandem bike, with a VQ pilot for a trail ride. All I can say is Ta-dah! for VQ! Becoming involved with VQ about two years ago was life-changing for me as a blind athlete.

One of VQ's mottos is: Accomplish anything; all you need is vision. Simply feeling welcomed meant "changing my vision." No longer was I the one "without a vision," but now one who was among those who "have vision." Ta-dah! Among my fellow riders, I was no longer considered blind....

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Goal-setting, whether athletic- or career-oriented, is like a ritual amongst the VQ community. I typically center my goals around coming out of my comfort zone. Coming out of my comfort zone is exactly what I did when I timidly entered in January 2012 for my first Taste of VQ class. My heart rate was probably in Z3 when I walked through the doors, rose to Z4 when I was asked to jump on the scale (post-holidays, of course!) and easily increased to Z5 during the infamous 20-minute threshold test. Ten months later, I officially joined. Through VQ I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with challenges ranging from a holiday season cleanse (those who know me realize what a nearly impossible feat it is for me to survive without coffee for 14 days!) to braving cold temperatures and sloppy terrain in a March race to perhaps the greatest out-of-comfort-zone challenge to date: attending the Arizona camp without knowing the majority of athletes participating. These have all been experiences that have changed me in some way.

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In January 2012, I thought I was in pretty good shape for a 62-year-old guy following a training regimen of rigorous cycling once or twice a week and personal training or Pilates twice a week. So, as a Tour de France devotee, I signed up for a challenging cycling trip following Le Tour for six days that summer. Since I was only biking on the flatlands of Illinois and Florida, I figured I needed to step up my training. That winter, I landed on Robbie’s VQHP doorstep and started indoor intensity rides twice a week; once a week when riding outdoors.

By the time I left for France in July, my VO threshold had increased from 187 to 207 and my weight dropped from 185 to 172.

The trip was fantastic! Over the six days, we rode 287 miles and climbed in excess of 25,000 feet, including climbs up two Tour routes: the Col du Granier and the Col du Glandon to the Col de la Croix de Fer. I couldn’t have survived those climbs without my VQ training.

Fast-forward to May 2016, with my weight around 177 and my threshold at 240, I signed up for another European bike trip. This time...

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I was asked for race results and here’s my story…not exactlya “race,” but results for sure.

First, a little bit of background: I was extremely sick with various illnesses during the second half of 2014 and knew I needed to do something different. I carried over 228 pounds on my 6’1″ frame with a BMI of 30.2.

I started eating right and consuming slightly fewer calories than my RMR. I began riding on a trainer in late winter, but that was intermittent. When spring finally broke in Cleveland, I started riding more regularly, about 75 miles a week, but nothing over 30 miles at a time (still more than I had ever ridden in my life). I slimmed to 210 lbs. and started feeling better. However, I was stuck at 210 and still had nagging gastro problems. I knew I needed help to get over the next hump–something more than just going out and riding. A friend challenged me to think bigger about my cycling goals and that’s when I decided I needed a coach. Enter VQ…

More importantly, enter Carlos Soler. What a godsend! I asked VQ for help that very same week because I wanted to...

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I had been participating in triathlons (sprint and Olympic distances) for a number of years. This was quite some time ago when you could practically sign up the day before and the event did not cost you an arm and a leg! Then one of those “zero” birthdays was coming up and I looked at the craziness of doing the WI Ironman event! Madison, Wisconsin is my hometown.

My father is still in the house he built where my siblings and I grew up. Thus the logistics of participating in the Madison IM event were easy, eg: place to stay while there riding the course, close to Chicago, ability to get in the practices on the weekend, etc. Plus my birthday is September 9th and the WI Ironman event was the 11th! [It was very fun when, at the pasta dinner on Friday night, several people were asked to stand to acknowledge birthdays. I was one of them!] Yet I still wondered, could I do this crazy thing?!? Would my body cooperate? Could I “wrap my brain” around this endurance sport? Yes, yes and yes! My training was from a 13-hour, 13-week printout that a friend found for me on the Internet. I...

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There are many reasons people join and continue riding with VQ. Ask ten VQ members and you will hear as many reasons. In honor of the now retired David Letterman, here are my Top 10 Reasons to Ride with VQ

10. You have not lived a full life as a cyclist until you do indoor workouts with Robbie Ventura and Dave Noda. It’s Chicago. It’s February. It’s cold. And snowy. Are you riding outside? I didn’t think so. Connect your bike to a CompuTrainer and “enjoy” 90 minutes of real work with a room filled with like-minded people. The sessions are run by coaches that are knowledgeable and ready to help you set up on the machine and motivate you. The indoor workouts are the best thing any serious rider can do in the winter, at least in this part of the world. To get the full experience you have to do an indoor session with Robbie Ventura or Dave Noda. Their coaching styles are different, but both motivate you to really make the most of your training time. Robbie is very direct and gives a lot of information. Dave uses a booming voice to motivate--no,...

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When I began my VQ journey in February 2014, my power and weight were in the 180s. I didn't even know how to ride in a pace line. My goal was to become fit and take my cycling beyond 18-mile solo rides up and down Sheridan Road. In one year, I have increased my power to 249, lost over 20 pounds and learned how to ride in a group. Along the way, I have had some major achievements. In September, I rode the Sub-5 Century in 4:28 with a team of 12 riders. In August, I completed Rebecca's Private Idaho, a 94-mile gravel ride with over 5,500 feet of climbing. All this from a non-athletic, couch potato who was pushing an unhealthy 213 pounds in January 2013.

My accomplishments with cycling have taken family support, my heart, my guts and leaving nothing on the table, but I know I couldn't have done much without VQ. VQers work their butts off each and every day and have been a great influence on me, always making me challenge myself and push myself beyond where I ever thought I could go. At VQ, we all celebrate each other's accomplishments. During a recent FTP test,...

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I joined Vision Quest Coaching in September 2009, shortly after my first century ride. I am very thankful to have discovered this one-of-a-kind training center! The training has improved my cycling, inspired me to push my limits, led to feelings of accomplishment and produced epic moments.

I have always enjoyed sports and exercise and managed to be active, although since childhood, I’ve been faced with the challenges of asthma. As a mom, it wasn’t until my children were older that I was able to volunteer and work out more regularly. In 2009, Team in Training invited me to participate in a charity century ride around Lake Tahoe. Even though I wasn’t a serious cyclist, I decided: why not? It was a memorable ride that took me about 8.5 hours to complete. I stopped and grazed my way through all of the many rest stops. My favorite stop was at the beach at mile 72. I ate several sandwiches, rested on the beach and did some stretching. Needless to say, finishing those last 28 miles was not an easy task!

After that ride, I decided I wanted to spend more time on my bike and...

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I joined Vision Quest Coaching in fall 2005 with the intent of learning the art of group riding. I had previously been a runner for a number of years and gave it up in the mid-90s (too many Advils for too few miles). I started to attend spin classes and ultimately bought a hybrid bike to ride for exercise. I grew to enjoy biking.

Soon I tested a carbon frame road bike, fell in love with it and continued riding on my own. I ventured into group riding and initially found it alternately exhilarating and terrifying with many riders offering suggestions, tips and advice, but having no context or foundation to sort out the good from the bad (riding at 20+ mph, 12 inches off a wheel...trial and error seemed out of the question). I felt VQ would be the place to accelerate the learning curve and offer an environment and coaching to learn the art and science of riding in a group.

I came to VQ for the group skills and stayed for the program and friendships. VQ has been instrumental in offering coaching, actionable advice and training for group riding and has allowed me the...

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To Be Part of Something Bigger than Yourself

Ever since I played little league baseball, I believed that being part of a team meant everything. And while blood, sweat and tears were necessary for individual achievement, having partners on the athletic journeys of life was just as important--and a helluva lot more fun. It certainly was true when I played college football at Northwestern and definitely when I was kicking ass and getting my ass kicked in the NFL! Fast-forward 30 years: it was still the same. I was still looking for that something bigger than myself; being a part of it. Hello Vision Quest Coaching! I wish I had met Robbie, Dave and the gang a long time ago, but I'll settle for present and future. Forget about the hands-on, comprehensive coaching for a second, that speaks for itself. It's the camaraderie that sets VQ above the rest. Whether at Fullerton Avenue or Highland Park, it's a comfort zone. You aren’t judged, just taught. My bike handling skills still leave something to be desired, but are certainly a lot better than when I...

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Half the Road

When I get on the bike, I don’t think about whether I am a woman or a man. From my viewpoint on the saddle, I am just a body with two legs that pedal, eyes for the road, a stomach to feed and a brain to wrestle with. I don’t think the guys that I ride with give much thought to my being a woman either. It’s just not relevant when you’re all working hard together and keeping the pace.

So when Dave Noda asked me to join the first women’s team to ride the Sub-5 Century for Parkinson’s last summer, I had to think about it. I wasn’t excited about doing just a “girl thing”, I didn’t see the point. It’s not that I don’t like hanging out with other women, it’s just that it’s not a priority when I’m on the bike. Then when I found out that the range of Functional Threshold Power levels for the nine women on the team spanned 100 watts, I really wondered what I had gotten myself into.

How could we maintain a pace of over 20 mph for 100 miles when the weakest among us struggled at that speed for only a few minutes? Wouldn’t the team...

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The simple fact is that Robbie Ventura and Vision Quest Coaching gave me my life back. I signed up for my first Taste of VQ in February 2010, having been convinced by a co-worker who was transformed by VQ from a person who rides a bicycle for recreation to a cyclist completing centuries.

When I joined VQ, I was rapidly approaching 60 years of age and I felt like the remainder of my life would be spent carefully tip-toeing to the grave. My knees were arthritic from running. My right shoulder and elbow were sore and stiff from a bad bicycle accident in 2004. My flexibility and balance were history. Despite the fitness program I was on at the time, I continued to gain weight and lose fitness. My work as a surgeon and my family were the only things I had time for in my life. I sought salvation in the cult of VQ. I ended up becoming a member of the VQ family.

Now starting my fourth year with VQ I can reflect on the positive impact Robbie and VQ have made on my life. My testing numbers as well as ability to ride on the road and trails have improved. My understanding of...

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My name is Gillian Forsyth, I am a type 1 diabetic. These are not my first words because I want you to feel sorry for me; these are my first words because even if one person with type 1 diabetes should read this, I want them to know that they can achieve whatever they put their minds and bodies to. Don’t let your doubts get in the way of your dreams or goals. I am a two-time ironman, have completed a Leadman Tri 250 and have cycled and run thousands of miles on my journey. Vision Quest Coaching has given me the strength to make that journey, complete my goals and dream big.

It is not just the brutally hard training sessions at Vision Quest that get you to your goal. It is the people: Dave, Robbie, Melissa G, all the other members that train with you--they make you feel that no matter who you are you should believe that you can do it. Believing is half the battle in accomplishing whatever goal you set for yourself.

One of the best memories I have is from the VQ Santa Rosa Women’s Camp in 2011. I never would have believed that I could have ridden so many days in a row...

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I was never a "jock" in school. In fact, I was pretty much the last kid picked for the team no matter what the sport. Sure, I rode a bike and liked it, but never saw myself as even someone who exercised, let alone as a "cyclist". Well, after several years of reaping the consequences of not taking very good care of my body, I managed to lose some weight and develop some healthier habits, which eventually led to a spin class, which led to a new outdoor bike, which led to an inexplicable desire to ride…first around the neighborhood, then the bike paths, then charity rides. The Internet helped me make the transition to cyclist: I found decent training plans, a local riding group and a bike that didn't come from Costco. I can't quite recall how, but I managed to stumble across VQ and thought that maybe this was the logical next step if I wanted to keeping learning more and doing better.

I think one story that illustrates what VQ has done for me is my struggle with Mt. Figueroa in California. I first encountered the 10-mile climb up this monster at VQ's Solvang Camp in 2008....

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Why do I do Triathlon? Let me start first with why I don't do Triathlon. I don't do triathlon to get up at 4:30am and jump in an icy pool at 5am. I don't do triathlon for the 6,000-KJ rides or 5-hour fartleks. And I certainly don't do it for the 8-pack abs and awesome tan lines. OK…maybe the abs part…but I don’t do it because of some sick and perverse fetish of running around in spandex for hours on end. I love Triathlon because of the friendships I have made and the lessons learned. I draw on both of these daily. What I learn in life, I apply in sport and vice versa. I figured I'd share a couple of lessons that I've learned, some funny and others serious…

  1. Always use liberal amounts of body glide, chamois cream and sunscreen.
  2. There will always be someone faster and slower than you. It's important to maintain perspective and have attainable goals. Enjoy the small victories.
  3. It's important to get out of shape so you can get into shape.
  4. Red wine is an antioxidant.
  5. Know the reason and purpose behind each workout. Make sure a...
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