Lani Woods The Urban Adventurer

Over the years most of our features have been about runners and their journeys, from chasing 6 stars to challenging ourselves, to be better from both a mental and physical standpoint to doing things that all simply revolve around running. For this issue we’re going to change up the pace a little bit and pivot towards the cycling part of the fitness community and when it comes to cycling for myself as a runner there’s so many things to learn i’m sure not only for myself but for many of us readers. This month we feature Lani Woods otherwise known as Lani The Adventurer, simply put cycling is her passion and she not only keeps that passion close to herself but also her community.

MSM: Welcome back to Mid Strike Magazine, I feel like the last time we chatted you were just getting started in your already impressive journey. How have things been going for you these last couple of years and for our readers let’s get a little introduction into who Lani “The Adventurer” Woods is.

Lani: I’m so honored to get the opportunity to share with you all, it has been a minute. Things have been going well. A brief introduction, my name is Lani Woods, aka Lani the Adventurer. I am a recreational athlete, out of Compton California. Right now, my focus is cycling. I have dabbled in ultra-endurance cycling, track cycling, gravel cycling, and mountain biking at an entry level. I’m a mother of 2, Former medical professional, now cycling is pretty much my life. .

MSM: I want to dive a little bit deeper into your why and what it was that got you into fitness, that proverbial tipping point that nudged you into wanting to stay fit?

Lani: For me fitness is a lifestyle. I’ve managed to keep a gym membership and some form of outdoor activity on my schedule for 20 years. My nudge I would say was, watching people in my family who weren’t very active, and all the health problems they were going through, I just knew I didn’t want that for myself or my children. Some people train for competition, some workout to look good, but some of us just do it to feel good and that’s enough! 

MSM: The weird thing about us runners is that we tend to do the hard things and become good at doing it. We become disciplined which then becomes part of our everyday routines. How has fitness helped you over the years become more disciplined and how has it carried over to your day to day? 

Lani: Fitness helps me stay focused! I have learned that being active at the start of my day, sets the tone for the rest of my day. So, I try to get some form of activity in before work, even if it’s just walking a mile. It also forces me to monitor what I put in my body. Like I know I have a long ride tomorrow, so I’ll skip going out for burgers and beer, and have pasta and veggies and make sure I go to bed early. Being active keeps me in check, because I know I want to be healthy and fit at 50 (and beyond) more than any simple pleasures. 

MSM: I want to go back to one of your posts “A lot of challenges and firsts these past couple of years. Those that know me know, the hardest challenges don’t have photo opportunities, but they build the most strength and character. Sometimes we must fall, to learn that the true strength is built in getting back up.” You’ve had some challenges through the years with an intense leg injury. Let’s chat about that, what happened and what was the road back like for you? I’m sure there’s been some hard days. How did you work through them, what was the support system like and how did you come out even stronger than you did before?

Lani: Challenges are a part of life. For the injury you’re asking about, it completely changed the trajectory of my life and I’m forever grateful for it! In 2019 I suffered a torn ACL and PCL, a tibial plateau avulsion fracture, and a ruptured calf, resulting in 6 weeks in a cast, and 3 knee surgeries and lots of PT. It forced me to slow down and focus on the process and not skipping steps. I started listening to podcasts and following incredible athletes for inspiration. I found a few athletes going through similar situations and we created a support community, it was during the pandemic so that connection was crucial to our recovery. We created challenges to keep each other accountable. Which helped me a lot because the depression was intense. Going from being independent and physically active every day to being on crutches and needing assistance with things is humbling.  It helped me to learn that I am capable of anything, and how important it is to stay positive and never compare myself to anyone! Everyone’s journey is unique. 

MSM: We find our peace within the activities that we do. For you, it seems like your peace is on the bike. You cycle ALOT and ride everywhere. It’s an avenue that I’m still learning about myself, biking, and running are two totally different realms and it’s not easy.  What got you into the cycling community and what doors has it opened for you these last couple of years?

Lani: I do find peace in activity, oddly enough I started running as a teen because it helped me feel better when I’d get mad and later became a tool to combat my depression. Yes, two very different things, both hard and takes time and commitment to get better at. I find cycling easier on my knees, and I can go further and see more than on foot. After my knee surgeries in 2020 my orthopedic surgeon suggested I ride a bike to strengthen my quads and I got hooked. I started off with 5 miles, then 10, then 20… and have now ridden quite a bit more. My longest ride in 1 day being 220 miles. There is something life changing in riding and pushing to your limits. I have learned so much about cycling in the last 2 years. The community is incredible, everyone is always helpful in teaching new riders the ropes and how to ride efficiently,

MSM: For an inexperienced cyclist like me who’s still learning the world of cycling, what advice would you give us newbies, especially the ones that think a fixie bike can and will do the trick. Sidenote, one of my biggest spending mistakes (getting a fixie bike).

Lani: Bruuuuh!!! That’s the best bike to get, we gotta get you on the track, it will make you stronger.  My best advice, that I wish I had got when I started is, don’t rush to buy an expensive bike, or kits, and all the fancy stuff. Get what you can and just enjoy riding your bike. There is no cheat code, the more you ride your bike, the stronger you’ll be. When you do get that expensive road bike, get a proper bike fit. It will help make your ride more comfortable and reduce your chance of injury. 

MSM: There was an interesting point you mentioned earlier I’d like to dive into a little bit, ultra-endurance cycling, track cycling, gravel cycling, and mountain biking all sound intense. What are the subtle yet large differences between those four?

Lani: There are so many, cycling disciplines, and they are also different, so I’m going to do my best to break this down. So ultra-endurance. Cycling is usually on the road and anything over 100 miles so it can be anywhere from 105 miles to 3000 miles, or more and it varies because it can be over the course of 1 day, like doing 200 miles in one day or a 24 hour ultra, where you ride for 24 hours and see how many miles you can do, or it could be a multi-day race where you have to go from one location to another in one day and then there’s another route you have to do the next day. There are also relay races, so teams of 2 to 8 can let’s say take on doing a 500 mile race without stopping they just swap teammates, these events are usually sagged either the event has SAG support or the riders have their own SAG support which could be a team in a van with all the needed tools and extra parts plus nutrition, and sometimes even have an RV with beds so the riders and the support team can rest.

Track cycling is like the opposite. Athletes ride on a short track on a fixed gear bike without any brakes and these races can be sprint races which range between seconds to like 4 minutes or endurance races which are typically 20 min to 1 hour, but they’re very fast pace and high intensity. These races take place on a velodrome, and we only have around 21 velodromes in the United States so it’s not very easy to access them from anywhere, so it’s not as popular as riding on the road. The cycling community is working hard and that will change soon.

Gravel, riding, and mountain biking. Both are off road disciplines, and even within those disciplines, there are like subdisciplines, but we’re going to stick to the basics. Gravel riding is usually on wide fire roads and is done on a bike with drop handlebars very similar to a road bike but has bigger knobby tires like a mountain bike to ride off-road. For gravel curious people I would suggest a bike that can do both road and gravel. If you’re just trying it out. Mountain biking is a totally different Beast. It’s not just off-road it’s got hairpin turns, steep drops, possible jumps, there are different types of mountain biking, some people do long distance Enduro rides, some people go up lifts and just do downhill and that’s dangerous but looks super fun. It’s incredible.

There are so many differences, but all these disciplines are incredible, and I appreciate every single one. One thing that all these disciplines have in common is, there are very few Black people, or any people of color involved at any level and I’m very proud to be a part of the change and meet the peoples, organizations, and allies working to make that change.

MSM: We mentioned a few questions back that cycling has opened a few doors and opportunities for you these last few years and I’d like to touch on a few of them, one of them being Search for Speed a new talent identification program designed to introduce track cycling to diverse and underrepresented communities in Los Angeles. This is cool and amazing because to be honest our communities aren’t shown that there are other sports and opportunities outside of normal sports such as basketball, baseball, and football. 

Lani: Yes, Cycling has had a great impact on my life in many ways. One incredible example is getting to work with USA Cycling, Search for Speed. It is a unique program with multiple initiatives. 

1 .To introduce track cycling to underrepresented communities.

2. Find exceptional talent to integrate into the National team pool.

3. Engage and educate youth about cycling. 

Needing assistance with things is humbling.  It helped me to learn that I am capable of anything, and how important it is to stay positive and never compare myself to anyone! Everyone’s journey is unique. 

Lani

We started tryouts in January 2023, tested over 2500 people in a 6 second sprint on a wattbike, had high scorers return for combine, the top 15 athletes were later invited to train in a 4 month TIN camp with the sprint national team coaches here in Los Angeles, where they are learning skills on the track and getting one on one coaching in the gym as well. 

Year 2 we are focusing on getting more athletes to come to the Velodrome in LA for our combines. While spending more time looking for athletes, educating the community here in Los Angeles about this sport. People are welcomed from all over the US, But the program is based in Los Angeles. This program is heavily aligned with the 2028 Olympics being in Los Angeles, the goal is to find a powerful athlete, that will make it to Compete in the games. 

MSM: How can young cyclists sign up for this program and get more insight into these opportunities? 

Lani:

1. Step one, go to our website. There you can see our schedule and register for a combine.

2. follow us on social media our Instagram is @searchforspd

3. Contact me, send me an email with any questions at Lwoods@usacycling.org

MSM: Are there any community rides available or any events young cyclists can come to, to learn and gain a deeper knowledge into the world of cycling? 

Lani: There are soooooo many rides! It’s hard to find in certain communities. There are Major Taylor Cycling clubs in most metro cities in the US. That is a great place to start. The cycling community is very inviting and helps anyone who’s willing to learn. There are also other clubs and events that do unique things. 

A few I know and love are:

LA bike academy has a build a bike program for the youth, and host beginner friendly family rides out of their shop. 

All Clubs Gala weekend. Los Angeles Ca. January 18 -2.  This one is great because there are immersive sessions and a black-tie Gala, along with rides. (Road cycling)

MACC One Love. Atlanta Ga. August 31, 2024. This is the family reunion of cycling. Having a fish fry ride on Friday, a century ride on Saturday, and lots of activities on the side. (Road cycling)

SBT Gravel. Steamboat Springs Co. August 18, 2024, they have a ton of clinics and rides, it’s one of the best events for 1st time gravel riders. (Gravel cycling)

MSM: How did you find out about Search for Speed and what are some of the things that this program continues to do to bring awareness to communities?

Lani: I found out about Search for Speed by my incredible friend Sterling Magnell, a retired pro cyclist, who coached the National team in Rwanda. He laid the foundation for this program and offered me the opportunity to help make an impact. 

MSM: You’re also head of the program for Talent ID, which sounds all sorts of busy. As head of the program for Talent ID what are some of your day-to-day responsibilities and things that you look for to help push the program and talent forward?

Lani: I am the Program Coordinator for Search for Speed. I am the 1st Woman ever to work in Sports performance for USA Cycling. I am currently the only Full-Time employee hired on for the program so I’m wearing a lot of hats but have gotten a ton of support from my colleagues to help lighten the load. My job is to build relationships, find locations to host tryouts, manage an activations team, schedule Combines, engage with the community, and find athletes that are interested in repurposing their talents to potentially Win Olympic medals.

MSM: Lets chat Black with Endurance how has that been going? You’ve supported the team while they’ve done various runs such as the Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon run. How has the crew been and what are some of the things that the group have been cooking up?

Lani: Things have slowed down with BWE, Juggling life really cut into time I had for managing all things BWE. Everyone is doing great. Last year Marquette, Bobby, and Herm ran a 50k at Utah salt flats. Earlier this year we completed a relay Ironman. Which was awesome. I just completed a triple crown. We are all challenging ourselves and getting after it in different ways. We will have to do a reboot to update folks. 

MSM: I must ask this question, how many pull ups can you do on a good day? Lol.

Lani: Good question! Being on the bike more these days has taken away from my upper body strength gains. I can probably crank out a hot 8 right now, lol. 

MSM: Your days are jammed back from start to finish, from traveling, to creating opportunities, creating content, cycling etc. and most of all being a mom. How do you do it and most of all how do you find ways of balance where you’re able to reset both mentally and physically?

Lani: Delegate where I can. Luckily my kids are older, 20 & 14 so they are independent. My oldest helps with my youngest and my youngest picks up extra responsibilities at home for extra cash lol. I don’t get to ride as much as I used to so when I do I try to get as many people together, so I get time to exercise and chill with my friends. I take days to rest and getaway, usually 2-day getaways, and that helps me recharge. 

MSM: You’re always on the go, riding your bike. What’s the longest ride you’ve taken where time just disappeared, and you’ve just zoned out?

Lani: I’m going to repurpose this question a bit lol. The longest ride I did over multiple days, was San Francisco to Los Angeles with Major Taylor LA cycling club. It was 500 miles over 7 days. Very beautiful route, it was hard, it hurt but the views were so rewarding. For those 7 days I didn’t have a care in the world but turning my pedals and getting to the next destination. I fell in love with cycling that trip. 

MSM: Every time I look it seems as if you’re challenging yourself on the bike both the distance and now the short track indoor bike environment. Give our readers some insight into both of those realms of distance riding vs speed riding on an indoor track.

Lani: So, I like to do ultra-endurance rides, which are bike rides that are usually over 100 miles and have a good amount of elevation like one I did recently was 194 miles with over 6000 feet of elevation. These rides really test you physically and mentally because it is a long time to be on a bike. Your body will be tired. You must push past the fatigue and your mind will tell you that you want to quit also, there are a lot of things that can happen out there. If you get a mechanical, it can in your ride. So, you have to know how to maintain your bike you have to make sure you have enough nutrition and hydration and be prepared for anything, but also pack light enough that you’re not weighing yourself down.

Track Cycling is my new flame, some people may know I’m a little bit of a daredevil. I like adrenaline, that’s why you can find me climbing high ropes and swinging from bars. Track cycling gives me that kick butt on a bike. Track Cycling is racing on a velodrome made of wood or concrete with an embankment, so it looks intimidating but once you get out there, it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever done. You can go really fast on those things I believe my top speed on the velodrome is 42 mph, but professional elite athletes can get up to 70 mph probably even more.

MSM: What is your inspiration? What is it that continues to drive you to get out there and be the change? To be the difference?

Lani: I find inspiration and everyone I meet, every article I read every podcast I listen to hearing people’s unique stories of perseverance inspires me a to try. The thing that pushes me to continue to push past barriers, to be misunderstood, is If not me than who? I’m not afraid to fail, to try something new and be horrible at it. I understand you never know what you can do until you try and it’s hard to become what you have not ever seen so I make sure I’m seen flaws and all. My only hope is a young woman sees me and is like “I can do that too.” And comes out here and gets after it!!! That’s my wildest dream! 

MSM: It looks like you’re definitely finishing up 2023 on a strong note and going into 2024 even stronger and more ready to take on whatever responsibilities and challenges it will throw at you. How are you feeling, and what are some of those goals that you’re looking forward to? More so what are some things our readers can expect from you for 2024?

Lani: This coming year I’m personally not taking on any big goals, I’m going to put my head down, work, and train. I may pop up in a few races, one being a national race, but we shall see. First, I want to get back to just enjoying riding my bike.

MSM: How can we keep up with you and how can our readers continue to support your journey?

Lani: @lanitheadventurer on Instagram and Lani Woods on Strava is the best way to keep track of me. 

MSM: Any final thoughts that you’d like to share with our readers?

Lani: A wonderful quote from Sista Maya Angelou🙌🏾 “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” – Maya Angelou

MSM: Growth is an important part of our life, and you seem to be flourishing each day. From the team here at Mid Strike we wish you nothing but the best for 2024 and can’t wait to see what’s in store for you.

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