Monday, October 16, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Ann Felteau

I started mountain biking in Minnesota in 1991 on a fully rigid Trek 830. I loved it so much I immediately returned the bike and upgraded to the Trek 970 and the love affair grew from there.

I now live in Golden Colorado where I can ride to almost countless miles of trail from my doorstep. Something was calling me to Colorado in 1993 and once I was here there was no looking back.

I met my husband before a ride with my friends at the Mount Falcon parking lot in Morrison Colorado. I was more interested in his shiny 2000 gold Homegrown Schwinn than I was interested in him! Our VW camper van, named Iggy after Ignaz Schwinn, was our touring/biking vehicle for over 15 years! We still have Iggy but recently added a new van to the family with a bathroom, furnace and more space so that we can go on longer adventures. My husband and I hit the road for a 6 month ‘forever Spring’ tour discovering new trails and meeting amazing people in Arizona, Nevada, up and down the California coast and Utah. It was truly one of the best experiences of our lives.

After 2 previous failed attempts due to VW van trouble and other unexpected plans, he finally proposed to me on Georgia Pass (symbolic of my husband’s home state) while mountain biking the Kenosha /Georgia Pass ride in 2001. Three times a charm!

I’ve raced off and on for many years but I don’t take it too seriously so as not to lose my passion for the sport. One of my favorite races was the 24hrs of Moab. A small tent city was erected just South of town every year for a truly memorable event. Currently, I’m on the Pedal Pushers KIND Racing team representing Cafe13, Pedal Pushers Cyclery, SCOTT Bikes, KIND Snacks and Maxxis Tires. I’m currently riding SCOTT’s Contessa Spark RC 700 carbon race bike. Despite some injuries, I’m really jazzed to mention that I took 2nd place in a recent 50k race!

I love volunteering at races, saying ‘hello’ to other trail users while I’m out riding and simply experiencing good flow on a beautiful day!

I’m a Transformational Nutrition Coach helping women get wellness and movement back in their lives after injury, surgery or getting lost in the corporate grind. I’ve also worked in high tech for over 25 years and have touched almost every industry. I enjoy pulling together large teams working toward a common goal. However, long days, unrealistic deadlines and too many emails have brought me to burn out too many times. Between my personal injuries and corporate burnout, I have a lot of tools to help others bring health and movement back into their lives.


Tell us more about the introduction to your #bikelife and how your passion for cycling grew from that experience-
I grew up playing with the boys and we spent most of our time on bikes because they offered freedom and fun. However, the sport of mountain biking formally took off during college. I was introduced to the trails in Duluth Minnesota, got hooked, and asked for help to buy my first bike as a college graduation gift from my parents.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?
Wow, to go back to 1991… Like I mentioned, my first riding was in Duluth Minnesota. I had to borrow a bike to ride because I didn’t own a mountain bike yet. It’s so wet in Minnesota that we went riding in the rain, in the mud, and with slick, wet roots. Hartley Park offered the first trails I ever rode. I loved the tight winding single track, being outdoors, and the beautiful views. I aspired to get better so I could keep up with my boyfriend.

What inspired you to participate in competitive mountain bike events? What did you learn from your experiences?
I simply love the atmosphere and camaraderie at the races. I love being outside and with others who love the sport. I never bore watching or talking about mountain biking. So, I’d have to say it was friends and like-passioned people.

I learned that I get wicked nerves before a race, that my pain threshold is higher than I ever knew, and that once the race starts I get laser focused melting everything else away. I also learned that I don’t like forcing my passion into a training regimen. My love is being outside, the trails, the views, and testing my limits.

How do you strike balance with participating in events, preparing yourself for them, yet not burning yourself out?

We are all wired differently and I’m not wired to put my all into prepping and participating in events. I ride with a light focus on training by choosing certain days for easy rides, hard rides with intervals, long rides, and rest. I have a pretty good base built up after riding for over 25 years, so fitness and strength in the sport come together well. I also stay hydrated, practice yoga regularly, see a personal trainer, go on walks often, eat clean, and get to bed early. It’s really a lifestyle that doesn’t even need to be tied to participating in events but rather simply doing what’s best for my body, mind, and soul.

Any suggestions or tips for folks who have yet to attend their first event?

Find a group that provides community. There are many women’s specific groups that offer no-drop rides, skills clinics, and great education on what to expect and how to prepare for an event. You’ll not only make new friends but you’ll have a great support system cheering you on! They can ask their local bike shop about local women’s clubs and teams or they can even look for a mountain biking Meetup.

Clips or flats? What works for you?
I’ve been a clip rider since 1995 so I rarely use flats. If I’m on a hardcore skills training session I’ll put on flats but otherwise I ride everything clipped in.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I’ve witnessed and experienced countless ‘biffs’ that physically and/or mentally affected me. I have such a deep passion for mountain biking that I am always jonesing to get back on the trail. However, some of the injuries were so severe they required major surgery. Here are some of the things I did to overcome the loss, depression, fear, and sadness:
Got laser-focused on my health, physical therapy, and fully healing
Journaling - put my feelings on paper, celebrated progress and accomplishments no matter how small
Talked to others who’d recovered from the same injury
Added other activities to the mix
Once I was back on the bike, I took a skills clinic to help with confidence

Told myself often that “You have to start somewhere” which gave myself continuous affirmation that it’s ok to be where I’m at and I’m getting better from here.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Looking where I wanted to go vs. what I was trying to avoid. That is one of the most important fundamental skills with riding. It’s amazing what you can ride when you don’t look at that big rock, root, or cliff! However, if you do want to ride over the rock or root, don’t break, keep some speed and you’ll be amazed at what you cleanly roll over.

Other more advanced skills were switchbacks and getting the front wheel up. There are a few tricks that work for switchbacks: Go wide and turn early, but most importantly, look where you want to go. When you are in the turn look ahead and down the trail and your body and bike will take you there.

I was on a fully rigid bike when I first started riding so the technique to unweight the front wheel and get it up was different. However, with full suspension, I love practicing the timing of weighting the front fork to then lighten and lift it to get the wheel up an obstacle. I then stand and bring my weight forward for the final pedal stroke bringing the rear wheel over. You can really feel the flow of it when you do it right.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I’m very inconsistent with cornering. Sometimes when the trail conditions are just right I can tell that I’m leaning my bike into a corner. However, I don’t have the feel of my tires hooking up in the corners mastered, so I don’t fully trust my tires and know their limits. So, I’ll find myself slowing down, getting rigid, or using my fat head to lean over which is a big no-go!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the feeling of flow and being immersed in nature. Getting away from concrete, crowds, and the sounds of lawn mowers to enjoy the peace and beauty that only the outdoors can offer is very soul-fulfilling for me. I love accomplishing a long climb, figuring out tech, and the bouncy splashy flow of a great descent. I also love it when I’m faster and better than the guys!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?

My current bike is the 2017 Scott Spark Contessa. It’s a beautiful, 27.5” light, fast, carbon fiber cross county race bike. I love the 1x12 gearing with the 50-tooth eagle bail out, 3-level suspension lockout, larger front brake rotor, and slacker head angle making the bike really stable at high speeds. After riding a custom built Santa Cruz carbon XC Blur for 6 years I chose Scott because I know many Scott owners who love their bikes, world-class racers are on Scott, and most importantly, I really liked the riding and handling feel when I demo’d the bike. It was the right next bike for me and my style of riding.

You originally started biking in Minnesota, tell us where your favorite areas were to mountain bike-
There weren’t a lot of trails available in Minnesota when I started riding in the early 90’s. In fact, even the local ski resorts hadn’t caught on to the summer money-maker yet. Most of my riding and learning was in Duluth, the Lutsen ski area, and along Lake Superior. The introduction was perfect for me because the trails were interesting, challenging and beautiful. Though my love affair started in Northern Minnesota, it took a completely new shape when I moved to Colorado in late 1993. Front range, high altitude, and desert terrain opened up such a vast diversity of riding. I remember the early days in Moab, Fruita, Grand Junction, Keystone, Winter Park… It’s hard to select a favorite.

Out of the places you have traveled, where would be your favorite destination for biking?

How can I choose a single favorite destination? I loved all the riding we discovered in Utah’s Wasatch mountains and the Park City area. Durango is a close second and there were some pretty cool trails we discovered in Arizona and along the California coast last year. Since I live in Colorado I live at a perfect riding destination, so some of the best local trails are just a short ride out my front door.

What do you love most about having a husband who enjoys riding with you?
This is the best question of them all! I love riding, trails, the outdoors, and my husband. To have the opportunity to combine all of these loves and passions feeds me beyond measure. I feel like our marriage is stronger because we share the same passion and enjoy the sport together. We support each other, make sure we each get much needed time in the saddle and know it’s a priority for each of us.

Any suggestions/tips for couples who want to ride together? Especially those who may not be on the same experience level?

Patience and communication. My husband and I are generally well-suited riding partners though he’s much stronger and faster than me overall. There are days when he makes it clear that he needs to do his own thing and I don’t take it personally. There are days we start together then split up, ride together but gap each other if one’s having a stronger climbing day, or stay together the whole ride. Know and set your expectation ahead of time, don’t take it personally and don’t leave someone behind at a fork in the trail. If the intention is to ride together then my plea is for the stronger person to slow down and ride with their partner. It’s a gift of your time, shows respect, and they’ll love the sport more for it!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Not knowing where or how to start and the fear of getting hurt. Bike shops are becoming more female-friendly and patient with new riders by helping them select good basic gear, providing help with fit, and offering introductory maintenance and skills clinics. Some women’s passion for the sport transcends injury where they can’t wait to recover to get back on the bike. However, there are many women that just want to stay fit and ride with their boyfriend, husband, or friends.

A good local shop, club, or group can help with their fear of the unknown, provide riding tips, and direct them to the best beginner trails. Or, even better, take them out on their first ride.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
The sport and industry aren’t as ‘silent’ as they used to be. Mountain biking has become a much more mainstream sport and the collective user group voice is driving great strides in product, user needs, and trail access. Because of that, I’m going to focus on some of the local and industry changes that I see are already making a difference:
There are more women’s teams and clubs available than ever before.
Co-ed teams are getting really strong female representation.
There are groups specifically supporting kids, helping get them on bikes and on the trails.
Many high schools are adding mountain biking as an available sport.
Companies are offering more women’s specific products like bikes, clothing, gear, and fuel.
Because of communications on social media, bike shops are learning that women are a valid demographic and should be treated with respect, given time and energy, and provided great service.
More high-end used bikes are available for sale making an introduction to the sport more accessible.
There are Facebook groups with a focus on communicating local trail conditions and minimizing trail conflict amongst different user groups with very active female contributors.
Other experienced riders, both men and women, enjoy helping new riders with skills and confidence development.
There are trail maintenance teams that offer volunteer opportunities for all trail users. It’s a great way to meet new people and give back to the sport and community.

With apps like MTB Project and Trailforks, all users have more access to trail beta.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love the sport and activity so much that I simply love seeing other women grow in strength and confidence on the bike. It inspires me when I see others grow in their love of the outdoors, trails, the thrill of earning the descent after a long climb, and the joy and confidence earned after making a technical section.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am going through a major career change! I started my career as an engineer and then moved in to program management and consulting in high tech. However, I’ve always had a passion for nutrition, wellness, and sport. I now have my certification as a Transformational Nutrition Coach (CTNC) and I’m working with people who’ve experienced a setback due to illness, injury, or a busy life to bring a healthy and active lifestyle back to their Every-Day. I am so jazzed to keep learning and to help others that I’m continuing more core education and starting a Master’s program. You can find more information at

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Being A Fear(Less) Woman

Growing up, I had an idyllic picture painted of how my future would go. I wanted to get married and have my first kid before I was 31 years old. Ideally, I had the idea I should have 3 kids and they should all be born before I was 31 or 33 at most. I would live in a house, have some sort of job I loved, or be a stay-at-home mom. I would have a happy life where there would be few squabbles and I would feel safe, secure, and content.

Real life slapped me in the face.

I married young and would strive to be the best wife I possibly could be. I didn't know what I was doing, but having a job, making supper, doing the dishes and know...being a domestic goddess. It was a humble existence where I felt overall content, but I had nothing else to base it off of.
It was lonely a lot of the time, as my then husband worked on the road several days at a time. I would say my goodbyes on Monday morning and not see him again until Friday evening. 

That was life.
I was living solo about 90% of the time and I had a roommate the rest of the time.
I worked during the week and made time for simple chores of laundry, dishes, cleaning, and supper-making.
Life was a ritual. 
I was numb inside.

Same circles of disagreements would occur.
Soon weekends together were taken away by alcohol.
I was lost.
I was afraid. 
What was I going to do?

I bought a bicycle.
I was afraid to ride a bike to work, but I wanted to give it a try.
I think I was trying to reclaim some sort of sense of self along with wanting to prove to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to.
I was tired of fear.
I was exhausted of the unknown.
I wanted to find myself.
I wanted to be free.

My first ride to work on my bike was petrifying and I walked about 80% of the way. It got better from there. Soon I found myself riding the paved trail for my morning exercise, and what originally gave me fear started to give me strength.
Along the way, I met someone, and I didn't expect things to happen the way they did- but it did.
I had to make some life-changing choices, and one of those was to accept that my marriage was a failure and not to look at it as a bad thing, but a life lesson.

I wanted to share more, I wanted to live more, and I wanted to be more.
I couldn't allow fear to stand in my way of having a better life.
I crunched numbers.
I made sacrifices.
I cut the ties.
I'm coming up on a very special day, and one I wasn't expecting to do a second time.
You would think I wouldn't be nervous, but I am...just a little bit.
There are so many emotions tied to the event...the decision. I'm overflowing with anticipation, excitement, and a new sense of self.
With my first marriage, I was excited to change my last name. This time, I'm proud to keep my last name as my own- because it has become a part of me. 
I am fearless- even tho I still have fear. I acknowledge it and I know that I have the power to change the hold it may have on me at any given time.


lacking fear.
"a fearless defender of freedom"

synonyms: bold, brave, courageous, intrepid, valiant, valorous, gallant, plucky, lionhearted, heroic, daring, audacious, indomitable, doughty;
unafraid, undaunted, unflinching;
informalgutsy, gutty, spunky, ballsy, feisty, skookum
"fearless warriors"

My picture of life changed dramatically from the musings of an 18-19 year old. No longer am I dreaming of a home with three children- well, at least human children. I was finally able to release my insecurities of not fitting a "correct" mold of a female and said "motherhood just isn't for me, and that's okay." I love the idea of influencing the next generation of mountain biking girls and women- that fulfills me. Three cats, the kitty kids, take care of the rest. I know this is the best decision for me- I (we) have a lot of living yet to do!

Security has been achieved, for how well a person can feel in this day and age; a job in which I can grow with and work with the cycling community. A humble home that I fell in love with, and a partner in life who I can live and ride bikes with. I have someone to go on adventures with. We push each other to be the best we can be- and that's not an easy task. Someone usually pushes back, until they realize maybe, just maybe, they should give it a try. 

Life may have ups and downs. Working with someone and living with someone on a daily may not be
the easiest thing a person can choose to do- but we made that choice- an imperfectly, perfect, choice. This time around, I have a better idea of myself and I have lived more fully than I ever lived before.
I am Josie Smith. I am Fearless.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Women Involved Series: Lauren Hutchins

In addition to mountain biking, I enjoy road cycling, fat biking (when we get enough snow) trail running, snowboarding and hiking. Pretty much all things outdoors. I was born in KY, grew up in GA, moved to WI and lived there for 7 years. In WI I was introduced to road cycling and then mountain biking a couple years later.

My husband (Travis) and I moved to NC in August of 2015 so that we could live in the mountains and have an all of the things that we love most in our backyard. We have two dogs and a cat. Between the two of us, have about 10 bikes. I am an occupational therapist. I've been working in pediatrics for the past few years, and am now transitioning to the adult population.

In the biking world, I've done a couple xc style races and one fat bike race across a frozen bay in Lake Superior. I just really enjoy riding my bike and exploring new trails. Since moving to the mountains, I've had to work on my technical riding skills especially steep descents and rocky climbs. (WI has beautiful trails, but they are pretty tame compared to the trails around here). I've recently started riding some more rugged and remote trails and I love the feeling of being out in the woods with just my bike and friends. I'm hoping to start some bike-packing in the future.

Social Media:
Instagram: @the_cycling_ginga_ninja

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how cycling has influenced you- 
I started cycling when I moved to Appleton, WI. I was mainly into trail running but it seemed like all the new friends I made were much more into cycling. I purchased a road bike, joined local group rides. It was a really great way to meet new friends. Nicole Worden, the owner of Chain Reaction Cyclery, was a big help in getting me started. I was introduced to mountain biking a couple years after road biking, there really aren't too many mountain bike trails near Appleton. My first couple years of riding were just going occasionally a couple times a month to the local trails in Suamico, WI. I really enjoyed being in the woods and the new challenge of mountain biking, but it took me a very long time to develop any real skills since I was riding so infrequently. 

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what inspired you to keep at it?
My first couple rides were fun and frustrating at the same time. I didn't understand the basics of body position, bike handling, momentum, etc. You name it, I was more than likely doing it wrong. I felt very uncoordinated and awkward, but I enjoyed the connection with nature and the challenge it presented so I just kept trying.

With the cycling events you've done, what did you enjoy most about the experience?
I love the people at mountain bike events. They are fun, encouraging, and know how to have a good time! There's also a great connection at events with other ladies. Although the sport is growing in popularity with women, we are usually the minority at events and I love that other women are so encouraging on the trail.
Your mountain bike journey started in Wisconsin, tell us about the trails you rode and which one(s) were your favorite(s)- 
I think the CAMBA trail system in WI is top notch. There's a great variety of trails to ride, and the volunteers that maintain the trails are fabulous. I have to give a shout to the trails in La Crosse, WI, this is where I really learned to ride technical features. There was a weekly ladies mountain bike ride and these ladies really helped me learn the basics of riding so that I could conquer some of the obstacles that I felt so intimidated by. The trail system in La Crosse is unique and challenging, they just suffered extensive trail damage due to flooding, and I was so inspired by the efforts of so many volunteers to get the trails back in shape for a WORS race.

In your current location, where do you love riding most?
The local trail in Boone, NC is Rocky Knob, it is an awesome trail system complete with a jump line, pump track, lots of climbing, but then lots of descending. I also love riding in Wilson Creek which is part of the Grandfather District of Pisgah National Forest. Wilson Creek is a beautiful place to explore waterfalls, swimming holes, tunnels of rhododendron, but it's also pretty remote and easy to get lost. It's recommended to go with someone that knows the area on your first couple rides.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all? 
I started out using clipless pedals, I was pretty comfortable with these from road biking. If you've never used them, I suggest riding around in a big grassy area and practicing unclipping 50 times on both the left and right before you hit the trail. I've switched to flat pedals because I realized that I was relying on being attached to my bike when I ride, and my technique was suffering. I've been riding flats for about a year, and feel more confident with my abilities. It made me focus on body position and I feel like I am riding better now.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome? 
My biggest "biff" happened on a section of road when we (my husband, brother, and I) were riding home from a trail system. An oncoming car lost control in a curve an came into our lane. I managed to miss the car and went over the guardrail, the car slammed into my brother who was riding just behind me. It was terrifying, luckily his injuries were broken bones and road rash, but he did have a long recovery process. Physically, I was fine, just a few scrapes and bruises, but it was mentally and emotionally difficult. Even though the accident happened on the road, it took me a while to even want to ride my bike again. I took a break from riding for several weeks, because I couldn't get on the bike without hearing the crash over and over. Sometimes you need a break, and that's ok. I had to tell myself it was fine to take a break and I stuck with trail running, and hiking for a little while until I mentally recovered.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Everything was challenging for me! The best advice I have is to trust your bike and look ahead. Looking ahead at the trail and knowing that your bike is capable to handle the trail will solve a lot of problems you face.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I have a hard time with drops, I can do small ones and I know I have the ability to ride bigger ones but I still get intimidated. I used to get really hung up on it, but now I just ride my bike if I feel good I go for it, if I don't I walk. The beauty of mountain biking is no one really cares if you walk a section. Ride to your abilities and comfort level, you have good days and bad days, who cares if you have to walk. You're out riding your bike, enjoy it.

What do you love about riding your bike?

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My last bike was a Santa Cruz, Juliana with 26 inch wheels. I loved that bike, but unfortunately, the framed cracked. Since Santa Cruz has an awesome warranty program, they offered to send me a new frame of my choice since they no longer made the Juliana I now have a Juliana Furtado, 27.5, I9 wheels (a great local North Carolina brand :) This bike can climb and descend! It has more travel than my previous bike which has given me the confidence to grow my skills.

Tell us about why you applied for the Bell Joy Ride program and what the program means to you- 
I was encouraged by my local bike club, Boone Area Cyclists, to apply. I was leading women's rides a few times a month and thought this would be a great way to grow the community of women riders in the area. The program has been awesome. My ride leaders are invaluable to the program and to me, and the program has connected so many women across the region.

Why do you feel programs like the Joy Ride program are important?
Mountain biking can be intimidating, and the Joy Ride program is all about creating a fun, no-pressure atmosphere for women to connect and ride. It can be hard to find other ladies to ride with, and the Joy Ride program is creating an opportunity to make those connections.

Tell us why you feel women should apply for programs like Joy Ride or those similar, even if they might not be chosen- 
If you are applying it means you are already passionate about more women on bikes. Even if you don't get chosen, talk to your local shops, and find out who your reps and dealers are you can make it happen on a local level.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
As a whole, I think we are self-conscious (myself included) and the sport is intimidating. The bike itself is intimidating, I am not mechanically inclined; you need to understand bike set-up, how to change a flat, which chain lube to buy...the list goes on and on. It can get overwhelming, and it's easier to stick with running, hiking, swimming, etc where the gear needed is very minimal.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

We have to appeal to all types of women, not just athletes. The utilitarian aspect of cycling and biking is a great way to add biking to your life. Commuting, running errands, touring, bike-packing are other ways to introduce cycling to women.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love taking beginners out and introducing them to the sport. It is so fun to watch them tackle a new feature or section of the trail that was once difficult for them.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love pickles

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fearless Women of Dirt Unite! - The Grit Clinic Experience

A couple months ago, a friend of mine who is the epitome of a rad woman, asked if I could have interest in her coming to Decorah and leading a FWD Grit Clinic. She's an IMBA 1 Certified instructor and would be able to lead a clinic to teach new and experienced riders some of the basic, but very important skills that we may or may not learn as we enter the world of mountain biking.

Of course, I thought this idea sounded absolutely amazing, and I struggled to find a weekend that could potentially work with Casey's time frame and mine. September 22nd-24th ended up being the weekend of choice (Darn this whole getting married stuff!) and we went full-force into inviting folks and creating an event.

Registration was slow, but we were grateful that it picked up! We had a total of 6 women join (8 if you included Casey and myself) two of the women had never ridden a dirt trail before while the rest had some experience. One thing I have to stress is that if you are a seasoned rider but have never attended a skills clinic- you should do so! This was my second skills clinic and my first that truly covered basics. I was excited to listen and observe to how Casey went over skills so I could take away and (hopefully) better explain certain things when I lead rides. I was also humbled into knowing that even tho I thought I was doing everything correctly- I really wasn't. I was impressed!

Friday was a casual evening where a couple of us went over to Pulpit Rock to have a beverage and some conversation. It was nice to have some sit-down time and chat, get some #bikelife history going, and share a bit about why we love mountain biking.

Saturday was skills day and I was nervous! Nervous due to it being out of my usual work routine and I'd be helping out at a clinic. I was anxious over how I would do when it came to skills stuff. I was worried on whether folks would have a good time. Once everyone was set up with their bikes, we rolled over to River Trail so we could get the day started.

We were blessed with great weather, even tho that weather was humid and hot. It wasn't rain and it wasn't cold, so you can't really complain!

First up was learning about the three things you should always be doing-
Scanning 18-20 ft ahead
Covering brake levers
Level pedals
I was fine with two out of three, but I will admit I had gotten into a habit of not having my brake levers always covered. It was fun as we progressed into learning some skills, like the Neutral/Ready position and Bike/Body Separation, I would start increasing awareness on what I was doing or not doing. I totally caught myself several times without my pointer fingers on my brake levers- "Dangit!"

We worked on some additional skills and then went to my house that was close by for a little AC and restroom usage. We had a group ride on River Trail to take us to my house; our first group ride of the day! We went the less-twisty route, so folks who have never been on a dirt trail before could establish some comfort level with 1. riding on dirt and 2. not feel overwhelmed with all the new-ness of the day.

Our rest at the house was refreshing, and the cats (especially Figgy) were great little hosts!

Lunchtime was calling, so we went back on River Trail and rode to the trailhead, then we all biked up to Dunning's Springs Park to sit next to a cool stream and eat. Natural air conditioning! It's been awhile since I've seen the falls, they were beautiful. We let lunch digest a bit and went back to River Trail to work on more skills stuff before we headed off for our second group ride.
Casey wanted folks to see the pines, so I put together the most straight-shot route to Rocky Road I could and we walked and rode up that trail to the top. We had a long break at the top for everyone to get their lungs calm and to recover. The day had grown quite warm, so I knew it would be challenging with so much "up" however, once we got to the top it leveled off more. As a new rider when it comes to getting yourself to the easier trails there is usually always some sort of climb.
Everyone who is a new rider or doesn't ride in Decorah regularly loves Pines. Pines West and East I would say are great for cooling down from more intense rides. They are also good for working on speed; Pines East is great for working on speed with cornering. Both excellent to use for taking our lessons of the day and putting them to good use- level pedals (and what level pedals can mean besides literally having your feet level), covering brakes, being more separate from the bike, and proper cornering.
We looped back thru Pines East to Pines West, and towards the end of Pines West, Casey crashed. Fortunately, the injuries were minor, but it was a great opportunity to talk about how to react if you're with someone who's crashed and what to do. Not necessarily a lesson that one wants to learn, but a good one to go over if the opportunity presents itself. Once Casey gave the "all clear" we made our way down Rocky Road (much more enjoyable going down than up!) and went on Luge for our exit. I had the opportunity to whip my phone out in time to get pics of folks riding down, they were all smiles!

We went back on River Trail and back to the trailhead to dole out some raffle prizes! After that, those of us who were able went back to the bike shop and made way to Pulpit Rock for a post-ride beverage and some snacks. Let me tell you, the to Hop and to Hold was absolutely delicious after biking/skills on a hot and humid day!
All in all, I was really grateful for the experience to hang around rad women and see so much progress come from all of us- yes, even myself! It's a rare opportunity and one that I was so thankful to have. It was great to see the smiles and eyes light up when something "clicked" and they understood a new skill. That's why I love mountain biking- you have the opportunity to learn and continue to learn so much! I'd say there is unlimited growth- and that is why I love mountain biking so much and want to introduce more women to it.

Often times we say we "can't" but when we're presented an opportunity to learn and explore in a positive and encouraging environment- we start to learn that we CAN. We saw CAN happen...we saw TRY happen, and we saw DO happen.

A huge thank you to Casey for making this happen for Decorah- it's greatly appreciated!
Thank you to the women who signed up and made the clinic an absolute success It was awesome to spend the day learning and riding with you! Ride on!
Special Thanks goes to Decorah BicyclesChamois Butt'r, Specialized Bicycles, KETL, and Shebeest for donating items for the raffle!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Ella Shively

My name is Ella Shively, I graduated from the La Crosse high school in 2017 and am starting my first year of college. I have been mountain biking since I was twelve years old.

I've been a part of the La Crosse Area Mountain Bike Team since its inaugural season three years ago. I enjoy doing pretty much anything in the outdoors! I also love writing, reading, singing, and knitting.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how has it influenced your life?
I was introduced to mountain biking through my dad. I had been spectating at his races and going to trail work with him since I was a toddler, but I was twelve before I got past the fear factor and decided to try it for myself.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? Were you excited? Nervous?
I don’t remember being scared at all, just excited. At twelve, I didn’t have the inhibitions an older rider might have - I wasn’t afraid of falling, nor was I embarrassed by the number of times I did fall! I liked the challenge of it, and I loved being out in the woods on my bike.

What about mountain biking made you think "Yes! I want to get better at this!"-
I love being outdoors, and I knew that mountain biking would allow me to spend more time in the woods. I could get to the trails faster, spend more time there, and explore more widely. I also just loved the satisfaction of figuring out how to ride through a rock garden or down steps. Every time I fell off, I learned something new. Overall, though, there was something that just felt right when I got into a zone in the singletrack. Mountain biking is the closest I will ever get to flying.

You are involved with the La Crosse Area Mountain Bike Team, tell us what it's like being on a cycling team-
So much fun! Not only has being part of a team challenged me to push myself harder, I have also gotten to spend time with an awesome group of people! Having a group to ride with is a great motivator to get out and bike. And even though biking is an individual sport, just showing up to race earns points for the team as a whole, so everyone’s work contributes.

You've been part of the team since it came to fruition, why do you feel it's important to have mountain biking be part of an athletic program?

I’m not sure if I’m interpreting the question correctly, but I’ll take a stab at it. Mountain biking is not your typical high school sport (football, basketball, etc). Silent sports like mountain biking draw a different crowd. Having a mountain bike team validates what we do - yes, there are occasionally people who say that biking isn’t a sport! - and reels in kids who might not have been involved in athletics otherwise.
For folks that aren't familiar with the La Crosse Area Mountain Bike Team, tell us what goes on and what future riders can expect if they were to join-
The team is a blast! We always camp out the night before a race, so imagine yourself hanging out around a bonfire with friends and eating s’mores. Racing isn’t mandatory, but racing and/or spectating are some of the best aspects of being on the team.

The team is also very respectful of the fact that students have other things happening in their lives. I’ve been involved in a varsity show choir the last three years, so I would usually stay for as much mountain bike practice as I could, bike to show choir, and do my own rides on different days. Currently, we have two official practice days, but we’re encouraged to ride outside of practice.

I’d also like to add that there is a strong emphasis on safety. Everyone always wears a helmet. If you are inexperienced with mountain biking, we will teach you how to ride safely.

Tell us about your experience with working as a NICA coach for riders, what have you enjoyed the most about giving back to the program you were part of?
I really enjoyed coaching over the summer! I can't go to weekly practices anymore now that I'm in college, but I'm still hoping to go back and help at a race or two.

The best part of being a coach is connecting with the riders and seeing their confidence grow. I especially enjoyed watching incoming riders go from zero mountain bike experience to fearlessly tackling new skills.

Why should folks consider joining NICA as a coach? What would be the first step?

Coaching is a super rewarding experience that I would recommend for people of all experience levels. Potential coaches can find instructions for getting licensed on the NICA website. The process to become a level one coach is very simple and does not take much time.

You participate in races, tell us about one of your favorite races and why you enjoy participating-

I love the Chequamegon Fat Tire event because it’s a family tradition. I’ve been participating since I was 12, and my sister started 2 years ago. There are so many people that it feels more like a big group ride than a race. For a more technical and singletrack-heavy course, I love the Borah Epic, and, of course, the Decorah Time Trials. Oh, and La Crosse has a WORS (Wisconsin Off Road Series) race now! Come to La Crosse and check out our trail system!

Do you have any suggestions for folks new to racing?

Don’t let the fear of falling keep you down! This is the biggest obstacle for most people. If I lose my balance, I usually just end up wobbling a little and putting a foot down. Even on the rare occasions when I full-out crashed, I never suffered any injuries. After the first few crashes, I realized I was going to be fine.

Also, ride as much as you can, even if it’s just commuting to and from work or school. You can make the most of your time by practicing skills like cornering, lifting your front wheel, and riding no-handed.

Most of all, slow down and enjoy the ride.

Clips or flats? What works for you and why?
I prefer clips, probably just because I’m used to them. I’ve been using clips for about five years now. I feel like they give a little extra power, and I don’t have to worry about my feet slipping off the pedals while climbing.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?

When I was six, I fell off a razor scooter and ended up with 30-50 stitches in my chin. For the next few years, I didn’t really want to have anything to do with bikes, let alone racing. Luckily, my dad just kept pushing me back to biking. I decided that I didn’t want to be afraid anymore. After I’d been comfortable with bike commuting for a while, it was a natural step to start mountain biking.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I never got back behind the seat far enough when I was descending. This is actually something I’m still working on. One of the drills we do in bike team is riding in a normal position for a few seconds, then coasting with your weight back as far as you can for a few seconds, and repeating.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Again, I’m still working on getting my weight back far enough behind the saddle on descents. The other tricky part is riding in poor weather. At the 2016 Decorah Time Trial, I ended up falling and pushing my bike a lot because there was so much mud and rain. I even fell over while standing next to my bike in the mud! I had to go slower than usual and stop when I got overly frustrated. When the ride doesn’t go as planned, I have to rethink my priorities. That day, my priority became finishing the time trial. How you physically ride something technical is important, but how your mind handles technical aspects of the trail is even more important.
What do you love about riding your bike?
Biking means freedom for me. I can leave for school as early as I want and leave as late as I want. I get to start the day with a cold wind to wake me up. And mountain biking is like flying. I love hitting the jumps, and I love when the singletrack flows and you hardly even have to pedal. I love getting to ride through nature for hours at a time. From my bike, I’ve seen mountains, sandhill cranes, and sleepy rattlesnakes. On my bike, I can go anywhere.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My mountain bike is a Trek Superfly. I like it because it’s light and sturdy, and the setup was similar to other bikes I’d had. Also, I love having 29” wheels! It just feels like they roll over things faster than when I had a bike with smaller wheels. I have a commuter bike now, which the awesome folks at Smith’s Cycling and Fitness built for me after my mountain bike was stolen! (It was later found in a sort of “bicycle chop shop!”) I also have a road bike since I’ve started doing triathlons. I’m very happy with these bikes, and very lucky to have them.

Adults and young people alike, why should they consider giving mountain biking a shot?

Once you get past the learning curve, it’s totally worth it! It’s an experience you can’t really compare to anything else. If you try it, you just might end up liking it.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
People often join sports more for the social group than for the sport itself, and I think women are less likely to join if they don’t see other already established women they can hang out with. Mountain biking is also sometimes presented as more dangerous than it actually is, and this can turn them away.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?

Professional women’s races - both road and mountain bike - could get a lot more coverage. For example, if the Tour de Feminin were in the public eye as much as the Tour de France is, women would be more aware of cycling and feel more encouraged to try it out. I appreciate groups like Ella CyclingTips (no relation to me) and Fearless Women of Dirt that put a spotlight on women’s cycling. On the other hand, for there to be more media coverage, sponsors need to see a demand from viewers. Individuals can help by reading articles and watching videos related to women’s cycling.

At the local level, it’s definitely about individual connections. Talk to other women about biking and invite them to go on rides so they don’t feel like they’re learning all on their own. My mom would like to chime in and add that when you’re first learning, the smaller the group, the better. It’s nice for beginning riders to get individual attention.

My advice to men is just to be encouraging and supportive. I wouldn’t have come as far as I have if not for men like my dad and coaches, who know that women are just as capable of anything that men are.

What inspires you to encourage women and your peers to ride?

I’ve introduced most of my friends to biking at some point or another. Although only one of them
decided to stick with it, seeing her confidence grow was worth it for me. She’s now hoping to sign up for next year’s Borah Epic. Furthermore, even my friends who only tried it once got to witness how far they could push themselves. I love watching people conquer a skill and realize how much they are capable of.

Overall, mountain biking is such a rewarding experience that it would be impossible not to share it! I’ve seen myself grow stronger - both physically and mentally - and I want everyone to have that opportunity.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!

Usually when people ask me this, I say that I mountain bike! Okay, random fact… I love Lord of the Rings! My favorite character is Eowyn, because she’s a strong female character who surpasses expectations.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Pam Schmitt

My name is Pam Schmitt (Pamela when I want people to take me seriously, which is almost never), during the day I’m climbing the proverbial corporate ladder trying to pay off my student loans and biking expenses!
I moved to Duluth, MN following some friends North from my small hometown of Brandon, MN (pop. 450, graduating class of 23), I also chose to move here because they have a local hill for snowboarding, Spirit Mountain.
After college, I found my niche in a few different circles of friends and fell in love with the cycling community.

My favorite pass-times are snowboarding and mountain biking, besides that I do some gardening, love seeing live music, cooking, reading and all sorts of the other cliché stuff.

I am also a mentor to a 17-year-old girl, Auzauria with a local program and we hang out once a week…. Man, that age sucks!
She is awesome and I love her, but we totally drive each other nuts at the same time. It’s been really great to influence her in some ways for the better, and it has taught me a lot to spend time and be a stable person in her life.

When did you first start riding a bike?
Living in a small town, surrounded by farming we rode our bikes everywhere. A couple miles out to the beach, 13 miles to “town”. I don’t remember when I stopped riding a bike in my younger years, or why?My first time on a mountain bike was in the Spring of 2010. It had been the better part of a decade since I’d ridden a bike!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
It’s been a life-changing experience to get involved with mountain biking, and more specifically mountain biking in Duluth. There is a renaissance going on in our great city and the success of mountain biking has a big part in that. Going for a ride on single-track right out my front, side or back door is so rewarding and all of the work, time, money and passion that is going into building the Duluth Traverse makes me feel very connected to our community.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?

I am certainly not a competitive cyclist but do enjoy a few races every year. I love that little rush you get waiting for the start! Lined up next to some awesome ladies (and men depending on the type of race), all trying to pretend you’re not nervous. Then the start! I grew up playing team sports, without enjoying it very much so when I discovered snowboarding a whole new world opened up, and I realized “hey, I can do a ‘sport’ on my own time, at my own pace and enjoy it”. That was the end of volleyball, basketball and softball for me.

When I did my first competitive mountain bike race it was about my 7th or 8th time on a mountain bike. I entered the “Citizens” category for what I think was a 7-mile course. It was a complete mud-fest, but it was so fun! I ended up running with my bike on my shoulder for about half the race and ended up winning my age category. As a 19-year-old who had never won or placed in any competition I was on top of the world! My favorite mountain biking races are now the Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival, it’s a whole weekend with an Enduro, Downhill and XC race. I love the social aspect of enduro racing and it is probably one of the more difficult XC races out there. The spectators are awesome and all over the course, there are some great vistas and really technical sections, but also a lot of fun. There is really something special about Copper Harbor, MI and you really feel it every year on Labor Day weekend!

My other favorite race is the Chequamegon 100 over in Cable, WI. Always on the Saturday closest to the Summer Solstice it is PACKED with true singletrack.

I have finished 3 out of my 4 attempts for the Cheq 100K so far for the last two years (62 miles), but it is an awesome endurance race for which I fill up my backpack with bacon and chocolate covered potato chips. It ends at this awesome little wood-fired pizza joint, locally owned by a super awesome family that supports the local outdoor scene, Rivers Eatery. Everyone that does this race is super chill and 100% of the proceeds go towards the local trails club, CAMBA.
Photo Credit: Pete Stone
Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Out of breath, frustrated and overjoyed all at the same time!

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?

I looked around and told myself “if others can do it, there is absolutely no reason why I can’t!”

Clips or Flats? What do you use and why?

I got talked into clipless right away, told they were a requirement for mountain biking and I remember the first time I had them on I tried just tooling around on a paved trail and things went fine. Then I saw a friend and began to slow down to a stop, forgetting I was attached to my bike and fell over like a sawed-off timber! That pretty much set the course for my first summer. I STRUGGLED! But I never changed back and stuck with it. I did start loosening the tension on them so it was easier to get in and out. Now I can’t ride without them, they are essential to me for climbing, handling my bike over technical stuff, etc.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?

I have had some pretty good falls and flown over my handlebars! A few times I landed in an upright sitting position, smiling and thinking “well that was fun!”, other times lying face down in the dirt groaning. I always try to figure out what caused the fall and go back and do it again when I’m ready, whether that’s later the same day or next summer.

The worst so far has been a broken heel. It was a bad break, many small fractures right under the ankle bone. It was my first major injury in a really long time and it put me out of commission for almost 3 months. I handled it really well at first, but by the end, I was getting very frustrated, especially when I got the okay to walk on it again, I had literally lost all of my muscle tone. I remember walking around my kitchen and sort of having a little breakdown because I was having trouble doing normal tasks. Overall though Netflix, boxed wine, and the approval to work from home got me through it. It was a strange thing to slow down so much and it forced me to learn some patience, the importance of PT and really got me in tune with a lot of other things going on with my body that I’d been ignoring. The trail I did it on was some really old, techy downhill. Someday I’d love to clear that section, but I have nothing to prove and will be in no rush.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I think climbing, sprinting and long rides were tough as I was never really that active before mountain biking. Riding, riding and more riding.

Honestly, before I had gotten certified to instruct, or before I started leading rides, I had just spent a ton of time on my bike, which had gotten me pretty far. That being said, I had been riding for 5 years when I took my first skills clinic. It was amazing to learn the basics, see all the things that had worked themselves out naturally over time, as well as have all the things I was doing wrong pointed out! I highly suggest taking a clinic or doing some research online about fundamental skills of mountain biking.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?

I am still pretty leery of the BIG and STEEP. I dream of someday being able to go down Calculated Risk (Spirit Mt.) here in Duluth, or Man Pants in Copper Harbor, MI. I’ve seen some ladies do it and I know it’s possible… someday. I usually go and hit something that is stretching my limits, but that I am still confident on and able to do safely. There is a sweet wood drop on a different section of trail at Spirit that I can ride, and a little rockface to a skinny bridge on Red Trail in Copper Harbor that always makes me feel good!

What do you love about riding your bike?

I love that I am in control and responsible in a way for whatever happens.

I love the feeling of embarking on a ride, especially without a plan and that feeling of accomplishment when you reach the end of a loop or an out and back ride.

I love the sense of community with all the other women and men that I ride with and how much respect, comradery and fun there is going around in this sport.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?

My new baby, a Salsa Pony Rustler is my third full-suspension bike. I didn’t start riding until 2010, which was shortly after 29ers really started taking off, so that’s all I had ever owned or known! The plus wheels are extremely confidence-inspiring, and the smaller diameter is noticeable on corners (we have a LOT of flow-trail in Duluth).

My good ol’ 29er hardtail, something I feel like I’ll never be without, as an Advocate Cycles Hayduke. Tim and Odia are long-time friends and doing some really neat things to shake up the business model in the cycling industry. I purposely got this bike because I can swap the wheels with my full suspension. It has a dropper post (first one I’ve ever had on a hardtail), and 1x11 so it shifts great.

My fat bike, an Advocate Watchman. Again, love this company and lover their bikes. Having a suspension fork has been fun in the winter, but makes the bike great to ride in the summer as well. It’s also a 1x11 so the shifting is great. This is my second fat bike and the better brakes and shifting made a huge difference in the quality of my winter riding.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
-For ladies bike shorts I have really been digging Pearl Izumi and Bontrager lately. As a gal with a little more junk in the trunk it can be really hard to not make your legs and ass look like stuffed sausage. I bought these capris in the black and blue, they are super breathable and provide good coverage. My new favorite chamois are the Bontrager Vella, they have a nice wide waistband, quality pad and great leg grips.

-Dakine has great packs and accessories, but their sizing on clothes runs small most of the time.
-Ergon Grips are a requirement for every bike. My hands use to start tingling on the outer edges, my pinky and ring fingers used to go numb after more than 10 miles, but when I discovered the flared grips to give my hands most support I had no more issues with that.

You are on the Board of Directors for Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS)- tell us about COGGS and what you do!
I am the fundraising coordinator for our club. It’s a great time to do so because our project the Duluth Traverse trail (a 100+ network of professionally built single track all within Duluth’s city limits) has gotten a ton of national publicity, especially in the Midwest. COGGS has been an example of what happens when a user group has the support of local policymakers, advocacy, residents and a strong group of core volunteers with a common goal. We work very closely with the City of Duluth and have bigtime support from the mayor, Emily Larson to complete this project. They have provided a ton of resources, funding and direction to get this trail built and into the maintenance stage. We currently have ~85 miles of the DT built and are looking to add at least more this summer!

This was my third year as the coordinator and although it’s one of the most time-intensive and stressful things I’ve ever done, it’s also been the most rewarding. In the last 10 years or so we have raised over $800,000 to help fund the Duluth Traverse, which is pretty unheard of and I am so proud of our community rallying together.

Our entire Board of Directors is super active, along with our awesome members and volunteers. I don’t think you could find a bike club with a better culture than the one we have at COGGS!

How can people get involved with COGGS?
They can come to our monthly membership meetings every 2nd Thursday of the month, 7:30 pm at Thirsty Pagan Brewing where we talk about all things mountain biking in Duluth!

We address challenges, plan events, stoke up things coming down the pipe, ask for help from our members when we need it and drink good beer! (Root beer always available for those who don’t partake).

You also put together women's rides during the summer months on a once-a-week basis. Why are these important?
Sometimes we kill it and do a big ride, stopping to hit some technical features or go out for that extra lap and sometimes we do a quick-loop and head to a backyard for grilling and beers. Either way, we are cheering each other on, encouraging everyone to challenge themselves and just enjoying the company. At the end of every night, my gut hurts from laughing so much! I one time pulled a muscle in my cheek from a day of enduro and a post bonfire in my backyard. My friends kick-ass and we all have perma-grins when we’re hanging out before, during and after our rides. For me, mountain biking is about 90% social interaction and then there are those awesome days where I head out on my own and find some solitude in the woods.

Any advice on how to start up a weekly group ride?

I think it takes a lot of work to make it feel open to other women. Making sure it’s not just you and your core friends setting the pace, owning the conversations and picking the routes can be tough but remember that it’s not your ride, it’s a group ride! We have a no-drop rule, no matter how slow that can be sometimes we are always trying to get more ladies and one bad experience can turn someone off forever! Getting the info out can be tricky. Facebook seems to be the easiest, but not everyone has or wants an account. Weekly e-mails can seem cumbersome, and websites or forums don’t always get a lot of lady-traffic. Use all forms of communication if you can handle it! Make sure the message is welcoming and you have some leaders at the ride to be in the front and to sweep, or to just be a cheerleader!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?

I think there is a stereotype that you will always get hurt, it’s this super gnarly sport and that it’s not for everyone! Not true. The best part about the sport is that it can be whatever you want it to be and you choose your own rides!

Photo Credit: Hansi Johnson
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I want EVERYONE to mountain bike. It has had such a positive effect on my life and spilt over into so much more than just my weekend getaways and recreation time. It has made me way more of a confident woman, helped me in my career, lead me to form some of the most rewarding friendships and created an entire community of amazing people. It’s hard not look at the world through rose-colored lenses from where I sit, because of all the amazing things I’ve gotten to experience, the people of met and the opportunities presented to me simply because of mountain biking. It’s pretty rare to meet a woman mountain biker and not hit it off!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love hot sauce! On everything… there are different types appropriate for different foods.

Cholula is my go-to, but the green Tabasco and Sriracha also have special places in my heart, along with buffalo sauce.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Progress, Growth, Determination, and More

It's been awhile since I've written a post, and now that Chequamegon is over and we're heading into the end of the FWD riding season, there is a lot on my mind.

Chequamegon was an eye-opener for me on multiple levels, and that opened me up to conversing with Travis about next year goals. What do I want to accomplish? What am I proud of this year? What needs to happen for me to progress and grow further with cycling- if progression and growth are even possible from where I'm at.

The only way to know is to try.

In order to try. I need to have time. T.I.M.E. That is something that I ran out of this year, rather quickly I must say. Nothing else can set in motion negative thoughts and worry like an event coming up on you and you feel like you had no time whatsoever to train. For me, training was simply being able to get a couple longer-mile rides in so I could feel assured that I could indeed finish.

When you went from having at least 5-6 good rides last year to 3 long rides prior to Chequamegon, your mental sureness goes out the window rather swiftly.

Physically I was dealing with a crappy situation for a decent portion of last year into the early summer months of this year. My the sides of my IUD was digging into my uterus and likely had for some time. It greatly affected my monthly cycle and the weeks prior and post- I can't tell you how frustrated I felt, feeling so unprepared for Time Trials, Borah Epic, and even Chequamegon because I held off on rides due to the fear of hurting, or the fact I was hurting. I'll forever remember June as a day where I got my body back. Along with some relief and sanity, too little too late, tho.

I saw such a stark difference between Travis and myself in terms of endurance, I decided wanted to work on bettering myself. I need to. It's not just a want. Cycling is an important part of my life and it's something I've shown progression with- and that's addictive. I'm not going to be the next Emily Batty, but I can certainly progress towards being the best damn rider I can be before I get to the point where progression won't happen.

I'll be 33 shortly. It kind of freaks me out. Years have gone by quickly since I discovered #bikelife, and I want to have as many positive years with it that I can.

In order for myself to build up better endurance for Chequamegon, I have to...H.A.V.E. to do more paved trail rides and/or gravel rides. I don't have a choice. I avoided gravels this year due to misunderstanding Travis' worries, my physical discomforts, and that they were so dusty that I just didn't feel motivated. I also decided that Tuesdays would be the best day for FWD Women's Nights and FWD Mother/Daughter rides. My time slipped away from me, granted, I had some really positive experiences to come from them.

Because FWD is a one-woman show, I have a tough time being able to put together and facilitate everything I wish I could. On the ride home, talking with Travis, I had a hard pill to swallow. I would need to give myself more time to ride, and that day is Tuesday. How can I have monthly women's nights, maybe bi-weekly FWD Mother/Daughter rides, and my Sunday rides without feeling burnt out?

Simple. You still do it, but you scale it back.
Until I get another person to have on board to lead rides on their own, giving more options for women for days/times, I'll be limited. This is me saying- if you want more FWD rides/events to happen, I need help from other women who feel that FWD is a valuable asset to the Decorah riding community.

The FWD Women's Nights have been a great addition to the FWD group. Originally I thought that having one from April-September was a great idea, but then I realized that having a Women's Night on top of a possible bi-weekly Mother/Daughter ride would really, really cut into some necessary "me" time.

April 24th will be the first FWD Women's Night of 2018, which will kick off the FWD riding season which will start in May.

The FWD riding season will be May-August.

Our last FWD Women's Night will be August 28th as a celebration to end the scheduled riding season.

I'm planning FWD Mother/Daughter rides to be in June and July, hopefully, coinciding with the Park and Rec mountain biking class for kids. My hope is that I'll know when registration opens up and can advertise that with FWD moms and for those who have kids in the age ranges- they will have a ride every Monday and 2 Tuesdays during that month. That's a lot of riding for some and it would be extra beneficial for skill growth. Monday rides are co-ed and Tuesdays would be all girls.

The Tuesdays I'm planning on are:
June 12th & 26th at 7 p.m.
July 10th & 24th at 7 p.m.

Like with the FWD rides, if there is a mom who is interested in hosting some easy FWD Mother/Daughter rides on different days/times, then they should get in touch with me so we can plan additional rides.

There is so much opportunity for FWD to grow in the Decorah community, but I'm realizing that it definitely takes a group of folks who share the same drive and passion to make something truly grow. So, until those folks step up and voice they want to work with me on making FWD grow in Decorah beyond what I'm doing, I'll do what I can to continue building up our women's ride community while making sure to take care of my needs. Because #bikelife! How can I continue to be an advocate for women and riding if I'm not doing what inspires me and makes me want to share my passion?

I'm realizing and pursuing the path of being able to be an advocate while still being active with my personal growth in cycling. Finding balance, that alone is a journey, and one that I'm sure I'll be working on for years to come.