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.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Race Day Adventures: 2017 Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival

I'm going to start off this Race Day Adventures post by saying there is truly something special about attending Chequamegon 40- either as a spectator or race participant. This was my second year participating in Chequamegon, and Travis' first year. Our friends, Stego and Kenzie came to spectate for the first time, too. Several of our other biking friends from Decorah came to race or spectate, and that adds extra fun to the whole adventure!

I know I mentioned last year, and I'll mention it again- the event is put on well. There are plenty of course markings, a lot of helpful volunteers, pirates with rum (yay!), and in general- a whole lot of fun. Chequamegon is one of those events where you somehow make new friends while you pedal your way thru the beautiful scenery of Cable and Hayward. I got to meet a woman I interviewed for my blog: Sara Johnson, and got to say hello to a fellow from last year who remembered me!
If no one else remembers me on the route this year, I know one fellow on Fire Tower will be able to say he saw "Decorah Girl" climb it.

Anyways, let's get started...

Was I ready for Chequamegon? The answer is "No."
Several factors were against me when it came to my idea of accumulating training miles this year. One of those was my IUD debacle. It took me long enough to get it sorted out by waiting until things had gotten to the point of being so intolerable, I couldn't emotionally stand it anymore. I had 3 races where I probably could've done better physically and mentally had I gotten it checked out sooner. June will be my "Independence Day" from the aforementioned birth control. I can't get over how much better I feel without it; it was too little too late for proper training this season.

Second, I went gung-ho with FWD - Fearless Women of Dirt activities. I was excited and passionate about having events and special rides. Take that on top of being busier this season, I squashed out a bunch of riding time that could've potentially helped me prep for Chequamegon. Do I regret my decisions? No. Will there be changes next year? Yes. Without a doubt, yes.

However, the biggest change I noticed was my feelings towards the event. I was excited- the kind of excited you get on Christmas Eve knowing that the next day you get to open presents. (In my case, I got to open presents on Christmas Eve AND Christmas due to my parents being divorced, so Christmas Eve was always extra-exciting for me.)
I found a lack of pre-race nerves, more I had a sense of calm about it. I was going to do this, I knew it would probably suck for me- but I was excited for some time off from work and an opportunity to ride my bike with Decorah and Chequamegon friends.

I was as ready as I could be with the lack of riding under my belt. I'm one that if I pay a race fee, even if I don't feel ready, I'll show up and do my damnedest to do the best I can under my personal circumstance. In that case, I was ready.

Our drive to Hayward to America's Best Value Inn was uneventful. Once we got checked in and the truck unloaded, Stego and Kenzie arrived. They came with us to registration, something I wanted to get out of the way as quickly as possible so we could go eat supper. It was quick, efficient, and attacked my nerves with lots of stimulation because of all the people. It's fun and infectious. Because of our timing this year, we managed to secure a table at the Sawmill Saloon, easily, for supper. I had been recommended to try the potato barrels (not sure what they are called, but basically giant tater tots that are far superior to tater tots. Amazing texture and flavor! Bacon! Need I say more?)
As typical for pre-race supper, I had fish. It seems that 1. Fish is hard to screw up. 2. It is light and is protein. 3. It's good. I ate everything off my plate with gusto and washed it down with Squatters Double Hop IPA (I call it Hop Farmer due to the label.) I felt good. I was ready to go and chill.
Before going back to the motel, we stopped at the grocery store kitty corner from the parking lot, which has an impressive beer selection. You can do a Mix-A-Six or purchase 4 or 6 packs off the shelf. Great stuff, and my second favorite stop to make besides Woodman's. I acquired some of my favorites and then a couple new ones to try. You could tell a biking event was in town as there were several folks there (all men) buying beer. I felt really proud of myself, walking up to the register with three 4-packs and two 6- packs, ha! (I took all but 1 bottle of this precious bounty home with me!

Back to the motel to hang out and eventually sleep. For the first time prior to a race, I could say I slept well, which typically does not happen. Especially on an unfamiliar bed, in a room that isn't home, without a cat snuggling me. Either way, sleep found me and I was grateful.

The next day we got up early, Travis went to Kwik Star to get some breakfast stuff- coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and milk for the cereal he brought. My goal was to eat a breakfast sandwich and keep it down. I typically do not eat well prior to races (last year I ate a couple Skratch cookies I baked.) Success! I ate the whole thing without feeling too barfy. After breakfast, we took our bikes to the start to put them in the lineup. A helpful person gave me some positioning tips and also aided me in getting to the proper gate. I parked my bike next to a bike who had a Decorah Bicycles water bottle next to it. "Who is this?!" we wondered. I figured if someone had our shop water bottle, then it would be easy for conversation.
Back to the motel to get ready, calm my nerves, and wait for Stego and Kenzie to arrive as they would be our truck drivers.

Mark this day as the first race I have not had to take a swig of Pepto.

It was time to get to the start. I managed one stop at the Port-a-Potty, questioning myself if once was enough. Every time I thought to jump back in line, the line grew. I gave up. It was at the 10-minute mark to be at your bikes, so we walked over to the gates. Travis stood with me for a little bit before he went to his bike. We discovered that the person who owned the bike I was next to was our neighbor, Kent! How fun! I felt more at ease.

The wait for the roll out seemed to take forever, but not. I was excited!

The roll out is an event of its own. The hum of the tires on the street, all of the people cheering you on, keeping a good line, making sure you're aware of the folks around you- it's a rush!

We had quite the slow roll into Rosie's Field and it was pretty intense. I made sure to have myself in an easy gear by the time I hit the grass, then it was just making sure I wouldn't get behind someone who was in too hard of a gear or folks who were off their bikes.

I wondered when Travis would catch up to me as he was in gate 7. Next thing I hear is "How's it going?" and Travis pedals his way past me! I tried to catch up, and I was finding it wasn't very easy. Travis fell back and asked if he should ride behind me, I told him he could do his thing. I spent a good while trying to catch my carrot. I struggled, but I'd eventually catch up and feel accomplished.

Travis made the decision to fall back and ride behind me, he could tell that it wasn't going to be easy for me to stay behind him long. I felt frustrated that it was so difficult to keep up- I wasn't upset at Travis but at myself and my own physical ability. So for the rest of the event, Travis was on my tail while I rode and pushed myself as hard as I could. 

I have to say, on some of the fire roads/gravels, you had the most beautiful scenery. Fall colors were showing and leaves gracefully fell to the ground as you rode by. I wished I could take some pictures!

I appreciated having the 28t oval chainring, the climbing range it gave me was awesome and I had plenty for the flatter riding. I was also riding on flat pedals with my Five Ten Freerider Contact shoes, I wanted the stiffer sole, in hopes it would help reduce foot fatigue.

The next eventful moment for me was coming up the Pirate hill. Yay for rum! I really enjoyed the flavor and the warmth it put in my belly. I continued on...eventually coming to a hill that I thought for sure was Fire Tower. I was ready! Then I realized I was ready too soon and it was just the hill prior to Fire Tower. Man, I wanted to get it over with. 

Well, the moment came soon enough...we were there. This would be my biggest challenge yet- one I was hoping to accomplish.
I followed another rider in and rode behind him until he spun out. I was so grateful to have Travis there, he'd call out a rider was coming. Other folks were helpful, too, and would announce my riding up so others could move out of the way. I had a couple spots where I was worried I'd spin out, but managed to stay mobile.
Then the biggest "Oh sh*t" moment came when I was next to a tandem. I knew the line I wanted to take and was trying to get there, but the tandem riders also saw the line and moved to the left in front of me. I was able to stay in control and rode behind them. I made sure to keep an eye on their rear wheel, and good that I did because they spun out. I made my announcement and cut in front of them, I feel barely making it, but I did! At some point a fellow said "Go Decorah Girl!" and Travis said, "and on flats, baby!" I would've laughed if I wasn't breathing so hard- but I think I did crack a smile. I was thrilled that Travis got to see this happen.

I was relieved once we came out of Fire Tower- a goal, a huge goal, was accomplished. Now my next one was to see about bettering my time from last year which was 3:18:39. My original goal was to knock off 5 minutes off my time. I was feeling hopeful about coming in at 3 hours, maybe, possibly under! Until....fate came into play. I felt a twinge, something that isn't familiar to me, but I knew it would be something awful. A cramp. Damnit! My right calf muscle tensed and the next thing I knew, the inside portion of my calf was (well, I think it was) dented in. Oh...my...gosh....I envisioned myself falling off my bike if I couldn't get my muscles to stop seizing. I quickly ate some Salted Watermelon bloks and drank more water. I think that was my downfall in the first place- I was too conservative with water drinking for a hot day. I reached down and smacked my calf a couple times, shifted into an easier gear, and subsequently did not attack some climbs like I hoped I would. (Fun note: It took until Tuesday for my calf to not ache!)

Not long after, we were riding uphill past a fellow who had cramped so bad he had fallen off his bike. I felt awful. My leg had stopped being a turd, but I didn't have enough salted chews left to be helpful. I thought some good thoughts for him and hoped he'd find relief. Cramps are not fun, and I was lucky I only had what I did.

The rollers came, until we finally crested the final hill and saw our friends! I was so happy, I had tears welling up and a huge smile on my face. Now, it was time to haul to the finish!
Thankfully conditions were dry, so I was able to blast down the hill and around the corner without fear of wiping out. I shifted to an easier gear because you have a surprise climb to the finish. Someone on the sidelines yelled "Go Josie!" Yes for rad women! That made me feel like a superstar for a couple moments- thank you!

Crossing the line with Travis was fabulous. My legs were tired, my muscles in my calves, especially my right one, were so tight. I was relieved to know I could walk and I wouldn't collapse to the ground! (Big worry right there!)

I went to get myself an Angry Minnow Rye IPA, which by the way, tasted awesome. We socialized some with our friends and went to see the results.

I crossed the finish line at 3:10:19...I totally made my first goal a reality and then some.
Officially I was 901 out of 1829 riders
I was 7th out of 16 women in my age group (Last year I was 10th out of 17!)
I was 49th out of 147 women.

I was very proud and surprised- there will be another blog post about my 2018 goals. I came to the realization that I have them, and I have to give myself the chance to attain them. This year was fabulous, but now I have a mission...and for that...I need time.

We met up with Stego and Kenzie. A shower was needed and then, a visit to the local rock & mineral shop! Also...glorious FOOD!!
Supper (early supper) was at Angry Minnow Brewing where I had a BBQ grilled cheese with the most amazing, tender pork and delicious, crispy cheese coating. Again, my plate was annihilated- but I had room for a store-bought mini-pie and some light reading brought to you by Mountain Bike Action magazine. (Yeeeeah!)
Then back to the room for movie watching and chilling the heck out. What. A. Day!!!

Sunday we got up and met Stego and Kenzie for breakfast at the Norske Nook- which I will say the food was excellent and well worth the wait. Then we hit up Seeley Pass for some non-Decorah-style singletrack! We had about an 11 mile ride for our out and back, which I'll admit was plenty for what my legs were feeling like. Then we had our drive home.
I really, really, super really enjoy Chequamegon. Like the Borah Epic I went to this year, everyone is super awesome, friendly, and the event is done well. Hayward and Cable feel almost like a second home! The area is great, there is amazing food to be had, beer to buy, and new friends to make. It's fun, because once you do Chequamegon, you have an "in" with a group of people you don't even know! On the Tuesday prior to Chequamegon we were up in Onalaska and a fellow noticed my Chequamegon sweatshirt and asked if we were going- he had one it about 20 years ago!

Thank you to all the volunteers at Chequamegon who make the event so fun to attend. Your work and dedication is awesome and greatly appreciated.
Thank you to those I meet at Chequamegon, maybe we say hi, maybe we don't- but you're rad. Keep on kickn' ass!

Thank you to Travis for doing the hard part and riding with me, you pushed me, encouraged me, and sacrificed time to stay with me. Who knows what we'll do next year, but at least you got to see me kick Fire Tower's butt!

Thanks to the folks who own businesses in Hayward, Seeley, and Cable. Your hospitality is top notch.

See you in 2018, with bells on!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Jessica Strange

My name is Jessica Strange, I'm an avid multi-discipline cyclist living in South Wales with my amazing fur baby (cat), Gomez Thunderpaws and I'm the deputy editor of Total Women's Cycling.

What types of cycling do you enjoy and why?

While I enjoy riding all disciplines of cycling, mountain biking is where my heart is.

I love all venturing out on mountain adventures with its stunning landscapes, quietness and tranquillity.

For me, mountain biking is the ultimate combination of adrenaline and meditation.

Tell us what helped you find a sense of belonging with your fellow cyclists-

Being a female mountain biker automatically invites you to be a part of a wonderful minority group of riders. It feels more like a family really with a sense of comradery which I've never experienced before.

It's an awesome feeling to ride with people who share the same passion for cycling. Regardless of age or skill, everyone is there to enjoy themselves, share experiences and make friends.

Have you participated in a cycling event? If so, what did you enjoy most about your experience?
I've entered races and sportives over the past couple of years which have been physically tough and mentally challenging, but extremely rewarding at the same time. I absolutely love the atmosphere at cycling events, whether I'm racing or just cheering on the other riders.

If you have participated in an event do you have any tips/suggestions for those who have not participated in events?
The best advice to those thinking of entering an event is simply to give it a go.

Whether you win, lose, or come dead middle - it's really about taking part, getting stuck in and seeing how you really perform under race conditions. I find I definitely push myself harder at an event, and I'm not even very competitive!

Clips or flats- what do you enjoy and why?
Clips on my road and cross bike.

Bit of both on my mountain bike. It all depends on what trails I'm planning to ride. Clipping in is great for long days on the trails, where there's likely to be a lot of pedally sections and climbs. However, I still rock the flats if I fancy a quick blast around the trails or if I'm trying to refine some techniques in the skills park
Tell us about some of your favourite cycling-related products and why do you love them?
It's so hard to say! Aside from the bike itself, I find it the utmost importance to have a good padded short and saddle combo. I'm currently riding in Madison Flux shorts with ASSOS women's chamois cream, on a comfortable Pro women's saddle.

For apparel, I've always been a big fan of Giro. Both their MTB and road products are some of my favourites for not only being stylish but designed with some innovative and performance driven technologies.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Rock gardens were my nemeses for a while. I would tense up, grip hard and end up getting bucked around, quite often resulting in failure.

One of the best things to help me overcome these obstacles was breathing and relaxing my body. Putting faith in my bike and myself has been the most important thing I've learnt.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Freedom.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Genesis Vapour cross bike which is awesome for some rough road riding and cyclocross racing.

For my mountain adventures, I have a Canyon Spectral which can take on anything I throw at it. It's comfortable, fast and fun it's given me heaps of incredible riding memories.

What do you enjoy most about being involved with Total Women's Cycling?

The women's cycling scene is growing at a rapid rate and it's an incredibly exciting time to be a part of such a strong movement of inspiring women. It's a wonderful feeling to be a part of this and helping in any way I can to nurture this growing movement.

Total Women's Cycling is a fantastic title to write for, one that works hard to promote and encourage women's cycling which is a cause I feel very strongly for.

What would you like folks to know about TWC and what you do?
The TWC staff work hard to cover all disciplines of cycling, and we focus on areas of health, nutrition and lifestyle to be as well-rounded as possible. We want to promote cycling to women and help to inspire future generations of female cycling champions.

We care a lot about what our readers think, and what they want to hear. We encourage discussions and feedback so we can deliver relevant, honest and entertaining pieces for our audience.

What has been the most rewarding experience for you since being involved with TWC?
By far the best feeling is having someone tell you that your work helped them, inspired them, or meant something to them in any way. It only takes one person to make you feel like all the long hours and hard work is all worth it in the end.

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

There are indeed barriers to women's cycling but many of these are mental barriers like confidence. We've heard from readers that they have been intimidated by other riders, the costs associated with cycling and even their personal safety whilst out riding.

However, there are many brilliant cycles schemes, like British Cycling, who work hard to help break down these barriers and encourage women in a supportive and enjoyable environment.

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

There are some fantastic organisations and women's specific events popping up all the time which encourage women to ride with like-minded people. In the UK we have the Breeze Network which hosts many women's only rides, and plenty of bike parks and trail centres hold women's only days/rides and even maintenance classes.

Overall, I think participation would be greater achieved through local councils improving cycling networks, lanes and signposted routes. A greater understanding of the highway code wouldn't go amiss either! At the top-end of riding, improved media coverage of women's racing would greatly inspire more people to get involved with cycling - I know it inspires me!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

I often think about how cycling has totally changed my life for the better, and I want to share that with the world in hopes there are other women out there who may benefit from this fantastic sport and community.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I'm definitely turning into a crazy cat lady.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Women Involved: Hannah Myers

I started Flare in August 2013 after completing a masters in Product Design. Before that, I worked at a bike shop - as everyone in the industry has done at some point. That’s when I started riding bikes, a demo Trek Lush was in the shop and that was that!

I realized that I couldn’t find the clothing I wanted to wear so thought I would do something about it and put my design background to some use.


Now I’ve moved up to the big wheels, and ride a Transition Smuggler. My absolute favorite place to ride is in Oakridge, Oregon, despite being in the UK. Closer to home I love the Peak District, the mix of rocky tech and epic views always leaves me buzzing after a ride and ready to plan the next one.

Instagram: @flareclothingco, @seehannah

Tell us about the introduction to your current #bikelife and how has it changed your life?
Wow, where to start. My family has always cycled, after I went to university I was all ready to start teacher training to become a design and technology teacher but that’s where the plans stopped. Instead, I began working in an independent bike shop in Nottingham and thoroughly got sucked into the whirlwind of bikes, bike parts, clothing, and accessories!

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What was your introduction like?
My first mountain bike ride was a family holiday to Jordan for a semi-slick trip from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. We rented hardtails with non-working suspension the saw us mile after mile on gravel roads, but it was enough that when we got home it was straight to Sherwood Pines to tackle the red route.

What inspired you to better yourself as an off-road rider?
Riding with friends much more talented than I am. Sometimes I find it frustrating, but when there’s someone around that’s a few steps ahead of you it’s easy to visualize yourself in their position.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
In 2014 I had a bad crash that took most of the skin off my right midsection. I went off a drop onto smooth pebbles and the front wheel washed out. Although the skin has since grown back it thoroughly knocked my confidence and I’m not pleased to say that I’ve not been back to said trails since. A goal for 2017 perhaps?
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
For a long time, I didn’t have the best position on the bike - I’ve spent the last year with the mantra “elbows out, elbows out” and it seems to have stuck! I feel more planted and more stable, particularly at speed.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love the opportunity to hang out with friends, I love the opportunity to see new and old places, I love being scared of something and conquering it, I love the rush of a fast descent and the feeling at the top of a long climb, I love getting changed after a long, muddy day and remembering the best bits, and I love planning the next adventure.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My main bike is a 2016 Transition Smuggler. My husband is sponsored by Transition Bikes UK and I have to say I bought mine out of complete jealousy. I was planning on upgrading the bike I had (a Juliana Roubion) but gave his a go and it gave me so much confidence although the bike has less travel. I also have a Canyon Torque FRX downhill bike, and a Trek Domane road bike.

Your introduction to the cycling industry was brought by you working at a bike shop. What was your experience at the bike shop like and what was your job?
I worked on the shop floor, and a big part of my job was to make our female customers more comfortable in the shop - although there are plenty of ‘unusual’ customer anecdotes thinking about it now I really enjoyed helping people find the bike that would see them into new and varied adventures. It was both through my own experience and feedback from our female customers that inspired me to delve further into the design of women’s products in the cycling world.

You started Flare Clothing Co. because you wanted to fill a gap for women and cycling wear, tell us about Flare and what you stand for-
Although Flare started being a women’s focused brand and we still have a very strong reputation for making cool women’s clothing (Total Women’s Cycling Best 2016 MTB Clothing Award Winner!), in 2015 we introduced a men’s collection. We’re now all about riding with friends, family, partners, clubs, going on both mini and epic adventures and looking good while you do it!

What has been the most difficult part of starting up your own business?
Finding manufacturers! At the beginning I spent a lot of time Googling “clothing manufacture” and “sports fabric” and it didn’t get me anywhere!

Any new items coming soon that you would like folks to be on the lookout for and why are you excited for them?
I’m really excited about the whole 2017 collection, we’ve worked out some of the kinks we found through 2016 and I think we’ll have the best year ever! We’re also totally stoked to be officially heading to the USA and working with a distributor for the first time.

Tell us about why you created Team Flare and your hopes for the team-
To be completely honest it's a marketing plan. We need people of influence wearing the clothes so that we have content, feedback and hopefully some new contacts within the industry. Since the beginning #teamflare has grown hugely to include Instagrammers, social riders, enduro racers, crazy freeriders, and awesome cycling mums who provide us with amazing photos and videos for our social media channels as well as friendly faces in race villages.

Why should folks consider applying for Team Flare in 2018?
We’re always looking for people who can offer something new to the team. Whether that’s because you’re a guide, you come number one in every race you’ve ever entered, or for a reason, we’ve not thought of yet! We generally hold an open application every Autumn, this year we received over 200 entries and whittled them down to 8, so it’s pretty competitive, but however many applications we receive this year I can promise that we will read and consider every one.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think there are a number of reasons - it can be intimidating in terms of courage, fitness, and skill. There’s also a lot of kit involved and it’s hard to know what’s necessary and what isn’t. Finally, if you don’t know someone to introduce you to the sport it’s difficult to rock up to a trail center without an “in” if you’re not naturally extroverted.

What do you feel could happen industry-wise to encourage more women to become involved with riding and the industry itself?
In the UK there are a lot of initiatives cropping up for women to get involved with and to give mountain biking a try. Hope has done loads of women’s rides all through 2016 and there are plenty of local bike shops and cafes (like Cafe Adventure, who are part of #teamflare) who doing groups rides both to introduce people to mountain biking and to encourage seasoned riders to explore their local areas.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Although Flare is all about color and adventure, I mainly wear grey!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Women on Bikes Series: Jenny (Scott) Acker

Mountain biking has been such a wonderful thing in my life and I've met amazing people through it. Being a clumsy nerdy art kid that got cut from a lot of team sports in high school, finding cycling after college was such a great treat. I could do it and be bad at it but not have it matter, it was a way for me to get out and enjoy the outdoors, escape from work, spin out the legs, explore with friends, and so much more, I feel so lucky I get to do it now.
My husband, Matt Acker, has been a great motivator and source of inspiration to me to try harder bike races and push myself further to try new skills and visit new places, mostly because I suffer from FOMO and want to go do all the races he does hehehe! I love attempting to get better at mountain biking, have such a great community of biking friends here in Grand Rapids. We have awesome buds that put on free bandit races and other great organizers that put on the best gravel/mountain bike/cyclocross races I've ever been to.

I love using my artistic abilities and design skills to help out and make bike posters and logos (www.notjennyscott.com), also super stoked to get to help host an all-women International bike polo tournament here in Grand Rapids later this fall (www.ladiesarmy9.com), and also helping out Matt put together this Michigan gravel Race Series (www.michigangravelraceseries.com).

It's a bit of something new to me...helping put on events instead of just selfishly participating in them...but it feels good, being able to give back to the sport that has given me so much. Also very excited for a fun year filled with biking adventures coming up. Matt and I have decided to quit our jobs for a year and save up all our skrilla to go bike packing and other biking adventures all over the US, can't wait to get out there and explore by bike!

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife as it is now-
I got into triathlons 9 years ago, mostly to prove myself to some dudes who wouldn't invite me on their long rides, so I'd ride by myself and did a couple Ironman triathlons. Never was really into the spandex and expensive bike scene met some fun people that mountain biked and quickly realized these were more my kind of people. the ones that get dirty and go grab a beer after a ride together, through that group of friends I was introduced to gravel riding, cyclocross, bike polo and grew a love for all things bike. Met my husband at a cyclocross race (ok, so I stalked his sexy young beard) and then got myself a fatbike to enjoy cycling year round, now cycling is part of our everyday lives and it's awesome! 

What has been your motivation to explore different types of cycling? Why do you enjoy them?When I was doing triathlons, my favorite part was for sure the bike. But I didn't really train with too many people and mostly cycled on my own, which I sometimes enjoyed the solitude of being on the road with my own thoughts. But what I liked more about mountain biking is the camaraderie and friends and encouragement. At first, I hadn't had a great experience mtn biking, so I didn't try it again for a while. when my 26" gary fisher got stolen, I bought a 29er, and gave the trails a second shot, loved it and really enjoyed the types of people that mountain biked more. we'd all get dirty and sweaty and then go to the bar, it seemed to be more about having fun than having the most expensive bike and kit, so that really was why I started riding trails again. then I kinda found cyclocross and gravel and some of the same friends were doing those so I started with those too. then I found bike polo and that's a completely different kind of riding, but a great community of people and friends that I've made all around the world. Got into fatbiking last I'd say but have met such a wonderful group of friends and bad ass ladies in this sport too.

What was the main inspiration behind participating in events?
At first it was just a fun way to spend a day with groups of friends, braving the elements and having beers around campfires afterwards...then I kinda started developing this habit of wearing costumes while I raced, I guess I started liking the attention because although I wasn't the fastest person out there, people tended to cheer for me, so that made me happy. my favorite is making the volunteers and supporters and photographers on the course laugh. they're braving the elements to help us finish our race whether it be support or snacks or blocking traffic or lying and saying "it's all downhill from here" I really appreciate them so if I can make them laugh at how crazy I look, it makes me feel good. Plus I've made so many friends and look forward to doing a similar race from a previous year so I can see the friends I met there before
What would you say has been your most favorite event to attend?
Would depend on the bike hehehe! For gravel, I really like our local race the Barry Roubaix for it being the start of the season and just an awesome after-party reward for lots of hills that can be muddy or dusty. For bike polo, I really loved going to my first Ladies Army tournament in Vancouver with my friend Tara as we road-tripped out there and met a ton of the bike polo family. For mountain biking I really had a hoot at Single Speed USA USA up in Copper Harbor 3 years ago even though I broke my jaw, apparently I self-medicated with a game I made everybody play with me called pick-up-booze-with-your-face-game, hehehe! I had a great time and some awesome party memories. One event that really sticks in my mind for me being the one I'm proudest of completing would have to be the Marji Gesick in Marquette, It's 100+ miles of 90% singletrack, all uphill and 11,000 ft of elevation. I've attempted it two times, the first time I made it about 77 miles but didn't finish, but went back for redemption last year. The race promoters Todd and Danny and Stacy and Stacie, and all the volunteers are amazing, they really encourage everybody and will literally stay up way past their bedtime to let the very dead last finisher finish. It was a very challenging day, but I had the best time. I didn't stop to take as many photos as I did the first year, but met tons of great riders along the way. So cool that you're in it together, shared salt tabs with friends when they were cramping, got free bacon from another rider's support crew. Shared pocket burritos with the guys from the local brewery who were also riding and traded them some of my pickles, rode with some great people, and Matt, my husband gave me the best leg massage at the last aid station to get me to the end. Was able to ride the last 15 miles with a new friend Jim, and though those last 15 miles took us about 5 hours, we friggin finished, dead last but Todd and his wife Stacey and Matt and our friend Tyler were all waiting up for us, it was the best feeling! Though Matt finished the same race in about half the time, him being at the finish line at 2:30 in the morning to give me a hug as I finished was the best feeling, it's an amazing race, with awesome terrain to ride in, I highly recommend it.

Do you have any suggestions to give to folks who have yet to attend their first event?
I know I've been intimidated to do lap mountain bike races or time trial races, because I haven't felt as strong and hate feeling like I'm in the way, plus it's hard to either let someone pass you where you don't have to get off your bike, or on the flip side, have the guts to ask someone if you can pass them. I'd recommend starting with a race maybe that's more open and wide, just to get your toes wet if this is something you think you'd struggle with too. Otherwise just learning to communicate your intentions, for the most part, other racers are very respectful and will encourage you as well.
Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what kept you coming back for more?
My very first time I kinda hated it. I was out of shape and it was super sandy, I slammed on my front brake going down a sandy hill and went over my handlebars...I didn't ride that bike much on trails again after that, then it got stolen and I replaced it with a 29er. I went and tried that bike on a different trail and really enjoyed it. with the bigger wheels, I was able to roll over things easier and I really enjoyed being in the woods as opposed to the road, which is what I had been doing as I trained for triathlons. I loved being able to just enjoy the sounds of the woods and the more I rode the same trails, the better I learned them and knew how to ride them, which made me crave for different trails and more challenges. Now strava helps me come back for more, every time trying to get a bit faster and see if I can make it into the top 10

Clips or flats? What do you use and why?
I clip in almost all the time these days, it was intimidating at first, but then I realize how much extra power I seem to have, and I couldn't see myself riding on flats at all anymore.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Probably my biggest biff was at Single Speed USA a couple years ago, where I wasn't even drinking yet, but maybe riding a course above my skill level at the time. I was trying to impress the lady who was riding behind me as well as catch up to my buds who were ahead, I went over a drop and freaked out and slammed on my front brake (I blame bike polo), flew over my handlebar and landed almost directly on my chin... my shoulder got a little gooey, but I broke my jaw!!! Didn't realize it at the time, the girl behind me after she saw that I was in pain, went ahead to let my friends know. I rolled up, they gave me some whiskey and I finished the last 15 miles of the race. Didn't think anything was broken so self-medicated with more booze that night and got real rowdy crazy....didn't actually know I had broken my jaw til 3 days later, back home. after biking to work, then deciding I should go to urgent care because of my oozing shoulder, where they then suggested to get x-rays of my jaw...which at first I rejected bc I thought they were just trying to scam me outta money, but then they realized it was broken and had to sew me shut for three weeks. That's the first bone I've ever broken (unless you consider a broken toe attempting to break dance at a polo tournament, hehe!) Matt took real good care of me, other than being hungry and having fuzzy insides of my teeth, I was super grateful that a broken jaw doesn't prevent you from riding. I have tons of friends who have broken something where they then can't ride for a couple days/months/years! it sucks I was supposed to be off the bike for 3 weeks, but I think I lasted 1. I'm a little apprehensive going downhill, but I'm trying to learn to not use my front brake, ever, hehehe! I went back last summer to the spot where I crashed on Mango in Copper Harbor...and I rode that guy the proper way, totally redeemed myself, hehehe!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Practicing has been so helpful, little things at a time. standing out of the saddle to climb and starting in an easy gear first and spinning.
Using my front brake, or more so, trying to learn not to use it. I find descending to be more of a challenge for me...I get in my head and freak out, and either slam on the front brake and go over handlebars, or just get off the bike and walk down. Matt has taught me techniques, of keeping weight back, feathering front and rear brake...my heartbeat always bumps up when I actually do a steep descent...it feels exhilarating when I can do it properly.

Your husband, Matt, is also a rider. What do you enjoy most about being able to share a common interest?
It's the best! We get to enjoy our hobby and each other at the same time! We both love doing it so it doesn't seem like a chore or that we're "letting" the other person have their interest, we both want to go to races or train for them, so it just becomes part of our day, and we get to do it together. Matt's really good at time management and realizes that he's a stronger rider than me, so he'll make time for his own real hard workouts and training, and I can still go on my own rides and "flooft" around like I call it, but it's also been nice because he encourages me to train a bit harder and gives me tips on how I can, if I want to, improve and get stronger and faster, so when I'm not being too lazy, I can do that hehehe!
Being your husband is an experienced rider, do you have any thoughts or suggestions when it comes to couples riding together? What have you learned with the "experience gap?"
Matt is super patient with me, and also a huge encouragement. Always helps me push myself to get better/faster without being pushy. He is a very determined and focus person in general whereas I'm a bit more floofty, but with his inspiration I've been able to focus a bit more, train a bit smarter and harder, and getting faster or being able to last longer, ride further, climb steeper hills, get a couple QOM's has been really fun for me.

What do you love about riding your bike?
It just feels natural to me, I love when I'm riding along and get to "look out the window" per se, I don't even think about my pedaling or breathing and just enjoy that my body is propelling me around, the fresh wind in my face, exploring new places and I get to enjoy it all. Plus the biggest positive is all the great people who I now call friends who share this same mentality.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I'm super spoiled, started out picking bikes based on my favorite colors, but have been super spoiled by Matt since we've been together and he's bought me a bunch as gifts.
I have a green Marino custom polo bike - for bike polo
green Spearfish - full suspension mountain bike, probably my favorite bike right now, pretty comfortable for the ride out to the trails while locked out, then super comfy on rocky terrain with the suspension
Salsa Beargrease -  for fatbiking and beach riding
green Twinsix Rando - for gravel rides and cyclocross
green Salsa tandem - for when I really want to be close to Matt's buttcrack hehehe
Scott triathlon bike (bought that because it was green and also had my last name hehehe) - for road riding which I hardly do anymore, or triathlons, which I've pretty much retired from
green surly single speed ogre (kinda poopy green, love the single speed, and this was my touring bike when I went to do a couple days of touring with Jill, Tara, and Emma) - I've been riding this bike a lot lately, something about singlespeed is so simple and easy and fun. I use it as my commuter and also for when I sign up for races singlespeed, because if mountain bikers are fun and weird party people, singlespeeders take that up a notch, and I feel like I fit right in.

Tell us why you feel more women should discover the joy of fatbiking!
Great people, seeing new places, it has changed my winter, one of my favorite seasons now...get to enjoy the outdoors year-round

What is bike polo and why is it rad?
Oh man, this question could have a whole story written about it. bike polo is rad because it's a co-ed team sport on a bike. It's like hockey and soccer combined, but on a bike. It takes cycling which for me was more of an individual sport and turns it into a team thing, which I was always getting cut from in high school, but it's laid-back and open to anybody willing to try. I'm actually probably not that good at bike polo, but the community around it and all the wonderful friends I've made through it is indescribable, I wouldn't change it for anything.

Tell us about the Michigan Gravel Race series and what it will entail - 
What I've loved about the great lakes fat bike series, is that it strings together a bunch of pre-existing races, and makes a longer competition about how well you do at a certain number of these races. Matt thought that with the growing popularity of gravel races, why not string together a bunch of these existing awesome gravel races in Michigan, and make a series out of it, similar to the GLFBS. It's a point series where people men and women will accumulate points based on how well they do at each of these individual races. then at the end of the season, the winners will get some award.

What has been the most exciting part for you when it comes to event planning vs. participation?
I realize how much I love participating in events, and seeing how much work goes into planning them, I think I definitely prefer participating. I've had fun having my hand in organizing a couple bike polo events, but I definitely feel the stress, it's always a huge sense of relief when the event is over and everybody seemed to have fun. What's exciting about planning is you can make it whatever you want, have prizes for costumes or make people play crazy games, but it's definitely given me an appreciation for all the work that goes into it and I, for sure, prefer just mooching off everybody elses hard work and participating in events.

Tell us about this bikepacking trip you and Matt plan to do, what was the inspiration? 
We were out riding one cold night last winter and were drinking a couple beers, and kind of jokingly said wouldn't it be great to quit our jobs and bike around the USA, we pinky swore on it and decided for our wedding that instead of toasters and matching towels that we would ask for moolah so that we could quit our jobs and do just that. I have bee lucky enough to take a year-off from work to study abroad for 9 months, and it was totally worth it. Matt's been working since he was 14, and we thought we could work work work until we're 60 and retire with money, or we could save enough to take a year off, and go do fun things on our bike while we're still kinda young, hehehe!

We're super looking forward to just explore a bunch of places right here in the good ole US of A, and spending quality time with friends and family. We'll be doing lots of small trips to different states to check out their trails, and do a couple races in Iowa and Colorado and Kansas, as well as a bunch of our favorites back here in Michigan. We're hoping to make it up to the Pacific Northwest and maybe even Alaska, and our big year end plan is to do the Baja Divide, which sounds amazing!

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have triple citizenship! Mexican, Brazilian and Ohio-an hehehe!