Monday, April 30, 2018

Women on Bikes Series: Alison Good

I am a bicycle fiend who works as a nurse practitioner. In biking years, I am only about 3 1/2. I am divorced, remarried, and went through breast cancer at the age of 32. I was very overweight, unhealthy, and not very active. At the age of 34, I decided enough was enough, and that there must be a better way to live.

I a test-road a nice road bike, and 6 miles later, decided I was in love. That was the start of my journey back to health. Biking was something I could do that didn't put extra stress on my joints. I then began to learn how to eat healthier, and gradually became more and more active. I joined a morning workout class; I found a few people to bike with and did a lot of solo biking.

Biking began to become a way of life for me. I lost 100 pounds in 3 years, through movement (primarily biking), eating real whole foods and consuming a mostly plant-based diet, and making healthier choices. I have completed RAGBRAI twice, and have even joined a kickboxing class! I was introduced to dirt biking in September of this year, and borrowed a friend's fat tire bike...what a game changer!!!! It was like finding a whole new sport!!! It has also allowed me to continue riding through the winter, which has done a wonders for my mental health. Soft trail riding is fun, challenging, and more empowering than I could have ever imagined. I have met some really great people through this sport and found a way to connect with nature and with my soul in an incredible way. My body continues to get stronger, and my network of strong, empowered women is the best it has ever been in my life. I have found the most inspiring role models! I am continually thankful for this blessing of a sport that I have found.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it influenced you from then on-
I had not biked in years until fall of 2015. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life, at a size 24. I had been through breast cancer a few years prior, at the age of 32, and was just ready to try to get my life back on track. I went to Bike World in Ames to test ride a bike and try to get a feel for something that might be the right size/fit. I ended up walking out with a road bike that changed my life. I started riding every day, by myself, on the Trestle Trail out of Madrid. I did RAGBRAI the following summer, met some really great people, and started eating and living healthier--it was life-changing, starting a chain of events I never could have predicted. 2.5 years later, I have lost 100 lbs, and live a completely different, more active life.

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
Absolutely! I went on my first single track ride this past fall, at the end of September, with an OLD mountain bike. I was absolutely IN LOVE! It was like learning a whole new sport. Shortly after that, I borrowed a friend's fat tire bike, and that was all it took to become hooked. I purchased a Fat Boy Specialized the next month, and now my love for single track/soft trails has rivaled my love for road biking. It's just SO MUCH FUN!!!!! The challenges, the ever-changing terrain, the learning curve with each new trail...I crave it like nothing else!!! And the people, especially the women, that I have met along the way, have been something to aspire to. It is a very empowering sport!

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
For now, I will leave the clips to the road bike, and keep flats for mountain biking. For me, it's a comfort level issue. I have taken and witnessed a few falls (mine were my own stupidity), and currently feel more comfortable not being clipped in as there are many a time when one needs to put a foot down quickly. Someday maybe I will do clips? For now, I am quite happy with flats.

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. My first time out on my fatbike, I felt invincible (doh!) and tried to jump too big of a log. Went over the handlebars, landed on a big log, and was extremely sore. I also did this in front of a large group of guys that I was riding with for the first time. Double oops. Damaged the pride and the body a bit, the bike was fine :) I gained a healthy respect for the bike and learning your limits that day. I kept moving, got back on the bike immediately after it happened, and kept riding the next few days, even it was short increments. I also realized that I had made an error, and could learn from it for the future.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
At first, it was a little tough for me to gauge what gear I should be in and when. It was SO DIFFERENT from road biking!!! That improved with time, and just getting out there. I would just play around with the gears and learned what worked for me. The other big one for me was tire pressure preferences, depending on the conditions...I am still working on that one! Again though, you just have to play with it, and try out different things. The more time you spend on the trail, the more you understand how those changes affect your ride.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Of course! I think I learn something new every time I go out. It's all part of the glorious challenge of it to me. One day, I won't make it up a tough incline; the next day, I will tweak my gears/timing/mindset, and make it up. I have my frustrations, but I try to apply those feelings to come up with a solution on how to improve the next time.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I have this exuberant, freeing, ageless feeling when I ride. It makes me feel like a kid, with no responsibilities or cares in the world. It resets my soul in a way that nothing else does. It is a form of meditation, really. With mountain biking, you have to be constantly paying attention to your surroundings, as there might be a new obstacle just around the bend. Therefore, it keeps me focused, grounded, and centered on the here and now. Worries melt away, and there is only determination and pure joy. It has also helped my endurance and cardio ability--bonus!

Tell us your experience with winter biking- why should folks consider giving it a go?
I was a total newbie to winter biking this year--and fell in love with winter for the first time in my life. I am no longer stuck indoors! I can bike year-round! It took some trial and error to figure out how to dress appropriately, but I am getting the hang of it! And the trails...you can see so many different sights when the leaves are gone from the trees. And there are new challenges to be had as you ride the trails in different states....wet, snow, frozen, etc.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Women's Trek Silque road bike, and a Fat Boy Specialized fatbike. I also have an OLD Trek mountain bike that needs some repair. I love how fast I can go on the road bike, and how light it is. When I was much heavier, it gave me a step up to get me closer to being able to keep up with others while biking. I love my fat tire because it gave me a whole new confidence level for being able to try new things/obstacles while mountain biking. And, I must admit, I have an affinity for the way those big tires sound on concrete. And it looks MEAN!

What are your plans for the 2018 riding season?
I am signed up to ride my 3rd RAGBRAI, so gearing up to do a lot of road biking, but also plan to get several miles in on single track trails, too. I would also like to explore the single track trails in other areas--they make for great new adventures!!!

Where are your favorite places to ride?
I really like Camp Ingawanis in Janesville, IA, and riding the trails around George Wyth Park in Waterloo. Both areas present different challenges and keep things interesting.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think it can be intimidating, and it is a sport dominated by men, traditionally. It also puts you out in nature in a way that some may not be used to. It requires being a bit self-sufficient. It can also be daunting when you don't know the trails and are directionally-challenged. I am hoping to get a Garmin this year to help combat that, but I am improving!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved? 
I think primarily having more of a presence locally, doing more public events that encourage women to come check it out. Bike shops could host rent-a-mountain bike day for women, with a group ride. More meet-and-greet events for women to generate more interest. I feel like I literally had no idea that this was something I could access and get into. It had just never crossed my mind. Your organization is doing some amazing things for the sport--bringing such a positive spotlight on women who bike trails, and really getting the word out. I ride with Cedar Valley Cyclists, which is mostly road bike. I have done one ride with CVAST, Cedar Valley Association of Soft Trails, and plan to get more involved with them, for soft trails/single track/mountain biking. I ride with a women's group called Spokes Women, which is mostly road bike. I ride with The Girlfriends' Club, a women's group who does both road riding, with a few of us who do soft trails.
(Check out Fearless Women of Dirt Cedar Valley!)

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love seeing strong, healthy, independent women, and I know how much biking has done for me. It gave me a passion again and made me want to keep getting stronger. It got me on a path to good health, both physically and mentally. It has introduced me to some really amazing people. It has become a continual source of inspiration for doing better in other areas of my life.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I lived in Saudi Arabia when I was 3 (my dad used to be in construction overseas).

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