Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stand Up For Yourself.

I know I can't speak for all women, but dang, I have found it incredibly easy to discount my successes during the 2016 year. This is unacceptable.

There are a great number of folks out there who go to events, participate, and are completely happy with what they accomplished.

They might not make the podium, but they knew that they did as well as they could and are proud of that.

Regardless of who you are, what bike you ride, what event you participated in, or what you DNF'd- you are awesome.

You are going out there and doing something you are passionate about...something you care about. It gives you strength, you grow as a person, and it challenges you on many levels.
You may train rigorously or you might not have the time to do so (like myself) but either way, you give it the best shot you have and you are a winner because of that. Doing your best in the moment is all you can do- allow yourself to be proud.

Several times this year I looked at the Time Trials win I had and wondered "Did I really deserve that?" I rode the hardest and fastest I felt I physically could, falling a few times in an epic manner, and covered myself in slick mud. I went out early in the running, which was something I was completely afraid to do- but it worked out well. I felt that I cheated. My bike was a fatbike set up as 27.5+ which was an advantage due to the clearance I had for mud buildup. My bike wasn't as heavy as a full fatbike, so when I had to hike it didn't completely suck. My bike didn't make up for sloppy handling and it got war wounds because of it (as did I, mainly bruises.)

I crossed the finish line, and was so proud. I didn't expect first place- but I got it. During the first while I felt like I had earned it- but I took a look at the advantages I had. Tire size and the time I went out- the course become sloppier as the race went on. Does having an advantage take away the fact I busted my ass off? Does it take away that I could've had a larger, more substantial fall at any time and lost my place? Does it take away that I had handling skills well enough to handle the conditions?

Like any event, from my stance, I feel it can be part strategy, part luck, and part skill. Sometimes stars align and other times they don't- for me they did. I should accept it.

Chequamegon 40 was another event that I did pretty darn well at. I didn't have any idea whatsoever when I went into it on how I'd do. I had a goal "Please, please make top 10 in my age category" and I did. Was I disappointed that I didn't place better? Well....sure. I think because I'm always looking ahead to the future and not focusing on the present. It's a fault of mine.

Getting 10th in my age category for a race I barely trained for was huge. I had a handful of training rides, and could only do a long ride once or at most, twice a week. Bonus- I had forgotten to use my inhaler! I had started from the last gate and ended up passing folks who had been ahead of me. I had compliments on my climbing, too, which made me proud. Especially when I told them I was from Iowa (the non-flat Iowa!)

I was told recently that another attendee said that several racers had stated it was the worst Chequamegon trail conditions they had experienced to date. I laughed! I, apparently, can do pretty okay when it comes to crappy trail conditions. I thrive on pushing thru- because I want to be a person that said "Yes! I did that!"

PertNear 20 was stupendous, and I surprised myself- I felt more confident on where I was going than the year before and I kept myself going at a steady clip. The only time I stopped was to get my Clif Blok situation under control. Climbing skills came out for the win, along with my working thru doubts of my riding capabilities. During awards, the guilt started to creep in about my win and I actually started to feel bad for winning. Because I continued to doubt my abilities as a rider.

Why is there so much doubt?
I feel it's because I'm still challenged with mountain biking enough to feel that I shouldn't be good enough to place well. I end up feeling like a fraud because I haven't "earned" my victories with years and years of experience as a seasoned rider.

Who says I didn't earn it?
My first season of off-road riding was riddled with challenges, failures, and successes. I had sweat, blood, tears, and bruises for my efforts- same thing the second season. To get better, I had to work hard. I had to be determined enough not to quit, and with that, I will say that I most definitely "earned it."
I still have a long way to go with my riding; there are trails to learn how to ride better, and endurance yet to be built. I am declaring to make 2017 my year of overcoming challenges. I want to work on being the best damn rider I can be, accept myself as the rider I am in the present moment, and embrace the growth I've had over the seasons. I don't just want to...I'm going to.

It's okay to put attention and focus on growth, but remember to embrace who you are in the present:
The rider you are today is the rider you are meant to be right now.
The rider you are tomorrow is the rider you want to be.
Stand up for yourself.
Be you.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Crystal Kovacs

I'm fairly new to biking as I've only been riding for about 14 months. In that time I have rode in two races, the Maah Daah Hey 100 (25 mile length) and Lutsen99 (19 mile length). LOVED them both.

My husband, Nick, and I recently completed a ride on the White Rim Trail with Western Spirit Cycling Adventures. If you ever have the chance….do it!

We enjoy riding with our two boys. When your teenage boys thank you for taking them on a trip you know you are blessed!

Some of our favorite places to ride as a family are Yellow River State Forest, Decorah Trails, CAMBA trail system and Wyalusing State Park.

We are currently planning a trip this summer with them to Yellowstone and the Gravelly Range in Montana. We will bike and ride for the entire time we are gone.

My husband and I have lost 160 pounds combined by biking. I have biked 1500 plus miles this year since May. It is not something I make myself do every day but rather an adventure that I love. When I ride single track that is all that is on my mind. I can not think about the things that are not done, bills that need paid, or what session we have next in our studio. My only thought is what the next line is and what I need to do to ride that. My husband and I have been blessed to mountain bike some of the greatest mountain biking spots in the US in the last year. When we stopped in Moab, asked for trails, and then said I’ve only been doing this for six months their eyes almost popped out of their head! If I can do it ANYONE can.

Your #bikelife has been fairly recent- what was the inspiration to get started with your life on two wheels? 
My husband, Nick, and I decided to lose weight in 2015. Since then we have lost 120 pounds and it has been by riding bikes. It was a great way to get outside, enjoy what we were doing, and see places we had never seen before.

You have participated in some events this year as a newer rider, what would you say was your favorite?
This one is TOUGH! I participated in two mountain bike races this summer the Maah Daah Hey 100 and the Lutsen99er. The Lutsen99er was first and it was a GREAT experience. I raced in the 19 mile race which was perfect for my first time. The staff was amazing and course was perfect for starting out. I really can’t say enough good things about this race as we were as encouraged and supported as the 99ers coming in. So cool!

The next race as the MDH100. We went to Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park a week before the race to explore. Coming from the Midwest the MDH trail was different! It was tougher than I imagined it would be and honestly I was not sure this was something I could complete and compete on at all. My goal was never to win but to finish and enjoy it……… After riding the trail for several days I competed in the 25 mile length race. LOVED it! It was the hardest thing I have completed as an adult. The MDH is grueling and unforgiving but touched my soul in a way that no other trail ever has. There was something about riding alone through the prairie with no other sounds than your tires rolling through dirt that touches your heart.

What helped you with your decision to participate in an event? What advice do you have for those who are still nervous about participating?
I would have never participated in an event without my friends on Facebook encouraging me. Honestly I did not know where the events were or what it really even meant. (Still wasn’t sure what it meant when we arrived at the starting line in Lutsen). Heck yea I was nervous. Scared was probably a better word lol….Just do it! It’s fun, everyone is happy, and you will make memories that will last you forever.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
The first bike we bought me was a cross rip. Great bike and I was excited. We rode on our local trails I had rode my horse on as a child. After the ride I was not so thrilled at all. I had seen a fat tire bike and wanted to try it. Those turned out to be the most expensive words of 2016. Fat bikes for our entire family now and we all love them. I have a Spearfish, named Merle, that I am hooked on. The first time I rode Merle was like freedom. I could go on any trail that I was comfortable on and had a bike that was capable of far more than me.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I’m a pretty gritty person by nature. Once I set my mind to something I do it. I was nervous and still get nervous but I try really hard to just work my way through that line or obstacle one piece at a time. Do I wreck-heck yes…..do I try again-YES. It’s just a matter of saying I am going to do this. I also watch lots of you tube videos of people far better than myself riding. I think that has helped me see lines and see that other people do this all the time….so can I with practice.

Clips or flats? What do you use and why do you like them?
Flats all the way on the mountain bike…..I like knowing I can put my foot down at any time. I’m using a pretty aggressive clip that Travis recommended on the mountain bikes.

I use clips on the gravel bike just for pedaling efficiency.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Yes, I went over my handlebars in late July. Totally crashed in front of my children while coming down a steep hill. I had not checked tire pressure earlier when we left and my tire rolled. After confirming that every body part still worked we rode the rest of the day. I ended up rotating my spine and pulling some back muscles. It hurt and frankly it scared me. We left for North Dakota the following week to race the Maah Daah Hey. I had wrecked in a rut and was really frightened of doing it again. Well the MDH was the perfect place to go! There are ruts that are 3-4 feet deep and they are frequent. Needless to say by the time we got home I had worked that problem out in my mind. The physical healing just took time but this was also the reason I sat out the Short and Fat in Hayward in September.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Tight turns and switchbacks have always challenged me more than they should. Steep downhills also challenge me but the biggest challenge is uphill as I have asthma. I took a clinic in Minneapolis this August. It was a game changer for me. I learned skills that have helped so much! The clinic as for women only so there was no pressure to keep up with anyone and I would recommend it or something similar to everyone.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Switchbacks still are tricky. I also struggle with large rocks going up or downhill. I have learned that I don’t have to be fast and I don’t have to ride at anyone else’s speed. Since I learned that in places like Moab I will ride the same obstacle over and over until I get comfortable with it. That has helped me a lot.

What has been the greatest part about having your partner also be your riding partner?
What’s better than to share something you love with the one you love most. Nick and I recently completed the White Rim Trail in Moab, UT. I was so proud of our experience together. It was mind blowing to not only see that part of the country from a bike but to do so with the man I love most.

Your kids are involved with riding as well, what suggestions do you have for parents who would like to foster some #bikelife in their kids?
Encourage them, get them quality bikes, take them places that speaks to their abilities and likes. Our boys love single track so we take them to the CAMBA trail system, Decorah, and FDR in Dubuque. By taking them to trails they love they experience the same freedom and passion we do. We also had them go to bike camp last summer. The first words we heard when we picked them up was “Can we come back next year”. That tells me they loved it! They always thank us after each ride on their own. If your teenagers are saying thank you without prompting you know they love it to!

What do you love about riding your bike?
It’s my time and freedom! I love single track. When riding single track there is not another thought in the world to me. Everything melts away as I ride. Doesn’t matter what bill is not paid, who needs to book a session when, what child has practice……it is only about what the next turn brings or what gear I need to be in to get to the top of the next hill. I love that feeling and hope that I never lose it.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have three bikes-
1-Salsa Beargrease- “Greasy” Greasy was my first bike that I rode a lot. I think we probably rode everywhere we could last winter. Being a carbon bike has made this bike so light that it’s like having a fighter jet under you. I chose this particular bike because of it’s nimbleness and that the fat bike gave me confidence that I would not have achieved as quickly as a 29er. 2. Salsa Spearfish-“Merle” Merle is my full suspension 29er. I rode a rental bike in Sedona last winter that was FS. LOVED IT! It was so much faster than what my fat bike was and such a different ride. We started looking at bikes and I test rode a spearfish. Merle is just plain fun. There is more bike there than I will be capable of needing for awhile but this is the bike I would take out west if I only could take one bike. 3. Salsa Fargo-“Waylon” I want to ride gravel races this year. My goal is to ride a 100 mile gravel race by the end of next season. Land Run 100 is on the agenda for 2018 so I better get riding!

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I have not wore kits in the past to ride…..I’m not a smaller built person so the kits that I tried were not comfortable. I have since lost weight and bought a couple of jerseys so looking forward to them next year. I wear padded shorts and a comfortable wicking shirt or tank top. I have a Brooks Saddle that I love on every bike. I love my Garmin, although I probably use it to only about 50% of its ability. I would recommend the same to my fiends.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think fear of the unknown deters them. Women, at least my fiends, like to know what is going to happen and where that will happen at. Mountain biking is not that at all….things change and happen fast. BUT once women get through that fear I think that is why they love it also.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think women need to see other women like them out riding. Women need to realize that this is your chance to go have fun at your own pace. It’s not a race and the only one judging you is you.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love the feeling of serenity I get from riding. I want other women to find that same peace of mind. Also the fact that this hobby has helped me lose 50+ pounds inspires me to want others to be able to do the same.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I am the queen of crock pot cooking!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Women Involved Series: Kate Nolan

My name is Kate Nolan and I am a Trek Women’s Advocate and co-founder of DNK Presents, an outdoor adventure company. I am a Professional Mountain Bike Instructors Association Level 1 Coach, Backpack guide, Leave No Trace Trainer, climbing guide and member of the American Mountain Guide Association and certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR. I love to mountain bike, I am a crosscountry, 24hour, 12 hour and adventure racer.

DNK Presents leads empowering adventure retreats. My wife, Danielle and I started the company in June of 2014 because of our love of the nature and adventure.

We truly live our lives adventurously and we credit our personal and professional success to the challenges we’ve faced in the outdoors. We quickly discovered women were having breakthrough moments while we were coaching women’s mountain bike clinics, leading backpacking trips and in our climbing programs. They were going on to compete in their first mountain bike race or adventure race, to take their families out biking and backpacking, some even went on to summit mountains in Colorado and Oregon. The stories kept coming and we began hearing about career changes, business startups and seeing the beautiful growth in all these amazing women.

When I was nominated by Charlie Revard of The Bike Line Indianapolis and Colin Kuchy of Trek Bicycles to be a Trek Women’s Advocate, I cried. Biking has been such a huge part of my life, I raced BMX as a child and started mountain biking in the early 90’s. My first mountain bike was a purple Trek 920 and it helped me discover a new sense of freedom and self. It came at a time while I was dealing with the loss of my mom to cancer. It really brought me out of a dark place and helped me find strength and community. Then, I discovered I had to complete an application and I got nervous. After all, they selected only 54 women out of over 250 candidates.

It such an honor to lead community rides, host clinics and events as a Trek Women’s Advocate. We’re giving women a safe place to try something new, learn to mountain bike or improve on their riding skills and did I mention an opportunity to meet other badass women. Trek has really created something special and I am so excited to be a part of it and to get more women on bikes and empowered through cycling.

My company, DNK Presents has committed to doing a Women’s Adventure Contest each year and giving away a trip to 4 women based on nominations. Our first contest was this year and took over a year to plan it. We began accepting nominations in January and February and received over 60. We had over 20 corporate sponsors jump on board, including Trek and Athleta. Our local bike shop, The Bike Line donated mountain bike kits and helmets to the winners and our local outfitter, Rusted Moon donated hiking boots. We shared their stories and journeys through a documentary, Live Adventurously.

Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and why two wheels became so vital for you-
My brother, Joe and his friends had a built a ramp at the bottom of hill on old farm that bordered our neighborhood. I would sneak off with my friends, Billy Lockwood and Jimmy Elsworth and we'd take off down the hill on our kiddy bikes with banana seats and take flight. We had so much fun and felt so free! 

You started with racing BMX and eventually transitioned to mountain biking- what was your inspiration for mountain biking?
My friends Eddy Drotar and Richie Crane introduced me to BMX racing when I was in the 4th grade. It took me a few races to bring home a ribbon or a plaque but I was hooked. Barry Mayo had an indoor track on Michigan Avenue. He converted an old furniture store into a great big playground with pumps, berms, a wicked hill start and arcade.

Once I got to college, some friends took me riding on the trails in Pinckney, MI and along the river in Ann Arbor. After my first trail ride, I became the proud new owner of a Trek 920 mountain bike with front suspension painted in one of the most beautiful shades of purple I had ever seen. When I was on the bike, I felt strong, free and found amazing community of friends. Mountain biking helped me overcome the loss of my mother with her battle to cancer. 

What has been your favorite competitive event (or events)?
Indiana is my home and I absolutely love the, Do Indiana Off Road Series races (DINO Series) , DINO Enduro Series and 24 hours of DINO are some of my favorites. DINO also hosts the Death March which is crazy scavenger hunt through Hoosier National Forest on trails and gravel roads. You race in teams of two and seek out cemeteries. This Death March is approximately 60-80 miles depending which checkpoints are drawn at the start line and the weather can go a variety of different ways since it’s Indiana in March. The XTERRA Southern Indiana was a great race for me. Two years ago, I qualified for the XTERRA National Championships.

What was the point where you felt that you were ready to participate in events and what inspired you to take on the events you have?
Getting out and meeting like minded individuals, pushing yourself, having fun and improving are what motivates me the most.

Why do you feel women participating in events is a positive thing?
Ladies, we are tough and the events and the community that come along with the races are amazing. We don’t always give ourselves enough credit. Even in our professional careers, we want to be 100% qualified for a position when men only need to be 60% qualified to apply. Just give it your all, best case you podium, worse case you meet some awesome new friends.

Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They are 100% Qualified

Do you have suggestions for those on the fence about participating? Especially when they may not podium?
I say go for it! Sign up for an event, get to know others in the biking community, pick an event at your favorite local trail and go for it. You’ll make lots of great friends, become part of an awesome community and build confidence and improve your skills while having a great time.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My first mountain bike ride was pure bliss. I was on an old borrowed Gary Fisher. It was great to step away from the stresses at home, the stresses at school and feel that freedom I discovered as a kid.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I had an awesome mentor, sponsored triathlete, runner and yoga instructor, Robbin Schneider who helped me overcome the anxiety. She taught me to roll back my shoulders, open my heart to the sky and breath. I still hear her voice in my head when I get stressed.

Clips or flats- what do you love and why?
I go back and forth between the two. Racing generally clips. When I am out riding with friends, traveling or coaching mountain bike clinics, I go with flats. Plus, it takes me back to my BMX days.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Getting out and riding your bike, training, always keeping a positive attitude and expect the best results. It’s easy to think I am not fast enough, not good enough, so stop apologizing and give it your best. You’ll be impressed with the outcome. I love to sing while pushing myself, it keeps me smiling and going and makes everyone else around me smile too.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started I learned from fellow riders, friends and competitors. My suggestion is to take a clinic if you can. You will learn so much and be able to take those skills with you and practice and build on them. I’m fortunate enough to be a Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association (PMBIA) Instructor and have the rewarding job of teaching people to ride more efficiently, learn the skills, build on them in a safe environment and have an awesome time doing it.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I believe if you’re not smiling while mountain biking, you are doing it wrong. We are all trying to learn and build on our skills. I have really been working on the manual and being able to hold it. My approach is to set aside some time to practice, take a clinic, watch videos and before you get frustrated take a break and come back to it. Eventually, it will make sense to you and you’ll get it.
What do you love most about having a wife and partner who enjoys the same things you do?
It is so awesome to share the same passions, to experience the same adventures together, it really brings you closer and strengthens your relationship. I knew after completing our first Death March Adventure Race, we knew we could do anything together.

DNK Presents has been a huge part of your life- what do you love most about owning your own business?
It so great to get out and share your passion for the outdoors and adventure with others. There’s nothing more rewarding than helping people find themselves, achieve new goals, improve their riding, get out and complete their first race, summit their first mountain and hear their stories.

What has been the biggest challenge with owning your own business? What has been your greatest success?
The biggest challenge was starting an adventure company in Indiana. We’re not necessarily known for our mountains, races, rock climbing or hiking. We have awesome mountain biking in Brown County State Park, a 28 miles IMBA Epic trail system, the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association is adding a flow trail in 2017, you can thru-hike the 42 mile Tecumseh Trail and the rugged 58 mile Knobstone Trail as well as rappel 100’ at Hemlock Cliffs. Most people don’t even realize what all we have right here in the state.

Our biggest success has been the DNK Presents Women’s Adventure Contest and documentary film, “Live Adventurously”. Danielle and I are committed to do the contest each year. Our documentary short of the 2016 contest recently played in Banff, Canada, and is premiering on April 14th at the Indianapolis Museum of Arts outdoor amphitheater. 

Why do you feel it's vital for women to be involved with the outdoors, be it biking or other types of outdoor adventures?
It’s empowering in their personal lives and professional careers. When we are kids, we play side by side with boys, right? Then,we get to around age 13 or so and stop. We start doing what’s society shows us is appropriate for girls. I compare it to a baby elephant, the trainer ties the baby to rope and drives a wooden peg in the ground, as the elephant grows bigger and stronger it could easily pull the peg from the ground but it remains there because it doesn’t believe it can pull it out. We need to pull the peg out of the ground ladies! We can do it and it’s awesome. Challenge yourself, learn, grow, lift each other up and have a damn good time doing it.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Trek Fuel EX 9.8 that is my favorite bike. It fun to ride, the travel on the suspension can handle drops in the mountains and on the downhill trails, it’s capable of 29” or 27.5”+ wheels, it’s super light and fast. She’s basically fierce and flawless and she’s in racing blue and orange.

My other ride is a Knolly Endorphin, I won this bike at the Sedona Mountain Bike festival. It’s also fun, lots of travel, it’s stretched out to handle Whistler terrain, it’s homeland.

I have a Trek Madone 5.4 that I use for country roads and work. She’s also blue, fast and rigid.

Giant Anthem X 29 is my winter bike currently, she was once my go to Crosscountry racing bike with less travel, lightweight and fitted for speed.
You are one of 54 Trek Women Advocates- what are your hopes and goals for the upcoming year as an Advocate?
What an honor this is and I plan to get more women on bikes. I want to build an awesome biking community in Indy for women. I have put together a calendar of rides, clinics and events to give women a platform to learn together in a fun safe environment. I have a Trek Women’s Clinic on April 30th, some mini clinics on mountain biking, maintenance, safety and clothing. My hope is to get more women out there getting more comfortable, learning new skills, challenging themselves in a fun safe environment and building on those skills. Trek Women Rule!

The Trek Women's Advocate program is just getting started- why are you stoked to be part of the program?
My first bike was a Trek, it helped me get through the loss of my mother at age 19. Trek has always been a leader in racing. Look at their current women athletes, Rachel Atherton - downhill (Perfect Season 2016), Emily Batty - xc mountain biking, Bronze Medalist in the 2016 Olympics, Katie Compton - cyclocross. John Burke is committed to women and making this program a success. He believes if a woman is on a bike then it’s a women’s bike. I am so honored and grateful to be representing Trek and working with so many inspiring women like Candace Shadley of Trek Dirt Series, Sally Marchand Collins of Sundance Mountain Bike Skills Clinic and Erin Blackiston Wells of Muddy Pedals and so many others!

What does it mean to you to be a Trek Women's Advocate?
This is a truly a dream come true. This falls into place with everything we’re doing with DNK Presents and women’s empowerment. Biking has played such a huge role in my life and who I am. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting out on a bike and exploring. You see things in a new perspective and experience such joy and freedom. I can’t stop smiling!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
Most women are introduced to it by a spouse, boyfriend or brother and it can be intimidating. It such an awesome experience to get out there alongside other women and to experience that sense of community and work together as a team. Coaching women’s clinics are my absolute favorite. To see it come together and click and the joy and confidence it brings. Something changes when you’re out there with other women discussing and committing to your line choice through a rock garden, riding that first skinny or going over a teeter or log. It’s amazing and life changing!

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Programs like this, encouraging women to work together, to learn together to create that sense of community. To make mountain biking more approachable, to enjoy free group rides led by professional mountain bike instructors and also introducing the next generation to mountain biking and biking in general. We’re so much stronger together and as women, I believe we sometimes lack balance. We maintain traditional household roles, have professional careers and sometimes don’t take time for ourselves. It’s so important to step back and have some good healthy fun alongside our peers.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
It’s been so rewarding for me personally. It’s freedom, fun, therapy on two wheels and there’s nothing better than sharing that joy with others. Seeing the smiles on the faces of others makes my soul happy.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My dad told me growing up to never let anyone tell me that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. He also told me to always give 100% because everyone would be watching me. At age 12, I received my black belt in Tae Kwon Do Ji Do Kwan.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Winter Riding and Perfectionism Don't Mix.

Last week, anticipation had been building during the day on Saturday for the first true snow ride of the season. It was like waiting on pins and needles for Christmas Eve to roll around when you were a kid.
My stomach had been all tingly and fluttery and I was ready to have the most epic snow ride of my year.

I knew it was going to be great!

Oh, Josie. Why do you make promises to yourself that you can't keep? I swear, there are times where I have a hunch yet reality is different. I envision myself riding this or that perfectly only to completely mess it up moments later and have a bewildered sense of disbelief floating around myself.

Travis was stoked. He would be riding the new Trek 9.8 that we got at the shop, sporting 27.5" wheels and 27.5x4.5 Gnarwhal tires that had beauteous lugs. I would be on the Snow Queen who had undergone a makeover. New, lighter wheels and my tried and true 45NRTH Vanhelga tires- I had ridden her a few weeks ago when conditions were dry and felt like she was more nimble, which excited me. I knew that this ride was simply going to be amazing...I would totally rock the climbs and feel like a superstar.

However, reality checks came and they came in plentiful during the ride. Travis was like a kid again, feeling absolutely invigorated and inspired by his new steed. I felt slow. I felt awkward. I didn't feel confident. I couldn't ride up all of the hills. I was growing increasingly frustrated and irritated with how completely wrong my hunch was.

The feelings that riddled my head were all based upon my habit of being too hard on myself. Also, my hopeful wish of being inspired by my fatbike were squashed when seeing how easy it all went for Travis. My bike didn't have larger wheels or as wide of tires and I didn't have a carbon frame. Not only was I putting unnecessary blame on myself and my snow riding, but I was putting blame on my bike. My pride had taken a hit and I was in a nasty funk- when I should've been elated for Travis as it had been so long since he had felt inspired by a bike...I was jealous.

We got to the pines and I followed behind, telling myself I needed to cut it out and just enjoy being able to play in the first "real" snow of the season. It could be worse.

Travis was patient, and I can't thank him enough for that. I got a hug, one that I feel I didn't totally deserve, but at the same time it was helpful to have. Being a grumpy curmudgeon was not going to benefit the ride or us one iota. My confidence inched back when we rode the upper portion of Little Big Horn, that is, until we turned around and Travis had me lead us back. Of course going the opposite direction and feeling timid with momentum had me spinning out on some uphill sections. The exact reason why I didn't want to lead- because I knew he'd get past those spots without issue. I also had to remind myself to stay seated more, which seems to take a ride or two before I really "get" it. It takes me back to the days when you got a week of roller skating in P.E. It took almost the whole week to get used to it, by the last day I was skating forwards and backwards like I had been doing it forever. It took 3 days of falling on my ass in front of people to get the hang of it; fatbiking seems to be the same way. I also had to figure out what was too easy or too hard of a gear, and for me, that takes some time and rides before I remind myself what feels "right" for the conditions. Word to the wise, be in a gear that feels one step harder than you think you should be in- because it's probably the right one and once you shift to an easier gear, you're S.O.L.

I wanted to ride back and try going up North 40 again as that was the trail that left me the most sour. I tried about three times, each time spinning out on a root. Travis wasn't able to get up the hill perfectly either, and said that the snow felt more slippery since we had ridden it and that I had to accept the fact that neither of us would likely make the climb. I hated to admit defeat, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. I was becoming hungry and I had no patience for wanting to try a futile climb...a lesson one needs to learn with mountain biking or fatbiking is when to call it.

You can exhaust yourself into a stupor if you want to, trying time after time to make this or that. One of the best lessons I learned is to give yourself a number- I will try this 3 times or 5 times and if I can't make it, move on. Try again tomorrow. Burying yourself in frustration will do nothing to boost your confidence or desire to keep working at the challenge until you conquer it. It's good to come back with a fresh mindset!

It's humbling to look back on an evening of riding and realize you took everything for granted. If I had not brought perfection into the equation I would've had a far more enjoyable time. I would've been truly happy for Travis and his ride, I would've laughed off my flubs, and I would've simply enjoyed being out in the beauty of winter.

Why do I ride in the winter? Because it gets me outside, it challenges me more than riding any other season, and it makes me grateful for what I was able to accomplish during the other 3 seasons. Winter riding and snow riding make me appreciate what my body can do, it reminds me that you can't go into a ride with high expectations- because you never know what you're going to get. Especially with snow conditions.

I enjoy feeling strong, I thrive on discovering that I can ride up a snow-covered hill, and I love that it makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. It makes me feel alive.

Fatbiking reminds me that I take things too seriously and I compare myself way too much to the riders around me. I need to be me and ride my way- not try to be the next Travis, Jeff, or whomever I idolize for their remarkable riding ability and skill. If I spend all my time trying to ride like Travis, I won't be able to enjoy or appreciate what I am able to do or have yet to do.

When you feel frustrated about your riding ability, take to heart that we all feel that way at some point. Eventually, those feelings may dwindle and become infrequent. I feel if one has a perfectionistic tendency, it may be harder to let those feelings go by the wayside- but know that if you allow yourself to live in the moment...YOUR moment...you will have a much more fulfilling riding experience.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Just a Few of my Favorite Things

Today's post features several products that I have found to be of great benefit or enjoyment for me during my 2016 riding season. Finding favorite products that one enjoys is somewhat like having Christmas all-year round. A few of these products I'm a brand ambassador for, but others are simply for the pure
1. SockGuy Socks
I can't say enough good things about the SockGuy brand socks. I just love them and I am proud to be part of #teamsockguy. I'm not sure how many pairs of socks I have in my dresser drawer, but I will admit that there are a lot. My tastes on sock styles have changed from ankle to tall, and I'm always able to find at least one pair of socks when Travis places an order for the store. I feel socks are a fun and simple way to bring some flair to any outfit- be cycling or just everyday. Plus, the socks have all been super comfy- you have the option of getting wool ones, too!

2. Honey Stinger Waffles
I had a hankering to try the Honey Stinger waffle, so Travis brought a couple flavors into the shop. I fell in love. I always hate when the late afternoon snack cravings hit and there isn't anything I really want to eat. Clif Bars used to be a go-to, but I hated how much effort they took to eat, especially on bike rides. Plus, it was usually more food than I wanted to take in. The Waffles are easy to eat, perhaps too easy, and not heavy. My hunger is kept at bay and I'm not feeling overly full when supper time hits. The flavors of Honey Stinger Waffles I've had: Caramel, Honey, Lemon, and Gingersnap. I honestly can say I love them all!

3. ESI Extra Chunky Grips
I am stoked to be part of the ESI family for the 2017 riding season! Especially after discovering the comfort of their Extra Chunky grips. During the busy season I helped with a lot of bike assembly, bike detailing, taking bikes off of stands/displays, and a lot of off-road riding. With that I found my hands were fatiguing very easily. I have chronic/ongoing repetitive motion stress issues with my hands, wrists, arms/shoulders- when I have flareups I found it difficult for me to comfortably maintain my grip on my bike. I was using the standard ESI Chunky grips, but I felt like it wasn't enough for my hands. I struggled to find gloves with padding that worked for me as well. Riding became a source of frustration due to being uncomfortable, and I had a 40 mile event to prepare for!
The Extra Chunky grips were lifesavers and now my go-to grip for all of my bikes. The only downside I've found is my right grip wears more than my left (active hand, shifting with a 1-by drivetrain, etc.) but I have found that I haven't destroyed a pair of grips with my frequency of riding yet. You can also rotate them to extend their life if you are so inclined.

4. Joshua Tree Ocotillo Lip Balm
This is my most favorite lip balm, sparkles combined with a pretty pink shade and SPF 10 make this my go-to for 3 seasons of riding. My only downfall is not ordering enough sticks to let me have one for every Camelbak! It goes on smooth and it just makes me feel pretty- I'm not a "girly girl" but I do love me some sparkle lip balm, especially a kind that doesn't get sparkles ALL over my face. The flavor of the balm is subtle- a hint of vanilla and it's not artificial tasting. In the winter months I also like using their Winter Stick. I'm awful at using a balaclava, so this helps me keep my nose and cheeks protected. They make a wide variety of wonderful products for you to choose from- healing salves to lotion, and much more!

5. AbsoluteBLACK oval chainring
I'm not going to get all "spec-y" when it comes to components, but I will say that I have noticed a difference with pedaling efficiency with the oval style chainring. Smooth & fluid. I've gone oval on most of my dry-season bikes and have found that (for me) it does feel more like I'm clipped in even when I'm on flats. I can't wait to try an oval out on Snow Queen (my fatbike) for this winter! Since using an oval, climbing up our hills is more effective and overall the pedaling movement itself feels more natural. I love that I do not have to clip in for that feeling! I didn't notice anything strange or different when I first switched- I got on and rode like I had been riding an oval for years. I'm very happy with the change and feel they are a great asset to my cycling!

I am pleased to announce I have joined the TOGS family as an ambassador; their product provided me with support and comfort for long rides last year and will for many years to come!
When you first see them you think "Really?" I will say, yes, really. I will admit it did take a few tries to figure out how exactly I wanted the TOGS to be placed. I've just learned of custom grips from ESI that work especially well with the TOGS setup (especially if you have smaller hands, they are supposed to work great!) I will be able to give an opinion on that next season!
With my hand fatigue/discomfort issues, having multiple placements for me to put them is very beneficial. I did not want to put actual bar ends on my off-road bike that I use for racing, nor did I want to put them on the Cali for gravel riding. We have a friend who uses TOGS, so Travis thought it might be worth my while to give them a shot. Once I found the placement I liked, I found that I went there several times during my mountain bike rides along with my gravel rides. I actually liked using them when I was climbing, too! It felt like it gave me better control and I appreciated the additional hand placement options for my long rides.

7. Borah Teamwear Kit
When I want to feel like a complete badass, I will wear my Decorah Bicycles/FWD Borah Teamwear kit or jerseys. Thanks to the kind folks at Borah I was able to represent Decorah Bicycles and FWD at Chequamegon! I have since invested in a long sleeved jersey and matching shorts. The long sleeved jersey is quite nice and the fabric isn't too thin- I feel it's a legitimate cooler weather jersey with excellent layering potential.
The shorts with the yoga band took a little getting used to, my problem is I have a short torso and the band area took several adjustments to be comfortable. I'm picky, but once I found where it worked best, I was able to comfortably do a 10 mile trainer ride without a thought. The chamois is very comfortable and I didn't feel pressure or hot spots during the trial. I'm excited to wear these with the jersey next year for a couple of my bigger-ticket events!

Borah has been an excellent company to work with, and Decorah Bicycles will have a size run of the long sleeved jerseys and men's and women's short sleeved Team cut jerseys soon!

9. Five Ten Contact and EPS High shoes
I loved the Five Ten Freeriders, but once I got a pair of the Contacts I found my favorite riding shoe to date. I wore the Contacts during Chequamegon 40 and wear them during almost all of my dry-season rides. The soles are stiffer than the Freeriders (IMO) and I like the smooth patch on the bottom vs. the honeycomb style. I feel I can really attach my feet to the pedal pins which gives me confidence when riding. They are a durable shoe with a more plastic-type outer shell, which I feel is helpful for wet conditions. Do note that they are not water proof and after the Decorah Time Trials, I worked to dry them out for about 3 days! The bottoms of my Contacts are definitely showing wear after a season+ of regular usage, but they are still very much usable.

The EPS High shoes have been fabulous, tho they are not going to be the go-to winter shoe for me when temps are below 40 degrees. I will wear legit snow boots for my snow riding. However, they have proven to be a great option for me on the fall days where my Contact shoes would've left my feet very chilly. Water resistant and touting Primaloft insulation, these have become my go-to shoes for temps between 50-40 and my current shoe for winter commuting purposes. They feel like a mix between the Contact and Freerider shoes- same bottom as the Freerider, but stiffer like the Contact. I like the support and lack of foot flex, Travis tho would rather feel the pedals more. It all depends what you like- I've worn them daily for almost a month and they still maintain their integrity.

10. Shebeest Petunia Houndstooth Bib, Cycling Cap, and Armsleeves
I've been part of the Shebeest family for awhile and when they came out with their new bib design I was intrigued. The Petunia bib is special in that it is created without any seams. A very comfortable and fluid bib short. I wasn't entirely sure if I could pull off such a bold pattern, however, by the end of the season I found that Houndstooth became my "spirit animal."
It took me a bit to get used to wearing bibs as I'm very much a shorts person (still am!) but after having it on and riding for a bit, I forgot I was wearing it. To go to the bathroom, it's easy enough, but I'm still one that finds the ease of just "dropping to go" much more up my alley.
I found a new love of cycling caps after I had to switch helmets for my long rides. A Starvos MIPS road helmet became my go-to, but I missed the sun protection of a visor. A cute houndstooth cycling cap was the ticket- and I loved that it had some reflective detailing on the bill!
The sun sleeves were also used far more than I thought- light enough yet warm enough to use on days when it was just a touch chilly due to lack of sun. I make sure to wear sunscreen, but on long road/gravel rides having extra coverage is never a bad thing. Plus, pairing them together with the bibs and cap equaled a totally rad kit for the PertNear 20! I had guys complimenting my attire! 

11. Specialized Women's 686 Tech Jacket
I have not worn this jacket a whole lot yet, but I'm very excited to put it through the paces of winter riding! I've had a few jackets I've worn for the winter months, and use my Outdoor Research Aria Hoodie a lot- but it's not really waterproof or wind proof. This jacket doesn't have bulk, has a lot of zippers for ventilation, and has water resistant properties along with being windproof.
It has a powder skit to help keep snow from getting up your backside and it's a jacket that has the flexibility to go around the wrist section of some darn thick gloves! I have hated struggling with getting a sleeve over the wrist portion of my thick winter gloves- this was a huge high point for me!
There are a lot of other great features with this jacket: reflective details, adjustable sleeve gussets, and an adjustable hood to name a few.

12. Race Face DIY and Khyber gloves
I thought I needed gloves with padding, well, I was wrong. With the ESI grips, both the DIY and Khyber gloves from RaceFace have been some of the most comfortable I've worn. The DIY I save for spring/fall months when temps are on the cooler side.
The Khyber gloves are worn a lot during the warmer months. Style points! The purple goes amazingly well with the Borah Decorah Bicycles/FWD jersey! Both allow you to use a cellphone (swiping) and keep me protected from any off-road mishaps. The only thing I've worn off is some of the Race Face gripper section on the Khyber gloves- otherwise for almost daily usage of both for a season+ they have withstood my riding with flying colors.

13. Loam Coffee
I discovered Loam Coffee thru the glorious entity that is Instagram. Based out of the Pacific

My personal favorite at this point is the Fire Hydrant blend.
Northweast, they are a small company who is rapidly growing their family of ambassadors and coffee lovers. Combining two of my favorite things- biking and coffee, I had to give it a try! It was exciting to get my first order of coffee literally a couple days after they completed the roasting process. That mail box smelled fantastic!

As mentioned, these are a handful of products and gear that have made my riding season more complete. Great companies, great sponsors, and quality products that make me feel great on and off the bike. Maybe you'll find a new favorite among these that I have selected! If you have a recommendation on something I might like, please share!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Women Involved Series: Jaimee Erickson

Photo Credit: Missy Davis
Josie's Bike Life featured Jaimee Erickson of Redfrog Athletics earlier in the year and just recently Jaimee launched a Kickstarter featuring her clothing.

We wanted to catch up with Jaimee on what has been going on with her business and how things have been progressing- turning her dream into a reality!

Redfrog Athletics on Instagram & Facebook
Redfrog Athletics website.

Redfrog Athletics was founded with a relentless sense of adventure and a goal that’s just a bit rebellious: equip you with functional, stylish cycling apparel, so you can feel confident and comfortable on and off your bike.

First off, for those who may not have read your first interview- you're starting your own business: Redfrog Athletics. Tell us about your business and what you aim to provide for the cycling community?
Yes, I started Redfrog Athletics about 18 months ago to improve the cycling experience for women and encourage them to get on a bicycle and pedal. I was motivated to start the company after a life-changing cross country bicycle ride. On this trip I had the unique opportunity to test all types of cycling gear while spending countless hours in a cycling-endorphin-creative-high state of mind. I spent majority of my trip thinking about ways to improve the cycling experience for women, because cycling was improving my life immensely, and I wanted to share the love. Getting up every morning and jumping on my bicycle gave me an absolutely unparalleled feeling of independence. The rush of adrenaline + physical exertion in combination with the quiet, peaceful, meditative state of mind changed how I viewed and moved through life.
The only part of my cycling experience that had lots of room for improvement was the cycling apparel. As any woman who has stepped foot into a cycling shop in the United States knows, the sport caters to men. Most of the female gear is based off the male physique with "female elements" added as an afterthought. I ended up wearing men's cycling wear on my trip because it was higher quality and wasn't covered in hearts and butterflies. The fit was wrong, which made it look awful and feel uncomfortable, but it was functional.
I want very badly to change that experience for women on bicycles. I want them to feel comfortable and confident in high quality athletic wear designed for their bodies. I would love for the Redfrog line to generate feelings of independence and badassery :). The ultimate goal is to create a sisterhood of empowered women who can feel connected and driven by their shared passion of pedaling -- whether they ride for social bonding, fitness reasons, mental health, adventuring purposes, or a competitive outlet. By creating this sisterhood of supportive female cyclists, my hope is to welcome more women to the cycling community as a whole.

With creating your own clothing line, what would you say has been the most challenging aspect?
There have been a few challenging aspects of creating a clothing line. I will break it up into product-related challenges and business-related challenges.
The first product-related challenge was finding a solid pattern maker (as anyone in the space knows, this is hugely important for the success of any clothing line). I was quite fortunate in this department and managed to hire an extremely talented pattern-maker, Meghan Goss. Finding Meghan changed the game for Redfrog and gave me a lot more confidence moving forward with production. The next product-related challenge was finding a manufacturer, who was capable of producing the high quality cycling apparel we had prototyped and designed. We are thrilled with our current manufacturing and sourcing partners.
The most constant ongoing "business-related" challenge is cash flow management. This basically determines whether your business is running smoothly or you need to make some changes. I have learned that keeping a close eye on these numbers and understanding the ins and outs of expenses and revenue is quite vital for the survival of the company.

Since we last talked, what have you discovered or learned about starting up your own business that may be helpful for new entrepreneurs?
Creating a Gantt chart or timeline of some sort to project manage yourself (and whoever else that might be working with you) is huge. It feels like there are a million things that need to happen everyday, so figuring out a structured method of prioritizing is very important for mental health and company progress.
Photo Credit: Missy Davis
You currently have a Kickstarter going, tell us about the pieces you have available for the fundraiser and why you chose to create them?
Yes, Kickstarter is live! We have four Redfrog pieces on this Kickstarter campaign: The Racerback, The Hammer-T, The Long Sleeve, and The Commute Jacket. All of the pieces are made with a customized blend of merino wool and are feature complete for cycling. More details on the Kickstarter or Redfrog Collection Page.

Out of the pieces on Kickstarter, what would you say has been the most popular among your ambassadors/testers?
The Commute Jacket has been the crowd favorite thus far. Full disclosure: it is also my favorite piece. It is very different from any other cycling jacket out on the market and is flattering on a wide range of body types. All of the Redfrog cycling tops are styled in a way to flatter the body on and off the bicycle, but the Commute Jacket is the piece that you might never take off (especially with the anti-stink properties of the material).

Tell us about the Redfrog Athletics Squad- how can women get involved?
Excellent question! The Redfrog Squad was created to establish a support network for women on bicycles everywhere. These members motivate women in their communities to get on their bicycles and pedal in any capacity. They also have exclusive insight into new products / product features and receive samples to test and review. We are working towards planning cycling trips and weekend getaways for the Squad to bring this community to life.
If you are interested, please contact me (jaimee@redfrogathletics.com) with the email subject line - "Redfrog Squad" and I will send more details and instruction on the application process.

Why do you feel it is important to be more than just a clothing company, rather- why is it important to create community within your brand?
The clothing company essentially serves as a vehicle for the more important and meaningful mission behind Redfrog: empower women. I feel incredibly grateful that I grew up in a family surrounded by powerful, hilarious, intelligent, badass women, who all supported one another. I want to grow that support network and spread that reach to include more women. Since cycling impacted my life in such a meaningful way, and I saw a giant lack of female support in the space, I felt very inspired to change the cycling experience for women and bring them into a cycling sisterhood. Community is everything at Redfrog :)

What do you hope to see with the women's cycling community as it grows?
I hope to see a more diverse (age, race, income bracket, fitness level, etc.) group of women on bicycles as the women's cycling community grows. I would also love to see a clear path of entry into the sport for women with support, guidance, and community built into the experience.

What do you hope to accomplish with your brand in the next few years? Any projects in the works you can tell us about?
I would love to build up the Redfrog community and motivate more women to get on bicycles. We are also working on partnerships with non-profits with similar missions - empowering women by reducing the barrier to entry to bicycling.

Any personal goals that you've set for yourself for the next year that you'd like to share?
Personal Goal - Figure out how to balance in a handstand on my saddle / handle bars on my cross bike, while in motion :)
Redfrog Goal - Finalize the bottom half of our cycling kit, so we can support women on bicycles from the neck to the ankle.

Photo Credit: Missy Davis
Any final words on why you would love to see women support your brand?
All forms of supporting Redfrog (buying our products, becoming a Squad Member, posting to social media, talking to friends about Redfrog, reaching out to me or other team members) are incredibly motivating, helpful and wonderful. It means the world to us to see other women identifying with the mission and getting on board with the movement. We also love and really appreciate all the support from men who support women and Redfrog :)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Keeping the Stoke While Battling Burnout.

After trying to write this post a handful of times yesterday, a conversation with a friend helped me come to terms with accepting that I need to "live in the moment."

I'll admit, I'm not a person who lives well in the present, I'm always thinking back on past events or looking towards future things and finding my life encased in an envelope of ever-increasing stress.

Coming to terms with this isn't making the writing of this any easier, but it will hopefully be a source of comfort for other folks who may have felt the same way at some point in time.

Part of my funk lately is the fact that progressing with riding has now become more difficult. My friend said "your first year of riding you had a 10% growth. Now you're down to 5%" which honestly, is probably more realistic in terms of how one usually grows with mountain biking. I was fortunate enough to be able to devote copious amounts of time and energy due to my non-traditional work schedule. This allowed me to attain the most basic skills to be a semi-successful rider in a short period of time. After that, it's fine-tuning those skills so you become a better rider on multiple levels:
being able to carry speed thru corners, ride faster with more confidence, ride technical sections successfully, and be better at handling skills in general (like wheel lifts, etc.)

I was feeling anxious over attending my first Co-Ed ride in weeks after hosting regular women's rides. For some reason, I had reverted back to old thoughts of "holding the guys back" and worried about "being slow." My pride plummeted when I spun out on climb in front a rider and let him pass me; I felt sour over my apparent "lack of ability." I spent the rest of the ride trying to keep up and feeling pathetically sorry for myself. Add in that it was my first truly cold ride of the season, I didn't think I needed to use my inhaler prior to heading out. I was so wrong.

Travis knew I was in a funk, but I did the wrong thing when it comes to group ride participation- I sucked it up, didn't request a slower pace, and pushed myself grudgingly thru the entire ride. I cursed my lack of speed and damned myself for not being strong enough to just "deal with it."
That night I admitted to Travis that I was stuck in a pity party and that I knew I was the only one feeling negative about the ride. They weren't standing around talking about how slow or poor of a rider I was. Not at all! They were happy to be outside riding bikes and I should've spoken up. An act that would've been been appreciated more than my radio silence.

Several days later Travis and I went on a ride again. I was in the throes of my monthly cycle and it took probably half the ride to really get myself warmed up and "going." The second half I was feeling stronger, but screwing up on little things that made me want to throw my bike. "Why do I even think I'm a decent rider?" Again, the negative self-talk and thoughts started trickling in and skewing my way of thinking.

I finally opened up to Travis on my feelings and while doing so, spun out on a root. I had to throw my leg out to prevent myself from falling sideways...great. I made my way to where he was standing and he told me it was time for a trail side hug. Trail side pep talks are a rarity, but that night Travis felt it was necessary.

"There is a similarity of how you're feeling now, with your own struggles relative to your current reasons, compared to the struggles that of a newbie rider who has his/her own struggles for their reasons. They both affect confidence and the overall fun had through the riding experience. 

You can't let these situations take over your emotions and take away from why you're out there in the first place. It's almost like going back to the beginning, although you're way past that; it's almost a replay but with a different mentality on the subject. Is refining the ride once you're at a higher level harder than accomplishing the goals of climbing this or that hill, getting through that skinny section, or whatever it is when you're starting out? They're very similar, however, you almost feel worse now that you're good at it- because you're still searching for perfection

Perfecting is harder than accomplishing the skills needed to be successful on the basic level, so don't be so hard on yourself. Your rate of acquiring skills has been excessively fast, therefor the current goals not coming at such a high rate can seem to be a bit of a let down or a greater frustration."
Dealing with the concept of having rapid growth and leveling off into a more natural and steady progression is something I haven't dealt with before. Instead of seeing it for what it is, I got pissed off with myself and my supposed "lack of ability."

I started to feel panicked. I've signed up for a second fatbike race, a 30 k, and the weekend after I have a 20 mile fatbike race with Travis. Then my goals for the summer season...Time Trials, a 30 mile mtb race, Chequamegon 40, and the PertNear 20.

I'm not a racer from the sense I'm on a team nor am I heavily sponsored by large companies. I hardly qualify as "grassroots," and in general I have limited time to train and race. I do well for someone with my time constraints for training, but I started feeling like a sham. I questioned how I won the women's category for the Time Trials and I wondered how 10th in my age group at Chequamegon could be considered doing "very well." I did these events to challenge myself and have fun, but I started to feel like a nobody. I took everything that I accomplished for my season and deemed it unworthy of praise.
This is when I told myself to "cut it out."

Why do I ride? Because I like it. It's fun, it's freeing, and it makes me feel strong and confident. The challenge.
Why do I race? To see how I can push myself. To ride somewhere different than Decorah. To try something new. To meet new people. Buy different beer (ha!) and show women that even if they aren't racing to podium, they can still go and be proud of what they accomplished. Finishing is an accomplishment!

The other side of the burnout coin involves my work with growing women's participation in mountain biking. I didn't take the words I wrote about being "Your Own Advocate" seriously enough to believe them. I started to feel pressured with my lack of accomplishment in my area; I've barely given FWD a chance to grow. I had become impatient, frustrated, and wondered why I was putting forth such an effort. "No one cares." My mind said that without being a "someone" in the industry/advocacy world already, looking for sponsorship as a women's advocate in mountain biking would be nearly impossible.
I took my so-called lack of local success and used that to negate everything I had done over the years as a voice for women and mountain biking.
I took an "I'm sorry, but you're not" from earlier this year and started telling myself "You'll never be" and let me tell you- there is nothing more crushing than taking your passion and slapping yourself in the face with it. It was time for an attitude check.

Burnout is when I become overwhelmed with what I'm passionate about and ultimately run away from it. I started to procrastinate. I found myself withdrawing from riding, withdrawing from writing, and withdrawing from believing in what I feel is something I'm meant to do. I hid from myself. What lit up my soul's fire ended up making me disconnect emotionally and mentally because I decided for whatever reason- I couldn't handle my own success or the success yet to come.

I realize that getting more women to be active with off-road riding in Decorah is a challenge, but it's one that I set out to accept and change. It may be slow going, but I committed myself to this for no matter how long it will potentially take me. I know it may be years and I might only see a handful of women stand up and overcome their fears and anxiety of our trails and gravels- but that is more than if I didn't try at all.

If I was a quitter, I wouldn't be mountain biking. If I was a quitter, I would've stopped trying to get more women off-road riders built up in my community. I'm bull-headed and sometimes you have to sink deep into your personal funk in order to climb back out of that mental hole feeling more determined than ever to make a change.

FWD- Fearless Women of Dirt is going to expand next year with the help of some wonderful women who will be ambassadors for FWD, who believe in helping more women find their #bikelife on dirt- be it mountain biking or gravel. I had to accept that FWD is something I can't do solo- it's something that is meant to be shared. FWD is a mindset and it's something I need to actively do myself- Move Forward. I feel grateful and excited that other women feel the same way!

I have been humbled by the support of other women, some in the same boat as myself with smaller groups and others who have support of larger entities helping them with their goals. I have to remember and take to heart- there is a place for all of us.

I'm always grateful for the companies that choose to support a person such as myself. Thank you for believing in me and letting me have a chance to represent you, your philosophies, and your products along with supporting a women's mountain biking/biking advocate. You rock!

Burnout happens, sometimes it sneaks up on you and other times it just completely blankets you. Either way, how you choose to move past it is what will bring you peace of mind. If you love something enough, you will find a way to get out of the muck that is negative self-talk and avoidance. Remember why you are passionate about whatever it is that fuels your soul and be thankful for the opportunity to reflect. 

You are doing great things by simply being you.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Women Involved Series: Lindsey (Voreis) Richter

Earlier this year, Josie was able to meet Lindsey Voreis in person at a mini grit clinic held in the CAMBA area.

Josie left feeling more inspired and motivated than ever to continue her mission to encourage more women to ride off-road, thus, she wanted to reconnect with Lindsey to catch up with what all had changed since the first interview in 2014.

Lindsey, the Director of Inspiration, travels the world with Liv Ladies AllRide to inspire and help other women to find their #bikelife. Riding for Lindsey isn't just a fun way to pass the time, but it helped her get thru some tough patches in life. A true testament yet again to the power of two wheels and how they can be healing.

"The best part about mountain biking is what it does for your mind, body and spirit. It is not just a sport, it is a passion that enhances your whole world." - Lindsey Voreis
We interviewed you about two years ago, since then you have had many women's ride clinics- has everything stayed the same or have you found ways to improve the clinic environment?
We are constantly finding ways to improve the clinic environment. We want to make sure we're throwing events that invite women into the sport and help them fall deeper in love with mountain biking and the lifestyle that comes with it. We have adjusted our teaching techniques to include examples that relate to other sports to help ladies understand the sport better.

We were fortunate enough to attend one of your smaller grit clinics (it was awesome!) One thing we thought was neat was how you had everyone introduce themselves and share a bit about their #bikelife. Why do you feel it's important for folks to open up, even yourself? 
I think it's important to have ladies open up about why they mountain bike and what it's done for their lives because it loosens up the vibe. This gives women insight into other women's heads right away. Mountain biking has done something to enhance people's lives or they wouldn't be doing it or interested in it, so by putting that out on the table right from the get-go, it puts us all on the same page and helps everyone drop their egos and be equals. It also helps ladies see how mountain biking can be so much more than just riding a bike if they haven't thought of it that way yet.

How do you help take care of yourself and prevent burnout or exhaustion when you're living the life of a traveler and mountain bike coach? 
I am a healthy, clean eater for the most part. I try and have green drinks and lots of veggies all the time to fight viruses. I stay hydrated and get my 8-9 hours of sleep each night. I was born with boundless energy, so I'm pretty good at constantly moving.

What has been one of the biggest changes in your life since we talked with you in 2014 and how has that influenced you and your #bikelife?
One of the biggest changes has been starting my own brand of clinics with a new business partner from Bend. Ladies AllRide MTB clinics were born in Jan 2015 and my partner, Meredith is a dream come true. I have learned so much about working with the right people and how amazing women can be to work with when you have the right chemistry, passion and open communication. She's a dream come true for me and Ladies AllRide.

When it came to creating your own brand of clinics, what would you say was the biggest challenge?
There are so many details that go into running an event. When I first started branding clinics with the AllRide name, I co-branded with a woman in Colorado and she did the coordinating and ran the clinics. When we parted ways due to a sponsor conflict I didn't know who was going to run the events for me. Details and organization are not my strong suit. Finding the right partner who understood my mission, was easy to work with and allowed me to take on my strengths seemed like it would be a challenge. But luckily I found my partner Meredith right away and she was the perfect fit from the get-go! However, it took a year and a half, and another partner, Summer, to work out kinks and get the program up and running smoothly. It's not an easy feat to run so many events in different parts of the country. I'm so lucky I found my soul-partners!
What do you love most about having your own brand of clinics? Was there an element missing from the original clinics you held that you are now able to incorporate? 
It's actually easier to just show up and coach for someone else's event!! ha! What I love about having our own brand is we get to choose who we work with and the team we've put together makes me smile every single day. When I taught for other clinics in the past I felt like there was an emotional component missing. I didn't feel like I was connecting with anyone beyond doing drills on my bike with them. It's hard to put a finger on why exactly, but I believe the vibe at our clinics is unbeatable AND our instructors are some of the best and most experienced in the business.

What do you hope to accomplish with your clinics during the next few years? 
I hope to attract more women into this sport with our clinics. I hope people taking the clinics are telling their friends who don't know about mountain biking that there is a way in and we're it! I hope to gain recognition globally as THE place to come if you want to connect deeper with the sport of mountain biking, meet women to ride with and have your minds blown at what you can do on a bike!

What would you say is your greatest achievement with your brand/clinics? 
I could say the greatest achievement is selling out every clinic last year before June without much marketing. That is a HUGE accomplishment and I'm very proud of that. But I'm mostly proud of the team I get to work with, what they've taught me, what I've taught them and the reach we collectively have to get more women stoked on bikes! I'm also really proud to be supported by such amazing companies like Liv, SRAM and so many more. It's unreal.

Truth time! When you first started out mountain biking, what were some of the technical skills that challenged you? What helped? 
When I first started mountain biking going fast scared me. Any steep downhills with ruts in them scared me and I would get off and carry my bike down them. This usually resulted in falling and getting tangled up in my bike. What helped was learning how to ride from my feet and maneuver my front end with my hands instead of just braking and holding on for dear life.

Is there any technical mountain bike skill that still challenges you today?
I would love to hold a wheelie and manual longer than I can. I would love to bunny hop higher and have more confidence and style jumping tables.

When it comes to folks new to mountain biking, what would you say are the top 5 essentials that one should look into for products/tools/etc.
Hmmm, I think good clothing for comfort, a good helmet and shoes. A bike that is comfortable and well-built that is set up properly for the rider. The things to think about these days are wider bars are more stable than narrower bars. A shorter stem is more stable than a long stem and a seat dropper will help you stay balanced and centered over the bike on downhills and in technical terrain at speed.

Where has your favorite place to mountain bike been while you traveled during 2016?
Favorite place is a loaded question. I love to ride my bike and part of the joy is experiencing different types of trails all over the world. I love red rocks and shelf riding like in Sedona and Moab. I love the zippy fun trails in Copper Harbor, MI, I love the DH trails at Snowshoe MT and I love the riding at Kingdom trails and East Burke, Vermont and the trails in Brevard, NC are pretty rad. Sweet trails are being built all over the US so it's an exciting time to be a traveling mountain biker!

What has been the most influential moment for you during one of your clinics? How did it inspire you?
I am influenced and inspired at every clinic. Seeing ladies face fears and do things they didn't think they could do fuels me and inspires me to keep doing what I'm doing. When I hear ladies' stories of perseverance, or any life-changing affect mountain biking has had on them, it inspires me. When women express to me that their lives are changed because of the clinic, that inspires me more than anything to continue on my mission to educate more women about the power of mountain biking.

What would you like women to know about the Ladies AllRide clinics and what can they expect when they attend one?
I would like women to know these events are all about bringing ladies together to play on bikes. No matter what level, from brand new, to advanced racer, our clinics offer something for everyone. Instead of attending races to meet more like-minded people who love bikes, we are creating events centered around learning as a meeting place for women who love bikes and women who don't know they love bikes yet. :)

What do you feel industry wise and/or locally can be done to encourage more women to be involved with cycling and the cycling industry?
I think Liv is doing a great job with their ambassador program around the world. Women need to be invited into this sport. It's really hard to assume they'll decide to try it on their own one day, they need an invite. The Liv ambassadors are out there to create inviting women's events to help women get into the sport in a non-intimidating way. I also think brands are making more products for women and it's making the industry feel less intimidating and more inviting to women. It's happening and I'm so proud to be a part of it!

In your own words, why should more women get involved with mountain biking and why is it such a positive thing to be involved with?
I could go on and on about this... Basically mountain biking is a physically demanding sport that can be scary and intimidating. When women put themselves in scary situations, then find the strength to seek first to understand the situation and how to get through it, then accomplish it, it can literally change lives. A sport like mountain biking teaches us how to think differently, how to choose our thoughts carefully to keep us moving forward, how to allow only positive thoughts in to create positive outcomes. Mountain biking is the best at teaching us about ourselves and how to handle life.

Last question- if you were to ride anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I get to ride almost anywhere in the world! :) I guess bucket list places would be New Zealand and Scotland. :) I'll get there.