Monday, August 29, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Catherine Gardella

I work at Great Basin Bicycles and consider myself the "Shop Mom" and love every minute I'm at the store.

I'm 50 years-old, I've been married for 23 years, I have two beautiful teen age girls and absolutely love to mountain bike.

I'm a roadie when need to be and have loved sharing my story through the Shebeest brand.

What inspired you to discover your #bikelife?
It was more like “who” inspired me to discover my #bikelife. For several years, I watched my husband and his best friend head out into the hills surrounding our neighborhood for hours on end.
When they’d finish a ride, they would both have these big cheesy grins on their faces and all these exciting details to share about their adventure. I loved seeing how much fun they were having as well as how in-shape they were becoming.

Can you take us back to when you first started mountain biking? What inspired you to give off-road riding a shot?
It was spring of 2012, the snow had melted in the lower Sierra and I found myself with a block of free time during the school day. My husband had just upgraded his mountain bike so I thought it would be safe for me to take out his old bike. Thinking back, I must have looked hilarious. I wore his helmet, riding pants and a pair of athletic shoes I used for hiking. I went out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for six weeks. I rode the same trail each day, going a little further each time. When I’d come home, I would wash his riding pants, put everything back in its place and not say a word to anyone about my quest to learn how to mountain bike.

When I finally reached the top of the 3.7 mile trail successfully, I told my husband I had learned how to mountain bike. The look on his face was one of shock, curiosity and fear. It was a Saturday morning so he said, “Show me what you got.” We went out and we had a great time together. He enjoyed helping me learn same basic riding skills and he kept taking me out each weekend.

By fall of 2012, I had proved to him mountain biking was something I wanted to continue doing. He surprised me with a flat black, Gary Fisher Trek Rumblefish 29er! She became my “black diamond” and I’ve never stopped riding since.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I started talking non-stop about my rides with my husband and just kept listening as well as following his advice. I also learn you need to check your ego at the trail head. There is so much you have to learn in order to be a safe rider. It’s very important to listen and apply the advice of other riders.

Looking at yourself now and what you have learned- what tips or suggestions would you give to women who are off-road curious?
Just give it a try. Nobody needs the latest and greatest bike or kit to get started. You just need show up, check your ego at the trail head and ride as far as you feel confident and then turn around and go back before you get too tired or too discouraged. Then show up to the same trail and go a bit further every time.

Clips or flats?
Definitely flats for mounting biking. There’s something about my FiveTens and flat pedals that gives me the opportunity to instantly connect with my inner tomboy.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I’ve encountered to two major biffs. Both were very serious however, neither biff changed my mind-set about mountain biking.

In July 2013, I dislocated my right elbow! Yep, it was a total out of body experience. I tore all the major tendons surrounding my elbow. I couldn’t touch my face for nearly eight weeks and it was a six month recovery. I was back on the bike and completing physical therapy on the exact days my doctor told me I would be.

My second biff happened on August 24, 2015. I was riding a demo and descending on a very familiar trail. I was not used to the sensitive brakes. I was going very fast and managed to lock out the brakes; the bike slid out to my right side and I reached out to brace my fall with my left arm. To be honest with you, it really didn’t hurt. I was super embarrassed. I managed to ride out and even waited 24 hours before going to see my doctor. To make a very long story short, I found myself in surgery four days later and woke up with three screws running down my right humorous.
Recovery was tough. In addition to the physically recovery, I’ve also had to deal with the emotional recovery. Ask my husband, girls, co-workers and friends…I’m riding very cautious this season.

Both injuries were significant. However, my ability to process and work through both of my injuries with support from family, friends and professionals I discovered a sense of strength personally, mentally and physically I never even knew existed inside of me.

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 used to really freak me out. I just did not trust my bike or myself. Following my husband’s line and installing a dropper post helped immensely. My husband took the time, got off his bike and had me walk the section before attempting it on the bike. Being able to drop my seat post gave me the ability to lower my center of gravity, connect with my inner tomboy and go for it.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Yes, absolutely. There is never a ride were I don’t find a challenge. I’ve just become more comfortable and confident on my bike. Going out on rides with other women has really helped with my confidence. I find when I’m with my girl friends we spend the majority of our time enjoying each other’s company. We laugh, we talk, we push each other and first and for most…WE HAVE FUN!

What do you love about riding your bike?
Absolutely everything! I love being out in nature. I love the smells, the silence, the sights and the solitude. I love how I get to solve all the world’s problems without saying a single word. I love how I’ve become stronger. I love how I’ve become a better version of myself.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
This past spring, I used my 50th birthday as the perfect excuse to buy myself two new bikes!

Jewel is my mountain bike. She’s a turquoise Yeti ASRC, 29er. I spec’d out each of her components and built her from the frame up. I chose the Yeti brand because I love the organic and old school vibe of the company. My 29" wheel set complements my love of climbing and gives me the ability to pop over Mother Nature's obstacles plus, added confidence to barrel through intimidating terrain.

My road bike is a Cannondale Quick Carbon. Ponce De Leon as I call him is an upright, 11-speed road bike. I chose the Cannondale upright to aid in my shoulder recovery and allow me to ride 50+ miles without too much upper body fatigue this year.

Last but not least is Clyde. He’s my flat black seven speed beach cruiser. My husband and girls game him to me for Mother’s Day seven years ago. I’d have to say Clyde was the bike that ignited my love of cycling.

Tell us what inspired you to become a Shebeest Ambassador.
I was three days post operation. I was sitting on the coach propped up with pillows, pain meds and the September issue of Bicycling magazine. I was just looking at the pictures, not really able to read any fine print and then I saw the Shebeest Ad! It was a picture of women’s legs sporting crazy, cool biking shorts. I knew immediately, I had to have them in Great Basin Bicycles for all my women riders. As I focused on the body copy, I was excited to learn it was a call to action for women to apply for their new ambassador program. I managed to type out an email on my lap top and apply.

A few weeks later, I pitched the line and my desire to become an ambassador to my boss Rich Staley, the owner of Great Basin Bicycles and like always, he trusted my judgment, approved my idea and gave me a budget to work with.

Fast forward a year later: our first Shebeest order sold out in six weeks, I convinced the majority of our lady riders to try wearing Shebeest bibs and Rich and I designed a custom Great Basin Bicycles jersey for our women riders with the talent created staff at Shebeest.

You also work at a bike shop, what does your job entail and why do you love it?
When I work with the media, my title is “Women’s Riding Specialist” but I really prefer “Shop Mom.” I do everything from sweep the floors, manage the retail side of the store, teach in-door cycling, develop media opportunities, sell bikes, and change flat tires. Recently, one of the mechanics paid me a very nice complement. He said, “Cat, you don’t know how to wrench on a bike but you sure can sell one.”

I love working at Great Basin Bicycles because it has given me the opportunity to share a variety of my talents and personality traits. It’s more than just a place of employment. It’s a community where I can laugh and have fun, provide a positive a healthy outlet for people to experience and contribute to the financial success of very unique business model.

Why do you feel women shouldn't be afraid to seek out employment at a bike shop? Why is having a female presence at a bike shop valuable?
If you eliminate bright colors and fashion from the cycling industry, women provide a very valuable perspective to the entire riding experience. Our bodies respond differently to the mechanics of the bike as well as the terrain.

Women entering the cycling industry need to realize: no guy will ever be able to explain with accurate detail, certainty and confidence why a women’s specific saddle is better than a unisex saddle, why women specific chamois are key to a comfortable ride and why one woman is better suited for woman’s specific frame vs. a unisex frame.

Women today have the potential to take the cycling industry and give it a HUGE financial growth spurt. We have the desire to expand and excel within the sport of cycling. We also have the financial means to support our cycling habit.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I’ve noticed the mechanics and components of a bike intimidate a lot of women from getting involved in cycling, especially mountain biking. However, when a woman takes the time and builds a general knowledge of her bike and its moving parts a whole new sense of confidence builds and suddenly, they want to ride.

An easy way to learn the names of the different components of a bike is to pick up a cycling magazine and read the articles highlighting the new bikes coming out. For goodness sakes, I’ve even googled and watched my fare share of YouTube videos just so I wouldn’t look and sound like such a rookie.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
By having women of all ages and skill levels ride together. I cannot tell how empowering it is to ride with younger women.

Recently, I rode a very technical 18 mile mountain bike trail with women whose ages ranged from 25-54 years-old! We all experience our own challenges, we encouraged each other, waited for each other and went out to eat burgers and drink beer afterwards.

This summer, my sixteen year-old daughter and I have also been attending a weekly women’s mountain biking clinic at our local ski resort in Lake Tahoe. It’s been a “Mommy & Me” experience but on steroids! These types of group settings develop such amazing opportunities to mentor and build empowerment communities for women riders.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The over-whelming joy I experience from riding any bike inspires me to encourage women to ride. I believe bicycles are an addictive anti-depressant. Bicycles provide people the opportunity to reconnect with their youth, build confidence, strength and a sense of freedom.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Twenty years ago, I was climbing the corporate ladder and I all I wanted to do was prove to everybody how talented and smart I was. Then in the wee hours of 2000 a nurse placed a teeny, tiny red headed human in my arms and I knew my life had changed forever. Sixteen years later, I now have two beautiful teenage girls who challenge and inspire me each and every day to set a good example and be a good person.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Elise Manders

In 2001 I worked the medical tent volunteering at Chequamegon. I had the itch to learn to bike and realized I didn't want to spend my time in the tent but rather on a bike so I needed to get a bike. That was my first year out of college and with my year-end bonus at my first job I bought my first new mountain bike.

I love biking and anything bikes.

Life took a turn in late 2013 with marriage troubles. I used my trainer as my outlet during winter of 2013/2014. In summer 2014 I met my boyfriend on and suggested we meet in person and go for a bike ride. For me I was thinking if the date is bad at least I get a workout in. :)

I am not super fast and won't win any major awards, but I hold my own and the longer the distance the better in my books. Currently I have 2 road bikes (one on my trainer), 1 fat bike, 1 mountain bike, a cruiser and a few clunkers. My boyfriend and I also have a tandem fat bike and we rode Fat Bike Berkie this year - only tandem on the course and what a fun experience. I love being stoker because typically I brake down hills so we ended up doing ok because I didn't have control over the brakes ;)

I have a 6 year old son in kindergarten. With the exception of 2015 he has been to Chequemegon weekend every year as well. He started riding a Strider young and 2 years ago started pedaling from the get go. This past December I bought him a fat bike and he is now big enough to ride it. We spend a lot of time on our bikes during the summer and bike to farmer's market, soccer practice, to get ice cream, and just have fun on our bikes. Much of my Ironman training last year was logged on my fat bike with my son Jameson on the trail-a-bike cruising around Green Bay. I had to be creative to log training!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I don’t remember what age I learned to bike as a kid, but we all bombed around the neighborhood on our banana seat bikes. In college I tried to mountain bike a few times, but didn’t really pick up the sport until a year after college.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I love the freedom of pedaling.

You have attended Chequamegon for several years having done both the Short and Fat along with the 40 mile race. What do you enjoy most about Chequamegon?
I love the atmosphere at the race. You can feel the excitement in the air. Out on the course it is fun to share a little small talk when climbing the hills.

Do you have any tips/suggestions for those attending their first Chequamegon event?
Have fun and enjoy the ride. The race goes by so fast – enjoy every climb!

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
My very first mountain bike ride was challenging. I went to college in Houghton, MI and tried mountain biking for the first time taking a PE class. I felt out of my league and very challenged.

If you had nervousness at all, what did you do or think to overcome it?
I was very nervous and didn’t mountain bike the remainder of my time in Houghton. After college I learned to mountain bike on the trails in Copper Harbor. I took small steps and would walk my bike when I didn’t feel comfortable. Each time I rode the trails I would push myself a little more – wait a few more seconds before applying brakes or try climbing a new hill.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I do use clipless pedals. Tips - practice and practice more. And don’t worry if you fall because we have all been there.

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 fallen several times but have not been injured too badly. One fall was on a bridge in Copper Harbor and I fell 5’ on my back with my bike on top of me. It was scary but I hopped back on my bike and continued to ride the weekend out. I have walked my bike on this particular bridge since and am completely fine walking. Most bridges I will ride, but if I am not comfortable I am confident enough in myself to walk. ☺

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Berms always were challenging for me until 3 years ago. I took a women’s skills clinic in 2013 and 2014 and learned so much during the 2 weekends of clinics. I strongly suggest attending a clinic taught by women. Men tend to position themselves on the bike more naturally and in my experience I was not taught how to handle my bike properly from my male teachers/riders. One of the biggest (and most obvious) improvements I made within the first hour of my first clinic was to brake using one finger. My first decade of mountain biking I used 2 fingers to brake and no one ever told me to do otherwise.

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 – bridges and hills challenge me.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything! I love the confidence I have on my bike – really owning and controlling my bike. I love the scenery on road rides and I love the challenge the trail brings (constantly scanning the trail). The benefit of strong legs as a result of biking is a plus.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
Colnago World Cup road bike – I purchased this bike used with the intent to ride it during Ironman Wisconsin 2015. With a set of tri bars added, this bike handled the course well and now I have a great road bike to play on instead of a tri-bike.

Giant TCR road bike – this bike I bought used about 7 years ago and it lives on my trainer at the moment.

Salsa spearfish mountain bike – fun full suspension 29’er. This bike replaced a full suspension Trek I had purchased in 2007. With plans to bike race in the UP and Colorado this year I wanted a 29’er.

Quiring tandem fat bike – This bike is so much fun! My boyfriend purchased this bike a year ago and we tooled around the trails this past winter and raced Fat Bike Berkie on it.

9:Zero:7 fat bike – Fun bike to tool around town. Chose this bike because the frame was on sale and I wanted a fat bike with the same wheel spacing as the tandem. Also a great bike to attach a trail-a-bike to.

What do you enjoy most about having a partner who loves to bike, too?
We are able to spend quality time together doing something we are very passionate about. Our children also enjoy riding so we spend quality family time together while riding our bikes.

What do you enjoy most about your son enjoying biking?
I love that we can enjoy a healthy sport together. I also love the confidence he has in handling his bike.

What do you enjoy about fatbiking and why should people give it a shot?
My favorite thing about fatbiking is biking during winter. Winter can get long and I used to dread it a bit. Now I look forward to the change in season! The trails in winter are so much fun!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think biking with boys deters women from getting into cycling. It can be intimidating starting biking and typically women will try the sport with a male companion. This was the case for me. It took me a few years to really feel comfortable with the sport.

What do you feel could happen locally/industry-wise to encourage more women to be involved?
More clinics are being offered so I think the industry is heading in the right direction. Last summer the local bike shop in Green Bay did a small women’s/girl’s clinic and I think that helped our local area. I think it is important to get girls out on their bikes at a young age too.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I love seeing other women challenging themselves. And seeing the “light” turn on when a friend conquers a new turn or trick.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My middle name is Katrinka and I have never met anyone else with the same middle name as me.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Encourage Your Daughters To Mountain Bike

I was out for a ride on a Tuesday afternoon, sessioning a tricky spot on an uphill climb that I theoretically had no business doing- but simply wanted to do out of sheer curiosity.

Above me, I heard the music from a speaker on someone's bike coming toward me, so I hoisted my bike and self up the side of the hill to wait for the rider to pass.

It wasn't a single rider, instead it was a pack of young men. High School boys out enjoying the trails by bike, whooping and laughing as they made their way down the steep hill. The next generation of riders making use of their free time before school starts; beautiful. As I continued on with my own ride, I began to ponder, because that is what I do. Why do I never see High School girls out here? I envisioned a pack of girls riding the trails with smiles on their faces and laughter filling the air. My battle cry: "Where are all the women at?"

My ride that day was on the slow side, but I was pushing myself with the sheer number of climbs I went after. Even tho I wasn't riding with zeal, I felt capable, strong, and accomplished. All I can do is assume that the parents do not realize that that mountain biking or the softer term: off-road riding, can give their daughters those feelings as well.

There are many factors to consider, but one would be the splitting of the "athletes" vs. "non-athletes." Many times the only sports that young women seem to go into are the ones they either see regularly from example or what their friends are involved in. Volleyball, running, gymnastics, softball, etc. If they did ride a bike, it was generally only on pavement/around town and probably rarely sees the light of day unless it's for cross-training purposes for running.

Then we look at the young women who are simply not interested in athletics because they feel they can't do sports. The endurance and coordination doesn't feel strong and performing in front of an audience is scary as heck. These individuals could benefit SO much from being able to go for a bike ride in the Van Peenen Pines. Anyone who feels they can't play a sport should find a way to get involved with mountain biking.

Since when did we decide that biking off-road was not suitable for females?

Why is riding off-road not encouraged to women more by the people who ride off road?

I remember a conversation with a mother of a girl who was expressing curiosity over mountain biking. The mom had fears and those fears meant that I would not be allowed to take her daughter on a casual off-road ride to introduce her to any of the trails.

I mentioned that her daughter could join FWD and go on a women's only ride with responsible adults and the mom still had too much worry for her daughter's safety. Even with the option to use one of the rental mountain bikes or fatbikes, nothing would sway the mom's fear-based thinking into it being a positive experience for her daughter.

The concept of FWD- Fearless Women of Dirt is to not take your daughter out on the trails and leave her in the dust to fend for herself as she tries to ride the hardest, most technical trails possible. Absolutely not! It's a group that one can align with that will support new off-road riders in becoming more confident on the trails. I want off-road riding to be something that inspires confidence and joy, because I was that fearful woman. I was scared to death of all the supposed "what ifs"- what if I fall, what if I fail, and what if I never get better...patience, practice, and support.
That is what FWD is all about.

First thing is first-
We NEED more young women to be active with mountain biking.
We need more adult women to be active in mountain biking.
We need more young women to see that mountain biking is not gender exclusive.
We need more young women to learn that they are capable of riding off road.
Knowledge needs to be gained- the likelihood of breaking bones while mountain biking is pretty darn slim. I've ridden off-road since 2014 and have not broken a bone.
You do not need to be a "tomboy" to mountain bike. 
Young women need to be taught that they are not delicate flowers. They are much stronger than that and they can withstand a few bruises on their shins.
You can potentially get injured in any sport- there shouldn't be such elevated fears over off-road riding. My mom broke a finger playing softball- ouch!
Mountain biking can be done solo or with friends- perfect for the individual that doesn't jive with large group sports.
Young women have a high chance of placing during the local Time Trials- in the under 30 group, one female participated in 2016! Everyone would love to see more participation in that age group!
Mountain biking is a sport you can grow with and challenge yourself with for a long time. There are trails everywhere! It's fun to travel to a different state and ride what those locals ride.
Mountain biking creates new friends.
Your endurance goes up, especially if you ride our trails. It's perfect cross-training for those involved with other sports.
It's community focused- you can volunteer on trail days and do some good for the trails you love.
You'll earn props for being a female out on the trails simply because it's not seen often. People will think you're awesome.
If you are a parent supporting your child with off-road riding by ensuring they have a good quality bike for the job- you'll get kudos from the community for you supporting your daughter with something that will truly change them as a person.

Why do I speak about off-road riding changing lives? Because it does. Because so many women (of all ages) see it as something to be fearful of. They see it as something only men and boys do. They see it as something that will hurt them. They see it as something that they can't do. They shy away from it, even with all of its intrigue, because they are afraid they will fail.
Life is full of failures.
I hated challenging things as a kid, because it discouraged me.
I was (and still am) most definitely challenged by mountain biking- and there have been times I wanted to throw my bike into the woods and say "**ck it." I didn't...because I knew if I somehow broke my bike Travis would be upset. I also knew that's not really what I wanted to do. I'd come back the next day and session some more and accomplish it!
Challenge accepted, confidence acquired...all the more reason to keep working at it.

I've learned determination and perseverance from mountain biking. I'm learning to not second-guess myself and my abilities. I'm continually learning to be more confident with what my body and mind can accomplish. When I was younger, I did not think I was strong- now I think I am strong not only in body, but spirit.

Parents. Listen up.
If your daughter loves riding her bike, she probably would love being able to ride somewhere other than a paved circle or around town- it gets boring.
Your daughter is strong. Your daughter is capable. Your daughter can ride off-road- she just might need a helping hand with a proper mountain bike and someone to guide her.
I do not offer to lead someone on a ride for them to have a crappy experience. I literally mean I will ride with them and only take them to where they feel comfortable. Maybe it means we're riding laps on the flat part of River Trail for a half hour. Maybe it means we'll do laps in the Van Peenen Pines for an hour. Eventually it might mean gentle exploration of other trails with the knowledge of "when in doubt, walk it out."

It never means I will leave you or your daughter high and dry and have it be a game of "catch me if you can."
It does not mean that I will lead them somewhere completely beyond their skill level and say "roll with it."

We are not downhilling. We do not have literal mountains in Decorah...we are not riding like they do in X-Games. FWD is all about building confidence and believing that one can do what they thought impossible. If I can help another girl or woman feel confident enough to ride the Van Peenen Pines solo, that is awesome! It's not a requirement to ride every single trail to "be a mountain biker" but having the knowledge and confidence to ride somewhere other than the pavement makes for new adventures.

The thing that most people never realize right off the bat is how inspiring they will be to themselves.Stop denying your daughter that feeling...stop denying YOURSELF that feeling and go for an off-road ride together!

When you accomplish that climb you never thought you would make or when you ride a trail for the first time without putting a foot down. That feeling of profound joy, awe, and excitement is completely addictive. Imagine what it will be like when your daughter comes home and tells you of all the wonderful things she accomplished!

Give off-road riding a chance. As the saying goes, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Women Involved Series: Ash Bocast

Ryder is my official sidekick. She's been living the van life
with me since the day I got her.
I've been living full-time on the road for several years first as a bicycle tour guide and most recently as an event manager with Liv Cycling.

I travel the Western US with 20 demo bikes and a cattledog in a Mercedes Sprinter van putting on and attending clinics, coaching weekends, and events geared toward women.

I also produce and host a women's cycling podcast with two shows: Roam Rydes (inspiring stories about women cyclists) and Cycology (bike 101 from industry experts)

Social media links:
Instagram: RoamRydes
Facebook Page: Roam Rydes
iTunes Podcast Search: Roam Rydes & Cycology

Tell us about how you came into your #bikelife- What fueled your love of riding?
My sporting background was team sports and racing, specifically sports that were very physical (rugby, boys lacrosse, wrestling) and fast (downhill snowboarding, track & field)…when I moved to New Zealand at 25 years old, a bunch of crazy Kiwis told me to huck down a mountain on two wheels, it sounded like a combo of everything I loved… My first day riding I went (what seemed like) insanely fast and took this gnarly crash that was reminiscent of getting annihilated in a rugby tackle – I was hooked!

What styles of riding do you enjoy and why?
I would be stoked if I never had to pedal again. There is something about the speed and finesse and sheer thrilling terror of riding fast downhill through technical terrain that gets into my soul. Every once in awhile I can be convinced to go out on an epic vista-induced road ride.

What was the most interesting experience you had as a bicycle tour guide?
I lead a private trip in North/South Carolina with 11 couples from Colorado. One of the women on the trip was two weeks out from her last chemo treatment and a week away from her first radiation treatment as she battled breast cancer. She wasn’t by any means in good physical condition (for obvious reasons), but she wanted to keep up on the 50+ mile daily rides with thousands of feet of climbing so she opted for an electric road bike. Imagine my surprise when I drove the SAG van around a corner to witness her one-hand on the handlebars and the other physically pushing a friend who was struggling up a big climb. E-bikes are pedal-assist, so pushing another human up the hill was by no means easy for her… tears welled in my eyes as both women made it to the top of the hill and stopped for a big embrace.

What inspired you to connect with Liv as an event manager? What were your goals?
Being a tour guide for Backroads Active Travel was a dream job, and when an acquaintance mentioned I should look into the Liv position, I wasn’t really interested but she insisted and I promised to call. I was roughly 30 seconds into speaking with Liv US Marketing manager Jen Audia before I was asking where and when I could send my resume. If being paid to lead vacation trips was a dream job, the Liv Event Specialist position was an upgrade to heaven. I’ve always loved community-based events; coaching and teaching clinics was something I really missed doing as a tour guide and both those elements are a huge part of my job with Liv.

Being a part of a company doing so much for the women’s cycling movement brought such gratitude to my life. My initial goals were to enjoy traveling and to have fun, but this job has become so much more meaningful as I’ve connected to women (and some rad men) in so many cycling communities. I’ve witnessed first-hand how life-changing riding a bike can be for someone and my new goals are to catch those outliers – the women and girls on the cusp of falling in love with riding, and to help them take the plunge.

What is the most enjoyable part about being able to travel and put on clinics, etc.?
I feel so incredibly lucky to have explored so much of the US. I started out with Liv on the East Coast and then moved West…I've had 33 different states in my territories and its been a crazy ride visiting them. I have to say, as fun as the travel is, making connections with local ladies all over the country has been awe-inspiring. I could fill pages of inspiring stories about the women I’ve met, the things they are doing for their cycling communities, and the generosity they’ve extended to me as a total stranger.

How were you introduced to mountain biking?
“Go down the hill, look ahead, brake with both hands, and walk anything you don’t feel comfortable riding”. This was my “pep talk” a coworker gave me before we rode Skyline trail in Queenstown New Zealand. We both worked for an outdoor company that had a bike shop with rentals, so they asked me to come along on a post-work ride. I had no idea I was on such an iconic trail and no idea it wasn’t normal to start out riding with full-on downhill trails!

Do you have suggestions for those on the fence about trying off-road riding, based on what you've experienced/learned?
Ladies tell me all the time they are terrified to mountain bike because it’s dangerous. I gently remind them that trees and rocks don’t move and they also don’t have cell phones that they text on while driving thousands of pounds of metal… If you can brave riding on the road you are definitely capable of riding on the trail. I ALWAYS suggest starting riding with a group of supportive friends…if they are predominantly women, even better! So many women don’t join group rides or scheduled women’s events because they don’t think they are good enough… a little insider secret is that almost all women’s group rides (unless specifically stated otherwise) are thrilled to have new and beginner riders! My favorite women to ride with are beginners… it is immensely rewarding to share my love of bikes with someone just starting out.

Clips or flats? What do you prefer and why?
98% of the time I am on flats. I consider myself an expert rider, but when I’m clipped in, I second-guess every technical feature on the trail and end up clipping-out and walking a lot more. Clipping in is great if it is important for you to hammer fast uphill and on flats (and some riders like the stability through rocky terrain)…but my uphill and flat pace is “chill mode” – so no clips needed! On road I ride clipped in because I do like to pull on the pedals…and every once in a blue moon I’ll clip in for a non-technical cross-country mtb ride.

Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
About two years ago I was on a trail I had ridden a gajillion times. Because I was by myself, I didn’t want to try and ride an extremely technical high-risk drop on an exposed section of the trail. I was riding clipless at the time and as I went to clip-out and step off my bike, my pedal unthreaded from the spindle and I couldn’t unclip. I fell about 15 feet off a cliff, the first 8 feet I free-fell onto my head, I was knocked unconscious, and then tumbled still attached to my bike about the same distance into a dry riverbed. I came-to and thought my back was broken (my hip was actually displaced 3 inches). If it hadn’t been for my backpack and helmet, I don’t know what would’ve happened. The physical recovery wasn’t bad…playing rugby for 10 years makes every injury feel minor. I rode clipped in for another year, but I mentally panicked any time I rode exposed trail (Hangover in Sedona was TERRIFYING!)…being on flat pedals is a big mental booster as well as accepting that I don’t have to ride everything. If there is exposure or a high wooden feature etc… I happily opt-out. My friends know I’m a good rider and they respect me when I say “I choose not to ride this”.

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Bahahaa! ALL of my handling skills were mediocre at best the first five years I rode mountain bikes. I took a clinic with Lindsey Vories about two years ago and my riding changed dramatically for the better. I was doing almost everything wrong based on what a bunch of “really good dudes” had taught me. Since building a foundation of the basics, my focus this year has been on corning with style and speed. I’m pretty damned lucky that I get to work with coaches like Lindsey, Leigh Donovan, and Katie Holden all of the time and they have really helped me develop a mantra that I mentally have on repeat as I come into every turn: “Control speed, look ahead, swing the hips, separate the bike, ease the squeeze, smile.” Everything didn’t come at once; I worked on each piece of the mantra separately until I had the bandwidth to think of them all in succession.
Having an absolute blast hosting the Liv Ladies Weekend
in Whitefish, Montana.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Technical climbing is my kryptonite and is probably why I enjoy riding downhill so much. I used to get really frustrated by step-ups and techy punchy climbs until I rode with my friend Sarah Viggers. Sarah is a REALLY good pro downhiller and during our first all-mountain ride together, I was able to clear a lot of climbing features that she really struggled with. It was that “ah-hah” moment of realizing that if Sarah was struggling and she is so much more badass than me, I was totally okay with not being great at everything. I still attempt most technical climbs, but I’ve really embraced being happy with attempts even if they aren’t successful!

What do you love about riding your bike?
It might sound cheesy, but I love the freedom I feel when I’m on my bike. I get to be totally present wherever I’m riding and checkout from whatever else is going on in my life.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I’m probably the only person that has a complete quiver of bikes at my fingertips at all times. I literally live with 22 bikes ranging from aero electronic road to big hitting all-mountain machines…I even travel with a cruiser style bike during certain months of the year! My go-to on the road is the Liv Avail Advanced Pro. I have some lower-back issues and the endurance geometry integrated with DeFuse seat post technology allows me to ride for a long time before I start feeling any discomfort. On the dirt I am INFATUATED with the Liv Intrigue SX. It helps a lot that I got to be a part of the design process of this bike…so it was basically built up for my style as a rider. I tend to ride the Intrigue SX regardless of the terrain. I’ll go out on mellow cross-country rides with 6 inches of travel just because I love this bike so much… it might seem ridiculous, but I actually bought two of them this year!

You are also actively involved with your podcast shows: Roam Rydes and Cyclology. Could you tell us about these two shows and what inspired you to create them?
In 2014 I moved into a van full-time for the second time in my adult life. I was really jazzed on the whole #vanlife movement and was already becoming an avid podcast listener at the time. I thought, “Hey, I’m living in a van, I’ve got a background in video/audio production, why not make my own podcast?”

Initially I wanted to do a podcast focusing on the dirtbag vanlife thing, but quickly realized a lot of folks were putting out really amazing content that I didn’t want to compete with…at the same time I had been trying to find a podcast about women’s cycling and didn’t really come across anything that piqued my interest.

So I shifted focus from vanlife to women’s cycling and cannot believe where that journey has taken me. I wanted to share inspiring cycling stories from women I met on the road and have just been in awe and so grateful to relive those moments of resilience and inspiration with our guests. I have to give a lot of credit to the fact that I started my job with Liv (moved into van #3!) just a few months after launching the Roam Rydes podcast. Having a job that pays me to meet hundreds of incredible women through bike events was really pivotal in producing the show.

In fact, meeting so many badass women almost became a problem. I was going mad trying to figure out how to get all these female leaders and influencers and athletes on the show while at the same time giving airtime to the regular small-town cyclists who had equally incredible journeys and stories to share. I was having coffee and talking podcasts one morning with my good friend and mentor Mel Bowan when we both kind of had this “ah-hah” moment and Cycology was born. We both have been lucky enough to learn from so many experts in the industry and we realized that a podcast was the perfect platform to bring that experience to a broader audience. Because of my job I have access to dozens of experts in the bike industry and 99.9% of them have been thrilled to have the opportunity to share their knowledge on the show.

What has been one of the best moments you've had since creating your podcast?
I was coaching a clinic with Roam Rydes guest Meg Valliant (Episode 7: Send It) a few months after she was on the show. She told me, “I was coaching at the Rays Indoor Women’s Weekend and a bigger girl came up to me and told me that my podcast episode changed her life.” I got pretty choked up… I had experienced first-hand how inspiring Meg is, but it really struck a chord that Roam Rydes could transcend physically being in Meg’s presence in such a way that our listeners were moved by her too.

What was the most interesting thing you've learned?
I was absolutely floored when I interviewed Hall of Famer Leigh Donovan for Roam Rydes. She opened up about personal struggles that I, and the rest of the public, had no idea about. I jokingly told her, “I want to hear the real Leigh Donovan story, not what I can read on Wikipedia” and she totally took the request seriously. It taught me not to be afraid of asking the tough questions and be vulnerable with my guests during interviews. I find the best content comes from the moments that require just that extra few seconds of thoughtful silence and patient listening on my part.

Do you seek women out or can women volunteer to be on your podcast? What is your process and how can others support the cause?
Most of my guests have been on the podcasts because I interacted with them through biking , caught a tidbit of their personal stories, and asked them to be on the show. Now that I’ve got a bigger audience, I am definitely getting more recommendations. That’s actually how I got connected with Brooklyn Bell for the first episode of the Minority Report series.

I’m quite obsessive about telling people to reach out to me if they know of anyone who has an inspiring story. My biggest challenge has been finding the time to produce more episodes so I can keep up with the recommendations. That being said, I would like to hear more stories from women who ride road, cyclocross, and race triathlons – get in touch if you know someone!

The podcast has been supported quite organically and I really appreciate that the bulk of my listeners have come from word of mouth recommendations to listen to the shows. Recently a fan of the podcast recommended I add a “donate” button on our website because she wanted to support us, as soon as I got it uploaded, she sent $10 to get things started – I was incredibly touched by her suggestion and follow through with support. We sell hats and shirts through our website, the proceeds of which help mitigate the costs of producing the show and keeping the website running... lastly we've been seeking out sponsors that we can stand behind and gleefully recommend to our listeners, so far we've partnered with Blowfish Designs with the double-whammy of them making our hats, and we couldn't be happier.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I hear the word intimidation constantly, and I don’t disagree that getting into cycling, and specifically mountain biking is intimidating.

When someone gets into running, its easy…buy some shoes and go run. A bike is expensive, can be mechanically complicated, require a mental and physical skillset, and knowledge of routes and trails. It’s a lot to take in and it’s really easy for one jerkoff to create a bad experience for a new or potential rider. And don’t even get me started on the elitist attitude that deters a lot of people from feeling like they “belong”.

I can honestly tell every person who is getting into cycling that we have ALL been there. I’ve even talked to pros who reminisce how awkward and out of place they felt when they started riding. I wish more women knew it was totally normal to feel like a fish out of water and, just like anything, if you stick with it, it eventually becomes less intimidating and a whole lot more fun.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Locally I think more riders could encourage and actually insist their female friends join for rides. How many of us started riding because of a friend or partner? I also think it is really important to follow up with new riders. How many of us know those ladies who went riding once or twice, didn’t feel comfortable or confident, and stopped riding because no one checked up on them or offered support?

I really believe the bike industry has started making strides when it comes to leveling the playing field for women…we finally have some quality women’s focused product, I feel like media coverage is getting better and better, and women’s ride groups are popping up like crazy. It’s a process, and as riders, we can encourage this change by actually putting our money and support into the companies, bike shops, and organizations who are making the effort. I feel really lucky to be a part of a company (Liv Cycling) that I truly believe is a powerful leader and catalyst for positive change in the industry.

Any free time off the bike is spent fly fishing.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Smiles are addictive to me. When I’m coaching or out riding, I cannot contain how happy it makes me to see women totally in the moment smiling ear-to-ear because they are experiencing how incredible the power of cycling can be.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I love to fly fish! I’m not great at it, but I have a damn good time throwing fake bugs into water!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Adventures of the First Lady: Trek World 2017

This year for trade show goodness we decided to attend Trek World as it was scheduled the week after Nordic Fest. As disappointing as it was to miss SaddleDrive, it proved to be a good move on our part to be open. Weather was fair and rentals were plenty.

We do not take closures lightly and it's difficult for us to make the decision to go to a trade show or special event and lock our doors. We know full well that even with all of the social media blasting we attempt, it doesn't reach everyone and people show up disappointed. We want to extend a thank you to those who are wonderfully supportive and understanding of our closures- knowing that it's not just for personal reasons- but also for benefit of community involvement and/or knowledge.

Anyways...back to the adventure part!

I haven't been to Madison in years. The last time I was there was to meet some online friends that were involved with a betta fish forum I was a moderator on. That trip was done with MapQuest directions printed on note cards and a cellphone that probably didn't flip open. It was also before roundabouts were in place on the way. Thinking 2015/16. Yup. Long time.

We had packed up our bags the night before and I rushed to get all my chores done prior to going. Dishes, trash, litter boxes scooped/cleaned, and vacuuming were all on the list. Eventually, it was time to hit the road!

The trip up was relatively boring. Jamming to the radio and looking at the scenery; having the vague feeling I actually remembered what the drive to Madison looked like. My goals for the show were simple. Have fun, ride bikes, and meet Gary Fisher...and drink beer. What can I say? I enjoy a good beer and hoped to have a flavor I either never have or rarely get.

We eventually got into the city and made our way to the hotel- it was huge. We checked in and then had to make our way across to a second building where we would be staying at. I was so happy with the roller bag I purchased, it gave my shoulder a slight break from additional weight.

We dropped off our first set of luggage and made our way back to the truck to get the last of it. Timing wise we got to Madison with enough time to spare for unpacking and then heading to the show to check in- the original plan was to stop at a liquor store to amp up my personal beer supply and go to a bakery so I could get a legit baked good. Didn't happen.

We got checked in and signed our release forms for the Demo on Tuesday and got in line for our first seminar. We attended 2 seminars before we joined the entire group of Trek World attendees on the walk to the Overture Center for John Burke's Keynote speech. Before we had started our walk, we had been sitting and looking at the bike book that was given to us with our registration. Travis said "There's Gary!" I looked up and yup. Mr. Fisher was walking right towards face lit up and Travis said I blushed. I said hi...and COMPLETELY chickened out. Nope. No photo, no nothing. Josie!? Why?!

The speech was good. My favorite part was a donation to NICA- a group that encourages young people to participate in mountain biking making it an all-inclusive sport for anyone to join.

After the speech was over, it was a walk back to the hotel for supper. I found it so amusing that a mass of bike people essentially took over the street by walking right in the middle of it! We went downstairs before plating food to check out the show. I had Spotted Cow beer for the first time. I deduced between that and the other choice, it would probably be the better one. I can't say I'd go to Wisconsin and buy a 6 pack, tho. Sorry! I'll drink the IPAs instead!! SO many bikes and things to see! And Gary! He had a group of people he was chatting with and I'm much too nice to butt into a conversation for a photo. So after waiting to see if there would be an opening, we opted to go upstairs for food.

We talked with someone who knew a few people Travis knew that work for Trek. I sat and people watched, thinking to myself that I grabbed way too much food to eat. Either way, that cupcake was going to get eaten no matter what.

Then down to the show again, this time to look at Electra products and I found myself an IPA that was being served in that room. After having Spotted Cow and forgetting the flavor of this IPA I had probably a year ago, I found it remarkably bitter. Damn.

Back to the Trek show- I found Gary, but again, too nice to butt in. We waited and finally had a moment where we could chime in! This would be my first time meeting someone I could consider a "true" celebrity. I felt so silly and awkward, thank goodness I had consumed some beer! It was a great little moment that I'll feel giddy about for quite some time.

After looking around more and taking photos, we decided that we should make our way back to the hotel. This time we were lucky enough to catch a shuttle back, which saved us time from walking. I was tired and my contacts felt glued to my eyeballs. I was most excited to get into my pajamas and crawl into bed. I hoped I would sleep better this time than my last trip away from home, because Tuesday was our Demo day and I wanted to ride "all the bikes."

Morning came way too quickly for my liking. We got up extra early so we would have time to ready our ride gear for later and hit up breakfast before the seminar we planned to attend. I was most excited about the chocolate-filled croissant. After the seminar we had time to walk back to the hotel and change into our clothes. As luck would have it, we miraculously were able to hitch a ride on a shuttle back to the hotel.

There was worry we would have a sloppy and wet demo with the rain in the forecast. When I had looked at the weather on my phone it seemed very minimal. After getting on the bus that would take us to Waterloo where the demo was being held, it started to rain. Not light rain, but rain that made it almost impossible to see out the windows. Then it stopped. Then it started again. We all seemed to groan at the same time.

Once arriving at Waterloo at the Trek headquarters, it appeared to be that the weather had evaded that location. Especially after we hit the trails- beautiful and dry!

Bikes that Travis test rode:
Carbon Stache 9.8
Top Fuel 9.8 SL
Procaliber 9.7

Bikes I test rode:
Fuel EX Women's 9.8
Procaliber 9.7
Top Fuel Women's 9.8 SL

I rode the Fuel EX 9.8 to satisfy my curiosity as it replaces the Carbon Lush 650b that I have. More suspension along with different geometry. When getting set up for the bike I met Stephanie Jones, a super rad woman who was fun to chat with. I was recommended to try a 14" for frame size due to my height. Most times than not I'm on a 15" or 15.5" I have a short torso but long arms and legs, I figured it would be worth a shot in seeing how it fit.

Frame size made for easy point and shoot front handling. Very controlled, but I also felt like I drowned the bike.

The increased amount of suspension for the bike was nice over rocks/roots, but far more than I would need in Decorah.

The bike was fun to ride, I feel the geometry changes are a good thing- I don't think I would need an extra long stem to make the bike more "Decorah friendly" for climbing and overall the handling was great. I didn't feel extra squirrely or twitchy. (It took a season for me to feel comfortable on the Lush with handling.)

Would I buy this bike?
Probably not.
Would I ride it again?
Size feel-
It wasn't bad. It made for okay handling for downhill sections, but I felt crowded overall.

Procaliber 9.7 was next the next bike for me to try as I have a carbon hardtail 29'er: Trek Cali Carbon SLX.

I wanted to try the geometry of this bike along with seeing how it felt to be on 650b without suspension. Also, I wanted to check out the Isospeed Decoupler to see if it was "worth it"
Size- 15.5"


I felt like I was able to easily accelerate and catch up to Travis on flat terrain, even tho I was on smaller wheels than he was. The bike felt nimble and quick; so much more playful than my stable 29" wheel Cali. I felt super confident on this bike when it came to where I was riding, I didn't feel as phased over climbs- it was light (and definitely NOT the lightest Procaliber in the lineup!)

I felt like the Isospeed Decoupler did assist with taking the edge off. I still felt bumps, but it wasn't as jarring as it would be without it- so a plus! It made rougher areas more tolerable and less "willy nilly" when it came down to it.

I rode almost perfectly on low-tread tires, something that I hadn't felt I could successfully do yet I was able to do so easily. Now, if only I had a better concept on how to properly launch off of small rocks, etc.

Would I buy this bike?
Yup. Actually we put in a Project One order for a Procaliber 9.8!

Would I ride it again?
A thousand times yes!

Size feel- I felt the 15.5 to be truly comfortable. When comparing my comfort to this bike vs. my Cali as the Cali has a sloped top tube, I felt the Procaliber to be a-okay in terms of fit. The reach was excellent and the body position was comfortable.
It was also a little more aggressive than I have my other bikes set up as, so it was great to experiment and see how it handled. I think it was an overall 10 out of 10 in terms of awesomeness.

The last bike for myself was the Top Fuel Women's 9.8 SL this also came with 650b wheels and would be the racy, full-suspension bike that is the cousin to the Procaliber. With 100 mm travel for the front vs. 120 for the Lush, I was curious of my thoughts on this bike as I haven't really ridden anything else like it before.

I couldn't stop comparing it to the Procaliber!

I felt like it was heavier- along with having ridden for a few hours already my legs were starting to get tired. I decided to ride with both of the suspensions fully on as well to get a sense of plushness. Overall, I'm used to a more "forgiving" full suspension bike, so being on one that was lighter, more nimble, and less "cushy" was a change for sure.

Overall, fit and geometry felt great and comfortable, but I was still having after-effects of riding the Procaliber weighing my head. If I were to discontinue my current full suspension bike- I feel this would be the ticket.

Would I buy this bike?
Maybe. Someday.

Would I ride it again?
Yes. After conversing with Stephanie, I felt a bit better about my mixed feelings over the Top Fuel. She said it seems to be a fine line over which people prefer when comparing the Procaliber to the Top Fuel. Apparently, I must be in the phase where I'm feeling the need for a more rigid bike. Once I experienced lightweight speed, I felt I couldn't go back.

Size feel-
Again with the geometry, I felt it was very adequate and comfortable for reach and stand over. It was surprising to not feel the need for a sloped top tube! Overall the size felt very comfortable for me with my 5'2" frame, but it may not be the case for everyone depending on proportions.

Now, we'll hear Travis' take on the bikes he rode!

On the Carbon Stache 9.8-
Carbon Stache didn't feel as light as I had hoped, but I'm really glad to see that we have an option now for that light-weight plus bike we've all been wanting. People should really consider trying plus bikes! They are super fun and you can roll over things more. They are the perfect style of tire for the off-road scene.

*Josie did not ride a Stache, sadly, because the stand over height was too close for comfort. She'll stick with 27.5+/650b+

On the Top Fuel 9.8-
It was surprising to see/feel how efficient full suspension systems can be these days. If I didn't know it was there and couldn't feel it working I wouldn't have known it was full suspension at all! It was light, fast, and handled like a hardtail.

On the Procalbier 9.7- 

So great to be back on lightweight carbon 29'er hardtail! It was really fun and it felt like a rocket ship!

After 3+ hours of riding, I was most definitely ready to call it quits. I had chugged down some cider before we hit the road. Once we were back at the hotel, I can't tell you enough how happy I was to have a hot shower. I ate some crappy chocolate doughnuts that were left from my CAMBA trip to tide me over for beer tasting at the rooftop event and supper.

We made our way back and found beer that I really enjoyed drinking. I was super pleased and memorized the location of a favorite so I could have one post-supper. After scoping out the bikes one more time, we made our way back to our hotel- but the night wasn't over, yet!

At the demo, I met Patrick, my friend Kelsey's boyfriend. Small world, especially since I totally forgot he worked for Trek. The interaction was pretty hilarious. I heard a quiet "Josie?" I'm all "Yeah! Hi!" Looking down at my hand, I saw my badge was totally not facing in a direction so the nice fellow could see my name. Bewilderment set in....and then he said "I'm Kelsey's boyfriend" and the world became my oyster.

Totally forgetting Kelsey lived in Madison, we chatted via the wonderment of the internet and made plans to meet up. Travis and I prepped ourselves for a late evening outing by which I took a short nap. Kelsey and Patrick met us at our hotel and we went to a neat bar called the Old Fashioned. The bartender really knew how to socialize, plus he could do some fun, flair-style bartending. He gave me an excellent recommendation on an IPA and I found that Kelsey was like a best friend that simply lived too damn far away. I was so happy to have been able to meet her in person, finally!

Wednesday morning came, again, way too early. Especially with an early morning bedtime! We got up early enough to move all of our stuff to the truck so we could walk back from the Trek World festivities and hit the road after we had our Trek store tour. A couple special stops before we completely headed out of town: Colectivo Coffee, Ian's Pizza, and Revolution Cycles. I'm going to leave out the part where I had a beautiful dessert bar in a white paper bag that I accidentally left in the hotel rest room. So much disappointment...but Travis found some Fantasy Factory IPA at a gas station in Verona...that helped.

All in all, the Trek World adventure was great but we were both happy to be home. It was a great experience and as a bonus, I met three rad women who love the #bikelife as much as I do!

For more photos from the Trek World adventure, click here!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Women on Bikes Series: Cheryl Barker

I been cycling since around 2005. I was a burned out marathon runner and decided after my second child to try something new - at age 35. I started with spin class and was introduced by some special friends to road riding and then coached into racing. As an adult this was a very strange but truly wonderful thing to discover.
I have slowly added to my bicycle collection and skills. I love road racing. I have had good luck in the Time Trialing. I have entertained my friends in Cyclocross. 

My husband and I like to ride Fatbike all year round. I have also dabbled in Triathlon. Lately we have been trying to get our girls involved in cycling ( Ages 11 & 14) but most of the times it turns into a shitshow. My older daughter Sophie will be participating in a local MTB for girls club this summer -(I hope). Both girls are so very naturally talented but I do not want them to be pressured as I was at a young age in running. I’m busy teaching them how to be aware and smarter than I was at their age…about everything! It’s a new and wonderful world for young women - not just in sports, but that is mostly what I relate to.

I love to race and to challenge myself and learn new things. Just because I’m middle aged doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn an entirely new and crazy skill! Women’s sports in particular have risen to the occasion in the last few years and allowed me to join in on the fun. Women’s cycling and racing in the Twin Cities area has exploded and I am so happy to be a part of it! Every kind!! There isn’t a weekend you cannot find a race if you are searching for one! So when my girls ask me as I’m on my way out the door to a race or ride- “Mom - you’re going to ride AGAIN?” I say “Yep - and you should too!” Ride, Run Swim, Sail, Paint, Cook…… do whatever makes your heart happy!

After feeling burnt out from running, what inspired you to take up cycling vs. some other physical activity?
I still run to this day as part of training but I was just needing something different. I began to go to spin class when my 2nd daughter was 3 months old. It was convenient and I was driven to work out as usual but my life was not my own anymore. I had a little postpartum blues and needed to get back to training. I was in a spin class and the instructor (Kathy Ostlund) was a female who had road raced. She inspired me to get a bicycle and eventually introduced me to the right people to get onto a team. Kathy and Ted Free coached me for a few years to learn the sport. I was drawn to new challenges…something new to conquer! You are never too old to learn something new. I was 35 at the time - still bright eyed and bushy tailed! My husband gave me the freedom to try this new type of racing out by supporting me in ride time and racing. This was a commitment that was hard to juggle with 2 young children at home. He knew that what makes me happy -makes me a happy mom and wife.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I love the freedom a bike gives you. I enjoy the relationships I’ve made from race peers to social beer & ice cream rides. The many kinds of cycling are refreshing too. I can ride my bike all year round and I do!! Riding with all sorts of people has given me the confidence to challenge myself and to encourage others as well. When I look back at how far I have come in experiences, it is truly a wonder. I have become more knowledgeable and independent. I feel confident, free and happy riding my bike. I also feel that you should have something of your own to enjoy. This is my thing.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
I love Crit racing. I love the speed and action going on with in the race. The women’s field has grown so much in the last few years so it makes it even more fun! I have overcome many fears to race with confidence. I used to have a crippling bout of nervousness before racing and now that has been converted to excitement- as it should be. I am so honored to be able to race with these lovely(and tough) ladies.

What inspired you to try out various styles of cycling? Why do you enjoy them?
I started with Road Racing, Crits and TTs. I also have done a few Triathlons. One Fall I was introduced to Cx. This is a sport I am definitely NOT good at but it is so fun - why not???? The cx peeps are a rare breed! It’s hard work but we can all laugh at ourselves when we take a huge digger trying to hop over barriers. Baker Orchard Cx race is my favorite race!! This is the MOST fun you will ever have on a bike!
I love being outdoors, even in the cold temps. There is something about exercising in the cold that is invigorating. Sweat freezing on your face and lashes, breathing out steam… and spinning over crunching snow.

The past few years have not been the best for XC skiing so Fatbiking has filled in there. I love being in the woods and moving over bumps and rocks. Mountain biking is not my most skilled type of riding but with the fat bike I’ve been learning to love it! If you live in a cold climate state - fat biking is a must! Get out there!

Fatbikes! They are a mystery to many. What do you enjoy most about fatbiking?
I love being able to go out even in below zero temps and get a good workout in and also feel relaxed. Fat biking seems like it’s more about nature and your surroundings than it is about fitness. Fitness is just an added bonus. BUT - you can also jazz it up with some fat bike Crits - WHAT? yep it’s what all the cool kids are doing!

Do you have any suggestions for those looking to purchase their first fatbike?
I own a Minnesota Framed. It was inexpensive and that price point allowed both my husband and I to both get fat bikes. We love to ride fat all year round so it has been a wonderful addition to my bike collection. Also as I had already stated, if you are leery of mountain biking, fat biking is the best for beginners. Fat bikes will go over anything! The fat bike has allowed me to better my off road skills and gain confidence in my trail riding. I am not the best at this kind of riding - I am still learning so much. I love being in this place- always learning and trying to better my skills. My fat bike is my most playful bike…. I take most chances on it.

Clips or flats? Which do you prefer and why?
I decided to go for it and clip in right away on my Fat bike. My secret is that I often keep on foot out for iffy sections. I have slowly worked up to keeping clipped in more and more. I suggest the egg beater type of clip in on the Fat as they are very easy to get in and out of.

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 MANY biffs! The ones on the fat bike are pretty mild because of the soft landing in snow. I have had a crash in a crit race that was hard to mentally get over. I just had some bumps and a good raspberry - no serious injuries but my confidence was shaken. Getting back into the race is the best medicine- even if you have to cry a little in fear. Nothing a pep talk from my pal Bonny Donzella cannot fix however. That is the uplifting spirit of the awesome ladies I race with. We are so lucky to have such a supportive group of ladies who race in Minnesota!
We may cry and or need a hug- but we’re still tough enough to get back on the bike and ride the last 2 blocks to the finish line.

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 had a hard time with riding thru sand /mud or thick gravel - either on a gravel ride or in a Cx race. My friends just made me ride thru it. We would actually practice it. Every Fall, a few of us get together and practice different obstacles, going over them several times to try to get more comfortable. Also, pre-riding courses and going back over the tough spots is a good idea pre race. Usually, you find the most educated rider you know and go thru the course with them and take notes. I also do this on the trail when I find spots I am particularly afraid to ride. I go back and ride it over and over ( or try to). I have my partner in crime and falling down with me on those occasions (Megan) - we cheer each other on and laugh at each other when we biff. We tell each other “we aren’t scared” but we are terrified most of the time. Find some friends to take some risks with. I double dog dare you!

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 there are! I have not quite yet conquered the trail riding just yet. I am still trying to effortlessly ride the berm bridge at White Tail and the whoopdies at Red Wing. I scream a lot, that seems to help. Forcing yourself out of the comfort zone is important if you are going to try these things! It’s fun and scary at the same time. I try to bite off a little at a time and I realize that experience and time on the bike is the only way to improve. Sometimes your biggest breakthroughs come when you are just screwing around having fun. I have some awesome kick ass lady friends who are crazy good riders who have pushed me to learn as I have them. Just keep trying ! I am an old lady on a bike trying to ride whoopdies! If I can you can!

What do you love about riding your bike?
I just love hopping on a bike , feeling your legs - the wind in your hair and on your face and being outside. My bikes have brought me on many roads and trails- city and country all different and fun to explore. This helps my mind to rejuvenate and my body to feel alive.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have 4 bikes; Cx, Road, TT, and Fat bike. I think that each bike chose me. It was as if they said “ you HAVE to try riding this!” The more I got into racing the more bikes were needed. Each of those bikes gets miles on year after year so they are well worth having. The brands of the bikes are not necessarily super important to me. My Bianchi road bike gets the most miles on however. Bianchi love!

Why do you feel it's important for your girls to be active in some sort of athletic activity?
I have 2 teenage, naturally blessed, athletic girls. Sophie and Maggie do not seem to have to try hard at sports and they do well. I learned so much about life from sports and competition as a girl their age. I want that for them. I want them to know it’s never too late to dream and learn and dare yourself. I hope that they see what I do as a good example. Running/biking/swimming or team sports have given me the confidence and feelings of accomplishment that I think is important to foster in girls. I do not like to pressure them to do things but I will give them a hard shove sometimes. It’s more like coercion but… I think it is important for them to learn what they are good at and reap the feelings of a PR or the best game - a winning catch or point. I want them to know the “I did it!” feeling from riding the mountain bike trail or swimming across the lake. I want them to know they can do it and should do it because it makes you feel good!! AND it’s good for you! It doesn’t matter that you are the best at it … just do it! It’s also oh so important to take care of our physical bodies.

How do you go about encouraging them to be active in cycling, yet not make it a high-pressure situation? Any tips/suggestions for parents?
I am still learning this one. We have had a few trips out to the trail that have turned in to crap shows. One or the other isn’t in the mood or something and it all goes down hill. I am going to take them to the girls MTB practice sessions with girls they know and leave them there with the instructors. I think it’s too hard when I am around when they are first trying to learn. I know that once they are around other girls their age it will be fine. I love that there are so many impressive local women cyclists my girls can look up to and strive to be like. I know one of my girls is particularly fond of Linda Sone….probably because I am too. These women are also giving back by helping young women and girls get more interested and involved in cycling and racing. I brought one of my daughters to the North Star races and introduced her to our local pro lady racers and she was inspired. I enjoyed seeing the excitement in her eyes. I know it left an impression, now I will foster that.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
It can be intimidating, but I do think that now there is such a female presence, we are overcoming that. It’s all about experience and knowledge. The more you ride, the more you will learn all the etiquette and handling etc of the sport. I have found so much freedom in cycling. Being on the Girl Fiend Women’s Cycling team has played a big role in my trying all the types of cycling. The encouragement and friendships on this team are top notch. I have learned from my cycling peers how to change a flat, work on my bike, race hard, win, lose, socially ride, epically ride, and support those who do the same. Everyone needs a little help at first and then… they realize the magical world of cycling and what it is for them.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think that seeing more women working in Bike shops is encouraging. I think promoting Women rides/clinics are also helpful. I found the mechanics type of knowledge extremely helpful. I also feel that understanding that all of us have different levels and goals that need to be respected. I feel very strongly about promoting independence through knowledge. I went on a 120 mile ride with my girlfriend Madonna a few years ago and my Mother was all worried about the situations we would get ourselves into…. what if we got a flat? - we’d fix it. What if we had a mechanical ?- we have tools. What if we got lost- we have maps. What if we got hungry- we had enough nutrition and stops planned. We have learned all these things along the way from our cycling community. We were confident in ourselves and had a very challenging yet successful ride.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
Someone encouraged me at age 35. I had no idea how much fun I was going to have and where it would take me. We all start somewhere and we can all respect all levels of riding. Riding is like freedom! It’s for everyone! Where and what kind of ride you want to take is up to you. There are SO many more women helping women get into the biking scene now. These are some incredible ladies to know. They foster your desire to ride hard or to just ride easy. I am honored to be a part of the women’s cycling scene here. These women are my inspiration to keep training and smiling. If I can inspire others as well that would be an achievement. I’m still learning myself however, so most of my encouragement is that I’ll try with you! And I bet you will surprise yourself with what you can do! I love seeing women out there kicking some ass!

In your words- why should age not play a factor in whether or not someone gets involved with a new activity, like biking?
I got a late start in a few sports like cycling and triathlon. It helped me keep my sanity and find self worth. I am a mother and a wife, daughter and sister but I am also an athlete. I am selfish about my training and I won’t apologize for that. There is nothing one should not try if it interests you. Keep yourself on an upward learning curve! I can feel my age but that will not discourage me from doing the things I love.

I am so happy when I get to race into the water or toe up to the start of a bike race. I am honored to be in the company of the ones who dare to do the same. I cherish every break thru and PR because it means I’m still kicking ass or trying to. Racing has always been a part of my life. I cannot even comprehend being too old to do it. 
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I have been a Master Gardener for 17 years - love to garden!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Going Outside My Comfort Zone and Embracing Challenges

A couple months ago the amazing Teri had asked me if I would like to participate in what would be officially/unofficially called the CAMBA Women's MTB Weekend (July 22-24) in the Hayward/Cable, WI area.

I'm attending the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in September, so I figured that this would be a great way for me to get the lay of the land. Also to overcome fears of driving far away and check out some trails that Travis and I could go riding on the Sunday following my 40 mile event.

I made sure my bag was packed ahead of time, and I certainly questioned on whether or not I packed enough. Mildly embarrassed that I had packed so many padded shorts- but it turned out to be a good thing! I bought beer to share, made some Skratch cookies, and bought myself mini doughnuts for the drive. Mini doughnuts are "travel" tradition that Travis and I started. Granted, doughnuts from a bag are NOT real doughnuts- but they are easy enough to eat.

Friday came and I had made plans to go for a short ride with Stacy once I arrived. My calculations I figured I would be arriving around 2:30. Nope. Once on the road, the GPS stated it would be more around 4 p.m. WHAT?! I can't remember at this point if I was Preston or Chatfield- but I had realized I had forgot my doughnuts. I also was concerned that my Google Maps on my phone was not meshing with the GPS directions. I realized that the Sawmill Saloon address I had used was not in Wisconsin. and at this time I changed the destination on my GPS to a random gas station in Hayward- BOOM! Now we were on track.

(For those wondering why I didn't just go towards La Crosse, don't ask. I'd say getting "lost" worked out for the better and I wish I had found a similar way home. More on that, later. I'll take going the "wrong way" over detours any day.)

There was driving. So much driving. The amount of driving that makes it so you can't find a "sweet spot" and your butt hurts no matter what you do. I loved the rural and scenic routes during the drive, along with 80's rock music. I made a stop to get gas not too far from Hayward, I did my best to wait and find a gas station that was easy to see from the road, even if it posed a mild difficulty to get to it. Let me say, I did a great job dealing with cross-traffic. When I got out to start the gas pumping process, my legs felt so wobbly and I worried I'd fall into my car! Holy cow, they were stiff. I hobbled inside to use the restroom, because who wants to continue on with high-pressure driving situations with a full bladder?

Onward. Until I missed a turnoff I was supposed to take and was taken on a route to put me back on said location- that is, until I realized I was going to be driving down a road that had been damaged by the rain they had a few weeks ago or so. When you're looking forward at a badly rutted dirt road (with ruts that look like the width of your tires. I have tiny tires.) you have a big "Heck NO" and turn around and hightail it out of there. I did get back on track- that's all that matters.

I used the directions Stacy gave me for getting to the cabin, but neglected to turn left at the Mountain Bike Way sign. What I remembered was to make sure I went "Up" and I certainly did, but my going "Up" took me nowhere. A quick phone call with Stacy verified that I would make it- we would meet up shortly to go for a ride and then all would be right in my world.

It was super helpful to see arrows pointing to the direction needed to go for getting to the cabin once I was on the right road! I pulled into a spot and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I made it!!!
I started the process of unloading my car and putting my bike back together (front wheel was out for transportation.)

I went inside and met the ladies that were currently there- a hug from Lindsey and the meeting of my name-twin were highlights. I was given a tour of the cabin and picked my bunk- bottom one for me as I was certain I'd have to get up in the wee hours of the night. I'm blind as a bat without glasses or contacts, so figured I would make it as easy as possible for myself.

Once snacks were set out, beer put in the fridge, and bags set down- I text Stacy and started to get ready. We'd be out for an hour, hour and a half- making sure I'd be back before everyone would pack up and head out to supper at River's Eatery.

I rode down the gravel that I had came up, the words of the fellow in the driveway echoing in my mind- that will be one heck of a climb back up. I said with a smile, "I ride in Decorah"...hoping that I didn't just make myself sound like an ass and get caught in a situation where I would be stuck walking up a gravel road.

It was fun to meet up with Stacy as I don't often get to meet the women I interview! So it's treat when I get to do so and I hope it happens more often. Ironically we had the exact same Trek Carbon Lush! Stacy took me on a ride that would have me come out near the 00 trail head. She also pointed out some of the roads that I would be on when I come back for Chequamegon 40. Before I knew it, our ride was done and I was making my way back to the cabin. The gravel hill back to the cabin was not as bad as I thought it would be. Turns out that riding in Decorah did indeed pay off.

A quick shower, meeting the rest of the ladies, and situating myself with someone to carpool with to dinner commenced. During this time I had looked at my phone and had seen an email relating to the Trek Women's Advocate program. I had a battle with myself if I should open it or not and figured the band-aid effect would be best. It was the email that I hoped I wouldn't be getting and my gut proceeded to turn into a lead weight and plummet into the depths. Well, this would definitely put me to the test- I wouldn't have time to mourn the loss over an opportunity I was so hoping to get. I knew I couldn't let the news affect my trip and experience at the clinic- it was what it was and I would get past the feels and continue forward.

Once everyone was situated after coming back from their respective ride(s) and showered, we piled into a couple vehicles and went to supper. I couldn't feel bad for too long, because when you have freshly made woodfire pizza in front of your face, you can't help but smile.
I engaged in conversation and listened to many- the manager/owner of the restaurant had come over and said that we would all be able to take a shirt home with us.
We selected our sizes, had a photo, and then went back to the cabin. I was grateful to hitch a ride, because driving at night is not my strong point!

Back at the cabin we split up again to separate conversation groups and hung out. I was definitely ready to call it a night by the time we went to bed. Unfortunately sleep did not happen for me too well. Period cramps along with a different bed and over-thinking kept me up into the wee hours of the morning.

Morning came and the sweet, luxurious smells of eggs and bacon wafted in the air. Okay, maybe I couldn't quite tell what was being made for breakfast, but it smelled good. Lisa's husband, Bruce made these wonderful baked egg/bacon cups and there was some gloriously delicious coffee that had been brewed. I was filled with nerves and ate sparingly, but the coffee was a welcome treat which topped my store-bought cold-brew coffee. We figured out the itinerary- I was happy to partner up with Julie who had a 2-bike rack on her vehicle so I wouldn't have to take my bike apart several times. Our skills session would be at the OO trail head- after skills we would head back to the cabin for lunch and eventually make our way to the tails in Rock Lake.

I didn't know what to expect at my first skills session so I was on pins and needles. Lindsey likes to do an introduction and have everyone tell a bit of their story, what they are most proud of, and what they would like to learn. It's nice because we go thru names multiple times and for me that is SO helpful. I felt like I bumbled thru my story, but I made it! For what I was most proud of: my blog...and for what I wanted to learn: everything!

Skills went well, tho Lindsey did say that she was going over a lot in a short period of time- typically her clinics are two days vs. 1. During the exercises I followed behind Josie W. and watched how she did techniques- SO impressive! I felt happy- so far I hadn't embarrassed myself by falling over, sweet! The next thing I knew, I overcooked myself while trying to put a bunny hop together and went over my bars. It was slow motion and ridiculous, of course that would have to happen, right?!
I had smacked my right knee pretty good. With the urging of Lynn and Lindsey (to make sure I was okay) I went off to the side and observed a bit more. I knew I had simply done too much at once. I'm much better if I can master one skill at a time and instead of trying to mash so many un-mastered skills into one. I was pleased to come out of the experience being able to understand a bit more on foot placement on my flats along with getting my rear wheel up off the ground.

After skills (and being eaten alive by mosquitos who didn't seem to give a crap about the layers bug spray put on) we went back to the cabin for lunch and discussed Rock Lake and what we would be working on.

The trails were to be more technical with additional rocky features and we were to work on pointing our bike down where we wanted it to go. When descending we were to work on not moving far back on the seat, especially on steeper features. My thought? "This will be interesting"

When we started out, I wasn't sure where I was at skill-wise compared to some of the ladies, so I opted to stay further back. Also, new trails have me riding more cautiously, so I figured it would be better for me to ride within my comfort zone. I rode with Janet, appreciating the lack of needing to ride super fast and being able to take my time. I didn't need to prove anything, I just wanted to have a good time. I rode over and down sections I wasn't sure I'd be able to do - great! I felt accomplished.

Then we come to a section called Wall Street, which any image I could find after to seeing it and being there has not done it justice. I will say, it was a feature I should've tried riding without inspecting it first. Yes, after seeing it I decided I wanted to watch some other women ride it so I could figure out how to go down a steeper section without having my butt back behind my seat. The more I watched, the more intrigued I became. I wanted to do something cool that I could come home to Travis and say "I totes did that!" I felt like I had something to prove.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Martha bravely went out of her comfort zone and had an unfortunate fall. We were certain her ankle was sprained; unable to bear weight, we opted to call the session for the day. Rain was coming and we didn't want to be caught in a potential downpour- this meant teamwork! A couple of us (Josie W., Julie, and myself) trucked an extra bike- Julie and I switched off and towards the end. Eventually Kristin joined up and offered to take over the second bike. Normally I like to be bullheaded and pull my weight, but the ineffective bug spray and hoisting of two bikes were taking their toll and I relished the break.

Martha went back to Minnesota with another lady to get her ankle looked at (found out it was broken! She's on the mend!) The rest of us went back to the cabin to get ourselves cleaned up and ready for supper. This time we went to the Sawmill Saloon. I picked a simple meal of chicken strips, a rare treat and something that I felt would help calm my nerves. Of course the night before driving home I was already wondering and worrying about 1. will my car start and 2. will I manage to get home okay...keep in mind I was also running off fumes as I had hardly slept the night before...and 3. still working thru feels.

After supper we came back and Lynn, Julie, and myself played Yatzee, a first for me! I didn't do amazingly well, but by the end of the game I had vague understanding of what I was doing. Not growing up in a game-playing family, it's success if I can figure something out besides Cards Against Humanity.

Soon it was to bed, I had high hopes of being able to go to sleep...and pretty much completely failed. Rain came and I wondered how the trails would hold- the mysteries of riding somewhere else that isn't your home turf.

Soon it was morning again and fatigued with a stiff knee, I went upstairs for some coffee. I wasn't very hungry that morning as I'm typically not a heavy breakfast eater- poor form, I know. We figured out where we wanted to go and what to ride. Lindsey was going to take a crew back out to Rock Lake- Julie wasn't feeling it and with my knee, I opted to be on the safer end of the spectrum and felt riding something less involved would be grand.

Julie and I made plans to ride together and Bruce said he would ride with us- helping us feel confident with the fact we would not get lost. Bruce led us to the Makwa trail start; after we were situated he did the unthinkable "You two can go first and I'll follow behind." Oh gravy! Me? Lead?

It was awesome.

Bruce was a treasure and wealth of information and it was wonderful to hear him talk candidly about all sorts of things. He is a coach for NICA  and a really outstanding fellow.

We came to a midway point, which he thought we were closer to the OO trail head- but that was around 7 miles away. Bruce then said "Josie, you can keep riding and we can meet you at the trail head." Oh! I could keep going? Solo? Should I? I had a lot on my mind and a ride that was solo was probably just what I needed. Time to myself and to ride though all my thoughts and concerns.

"Okay! Sure!"

The last parting notes from Bruce "Stay on Makwa."

As I rode off, I then wondered- "You mean I could get lost?!" I tried to not worry about it and continued onward.

I didn't run into another soul out there, and the Makwa trail reminded me so much of home, which was fantastic. I was feeling homesick...I was feeling out of my element...I was feeling down-ish about not making it into the Trek Women's Advocate Program...and I needed to feel like I was capable. I needed to feel like I was strong. I wanted and desired to have the confidence of saying I was able to ride a trail and not get lost.

So I rolled with it.

I loved it!

I had flow I couldn't experience in Decorah and I rode over a bridge section without fear. (You'll do anything to not fall into what looked like swamp water!) Not much elevation helped me keep riding with a bum knee, tho I will admit towards the end I was ready to stop riding. Hunger finally set in and I felt tired. About 14 miles of riding was had and I felt sated and ready to go on my journey home. Back at the cabin I took a quick shower and started to load up my car again. Bike, beer, and leftover snacks. About 20 minutes or so into my drive I got a call asking if I had forgotten a pillow. Damnit! I had! Lisa was kind enough to say she would mail it to me once she was back home.

The route I took to get home was not the route I took to get up there; much longer bouts of freeway/interstate driving and detours. Oh the detours. Thank goodness the GPS knew were to go for alternate routes, because I was completely lost in a vast world of unknowns. I will admit, I wound up in some tricky situations and mentally questioned if I could handle the stress.

Then arriving Onalaska and figuring out the detours going on there; I about had an anxiety attack. I kept getting turned around and was unsure where to go- stuffing Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids into my mouth, I maintained a sense of calm. A small sense. I did manage to get to out of the mess bordering on the edge of tears- you knew I wanted to get home badly when I passed an opportunity to stop at a gas station and cry it out- I just keep driving.

Relief was had when I finally rolled into Decorah- I smiled. I was home. Especially when I rolled up to the garage and Travis was sweeping. Seeing him in that moment was all I needed.

The weekend had given me so many wonderful opportunities to grow and expand with my personal self. I experienced a weekend with some wonderful women- learned a few skill techniques that I can improve on, and also accomplished driving in situations that are way beyond my comfort zone. It was a trip that helped me grow as a person on several levels.

I rode a trail solo and didn't get lost.
I conquered fears.
I made friends.
I stayed positive even tho I felt I had missed a great opportunity.
I was thankful for what I had, what I experienced, and what I achieved.

Lesson learned: going out of your comfort zone can reap so many wonderful benefits. You'll realize you are capable of accomplishing so much more than you realized and find continued appreciation for what you already have.