No Boys Allowed – Ray’s Women’s Weekends
March 23, 2013
Two years ago my love of mountain biking was ignited by a spur of the moment decision to take advantage of the free women’s clinic at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park here in Milwaukee. This year I was fortunate enough to be able to attend both of Ray’s women’s events, the February clinic at the original Ray’s in Cleveland, and the March event in Milwaukee. Hosted by 1995 UCI Women’s Downhill World Champion, Leigh Donovan,these events are a resounding success in bringing women interested in mountain biking together, an amazing 218 women in CLE and 203 in MKE.
The reasons behind the success of these clinics are twofold. First by the enthusiasm, passion and expertise the coaches bring. They break down skills. First explaining in words and gestures and then demonstrating themselves with their bikes. Angi Weston using her hands to explain cornering, Lindsey Voreis using her entire body, and Jeni Roosen demonstrating rolling over a drop with perfect form.
You’ve come a long way, baby
September 5, 2012
It just hit me that I’m coming up on my 2 year anniversary of my first attempt at mountain biking. That visit to an Intro clinic and short, short ride on a beginner trail was really more of a putting my toe in the water, versus jumping right in. If someone was to ask me how long I’ve been mountain biking, I generally consider spring of 2011 to be the beginning, the point I actually started going out and riding trails…and dragging my family along for the ride so to speak. But it was at the Fall Colors Festival in September of 2010 when I first did a timid ride with dirt under my wheels. Even then I knew I was hooked.
Mountain biking is an all in kinda sport. Meaning your focus has to be all in, on the here and now. The rest of world gets tuned out. Not just by being in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of life. But by the very real need to keep a single minded focus on that single track ahead while at the same time giving into an almost mindless bike/body connection, constantly shifting weight and balance. That feeling of flowing with the bike, with the trail, coupled at times with an adrenaline rush due to speed or difficulty of the trail or drop offs or jumps is wonderful. Almost addicting, Brings me back time and again.
Now with two summers of riding under my belt, it’s great to realize how much progress we’ve made on our skills. As our skills grew, our interest in the sport also increased – as did our stable of bikes. Riding trails we know over again, allows us to benchmark our progress. It’s a great feeling to to clean a trail you couldn’t before. To make it all the way up a climb that you’ve had to get off and push in the past. To ride over a log as if it wasn’t there. Beaver tree, what beaver tree (a particular place on an otherwise easy trail that has vexed me in the past). These improvements all help our confidence grow. With confidence comes ability, a virtuous cycle that allows us to tackle new trails, try new things. Downhill riding in Colorado this past summer, Kiddo and my first “Super-D” race. And in a full circle, we plan on doing our first cross country races at this year’s Fall Colors Festival.
Learning right from the start…the right way
January 1, 2012
As an added benefit, because he learned to ride correctly at the time I was also just learning mountain biking, as a family we have been able to push each other. Kiddo doesn’t let me take the bail line around obstacles. Instead there’s a lot of “Mom, you can do that, you’ve been over bigger logs (or drop offs, or jumps or whatever)”. We now feel confident on all the local trails from intro to more advanced. Our weekends typically include getting in weekend rides at our in city trails (Hoyt, Oak Hill or Crystal Ridge), or at the more extensive Muir/Carlin trails in Kettle Moraine of southeastern WI.
Mountain biking has become part of our family travels. I was able to work in a couple of days of Brown County riding around a business trip in September, and over Thanksgiving, we tackled trails in the Nashville area. To keep active over the Wisconsin winter, the entire family are season members at Rays Indoor Mountain Bike Park (where kiddo is also taking up BMX and jumping). Next summer we’ll try our hand at riding Keystone in Summit County, Colorado, our first trip to a downhill/lift shuttled bike park.
Off the Road in the City……
May 23, 2011
Was thrilled this morning to see this tweet from @WORBA_MMB, the account of Metro Mountain Bikers, Milwaukee’s off-road biking club. The Metro Mountain Bikers maintain several areas of mountain biking singletrack around Milwaukee County. The Hoyt Park and Oak Hill sections are in located in Wauwatosa – the city just west of Milwaukee proper.
The weather was perfect for our first trail ride of the year. Sunny, 80 degrees. We put the hitch on the car, checked out the bikes; giving them the ABC once over – air, brakes, cranks and chains. Once that was complete, made sure we had all the gear – helmets, water, gloves, before heading out on the 5mile trip to the trails. Yes, I know we could have ridden, should have – in fact I ride past the Hoyt trails on my bike commute. However, kiddo doesn’t quite have his biking legs and stamina to do both the rides to and from plus the trails. Working on that is a goal for the year.
The trails are flowing, curvy single track. No tough climbs, but fun little touches of dips and creek crossings. The Metro Mountain Bikers do a great job of maintaining these – in keeping brush in check, building boardwalk type crossings, and installing rock and other armor in low lying spots.
I also laughed at this tree. Apparently, a local beaver has the same opinion as I about having this tree at the base of a small hill with a slight curve in the trail. Tho’ I suppose it would prevent you from riding into the river.
As young as you feel (or act)…..
March 18, 2011
With the exception of 21, birthdays which bring you to an age ending in a 1 are not exactly milestones. Milestones would be the ones ending in a zero, the ones signifying a decade passing…30..40..50..60.. Or the ones ending in 9, bringing the “I’ll stay 29 forever” mentality. In fact, the namesake of my junior high school, comedian Jack Benny, made a whole schtick out of being 39. So much so, that our team name was the 39ers. Seriously, google, it, in Waukegan, IL there is such a school, my father taught there for much of his career, my brother and I attended.
This picture is of me, yesterday, on my most recent 1 birthday, a birthday on which a friend tweeted “no way you were as cool then as you are now”. The weeks leading up to this birthday had caused me to acknowledge the change in me over the last couple of years. And to reflect on the birthdays before.
I was excited about turning 30. At that time, I’d just been promoted to my first true management role. 30 felt like a good transition, an age to take me away from the uncertainty and indiscretions of my 20s. Five short years later, everything had changed. 35 was a tough birthday. I cried much of the day. Was at a miserable place in my life – unhappy marriage, feeling stuck in my career, obese, health problem after health problem. Unable to see a bright future. I felt old, really old.
In hindsight, attending a school where I was a 39er, seems to have been karma for me. Set up a bit of fate. Not in the “I’ll lie and say I’m 39 forever” sense (tho’ it has crossed my mind), but in the idea of challenging conventional age wisdom. The point where I started to get it right. The age I got re-married. Not too long before my 39th birthday, I discovered I was pregnant. Was going to have my first child. An unexpected surprise, but one I am thankful for each and every day. I don’t have any memory of hand wringing or fear over turning 40, was probably too far into the sleep deprived world of the mother of an infant to care. Never really thought of it as a milestone.
Seems like the next few years passed in a blur. Career moves by both my husband and I moved us around a bit. I got settled. Maybe too settled. Slipping once again into a life by rote. Comfortable, yet increasingly uncomfortable. Sedentary. Health issues creeping up as my weight crept back up. Slowly coming to the realization that if I continued down this path I would not be able to keep up with my son. That my health, my weight was affecting the things I loved. Many of the activities I enjoyed, visiting amusement parks, gardening were becoming harder and harder. Unable to do horseback tours or ziplines, because I was over the maximum weight limit. Beginning to avoid or dread activity. Knowing this 39er was about to be a 49er….it was time for a change, time to once again challenge conventional wisdom around age.
Heading towards my 49th birthday, I changed. As my weight went down and my fitness up, I gained back confidence in myself, in what I could do. At 49, I finally got scuba certified, entered and completed my first half marathon (and my second), began to re-discover the joy of cycling, bought a road bike, learned the empowerment of fitness.
Here’s to 51….the year I will complete a triathlon, run a couple more half marathons, finally run my first 5k, continue to learn to mountain bike, continue to bike commute, hopfully, try a zipline or two. Continue to set an example of a fit, active lifestyle for my son. Continue to bring activity and fun into my family’s life. Maybe inspire a person or two. But mostly, relish the freedom and agelessness being fit provides me.