Mountain Biking Family Style
May 12, 2013
“Oh, c’mon Mom, you’ve ridden over much harder stuff than that!” That’s what you’ll hear if you’re around and I take the bail out, easy way around a trail obstacle. It’s the voice of my kiddo pushing me forward, urging me on, seeing skills and technique in me that I doubt in myself. We’re not your stereotypical mountain biking family….you know the ones you see at trail campgrounds and race weekends. The ones where the husband has been riding for years, the wife picked it up from him (or just watches from the sidelines), and the kiddos have been riding trails nearly as long as they could walk. Oh no. That’s not us. Not at all. At times I joke, we’re like the blind leading the blind.
But a mountain biking family we are.
A bit over 3 years ago after years of being a sloth, I started cycling as a way to get fit and lose weight. Road riding was good. I enjoyed it, but as a new cyclist in a semi-urban area, the traffic gave me pause. Riding paved paths was good, but still something was missing. On a whim in September of 2010, I attended a women’s mountain biking demo event. 2 hours later I was hooked. Convinced Hubby and Kiddo to try some local trails. In June of 2011, the whole family attended clinics at the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic weekend. Fast forward two years, we’re a month away from our third trip to this great event. We ride together nearly weekly. Have been season pass holders at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park the past two winters. Kiddo, now 13 but at 10 years old was afraid to ride his bike fast, will be attending his second freeride/downhill camp at Woodward at Copper in July. We plan vacations around mountain biking. Bought a bike or two (each). Even tried our hands at a couple of races. I won the women’s intro class of The Brown County Super-D, while Kiddo and Hubby both earned medals in their age class at the Fall Colors Festival in WI.
To say mountain biking has changed our lives, brought us closer, made us healthier is a huge understatement.
Last weekend was our first family trail ride of the season. I’d been out riding by myself a few times already this year. In fact having done the most riding I’d done in months combined with starting a new strength training program, I was in need of an easy rest ride. Well, a full rest day, but the sun was shining and the trails were open. Hubby and Kiddo were eager to go. Especially Kiddo. He asked if he could go ahead and push to see how far and fast he could go without stopping. Last summer, our rides consisted of resting at nearly every bench and the top of every climb in our main local trails, the John Muir system in the Southern Kettle Moraine of southeast Wisconsin. Kiddo wanted to see which bench he could make it to before he had to rest. We agreed to do a 5 mile loop of the brown&white trails and meet back at the shelter. Kiddo first. Hubby behind. I’d take up rear (knowing I was going easy and stopping to take pictures). They quickly dusted me. Never saw them after the first descent. Hubby got dropped at the first climb.
I got back to the shelter to find two smiling guys. Kiddo was still breathing hard with a bit of a flush on his face behind his beaming grin. He’d done the whole loop, 5 miles without stopping. Totally clean, no dabs, no feet down. The trail is flowing up and down with a challenging, root filled, sustained climb (yeah, yeah it’s WI, challenging and sustained to our scale). He was so fired up. Kept saying how glad he was he’d tried. That he had to prove to himself he could do it. The pride and passion in his voice made this Mom proud.
Yes, we’re a mountain biking family. It’s gonna be a great summer.
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.
Time to try something new, a bit of mountain biking………
September 25, 2010
In one of the many biking forums I pop into from time to time, I discovered there would be a Women’s MTB Skill Clinic at the Fall Color Festival. TrekWomen’s Demo team was doing the clinic (and providing some great demo bikes) while the festival itself is hosted by the South Kettles chapter of WORBA (Wisconsin Off-Road Bicycling Association). The Fall Color Festival is a mountain bike event held annually at the John Muir trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest of southeastern WI. The festival consists of several races of varying length, a children’s ride, and of course, the women’s skill clinic. Oh, yeah, and a beer garden…….. How could I resist?
I’d emailed the Trek Fit for Women team the day before to ask about a demo bike for the clinic. Lindsay Bradley of Trek emailed me back that she’d hold a Trek Fuel EX 8 WSD ( a sweet, sweet full suspension model) for me. Because I sent my height and weight, she even had the proper size bike selected and had pre-set the hydraulics. All that was left to do was swap out to SPD pedals.
Wasn’t really sure what to expect with the clinic. After all, I’ve only been biking for a bit over a year, and with the exception of a few loops around the Hoyt trails in Wauwatosa, WI (a project by Metro Mountain Bikers, the Milwaukee chapter of WORBA), I’d never been mountain biking. I was worried that my lack of experience would hold back the rest of the group. And that I’d be the oldest by far. Didn’t need to worry about either. Of the 9 or 10 women in the group, I’d guess 5 were in their 40’s or older. There was a variety of levels of experience in the group with other beginners like me. I, though, was the only beginner wearing click in shoes. And on that note, let’s just say while I would never ride without them, I have done myself no favors with my road bike habit of clipping out well in advance of stops. That is not an effective habit for mountain biking, and I desperately need to develop more of a second nature of clicking out quickly (more on that in a bit)!
We began the clinic in the brand new skills section of the John Muir trails. Lindsay was our instructor. Here she made sure everyone understood how to shift, how to brake (gotta work on that single finger thing), explained about momentum over obstacles, standing and riding with pedals level, always looking 30 or so feet ahead and a variety of other tips.
We made several laps around the skills course. Signs entering the area explained this is a work in progress – to date three wooden skill obstacles are built. Lindsay augmented the course with a small log for us to ride over, and a section of 2 4×4’s laid parallel about 8-10″ apart. It was this narrow obstacle that gave me the most trouble. Lindsey reminded me to look ahead, not down. Mentally I really struggle with keeping the bike on a narrow path. The look ahead hint makes a huge improvement. Did have my first fall in this area – solely due to having to stop quickly as someone balked at an obstacle and not getting unclipped. Scared the other women, bruised my ego a tad bit, but jumped right back on.
Once we were comfortable here, it was time to ride a trail. We were somewhat limited to where we could ride because the races were still running. Had a bit of confusion at the beginning, accidentally ending up on the race course where several riders flew by our group. Found the brown trail. Formerly known as the red trail, this is a great beginner trail. A couple of gentle rock gardens, some fast downhill sections (remember I’m a beginner), a punchy uphill section. Took a bad line in the sharp turn leading to the uphill section, rear wheel caught a big root as I turned and spun out from under me. Once again, didn’t get a foot out fast enough to catch myself. Fall two. Did I mention I need to work on un-clipping fast?
After the ride, we went back to the skills area, where Lindsay demonstrated how to change a flat tire, and patiently answered all of our questions. Questions which ranged from bike repair and maintenance, full suspension versus hard tail, 26 vs 29, best group rides, bike clothing and gear.
As to the festival itself….very nicely run. Bikes and bikers everywhere. Riders of all ages and sizes.
Beer and food. Highly recommend going if you are in the area – it’s the annual fundraiser for the trails, and a darned good time.
Unfortunately, I was in the clinic during the main races so don’t have any pictures from those. However, was fun to see the kids taking over the course in the afternoon.
Even with that fall (ok, 2, but who’s counting), really loved the day. Mountain biking brings an entirely different aspect into riding. On the road, there’s a rhythm to riding that becomes almost hypnotic, mindless; while mountain biking requires a constant connection with the bike. Getting off your saddle, shifting weight forward and back, holding pedals in a position to not hit rocks or roots, finding lines. All provide a challenge, a change. Still love the road bike, but can tell I will do more of this style of riding. Having the opprotunity of learning this within a group of women was a bonus, a huge bonus. (Thanks, Trek!!) And they even gave us gifts, and not to mention let us ride some great bikes.