Friday, July 29, 2016

Strong Women - Know Them, Be Them, Raise Them

I'm a thirty-something mom to three kids. I'm not in the best shape of my life. I have baby weight I'm still carrying around, "baby weight" that is as much a part of me as the two year old I frequently carry alongside it. My identity is wrapped up in mama, chauffeur, advocate, and housekeeper. I'm afraid of heights. I've never in my life used the word "rad", and I would sound like an idiot if I did. I haven't rode a bike beyond the church parking lot where I teach my kids to ride since long before I had kids.

But if my kid is going to fall in love with mountain biking, I'm going to find a way to support her. If my kid can push outside her comfort zone and get a real life lesson in falling down, then I can do it, too.  So, I grabbed a friend and braved two days of Women's Camp at Mountain Creek Bike Park.

Photo credit: Christopher Vanderyajt
Photo credit: Christopher Vanderyajt
I was nothing short of terrified going in. I asked multiple times for reassurance that I wouldn't die. Walking into the bike shop, sneaking a peak at people flying down the mountain, I thought I'd made a terrible choice. The people I saw were rad. I couldn't even say the word, but these people seemed to live it. They were athletic, laid-back, seemingly fearless, and way more appropriately dressed than I was. I didn't fit here. But, I didn't have a choice. My good friend had driven up for the weekend to do this with me. I couldn't back out now.
Photo credit: Christopher Vanderyajt

We spent the morning on a tennis court learning the basics and doing drills. Most of the women in our camp group had been mountain biking before with varying levels of experience but all were looking to learn and improve. Many had taught themselves what they knew or been taught by their boyfriends or husbands, so getting back to basics and learning the fundamentals was a game changer for them. I was totally new, awkward, and nervous.

Photo credit: Christopher Vanderyajt
I quickly discovered something about the women's mountain biking community. They're amazing. In a sport still often dominated by men, women have banded together to own their place on the mountain and to get more women to join them. So inspiring. That was the beauty of Women's Camp, learning from and surrounded by women. Thanks to caring and supportive coaches along with the sweetest, most eclectic group of women, I somehow got the idea that I could do this.

The first run down the mountain was dicey. Let's be honest, just getting on the lift, riding it up, and getting off was dicey. I thought I was going to throw up. Then, I actually had to ride my bike down a mountain. Whose freaking idea was this?! I was so scared. My stomach hurt. I was on the edge of tears. My anxiety was out of control. But I did it.... one section of the trail at a time, encouraged by our group of women riders, and with a coach behind me giving me reminders as I went.

heels down, head up, elbows out... 
heels down, head up, elbows out... knees loose... 
heels down, head up, elbows out...

I chanted as I rode... my mantras, the many things I had to remember to successfully make it down the mountain. There was no space in my brain to be self-conscious about my fluffy waist or not looking the part. I couldn't worry about my body, because I was too busy using it. My muscles burned. I couldn't get distracted, the trail called me back each time. I began to intuitively adjust body in small ways for turns and different terrain. The intense focus it required was almost meditative. For two days, I wasn't mom. I was just me. I couldn't worry about my to-do lists, the schedule, the kids, or anything else. 


Photo credit: Christopher Vanderyajt
Surviving that first run changed things. I was finally able to exhale. I knew I could do this. I always tell myself I can do hard things. This time I proved it to myself. I wanted to do it again. I got braver, a little faster, and I started to have fun with it. I'm still a totally awkward beginner, but I'm grateful for the experience and am excited to keep learning.

I talk a good talk with my kids about being brave and trying new things, learning from our falls, and doing things that scare us so we can grow into the people we're meant to be. This was me walking the walk, and I'm so grateful to an amazing group awesome women riders and coaches for making it possible. I couldn't be more proud of myself. I went into the weekend thinking I was learning how to survive mountain biking for my daughter, but I spent the weekend learning how to mountain bike for me. 

Photo credit: Christopher Vanderyajt


Here's to strong women... 
may we know them, 
may we be them, 
may we raise them.

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