I joined Team Revolution, a women's cycling group based in St. Louis, as part of my "join a group" goal for 2011, and my year in mountain biking has been bookended with their events: my very first mountain bike ride ever in January and this weekend's trip to Land Between the Lakes, KY. While I haven't managed to attend many of their events, the ones I have made it to have been great. I've been reminded that everyone has to start somewhere, encouraged by the positive atmosphere, and inspired to ride things I never would have considered. This weekend was no exception.
Since we had the day off (thank you, veterans), Lori and I headed down to Kentucky early to do some riding on Friday. We were the first to arrive at the rental house and were really impressed with how nice and big it was inside.
|I could totally live here.|
We assumed that it would be pretty hard to get lost on an out and back trail, but we were quickly disabused of this notion after losing our way 100 yards from the trailhead. The doubletrack leading down from the picnic area was strewn with straw, as if it had just been seeded, and a narrower trail seemed to go off in a different direction. We eventually noticed a trail marker on the trees to our right and breathed sighs of relief that our adventure racing teams for the Castlewood 8-Hour aren't counting on us to navigate.
|Lori on the North-South trail|
I won't lie...as we pushed...and pushed...and pushed, I was internally certain that I'd also be walking my bike down the hill. I've made no secret of my fear of downhills, and this one had tons of roots and thick leaves and little drops and looked plain scary. After what seemed like forever walking, we made it to the top and got back on our bikes. There was one more hill where we had to walk partway up and all the way down, but we made it to our goal before it was time to turn around to beat the dark.
|My inner adolescent boy finds this name hilarious. |
We joked that that's where you stay when you've been on a bike too long.
|As if I needed a sign to tell me to go slow!|
We managed to get back to the car without getting lost, and several more people were at the house when we got there. Ladies trickled in in groups, and the amount of food that built up on the counters was nothing short of astonishing. Put a bunch of girls together, and we can eat. This is both good and bad: the food was delicious, but I was a little worried about elastic failure on my bike shorts.
|Just a small sampling of the culinary bounty|
|Judy and I took on Suzanne and Jackie...and lost.|
I'm sure our defeat had NOTHING to do with my refusal to set down my drink.
Lori and Lo take on Alice and Judy while Kelly and Jean watch.
|I got the top bunk!!|
|Ready to hit the trails!|
|Riding the dip...it looks a lot scarier at the top than it does from the picture.|
We rode a while longer and stopped for a snack break/photo op.
On the trail again, we encountered an older couple out hiking. They tried to warn us about some trees down on the trail and the lady suggested that we might want to turn around. Her husband mentioned something about going around them (which to me is kind of an obvious thing). We figured we could probably get past the trees one way or another and rode on as the lady exclaimed to her husband in a thick Kentucky drawl, "Those girls ain't hardly ever ridden a bike! Why are you tellin' them to keep going when the man who rides all the time wouldn't do it?!?"
The doubting hikers and downed trees weren't the only obstacles we met.
|We were riding from the far side (top) of the picture towards the near side (bottom).|
While I readily tackled the above section, the next tricky place stopped me short. There was a tree fallen across the trail, and smaller logs had been used to build a ramp up to the tree. It looked intimidating, so I opted for the bypass trail, but then Lo rode up and over the tree like it was nothing. "You going to do it?" Judy asked me, and I decided yes, yes I was. I'm not sure who this new, daring me was. The crazy thing is that I didn't even let the tree scare me; I looked it over, decided where I wanted to ride it, and went for it. I got over with no problem, and I know I had a huge smile on my face. Although the whole ride was just wonderful, that was a real high point for me...finally feeling like I can do this.
|Looking at the picture, it doesn't look that scary. It's more intimidating in person. :)|
Next, Judy went, and she made it to the top before she had to put down a foot. Not satisfied with that, she headed back and rode it again. Her wheel went just a bit too far to the right and slipped down.
|I'm really glad this happened after I rode over!|
Then Sara went. I kind of feel like Sara was my kindred spirit out there. She talked about balance impairment and falling a lot. Really, a lot of those girls were like kindred spirits. The guys I ride with seem fearless; maybe that's because they really are, or maybe it's the confidence of experience, or maybe they just don't talk about being nervous because they're guys. Some of the ladies had that same kind of kamikaze spirit, but others talked about dealing with fear and the mental aspect of mountain biking. It's nice to hear that you aren't the only one...and then to watch as people overcome their nerves.
Sara got up to the top of the tree twice, falling once on the way. The third time, though, she nailed it. The look on her face as she came down the other side was pure joy.
|Sara on her way up|
|Jackie making it look easy.|
|Who put these here?|
|Another regrouping spot. Pretty view, but windy.|
This was a great trail. It had long stretches I could ride comfortably, where I could work on maintaining some speed and handling without riding my brakes, and it had plenty of areas that challenged my abilities, conditioning, and courage. I can't even tell you how much I loved the ride. I really can't wait to go back, and I'm so thankful to have had the chance to experience it with such a great bunch of girls.
As awesome as the riding was, it was improved by the company. The entire weekend was embued by a sense of camaraderie and fun. For someone who grew up with brothers, is surrounded by sons, and has a family life that doesn't leave nearly enough time for a social life, this time away was a real gift. I found not only thirteen other trail companions and bike mentors, but new friendships. If you have a chance to do something like this, jump on it. You absolutely won't regret it. And if you're a woman in the St. Louis metro area who loves biking, check out Team Rev. You'll be glad you did.
(Note: All the good pictures are courtesy of Lori.)