Here we are again, back into the swing of the fall schedule. I'm not willing to actually call it Fall, I'm hanging onto summer until it officially changes on September 21. Whether I like it or not, the school schedule, kids' soccer practice and games, and diminishing sunlight nudges me into less turning of pedals and more shuffling of other people. Even those without kids must feel the heavier weight of productivity come autumn versus the punching out early on summer afternoons. Sigh.
But let's be determined to not let the seasonal transition get us down.
Let's ride strong into Fall, seizing the sunshine and embracing layering up when the air gives us a chilly kiss. We have plenty of time left to enter that first race (cyclocross season is upon us!), climb that cat 4 pitch, and blow away the mileage goal. Carpe pedalum.
I'm on the smug side about being a Colorado mountain biker. As in, "If I can ride here, I can ride anywhere." We're all kinda self assured 'round these parts since we ride on some of the most scenic and varying terrain in the US of A. Thankfully for my ego's sake plus the sake of people who have to listen to me, smile, and nod as if my word is truth, I found a big piece of humble pie can be served in those states you'd think wouldn't even have a menu. Here are a few places I had to eat my words because the trails or terrain were so fun, I'd kinda like to leave Colorado to visit them again:
Winona, MN: I raced the US Single Speed Championships here last summer, but as this is a non-sanctioned event with beer and recreational weed at the aid stations I'd say "race" is a strong term. The better phrase, is "I got my ass handed to me day". The first real climb had even the pierced, tatted testosterone boys pushing their bikes. Very technical, step-off-the-wrong-side-of-your-bike-means-injury bluffs and steep, rocky descents made me vow to sell all my mountain bike gear upon returning home. But the swoopy loopy forested singletrack in between hardships made me want to immediately return. Our course ended up being 50 miles but a reasonable jumping off point are the 9 miles starting at the Holzinger Lodge Trails.
Brady, NE: Not kidding. Nebraska. Searching for a way to stretch legs near Interstate 80, I found Potter's Pasture via the internet. It's a terrific story of a man - an attorney no less - buying acreage to turn into singletrack so he and his buddies could ride yet have it open to everyone, liabilities of private land ownership be damned. Just 12 miles from I-80, there are miles upon miles of options, from easy to technical. The flowing grassland and smooth dirt track makes for a gently pretty and softer vista than our Rockies. Canyons line up in corrugated cardboard formation. Erosion on some steep trails made hip-high gullies, making me think heavy rain hit in the not too distant past. The land is leased to a rancher, and sure enough we found a herd of cows who were not socialized to humans like our bovines on the South Boulder Trail. They were obviously panicked to see us so we let the mamas and babies move along, half for their peace of mind and half to preserve ourselves should a cow charge on us to defend her young. This was unique mountain biking that I'd highly recommend.
Milwaukee, WI: Just outside of Milwaukee in Franklin, The Rock Bike Park looked incredible from the website and peeking in. In Wisconsin, they used to create ski hills out of old garbage dumps; they'd stick a pole in the middle of the finished landfill mound and attach a ski lift to it. I learned to ski on such a "mountain." I believe this is the case with The Rock, which used to be Crystal Ridge Ski Hill, but I can't confirm it except to say it's a 245 foot mole hill with chairlift access to the top. Anywhoo, check out the park, which was designed by the same group that designed bike parks in Winter Park and Whistler. An article refers to Valmont Bike Park as a kindred spirit. Not a bad pedigree. But it comes at a fee. We decided to forgo paying $35 entrance fees and found really fun free singletrack adjacent to The Rock at the Alpha Trail. Park at the Whitnal Park golf course and bike across the street for entrance to the Alpha system.
Whitewater, WI: Being a UW-Madison alumnae, I have pride in anything related to John Muir, another Madison alumnus. His eponymous trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest would make him proud. There's a skills section with engineered wood berms and bridges to begin the fun, and plenty of trail options for each skill level. Mosquitoes are the unofficial Wisconsin state bird, so bring spray. You'll roll over rocks and roots and through forested corridors until your heart's content. A special shout-out goes to the LaGrange General Store, a welcoming foodie cyclist's oasis just down the road with incredible sandwiches, seriously cool bike related merchandise, regional beer to-go, and the attached Backyard Bike Shop to service your needs or offer bike rentals.
So, what did you do this summer?
This is going to be half heart-outpouring and half sponsor plug. But rest assured they dovetail into each other.
I've met a few times with our life coach sponsor Amy Mechels Reichlin with Yes & MoreCoaching - reference the "What is your 'yes?'" on the butt of our chamois. She's terrific, and the point of life coaching is coaxing out what validates you, what makes you happy and fulfilled, and helping point your time and action in that direction. Pretty simple on paper. Pretty eye-opening when you honestly dive into what fills your time and expends your energy.
While Amy has guided me to understand my professional motivation, lessons still to be learned, and goals, I'll share what I've learned about my athleticism so far: I'll never be a super competitive uber athlete. Why? I am not willing to sacrifice that much.
Coaching not only helps define what you're actively doing, but what you should cut out. What you say "no" to is as important as what you say "yes" to. If you want more time to read up on interesting topics, meditate, or work out, cut out the shit that isn't adding to your core values. Buh-bye social media, TV, or reading the e-blasts from brands you haven't bought in years. Hello to new space that can be filled with action that has meaning.
Back to my lack of a professional athlete title. My career has been with brands that sponsor the best in the world: I've worked with literally the best in the field of triathlon, running, skiing, cycling, snowboarding, and climbing. I still get celebrity stomach flutters when I meet someone who's won the "superbowl" of their sport. But I never have had the killer instinct to be one of their ranks. Why? Coaching taught me the answer: when I focus on my values and vision of what I want in my life, it includes family time, social time with friends, good food (love me some carbs, gluten, and dairy), celebration (i.e. wine), relaxation, and "home." There's no motivation for sacrificing to some extent all of the above, fierce determination to be the best at the expense of anything, or an internal drive to train when I don't feel like it. The Olympians and World Champs I've met have sacrificed. A lot. Once I realized my mere-mortal-ness IS of my own making, I released the disappointment that I haven't and won't be the best. And that's cool with me. I've already won in my own competition of a balanced life.
Try coaching and see where it leads you - or teaches you you're already there.