I grew up with two very active parents who enjoyed a lot of outdoor activities including camping and whitewater kayaking. In the late 1980s, when I was in 5th grade, we got into mountain biking as a family, purchasing a new fleet of Giant mountain bikes. It began as a reward when my parents quit smoking over 15 years ago and has turned not only into an addiction, but also our family’s favorite way to spend time together.
I remember as a moody teenager saying, “I don’t want to go ride,” and my parents would respond, “You can sit in the car in the woods for a few hours.” Inevitably, I’d be riding the trails at Norris in East Tennessee, perhaps still moody, but more pleasant than sitting in the car. As I grew to notice boys, mountain biking became a little more enjoyable! I even raced as a beginner and won 2nd place when I was in 7th grade. I rode only sporadically with friends on occasion during high school and college.
In 2002, I moved two hours from home to Middle Tennessee, a difficult move for an only child who is close to her parents. However, I was in love with my then boyfriend, now husband, and he had a great opportunity in Middle Tennessee. I secured a decent job at a local university, but quickly realized that sitting at a computer all day; no longer walking the hills at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and earning more money for beer was taking its toll on my waistline. So, my goal was to get back into riding, not only for exercise, but also as a way to meet friends in my new area.
As an avid herpetologist and photographer, my husband, Jeff, was not a fan. He would prefer hiking any day to biking, claiming that you didn’t see much of nature zipping down the trail. So, I started slow…riding solo where I was comfortable, heading home for the weekend to ride with friends, or meeting my parents midway for a ride. Even though Jeff had a bike, it was difficult to get him to come along, he even claimed once, “I’d rather stick myself in the eye with a hot fork than go ride.” Even when I could get him to go, it wasn’t very pleasurable, I have a very vivid memory of him hurling his very heavy, crappy bike into the woods claiming he’d just leave it there for someone to enjoy. After rationalizing with him that someone might want the bike, but would never find it three miles down the trail, he coasted back to the car.
I don’t know what caused him to change his mind. I know for a while, it had to be intimidating for a guy in his 20s to be worse at something than his wife and in-laws! But, a few rides on new trails and a new full-suspension bike later, Jeff was hooked. Now, he’s come to the dark side with me, recently getting a new 29er single speed and even selling the old full-suspension. He quickly became stronger and faster than me (and my parents!), so that I now have to work out daily in the Rec Center on campus to keep up with him on the trail on the weekends.
He’s non-stop and we’re having the time of our lives! Not only do we have fun on the trails locally, but we are traveling to ride across the southeast, and heading home to ride and spend time with my family. I even raced again at the end of last year, riding with my Dad in a fun, fundraiser race, Dirt, Guts, and Donuts for a non-profit for Ride for Reading here in Middle Tennessee. Getting 1st place has inspired me to take on a few more races this upcoming year. Even Jeff acts like he might join the fun!
Consequently, I would love to attend the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic this year, to increase my skills for the upcoming year and continue to inspire family rides and get-togethers. I’ve got to find new ways to keep up with my husband and dad, and to be able to compete in upcoming races. After 15 years of riding, riding has now become an integral part of my life, allowing me to maintain relationships, physical, and mental well-being. And, I’m getting to the point that I want to learn more…not just be able to go farther or faster, but tackle obstacles that I haven’t before. In short, I’m addicted.