After spending the better part of the winter tucked up writing my book, I signed up for Liv Ladies AllRide Mountain Bike Camp as a way to quick-start my spring training. When I sent it off to my editor the realization sunk in that people might actually read it. The thought of publishing my book made me want to vomit. Anyone could read the parts of my soul I’d poured out onto the page.

The excruciating vulnerability made me want to hide out on the top of a mountain. Instead I hopped in a car with three other women Florida-bound with the best intentions to write a light-hearted piece our four-day biking adventure.

After the first day of mountain biking in Georgia and finding our rented house in Ocala, Florida, I thought it’d include anecdotes about our bike lock dragging along pavement creating the type of sparks cause passing cars to bang on their window, pointing frantically at the rear of the car. I thought I’d tell you about the small frustrations of navigating Ocala, Florida with its quirky habit of naming streets multiple names and naming multiple roads the same name.

Lindsay Richter changed my focus when she gathered us the first day of camp.

“Suck your ego out of your ears and leave it at the trailhead,” Lindsay said.She said the things I expected, about how learning from women help us leverage our female body types, about how being surrounded by strong, independent women encourages us to do the things that scare us.

Then she told us about how she rode for years with groups of all-men who told her, “Just follow me, do what I do.”

She spent years just trying to keep up, but despite her best effort she remained in the shadow of her then-husband. She found support in female mountain biking friends and they supported her during her divorce.

“I’m here to tell you that this community of mountain biking exists for all of you,” Lindsay said. “You know the fear-based voices your head, I have them too.”

She said her own self-doubt spoke even louder after her divorce and that she was still struggling to process what went wrong in her fifteen-year marriage. She admitted to feeling alone while all the other coaches made before bed texts to their men. Her voice choked with emotion.

I felt my tears lodge themselves in the back of my throat, could feel my eyes glass over. Listening to Lindsay share her vulnerability struck me as brave. She had gifted us all permission to stop posturing, that there was no need to pretend to be fearless before divvying us up into riding groups.

After a full day of riding that included skill sessions and a trail ride, I sat down with Lindsay at Santos Bicycle Shop and had the opportunity to ask her a few questions.

It sounds like you’ve really found your voice recently and cultivated a community of women riders. Why was it essential for your personal growth to be surrounded by other women?

I’ve always hated my voice –  it sounds scratchy to even my own ears. I’ve even taken voice lessons to deepen it, to make it sound different, but nothing helped. Over the years coaching I’ve blown my vocal chords.

Lately my relationship with my voice has changed. I don’t hate it anymore. I’ve overcome my insecurity of hearing my voice aloud because I’ve realized that I have something important to say.

Mountain biking empowers women physically on bikes, and that physical movement helps them to move through emotional struggles. I keep hearing how important my words have been to someone else’s breakthrough on and off the trail.Other women need to know that if the female mountain biking community offers is available for them, and I need my voice to spread that message. So many other women told me that it was okay to fail. I realized that so many women trust me as a coach and now it’s my turn.

There’s power to our words and the world needs to hear our voices.

Where did you find the courage to share your story so openly?

I owe it to the women I ride with, my closest friends. When I started riding more with women, we’d encourage one another to take physical risks. That translated into being more unguarded on an emotional level.

I still need women to encourage me. I feel insecure and at my lowest, mountain biking saved me. It made me realize how much we need women in our lives, that when things get tough it’s our girlfriends who will reach out to us.

As women we need one another.

The coaches keep reminding us to drive our bikes where we want to go, that we aren’t passengers, we have control over the direction our bike goes. How has that lesson of driving your bike been a metaphor in your personal life?

When I’m stuck feeling scared or sad, I try to get on my bike and ride. Rock gardens teach me how to look ahead and keep my wheels rolling over obstacles. I have to believe that I’m going to get through a rock garden, and I trust I’m going to get through this too.I spent a lot of time after my divorce pondering what went wrong. Every time I get caught up on the would- haves, could-haves, should-haves that loop through my head, I try to look ahead and imagine the life I want to create for myself.

Riding my bike reminds me I need to be strong and confident. I’m doing that in my own life one pedal stroke at a time.To find out more about Liv Ladies AllRide Mountain Bike Camp or private coaching options they offer in your area, click here.

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