I’m Not a Super Cyclist, But I Still Enjoy Spinning My Wheels

friends cycling colorado national monument

With Angie and Marge on a lovely summer ride over Colorado National Monument

braveskimom logoI’m a cyclist, but not a very good one. I’m a pretty strong rider, but not a very consistent one.

Last summer, when I told friends that I’m training for the Venus de Miles Century, some looked at me as if I was crazy and others asked me technical questions about the training. I’m way more comfortable with the crazy looks.

And while I love road biking, I’m never going to be a superstar. I’m not even going to try. For me, the joy is all in the ride, and spinning of the wheels.

Four Reasons Why I’ll Never Be a Super Cyclist

1.            I’m a Dork.

mini clip bike pedal

Can you say “dork?”

Yeah, I’ve got a great bike and some good-looking jerseys. I wear my helmet and I wear proper shorts, gloves and shoes. So, if I may say so myself, I look pretty good. EXCEPT for one thing: I don’t do clipless pedals. I used to. I hated them.

I had LOOK pedals that only allowed me to clip in on one side. They stunk. They stressed me out. I spent most of my ride either trying to get out of them or get into them. With so much attention focused on my feet, I no longer enjoyed cycling. So when I got a new bike, I didn’t transfer my pedals or even get new ones. I left the clunky flat pedals with toe clips in place.

I look like a dork and I know it. But I don’t care. And without those stupid pedals, I feel released and free to enjoy the motion and speed of biking, without any stress.

2.            I’m Scared.

downhill colorado national monument

The only descent I really love: west side, Colorado National Monument.

It’s not like I ride around trembling in fear. But I do have a healthy respect for cars, motorcycles, patches of gravel, sharp curves and steep descents. Especially steep descents.

While I love to go uphill, downhill freaks me out. Mostly because of the aforementioned cars, motorcycles, patches of gravel and sharp curves. A popular ride in my neighborhood has all of these obstacles. When I ride it, I’m like a moderately fast hare on the incline and a lazy, ancient tortoise on the decline. That’s just how I ride.

3.            I Can’t Change a Tire.

bike pump and tube

Got all the tools. But what to do with them?

Well, I probably could, but I don’t. One time a friend asked me why I didn’t carry a pump, extra tube or patch kit. I felt ashamed and rather stupid. For years, I’d been riding with no emergency gear. I’d been lucky and never had a flat tire. I now carry all of these things now (except the pump, I go for CO2 cartridges, instead) and I’m still lucky. Never had a flat (touch wood).

But even if I did, I’d probably call one of the fantastic men in my life: my husband, my dad or my son and ask for a ride. And then I’d ask one of them to please change my tire.

I know this makes me sound helpless, a veritable distressed damsel in spandex. But I don’t care.

I carry around a lot of information in my head, including everyone’s schedules, eating preferences and social security numbers. They don’t know how to produced a meal from whatever is left in the fridge and I don’t know how to change a tire.

It’s a fair trade, to my mind.

4.            I’m Easily Distracted.

cycling with friends on colorado national monument

With my good cycling buddy Angie. Sometimes, we’re more social than cycle.

Or maybe I lack discipline. But whatever it is I can’t stick with a training regimen. Partially, it’s because I look at cycling as a social event. I love to ride with friends and sometimes, its hard to impose interval training on your buddies, or demand that they spin at a certain RPM. Sometimes, it’s better just to ride.

Even when I’m by myself, I find that keeping up the training is hard. I’ll start a ride with huge enthusiasm, say riding 30 second sprints every five minutes. I do it. I love it. And then, something catches my imagination. I start thinking about friends I need to call or a post I’m going to write or a trip I long to take.

It almost seems like endorphins fuel these random thoughts. The more intensely I exercise, the more thoughts I have. I like these thoughts. But because of them, I forget about my intervals.

Still, when this happens, I often finish my ride strong, simultaneously refreshed and spent. My body and brain have worked out.

I Have Fun

I don’t need the best pedals, or the fastest speed. I don’t need to follow a specific training plan to the letter, nor do I need to be self-sufficient and change every flat.

I enjoy cycling, plain and simple. I enjoy spinning my wheels and feeling the air rush past my face.

I don’t want to be a super cyclist. I just want to ride.

2014 Venus de Miles

venus de miles buttonThe 2014 Venus de Miles, Colorado’s only all-women’s ride is August 23. It’s not just for superstars, but for all women who want to ride.

Venus de Miles supports Greenhouse Scholars, a whole-person scholarship and mentorship program for high-performing, under-resourced college students. It’s a ride for a great cause!

If I can do it, you can, too.


BSM Note: 

I originally wrote this post for last fall.

Then, historic and unprecedented flooding in Colorado cancelled the 2013 Venus de Miles Century. So, I scheduled this post for summer 2014. I’d just been out riding with my friends Angie and Marge, and used some photos from that day.

Just a few days later, Marge suffered a traumatic mountain biking accident and was gravely injured.

Despite months of rehab, she may never bike again. It’s been a rough nine months for Marge and her family. She continues to be in our prayers.

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Posted in Biking | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Paddling Pleasures: Getting Out In Minnesota

st croix riverway minnesota

Photo courtesy National Park Service.

brave ski mom logoMinnesotans are an active bunch. Despite living in state known for ridiculously cold winters, these hardy folk spend their winters outdoors: skiing, skating, sledding and, of course, ice fishing.

When summer comes, they stay outside, delighting in mostly moderate temperatures and waterborne activities.

Last July we visited my brother and his family. They  relocated to a suburb south of the Twin Cities in 2012 after many years near Denver. Following his first house-hunting visit, my brother reported back that every home has “bikes, boats and cross-country skis.”

Bikes and skis made him feel right at home. And, he quickly found that when living in a land of 10,000 lakes (and some say its closer to 15,000) it makes sense to have a boat (or several) and a fishing rod.

During our visit we took to the water as well, finding that many urban lakes have trails along their shores for running and biking, and when one tires of lakes there are recreational opportunities along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.

Day Tripping: Thompson Falls

By happy accident, we stumbled upon the village of Thompson Falls, along the Saint Croix River that separates Minnesota from Wisconsin.

It was July 3rd and we were seeking fireworks. According a Minnesota friend, “our governor trusts us with beer, but not with explosives,” meaning that we had to go to Wisconsin to find firepower.

En route, we also found a perfect day trip, just 45 miles north of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area.

Thompson Falls is a village so cute, that even my husband describes it as cute. Tucked in a rocky river gorge, two natural attractions in the area are the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway and Interstate State Park.

 Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

st croix national riverway

Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Part of a 252 mile river corridor along the Saint Croix and the Namekagon Rivers, the 27 mile Saint Croix Scenic Riverway offers endless opportunities for paddling and camping. According to the National Park Service, the Saint Croix  Riverway is one of the few undisturbed floodplain rivers in the Upper Mississippi basin with signs of human use dating back 10,000 years.

If you need help deciding which stretch of river to explore, the NPS provides Ranger Recommended day trips, with basic logistics, information about the relative difficulty of each stretch of river and recommendations for turning day trips into overnight adventures. Interactive maps are also available on the NPS website.

Interstate State Park

Managed by the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Interstate State Park is located in a deep, glacial gorge known as the Dalles of the Saint Croix. With stunning scenery and famous cylindrical potholes, some of which are up to 6 feet and 12 feet deep, the Dalles are a perfect place to hike, explore and cool off.

interstate state park potholes

Photo courtesy Interstate State Park.

Flatwater sections of the river are popular with canoe-ers, while kayakers enjoy the rapids. Canoe and kayak rentals are available, or you can take an excursion boat tour if you prefer to relax and simply take in the scenery.

Camping and climbing are also popular park activities.

The Sweet Life

thompson falls mini golfBack in the village of Thompson Falls, a good place for a casual meal or some sweet, cold refreshment is the Drive-In. A true throwback, the carhops wear poodle skirts, the burgers are hand-formed and fresh and the hot fudge malts can’t be beat.

The Kid’s Burger Meal bows to the 21st Century by offering kids a choice of carrots or french fries (really?), but as you listen to the 50s oldies over the speakers, channeling Happy Days reruns or perhaps scenes from Pleasantville, you’ll forget about the carrots.

Healthy options or not, the Kid’s Meal comes with a prize: 2 for 1 tickets to the leafy, cool Adventure Falls mini golf course adjacent to the Drive-In. Allow time for a round before driving home, or better yet bring your tent and stay the night.


Portions of this post originally published at Women’s Adventure as an Adventure Moms column on August 19, 2013.


Posted in Outdoor Adventure | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

On Wisdom, Age and Family

wise old owl sitting on a book

Image courtesy CLKR Free ClipArt

brave ski mom logoWhile I certainly don’t consider myself stupid or naïve, I would never say that I’m wise.

Wisdom is something I associate with ancient Greek philosophers and cartoon owls.

It’s such a high and unattainable attribute that I never really even think about it.

That changed in mid-April, when I met a friend of a friend on a chairlift at Breckenridge. This woman is a great skier, with bad knees. She’s also a Ph.D, scientist so I know she’s smart. I was commiserating with her on her knees, which now limit her skiing.

“Don’t you hate getting old?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I don’t mind getting old. I appreciate the wisdom.”

Her comment stopped me cold. I thought about it for the next two days.

family ski breckenridge

It was our oldest son’s first time skiing Breckenridge. At the end of the day, after it snowed at least 6 inches in the afternoon, he remarked: “I thoroughly enjoyed this day.” What more could any mom want?

Time Passing

My kids are old enough, that I am suddenly very conscious of the passage of time. “How can it be that my son will 18 in August?” I ask myself almost every day.

spring ski day breckenridge colorado

Caught up in high school academics and activities, our family is as busy as ever, yet as I told a friend recently, I feel like I’m coming out of a tunnel and I’m not sure who I will be when I exit.

I think of it this way: when my kids were born, I entered this space, this tunnel of light and love called motherhood. And while I’ll still be their mother, and I’m still ME, I am suddenly aware that they are nearly grown. My youngest just got his driver’s permit, and while he’ll be home another three years, the oldest is nearly out the door.

And I realize that I’m nearly out of the tunnel.

What is Wisdom?

Since I didn’t really know about wisdom, I decided to look it up. Here’s what I found:

Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.

sophia greek wisdom

A Greek personification of Sophia, or Wisdom. Photo: Wikipedia

Reading this definition for the first time, it struck me that wisdom isn’t just for ancient Greeks (or  adorable girls named Sophia), but rather it is something comes from living.

It’s not learning, per se, but learning from life, that gives us wisdom.

As parents, it’s learning from our mistakes.

It’s learning that while one child, at age 4, may respond passively to a time out, the other one may resist and run around the house, flaunting authority until we come up with an appropriate (hopefully, non-yelling) strategy.

It’s learning that while we want to believe that teachers and schools have our kids’ best interests in mind, when it comes to notifying us that Boy #1 (at age 9) has a badly sprained ankle from playground basketball, or requiring him to sit for a scheduled standardized test, the school will choose their interest over his and that we as parents had better redouble our vigilance.

It’s learning that my husband hates being asked “how was your day?” so I’d better not ask it.

ski spring breckenridge colorado

While he doesn’t like being asked about work day, my husband is happy to tell you about this ski day in April at Breckenridge.

And, it’s learning about what’s really of value – to me.

Which takes me back to Breckenridge, and the wisdom I received.

I was in Breck to work, to present a workshop during a multi-day conference. I was also there to ski with my family. And I was torn. While I’ll always (let’s be honest) choose skiing with my family over sitting in a meeting or conference room, I was feeling a bit lame for not caring about learning, listening or networking with the hundreds of meeting attendees.

breck anne and kristen

My kind of networking: the morning of our workshop, Anne Haight (Silver Star) and I skied 18″ fresh powder (that’s 38 cm for Canadians) at Breckenridge.

And then I thought about wisdom. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that my family is of paramount importance to me. There is nothing more fun and rewarding than spending time with them. And while some days seem endless, that time is limited.

I can always network. I can’t always score a spring ski day at Breckenridge with my crew.

That’s what I’ve learned. That’s my wisdom. And I’m not apologizing any more for putting them first.

I’ve learned and I’m still learning.

Hopefully, I’m becoming wise.


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And I Thought It Was Just A Fashion Show

ski fashion 2014

Emily Summers, from Deer Valley, Cassie Harnett (sporting a super cute navy blue mid layer from The North Face) and me.

A guest post from Cassie Harnett, Castleton State College, Castleton, Vermont

brave ski mom logo(Note from the BSM: I met Cassie when I was at the North American Snowsports Journalists Association Annual Meeting in Killington, Vermont this winter.

A communications major, Cassie and I started talking about the cute ski clothes she was wearing — it was a fashion show, after all — and ended up talking about journalism. Following that evening, she wrote the following post and shared it with me. It’s my honor to publish her very kind words here, at Braveskimom.com.)

When I, a Killington employee, was asked by my boss to participate in a fashion show at the Peak Lodge, how could I resist? Getting to ride up in the K1 gondola late at night, wearing next year’s outerwear, and maybe having a couple of cocktails? It sounded like a fantastic time to me.

under armor ski clothes 2014

Cassie, looking absolutely adorable in Under Armour.

In preparation for the show, the other seven models and I tried on the newest styles, from up and coming brands like Under Armour and Roxy, to already well-established ones like  Burton and  North Face.

When the day of the event arrived, one of my co-workers informed me that there were going to be well-known snowsports journalists from around the country, and that we, the models, had to talk about the newest fashions hitting the slopes.  

As a Communications major from Castleton State College, I am currently taking two courses that pertain to journalism, learning about the do’s and don’ts of writing. So when I found out that the country’s top snow sports journalists would be in my presence, I was speechless.

When the event finally began, my nerves were kicking in. I was going to be having conversations with journalists who have been all over the country and have had countless articles published. So, to my surprise, it was also a networking event.

The event was quite a success. The food, from crab cakes to sliders and drinks all around certainly contributed.

Of all the people I spoke to, Kristen Lummis, the creator and writer of Brave Ski Mom, was a treat. She was so welcoming and personable that I could not believe how my perception of writers was skewed. I used to think that writers were these pretentious, uptight people who only cared about the getting the story, but to my surprise everyone I met that night was the antithesis of my thoughts. 

Not only did we talk about what I was wearing, but I asked her about where she has traveled for assignments and tips for being the best writer possible. Because of Kristen, I now might want to pursue a career in journalism, traveling around the country, meeting some interesting people, and skiing.

Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

This event opened my eyes into what I possibly want to do with the rest of my life. 

And to think that it was just a fashion show.

Again, thanks Cassie. You are so sweet. Best of luck with whatever you do. And remember, most of life is a networking event! 


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Spring Cleaning, Ski Style

ski and pole storage

Having somewhere your skis can lie flat is a great idea.

brave ski mom logoCleaning is never high on my list of priorities, but I do like to be organized and even more, I like to be prepared when ski season rolls back around in 6 months.

So after the last turns have been made, the last used hand warmers thrown away and the last über-sized ski resort brownie has been consumed, we go home and clean.

1. Wash All Ski Pants and Jackets

Most water-resistant outerwear, including ski wear, is treated with a durable water repellent (DWR). This is what makes water bead up and roll off, instead of soaking into a garment. Over time, and with each washing, DWR wears off. To keep the DWR working, you need to take special care with your ski pants and jackets.

Wash Smart. To preserve DWR, wash your ski clothes separately and only when they really need it.  Don’t thow them in the machine after every outing.

The experts at GORE-TEX recommend washing outerwear in warm water on the gentle cycle with a liquid detergent. Rinse everything twice to get rid of all detergent residue, dry everything on low and then run a cool iron over the outside of the garments.

Need a Refresh? If you find that DWR is less effective than it used to be, try using a spray-on waterproofing before tossing the clothes in a warm dryer. Again, follow-up with a warm iron.

Based on my experience of washing the DWR out of a “waterproof” jacket and then getting soaked in the rain, I flirt with overkill and substitute NIKWAX Tech Wash for the liquid detergent.

For spray-on waterproofing, I use NIKWAX TX.Direct every time I wash our ski clothes (other brands include Tectron and Revivex, but I haven’t used them).

Smart Storage

It doesn’t matter how you store your ski clothing over the summer, but its a good idea to keep everything in one place so that you can find it easily when the snow starts falling.

We hang our ski jackets and pants in the closet, but everything else – helmets, gloves, neck gaiters, and so on — is stored in our boot bags. And we tuck these bags in the back of our closets right below the ski clothes.

As for the ski boots themselves, thoroughly dry them, buckle them (not too tight) and store them away from sunlight and heat. I’m thinking that catch-all boot bag is the perfect spot!

ski boot backpacks kulkea and transpack

Store everything, year round, in a good bag. These from Transpack and Kulkea.

2. Clean, Tune and Wax Your Skis

Caring for your skis at the end of the season makes good sense from a financial and practical point-of-view.

On the financial side, you’ve got some serious money invested in your family’s gear, so you want to take care of it.  And on the practical side, if you tune and wax your skis now, you won’t have to do it in the fall or early winter!

You’ve got two choices. Have your skis tuned and waxed for summer at your ski shop or DIY. If you go the DIY route, here are some tips.

1. Clean the bases, sharpen the edges and using an all-purpose wax, apply a 1/8 inch coating to the bases. Let the wax harden for at least two hours.  Do not scrape it off.

brushing wax off skis

Brush and clean your skis.

2.  Strap the skis together, base-to-base, but don’t let the bases touch

3. Store your skis (laying flat or hanging) in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and avoid humid areas like basements.

4. Scrape the wax off and go, when it’s time to ski.

Do you have any tips for cleaning and storing your ski gear over the summer?

Please share! 

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Posted in Equipment and Gear | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments