Monday, September 19, 2016

Let the Girls Race

Being the introvert that I am I tend to get bogged down thinking that no one else out there is like me:  I feel like I’m stranded on the Island of Misfit Toy most of the time.  I’ve struggled the past two or three months because I can’t seem to get people to commit to helping with building trails at Bald Rock.  I feel the urgency to not let this opportunity slip away.  We should have had a mountain biking community born here twenty years ago, and I’m not willing to let things languish for twenty more.  

I’m here, I have the ability and the drive, so therefore trails are going to get built.  I’ll tilt at this windmill as long as I can.

What I forget is that I’m a known member of a community.  I briefly touched on this in a recent post, but I have to reiterate after the KYMBA Women’s Clinic this past Saturday at Capitol View Park in Frankfort that it is a strong, if small, community of like-minded individuals who all have a love for our state and the existing and potential trails that we share.

Mandy signed up for the clinic a while back, and I volunteered as a local trail guide.  I’m maybe not the best guide for CVP but I know it well enough to speak authoritatively.  As of this summer I feel like I can visualize the trail system with some accuracy.  I think maybe we were both a bit skeptical that she was going to enjoy the clinic, but (to spoil the cliffhanger) she had a great time.  We’ll get to that a little later in the post.

When we got to CVP Saturday morning I naturally gravitated toward my friends in the group.  Once again, this was a gathering of the people I tend to socialize with on media on a daily or weekly basis.  I was coming from our most recent Cave Run-Red River Gorge IMBA chapter steering committee meeting and stoked about our progress and the bright future of mountain biking in Eastern Kentucky. 

After the clinic I am even more reaffirmed that we’re approaching a tipping point or some event horizon beyond which the future is unknown but certain to be explosive. The clinic was great.  I can’t say enough about how positive and beneficial it was.  Other people expressed that our state is beautiful and ripe for mountain bike trail development.  I’m not the only one; these dragons are not windmills!

But back to the clinic.  For the first half of the day the IMBA certified instructors took the groups and worked on basic mountain biking skills.  A lot of the stuff they went over are things I either learned by trial and error or not at all.  So I would definitely take a skills clinic myself at some point in the future.

There wasn’t a lot for me to do early on, so after a half hour I took off on the trails myself to kill some time and get out of the way.  One thing about women’s clinics is that they’re supposed to be environments where women can ask questions and be open about their concerns without the typical male-dominated rhetoric and social pressures.  While I try my best not to be the kind of person that makes anyone uncomfortable I decided my presence did not directly contribute to the experience and I left.

CVP was in fine condition.  I rode about six miles of the loop and checked back in with my group occasionally.  As lunch approached I gravitated toward the shelter to see if my help was needed.  The drizzle started just before lunch.  By the time all the groups were in to eat we had a steady rain.  Which continued through lunch and beyond.

Before the rain

When it was time to hit the trails after lunch it was apparent the rain was along for the ride.  We all sucked it up, cinched down our rain jacket hoods, and headed out on the trails. My group rode over four miles in a steady downpour on wet trails.  To those that started out intimidated we tried to reinforce the notion that if they could ride in those conditions then they were going to be positively brimming with confidence in good conditions.  I think they all got it.  And everyone seemed to have a great time.  I know I did.

I was happy to run into my wife on the trails when our groups crossed paths and she was so excited to tell me about the things she had learned and what she could do.  I saw her a few times chasing after Troy Hearn who I myself have chased at Capitol View and felt very accomplished to hang on his wheel for even one lap at the KY Point Series Race this past summer.  Afterward Troy bragged on her and told me I couldn’t just let her ride my hand-me-down bike that she needed her own mountain bike.  I agreed.  So now we’re in the market if anyone has a great deal on a really good used women’s mountain bike.  But truly she deserves a new one.

The title of the post comes from a conversation the group I went out with had.  Vince—one of the instructors—told about a kids’ race I which two of the girls were dominating the field so thoroughly the organizers split the boys and girls into their own races so the girls weren’t competing against the boys.  One of the participants said under her breath that that would all change after puberty.  To which I said out loud: “Let the girls race the boys.” Why do we need to protect the boys’ egos from being beaten by a girl? 

The truth of the matter is that not all men are athletically superior to all women.  It may be true that in general elite men outpace elite women in athletics, but I guarantee there were women out on the trail at CVP with me in the rain on Saturday that can kick my butt on a bike…mountain or otherwise.  For average folks men do not have an unequivocal athletic advantage over women.  I’ve never been in a race where a girl or woman hasn’t beaten me except in races where the women raced separately.  I think its misleading to make statements like: “men are faster than women.”  Only a very small minority of men in some activities are better or faster than all women.  That absolute statement ignores the reality that there are a lot of women who are better than the majority of men and other women at the things they do.  And that’s not limited to athletics.  That’s not something we should ignore in all aspects of life.  Women are not lesser than men.  In fact, a lot of men do not have a fraction of the drive of even average women.  It seems to me like we need to stop drawing lines based on gender.  And why does anyone need to say that in 2016?

As an aside, but definitely related, my cousin was posting updates on Facebook on Saturday of her daughter's crushing of the field at the Trek CXC Cup in which she was killing it even against the boys.  Saturday she won her (gender) race and came in second on Sunday morning.  But she beat a lot of boys in the process.  

Anyway, it was a fantastic clinic.  I had a great time and I was not even a targeted beneficiary.  Again, it was a reflection of a close knit and positive community and we need more of that in our world.

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