Friday, June 2, 2017

#200women200miles

I have no idea what I’m getting myself in to – and this is the feeling that I’m after.

The draw Dirty Kanza had this year for me was mostly the #200women200miles campaign - a lot of female friends were signing up, and the general mentality of a lot of the ladies signing up was pretty great: friendly, excited, a little nervous but really, really supportive. I’ve heard a lot of great things about DK and now that we are in Emporia, it’s finally beginning to feel real: I get to be a part of something really cool.

I love the feeling of the unknown, the feeling of something big and epic, and not being able to comprehend what I’m chasing after until I’m there. With 200 miles of gravel in a state I’ve never been in before, I think this pretty much fits the bill.

Without wanting to ruin any discoveries along the route, I truthfully haven’t done a lot of research on the course for DK! I know it’ll be a harrowing course with rough terrain and sharp flint. I know there will be stretches of gravel in the sun and that I better pack sun screen. I know if it rains, it’ll get mucky. I know Dan gets to replenish my water and snacks at a few checkpoints and that this race – he gets to work on my bike if something goes haywire. I’m basically counting on my knowledge and experience of getting lost on long rides to get me through. My goal is to finish with a smile on my face – and to do it with 199 other smiling women.

I’ve fallen in love already with Dirty Kanza. The event organizers have done something really cool and racing isn’t the top reason why I’m in Kansas: it’s so important for bike event organizers and brands to support women in cycling. Yeah, it’s great to see more fast women compete and it’d be great if I had a perfect race, but truthfully, I’m just happy to be here the year that the Dirty Kanza has a record showing number of women. I’m stoked to see so many more women on bikes challenging themselves and falling in love with pushing their limits and wandering into the unknown. It feels really good to stretch your comfort zone. Completing something difficult makes me feel accomplished and the group mentality heading into DK makes me feel excited. Like I mentioned before, I am so stoked to be included in this year’s #200women200miles event! I love that spaces were held for women. I love all of the excitement about this year’s race.

My legs and lungs feel pretty decent – I’ve been able to get some good rides in this year – whereas last year I went until November before riding a complete century. Time got in the way. I had enough time this year thanks to a stellar staff at the Fulton shop, but the mental aspect has been rougher than I remember the last few months: there are some pretty old-fashioned dudes who come in to the shop who put up a fight when they’re being helped by a female staff-member and it makes me frustrated and sometimes a little anti-social around bike events. I want to spend my time around the people I love and with people I know who don't have a problem with women in the cycling industry. Sometimes you still run into those old-fashioned dudes at bike races.

We’ve got some new women at the shop and I absolutely love their positive attitudes and work ethic, their drive to learn hands-on and to be taught mechanics, and their ability to go with the flow. They’re smart. They’re awesome. They don’t deserve some of the egos that they’re met with to their face or over the phone. I know, I know, this is their first year in a bike shop and they still have a lot to learn: but they’re fucking rocking it and we’re in an industry where we need to retain women. Getting beat up day after day in the retail industry gets harrowing, just as the DK course will probably be. 

Packing for Dirty Kanza, I found myself procrastinating. We had just gotten especially beat up by guys second-guessing us just at the sound of our voice answering the phone – men who refused to even tell us the reason why they were calling (primarily, it’s to see if we’ll work on their bike or if their bike repair is finished). I had one man hang up on me 3 times, who finally got through to a male mechanic, who wanted to ask if we could refurbish his 1958 vintage bike – only to get told the same thing I told him 3 times: “Bring the bike in and we can assess what shape it’s in and if we can get those parts.” The guy didn’t know what brand the bike was or what style of bike it was, but he knew that he didn’t want to talk to a woman – and this isn’t an assumption, he flat out told me. Dan sent me out on a ride that night after work. He told me to forget about these jerks. I can’t forget about their stubbornness because I want to break that thought process. 


This is why it’s important for races that sell out to hold spots for women. This is why it’s important for me to keep a positive outlook on the bike industry. This is why it’s important for me to hold my head high in front of my female coworkers and to bite my tongue when I want to yell at a dude for being a complete jerk and for assuming I don’t know anything about bikes. We need more women in the bike world and leaving spaces for them to sign up is a great step to take to work towards that goal. How fast we’re able to race and to finish isn’t the most important angle at the big race this weekend: it’s being there, it’s taking up space, it’s encouraging other women to hop on their bikes and to ride, it’s empowering by putting yourself in to a situation where something might break and limping through to fix it, and it’s setting an example for other women out there who want to step in to the bike world. It’s creating a safe place for women to feel confident without being doubted just because we’re girls and it’s hopefully getting more guys comfortable with the fact that a woman may someday ride with them or work on their bike.

It’s tough and it’s going to be gritty – but we’re all in this together – and it will definitely get us out of our comfort zones. 

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