Knowing the facts alone about Lisa's life, it's hard not to feel a tinge of inadequacy. We're introduced by email and she says she won't be able to talk on the phone because she caught a cold after running a 50K and lost her voice. Alright, 50K, I thought- it sounds daunting but it's not exactly a marathon. Later, while reading through her blog, I found that she recently earned the title of Marathon Maniac. I didn't know what that meant, but I had to assume it was something crazy. As she explains, "The requirement to be a Maniac is three marathons completed within 90 days, we would be doing it in 70 days, plus I would have a trail 25K in the middle and a 50K six weeks after marathon #3." You have to think that for people who achieve such superhuman feats, a marathon is as simple as drawing another tally on the wall. However, Lisa would be the last person to minimize the mental and physical roadblocks that show up in every race- and more broadly, in every life challenge- no matter how many she's pushed through before. In her blog, alongside accounts of races and outdoor adventures runs her personal inner narrative – feelings about her daughter leaving for college, examinations of what she perceives are her own inadequacies. Sure, it's no secret that everybody doubts themselves, but we have to be thankful for those eloquent enough and willing to share those feelings so the rest of us know we're not alone.
If you had asked my 20-year-old self, I’d say “I’m nothing special.” If you asked my 30-year-old self you’d probably get “I wish I was something special.” Now, in my 40’s, I’ve discovered that it has always been the people I choose to surround myself with that make me, me. I choose to insulate myself with people who challenge me and who encourage the people around them. I find these people are often advocates for a better world, and by world I mean even if it’s a fifty foot radius around them at the moment, they choose to make that space better. I have excellent friend picking skills.
I work for the Food and Drug Administration in a research capacity, focusing on foodborne pathogens. I hate to say that I tell my daughter that “having it all” is a lie. I love my family, I love my career, and I love playing outside. Sometimes one identity takes precedence over the others and focus has to shift in order to do the job at hand properly. Balancing those shifts is difficult, but each aspect of life can be rewarding and fulfilling.
The Ride Leader
A good ride requires a really good support team. After doing everything the first year, from trying to plan the route and not doing a great job of it considering the disparity of riding abilities (lesson learned) to making an entire picnic lunch for 30+ people, I learned that people want to help, want to get involved, and I need to let them.
“Cycling has always been about the heart for me.
Not about the conditioning of my heart, but the emotion.”
With friends or with family.
Some of my fondest memories of childhood are racing banana seat Schwinns around the dirt tracks that my friends and I built in the undeveloped land around our subdivision. Then as an adult, I re-engaged with cycling as a way to be active and spend time with my husband.
The first stimulus for Arkansas Outside was that we could never look at one website to find all the cool outdoor events. We had to look at running sites which were often separated by region, and road runs and trail runs were rarely on the same site. Same for cycling: road cycling and mountain biking were covered on separate sites, and often not advertised well on the web at all. And try to find paddling info, good luck. We decided there should be a place for schizophrenic outdoor freaks like us to go for information on all the stuff we love about the Natural State.
Away from the sausage-fest.
When I saw the idea for CycloFemme, I immediately thought of my friends who were always lamenting the fact that the bike clubs were sausage-fests. What a great way to get a lot of women together who might not know each other and needed to find other women with whom to connect? I had no clue what to expect. Our first CycloFemme ride in 2012 was, in my eyes, disorganized. I had no idea that twenty-four women, spanning three generations, on everything from townies to high end road bikes would show up. We had logistical issues but learned a lot from that first year.
I am thrilled that the Arkansas Heels on Wheels group has gained so much traction in the last two years and even more thankful that two women who are spearheading not only AHOW, but are also active on the board of our local cycling advocacy group, met at CycloFemme 2013.
Homemade tall bikes?
My friends the Signorelli and Vine families have the tall bikes. You can imagine, these are adventurous folks and they are also crack unicyclists and paddlers. Aly, Crash, and Monkey all rode their welded tall bikes on our first CycloFemme ride on the Arkansas River Trail in 2012. Part of the reasoning behind that first ride was to just have a good time and do a little PR for cycling on mother’s day. We knew a lot of families would be out on the trail that day and wanted to be able to wave and chat and show people that it’s not just about racing. It’s about the joy and freedom of two wheels, no matter what those two wheels look like.
Learning from past rides.
The rides have changed in that 1) we have more riders. We’ve gone from 24 or so in year one to so many I lost count after 60 in year three. I couldn’t count them, they wouldn’t stay still. The first year we just had one ride, all on pavement, and it was hard to keep everyone together. The second year we planned for road rides and mountain bike rides. In year three we actually had 4 rides, beginner, intermediate and advanced road rides and one mountain bike ride. We tried to plan each ride with mileage that would allow everyone to reconvene for refreshments and socializing about an hour after starting. It has worked out pretty well with having a leader and a sweep for each ride.
Heart, not heart rate.
Cycling has always been about the heart for me. Not about the conditioning of my heart, but the emotion. It’s something I started out sharing with the family I’m related to and became something I share with my friends because they are the family I’ve chosen.
A purpose for everyone.
Depending on where in the world one lives and what economic advantages one has or does not have, the bicycle could mean anything from a means to gain access to health services, to building a business, or a way to affect the environment by choosing an alternative to the automobile. When women in developing countries have transportation, it blows open the windows of trade for them. When women use bicycles as alternative transportation, children see the value in building infrastructure that is not car-centric. They also learn to see their neighborhoods in a way no child in a car seat will. When mothers are active and healthy, children are active and healthy. These all sound like huge goals, but it happens. On a smaller scale, all those things are true in my community.
“Life is riddled with danger
but that shouldn't stop us from living.”
Between our correspondences, Lisa was faced with the terrible tragedy of the death of her friend, Laura Woolridge, in a bicycle accident while pre-riding a race course. Laura was a huge cycling advocate. Her impact on her community was so great that on the Sunday following her death, local cyclists gathered for a memorial ride in her name. The gap now felt by her community is a reminder of how powerful an influence one woman can have on the world around her.
Laura Wooldridge 12/15/74 – 7/19/14
Wife, mother, friend, cyclist, advocate. I should not count myself as a fellow, as I feel shadowed by the enormity of her influence. I can’t count how many times, especially in the past weeks, women and men have said things like, “I know she was a CAT 1 racer and I was a beginner but she never made me feel like it was a burden to ride with me. She made me feel like a peer. She is why I’m racing today.”
As her friend and occasional riding companion, I will forever miss the ways in which she tried to make me see the world differently. She never failed to see the beauty in the world and it radiated out of her. My fear is that Central Arkansas CycloFemme will never be the same without her. My prayer is that her legacy continues, inspiring men and women to ride, to take others under their wing and help them along, to smile often, to laugh loudly, and to Live Like Laura.
Moving past fear.
There is danger in walking across the street, driving a car, taking a trip on an airplane, in playing soccer or softball. There is risk in being inactive, big risk. Life is riddled with danger but that shouldn't stop us from living. Like many other sports, wearing the proper gear, working up from one skill level to the next, and being aware of our surroundings at all times helps reduce the risk. For me, the fear of not doing is bigger than the fear of doing.
“Why should women cycle?
Empowerment. Freedom. Health. Conservation. Friendship.”