Dirty Kanza Women’s Camp 2019

“I want to make you see that you are stronger than you think you are!” Linda Guerette

As ladies I think that gravel and the gravel family is so important! I came into camp knowing this BUT I was unprepared for the experiences and friendships that would form.

When I heard the words Linda spoke it made me think about exploring the ways that I would and could improve in my perception of myself this week. What were my weaknesses that were in my head and what were weaknesses on the bike that I could find strength in…….As an artist at heart few things are black and white to me, but as a woman most things are. An odd combination but the same ratio lead to the following findings:

I found strength in others…..Salsa Cycles and Women Ride the World asked me if I would be interested in helping another cyclist break down barriers. HECK YEA!!! I got to meet Michelle at the Women’s Camp. What an experience watching her gain traction in the cycling world. She went from white knuckles going down the hills to no brakes and smiles! Uphill there was no way I was keeping up! I found strength in myself as I smiled watching her progress. It’s scary sometimes entering into a subculture but Michelle grasped the opportunity and showed all of us what strength looked like! Anyone that can clip in for the second time and navigate through town has a win in my book!

I found strength in myself during the FTP test. Our first ride was an FTP test outside. I knew what that meant, kind of anyway. I have taken FTP tests inside and they are not words I really love to see on the Training Peaks app but I do like seeing the improvement. This was 20 minutes of as hard as you can ride, into a head wind….yea into a head wind! As I was pedaling along at my threshold heart rate Nick Legan pedals up behind me, then we see Jim Cummings standing on the side….Nick says “the founder of DK is out here cheering for you, give 2% more….almost every time you can so pedal harder”. Yep, those words will stick with me for a very long time also. I learned that day that I have more to give than I thought I did, that I can dig deeper than I thought possible, and that my heart isn’t coming out of my chest. Truth be known, I think I can always probably give more than I am right now…..That is learning about strength you did not know you had.

I found strength in my own head on the hills. It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I am NOT a good hill climber. Why is that I asked myself…..Is it my weight, my perceived fitness (or lack thereof) or my brain being my biggest enemy. I decided at gravel camp to embrace positive self thought. I was NOT going to tell myself anything that I would not tell a friend or stranger. There would be no you are going to end up walking or you can’t ride this hill like those ladies for four days! NOT HAPPENING. I curbed those thoughts, attacked the hills saying I can do this, I am stronger than I was yesterday and guess what…..YEP, I made it up every hill! I was stronger than I thought I was!

I found strength in exposing my perceived weaknesses to others. Everyone thinks they are unique in having saddle sores, soft tissue pain, menstrual pains and not wanting to talk about them. I was given the opportunity to help Lynn lead discussions about Chamois Butter and on the bike comfort. I came into the camp with a hot spot and I was not afraid, in the comfort of the mansion, to talk about it. As soon as I did, myself and other ladies, found that we all have had the same issues. The chamois discomfort for one is the chamois discomfort for most. I found comfort in knowing that I am not the only one with numb toes at the end of races and that it is a shoe issue and not my feet! Ladies, talk to other ladies about it. I found that what works for one might just work for you if you are willing to lay it out there and ask. What a revolution and what a relief! I could see it on others faces also….the “I know exactly what you are talking about look!”

I found comfort in knowing that I am not the only person who is not proficient at changing tires and knowing technical terms of bike mechanics. 🙂 I’m a fairly mechanical person under pressure but the lessons we learned from our fellow lady mechanics will stay with me always. Combine that with 20 other ladies asking questions and most topics were covered. I found strength in knowing that others had the same questions I did and ultimately the same fears.

I found comfort and strength in knowing that I could say I need to take time for me. As women our families come first most of the time. It’s hard to say I’m taking time and money to go do something for just myself. That said, it is equally important to do so. The Mom and wife that came home is stronger than the lady who left. I spent four days riding bikes in the Flint Hills being recharged and educated all at the same time.

The best finding for me was comfort in discomfort…..the food was amazing, the camaraderie was beyond measure but the Flint Hills never disappoint in keeping you on your feet. There was discomfort but it was greeted by laughter on Friday in the mud…..tire clinging, mud slinging mud! HAHAHA what memories but we did it. Saturday brought us wind and hills….I found strength in the discomfort of the hills and laughter going down them. We got to watch the rain lift off of the prairie and ride through river crossings! I found that I had strength I did not know about and as always the Flint Hills provides scenery holds a special place in my heart!

When I heard Linda say those words on Thursday evening I had two very seperate thoughts….

  1. As an artist….I get that theory very well. My challenge is always to make others see themselves as the best version they can be BUT it does not always happen and it is not easy to achieve. My thought was “Strength is not easy to show but I can’t wait to see it also”
  2. As a cyclist…..When they said Linda would be photographing the FTP test great images did not pop into my head but as it turns out that image will hang on our wall in front of the trainer. Yes, that day I was stronger than I thought I could be!

This photo is the second image from camp that will hang on the wall in the training room. It is not where I want to be fitness wise but I love it….it’s the first image since I lost weight that when I look at it I see a cyclist. I see someone having fun doing what they love and I don’t see a fat lady on a bike. So Linda, Kristi, Kristen and Amy…..THANK YOU! I found strength in myself that I did not know existed, I found love for my bike that I had not had before and I found all of you!

Thank you to everyone who was there at Women’s Camp on the front lines, in the camp, and most of all behind the scenes….Thank you for giving your own time and lives so that we can be better at what we love. Thank you for helping us come together as a group and finding strength in one another. WOMEN ROCK!!!

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