Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
What is gravel to me…I was recently asked that and had to think for a second. Yes, gravel is an aggregate that many states use as a road surface. Truly that is what it is to most people.
But to me, it is a way to find adventure on two wheels. It is the surface that has allowed me to find a new family on bikes, spend time with them and push my limits. It is through gravel that I have been able to push myself past what I thought I was capable of previously.
Gravel is a term that we lovingly use to describe our family…the gravel family. Truly we are a group that supports each other, helps each other and meets on common ground. The gravel community is inclusive and invested in their fellow riders. It’s not an easy day for anyone and everyone has a different challenge. The beauty of that understanding is that although the challenges are different, they are also very much the same. Never once has anyone criticized me for my pace…instead I am met at the finish line with hugs and congratulations. That in itself is very cool!
Gravel is the surface that gave my family the gift of time together. Each summer we would spend two weeks riding “gravel or dirt surfaces” on bikes. This is a time that is sacred in my heart now that the kids are raised. It is through that time that we got to reconnect without outside interference. Our cell phones didn’t work, we slept in tents, and the only way we got around was on our bikes. Even as teenagers the boys would ask for that time alone with us…it was our time without the world being there. Gravel did that for us.
Gravel is a surface that covers almost anything off road. That surface can be anything from smooth to large chunky rocks that like to destroy your tires. Like the riders, it is not consistent and that is the beauty of it. The beauty lies in the change and difference.
What is gravel…gravel is the aggregate that I get to explore to meet the greatest group of humans I know. Gravel is my passion and my road to adventure. Gravel lives in my heart and in my soul…if you have not met gravel yet let’s talk!
Passion…For riding, celebrating and for community.
“Inclusivity is easy to talk about and harder to do…taking a stand that includes everyone is the right thing to do every single time. As a back of the pack rider I meet the coolest people. To me, the people in the back of the pack are the hardest working people at any given event. They spend the longest time on the course, are outside of their comfort zones, and for some this is the longest distance they have ever ridden. The phrase party at the back is not something that has ever resonated with me…. it’s not a party because I’m working hard.” Crystal Kovacs
When Gravel Gals of Eliel was created, my hope was to give women a community and platform to encourage other women, help new riders find a place to meet others, break down perceived barriers and grow women riders in the gravel scene. More than any of the above, this was an inclusive community-based team for all women.
I wanted women to be able to go to an event or social media page and see their teammates…it was more than just an online group. This group is about women advocating for women in the gravel cycling industry. We have the chance to change the narrative of women in cycling and want you to join us!
I look forward to meeting all of you at events, during rides and on-line. Let’s make this the “team to be part of”.
Crystal Kovacs and Eliel Cycling
Gravel Gals of Eliel is based upon the following: You smile and wave when you meet others. You stop and help those that need it, and ask if you are not sure. You encourage riders of all levels, speed and ability levels. You are a voice for all women on course. You encourage others to find adventure on the bike. You have a can-do attitude and won’t be swayed away from being an ambassador. You do what is right.
We are currently adding members to our team…we WANT you and encourage you to join. Here are some quotes from current Gravel Gals
“This might be the cycling group I’m most excited and proud to be part of! I may not be a podium finisher, but encouraging and cheering fellow athletes is something I can do with the best of them!”
“This was the group I have wanted to find for years…I can’t wait to meet everyone”
“It’s so great to be part of this amazing community with such motivating people.”
We live in a world where the biggest, brightest, longest and flashiest is what goals are set against. We are taught from an early age that if we are not the strongest at x sport then we are not the “winners”. For me…these lessons carried over into my cycling life.
I know when I go to an event I am not entered in the longest distance, and if I am, I will not be in the front of the pack. I also know that I will not win the shortest distance. By the public’s standards I am not a racer. All noted in my mind…and all wrestled with.
It was not until I started talking on womens forums and doing pod casts that I started to process what that above statement meant. I was at the event working HARD to finish. The statement business in the front and party in the back was not applicable here. I was business also, just at a different pace.
I was not there to win but I was there to win against myself. And for me that was a revelation! I then started to dig deeper into what that statement meant.
Have you ever listened to riders at an event? Really listened to them when they describe their chosen distance for the day? I HATE hearing I’m only riding x amount of miles.
IT’S NOT JUST 25,50 or 100 miles!
There we have said it…we have ripped the bandaid off. For all of you at home working hard to get ready for the event…this is YOUR event.
This is YOUR distance and YOUR adventure. Please don’t say I’m just riding x distance. You have put in the training at home, the sweat equity and gotten out of your comfort zone to do this. Don’t let anyone take that away from you, and for sure, do not take that away from yourself.
Last year I stood on the start line at Rebecca’s Private Idaho next to my friend Bri. I was watching my husband wave goodbye to me. I was entered in the 56 mile distance and he was entered in the 20 mile.
The smoke was thick that day and I knew that Timber Creek stood between I and the finish line. I had tears running down my cheeks as I stood there. Nick had had a massive heart attack in July (this was September) and I was a little afraid of how the smoke and stress, and how his body would react. Leaving Sun Valley that morning I was determined to do what was right for my sponsors …without doing what was right for myself and those that mattered. I got to the turnoff for the 20 mile event and stopped.
All of a sudden it became clear to me that this day was not about anyone but Nick. That day turned into one of the most fun days I’ve ever had on my bike. Nick and I rode together, finished together and then waited for Bri to crush her distance.
Never once did I think that I had only rode x amount of miles. Never once did I wish that I had completed the longer distance or that I was not riding what I was entered in. I walked over and told the timing agent to adjust my course and walked away with a smile. That was 1000% the right decision..and was supported equally by every sponsor and coach.
The morale of the story…sometimes the best things come unexpectedly and without warning. Embrace them! This day was a win and the miles on the bike were just the icing on the cake.
As event season approaches please enter events that interest you. You will find that the gravel scene is extremely friendly to all skill levels, distances and to those out there trying. Find the distance that makes you comfortable and go for it. Embrace your choice, meet friends on the course and most of all smile! You are DOING IT!
My wish for this year is that I do not once hear I’m just riding x miles…I want you to smile (even if it is a nervous smile) and say I’m stepping outside my comfort zone and today I’m riding my race! And when the going gets tough (and it will) tell yourself out loud, with your own name, I’m DOING IT! Shout it if you want!
I can’t wait to see you out there!
Inclusitivity is a word used easily in conversation. It is also one that requires thought in real life.
Ever seen an article of clothing that you loved and hurried home to find out that it was no longer available in your size? This scenario has happened to everyone at one time or another. What was your reaction?
Ever shown up to an event dressed in entirely the wrong apparel? “Oh no, I did not know that this was an x type of event. ” Yep, gut sinking feeling.
Why size inclusion matters…if you are larger than a XXL finding appropriate clothing for sporting activities is less than a productive search. The clothes are boxy, low quality and ill fitting in many instances.
Imagine attending a major cycling event knowing that your clothes did not fit. Imagine that when you got there you were going to be different than everyone else because your clothing was different…wearing a T Shirt or similar item. Not only do you know your body type is not the same but now the glowing fact is there for everyone…you don’t fit in.
I receive numerous requests from major brands to test equipment. When asked I have two requirements:
That it fits
That it does the job it was designed to do.
It’s not enough to just make larger sizes..it needs to fit and work in the same manner as the clothing designed for the fit model. I need to know that this product was made for an active non traditional body type!
Why does it matter? As an industry we are trying to consistently find new people, new riders and new customers. EVERYONE has the simple need of wanting to fit in. It’s not unique by body style or comfort level. No one wants to be the stand out in a negative way. No one wants to be the last one picked.
The first time I saw my own body type in a marketing piece I ORDERED! Wow, someone understands that we have humans larger than a size small in cycling clothing. They picked a model of my size, and they chose to USE the image! I could not have been more proud of that company.
I have stood on the front line of inclusitivity since I started cycling. Of all the statements that I can say about my time in this world…that is the one I am most proud of! We are seeing change!
Telling events that I really have always wanted to purchase your event kit but it was not in my size is a hard pill to swallow…but one I gladly will take in the effort to see change. And change I have seen!
I can not wait to watch the cycling industry find that there are thousands of individuals who have non traditional style bodies. We don’t want catered to…we just want included. I am incredibly proud to say that we are seeing change. I am pushing for change, riders are pushing for change and so are brands in the industry. It will happen!
To the companies who have embraced this change…THANK YOU! To the companies that are attempting with questions…please ask.
Why does it matter….it matters because our athletes of every type matter! Fitting in matters and comfort matters!
Whew…stepping outside of our comfort zone is easy to talk about but really hard to do sometimes. It’s even harder to trust someone else when you do so.
As we all know 2021 was a year of change and growth. As I sat inside my home missing my friends I wanted to come up with a way, as a group, that we could train from our own homes, connect via social media and calls, and then meet in person. Hence, Nomadic Adventure Co was born!
The concept was to break down barriers entering the bike packing world. The was to be an adventure not a race. I am not fast and I wanted others to find that same relaxed pace. This was a trip all about friendship, pictures and no set times. Competition did NOT have a place here.
I have bike packed myself and LOVE it. There is no better way, in my opinion, to see the countryside than from the back of my bike! Life gets simpler when the cell phone doesn’t work and all you need to do is take care of yourself and the bike. I also knew that there are more people that have never experienced a night under the stars with not a car in sight than what have.
I asked on social media “What if I told you that you would go somewhere you had never been, do something you can’t do today and come home with a renewed passion?” Oh and “It will all happen on your bike.”
When I reached out to sponsors the response was overwhelming! I knew that we were on to something but I wanted to further break down barriers by lowering the cost of entry. We provided coaching, by Joy McCullough, for five months. Every rider that chose the “Entire Enchilada” package got stronger and stronger.
One thing that 2021 brought to us was zoom calls. I need a shirt that says “You are on mute!” Our Nomads were treated to weekly videos from industry professionals. They got to meet and talk to people that are household names in our industry!
All of the above is cool but it is only what lead up to the trip of a lifetime. The goal was to ride from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT on gravel. We would finding new limits and getting to know a route that very few have travelled. It would not be easy but it would be worth it.
The ability to set up a camp where there is not a soul in sight….not one light, not one radio or even a fence is something that everyone that wants to should experience once. The stars reached from horizon to horizon that night.
Part of the gift of bike packing is to be adaptable. Things happen out of our control. When Eszter Horyani asked about being our photographer she said “It will not go as you expected but that is part of it”. Those words were about to prove so true.
When we awoke we knew that rain was coming. We also knew that the ground was saturated from earlier rains and that the dirt we were on would turn to a soul sucking mud. The theme of morning was adaptability. Time to break camp and get on solid gravel.
I loved that the group trusted us to take them on a trip that they would remember and smile about. But, I will probably never be more proud of every one of them digging deep and riding through cold rain most of that day. The sun was no longer out and things were no longer fun. BUT when we look back on it that day, it has the ability to be claimed as badass! I DID that…it was that kind of day!
Does everything go as planned? NO. Long story short we adapted with fun that was not on the calendar but arguably more fun that what we were planning. The lessons learned I believe are:
Life is full of beauty and surprises…look closely and you will find both in the same place!
Thank you to our partners: Salsa Cycles, Big Agnes, Orange Mud, Kenda Tires, Eliel Cycling, Blackburn Bags, and Chamois Butt’r. The experience would not be the same without each one of you!
Photos credit: Eszter Horanyi
Take some time to ponder this statement…..“How willing are you to consider that your life is the way it is, not because of the weight of your circumstances or situation, but rather the weight of self talk that pulls you down? That what you think you can and cannot do is influenced much more directly by some subconscious response than by the reality of life itself?!”-Gary John Bishop
It’s so easy to tell yourself “it’s too hard, you can’t do this or this isn’t something that you excel at.” How do you talk to yourself? Are you kind and full of grace or do you beat yourself up? Are you willing to embrace the uncertainty and expect nothing but accept everything?
I have been asked many times what is your favorite part of cycling….the answer is easy. I love that it has never gotten easier. I have gotten faster but I still have to work at it. As someone who never really had to struggle to “get” things cycling has given me a challenge from day one. Has the challenged changed, of course. Have I changed…oh YES!
Last year was a year that was challenging for everyone. I would be lying if I didn’t say that training was hard and then stopped completely as I watched event after event cancel. I watched in stunned disbelief as my world changed. I understood why but I still couldn’t really believe what was happening. It was during the struggle of what to do next and how to stay safe that I changed my internal talk.
I began to challenge myself to have positive inner dialogue. I was willing! I took this quote to heart….”Stop blaming luck. Stop blaming other people. Stop pointing to outside influences or circumstances.” I was told you have the life you are willing to put up with. Those words hit me right between the eyes with reality. The stressors that I was identifying with were ones that I allowed into my life. If they stayed front and center I was putting up with that choice. Choices were something within my control and I needed to own that. I also needed to own that I was capable and willing to make changes! Time to act!
I also learned from bike events that I could embrace the uncertainty. Uncertainty is where new happens and it was time to find new. Did this happen over night? No, of course not. I still am not always certain of what is going to happen next but I can embrace that and turn it into something certain in my world.
In reality, even many of the things we think as hard facts aren’t. They’re half truths. They’re assumptions. They’re guesses. If you want to win, you have to be willing to be judged by others. Like plenty of things in our lives, part of our aversion to uncertainty comes from our fear of being judged by others. We are, in a very real way, afraid of what the public thinks and the prospect of being thrown out into the world of the social media. If you want to improve though you have to be willing to be fail….that does not make you a failure! Whether it be riding a bike, learning to run or trying a new hobby you will never achieve your true potential if you’re hooked by what other people think.
In fact, you could change your life overnight if you were simply able to abandon the belief that other peoples thoughts matter. Am I self conscious walking around in my kit at major events….yes. Do I know that others feel the same way….yes. Have I learned to not focus on that and what people think….you bet! If you are avoiding uncertainty you won’t do this. You will be too afraid of being judged and for that reason you are stopped with one foot nailed to the floor. THAT was a heard lesson to learn!!!
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
Once I learned that then I started to stop doing the stuff I knew I shouldn’t be doing and started doing the stuff I knew I should be doing! I learned to expect nothing and accept everything. I started to find that I was challenged by what my expectations were. It was not a conscious expectation but rather something that I was doing during negative self talk. The negative self talk I had was not from my own insecurities or self doubts….it was from unrealistic expectations that I had self imposed. No one had an expectation that I do 100 miles, that I do it in x period of time or that I lose x amount of pounds. Those were all self imposed expectations. STOP CRYSTAL!
You would never tell your friend that they were too slow, too fat or not ready for that event. Instead you would be encouraging and helpful…giving any suggestions that were asked for. Why was it so hard to tell myself the same thing? Why was it so hard to accept this?
Thankfully I was training again so I had time on the bike to think it though. My expectations need to change and my acceptance changed at the same time….what a moment! I began living in the moment, no longer worried about the future or rejecting the past. I was simply embracing my present situation as it came to be. This meant I owned my decisions and was in charge or it. I OWNED IT!
My life and my success, my happiness really are in my hands. The power to change , the power to let go and be adventurous, embracing my own potential was all in my own head. This powerful statement changed the way I viewed my moments, hours, days and weeks. I was no longer dependent….the change was mine.
That dose of reality was life changing. Not overnight…it takes time and willingness to try and fail. Heck, I fail daily. The difference is that I have learned to treat myself with grace and humility. I have removed the expectations that had my foot nailed to the ground. The reality that is still very real…. my life is mine to control.
Those were the first words out of Morgan Murri’s mouth this morning in the parking lot. We were headed out for a day of exploring on the Nomadic Adventure Co route and everyone was not sure what the day would hold weather wise. We all agreed no one remembers the boring days and we were off!
We spent an hour getting to the area that would be a place forever near to my heart! On top of the Bookcliffs overlooking the high desert we set up tents for a photo promotion and started taking pictures. The only word to describe it was MIND BLOWING! Ok that is two words, but still the best description! We have spent the last four days exploring this area and every turn is a new view.
Morgan and I decided to do a couple of quick interviews. Both tents were staked down so all was great. When I returned to the truck I asked Nick “where is my tent”? “In the truck” was the immediate reply…..Digging commenced and no tent. NO TENT?! I had my sleeping bag, pillow, shoes, helmet and everything else but the damn tent.
Enter the shit show portion of the day……
Morgan and Nick quickly figured out that the staked down tent had blown away in the breeze! There it lay at the bottom of the Bookcliffs.
Morgan took off at a run trying to find a way over the side of the bookcliffs so that he could run the ridge and save the tent….zoom in and he is on the left of the image along the cliff. Only the best of friends will scale a cliff to rescue your tent!
Morgan was able to grab the tent, wrap it up quickly and start back. I now know what helpless feels like as all I could do was stand and watch.
Whew…long story short no one remembers the easy days. This will be a day that we talk/laugh about for years and every time we see this tent will only make all three of us chuckle.
The knight in shining armor carrying the grey Big Agnes tent today…Morgan! THANK YOU!
I’m not the best winter person…..take that back, I’m really not a freezing kind of girl. I like the warmth and the thought of being outside in sub zero temps really never was something I heard about and said “Heck yea” sign me up! LOL
That said, a seed was planted in my brain back in October. We were looking for an out of the box all girls trip and I threw out Fat Pursuit in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. None of us had ever been and it sounded like something that would be challenging to all levels while still giving us a chance to succeed. PLUS we got to go to an event which in 2020 was a gamble. I started planning, digging and called Jay. Scared and excited were definitely the two emotions that surfaced quickly….could I do it and how would that look? But scared gave me motivation to want to train and ride my bike. I had a goal for the first time in months.
I called my coach and said this is the goal….quickly followed by “I trust Jay and he says that I will be ok”. I wasn’t ready physically but I was getting there mentally. I wanted a shot at it….and wanted that shot badly.
Life has a way of throwing curve balls and this year was no exception. I was invited to the Fat Pursuit Camp with a scholarship…..YEA! But as my clumsy self would do I fell getting out of the car on ice and couldn’t move much less drive 2-3 days in a car. Plan B here we come.
Since we couldn’t get to the camp, and the event was not happening in ID because of COVID we decided to embrace Jay’s COVID Challenge. Nick and I live in the River Bluffs, it’s not the mountains or Yellowstone but we have hills, roads and snow. We threw it out on social media that we were meeting up at Yellow River State Forest and decided to just see what would happen. Happen it DID!
Yesterday was nothing short of an all day adventure that was fun! We had people from three hours away in all directions show up. Kirk truly took the adventure to heart and camped out in the Forest the night before. We laughed, talked, rode fatties and spent the day enjoying the outdoors. Heck we even had people riding fats in the snow for the first time!
Is life always what we think it should be….no. Is there always a plan that we don’t understand…..yes. I wouldn’t have traded yesterday for riding in ID. There is always something to be said for being adaptable and I am really glad that we were.
Next year, I’m going to ID and learning how to camp out in the snow. But for this year my heart is full and I was challenged…..I suspect that is the goal that Jay had all along!
As we slide into the holiday season it is safe to say it is different this year. For me, it is the first year that I won’t attend Church tonight and the first time that I won’t have Thanksgiving with family. BUT in the whole realm of changes for the year these are to be expected.
Gratitude is the attitude that is needed this season and so hard to come by some days. Yes, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for family and friends, love and that I am on this side of the dirt, along with thousands of other things. I’m grateful that my lungs have the ability to push my legs, who are pushing my bike, up a steep hill. I’m grateful for my loving home and family that have supported every choice I’ve made and decision to go to an event even though I know sometimes they think yikes. I’m grateful for my husband who has been my rock and strong post through it all.
Today I posted instead of looking for a mirror become one…..instead of trying to find an inspiration in someone else become and inspiration for others. Yep, it’s hard, requires leadership skills and yep it is dedication vs motivation. Be that person that makes others want to be with you and want to be like you. IMO you can not be that person without gratitude and humility.
This week my first event for 2021 went virtual. It was 100% the right decision but it took the wind out of my sails completely….again. Then I sat and thought about it. Be grateful silly girl, that you have a bike to ride, a beautiful location to ride in at home, and go RIDE! Stop wallowing in self pity and be grateful for what you do have. Pity party was over.
I am doing the Fat Pursuit as a virtual event….probably right here in my home state. I was so excited to go see the Yellowstone Ecosystem in the winter. I was excited to get to see friends again and most of all I was excited for the challenge. Then I started to challenge myself on why I was disappointed as I did hill repeats. Why let it get me down….after all I was pursuing a new challenge and I can do that right here at home! If things work out right I will be joined by two friends in the great white North and we will ride groomed single track and forest roads. Heck I’m even doing a water boil! We will take all precautions and enjoy our day on the bike….full of gratitude!
Life may not always present itself exactly as we think it should. Heck, most of the time it won’t be anywhere close. It is OUR decision how we handle that. This year let’s be the mirror that inspires others.
Happy thanksgiving with extreme gratitude!
Wow….all I know is that 2020 has been a year of weird scenarios and unknown successes. I started out the year of gravel events having the best day on a bike that I could possibly imagine at the Mid South. Mud everywhere and I was grinning ear to ear. Then it all started to unravel.
For me this has been a year of self introspection and looking at what matters at the end of the day. This is not only in cycling but also in my personal and professional life. During all of that self evaluation I found the following:
1. Its ok to be confused.
2. It’s ok to be have to find new motivation and maybe no motivation.
3. It’s ok to know to say I don’t know.
4. It’s ok to ask for help.
5. It’s ok to be proud of yourself and it’s also ok to just want to sit in a corner by yourself.
6. It’s ok to try new things….you might really love them.
7. It’s ok to get mad.
8. It’s ok to know that we don’t all agree on the same things.
Why write all of this down? I think sometimes I need to hear that others have struggles also. You are not alone my friends….we are all in this together.
I can remember the first time I heard a cyclist that I admired breathing hard at the top of a hill…..seriously you get winded also was my thought?! We are all in this together…..it’s ok to stand alone and find what works for you, but at the end of the day….it’s more than ok to call one another up and say “HI, how was your day” and end the call with “I love you.”