Back in May I competed in my very first bike race, the Alaska Bike for Women. I had such a fun time riding the roads with the amazing women in the Anchorage bike community, and I was sad that there aren’t more races like that here in Anchorage. As I was scrolling through Facebook at home after the race, I noticed that the Anchorage Trek store was hosting a bike race of their own: the inaugural Mountain Bike for Women on June 17th. At that point I’d only ridden my mountain bike on paved trails, but I really wanted to learn how to ride on dirt. The problem was that I didn’t know how, and I was really scared to try it.
The Mountain Bike for Women had three different waves: the timed wave, the untimed wave, and the untimed guided ride. The guided ride took place on the same trails as the race, but groups of six were able to ride behind a guide who would give tips and tricks for mastering the trails. It sounded like the perfect way to get into mountain biking in a stress-free way, so I signed up for the untimed guided wave and hoped I wouldn’t crash!
Fast forward a month later, and I was riding singletrack all over town and doing everything I could to get comfortable on the trails. I knew going into this race that I wasn’t a complete beginner anymore, and decided to use this event as a way to feel more comfortable on my bike and to meet other mountain biking ladies. Plus, the swag was pretty cool.
Saturday morning was a gorgeous and warm day, perfect for a bike ride! I headed over to Kincaid park, home of the best singletrack in Anchorage, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Every time I try something new, especially alone, I get really anxious and worried about looking like a hot mess. And that’s really easy to do when you’re new at something! But my nerves went away as soon as I rolled up to the start line and met my guide group. Out of the six of us, I was one out of only two who had ridden singletrack before. I felt for the first time ever like I wasn’t the worst mountain biker there, and it boosted my confidence so much. As we pedaled off on our first trail, Mighty Bike, I was first in line and feeling relaxed and excited about the ride.
Over the next few hours, our guide gave us tons of tips about the terrain, from how to take a banked corner to how to fly over uphill roots. I even got the chance to really work on getting downhill without constantly riding the brakes the whole time. I was moving confidently over sections of the trail that used to stress me out before, and I was even screaming with excitement – not fear – as I flew over the “roller coaster” hills! Before I knew it, the ride was over and I was officially a mountain bike racer! Well, an untimed one. But I’m definitely still counting it! My group and I celebrated with waffles at the finish line before I headed home to get ready for my midnight sun backpacking trip.
The inaugural Bike for Women was awesome! Over 80 girls participated, which means that 80 girls were badass enough to take on the trails and try something new. The timed racers had to deal with a moose on the course, so they get extra badass points in my book! The swag bags were awesome and included a water bottle, MTB for Women socks, Hoo-Ha Glide, and a bear bell for our bikes. Plus, I felt super cool pinning a bib on my bike instead of on my own body. I would absolutely do this race again, although I’ll be ready for the untimed wave next year!
Have you ever done a race that is totally out of your normal style of racing? Would you ever try a guided mountain bike race?