What led me to join WER by Kym Pinkerton Hipp
To others it may have seemed that I had nothing to be unhappy about. I have a loving husband, a nice home and three children who are well adjusted and fun to be with. But on the inside I felt like I had lost touch with who I was and was struggling to rebuild friendships after moving back to Colorado three years ago.
When my oldest daughter was born I was fortunate enough to have the option to quit my job and be a stay-at-home mom. I gave up my nursing career and stayed home for 16 years with my two youngest children. During that time I seemed to always be doing for the kids or my husband. No longer working, I felt my only contribution was to make sure they were taken care of.
I had forgotten that I also needed to take care of myself. It seemed I never had the time or resources to do the things that made me happy. Over time I forgot what those things even were. I would look in the mirror and see the face of a tired, uninspired, unfulfilled woman. Who was this person? I used to be so active and adventurous and now my days were spent in an endless circuit of driving kids to school and activities and going to the grocery store. As time went on I would see other women my age doing the things that I used to like to do. I felt weak and out of shape. I felt old. I lost my self-confidence. I hated to go to parties for fear someone would ask me the dreaded question, “So what do you do”? I felt I had nothing interesting to add to the conversation. I became invisible.
To make matters worse, we moved back to Colorado from the east coast 3 years before. At first I was so excited to be moving back home. I thought I would see my friends and family more often even though they were about 4 hours away from where we were living. I thought I would start living life again the way I used to. It turned out that I didn’t see them often, and while I did start doing more things, it was always with my husband and kids, not necessarily doing something I wanted to do.
In Virginia I had a network of friends that I had made over the years. I found that when I got to Denver it was very difficult to make new friends at my age. I no longer met other moms through my children now that they were older. I wasn’t working so didn’t make friends from work. Over time I did start working full time again, but I was working from home so still isolated from others. It seemed the women I did meet already had plenty of friends that they had known for a long time and they weren’t interested in making the effort to start a new friendship with me. I no longer had the confidence to just strike up conversations or go to events where I didn’t know anyone. I began to feel lonely and isolated. I tried to meet other women through MeetUps, and while it provided one-time temporary company, it never panned out for developing anything more than superficial relationships.
I felt like I was watching the world go by outside my window and I wasn’t living in it. I felt that my life was slipping away and I was just a spectator. I knew that I needed something bigger than myself to challenge me to find the person that I was before and to push myself to get strong again and regain my confidence.
Those were my hopes for the Women’s Empowerment Ride - that I could change my thoughts about myself enough to become confident, strong and brave. I hoped I would find new friends who I could bond with over this shared experience and be able to call up anytime I needed support or company. I hoped to transform my body into one that I felt I could rely on to propel me through anything I wanted to do.
I was tired of being lonely and afraid and numb.
When I started training with my Women’s Empowerment Ride team I wasn’t sure what, if any, results I might see. I had disappointed myself in the past by giving up when things got too difficult. I felt as though I wasn’t strong enough, or capable of reaching a physical goal, especially with something that I found to be so intimidating as mountain biking. I wondered if I really could ride 100 miles through the desert on this intimidating White Rim Trail. What if all the other ladies could and I were stuck out there riding in the truck? It never occurred to me that what I needed was a support group and mentors.
From the first day I set out on my bike with WER I found myself surrounded by a community of women who were there to support and encourage me. I was surprised to learn there was a strong network of cycling women in Colorado who seemed more than willing to offer their time and knowledge to help me meet my goals. They were all so patient and friendly that I never once felt self-conscious about learning a new skill on my bike or asking a question. It felt different learning from this great group of ladies instead of from some guy who didn’t understand what I might be feeling as I peered at the obstacles on the course, or down the steep hill.
As I started to get physically stronger it made me more confident to try more on my bike. Each obstacle that I learned how to ride over and each hill that I climbed more easily fueled my confidence. I stopped asking my husband for help getting my bike ready for a ride. I learned what maintenance I needed to do and how to do it. I stopped worrying that I was somehow going to damage my bike by trying to adjust my own derailleur or seat and started teaching myself how from videos and bike clinics. I came to understand that my past failures were about what I didn’t know, not what I couldn’t do. I could climb a hill if someone showed me the proper way to do it. I could get over the rocks once someone explained how to get into a lower gear first. Over and over I proved to myself that with the help of these cycling mentors I could do anything I wanted to do.
In addition to the wonderful women who already knew how to ride and taught me how, there was another layer of support – the other women on my team. They understood my fears and had fears of their own. I didn’t feel alone when I was worried about trying something since many of them were too. We were in it together. I felt compelled to show up for training because my teammates needed to know that they could depend on me. I enjoyed their company and looked forward to our training sessions even when I knew it was going to be a tough ride. On my best days I felt like I helped inspire them and on my worst they inspired me and kept me going. I never felt judged. Over time we all bonded over this shared experience and I developed friendships that I can see lasting a lifetime.And what did I find on the White Rim Trail? I rode the entire thing, even some of the hills that I never would have thought I could. The days I spent camping and riding with my team left me with memories that will last a lifetime.
I was so proud of us. US. We had all come so far together and we did it. We all rode the trail and lived to tell the tale! More than lived to tell - lived to live. That’s what I do now. I’m living to live, not in fear, not with doubt, but with a sense of adventure and a sense of self that I thought was lost a long time ago. What I found by cycling 100 miles into the desert was my new tribe and myself. My true self!
by WER woman Darla Lindquist Fortner
We’re so fortunate to live in Western Colorado, where we have world-renowned mountain biking just out the back door. Recently presented with the opportunity to ride the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, I just had to go.
So I did what anyone my age would do. I bought my first mountain bike and began training for the 100-mile ride. While I initially believed I was merely buying a bike and learning a new sport, I quickly discovered I was in for so much more........