When I first began riding a little over four years ago, Strava was a relatively new thing in our neck of the woods but was gaining popularity rapidly. Likewise, there weren’t a lot of women riding single track, at least to the degree we have now. When I first began riding, there were a handful of women I knew of locally (Palm Beach County) that burned up the trails. I was always star struck when I encountered them, calling them out by name when I met them. Because Strava was new(er) to the area, my ride results put me toward the top of the leaderboard with them overall, and certainly within my over-50 age group. I ironically became known as a “fast” rider—something that felt quite novel to me at the time but certainly doesn’t apply to me today.
Fast forward four and a half years and women’s riding (and racing) have absolutely ballooned in numbers on a local level. Now, you are as apt to find women on the trails as you are men. I may be speaking out of turn, but I feel the numbers are perhaps 10:1, men to women, and perhaps even greater than that on the side of women. This is beyond impressive. The women shredding our trails are of all skill and age levels, as evidenced by the ride details I frequently chronicle on social media.
With this surge in women riders, my almost-55-year-old self has fallen significantly in the rankings with respect to speed. To be honest—I’m way down on the list. This used to bother me a bit purely from a mortality standpoint. I look at riders in their 20s, 30s and 40s and know they’re only going to get better with training, while I’m on a downhill slope at my age with respect to increasing my physical abilities. There is only so much an aging body can do, due greatly in part to an imbalance in hormones. Interrupted sleep. Decreased muscle mass. Increased body fat. Arthritic joints. And the list goes on. This is a fact of life and, one that’s hard for me to accept at times. I’ve written about this before. My mind tells me I’m decades younger than my soon-to-be 55-year old body tells me. This is not a pity party but rather a celebration–an absolute, total celebration.
Ladies, I want you to know you inspire me each and every day. You inspire me to do and be better. When I ride, it’s you I think about. You are my imaginary “rabbit.” I know I won’t catch you, but I will not finish the ride without giving it my all. You, my beautiful fellow female riders, inspire me. And, I hope that you find some inspiration in me, too. I hope, that just maybe because of me, you’ll find inspiration on the trails in your fifties and way beyond. Who knows? God willing, I will be the septuagenarian, octogenarian, and maybe even nonagenarian to whom you say, “Rider back.” One never knows what (or who) you’ll find ahead.
Happy trails, my amazing friends. x