Join Ottawa author, personal trainer and life coach Heather Pardon who recently sold and packed up her home, downsized her life, bought an RV and is taking her belongings and bicycle for an adventure across Canada this summer. Each week, Heather will be sharing photos and stories from her cycling adventures en route. You may also visit her personal blog at http://wilddaisy.ca/Blog/ for more frequent updates from the road.
A Day with the Gurlz – July 18th
On Saturday, July 18th I hit the 3rd Annual FlyGurlz 8 hour mountain bike relay at Albion Hills Conservation Area in Bolton, Ontario. My summer would not have been complete without stopping by this exclusive event, for women only (guys can help out as pit crew support), with this year’s theme being “Get Your 80s On”. Given that my RV “Miss Daisy” is a 1989 herself, it seemed a fitting place to spend the day amidst old friends and some vintage tunes that took me back to my high school days.
FlyGurlz is a special community founded 13 years ago by Michelle Ward of Collingwood for women of all ages and ability levels who have an interest or passion for mountain biking. Through instructional camps, group rides and events such as this one, FlyGurlz offers women support, guidance and friendship to aid members in the development of their mountain biking skills and experiences.
I joined the group in its’ first year and have watched the community grow from its seedling stages of a handful of members to today, when over 150 women came out to ride in the relay event.
With the background of 80s music setting the vibe (when else would you hear Sheena Easton singing “My Baby Takes the Morning Train….”?), the focus was on fun not competition. Here was a collection of women bonded by the love of riding and having fun. In fact, one team was entirely decked out in wild pink outfits with t-shirts that read, “Gurlz Just Wanna Have Fun”. Yes, we do!!! And, in a slightly tongue in cheek gesture, one woman had taped a toy hammer on top of her helmet, making her own statement about being a “hammerhead”.
As Michelle says, “There is something about a women’s only event that really sets the stage for racers to let loose and play again like we did when we were kids!!” And, as someone who is driving around in a giant Daisymobile for the summer, I can echo the fun of releasing our inner child once in a while.
There were categories for solo riders, tag team (2 riders), 3 – 4 women and 5 – 6 women. The loop was roughly 8 kms in length, with the team that completed the most laps in the 8 hour time period winning the category.
Last year I had ridden the event as half of a tag team and having participated in both mixed and a women’s only event, there is a definite difference in being part of a women’s only experience. We generally just don’t seem to take things as seriously and are much more relaxed. There is also a certain level of comfort sharing amongst other women.
Women danced to the 80s music in the pit area, cheered each other on out on the trails and looked to be dining on some really fun food too! At the end of the day, everyone came out a winner, leaving with a commemorative FlyGurlz pendant to mark the occasion.
For many of these women, it may have been the first race they’d ever been in. Like myself, their involvement in mountain biking and FlyGurlz, or another women’s cycling group, may be the beginning of a seed of a much larger journey. I write about my own cycling and daisy journey, which was catalyzed by my experience with FlyGurlz, in my chapter, “Be A Wild Daisy” in the book, The Power of Women United. Who knows? Whatever the trail leads, I hope we all continue to ride “wherever our hearts take us”, having fun and making friends along the way.