Titles define us in life, and often we can be pigeon-holed into just one.  One of our favorite ladies and an awesome rider, Candace M., takes a look at what titles she has taken on, some inherited and others by choice. Each title holds its share of unique challenges and elations, yet at the end of the day, Candace finds the title “Mountain Biker” as the guide to being the best she can at all other titles.

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Daughter, Sister, Athlete, Friend, Teacher, Coach, Wife, Mountain Biker, Aunt, Mom

In this order, I have achieved these titles in life. The first two were handed to me, simply by being born.  However, to keep these titles, some expectations are to be maintained by siblings and grown children.  Still, these two are the titles I maintain with the most ease, as these people have already loved me through some ugly years, and continue to love my scattered self today.  

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Family gave me my first titles & shaped so much of my identity.

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The title of athlete came as a surprise to my family and I, when I first discovered my abilities on the track as a freshman in high school. It lit a competitive fire none of us knew I contained, and it has not been able to be squelched since.

Teacher is a title that is, at times, all consuming for me.  There are so many words to define what I do, and it brings me a ridiculous number of joys and trials. This is a title I wear with pride, even when people are of the presumptuous group that believe I chose to teach for short hours and summers off.  

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One of my past vaulters, now competing at the college level.

I earned the title of Coach, the same year as teacher.  It was equally all-consuming, but was definitely my outlet of joy.  It also allowed me to maintain the title of athlete, as I shared what I knew about fitness and health with many others.  It’s amazing how great it is to hear young athletes say, “Coach,” and realize they are referring to you.

Wife also came within the same year as teacher and coach (it was a BIG year).  Once I had all three new titles, I realized there is a reason people have to work so long and hard to earn different belts in karate.  I loved each of my new titles, wanted to excel in all areas, and had no idea how to balance the time.

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The start of some of the most major changes in my life.

In comes, Mountain Biker. I had always enjoyed riding my bike, though as a child it often left me huffing pretty deep in efforts to keep up with my brothers.  They could always ditch me if they wanted, but I would grind hard to catch up.  (Let’s be honest, the title of sister, is what actually fueled that competitive fire.) Though bikes had always provided me great joy, and a means of travel and exercise from the time I was permitted to extend beyond the path in the park, I had no idea they were a livelihood for a large network of people. Then, I met my future husband.

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1st custom painted bike! Dad bought & fixed it up for my birthday.

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“I like bikes,” he said.  “Me too! I love to ride motorcycles!” my 19 year old self responded.  Then began my education into the costly world of bicycles.  Being extremely frugal, and never spending money on joyful things, my jaw dropped when I discovered how much he had just spent on his new mountain bike, a beautiful, candy red, StumpJumper.  I retorted that I rode all the time on my $50 Walmart bike, and it did just fine.  He laughed and said he was just glad I liked to ride, and continued to explain why his bike was better.  At that point, all of those, “better,” points did not fill the cost gap between his bike and mine, but he was cute and I didn’t want to argue.  It wasn’t long into our dating adventures when he bought me my first mountain bike: A Gary Fisher Paragon.  It was yellow and black, and awesome!  I was beyond excited, and enjoyed showing it off to others on the trail.  However, I did not yet proudly don the title of mountain biker.  I enjoyed riding, however the titles of track athlete, teacher, and coach delayed me from being willing to label myself as a mountain biker just yet.  I couldn’t call myself that if I was still crashing every time I had the chance to ride, which wasn’t very often!

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My husband and in-house bike geek.

Then, we were married, and moved west to adventure with our bikes and new lives.  I lamented greatly about removing myself so far from the people that had given me the titles of daughter, sister, niece, and granddaughter, but I was thankful that I had the opportunity to learn about all the bullet points that follow the title of Wife.

I quickly reinstated the titles of teacher, and coach, but this was also when I truly began to proudly wear the new badge stating I was a mountain biker. I still crashed on almost every ride, and those California rocks were hard on my skin (and my yellow bike’s paint!), but now that I was successfully climbing and descending real mountains, and was beginning to understand and utilize the bike lingo thrown around by many fellow riders, I felt that I could truly call myself a rider as well.

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The trails of the West took some skin, but left a lasting impression of new bike skills.

And, as much as I would say, “I don’t race mountain bikes because this is my fun sport. I’m too competitive, and don’t want to ruin it with racing.” I was secretly competing each time I was on a bike.  First, I wanted to be the fastest girl out there (which on some days just wasn’t an option, but it was always a goal!).  Then, that was no longer good enough.  I wanted to be able to show up to any ride, and not witness eye rolls, or mutters such as, “This guy brought his wife?!?”  (Yes, this occurred often)  These moments always lit my fire to a roaring level, and helped me climb and descend mountains at a faster rate than I had done before, and yes, faster than the man who had dared be offended that I showed up that morning.

Yes, I loved my new title and the culture and people that came with it.  I loved disappearing into the mountains and knowing I would feel accomplished at the end of the day.  This new title was vital and necessary to my title of wife.  As I stated before, teaching and coaching were all-consuming titles for me.  Had my husband and I not shared a common outlet, our marriage would have been greatly missing time together.  Fortunately, we shared this riding passion, and he would schedule times when I had to put my work and other titles aside, so we could go disappear together strengthening our love with something we both loved.  

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My new mountain biker title opened many new opportunities.

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While we were adventuring out West, something happened that I had no idea would be so powerful to me.  I became an Aunt.  The joy and love I had for that digital bundle of joy I was unable to squeeze was amazing.  How was it possible to feel such a love for something so tiny that I had never even met? Enter, the renewed hunger to be a mother.  

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My nephews now – still stealing my heart!

Mom was a title I had always known I wanted, and this desire never faltered for me.  I wanted to be married at a young age and have kids instantly. My husband, being ever-wise, thought we should play together and strengthen our relationship as a married couple first.  Turns out, he was right, and we had a lot of fun.  However, in the midst of this fun, I was done waiting for my new title.  He was less certain of the timing, as our style of living out west did not leave room for babies.  

Fortunately, God’s timing is always best, and we were not blessed with our first pregnancy until a couple years later when we had already returned, “home,” to Indiana.  We were both working hard to maintain our mountain biking titles, along with our new job titles, when it was time for me to learn how to be a responsible mom long before I would ever get to hold the sweet baby I was carrying.  Turns out, the, Mom, job title comes with the greatest amount of judgement and opinions I had ever experienced, and, even if my activity level was doctor approved, innumerable others thought I was being selfish to try and maintain a level of fitness while pregnant.  This is hurtful, by the way.  If you have ever been on the judgmental end of things; just know that insinuating to a mother that she cares more about something as trivial as her weight, more than the baby she is carrying is a slap in the face.  However,it was good training for all that would come with the belt of motherhood.

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Teaching my kids about the outdoors very early in life.

There are thousands of blogs about it – being a mom is amazing, exhausting, wonderful, awful, terrifying, and can easily become your whole world.  I think the hardest part about becoming a mom, for me, has been maintaining my other titles. Becoming a Mom doesn’t mean I can suddenly forget how to be a daughter, sister, or friend.  Most importantly, I cannot let it change that I was a wife first. It has required me to manage my teaching time in new ways, and dedicate a portion of that teaching to my own children.  It has also required me to put the title of coach on hold, possibly until my own kids reach that competitive phase of life.  However, being a mom cannot and should not be an excuse to toss up all of your other titles, and forget who you are – to yourself and to others.  

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Some of my favorite moments.

It’s hard because I often feel so selfish, and the absolute opposite of selfish at the same time.  I constantly feel I am not doing enough, and yet want nothing more than to disappear alone for 15 minutes.  However, if I then disappear for longer than that, I feel guilty and afraid that I’m giving up opportunities I can never get back.  Quite the conundrum.

My husband and I made a pact that we would do our best to not change our lifestyles due to children; rather we would work really hard to expose them to our joys, and hope/pray that they found joy in these activities as well.  The main joys we are referring to are mountain biking (really, bikes in general), and all things outdoors: camping, hiking, running, exploring, playing, splashing in creeks – discovery.  It turns out, it’s much easier to talk about being parents like this, than it is to actually parent like this.  It requires a lot of equipment, patience, and willingness to allow your kids to go on adventuring a little under-dressed at times of unexpected explosions (think diapers).  However, when these moments occur, they bring me back to feeling like the self that had many titles; the self that feels nothing other than joy and peace when blessed with time outside;the self that feels the effort is worth it a million times over.  You can then take that million to a multiple of five, when these moments get to occur with your husband, and the new and fresh title of wife feeling comes back.  When you don’t feel like you’re failing the man you love most because you’re stretched 32 ways, and you rely on him loving you anyhow.  When you both get to feel the joy of the new title that you’ve made together of, Family.

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Working to introduce our kids to the joys of nature that we’ve come to love.

Titles are hard to fulfill, and their job descriptions are constantly changing, but the opportunity to add new titles is an opportunity that provides an abundance of new adventures.  To continue adventuring with the title of Mom, and our title of, Family” there is definitely some gear I would recommend:

A Bike Trailer – Most hold two kids with ease, pull without much resistance, and go off-road in our local meadow/woods really well.  We have had innumerable trips to the library, meadow, parks, and breweries thanks to this trailer, and both kids love to lounge, sing, socialize and sleep during these adventures.

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Packing up the crew for a ride.

Burley Encore Child Trailer

Burley Trailer

A Double-Jogger – If you’re not a runner, this may not seem a priority to you.  However, it is so fast and easy for me to throw my kids in the stroller for a few minutes of outdoor freedom.  We can go throw rocks in a river, pick flowers for MeMe, adventure on some new trails and go to local parks with 5 minutes of prep.  

Double Stroller

A Good Hiking Backpack/Baby Carrier – Babies can go in here very early within their life, and they love it.  They love to see the new sights, hear the many sounds of nature, and be close to you. You love the freedom of arm and leg movement, and the built-in core workout!

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Our daughter loves hiking!

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A Simple Wrap or Baby Carrier – This will allow you to do household chores, outdoor chores, go for walks, and just enjoy snuggling your new adorable bundle.  You get to bond, start understanding your new title of mom, while enjoying things you’ve always enjoyed prior to that title.  It’s your first opportunity to share your passions with your new little one.

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This simple carrier got a lot of use for quick nature walks.

A Handlebar Kid’s Seat – We love ours. Our oldest daughter would beg to go for rides on it, and our baby just had his first experience, and was happy for 11 miles!  Our daughter sang happily on bike rides with daddy, and it brought us laughter and allowed us to connect together on bikes again.

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A front row seat to adventure by bike.

Thule Ridealong Mini Bike Seat

Thule Ride Along Mini

A Trail-a-Bike – Our daughter also loved this invention instantly, which turned out was long before her feet would reach the pedals.  Therefore, my husband built a platform for her to rest her feet on while riding. She began singing from behind, and learning the proper ways to lean on the trail.  She can now reach the pedals and loves working on her pedaling skills.  Speaking of pedaling…

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When they want to keep up with daddy and mommy on the trails a trail-a-bike is key.  Don’t worry, we we’re just making sure it matched her glasses.  Her helmet followed this shot.

A Balance Bike – At just before 3, our daughter’s legs were finally long enough to reach the ground while on the seat, and she quickly learned to zoom around on this fantastic bike! Her balance has greatly improved, and she loves to zip around our neighborhood and on our pump track, now that she feels more comfortable on it.

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Balance bikes help our kids develop bike handling skills much earlier in life than training wheels.

Early Rider Trail Runner XL Balance Bike

Early Rider Balance Bike

Early Rider Trail Runner XL Balance Bike

A Pump Track – OK, so this may not be for everyone, but I love that we have one in our backyard.  It is the BEST playground for kids and adults.  The kids run races on it, ride, drive trucks, and dig in the areas that are off the track. We put our bonfire pit in the middle, and now have a place all guests can enjoy! Someday we’ll finish making it look good, but it’s been a great addition for entertainment, and sanity for those days that all you want to do is go out and ride.  It’s amazing how good a few laps on the pump track can make you feel!

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Everyone loves to take a turn on the pump track.

The other day my husband granted me the rare opportunity to go ride while he watched the kiddos, and it was one of those days that reminded me why bikes are so great.  I felt smooth, fast, and strong; which is rare these days.  It triggered that competitive flame in me, and pushed me to pass anyone I saw on the trail; and avoid being passed in the process.  Just as the sneers I received in the past for showing up on a, “Men’s,” ride used to push me to new levels; riding with the title of, “Mom,” does the same.  I don’t want to just be a, “Mom Who Rides Sometimes,” I want to be, “A Mom of Two; Faster than You.”  (I hope you laughed when you read that!)  This statement is not currently a truth statement, and likely will not be for a long time; however, it is a mantra that helps push me on the trail.  It helps me feel like I can maintain the title of, Mountain Biker, and helps me feel like the wife I know my husband fell in love with (though he always makes fun of my competitive side!).

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I still love to get out and explore a great strand of singletrack.

My passion for riding and the outdoors does define a lot of my character.  I have used it in all of my titles.  I try to play with my nephews outside and on bikes.  I take my students camping, and teach about environmental care and conservation.  My current group of students is building a trail for our school to use as an outdoor education site and cross country course.  My parents passed on the passion for being outside; but, having shared our love for mountain biking with them, they are now avid trail riders as well. My brothers have both purchased bikes, and riding with them always brings me great joy, as we can’t help but still compete with one another.  I have cousins who ride with us every time they visit, and have a friend looking to purchase a bike, greatly due to the many riding adventures we’ve had together.  Though the title of, Mountain Biker, may seem small in comparison to the many other titles I hold, it is one I desire to maintain, because I feel it helps me stay true to myself and my passions.  I want my children to know that having personal passions is good and necessary, and I want them to see that knowing what brings them joy should be a priority.  Sometimes this means buying more gear than you’d like, but if it means you get to share something you love with those you love, then bring on the gear; and pass it on when your kiddos have outgrown it!

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A miraculous photo of our family of four. Had you been present, you’d know why I call this miraculous!

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