Meet Shoestring Warrior and Postdoctoral Research Associate Kim Coleman

If you’re looking for some inspiration this week, I think I might be able to help you! Meet Shoestring Warrior and mountain biker, postdoctoral researcher, Trek Bicycle ambassador, mom, and wife Kim Coleman. When she’s not out conducting research in the field of forestry, she’s on the trail training for the next bike race, and spending time with her husband and son while she’s at it! Life can get complicated and busy but Kim makes a real effort to find time to do everything she loves and that includes racing!

I want to do all those things, and sure, being a mom definitely means I have less time to train, so I might not ever make it to the pro level but whatever. I still love bike racing and I’m going to keep doing it even if I keep having less time and I keep getting slower. Being pro isn’t really the point.

Kim has always loved the outdoors and spent many years trail running before she was introduced to mountain biking by her husband. Keep reading to learn how her husband tricked her into competing in her first race and how they’re managing to race through life together. Follow Kim’s adventures on Instagram.

Hometown:

Tyngsboro, MA

Current Location:

Williston, VT

Profession:

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Vermont

What are your passions outside of work?

My passions outside of work are my family and bikes. My husband and I try pretty hard to intentionally combine those things. We both race cross country mountain bikes and cyclocross, and we definitely spend a lot of family time at the local pump track with our almost three year old son. Even before we had our son, a lot of our vacations and dates centered on mountain biking. My husband races at the pro level, but he also has a full time job as a speech and language pathologist, so this melding of family time and hours on the bike are really critical. I am particularly passionate about getting more women involved in cycling and I’m part of a program with Trek Bicycles to encourage more ladies to try out the sport.

Tell us about yourself!

Well, I identify pretty strongly as a mom, a wife, a researcher, a nerd, and a lover of the woods. My academic training and my current work is in the field of forestry and I truly cherish time alone in the woods. My husband thinks this is nuts, but my favorite summer time activity is night mountain biking alone in the woods near our house. I know it sounds somewhat intense, but it’s so lovely; the woods are quiet at night, there is no one else out there, it’s usually comfortably cool (as compared to summer days), and towards August the woods near our house develop this incredible smell, some combination of damp soil and honeysuckle (which is invasive but still smells good).

How would you describe your level of camping experience?

I’ve done a good amount of camping and backpacking, ranging from multi-day backpacks to just camping as an alternative to hotels while on vacation.

When did you first discover your love for the outdoors and specifically mountain biking?

I think my parents cultivated a love of the outdoors pretty early by taking my family camping a good amount. I did my first multi-day backpacking trip in middle school. But I didn’t get into mountain biking until my 20s! I had adopted this dog (who we actually just put down at the ripe old age of 15) and it was clear she needed A LOT of exercise. I was running with her, but I basically couldn’t get in the miles she needed. We’d run like 10 miles and she’d look at me like, “Great warm up! Where to next?!?!” My husband (then boyfriend) suggested I try taking her mountain biking. He got me a demo mountain bike and I took the dog. It didn’t take long before I bought my own bike. Shortly after that he convinced me to “just come to a race and ride around the course before the actual start.” When I arrived he told me he’d registered me “just in case I wanted to race”. The rest is history!

When did you decide to start biking competitively?

The race I described above was my first race, but I didn’t start training and trying to be competitive on the bike until just a few years ago. Up until then I was much more focused on trail running. We were living in Virginia while I worked on my Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, and there wasn’t really the same race scene there that there is here in New England. In VA, I could focus on running, go mountain biking with friends a few times a week, and if I showed up to a mountain bike race I’d probably still end up on the podium. Once we moved back to Vermont that really changed. The bike racing scene is pretty competitive in New England. I decided I wanted to focus on racing bikes instead of running and I started actually training.

What’s your approach to juggling your roles as a mother, wife, amateur athlete, and a professional?

I feel like I have two semi-mantras that I say to myself regularly.

One is “You can have it all” and by that I mean that I really don’t believe I have to give up bike racing because I’m a mom and a professional.

I want to do all those things, and sure, being a mom definitely means I have less time to train, so I might not ever make it to the pro level but whatever. I still love bike racing and I’m going to keep doing it even if I keep having less time and I keep getting slower. Being pro isn’t really the point.

The second semi-mantra sort of spins off of that: “do what you can”. Sometimes life gets so crazy and I can’t do EVERYTHING that I planned. But I can do 75%. Fine. Good enough. Better than nothing.

Go, do that 75% (or 50% or 40% or 10%). For example, last fall I had a work trip to Tallahassee to work on a book I’m contributing to with colleagues from around the country. The race that I had wanted to be my “peak” race weekend (i.e. the race weekend where I really, really wanted to do awesome) came at the end of that week. Typically I would be on the bike that week getting ready to race. I ran in Tallahassee and road the stationary bike in the hotel gym but that’s far from ideal. Then I got stuck in the airport with delayed flights, got home 24 hours late, and immediately loaded our family in the car to drive to Massachusetts for these races (lots of sitting = bricks for legs). The Saturday race was ok ish, I finished in the top 10, but it was clear I was tired and my legs were toast. I had a great night with family on Saturday night at my father-in-law’s house, and I just decided to race Sunday even though I didn’t feel like I had much left to give. And it went pretty mediocre. Oh well. I did what I could, spent some quality time with my family, and I got an awesome workout.

What advice do have for people thinking about transitioning from doing a sport as a hobby to doing it competitively?  

I’d say just know that it’s not really a single-person commitment. My husband and I have pretty intentional conversations about this.

In our case, it means decisions like choosing between a babysitter so we can go out to dinner or getting a babysitter so we can go mountain bike together.

Also we ask A LOT from our parents; one grandparent is basically at every single race hanging out with our son while we warm up and race. We think that’s great, because he spends time with his grandparents, he’s outside playing, and he’s exposed to biking which we think is a really healthy activity. We’re lucky that our parents like coming to races and live close enough to do that for us. This year my husband wants to race a couple of Canada Cup races and USA Nationals (for cross country mountain biking). So we’re trying to figure out if we can plan a vacation around one of the Canadian races and we’re also starting to think about how much time each week he needs to commit to the bike and what that means for the rest of the family.

Funniest outdoor experience/mishap?

Hmmmm once I showed up to lead (yes, lead) a women’s mountain bike event and when I took my bike off the roof I realized I left my front wheel at home. Luckily I didn’t live too, too far from the event location so I just zipped home and grabbed the wheel. But I’m pretty sure the other ladies on the ride thought I was a space cadet.

Do you have any favorite outdoor/adventure/survival/biking podcasts or books?

A few years ago I hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim with a close friend and we both read the Grand Canyon Reader by Lance Newman while on the trip. It’s basically a compilation of stories and accounts from other seminal trips through and across the canyon. It’s pretty great. And I also really like the Consummate Athlete Podcast.

Which professional athletes inspire you the most?

Oh I love this question! Ok, I have some ladies I really admire, they’re all cyclists:

  • Rose Grant, professional mountain biker AND MOM!!!!
  • Vicki Barclay, also an incredible mountain biker AND SCIENTIST!!!
  • Ellen Noble, professional bike racer and just an amazing proponent of women in the sport.
  • Nikki Peterson, professional mountain biker and again, big proponent of women in the sport (and also working on a masters in teaching, and truly one of the nicest people, basically just a rock star).
  • Amanda Batty, professional downhill mountain biker, huge advocate for female athletes and really not afraid to call out inequality and sexism, like, ever. Also she used to be a professional baker and she has a cook book coming out, the proceeds of which go to support getting more kids on bikes. Here’s the link to the book.

Where’s your next race or adventure?

Ha. Well, my next event is in three weeks, it’s a local gravel race called the Vermont Overland Maple Adventure Ride. After that I am planning to do another gravel event here in VT called The Muddy Onion. But my next real adventure is becoming a mom again because I’m about 16 weeks pregnant right now! Last time I was able to ride my bike outside safely (with approval from my doctor) until around 23/24 weeks, at which point I didn’t really feel stable anymore. So I’ll try to do that again this time, and then I’ll switch to riding the trainer inside and jogging. I’m hoping to race some cyclocross this fall, assuming everyone is healthy and happy.

The perfect s’more? (if you don’t like s’mores, what’s your favorite campfire dessert?)

Ok, I like really like the classic s’more, with just regular milk chocolate, and the marshmallow golden but not burnt. However, this matter has been debated in my house so I will say that we often also make s’mores with peanut butter cups instead of chocolate. We actually did that at our wedding. Pretty great.

Photos © 2018 Kim Coleman



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