She puts pedal to the mountain
Over the hills and through the dales, 70 intrepid women will race this Saturday at Mayer's High Desert Ramble off-road bike course.
The Mountain Bike Association of Arizona (known as the MBAA) has several divisions for women, in categories of Beginner, Sport, Expert and Pro.
The rugged, beautiful course attracts riders from all corners of the state and beyond, to bike in the sixth MBAA race of the season.
But according to course designer Bob Nickelsen, for every 100 men that race, perhaps 10 women compete.
And some of those women have their own stories to tell.
Danielle DeCaro works at Prescott's Bikesmith. Her competitive nature compels her to win.
DeCaro started biking four years ago, and racing just three years ago. She found that bike racing with the MBAA suited her. "I like to be competitive," she says. "When you start out racing you get spanked. Then you start winning, and you think to yourself: 'cool'.
"Biking is for the long-haul if you want to race."
She trains on her road bike, heading out to Williamson Valley, up the Spars, and puts in her mileage teaching spinning classes at the YMCA. She rides her mountain bike to hone her technical skills for races.
A serious racing injury derailed DeCaro's dreams for winning the MBAA races this season. After all, she placed third at the first MBAA race, in January, at Casa Grande .
But in the second MBAA race, in the McDowell Mountains, DeCaro's bike slipped on the straightaway. "I was picking up speed. I must have hit sand because the bike went sideways and I sliced open my arm on the number plate.
"The plate sliced through me like butter," she said.
The gash bared her forearm to the bone. It took several surgeries and months of physical therapy to regain the use of her arm
"This is going to be my first race since theinjury," she says. "I just want to finish out the season and come back for next year."
"Injuries are part of the game. If you're not getting injured, you're not pushing yourself hard enough."
DeCaro laughs. For this next race, she says, she is going to wear arm guards.
Sandy Scrimeger is a massage therapist in Prescott. She uses a personal bike trainer to help her hone technical skills and bike to win.
This is Scrimeger's ninth season of racing, and she says that after nine years you win at least a few of them.
Scrimeger won the Arizona State Championship as a Beginner – and later on in the Expert divisions.
"The last couple of years in Pro racing I've finished third in the state," Scrimeger said. "Recently I'm racing duathalons – running and biking. " She finished first overall in the mountain biking category of the Southwest Regional Duathalon Championship race, in the McDowell Mountains of Phoenix. "That was my first win of this year," she said.
"Why I bike – well, it's complicated. It's a different kind of feeling you get, a feeling of accomplishment. Mountain biking especially gives you a feeling of getting away. A kind of meditation.
"There's a power that comes from mountain biking, for women especially. It's remarkable."
Debra Morrell couldn't agree more, although her approach to biking is somewhat atypical .
Like most avid mountain bikers, her frame is lean as her titanium Marin Hardtail. Draped in a Marin sponsor jersey, animation lights her features while she describes why she bikes, why she races.
"Why do I bike?" Morrell paused. "I'll tell you a Zen parable. I mean, I bike to bike.
"I've been racing since '93 – not very long. Most mountain bikers also road bike, but I only mountain bike. It's all I have the time and money for, really."
In her alternate incarnation, Morrell works for the City of Prescott Parks and Recreation Division. She's a no-nonsense secretary who dreams frequently of her next trail to explore, and adventures to live.
Morrell moved to Prescott from Grand Junction, Colorado, with the high sagebrush desert of Colorado National Monument in her backyard. The rugged Mary's Loop and Lions Trail, overlooking the Colorado River with precipitous drop-offs, was her backyard practice run.
Now a permanent Prescott resident, Morrell's bike rests against the wall, towards the rear of the city office. It waits mutely each day, a reminder for Morrell to punch off the clock and go spinning over the backroads of Yavapai County.
Unlike many riders, Morrell doesn't wear a heart rate monitor while she trains. "I don't believe in riding by the numbers," she said. "Some guys sleep with their monitors on. They think they have to get their resting rate before they get up and pee in the morning.
"I don't race to win," she says. "I just let the race unfold and go with whatever happens.