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When we first met Karlin McKeith, it was like we knew her for years, even though it had only been a few hours. Her comfort and skills on a bike make her a force to be reckoned with. On top of that, her infectious smile and bright personality make her someone who you are instantly comfortable talking with. We recently got to chat with her about how she got into biking, racing, and how she’s preparing for her biggest race season yet.
1. Where are you originally from and where are you residing currently?
I was born and raised in Wethersfield, Connecticut. I currently reside in Waterbury Center, Vermont. My love for Vermont began before I could walk as my family spent many happy memories at my family’s vacation home in southern Vermont. When we sold the place many years ago, I vowed that I would someday live here. I am proud to say, that after making some sacrifices, my husband and I packed up our home in CT and relocated to Waterbury. We LOVE it up here. We are proud Vermonters for sure!
2. When did you start biking and how did you get into the sport?
My biking story begins in 2012. My boyfriend (now husband) was always hesitant to make plans with me during weekend mornings. Naturally, I questioned what he was up to that was much more fun than hanging out with me. I had grown up riding my bike around the neighborhood, so I welcomed the opportunity to join him and his friends on a mountain bike excursion. My mom donated her bike shorts, gloves and her helmet while my boyfriend lent me his old bike — a hardtail with a busted front suspension and v-brakes. He failed to mention that we were going to one of the most technical trail systems in the area. A couple OTBs, feet flying off the pedals and fast downhills later, I was hooked.
3. How did you get into racing?
Fast forward to 2014, I had made the jump to a full suspension bike and discovered the magic of the Kingdom Trails in Northern Vermont. I saw a Facebook event pop up in my feed for the Triple Crown Enduro Event at Burke Mountain. I figured I knew that mountain fairly well, so how hard could it be? I immediately signed up. I had one month to “train.” I had no idea what to focus on, so I just dedicated to just get more time in the saddle. The day of the event was a bit over my head — longer climbs than anything I could train for back in CT and technical features above my comfort level. I couldn’t sleep the night after practice because I was worried about walking features that I didn’t hit earlier that day. The race ended up being one of the physically hardest things, I had done in my adult life. I was surprised to end the day taking 1st in my age category even though I walked a couple things. The adrenaline from racing and the feeling of accomplishment after the race is what got me hooked.
4. You recently took a break from racing and are just getting back into it now, how are you training to enter the race world again?
After a successful debut enduro season in the amateur woman category, I began to push myself going into the 2016 season where I decided I was going to move up to the open/pro category. I ended up breaking my collarbone on a huge drop during a group ride. Looking back, it was one of those things I should have skipped out on, I was tired and should have listened to my body. Even though my body was healed, I was still mentally and physically struggling on the trails. So, I decided to go back to basics. I spent time rebuilding my confidence. It’s taken me two years to get here, but I have never felt stronger on the bike. I decided to give it my all this upcoming season and get back to competing in the Eastern States Cup enduro circuit. After a couple of recommendations from other bike friends, I’ve purchased the training plan from Enduro MTB Training. It’s a ten-month program that spans from building power in the off season through maintaining through the race season. This program focuses on building stability, strength and power in the gym a couple times a week. The rest of the time is filled with threshold and interval training on my stationary bike trainer. During the winter, I am also cross training with backcountry touring on my split snowboard — it’s a great whole-body workout!
5. What do you find most challenging about biking or racing and how do you overcome those challenges?
The thing that I find most challenging about both biking and racing is finding that fine line between pushing myself too hard and not pushing enough. The frustrating thing about this balance is that if you push too hard, you risk getting injured but if you do not push enough, you will not progress. I’ve found the most solace in practicing the art of progression. This helped me to get through my injury and progress beyond it. I would focus on a skill where I was not comfortable with: hitting drops as an example. I began practicing in a low risk scenario like dropping off a curb in the parking lot. Once I felt comfortable, I would move on to a small stone wall where I could easily also roll if needed. I kept building on this to the point where I felt comfortable on drops must bigger that I ever could see myself doing. Having this solid foundation of progression has allowed me to continually fine tune my skills. So, when the time comes where I need to push my limits, I know I have the ability to take the risk!
6. What do you love most about cycling?
This is a hard question because I love so many things about cycling! But I think I have to say my favorite, is the people that I have met along the way. They have been some of the most fun loving, supportive and genuine people in my life. There is nothing like the bond created between people when you are adventuring together!
7. How do you balance your biking and training with everything else you’ve got going on?
Well like everything, sacrifices usually need to be made. My daily training begins at 4:30am with either hitting the gym or my stationary bike trainer. There are many times that I’ve missed out on evening activities because I chose to sleep for training the next day. I also balance my off-season training with snowboarding to limit burnout in my bike training. I am lucky enough to live in a place where I can spend a lot of my down time on my snowboard. The adrenaline rush and quick decision making needed when snowboarding keeps my mind and body in shape for when it’s time to finally ride the trails.
8. What advice would you have for a female rider who is new to cycling or wants to take her riding to the next level?
My advice would be to associate yourself with a local bike club; go to the group rides and events! You will be surprised about how many people are also in your shoes. I’ve found the bike community to be so supportive. Whether it be your local bike shop who will help you tune your bike or help you upgrade, or seasoned veteran riders who just love to share their passion with others. The women’s group rides are my favorite. I know that is feels intimidating to show up knowing little to no one there, I’ve been there too. There are usually a lot of women in the same boat, so the group leaders are very accommodating. You’ll typically find all types of women there; from those very new to pro category racers. We are all there to have fun, meet new ladies and to progress the sport in the women community! If you are in the northern Vermont area and looking for some guidance, I am more than happy to point you towards some local clubs and events or even hit the trails together!