After Kids, Kate Ross Finds Freedom on Two Wheels

I hate being wrong. But, I’m willing to admit I was wrong about mountain biking.

At the end of my first season of soccer as a seven year old, I broke the news to mseven-year-oldI wasn't going to play soccer next year. I was going to play netball. My older brothers thought I was an idiot.

"Why Bubs? Netball is a dumb sport. Soccer is heaps better."

I didn't listen and went off to join all the girls playing netball. It turned out my brothers were right about soccer – it just took me another seven years to realise it. Thankfully, it didn't take me that long to realise they were also right about mountain biking. 

My first mountain bike ride was back in 2002 in Belgium, where my eldest brother, Peter, was living at the time. My other brother, Mark, and I were visiting him on our way home from traveling through South America. Pete's girlfriend (now wife) and her family were keen mountain bikers and they took us out for a ride. It was horrible. I was unfit. It hurt. And just like that, I vowed I was never riding a mountain bike ever again. My brothers had a different idea, and before I knew it, I was back on a mountain bike and beginning to enjoy it.

By the time I became pregnant with my first child, I'd raced a 6hr enduro in a pair (total disaster but that's a story for another time), 24hr enduro in a mixed team of four, some 50km races and a few cross triathlons. I'd had heaps of fun with my mates and brothers out on the trails and plenty of stacks in the bush around Australia. But with the arrival of my daughter in 2011, my mountain bike began gathering dust in a corner of the garage. As a time-poor mum, I just couldn't justify to myself the time and effort to get out to the mountain bike trails. It was quicker and easier to go for a run or a swim or head out on the roadie. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to ride my mountain bike. With the arrival of my son in 2013 and trying to manage increasing family responsibilities with work, my mountain bike became even more neglected.

Toward the end of 2014, my son had his first anaphylactic reaction to food. Suddenly, I turned to my mountain bike as a way to pull me out of the depressive episode I slipped in to. I needed something that was just for me. I needed an escape from the stress and anxiety surrounding my son's food allergies that suddenly seemed to be consuming my every thought. I knew I needed a goal; something to work towards and give me a reason to prioritize time for me. A quick google search came back with an Xterra race 8 hours away from home. After a chat with my partner, Joel (where he didn't hesitate to say I should go for it), I signed up.

I clearly remember that first ride on my mountain bike after so long. The overwhelming feeling of freedom. Freedom from my thoughts and worries. Freedom from my family responsibilities. I felt like I was a kid again! I squealed with delight over a lame bit of air from the tiniest jump, sliding out around sandy corners, or just missing a tree. I felt alive. It was incredible! Slowly but surely I started to feel better.

Through a combination of anti-depressants, sessions with my incredible psychologist and mountain biking, I was me again. Life was still stressful. My son's food allergies and related health issues got worse – there were more EpiPens administered, ambulance rides, hospital stays and new diagnoses. But I had strategies, which included a bit of dirt therapy on my mountain bike, to deal with the stress and anxiety and keep myself well. 

In 2016, we welcomed our third child into our family. A girl. Our management of our son's food allergies had improved significantly, we avoided ambulance rides and hospital stays. We also started to see some improvements in his food allergies. He has now outgrown his dairy allergy (The. Best. News. Ever!) and is starting to show signs of growing out of his egg allergy.

While 2014-15 was the toughest year of my life, I learned a lot from it. Most importantly, I learned to be the best mum I can be, I need to do something for myself. I would never in a million years have picked the Cape Epic as that 'something for myself' but now that it is on the agenda, I can't wait to do it! I can’t thank Liv for this incredible opportunity to push myself and show myself, my family and others what a working mother of three young children is capable of doing.

For me, the biggest challenge in taking on the Cape Epic, won't be the event itself (and I can assure you I'm not underestimating how hard the event will actually be) but the training journey to get me ready for the event. It's not only me that needs to get to the 'start line'. It's also Joel and my three children. For every bit of training or racing I do, that is more parenting responsibilities that Joel has to pick up. That is less time I spend with my kids. That is less time Joel and I have together. But through constant communication and readjusting schedules, I am sure we will find the right balance between training, racing and family so we are all happy, healthy and fit come March 2018.

With that in mind, we're slowly figuring out good training times for me and have penciled in a few races. With an age group win at the Port Stephens TreXTri already under my belt, I'm flying over to Western Australia for the iconic Cape to Cape MTB 4 day stage race in mid-October. I'm also really excited to be racing the Bright 24hr MTB race in a pair with one of my best mates from high school in mid-November.  

Happy trails people!

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