For the Love of the Trails by Korrin Anderson

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Korrin Anderson serves as the Associate Director for Orientation and Parent Programs at Florida International University (FIU). Prior to this role, she worked for Residential Life at FIU both as a graduate student and as a professional. She earned her undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance at Millikin University, a graduate certificate in Conflict Resolution and Consensus Building, and her Masters degree in Educational Leadership at FIU. Korrin ran her first marathon this past February and is currently training for her fourth triathlon.

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Sometimes you discover love in the most unlikely of places. While this can be true for many areas of life, I feel that this is particularly true of one of my loves, mountain biking. If you couldn’t deduce from my brief bio, I live in Miami. South Florida is definitely not known for majestic mountains and beautiful wooded trails, yet it surprisingly boasts some truly great mountain biking and a strong community of riders to go along with it.

Let me take a step back and share how I unintentionally became engaged in the South Florida mountain biking scene. After suddenly losing my closest friend in 2008, I found myself feeling lonely and searching for something to fill the void that was left. I thankfully discovered Meetup.com, a fantastic website that connects people with similar interests in the same geographic area (I always recommend this site to student affairs folks who take jobs/go to grad school in places where they don’t know anyone). I put aside my trepidation, signed up for multiple Meetup groups, and started attending events.

I have always been an active person and enjoyed being outdoors, but up until that point most of my outside time was spent where you would expect for those living in Miami, at the beach and in the water. Since I had recently purchased a used mountain bike, coincidentally from the same friend I lost that year, I decided to sign up for a biking Meetup group. They hosted a Mountain Biking for Beginners event and I figured I was well equipped to ride my bike around some trails, but learned quickly that I had no idea what the sport entailed.

The ride was at Markham Park, which it turns out is the most technical and challenging trail system in South Florida. Before venturing into any trails, a member of the Mountain Bike Patrol gave us a lesson on basic skills and maneuvering as well as many tips on what to do and not to do if you want to stay on your bike during the ride. We eventually went into the trails, known as singletrack, and it became clear that this was not the biking that I was used to. Sharp turns, steep up/downhills, logs, roots, and man-made bridges and obstacles quickly greeted me as I found myself continually putting my feet down, braking a lot, and not quite being sure what I had gotten myself into.

By the end of the ride I was exhausted, and my soreness in the days following made it clear that mountain b
iking was a full-body workout. I really liked this aspect along with the mental and physical challenges of conquering the trail. I definitely found myself wanting more and I was in luck because a new off-shoot Meetup group had just formed that focused on brining women together specifically for mountain biking. The leaders of this group were welcoming, patient, and encouraging as I sought to learn how to become a better rider. I even began organizing Meetups for the group and found both my skills and social network expanding.

I also found out that there were a number of parks with singletrack trails in South Florida, both old and new each with their own distinct terrain and style. I would tell people at work that I spent my weekends mountain biking which helped to explain why I was often covered in bruises, scratches, and quite sore. Despite the inherent risk involved in mountain biking, I was driven to go back as often as I could. I started attending mountain biking festivals in other areas of the state, competing in races, and even found out that there were amazing trails in my hometown in WI that I had never know about before. A new world had opened up for me and I saw both where I lived and where I traveled from another perspective with a new question in the back of my mind…”where can I ride?”.

Things have come full-circle as I’ve now introduced others to the sport including my husband whom I bought a mountain bike as a wedding present. While other priorities have reduced the amount of time that I now spend riding, I still enjoy it just as much when I do. I know my desire to ride will motivate me to stay active even when the busyness of work and life can get in the way. By taking a risk both emotionally and physically when I needed it most, I was able to discover something that I truly love.

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