Rita Takes The Challenge: “Walk As If You’re Late for the Bus.”

Rita Takes The Challenge: “Walk As If You’re Late for the Bus.”

Walking is underrated, especially in North America.  The average American adult walks an average of 4,474 steps each day. Canadians are not far ahead of that with 4,819 steps. Contrast that to the average resident of Hong Kong, whose total daily steps clock in at 6,880, nearly 30% more than those across a continent.  There are many reasons for this gap, but regardless of why the difference exists – most people in America don’t walk enough.

So, when Rita Enders, a 60+ year old Canadian and now Palm Desert, California resident, sought some advice about improving her physical fitness from her Physician Assistant friend, Michelle – she was given just a few words of advice. “Don’t just walk Rita, walk every day, as if you’re late for the bus.”

“Don’t just walk Rita, walk every day, as if you’re late for the bus.”

“Hmmm,” Rita thought. “I’m a world traveler, cook, weaver, spinner, reader, photographer, and all things in between.” Could the solution to getting fit really be so simple?” So, in November 2017, Rita began to walk. No, this wasn’t just her ordinary and occasional stroll. She began to walk with a purpose. Daily and quickly, she imagined the pace of a young student late for school, and trying desperately to catch that bus. Along the way, she began to walk with her 70+ year-old friend, Charlotte. Four months later, sometime in the spring, the two women decided they needed a goal. Their confidence and enthusiasm for their newfound level of fitness was bursting, and as Rita put it, “I needed to do something outrageous.”

Why not? After all, the women were in their 60’s and 70’s, and both agreed, they should pick an audacious venue. One that really made a statement. It was not enough to take on the annual run/walk challenge 10K of their Palm Springs area neighborhood. No, they set their horizons further. Across the ocean further – all the way to England. “How about walk the coast to coast, across England, they asked each other? “Lots of people do it, thousands in fact.” Indeed, the duo thought, “We can do it too!”

The Wainwright Coast to Coast (C2C) Trail is a 192-miles journey from St. Bees on the Irish Sea to Robin Hoods Bay on the North Sea. It was conceived in 1972 by Albert Wainwright. Wainwright, an accountant, turned author, wrote a series of guidebooks on walking routes outlining the route. From the northwest English coastline, the routes meander east through rural villages, emerald pastures, ancient byways, rolling hills, and three contrasting national parks to the final destination along the North Sea shoreline. Since Wainwright’s writings, his books have lured thousands of walking enthusiasts from all walks of life, to undertake the challenge.

The Coast to Coast (C2C) Trail in England meanders 192-miles through rural villages, emerald pastures, ancient byways, rolling hills and three national parks. 

On May 26, 2018, after six months of working diligently to catch that bus, Rita and her companion, Charlotte, found themselves in St. Bees at the start of their adventure. Following months of training and preparation, which included careful study of Henry Stedman’s Coast to Coast Path guide books, they set out on their pilgrimage. The trip was a series of surprises and challenges with moments of pride and temporary defeat, which Rita chronicled in her C2C Blog (freespiritwoman.com). At times the women walked solo, swallowing in the serenity and brilliance of the landscape. Other times they walked with like-minded strangers who colored their journey and inspired them.

On June 18, the pair finally dipped their boots into the North Sea. They had walked for 16 days – a trip that less than six months ago, neither would’ve dreamt possible. As for Rita, she’d set her goal, believed in herself, and in the end, she finally caught that damn bus. Guided by Wainwright’s words, “You were made to soar, to crash to the earth, then to rise and soar again.” Rita wasted no time. She was already looking for her next challenge.

*For more details about Rita and her Coast to Coast (C2C) Trip, visit her website at Freespiritwoman.com

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All-Women’s Performance Cycling Camp Empowers

All-Women’s Performance Cycling Camp Empowers

For 14 years, Jill Gass, owner of Revolution Coaching out of Solvang, California, has been putting on performance cycling camps for women with a staff of some of the most elite and decorated women cycling champions in the world. A competitive Master’s endurance cyclist, Jill has won National titles and set records in some of the most prestigious endurance-cycling races in the world – including the Race Across America (RAAM), Race Across the West (RAW) and the Hoo Doo 500. But her passion and genius lie in mentoring and coaching. From veteran elite racers to women entering cycling for the first time, Jill empowers them to meet and exceed their personal athletic goals, thereby promoting and elevating the sport of women’s cycling.

                                Jill Gass 

                  Jill Gass and partner Liz Inglese

Galvanized by the limited opportunities afforded herself and other female athletes before the passage of Title IX, Jill has created and promoted countless opportunities for other women to excel. In 2011 she established B4T9, a non-profit organization whose mission is to  foster equality in cycling and get more women and girls of all ages on bikes. The name, a clever and personal acronym referring to “before Title Nine,” is in some ways, a call out for women from that era and younger generations, to unite behind a common cause of dismantling the barriers that still exist for women in cycling.

As a USA Cycling Licensed Level 1 coach with a background in Sports Medicine, Jill has trained and mentored all levels of athletes for over 25 years, including  some of the best women cyclists in the country. In 2006 she started her coaching business, Revolution Coaching. Shortly afterward, along with the help of former mentees, collegiate and professional racers, athletes, and world-class coaches, she put on the inaugural Women’s Performance Cycling Camp. The camp, which Jill runs with her partner Liz Inglese, is now in its 14th year.  It is designed to support the recreational rider and racer who’s interested in boosting their performance and personal cycling goals. Regardless of skill level, participants access and learn from elite and world-class cyclists and coaches during the week. Riders obtain individual instruction and specific training advice during and after various training rides – all designed to take their cycling to the next level. The prestigious staff, along with a small coach-to-rider ratio, makes this camp unique and highly respected in the cycling community.

                                                          The amazing line-up:  Laura Van Gilder, Jill Gass, Liz Inglese and Katie Hall

This year’s camp held on November 06-10th, was an overwhelming success. Eighteen women cyclists converged from different parts of the country with diverse backgrounds and skill levels to experience and enjoy the five-day and four-night camp held in Solvang.  The year’s line-up included guest coaches Laura Van Gilder, the current World Master Cyclocross Champion, and Boels Dolman professional Katie Hall, the 2018 Amgen Tour of California Women’s Champion and one of the world’s best female climbers

Featuring Laura Van Gilder, the winningest American woman in professional cycling and Katie Hall, one of the top climbers in the world. 

Participants were treated like pro’s and received specific tips and instruction from the world-class coaching team. Cyclists rolled along vineyard-bordered farmland roads, sprinted in pace-line assisted groups, and climbed and descended the scenic vistas showcasing the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Evenings dinners gushed with enthusiasm and personal accomplishment as the group shared meals and connections at some of the best restaurants in the area. Also included in the camp was an entrance into the epic Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo. Riders broke off into loose groups with some touring the valley, while others climbed 3000+ feet along the steep road to catch a glimpse at the summit of the stunning views of the region.

                                                                         2019 Women’s Performance Cycling Camp 

Sistership, provided support for the event. Sistership is an organization that supports and promotes the stories and bold ventures of active women who choose to “Age Proud, Grow Bold.”


Women Cyclists Shine in the 2019 Race Across The West

Women Cyclists Shine in the 2019 Race Across The West


2019 Race Across The West Ultra-Cycling 

Team In Our Prime

(L to R) Karin Wheeler and Sylvia Maas 

Team In Our Prime, the 2-person female duo, comprised of Karin Weller, 57 and Suzy Maas, 56 completed the 2019 Race Across The West (RAW). The women left Oceanside, CA at noon on June 11.  They alternately cycled west along the 928-mile route and rolled into Durango, Colorado on June 14. The team averaged 342 miles per day at a pace of 14.3 miles per hour.  Their official time was 65 hours and 5 minutes.   Just to put these numbers into perspective, at that pace, it’s like riding from Los Angeles to San Jose in 24 hours. That’s amazing!  Not only that, but competing in the 50-59 age category, their age didn’t seem to slow them down in the least.  In Our Prime, crossed the finish line 40 minutes ahead of their younger competitors, Team Workhorses, Molly Cripe Brit, and Sandy Taylor.


Jennifer Orr - Wins Race Across The West - Solo Finisher

      Jennifer Orr, 2019 RAW Overall Solo Champion 

Jennifer Orr, 42, riding solo in the under 50 age category against four other female solo riders, turned in a super-star performance. Against the entire field of single riders, both men and women, she earned the prestigious title as the Overall Solo Champion of the race. Not realizing she was in the lead for most of the race,  Jennifer beat the fastest of the male solo racers by nearly 3 ½ hours.  Her time was 68 hours and 30 minutes.  Without a partner to share the work and provide even a short reprieve from the grind, she trailed both two-person females teams by only 3 hours.

Jennifer, a Sports Physical Therapist, entered the race coming off a big win in the 6-12-24 World Time Trials in October 2018.  She has set her sights on racing in the 2020 Race Across America (RAAM). This week’s RAW race was merely a qualifying warm-up for what’s to come for this champion ultra-endurance cyclist.

Race Across America (RAAM) – Starts Saturday, June 15

Team Serpentine Golden Girls_2019 Race Across America

Team Serpentine Golden Girls (Photo Serpentine MySpace)

Speaking of the RAAM, the 3000-mile granddaddy of endurance cycling racing started this week.  The solo racers started on June 11 and are currently traversing the country towards Annapolis, Maryland. The team RAAM riders will start their race Saturday, June 15, from Oceanside, California. Be on the look-out for all the competitors, but Sistership’s eye will be on Team Serpentine Golden Girls.  This team is comprised of four females from the U.K. who are competing in the 70-79 age category. If you think you’re old after age 50, tune into this race and prepare for an attitude readjustment.   These women ride for a cause – to defy the limits of age and to show the world what that looks.  Follow the Golden Girls on the race tracker and be prepared to shave at least 20 years of your perception of “old.”

Click here to see live updates on the riders of the Race Across America.

Riding The White Rim Trail – Or Not. 

Riding The White Rim Trail – Or Not. 

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to be invited on an epic bike ride through the Canyonlands National Park in Moab. The journey, a 4-day trip supported by 2 vehicles, starts this weekend. Its a “bucket list” type of ride and requires permits and camping reservations which some wait up to a year to get. I couldn’t say no. 

A Re-introduction to Mountain Biking

I had all but given up on my dream of riding a mountain bike through Moab, Utah.  I had purchased my first mountain bike in 1984, a cherry red Diamondback MB1.   It was in the early days of mountain biking.  The introduction of the mountain bike in the ’80s was like the key that opened Pandora’s box of adventure. Unexplored fire roads, hidden trails and mountain passes were waiting to be discovered.  A national “Disneyland “ for bikes just opened and cyclists were going crazy. I just hopped onto the frenzy. Yet despite the thrill of exploring the wild, I never really got comfortable with riding alone off the road. It wasn’t always convenient to find riding partners, so I defaulted to the road bike.  When I got the invite for this ride,  I quickly scrambled to find a decent mountain bike.  My vintage MB1 was just not going to cut it for this adventure.   I wasn’t about to miss my chance to experience the thrill, adventure and majestic beauty of riding the White Rim Trail.

Planning for the Adventure

Our ride organizer, Lisa from Grand Junction, Colorado had spent several months planning this trip.  It was on her bucket list and being the “can do” woman she is,  Lisa was making it happen.  She had secured the permits, the campsites and had planned every last detail of the journey.   The group started with a total of 14 riders, both men and women.  Water jugs filled, tents packed, bikes tuned up, we were all excited for a great adventure. But by the time we arrived yesterday we were down to 6 women.  There was just one small detail we couldn’t control – the weather.

Weather Warnings

Severe thunderstorm warnings were posted throughout the WRT website Friday morning. The rangers predicted portions of the road could be closed if the Green River flooded.  We began to pull up Plan B, but then the reports changed again.   Back to Plan A – yeah we’re tough women – we’re doing this!  Two hours later the wind picked up and the clouds grew dark. Lisa started receiving texts from friends in Grand Junction. Hail, lightning and big winds had just passed through the town 90 minutes from Moab. They were warning us not to proceed. The local police we passed on the street said there’s a monsoon predicted on Sunday which could cause sudden flash floods below the rim. Crap! We rechecked the weather reports. Like anything you read, you tend to take away what you want to hear. If you don’t like it, you keep searching – even with the weather. 

Plan B – A New List in the Bucket

It’s Saturday morning. We’re going! But our carefully packed bags, our sag wagon, our big plans to cycle this 100-mile dream trail are staying behind.  We’re doing the first leg. 30 miles up and back and then returning to Moab today, so we’re not caught in the potential storm that is brewing (or not). As far as the next three days, we’ll see how the weather moves and we’ll move around it. Life takes its turns and you’re left with making decisions, even if they’re speckled with doubt and dismay. But in the vast canyons throughout this big state of Utah, I’m confident with these 6 women, the disappointment will quickly dissolve into sheer wonder at the majestic glory that surrounds us.

“Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge – Nancy Eckert, 53

“Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge – Nancy Eckert, 53

Nancy Eckert, 52, has accepted Sistership’s “Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge and will be riding on Saturday with a group of friends from the Goleta/Santa Barbara/Ventura area.  Nancy, an avid road cyclist and mountain bike enthusiast will be celebrating her birthday exactly how she wants to – on her bike with friends.  She is well known in the Goleta/Santa Barbara cycling circles, not only for her cycling skills but for her activism in promoting safe cycling.  Her passion for building a better community is evident if you take a look at how she spends her time.  Nancy is an educator and a staff member of COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation).  This is an organization in Santa Barbara County that provides advocacy, education and outreach programs to improve transportation and promote rail, bus, bike and pedestrian access. 

Cycling past 50, active women, go your age

Nancy takes in the scenery on top of the 3500ft climb to Sulfur Mountain in Ojai, CA

Nancy is also a key member of the Goleta Valley Girls Softball Association.  A former softball player for Cal Poly State University-San Luis Obispo, Nancy blended her athletic experience with her education degree to create a career centered on improving access and opportunities for young girls in the sport of softball. 

Nancy Eckert, Keilani Ricketts, girls softball, softball coach

Nancy hosts professional softball player, Keilani Ricketts at one of her many girl’s softball clinics.

Not only has she spent years offering private coaching and running softball clinics, but she also continues to run a girl’s softball program through Tide Club Softball for area youth.  Her work has inspired and empowered many young girls and women to pursue their dreams with confidence and boldness.


Whether she is cycling, coaching, paddle boarding or hiking, Nancy is always in search of ways to promote physical activity as a way to bring a community together.   Her upcoming birthday ride is a testament to this.  Not many people can talk a dozen friends into cycling 53-miles along the coastal mountains of Santa Barbara,  instead of just blowing out some candles and calling it a day.  You go, Nancy!  “Go Your Age” with gusto.

Johanna Gabbard is a Physical Therapist, educator, consultant, writer, professional speaker, and community organizer. She is an avid cyclist, sailor, retired Army Colonel and former professor for Physical Therapy at Baylor University. Johanna is a health expert on musculoskeletal rehabilitation, enhancing optimal human movement and an advocate for active, healthy aging. She is a co-founder of Sistership LLC, a company dedicated to promoting and supporting active women who choose to “Age Proud, Grow Bold.

“Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge

“Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge

It’s another new year and we all know what that means. Uncontrollable urges to taste and re-taste holiday meals, party food and homemade baked goods come to a screeching halt.  We commit to keeping new resolutions for better living and then wait for a shiny, mirrored ball to descend on the masses of people gathered in Time Square to press the start button.

I’m not always sure what to think about the new year.  Mostly I’m amazed how quickly it recycles.  Sometimes I kick myself for not dropping the 10 pounds I promised to lose.  But, for me, born in the first week of January, the new year promises an early birthday reminder that I am one year older.

I really don’t mind being a year older, at least on the non-decade years.  But to see my life in 10-year increments, is a bit shocking. Especially when I realize if all goes well and the stars are aligned, odds are that I only have 8 of these decades in my bank.  This epiphany, that came to me when I turned 50, put things in perspective.   I made the decision to take charge of this “aging thing” and commit to riding my years on my birthday.  I decided, I would not only turn 50, I’d kick-ass doing it!

Sistership "Go Your Age" Annual Birthday Challenge. Age Bold.

Invitation for Sistership’s  “Go your Age” Birthday Challenge!

On my 50th birthday in 2010, I invited my long-time Army cycling friend, Lise, to join me for my first “Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge. We cycled happily through the chilly Texas hill country outside of Fredericksburg.  Rolling along the modulating terrain, we kept our eyes open for unleashed dogs, cattle guards and the unlikely chance we might see Lance Armstrong along the road.(He’s from these parts in case you didn’t know.) The ride was great fun especially for the active women over 50. When we were done, we had ridden 75 miles, a bit overkill from my original distance, but who was counting?   After looking at my odometer, I remember wondering if I had set my goal too low. When I committed to “Go My Age.”   These rides were going to be easy, or so I thought, 9 years ago.

I did kick ass at 51 and 52, riding at least a metric century each time (62 miles) in just over 4 hours.  But at 53, only 3 years later, I thought I was going to die. Michelle B. had agreed to join me.  She was 55 and thought she’d ride along and maybe add 2 extra miles at the end to get her quota.  But, it took all our effort to eke out the last 5 miles of a relatively flat route through the Southern California farm towns of Santa Paula and Fillmore.

“What the heck happened?… Life happened. Life had gotten in the way of my grand plan.”

What The Heck Happened?

“What the heck happened?” I thought. “Life happened,” I answered. Life had gotten in the way of my grand plan.  I was 3 years older, settling into a new town, job and home.  Keeping fit had taken a back seat to the dynamic and stressful changes that life brought that year.   The ride was grueling and it was only my pride that got me through. I vowed that would never happen again.

At 54, once again, life events interfered and my scheduled birthday challenge was bumped for a much needed total hip replacement in January. “Hmmm,” I thought. Did my plan go to hell in a handbasket in a matter
of 4 years? Certainly not, I thought and thanked God for modern medicine. Artificial joint replacements are the Bomb! They give a new lease on life to anyone who has had one.

So, instead of checking off another birthday ride. I spent 6 months doing my own rehabilitation to get stronger and rid myself of the apparent limp I had acquired. The next 6 months I committed to training on the bike, mostly on flat terrain with a few rolling hills. I was determined to ride 55 miles in January and just to keep the pressure on myself, I invited several friends to join me on birthday challenge

Amazingly, in 2015, not only did I go my age, so did each of my 8 of my friends.  Refusing to be a passive recipient to my birthday years. I inspired, each of them to spend their birthday embracing their age with pedal strokes and good company.  Since that time, our group has grown.

Sistership "Go Your Age" Birthday Challenge, Aging Proud, Growing Bold, Active Women Over 50, Cycling Over 50, Active Aging


Happy Birthday Bike Helmet

On Sunday, January 06, a 59-mile route awaits. Thirteen friends will join me for the best birthday gift of all. Celebrating the closing out of my 5th decade on earth and savoring the moment with friends, one pedal stroke at a time.