The Cat’s out of the Bag
Mountain biker Cat Morrison leads a brigade of women riders, proving the sport is no longer just for the boys
Mountain biking isn’t just a macho thing for guys. Many women find an inner peace and joy in riding a full-suspension bike over rugged terrain. ¶
It gives 37-year-old Cat Morrison of Grand Junction an inner freedom she doesn’t get doing anything else.
“The combination of fitness, technical skills, balance and endurance drives me,” she said. “Once I got on and started experiencing those things, it invigorated me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’d be walking on a trail and I would think how could I ride this line on a bike. I couldn’t be on a trail without thinking about being on a bike.
“Every time I ride something technical, it’s the best accomplishment. It’s success.”
Morrison, who grew up in Maryland, didn’t discover mountain biking until she was 30 years old and that was by accident when a vehicle accident forced her to ride a mountain bike to work.
A friend offered to ride with her back home after work and they took a detour along a mountain bike trail.
“I thought that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Morrison said. “I was dying (of exhaustion). I didn’t know how to maneuver obstacles.
“One day, I went with a friend of mine and she said, ‘You should race. You’re really good.’ I was like, ‘Really, no!’”
The compliment intrigued her enough to give racing a try.
Despite breaking a chain and veering off course, she was hooked.
Morrison entered the Summer Series, a weekly series cross country race near Keystone Ski Resort.
“I had a really good friend that did 24-hour races,” Morrison said. “She would do these races, 24 hours of Montezuma’s revenge. I would help her with support and rode the night loop with her.
“One of the loops in the race is carrying your bike up the mountain. I remember thinking my support ride with her was the longest I’ve ever done. That night, I remember sleeping in my apartment, waking up and thinking about her. I got out of bed, ran down to town and waited for her. She inspired me.”
Morrison did the race the next summer in 2005 and again in 2006, but she wanted more, so she moved to Grand Junction in December 2007.
She competed in several races in 2008 and was the first female to finish the Vapor Trail 125 and was second in the 18 hours of Fruita solo pro event.
In 2009, she was the first and only female to complete the Moab Rim Ride and the Colorado Trail Race, a 470-mile race from Denver to Durango, on mostly singletrack biking trails with detours around the wilderness areas. It includes a 65,000 feet of total elevation gain. All the riders carry a spot tracker with them for safety.
The Colorado Trail Race is a multi-day, self-supported ride. It took her 7 days, 13 hours and 23 minutes.
She did the race again last summer on a singlespeed and is the first woman to complete the Colorado Trail Race on a singlespeed. She did it in 6 days, 19 hours, 15 minutes and a portion of it was in pouring rain. Morrison said, 30 or 40 people started and 18 finished.
She won the women’s solo singlespeed division of the 24 Hours of Moab a couple months later.
“I didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t have a bike, so I went with a singlespeed because it was cheaper,” Morrison said. “That’s really a bigger accomplishment for me. Everyone knows about the 24 hours of Moab, because it’s such a big race. That’s the first thing people say to me, but I’m like do you know anything about the Colorado Trail Race?”
You can read more about it on her blog at http://girls4dirt.blogspot.com.
“I remember one of the biggest compliments anyone ever gave me, I was following a guy on this trail in a race,” Morrison said. “Later, this guy said, ‘I kept expecting you to fall off and you were still there on my wheel. More women have self preservation than that!’”
She admits, it’s not always rewarding. At times, she prefers to stay home in bed, warm, dry and fed, but is motivated by the sense of accomplishment.
“For me, there are things that terrify me on the trail, but you just get off (the bike),” Morrison said. “It’s no big deal. It’s the adrenaline you get when you accomplish or clear a hard section of trail, it’s addicting.”
She wants to help other women try mountain biking and encourage them to overcome any fear or anxiety toward it.
“I would say, don’t go with your boyfriend,” Morrison said. “I think a lot of girls get in a situation with their boyfriend and they end up crying. It’s a different dynamic. There is too much emotion involved. I have that problem skiing with my boyfriend. I have the fitness and strength, but the technical skill is uneasy.”
Morrison recently taught women mountain biking skills at a camp in St. George, Utah, and hopes to take more women out mountain biking.