Kaarin Tae, champion cyclist
Sarah Beatty - October 22, 2013
Kaarin Tae zips on her Canadian Champion jersey and dons her medal with a smile. Tae, a tutorial coordinator and academic advisor for the College of Sustainability, is the first woman in Nova Scotia to wear a Canadian Champion cycling jersey, winning the Elite Women Cross-Country Mountain Bike Marathon.
“I’m really happy to bring this title back to Nova Scotia,” she says with a smile. “Hopefully this will be the first of many when our young people keep growing in the sport.”
“I was not expecting to win this race,” she admits. “I was hoping to get on the podium, but anywhere from first to fifth would have been fantastic.”
Tae braved the 70-kilometre loop and rode for over three-and-a-half hours at the second annual National Mountain Bike Championship Race in Quebec.
Although a challenge, this was not Tae’s first time racing with such success. Last year Tae placed third, joining Canadian Olympian Marie-Hélène Prémont on the podium.
“To have that experience, to be on the podium with her, was part of how I could believe I could pull it off this year,” says Tae, “In the middle of the race, I thought back to how special that moment was last year and said ‘No, I’m not going to give up...”
Tae hopes to offer a similar experience for other women in the sport.
“Winning this has been fantastic to show girls that this is something they will be doing for the rest of their lives. I’m hoping to show them that at 42, you can still be getting better at this. It’s not something you give up because you’re 17 or 18 and your friends are giving up sports.”
The road to Tae’s success was not easy. Between juggling her training, work and various commitments last winter, Tae got sick. A flu spread to her lungs, causing her to take two months off from her marathon training. “I didn’t know what my new normal would be. I didn’t know if my lungs would ever be normal again.”
However, a mountain biking trip to North Carolina propelled her back into training. ”Getting out of the office helped, I needed to get away from the office and get to where I was just exercising and relaxing and getting fresh air.”
Staying motivated to train is easy, although fitting it in can be a challenge. Tae bikes to work when she can and rides a stationary trainer on dark, cold mornings in winter. She keeps in mind that on race day it will be worth the effort, whether it’s a win or not.
“Either way I know I’ve done everything I can to be ready for that race. At Marathon Nationals I didn’t really know who I was racing against, and how I would stack up against them. But I try not to focus on how good the others might be, or have a strategy that depends on what someone else does. I set my own strategy and go with it.”
Putting mountain biking on the map in HRM
That Tae is the first Mountain Bike champion to have come from Nova Scotia reflects, perhaps, that the province does not have the same mountain bike following as other provinces. “Part of this is that we just don’t have enough recognized trail systems,” she says.
Tae is the President of the McIntosh Run Watershed Association (MRWA) and hopes their new project may offer a solution while also fostering stewardship of the river. The MRWA is working to develop a trail system from Spryfield to Herring Cove along the McIntosh Run Watershed. The single-track trail is intended for both pedestrian and mountain bike use. “People who use the trail system for whatever reason, they’ll appreciate the river and the wilderness,” she says, “and if they appreciate it they will protect it.”
Her mountain biking aspirations do not end here. Tae continues her training and hopes to one day represent Canada at the World Championships for Marathon Mountain Biking.
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