00:00:00 Kate Rau
And right as the race was ending, the sun came out. You could see Mount Massive, just the sun was shining bright and all the girls came in mud faces. They had so much fun because it was Type 2 fine that you were out there pushing it and they were so proud of themselves that they finished it and that they just.
00:00:30 Kate Rau
We’re joyous through that struggle. You know when you share struggle, it heightens it in a in a way that makes those bonds. And I think that season really bonded the girls a lot.
00:00:48 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Welcome to the Kooler Lifestyle Podcast.
00:00:50 Matthew Kuehlhorn
I’m your host, Matt Kuehlhorn, and I’m excited to have you join me as I interview community members and business leaders from the communities in which I live, work and serve through my business, Kooler Garage Doors. We’re going to bring you highlights on characters in our communities.
00:01:05 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Why? Because community matters, and I want to know more about who is behind our business and leadership in order to understand and support the community fabric that our relationships make up. And collectively, we can build stronger communities that support our lifestyles, our youth and our health.
00:01:28 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Kooler Lifestyle Podcast. I’m your host, Matt Kuehlhorn. Today I get to sit down with Kate Rau, who I’m excited to talk with. She’s the Executive Director of the Colorado High School Cycling League. Kate, welcome.
00:01:43 Kate Rau
00:01:45 Matthew Kuehlhorn
00:01:45 Kate Rau
Been part of this since day one, Matt, so I’m excited. Thank you for being here.
00:01:50 Matthew Kuehlhorn
I know it. I know it.
00:01:52 Matthew Kuehlhorn
We’re going to get into the history and it will build a context of of how we got here and and why we’re talking. Because I love what what you’re doing and I love what your your team’s mission is and how we engage youth and and all of this. It’s so, so cool to me, especially okay. I want to go into it right now. When I was a high schooler, I raised mountain bikes.
00:02:16 Matthew Kuehlhorn
But it wasn’t structured and it was just me and a couple of buddies and we got into a vehicle and we went all around Michigan and hit up normal races and we would camp and sometimes we’d get into trouble and you know, our our parents were like, yeah, go for it. So it’s it’s really, really cool to kind of come full circle in and see students racing and engaging like we have going on today. So I want to get into all of that, Kate.
00:02:45 Kate Rau
All right, where are?
00:02:48 Matthew Kuehlhorn
You Where are you beaming in from right now?
00:02:50 Kate Rau
00:02:52 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Awesome. Awesome. And is it office? Home Office?
00:02:57 Kate Rau
It is an office we finally got an office in.
00:03:00 Matthew Kuehlhorn
2019 Fall of 20.
00:03:03 Kate Rau
Winner of 2018 moved in here.
00:03:06 Matthew Kuehlhorn
How long is the high school league been going on?
00:03:08 Kate Rau
Our first race was at the McMurray Ranch in 2010 with 155 riders.
00:03:14 Matthew Kuehlhorn
That’s so cool. That’s awesome. I remember Dave wins recruiting me to be a coach for the Gunnison High School team that first year and what a special event like. So cool.
00:03:26 Kate Rau
Yeah, he was at that race and he and Susan were on our first fundraiser the May prior to that race. So he was integral and getting a the ground.
00:03:37 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Give me give me a little context. Since 2010, what have you seen that has shifted in?
00:03:44 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Has the student body grown?
00:03:47 Kate Rau
Yes, last year we had 1725 student athletes Freaks.
00:03:54 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Oh my gosh.
00:03:55 Kate Rau
And 25% of them were girls.
00:03:58 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Oh my gosh.
00:04:01 Kate Rau
It has grown. I would say that shifting kids want to be on bikes. The culture I’ve.
00:04:14 Kate Rau
Tried to imbue things that are everlasting and connecting and relevant to kids by developing spirit contests. And I acknowledge legacy riders that are riders that have raced at least one race throughout their high school season, their high school career. They receive a legacy belt buckle in a gold race plate to recognize them. And then last year we came up with the idea of doing a.
00:04:44 Kate Rau
What we call this senior singletrack send off. So we had all the seniors do a parade because I think other sports recognize their seniors. And we used to recognize via Instagram and Facebook all of our legacy writers. But now we have so many that it takes us nine months to do it on our social media platform. So we shifted gears last year to do it a parade.
00:05:09 Kate Rau
At the conference championships, the overall conference. So that was fun.
00:05:14 Matthew Kuehlhorn
K this is so amazing. I can understand why mountain mountain biking in Colorado, you know, has good traction and and has, you know, been embraced by high school students. How did you get involved? Who recruited you into this and why was it? Why is it such a part of you?
00:05:37 Kate Rau
So I was in environmental consulting prior to working with youth, and then when I was working with youth, I was in intervention and I found this chasm between families and kids that were in crisis, not being outside, not having magical memories, as I call it.
00:06:07 Kate Rau
Connecting. And I feel intervention, if you we can have prevention is way better than intervention. And when I left environmental consulting, I’m like, oh, I think I want to be a teacher this or that. And I met Matt Temasco when I was starting to teach skiing at Aldora and I really.
00:06:30 Kate Rau
Drew to youth sports and Matt Masco was running Single track Mountain Bike Adventures, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this July. So I talked my way into a job there. I said I want to follow him as an educator, and I said he’s going to teach me how to do it. And so we were running mountain bike camps.
00:06:58 Kate Rau
Up in Winter Park and I was the cook. And then the next year I started coaching and then we developed the younger age program for 7-8 year olds or 7 to 12 year olds. And I did that for 12 years and I was following what was occurring in junior cycling. Idaho had something. Arizona had something Colorado.
00:07:25 Kate Rau
You know, we put on races with Steve McCauley of USA Cycling in 96 and in 98 up in Nederland. One was outside of Colorado Springs and we would just get a bunch of kids together from various high schools. Durango would show up in Boulder and Mullen High came one year. So it was very grassroots.
00:07:51 Kate Rau
And then the Mountain States Cup was happening. And so we coupled high school, the high school state championship, into the Mountain States Cup. And then in 2008, it wasn’t. It didn’t happen, and for a variety of reasons. And I was, I started seeing Nor Cal and I was like, what is this in about 2005?
00:08:20 Kate Rau
And I think they started in 2001. Anyway, Fast forward, I met Gary Fisher at a Trek event in Boulder and said I want to start this for Boulder Valley School District and he sent me a movie, Children of the Dirt, etcetera. I invited myself out to a Norcal coaching conference and they welcomed me and they said okay.
00:08:50 Kate Rau
Maybe. And then that was 2000 and eight 2009. Matt Fritzinger was the founder of Nor, Cal and NICA and he came out and saw that we had a lot of support because the parents that I had met through working at Simba for 10 years, they were very supportive. So then.
00:09:16 Kate Rau
We started in 2009, It was announced at Inner Bike and Dave and Susan came and helped us raise money and we got sponsors that are still with us today and new ones we always welcome. But we’ve been very, very lucky. It is in our DNA. We had junior programs already in existence in Colorado, such as Simba, Durango, Debo.
00:09:42 Kate Rau
Ciclesmo was starting that year. That’s now sent out out of Fort Collins, so we are very lucky.
00:09:48 Luke Hylton
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00:10:23 Matthew Kuehlhorn
So, so you were one of the founders?
00:10:33 Kate Rau
Yeah, I am the founder.
00:10:34 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, awesome. I didn’t put that together, but amazing. Did you? Did you grow up riding bikes? Racing bikes?
00:10:41 Kate Rau
I did not. I grew up in Nebraska.
00:10:46 Kate Rau
That’s where my father retired from the service. But we always came to Colorado to backpack and camp. That was our family vacations. And when I moved to Colorado to get my instate tuition, I fell in love with skiing and Colorado. I moved here when I was 17 and right after high school and wanted to get instate tuition so I could go to see you or see us, you or.
00:11:13 Kate Rau
Colorado College. Anyway, I landed in Boulder and then in the 80s mountain biking happened. And so I was a huge fan of mountain biking. I went to Worlds and Durango and was, you know, a fan of Dave and Susan and JHK and Heather Ermeger. You know, she came through Simba and so I just loved it. To me, it was skiing on dirt.
00:11:44 Kate Rau
If I could make it correlation and it was more fun than backpacking, Backpacking has it’s fun too. I really like that element of backpacking, but cycling is just fun. It’s all fun being outside and nature. RX, as I always say, is the best for everyone, no matter what your age is.
00:12:11 Matthew Kuehlhorn
I I love this and I you know share the beginning. I I grew up biking you know my friends and I we would we were just piercing together BMX bikes out of parts that we found in dumpsters and then when we started throwing newspapers and earning a little bit of money we it was this was this was late 80s early 90s and and we were getting caught up in the in the mountain bike piece because that was that was the thing I was hitting Michigan at that point and so I remember buying my first.
00:12:39 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Schwinn Mirada mountain bike that I paid cash for off of my newspaper tossings and you mentioned magic moments and can totally relate like it’s such a it’s such a character builder and to get experiences out there to take appropriate healthy risks is important for a developing human and a young person.
00:13:05 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Needs to be able to experience that and if we can create these moments for them to do it in a healthy way just builds character and so.
00:13:16 Kate Rau
00:13:17 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Curious. What’s the mission? What are we after here?
00:13:21 Kate Rau
Positive use development from the saddle of mountain bike. But it’s what I’ve always, always said. I have a Master’s in education, I worked in Intervention and I worked it up.
00:13:32 Kate Rau
I was a teacher at a silver high school, so I’m all about supporting kids and families during a very tumultuous time. High school is 4 years, but it’s really 4 decades of development is, you know, from a physical, intellectual, spiritual level. So much is going on.
00:13:58 Kate Rau
You change all the time. It can be stressful and I think COVID really highlighted the need for connection and community and feeling part of something. So we launched A singletrack solidarity to have kids still connect and created these competitions and trying to have kids still see Oh my friend from Leadville is doing a two mile course at X or.
00:14:28 Kate Rau
You know, we did video contests and photo contest. We just made stuff up, right, so that there was some sort of structure for the season versus kids just going out and riding. And then our coaches who are gold, who really make this program happen, thank you for coaching. They had a quote curriculum. They had a Lesson plan of like, OK, we can keep the kids rolling with some objective.
00:14:57 Kate Rau
But it’s really to have a sense of community and a sense of success of I’m learning new things, whether it’s how to be a mechanic, how to monitor my nutrition and sleep and balance work and, you know, homework. Or is it that I’m making new friends or I’m exploring new trails.
00:15:23 Kate Rau
Because I made new friends or I’ve never been to Eagle before. I’ve never been to Durango. And here my family and I are, you know, going to go check out Fort Lewis College or Glenwood Springs or Western State. You know, it’s Western CU, sorry, Western CU. So it’s really opening up their eyes to exploring and finding their strength within themselves. What is it that?
00:15:53 Kate Rau
How do I shine? I mean, we have lots of kids that had no idea that they were athletes or that they were good mechanics or that they were artists because now we have a temporary tattoo contest or they come up with the craziest noisemakers, you know? So it’s not about the competition is great because it brings everybody together. It’s a purpose, but it’s the fun and the camaraderie that Trump’s that in my view.
00:16:23 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yes, yes, I totally get that. What? So 2010, 1213 years in the running. What are some magic moments that are top of mind?
00:16:42 Kate Rau
I just one came to mind of a Leadville race. It was a season where we were getting thunderstorms and we had.
00:16:52 Kate Rau
It was freezing and the girls were starting the race and it was sleeting. So at that moment on the start, you know, right before I said okay girls, we’re only going to do one lap, we’re going to get this race off, we’re only going to do 1. So it was cold sleet and they were out there and right as the race was ending.
00:17:21 Kate Rau
The sun came out, you could see Mount Massive, just the sun was shining bright and all the girls came in mud faces. They had so much fun because it was Type 2 fine that you were out there pushing it and they were so proud of themselves that they finished it and that they just were joyous.
00:17:50 Kate Rau
Through that struggle, you know when you share struggle, it heightens it in a in a way that makes those bonds. And I think that season really bonded the girls a lot. It was just so fun. We’ve had kids that had prosthetics, nasal cannulas. We’ve had seasons where the last rider.
00:18:20 Kate Rau
IS has a human tunnel that their team comes out and the whole community comes out. We’ve had riders with cancer. That’s one where a human tunnel was made for this rider and she’s no longer with us, unfortunately, but she was. She’s an icon of the league, the strength of Martha Wright Allen.
00:18:49 Kate Rau
Boulder High has it a phrase called Martha Strong. And you know, Sam Schneider was from Mountain Vista and they both passed from the same disease. And Yeti memorialized Sam because he worked at Yeti afterwards. And so those that strength and that connection of community, it’s not always.
00:19:19 Kate Rau
Uplifting, but it is spirited and really brings dimension to the human experience and the power of community.
00:19:32 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yes, that’s absolutely beautiful. Hey, I’m touched. I can totally see those tunnels and be there in those moments.
00:19:49 Matthew Kuehlhorn
And what you’ve created, and everybody else that has been a part of this, is a container for the human spirit.
00:20:02 Kate Rau
Picks It’s We got a kid with cerebral palsy, with a trike and we we created a chase race for him so that kids really get out of themselves and like, being on the podium is really incredible and I can’t imagine that.
00:20:18 Kate Rau
Elation and that feeling of being on the podium, yet they’re there when a kid with cerebral palsy has its own special rates and everybody’s cheering him on. And so when kids see that they’re like, yes, I can do anything, hopefully that they get that and the coaches really support that and they have.
00:20:49 Kate Rau
The very unique experience of four years of tapping into that kid and finding out what is it that makes them spin in a positive way? What motivates them? How can they create a an objective for that rider throughout the season and throughout their high school career? And it it transforms.
00:21:17 Kate Rau
You know, some kids never thought they would finish a lap and then they’re finishing two laps. We’ve had kids with autism that have a ride guide that somebody that rides with them and then by the end of their season they’re riding the whole trail by themselves. They’re like, we’re good, I’m good, You don’t need me, you know, I don’t need you here because I believe in myself.
00:21:45 Kate Rau
And I’ve been guided along the way and empowered to take that step.
00:21:54 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Have you started seeing the the cycle to where students from 2010, 1112 are becoming coaches? Yes.
00:22:06 Kate Rau
Yes, it’s so amazing. It’s so incredible. Last at Colorado Springs we had.
00:22:14 Kate Rau
3 alum Come back and coach. We have many, many of our coaches are alums or they’ll come and sweep at state championships or any of the races when they’re home from college or we have alums on our race crew. I think last season at one point we had like 7 alum on race crew.
00:22:39 Kate Rau
They’re announcing they’re at the start line. They’re, you know, moving weights around and pounding pins and poles and they get it and it’s so cool to have them come back and give back in a really positive way.
00:22:56 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, I love that. Love it. So we’re teaching resiliency. We’re teaching self belief. What other what are their?
00:23:07 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Pieces are our students learning as they experience these races and these events.
00:23:12 Kate Rau
Well, land stewardship is huge. We have a Golden Pick award. It’s underwritten by SRAM and Rock Shocks, and in the past it was underwritten by John Ship out of Eagle in Roadhouse Hospitality. But she started something with that Vail Rec district and it’s called the Golden Pick. And so we.
00:23:35 Kate Rau
I always encourage trail work, but starting 2013 we had a competition for trail work and so now since we have 4 regions we give a golden pick in $1000 check to the teams that do the most trail work per rider.
00:24:01 Kate Rau
So it’s because big teams would always win. So we have a formula that normalizes it. However, that stewardship and giving back to the land, our teams are really understanding that with the pressures of open space and wanting to give back, there’s learning the challenges and rewards of creating open space and having everybody.
00:24:31 Kate Rau
There, you know having hikers and equestrians and mountain bikers and how do we share this space, but the best way to share it is to give back and to do maintenance. So a lot of our teams I do, we did probably, I think it was almost 2000 hours were contributed to trail work last year.
00:24:54 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Amazing. And when does the when does the season run?
00:24:58 Kate Rau
We our first race is the weekend before Memorial Day, so it’s always the last weekend in August and then every two weeks we have the four regular race series and the state championships is the culmination of the season in the middle of October.
00:25:18 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Gotcha. So fall, fall season and what about, I guess what is the?
00:25:27 Matthew Kuehlhorn
The high school league, what are some of the needs like, and this is assuming that there’s some listeners out here that that may be business owners or, you know, potential laborers for volunteering and that sort of stuff. So I want to just open it up, you know, where’s the league at these days structurally and what are some of the needs?
00:25:50 Kate Rau
So I think 2 needs. I’m going to quote Dave Weens.
00:25:56 Kate Rau
Without trails, we don’t have a sport, so we really need to have access to trails and have trails closer to home, as Dave says, and and coaches, mentors that guide kids, and of course, financial support either from a foundation, an individual or a sponsor really helps us.
00:26:26 Kate Rau
Keep this accessible to riders and families and sponsorship and fundraising covers about 15% of our budget. And the biggest thing is having coaches contribute to their community because teams can’t grow if there’s not enough coaches. Because we have a lot of risk in mountain biking is a lot different than a soccer field or a cross country running team.
00:26:56 Kate Rau
They don’t need a ratio of 1 to 6 where we recommend a ratio of 1 coach to every six riders in wilderness for state is required and all of these things. So having committed coaches and administrations that support those coaches that bring this opportunity to their high school students is really, really important. Gunnison has been a trailblazer in that thanks to Leo Mallow and all of the.
00:27:26 Kate Rau
Supporters in the Guttison Valley to get it recognized as an activity award and a club within the school. So that’s that’s really important. And then of course volunteering at races, we always need volunteers. Course marshals are critical parking, you know, you can come and work for two hours or all day. We have all different types of ships.
00:27:53 Kate Rau
And watching these inspiring student athletes just you cannot go away without a smile or a tear of just there’s so incredible. And they give it their all, their all, you know, yeah, they have failures. They break a chain or they didn’t get the race that they wanted. But then they’re surrounded by this community and it just uplifts them. And then the next minute they’re out ringing cowbells for their.
00:28:21 Kate Rau
There are teammates or other teammates or other teams from across the region, and so witnessing that is truly magical and we can’t do it without the volunteers. We have about 100 volunteers we need a day.
00:28:41 Matthew Kuehlhorn
100 a day. Right on. All right. So if you’re listening, you just got called to action.
00:28:47 Kate Rau
00:28:49 Matthew Kuehlhorn
And is there, is there support structure, If there was anybody listening that was like, Oh my gosh, this sounds amazing and I want to bring this into my school like the the new team startup, is there a bit of support with that?
00:29:03 Kate Rau
Yes, we guide them through the nuts and bolts of starting A-Team. We typically have financial assistance for teams to get started and.
00:29:19 Kate Rau
You know we have a packet of this is what how you can present this to your administrator. Here’s some ideas on recruitment. We have materials for them as a presentation of this is what the league is all about. This is what it looks like so they can have a community. Meaning I’m happy to go into a community and step side by side with a coach and say this is what the league is all about. Who wants to step up and help this person?
00:29:49 Kate Rau
Bring this to your kids and your families and we have a new team from Pueblo this year, a team out of Southwest metro area in Denver. And we’ve had teams from Spearfish, SD and TAS, New Mexico and Southern Wyoming, Laramie, Casper, Cheyenne and we really, we really try to.
00:30:18 Kate Rau
Make it as seamless as possible. If there is a lot with setting up a mountain bike team, it’s not like a soccer team because there’s a field already there, but we do have it, a team structure. We have insurance in place. So think anybody knows the start of team reach out.
00:30:44 Matthew Kuehlhorn
One of the merrier is there? Is there a team out of Grand Junction?
00:30:47 Kate Rau
00:30:48 Kate Rau
Big time There is a palisade, fruit of monument in Grand Junction so there’s three run under the umbrella of Grand Valley Cycling. So thank you. They developed out of the high school league, so Grand Junction was the first team in that area.
00:31:07 Matthew Kuehlhorn
How do listeners that are committing to volunteering, to giving financially, to starting up teams? How do we get in touch with you?
00:31:17 Kate Rau
Coloradomtb.org and that’s my You can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org on the website. There’s a volunteer section, There’s a how to get involved, There’s a donate page if you have a vehicle you want to get rid of.
00:31:36 Kate Rau
There’s a You can donate your old car just like PR does and, you know, do some spring cleaning.
00:31:46 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Absolutely. The time is now.
00:31:48 Kate Rau
And if anybody’s interested in doing the Leadville 100, we do have two entries to the Leadville Mountain Bike 100. If they raise $3000 or more, they get an entry.
00:32:05 Kate Rau
And that’s under the charity entries on Leadville 100 and that’s a new partnership with the Leadville Race Series. So I’m excited about that.
00:32:17 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Very cool. Is there? Is there a social presence in any of the social media?
00:32:24 Kate Rau
Colorado MTB or COMTB League COMTB League is our handle for both Instagram and Facebook.
00:32:36 Matthew Kuehlhorn
We’ll include that link and all of those social handles in our in our show, notes Kate so that folks can can reach out. And I would highly, highly encourage you Less Air to reach out and check this leak out. What I didn’t imagine Kate coming into this conversation and I should have, but this is just the power of the league and the power of of you is like the stories, these magic moments like.
00:33:03 Matthew Kuehlhorn
They they touched my heart today and I remember coaching and and you referenced this like watching these students ride around on these trails is beautiful and you see their spirit in their heart and it just opens up and it is a smile and or tears and it’s it’s completely awesome So I just want to applaud you recognize you and.
00:33:31 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Certainly I know that there’s a team and there’s a team beyond the team and to the parents that support the students, like it’s it’s all a massive community undertaking and it’s for these moments because they matter and they just not only in the moment do they matter, but I know for a fact that it stays with students and these young people into their adulthood. And I’m so psyched that we have this cycle of where people come in after racing come and start.
00:34:01 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Supporting the organization. So really, really. Kudos, Kate.
00:34:06 Kate Rau
Well, thank you. I do have an amazing team. Amazing, and the board is phenomenal and I can’t do it alone. It does take a village and again, you as coaches are on the ground making it happen so and the kids want to do it like their hearts into it. They’re motivated, I mean.
00:34:29 Kate Rau
Not everybody is every day, but some kids, they didn’t really know how to ride a bike off the trail. But a coach or a parent or a peer encouraged them to do it. And so that’s where that community connection is. Once you help them see the joy in the ride and then they’re connecting with friends and families and the outdoors, they’re empowered.
00:35:00 Kate Rau
So our tagline is why connect, empower. And so I really am so grateful for the people that believe in this and believe in our youth.
00:35:11 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Yeah, I love it. It’s beautiful. Kate, thank you so much for for joining today. We’ll be sure to spread this around. Listeners, please do get in touch, check out the league. Go check out a race this fall. Yeah. Kate, thank you so much.
00:35:26 Kate Rau
You’re welcome. Thank you.
00:35:29 Matthew Kuehlhorn
Absolutely. We’ll talk soon. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to the Kooler Lifestyle Podcast. We count on your subscriptions, your likes, your shares and I encourage you to do that. Now if you’re watching on YouTube, go ahead and subscribe lower right hand button. If you’re on audio, download this, share it. And we look forward to having you on the next one.