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Finding her own path
Laura Wiesmann Hrubes
Laura Hrubes
Laura Wiesmann Hrubes lives tucked away on a winding back road in the heart of Driftless country.  A neat woodpile stacked next to the door and chicken coop in the yard gives the former Amish home a true country feel.
Although Laura describes herself as ‘profoundly Midwestern,’ entering her warm, bright kitchen, greeted by Beyonce blasting from a speaker, a fat tire bike and French press coffee, you get the feeling she isn’t your typical small town Midwestern mom.
So, it may come at no surprise that Laura, who recently turned 44, has decided to live this chapter on her own terms.
Born in Kentucky, Laura’s family moved to the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where the family lived in a tent while her father built a cozy little A-Frame home.
“I didn’t really go to school at first,” Laura recalled. “I was kind of home schooled, or unschooled. I just lived in the woods with little supervision. It was the early ‘80s and I think the feel was a lot more toward empowering your kids to be independent. It helped me grow up to be very close to nature.”
But even in her youth, Laura wasn’t what you’d call a typical small town girl.
“I grew up snowboarding,” Laura shared, a big smile rising in her face, remembering the early days of the sport. “It was still so new, there were no girls snowboarding around me at that time.”
Keeping active and in touch with nature during her college years, Laura took up mountain biking.
“I did a lot of mountain biking in college and after college,” Laura said. “Somewhere in there I decided to move to Colorado to be able to snowboard and mountain bike as much as I wanted to. But, I’m a deeply, profoundly, Midwestern person and this is the only place I feel truly comfortable.”
However, like it does, life kicked up its heels and presented Laura with a lot of changes.
“I found myself becoming more of a support person,” Laura noted. “I was supporting my husband’s career, supporting my kids. I got caught up with trying to project all of these things being just perfect and everything looking perfect, and I got away from doing the things I used to do as much.”
During this time, Laura and her young family moved, a lot around the country and around the world. Laura found herself never in one place for very long. Until she landed in the Viroqua area about six years ago. Moving here would prove to be both a trying and rewarding experience for her.  
“I had moved to Viroqua and I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have friends, I didn’t have a doctor, my family was far away,” Laura shared. “And then, I had a really serious medical emergency and I almost died. I lost over half of my blood. It was pretty dramatic and a very long recovery.”
The emergency caused Laura to be hospitalized for some time and become very weak and struggling to function at times.
“I would move around my home and barely had the energy to get from one side of the house to the other, because I just didn’t have enough blood. I would get dizzy and my vision was wrong. I often felt like I was looking through toilet paper tubes. Things were really messed up. It was really awful. The world was very dark for a very long time and I was really sad then.”
After an intense, year long recovery, Laura decided it was time once again, it was time for change.
“I started looking at life differently,” Laura said. “I started looking at my choices and what can I do to make me happy, that is just for me. I remembered how happy mountain biking had made me. So, I just hopped on and took off on a bike.”
Laura started small, doing a  couple of local triathlons to build her strength and get her back in the groove of tackling big goals.
“I started thinking bigger,” Laura said with a grin. “I did the Dam Challenge (a Triathlon at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve in La Farge)with a group of women and we came in first. It was a hit of adrenaline I wanted more of.”
Laura quickly found out however, that diving headfirst into adventure sports as a woman and mother came with a unique set of challenges.  
“It was hard to shake the feeling of ‘what will people think of me doing this?’” Laura explained. “We all have this nagging little voice saying ‘you’re not good enough!’ But not being afraid to fail feels pretty damn good. It can be hard having people look at you and think this (spending time training and competing) isn’t what you should be doing as a mother. I don’t think there is anything wrong with my kids seeing me finish something hard.  It’s okay to have your own life and be your own person. It’s okay for your children to see you becoming a more well rounded person and to know they’re a part of that. It’s teaching them about accountability, setting goals, that doing hard stuff can be so rewarding. The feeling of personal accountability is very important to me. I realized, at some level, I had been waiting around for someone to scoop me up and bring me along on all the things I had been wanting to do, and that was never going to happen.  Getting over my insecurity and fear of doing things totally solo and just showing up and doing them is the only thing that works for me. No one is ever going to do anything for you, and if you want to wait for that you will wait forever, and you have to want it bad enough to make it happen yourself. That’s extra hard to do as a woman, I think, because there are so many insecurities that we carry with us. About our age, our bodies, appearance and abilities, all of it, but really none of that matters at all. Focus on yourself and hold yourself accountable, give yourself the grace to suck at new things and go a head and show up and do them anyway.”
As time progressed, Laura decided to push her limits and set her goals higher. Her training became more intense and she decided to tackle some previously unimaginable events.
“I did some ultra running (26 miles) and a lot of long, long bike rides,” Laura said. “Then I decided to try Adventure Racing. It’s not fast, but it involves a lot of self navigation and self reliance.”
Adventure racing typically involves navigation over unmarked wilderness courses and can extend anywhere from two hours to two weeks in length (or in some cases, months.)
“Endurance sports are pretty weird. You get to a point where you have to make a decisions all on your own and neither of those decisions can feel very great at the time,” Laura noted. “But, being in a place where you have to dig deep and keep going, that’s an amazing feeling. It’s very empowering. It’s called type two fun. It’s really terrible while it’s happening, but really fun in retrospect. I love that feeling. I love pushing myself to do something really hard. It’s one of the only moments we experience true clarity and complete focus.”
Most notably for Laura was her experiences competing with the 906 Adventure team in her old stomping grounds of the U.P. in Michigan.  The group hosts three of the most intense races you could encounter on two wheels.
In 2019, Laura tackled the Marji Gesick and The Crusher.  The Marji Gesick is described as “one of the toughest mountain bike races in the country, the Marji Gesick features 100 miles of rock, roots, and rugged terrain. It’s so tough that about 70 percent of the entrants don’t finish.” And The Crusher, “The Crusher is the ultimate Enhanced Gravel experience, offering all riders an opportunity to explore U.P. gravel, two-tracks and fire roads, at their own pace. For some it will be a race, while for others it will be a day of personal exploration and adventure.”
 The description goes on to note that it offers the opportunity for men and women to ‘Find their limits solo or as part of a team.”  This year, she hopes to finish the Polar Roll as well, to complete the coveted Triple Crown.
These three are in the list that she keeps on her IPhone of events she’s already signed up for the 2020 season. Events like the American Birkebeiner, a 34 mile cross country ski race from Cable to Hayward, a intense and long snowshoe race, and the The Mid South, a 100+ mile self supported gravel road race,just to name a few.
 All in all, shes currently signed up for 19, but we joke that one more might not hurt, because why not for  20 seriously hard marathons in 2020. Keeping with her tone of working hard, at doing incredibly hard things.
Where previously Laura carefully crafted her life to take on a specific feel, she finds herself now sharing herself in its raw state. Pictures of her bloody knees and true feelings about what she just accomplished spread across her social media, lending themselves to her quest to share her authentic and true self.
 Not being  afraid to admit something is hard seems to be the tone she is working on defining as she rolls through her 40’s.
“Please tell me what you are proud of so I can cheer for you! What are you most excited about in 2020,” Laura posted on her social media. “I’m most proud of showing up for the Marji, it scared me so much that I felt sick every time I thought about it for almost a year and I showed up and did it anyway. It was one of the very best, worst days of the whole year. I can’t wait to do it again in 2020.”
Despite her outward enthusiasm and excitement for what she is getting herself into, Laura also has no qualms in admitting it isn’t as easy as it used to be.
“Doing this stuff is so much harder now,” Laura shares with a light laugh while clutching her coffee mug. “I never trained before. When you’re young your body just shows up. But at 44 I have this level of patience I didn’t have in my 20’s. I’d go too fast and burn myself out and then I’d be struggling to keep going and see all of these women who just soldiered on past me. Older women have done some pretty hard things to get where they are and that shows in how they train and perform in these races. Being able to do this, for me is important. It seems like a cultural thing that as we age, our value diminishes. There are no expectations of us. It’s like we become incapable doing interesting things. Barring serious health problems, there is literally no reason you can’t start doing something new, intense, out of your comfort zone, in your 40’s. Your body can do it.”
When not training, doing incredibly hard things,  or crossing a finish line, you can find her riding bikes up and down her gravel road with her two sons, or involved in a wealth of other activities. Seemingly not a person to let the grass grow beneath her feet Laura also manages a small home bakery offering a endless variety of treats, breads and gigantic cookies, knitting 4-H Fair Blue Ribbon winning creations, or sewing something beautiful on her fleet of 1920’s sewing machines. Looking ahead for her big training goal, Laura also hopes to tackle the Tour Divide, a race which will take her from Canada to Mexico.

 Her schedule  might make your head spin, but it kind of gives you the feeling that Tom Petty was right when he said “You never slow down, you never grow old.”