Leeches, Mountains and a Business Don't Faze Her
By Carlos Alcalá, Sacramento Bee Staff Writer, (Published Aug. 12, 2000) (updated 8/23/00)

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MOUNT SHASTA -- Laurie Bagley is a woman who encounters obstacles but only sees opportunities. That's a good thing because her opportunities will soon include leeches, crocodiles, tarantulas and travel through roadless jungles and torrential rains. Bagley is in Borneo for this month's Eco-Challenge adventure race--a multi-day, multi-sport contest considered one of the world's most grueling races.

"Borneo. There's nasty stuff there," said Don Bagley, her father, a bit concerned.

At 39 years old, Bagley is a mother, a businesswoman, a mountain guide and an incredible athlete--a "freak of nature," according to one friend. She is a former mountain bike racer and triathlete, but perhaps the best measure of her peak fitness is a record she set recently. In late June, with snow still blanketing the volcanic peak, Bagley bombed up Mount Shasta from below 8,000 feet to the 14,162-foot summit in 2 hours, 13 minutes.

"It's unbelievably fast when you consider most people do it in seven to nine," said Michael Zanger, a guide and author of books about the mountain.

She started about 8 a.m. and made the summit with a group that had started about eight hours earlier.

But she didn't do it just for the record. She wanted it to serve as an inspiration. "I wanted the average woman to know that, if there's something you're passionate about, you should go for it," Bagley said.

That's the way she has gone about her life. "When she sets her mind to do something, she is so focused and determined," friend and fellow guide Linda Chitwood said.

Two years ago, she took up adventure racing. In adventure races, co-ed teams must travel cross-country by various means, often including hiking, biking, paddling and rock climbing. Races generally last more than a day. The Eco-Challenge is expected to take racers 500 kilometers in seven to 12 days--day and night.

Bagley's Team Discreet is sponsored by a high-tech company that footed the $10,000 entry fee and other expenses. She is also sponsored by Prolithic Sports, a Mount Shasta City Web-based company.

Bagley has done adventure races and trains as many as three hours a day, but she hasn't done races of this duration; nor have they included all the same challenges.

The big challenge may be the fauna of Malaysian Borneo, which includes orangutans, rhinos and crocodiles.

She said she could handle the snakes and leeches that are expected, but "I'm not sure I'll be comfortable with tarantulas."

Bagley has beaten the odds in more than racing. She has started and maintained a small business for three years, beyond the period where most start-ups fail. When she was pregnant with her daughter Avriel, now 3, she was disturbed by the lack of workout clothes for pregnant women. Motivated by that, and by the desire to be with her daughter instead of away at work, she started her company, Fit Maternity and Beyond.

"I didn't want to be gone away from her for eight to 10 hours a day," Bagley said.

So she isn't. Even as she is interviewed, hiking on Shasta, she is carrying Avriel on her back.

Bagley's catalogue and Web site--www.fitmaternity.com-feature products from biking shorts to swimsuits to sports bras, all specifically for pregnant women.

It's a growing niche business, but one that needs to become yet more established.

"I'll be toast if a big company comes along and decides they want to develop a big line of fitness maternity wear," Bagley said.

No one who knows her, however, is inclined to bet against her. "She's a mom. She runs a successful business. She's an outstanding athlete," Chitwood said. "I've never seen Laurie say anything is just too tough.

"I'm just in awe of her determination and strength," Chitwood said. "She's had a lot of challenges, and she comes right through. She doesn't even see the obstacles. She just says, 'Oh, this is what I have to do.' "

And, time after time, Bagley makes the most of the opportunities.

Backcountry_Resource_Center--Paul Richins, Jr.

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