What's your day job?
Nursing student. I still have a year and a half left in the program and then I go back into the working world. [What were you doing before going back to school?] I have a degree in biochemistry and was working in a lot of research, both academic and industrial.
How long have you been riding? I think I got it in 2011, so that’ll be somewhere between 3-4 years now. How long have you been racing? One year. Well, probably more like half a year. I think I started in the summer. I wasn’t actually going to race until this year but then I met a bunch of girls and they encouraged me to try it. What disciplines and which is your favourite? I’ve been racing track, plan on racing road, and will be doing time trials. I’ve had more experience with track and when I first started, I really preferred it over road, so that’s probably my favourite. I’ve only raced road once and it kind of scares me because there’s braking involved.
How do you find balance between training, racing, and the rest of your life?
It’s really, really, difficult. Especially now with nursing, it’s more than full-time and I’m really struggling with finding that balance; being able to train hard enough to be kind of, you know, not competitive, but keep up with people. Last semester, I wasn’t doing anything aside from swimming. Compared to my working life, which was really easy because I was working 9-5, didn’t have to come home and study, and it was really to just hop on my bike and go do all of my coached sessions. Right now I’m finding it’s a huge struggle, not only time-wise, but financially. What strategies are you using to manage this? It’s funny because I do triathlon and competitive swimming, it’s really hard to balance three sports during the week. I’ve even thought about quitting triathlon and just focusing on swimming and cycling because then I can have seasons, whereas right now, I’m going all year round. My strategy right now is to focus on a list of races I want to compete in this year in every sport and scheduling how I’ll balance the three sports. Obviously I’m going to try to maximize the weekends, so I’ll probably be spending 8 hours a day training and spending a couple of hours in the evenings during the week. [do you ever feel burnt out without an off-season?] Yes, definitely. But I’m the type of person who gets really bored if I’m not doing something so even though I sometimes feel burnt out, I do feel good once I’m doing it.
What made you start racing?
It was more about the Learn to Race program put on by EV and with the Burnaby Velodrome Club, so there was an opportunity to learn how to race. Those made me think “oh, this isn’t so bad; I can actually compete.” With the girls I talked to, I realized that it’s not about winning but more about having fun and meeting people. Given the fact that you were already a competitive athlete, if the LTR programs weren’t offered, would you still have considered bike racing?] Probably not. I was lucky that my best friend was a competitive cyclist too so I would always watch his races, but it just felt so intimidating for me since I only got into group riding on the road last year.
Were you nervous or hesitant about the thought of pinning on a number?
Oh yeah, all of it. I get nervous when I compete anyways, but my bigger concern was not crashing into people. It wasn’t about thinking “oh, I’m going to finish last” because I didn’t are about that, but more about crashing into other people and affecting them. I’m really good at taking myself out; I crash a lot, so I just get back up and keep going, but I’d feel really bad about taking somebody else out. [Have you kept track of how many times you ‘ve crashed?] Oh, God. In track, I think it’s been at least twice for sure, and not even in a race. I was just being stupid and forgetting where I am. In road, yeah, it’s been a few times. Not even racing, just riding along. People crashing into me, that’s happened: one was somebody passing me on the right and taking me out. Another was bumping handlebars. I’ve learned not to freak out about it, though. I just stay calm and keep pedaling.
Do you remember your first race? Tell me what was going through your mind.
I think it was a time trial run by Just Giv’r for PD and it was hilarious because it was just a series of unfortunate events: I’d just bought a TT bike which I’d ridden maybe three times and I hadn’t had a chance to get it tuned up properly yet. So I ended up with a flat tire and on deep rims, so it was impossible to change. I called my friend and told her that I couldn’t even get the wheel off, and she told me to bring both my bikes to the race. It was a total disaster; I ended up having to ride my road bike. Also, during the race, a cyclist was hit by a vehicle so they changed the course after we had pre-driven it. I’m the dumbest person when it comes to racing. In any sport. I have total tunnel vision, and that’s my own issue, but I drew #1 so I had to go first. They didn’t tell the traffic flaggers that the race had started, so when they saw me, they thought I was just warming up so I didn’t know I had to turn so I went straight and totally did an extra 11km. Eventually I came back, dead last. It was a funny experience because anything that could have gone wrong, went wrong that day. The entire time I was off-course I wanted to quit, but kept telling myself “NO. I have to finish,” so that was a good mental challenge to overcome and even though it was a complete disaster, I knew there was always another one. I didn’t die, and I didn’t take anybody out, so…
You mentioned being nervous in all competition. Was that feeling there during the TT?
Yeah, because I know my weaknesses, like not being able to follow directions and not knowing what was going on. So yes, I still feel that nervousness. [How do you manage it?] Well, when I get nervous, I have to go pee like 20,000 times, so I do that. I really try to talk to myself and remember that it’s about doing my best and not about winning.
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing in the Lower Mainland?
There need to be more women racing, especially at my level - beginner/novice. I find it more nerve-wracking racing with Cat. 3 women, like at track provincials. I’m definitely Cat. 4 and had to race with them and it was definitely intimidating. We need more women in general and there are a lot of strong riders out there, so they just need to come out and give it a shot.
What can we do at the local level to help grow women's participation?
Opening up the Young Women's Cycling Camp to all women who are interested in racing and not having the age cap/restriction because I wanted to do that camp, but it’s restricted to women 25 and under. I managed to sneak in a few times because I happened to be out riding and I knew some of the women taking part, so I was able to seize that opportunity.
Intimidation” has come up in a few conversations now and you mentioned it earlier. As someone who recently entered the sport, how big of a deterrent did you feel this was? I think it’s pretty high. Now that a lot of the women know who I am, they’re friendlier and they’re a lot more welcoming. Whereas before when I just showed up and didn’t belong to a club, there was some negative attitude displayed, but that’s gotten better.
I also didn’t like how, in some races, the men’s and women’s fields were combined. It wasn’t really intimidating, but I now some, but not all, guys felt like they had something to prove and didn’t like being beaten by women. There was a lot of testosterone and it’s not unique to cycling because in triathlon, it’s a huge deal and it really ticks me off. I mean, it’s fun to chick people, but even when I’m just riding home after doing a workout, there’s always some male trying to beat me. Why? There’s no point. You don’t know what I was just doing and vice versa, so you’re not proving anything.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race?
Just go and do it. That’s the only way you’re going to get into it so just dive right in. Oh, and remember to have fun.