What's your day job?
I am a full-time mom. Also, very part-time, I am a mountain bike guide and instructor and for the last five years I’ve been pretty involved in coaching as well but I’m now taking a pretty big step back from that but will still be teaching and guiding MTB. But yeah, my full-time gig is taking care of my little dudes.
How long have you been riding/racing?
I started MTB’ing when I was 17 or 18. I had a younger brother who was racing with a bunch of his friends and they were doing that pretty regularly and I kind of got interested and curious about it so they would take me out on rides and this group of 14 and 15 year old boys essentially taught me how to mountain bike, which was like trial by fire. After the first year of MTBing with them, they said “You have to race! You’re so good at this!” So I said “sure” and the first race I did was at the Surrey Bike Park and incidentally, I was THE only woman and I did just as many laps as the men did and I took forever. They were shutting everything down and I was still going, but I took home all the prizes.
So after a season…not even, where I was racing against other women and just getting my ass handed to me on a plate because I had no fitness, I bought a road bike. I went to “the dark side” according to most of my acquaintances at the time, but then totally fell in love with the road bike and spent most of my time training on that. Within a few years, I was racing both road and mountain equally and have just been doing it ever since. Through the university years I wasn’t racing as much, but I’ve been riding and racing on and off for almost 20 years now.
Well the MTBing was originally just cross country and then I ventured into the whole endurance side of things. I’ve done a 12-hour solo and I used to regularly do 6-hour solo races. I also ventured into adventure racing for a season, so mountain biking, trail running, and paddling. And then last year I started racing enduro. With road it was crits, time trials, and circuit races, and I race cyclocross as well.
How do you find balance between training, racing, and the rest of your life?
don’t see the cycling as a responsibility so it really is something that recharges my batteries. I fight to make it a priority so I have to schedule my life accordingly. I’m in what I would consider a fortunate/un-luxurious position of being a full-time mom who doesn’t also have a full-time day job outside the home. With my boys now old enough to be in school full-time, I can carve out pretty good-sized chunks of time for myself. When they were younger and they were more hands-on, my husband is super supportive so we trade off on parenting. He’s a really involved dad and he enjoys being around the kids and wants to spend time with them, so I would ride Saturday morning and he would get to ride Sunday. Give and take. You’re definitely not putting as much time into it as you were when you’re in your twenties and racing but it really comes down to your priorities and you have to prioritize your cycling or your exercise. It’s one of the first big rocks you put in the jar because otherwise, you’re not fitting it in later.
I think a lot of us have this mindset, and I’m stealing this quote from Shoshana Routley, that “normal people can’t be professional athletes.” But they/we can be. And you have people like her or Sandra Walter, they all started as amateur racers, pack filler, bringing up the back of the group like we all did. They were never these phenoms from the very beginning; they slowly chipped away at it with tons of hard work and dedication and year after year of consistent training and now they’re at the top of their game. It’s amazing to see regular people just killing it at that level.
I always knew I wasn’t going to be a pro cyclist and a lot of people told me I should go for it, take a bunch of years off and just ride and train and see what I could do. I didn’t have that super-narrow focus where it was just bikes all the time and you really do need that in some ways. When I was at that point where I was maybe the fastest I’ve ever been…eh, it’s hard to tell…but now I’ve got so many other things in my life. And now I’ve got kids and a husband and THAT is balance because it’s a good perspective on life that there is more to life than bikes and there are so many bike racers that never figure that out. I used to say “the sooner you realize that bike racing is a hobby and not a career, the better off you are.”
What made you want to dive into the competitive side of cycling?
think originally it was curiosity and the question of “what can my body do” and that definitely drove me to see how fast I could go down that rock face and how fast could I climb up that gravel road and then that turned into how many laps I can do in six hours or how close to the podium could I get at the Test of Metal. It’s really fascinating what the human body can accomplish so initially I was really driven by that. Now, I’m still very much enticed by the challenge of it and I think all cyclists are; you can’t help but want to challenge yourself, right? It’s that feeling of being alive when you’re pushing your limits and seeing what your body is capable of doing. Then you get to the point where it couldn’t do what you wanted it to do, so you’ve got to train a little more. Racing is definitely that carrot that encourages you to challenge yourself but aside from that, I’m now sucked in by the camaraderie and the sociological aspect of it. Most of the people you meet through cycling are just the most phenomenal, salt-of-the-earth, real, authentic people who you want to be around. That keeps me coming back to racing because it’s this community of riders. Cyclocross is like this giant bike party in some random park: let’s just drink some beer and laugh at the guy who just fell in the mud pit.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by the social aspect?
It’s a small community and any time you show up at a start line, especially in the women’s field because it’s small, there’s not more than a few degrees of separation between me and the rest of the pack. Either I know you, or I’ve raced against you before, or I know a friend who knows you, or we may have met on some other ride. It’s a pretty tight knit community, which is cool, because you do feel that support. It’s a bit of a family and I can see how it might be intimidating in some ways to people who haven’t been there before. It’s hard to just show up for a bike race and not know where to go; you almost have to have somebody bring you along because that’s not intimidating to someone, right? You’ve got somebody who’s holding your hand and somebody who’s a friend whom you can say things like “uh, I think I need this thing called a helmet. Where do I get that?” YOu almost need that one-on-one. I’ve found that, for the most part, organized women’s rides don’t bring out a lot of new cyclists unless they’re coming with a friend who already rides. That’s your patient zero; you need somebody who’s already riding a bike to reach out to a friend and say “Hey, wanna come and ride a bike with me?” because otherwise, they’re never going to just show up to a group ride of women if they’ve never ridden a bike before. Wrapped up in all of that, you get the camaraderie and the challenge and throwing yourself onto the start line and scaring yourself a little bit and seeing how your brain and body respond to that. It’s a fun experiment.
How did you get involved with Rapha?
So, my husband invited Rapha up in 2011 and we rode the Triple Crown with them and then did the Whistler Gran Fondo the next day with them as well, so I got to know Cindy Llwellen, who was part of the Rapha Continental group of riders who came and made the video and later wrote about it on their website. Her and I really clicked on the ride and their marketing director at the time was also on the trip as well and when it was all said and done, told me that they were trying to set up a women’s program and that it’d be awesome if I could be a part of it. It was a total honour to be asked and it really floored me. It’s been a really incredible experience and I’ve met some phenomenal people who are now some of my closest friends and that’s that in a nutshell. That’s what cycling is all about: you get out and ride your bike and it becomes this common denominator and it doesn’t matter what your background or history or career is, or anything else. You get out on a bike with somebody and you’ve got this instant connection.
Do you remember your first race? Tell me what was going through your mind.
I honestly can’t remember.
When you line up for a race now, what goes through your mind?
Calm down. Calm down. When I’m on the start line of any race, whether it’s 185km or a 45-minute CX race, my heart rate goes through the roof. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to be on my bike for 8 hours or 50 minutes, or 4-8 minutes in your average enduro segment. It’s jacked, like I’ve had five espressos in a sitting. I’ll be joking around but I’ll be thinking that I need to calm the fuck down and it’s now a learned thing: breathe through the mouth, try and relax my upper body, focus on what I’m about to do. Am I in the right gear? Yes, I am. Okay. Phew. Breathe through the mouth again. I really focus on bringing my heart rate down because if I don’t, I’m just like a bat out of hell off the start line and either go way too hard and burn out or hurt myself.
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing in the Lower Mainland?
I think it’s a really exciting time for women’s cycling: the influx of new riders, both male and female, are upping the numbers, though we still make up the smaller ratio of participants. There are so many new female cyclists, which means that we’re going to have more female racers and I think social media is bringing more awareness to some of the shortfalls in women’s racing and what we can do to change them. There’s an increasing amount of support for female cyclists and racers from numerous aspects of the industry: we’ve got more women working in the sport; we’ve got more female-specific products; and it’s no longer the case where I walk into a bike shop as a woman and they’ll look at me strangely and think to themselves “what are you doing here? You probably have no clue what you’re talking about, so you should go home.” I this is indicative of the way the industry is being more accepting and supportive of women on bikes.
I don’t want to focus on the negative aspects because so many people have done that and I think we’re all aware of the parts of our sport that aren’t amazing, but there’s so much of it that’s amazing and when you get out there and race bikes with other women, the ones who are there are women who want to be there. You know there’s no fame and there’s no fortune. It’s not something you do for other people, it’s something you do for yourself. I think as more women realize that, more women will be encouraged to participate in events and maybe there will be more fame and fortune. We’ll see. I think the first step is seeing [races] and that’s something that’s been lacking, but is changing. With teams like Velocio-SRAM (formerly Specialized-Lululemon) kicking ass internationally, young women who haven’t even thought about getting on a bike yet are seeing female racers and that’s the first step. “Oh hey look, it’s a woman riding a bike. Racing a bike. Winning a bike race. OMG, that looks really cool. I want to try that!” Because if you don’t see it, it’s human nature that you’ll be afraid of something unless you see somebody else doing it first.
What can we do at the local level to help grow women's participation?
hat’s a really good question. I don’t know if I have an answer to that because I know that from an organizing point of view, there are so many variables and constraints that are out of your control and it’s not an easy thing to put a race together. Prizing has to be equal, at least for the top three spots and then past that, I don’t know. In my mind, I’m thinking about local races and the question of how to build participation and that’s different than building the participation at a national or continental level. Or maybe not because of the trickle-down effect. You need grassroots participation in order to build athletes who are going to move on to the next level and sign with a pro team and then go and be involved at that level.
At the local level, it means a lot to show the female participants that you respect them and support them by providing them with the same opportunities as the men and that probably comes in…Man, this question has me stumped. As I said though, things have become better. For example, they used to shove the elite women in with say, the juniors, at some random time either really early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Now they have elite women racing with elite men, which is perfect because you’re putting the same attention on both and I think the women in the intermediate or novice categories get to stand around and watch the elites, so people notice it. It was happening a few years ago. When you have the pro women racing at 9:00am when nobody’s around or nobody cares to watch, nobody gives a shit.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race?
Go with a friend. Do it for yourself. Be prepared.
I know a lot of women who got into racing because their husband or their boyfriend was into it and dragged them along even though they didn’t want to race and they did it and they hated it. It may seem intimidating, but it’s a very supportive group of women in the scene. I’d encourage women to find a local group ride or club where you can get some advice, build your fitness, and develop your skills so you feel prepared so it’s not so intimidating. This way, you can also find a friend who can take you to your first race.
Remember that when it’s no longer fun, that’s a sign that you should pay attention to. A couple of years ago when CX nationals were out in Surrey, I had spent the season getting ready for it because I hadn’t raced ‘cross in eight years. When I found out nationals were coming to Vancouver, I knew it was time to get the bike back in working order. But it was a double header, so I raced nationals on Saturday and then again on Sunday. I got maybe 4 laps in and was like, “I’m not having fun.” As soon as that thought crossed my mind, and that’s how far I’ve come - I don’t have that die-hard attitude anymore - as soon as that thought crossed my mind, I was done. That was one of the first races I ever pulled out of. I very rarely DNF and used to say that I’d rather by DFL than DNF, but that’s not everybody’s approach. I know a lot of serious bike racers who would rather DNF than be DFL and that’s a different mindset: “if I’m not going to win, or if I’m not going to podium, what am I doing here? I’m going home.” For those folks, they’re racing to win or they’re racing for the result, whereas for me, it’s a means and not an end and it’s the process that’s enjoyable. I wouldn’t be doing the training or the racing if I didn’t enjoy it.