What's your day job?
I am an environmental manager with a renewable energy producer that builds and operates run-of-river hydroelectric projects in BC. We also work on wind farms and solar farms across the country. I'm responsible for all the permitting and environmental compliance with projects in operation and under construction.
How long have you been racing?
I have been racing since 2008, when my partner at the time was getting into racing out here in BC and it looked like a lot of fun so I thought I'd give it a try too.
I started racing in downhill. At the time, that's what everybody was doing, and all of my friends were primarily riding DH and that's where I got started. Shortly thereafter, I began racing downhill but then transitioned, mainly in the last couple of years, into enduro now that that has become so popular and I’ve also picked up cyclocross.
How do you find balance between training, racing, and the rest of your life?
It's definitely really hard. I was having this discussion with some friends the other day: I mean, I put in a solid 8 hours and some days it's even longer when I have to travel for work and I'm away from home for an extended period of time. I know it limits my racing in terms of how good I could be and how much more racing I could do because by the end of the week I'm exhausted. Today's a perfect example: it's a Friday and I was planning on going to the gym to do some strength training that I try to do twice a week, but the day got away from me; I'm feeling quite tired and I want to get a big ride in tomorrow so I decided not to go.
So it's making sacrifices when I need to and really trying to incorporate riding or training into my work life as well. Riding to work is a big one and when the weather's great and I feel good, I'll commute to work and then on the way home I'll add in a lap of Stanley Park or head out to Whytecliff and then head home, so just extending your commute and adding some extra miles. I live on the North Shore now and I used to live out by SFU, so the commute was about 20km and now it's 13km. It's not that long, though some people, especially in my office, think I'm crazy to even bike period, but I often try to lengthen it if I have the time and take the longer route to extend the ride.
What made you want to dive into the competitive side of cycling?
I've always been competitive: I played a ton of sports growing up and I was always competing, but it was always in a team setting. When I got into cycling, I started racing to push myself further and then discovered that the individual aspect of racing was a great way to know what I was capable of and what I could attain. I can only hold myself responsible; it's not like I could say "oh, well the team didn't play well together," or "that person botched that throw and cost us the game." It's all on my shoulders and the racing really forces me to push myself beyond what I would do as a recreational rider.
Do you prefer the solo or the team aspect of competitive sports?
Now it's definitely solo. You know, to be honest, I don't really have the time to be in a team sport. I used to play a lot of hockey a couple of years ago and unfortunately, I like the team aspect, but I just couldn't commit to the practices and the schedules that you had to coordinate with everybody. It was quite challenging. Doing an individual sport, and especially a sport like cycling, I can go any time I want to go. It's up to me to choose when I want to go for a ride and I really enjoy that, and need it, to be honest. I just couldn't do the Friday at 10pm practices.
Were you nervous or hesitant about the thought of pinning on a number?
Yeah, absolutely, especially a sport like DH racing. It's a 3 to 5 minute run and you have no room for mistakes, and the mistakes can be quite high-consequence in terms of very high speed, very steep sections. It's kind of crazy and I definitely think that's why I've gotten away from that. Whereas entering a sport like cyclocross and deciding to race 'cross, because you can only race 'cross. You could go for a cyclocross ride per se, but cyclocross is really about the racing portion of it. I entered that with no expectations, so I didn't put any pressure on myself and then that just led to me enjoying it a lot more than I did with DH racing. With DH, I already knew that I was a strong racer when I started and I would watch other women and know "I can do better than that. I can go just as fast as they can go, so if they're racing, why shouldn't I be racing?" I put a lot of pressure on myself with the DH side of things whereas when I started CX, it was a lot more fun and I don't take it as seriously, but that just means I have a really good time.
Do you remember your first race? Tell me what was going through your mind.
My first race was on the Sunshine Coast at the Sunshine Coaster, informally called the Rat Race and it was a really great place to start and I know it was the first race for a lot of women because the course is quite friendly; it's not too technical or challenging and there's ridearounds on some of the more challenging bits and it's a really great atmosphere. I remember doing that one and I finished second or third, and I remember going on the podium…I still know the two women who were on the podium with me - they're great women - and I remember them handing me a beer and forcing me to shotgun it. I didn't drink beer at the time and it got everywhere, all over me, but yeah, it was really fun.
There were a lot of nerves, and a lot of anxiety over doing the race, and that never really went away, unfortunately with DH racing. It never went away because the races were so short, you have no room for error, and I had a lot of pressure on myself for racing DH. Yeah, just a lot of butterflies, but it's a feeling that I think everybody needs to feel. You have to put yourself in situation where you would feel that because you wouldn't in a day-to-day scenario. I don't feel it as much in enduro racing mainly because the format is different. I feel it when you get to the top of the first stage and you're about to do your first descent, but at least there, I know I have many more to do in the day and you kind of need to get it out and get the first one under your belt and then, with the rest of them, you can kind of relax. There's always a little bit of butterflies at the start of a race and I think that's what drives you to perform to the best that you can.
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing in the Lower Mainland?
That's a really big question to answer and I've seen really positive sides of it and I've also seen unfortunate sides of women's racing. The unfortunate side is a huge decline in women racing DH. When I started in 2008/09 and there'd be about 10-15 women, which isn't a ton, but at least there were women there and I met some fantastic ladies that I'm still best friends with today. We started our own race team from those days together. At this last year's provincial championships, there was one woman racing in the pro/elite category and I think two others in the master's field, so in total, there were maybe three women who showed up to provincials. There's definitely been a huge decline in DH racing.
Now I think the main reason for that is the growth of enduro in North America and how that format is much more suited to women. So the positive side is there is a group of women down in Seattle, the Sturdy Bitches, that organize a race every year. This is their third year and they sold out 200 spots in just under two weeks. There's a race in Squamish, Hot on Your Heels, another women's only enduro. There's something like 150-200 spots and it sells out in hours. There are a lot of women giving racing a try. Now I can't speak to the professional level because I haven't competed at that, but I've lot of the press about the discrepancies in pay and I've seen the Half the Road movie, which just boils my blood. Hopefully we're making some progress in improving on that front because that's where I think change needs to start.
What can we do at the local scene to help grow women's participation?
To get a woman into racing, it can be very intimidating. There's a lot of uncertainty in your skillset and your abilities and you're forced into an environment where it's very male-dominated and often tends to be, especially in a discipline like MTB, it tends to be young men and it's really intimidating. So something that organizers need to be aware of is addressing that and not putting too much pressure on the women. So, for example, with cyclocross, it's about having a women's specific category and not mixing them in with even beginner men because that might be too much. I race intermediate in CX and I've been in races and mixed up with the likes of Catherine Pendrel and Mical Dyck and Sandra Walter beside me, or rather, in front of me. And they would lap me within a couple of laps but as they go by me, they're super supportive and encouraging me to keep going and telling me how many laps are left.
On the DH side, it's really nerve-wracking if you're a woman and you're last one in your category and then behind you, you've got a bunch of young men and kids right on your tail, or if you're warming up on the track and you've got boys right on you telling you to "move out of the way", "get out," "you're so slow," that kind of thing and that's not a way to foster getting women into racing. So I think having groups and race teams support each other and suport women and encouraging them to get out there is definitely helping the scene.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race?
You need to give it a try as it's a good way to push yourself because that's not something you'd always do in a normal riding situation. It's very important to find a mentor that you can work with to help you get to that first race and then through it and then onwards from there. Someone who's been to races before, who knows the community, who knows the procedures: where to pick up your race number, how you should train for it, that sort of thing. Somebody who can really instill some confidence in you. That, and the butterflies are normal. You'll get over them eventually, or you'll learn how to deal with them. They make you a better person in your daily life; I find that I'm much more of a cool, calm, and collected person at work because of my racing experience and it transitions to my day-to-day life and being able to handle challenging situations.