What's your day job?
I’m a transportation planner. Mostly I’m a project manager and I run behaviour change campaigns to get people out of their cars and onto bikes, busses, or walking. Most of my projects are in Seattle and I have a couple in Ontario and California right now.
How long have you been riding/racing bikes?
Probably since I was a small child and I’ve been racing for three seasons now. I’m coming up on my fourth year now.
I guess I’ve dabbled on the track but didn’t race last winter and I’ve been known to appear in cyclocross races but I wouldn’t call that racing either, really. I assume road is your favourite discipline then. Why is that? I the accessibility of it is a big part of it. I can just get out and ride without having to get to the track and with cyclocross, well, I just don’t like getting off my bike. It just doesn’t agree with me because I have an ankle injury from before I started riding and the whole jumping on and off doesn’t work that well. Was it an injury from another sport? I was actually hit by a car commuting about four years ago and that ended my running days but led me on the path to cycling. I was a distance runner all the way through university, but probably started when I was about 14 or so.
How do you find balance between training, racing, and the rest of your life?
It’s definitely a challenge and something I’m always evaluating and working to manage better. Last year was my first year doing bigger racing and travelling to do NRC and UCI level races and it took a toll, for sure. I can work remotely so it’s great to have that option but it means that I’m trying to race prep and answer emails and sit on conference calls, so it’s a double edged sword. The flexibility means you have to be “on” more, whereas some people can’t take their jobs with them so they can shut it off when they leave the office. That flexibility is really important but it comes down to making those decisions about what’s important to you and on that day, or during that time of year my family knows that March through July I’m generally unavailable. I try to be there when it counts.
How much time did you spend traveling for races.
I had a couple of blocks: I spent three and a half weeks in California which was a combination of work and racing in March and April. There are the Washington state races, but those are mostly weekends. Then June is the other big block with back to back scheduling. Gatineau is in early June and then about two weeks later I went back for nationals. Then there’s Cascades, which is the week after Superweek, so I tried to work during Superweek so I could take off for Oregon. Then eventually I got sick and it wasn’t a good scene. Is it tiring doing all the traveling, or is it rewarding to be able to race at a higher level or on a bigger stage? It’s definitely rewarding and coming out of last year, I knew it was what I wanted to do, despite the challenges. It was reaffirming to be able to race at the highest level you can in North America and see that it was possible to get competitive fields of 120 women.
Was this something you always knew you were going to work towards when you started racing?
Not at all. I think I finished my Cat. 4 year and I did pretty well and knew I was going to move up, that’s fine. But I finished the year and was like “That was scary. I don’t think this racing thing is for me.” Then the next year I was a Cat. 3 and right away started doing well there and that success snowballed. All of a sudden I was a Cat. 2 and these bigger opportunities arose really quickly. Every time, I’d ask “do I really want to do this?” The fields started at 40, and then it was 60 and 80 and then it hits 120. At the end of your Cat. 4 season, you said you weren’t sure whether racing was for you. What made you keep going? To be honest, I didn’t know what else I would do. I was a competitive runner in college and the car accident put a stop to that. I thought I might do some triathlons, but I needed to be able to run, so cycling was the place where I could be competitive and push myself. Competitiveness is definitely a part of it. At no point along the way have I shown up and felt that I was completely out of my league. I like showing up at a race and feeling “I belong here. These girls are just like me.” Locally, it’s hard to see because there are larger teams and smaller teams and it’s a mish-mash. At these bigger races though, you get to see how you stack up against the best riders.
Do you remember your first race? Tell me what was going through your mind.
I remember my first season, but despite all the buildup, I don’t remember the first race.
Were you nervous? I think so. There’s this level of intimidation where you feel like you might not be good enough or the pack will be intimidating or those kinds of things. I then I think you realize that you’re in a group of women who also don’t know what they’re doing and it becomes a lot less scary. I think Cat. 4 can be interesting because there can be this huge range of ability and experience and fitness. I think you just kind of do it and the people who want to improve move up pretty quickly.
Are you still nervous in races?
I’m still always scared and you can keep making the challenges bigger, but the level of fear remains the same. I think I emphasize that to new riders I talk to: it’s never not scary. It’s about managing that fear and I always remind myself that nobody else wants to crash either. While racing I kind of have to turn on my blinders. I don’t care what happens to them, I’ll deal with that later. I find that crashes are harder in training because people should be more in control and aware. You expect racing to be dangerous because people are taking risks but when you’re on a Saturday ride and somebody goes down in a pileup, you’re thinking “what were you doing?” You’ve got to trust in the people you’re with.
How did you manage that fear before a race?
There’s a pre-race anxiety that comes with any sport. Having done other competitive sports, it all gets mixed up in that pre-race worry about performance, and not necessarily the risk of crashing. But I do silly things like wearing arm warmers and knee warmers because it made me feel like I had less skin exposed, even in warm races. Or I’ll buy a more expensive helmet because it’s supposed to be safer. Whether or not it actually makes a difference, who knows? Little things like that that make me feel just a little bit better.
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing in the Lower Mainland?
Internationally, there’s been a lot of exciting things going on and it’s been really cool to watch new races get added in Europe and North America bringing on new one-day or small stage races for women. The Tour of California comes to mind. I think locally we’re seeing that trickle down. Team ATAC has put 16 women on a roster and Glotman-Simpson has a large group of Cat. 4 and novice women who’ve been coming out regularly, which isn’t something that we’ve seen before. Mass participation in cycling has been growing and that’s starting to come across in racing. I joined my club as a Cat. 4 and I think there may have been one other girl that year. But to see seven or eight girls this year coming and having friends and teammates to race with is encouraging.
What can we do at the local level to help grow women's participation?
I think with the women’s field, it is the chicken and egg thing where you offer it and you don’t always get registration turnout, but keeping that open as an option for as long as possible can be really valuable. You hear from women who don’t really want to race with men, or about the carnage wreaked in the men’s races and you think “I want no part of that.” What were your feelings about racing in a mixed field? I think I’ve managed to avoid it, for the most part. Even now, I tend to choose not to. I was lucky in the year I started to have a consistent women’s group at the Tuesday night crit, even if it was pretty small at the Cat. 3/4 level.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race?
Just get out there and try it. I think as women, maybe we tend to build things up and they may seem really scary and intimidating, but as soon as you get on that start line you’ll realize you’ve made it scarier than it actually is.
Any additional thoughts?
I think the cycling community is something that as an outsider, or even as a beginner, you don’t really fully appreciate how much energy and dedication is in and the sense of community that’s here. As I’ve gone to bigger races and I’ve had a chance to stay in host housing, I’ve seen complete strangers go out of their way for you: picking you up from the airport, feeding you, and it’s really overwhelming. I don’t think you see that kind of display of goodwill all the time and it’s a sport that you can’t really do on your own. There’s a lot of financial barriers and logistically, it’s a difficult sport to compete in. Just seeing people stepping up to help get racers there is really powerful. Did you have trouble finding a community before joining a club? Yeah, I did. I had ridden with a group loosely affiliated with the UBC Triathlon club for a little bit and someone encouraged me to try racing and that I should get in contact with someone. I don’t even think I really appreciated what a club could do because in other sports, if you want to run a race, you just show up. Over time as you invest energy into it and give back to the club or organization, you appreciate what it does and the resources that it makes available to you and others.