What's your day job?
I am a lawyer for the city of Vancouver and I do real estate and environmental law. I’ve been with the city for about three and a half years and I was in private practice for about five years before that. I did my undergrad in environmental biology and then went into law wanting to do more environmental law, so my practice has always been a combination of the two.
How long have you been riding / racing?
I probably started riding more again as an adult when I moved to Vancouver. I used to row and play rugby in university and when I moved here, I got a bike to commute on. Then I got a road bike and then when I got a summer job in Rosslyn, I bought a mountain bike and that was probably ten years ago.
I did my first race five years ago and I would call that more of a “participation event” than an actual race (laughing). Well, I would still consider it a serious race, but it was more that I wasn’t racing with any expectation of doing well; it was more about me racing to challenge myself and do as well as I could. It was the short course of the Sunshine Coaster and then the first big race that made me decide I wanted to race was the Test of Metal.
What disciplines do you compete in?
I mainly race XC and I’ve done a couple of cyclocross races and I’ve done some fondos, but have never actually raced a road bike in a crit. Interestingly, it’s always been something that’s appealed to me, but I am intimidated to go out and try it, even though I’m ready all of these stories about these great women who are doing it. And I’m starting to do more enduro racing as well since that’s really just popping up all over the place now.
What's your favourite discipline?
XC. I really like riding up. I like the XC riding here; I don’t think I’d have the same answer if I lived in the US, but I like it here because it’s really technical. It’s also physically challenging because the races are really long. They’re the kinds of trails that I’d ride for fun, but I’m riding them a lot faster.
How do you find balance between training, racing, and the rest of your life?
You’re assuming I have balance (laughing). It’s seasonal. There are definitely times of the year where I try to see my friends more, but a lot of the time, over time, my friendships have become stronger with those I ride with, so my social time is combined with training. Also, the people in my life who are close with me also have a similar passion, so they understand that. Often, it’s really about riding and then somehow trying to fit in all of the other components that come with riding, like doing a ridiculous amount of laundry, grocery shopping, trying to eat well.
I don’t understand how people with children do it. I really don’t. I don’t have kids and I wonder sometimes whether I could do it. But I do take periods of time away from it and focus on seeing other friends and making sure that I relax during those times in the fall after the season is over. I try not to feel guilty about having down time.
Do you find yourself missing the action during those “off” times?
Sometimes. Not immediately, but sometimes I start itching to get back to training. Or if I’m training really hard and I feel like taking a day off, I’ll take it, totally. There have been times when I’ve ignored the knowledge that I have of my body and gone for a ride and dug myself into a deeper hole because of a crash because my reaction speed is down. I think everyone goes through that process where they learn “when do I actually need rest.” Not when “somebody else is telling me I need rest” but when do I know my own body well enough to know I need to ease off. There’s a learning curve and it’s an invaluable piece of knowledge and we find out by trial error, and sometimes it’s catastrophic error. For me, once I know what my body feels like, I try and listen to it and I try and figure out whether it’s me being tired or is it me being lazy, and it’s often a very fine line between the two.
What made you want to dive into the competitive side of cycling?
Six years ago, I watched the Test of Metal race and I’d never watched an event before that was a combination of pro riders and people who were trying to do a race as a personal accomplishment. And until I saw the normal people struggling to get through it and putting their heads down and pushing through the race, it never really occurred to me that normal people could race bikes. I found it incredibly inspiring to see people who looked like they just wanted to die. There was so much grit and determination in them to get through it that I found it more inspiring than watching the pro riders whipping through with ease. When I saw that, I wanted to try it, to push myself and see if I could do it too. That’s when I decided “I’m going to do this race next year” and that became the race that I wanted to do. Once I finished and experienced the feeling of setting a goal, working really hard towards it, and getting through it, it became quite addictive.
Did you know somebody who was racing that first Test? Why did you decide to go and watch?
No. I was just in Squamish for the day and I’d heard about it. I was into mountain biking and it was probably the most well-known race in the area. Everybody speaks of the Test like it has this huge cachet around it and I just wanted to go see it. It’s this huge community event in Squamish: people come out in the streets, there’s kids with water guns, and it’s a really cool event to witness so I just wanted to go see what it was like. I didn’t expect to want to do it, but that’s how it happened. I still remember seeing people coming down these trails and they were fighting their own internal demons to get through that race, without a doubt. It makes it accessible and achievable to see somebody who works the usual 40-hour week doing this.
Do you remember your first race?
Yeah, I remember feeling like I wanted to throw up at the start line. I remember the first race I ever did, I knew nothing about nutrition; I had Camelbak with water and Clif bars. I experienced a true bonk for the first time in my life. I did everything wrong that you could do in a race and I learned a lot, but finishing that race, I knew that I could make it. Sure, I screwed up a lot of things, but I learned a lot. So that was the Sunshine Coaster and then when I actually did the Test, I improved upon my systems and I still felt really nervous and was overthinking everything, but it was exciting.
Do you still get that feeling when you line up for a race?
think you still do to a certain degree. As much as I try to calm myself and I’ve become better at having faith in my preparation and in my systems, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s still so much that’s out of my control. It’s interesting because everybody has a Garmin, right? You turn it on and you can hear those beeps rolling across the start line. I’ll be standing there chatting with my friends and when I hear the announcer, I’ll look down and see that my heart rate just shoots up and my body is just tense. I don’t think that ever really goes away.
How do you manage the stress and the nerves?
I really just try and focus on myself. You can’t control who shows up for a race; you can only control how you do and how you show up. So I decide that if I line up for a race, I’m going to do the best that I can. I’m going to use every race as a learning opportunity and things may go wrong, but you get to test yourself in that situation whether it’s a mechanical, or a food or hydration issue, or a stomach issue, or even just fear. Every time you deal with those issues, it’s a learning opportunity and you get stronger and you get better. I try and keep that perspective and focus on my own race.
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing in the Lower Mainland?
I think there are more and more women who are showing up and that’s great and there’s a really high calibre of women who show up to some events, and sometimes they aren’t at other events. I think that women who are in my situation, where they’re not pros but they may put a lot of stock in racing and it’s really important to them and they invest a lot of time and energy into it, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I’d love to see more women who are unsure about their abilities or unsure about their level of fitness to come out and try racing and do their best and not worry about how they’re going to place. There seems to be a real gap in the middle. That’s not to say that I don’t feel like I’m in the middle, I very much am a lot of the time. There are a lot of women who are really great and a lot of women who dabble, but there aren’t a lot of people who are willing to show up and say “I’m going to give it my best,” not knowing how well they’re going to do and be OK with that. Racing isn’t about winning or losing; it’s about learning about yourself and your riding, your strengths and weaknesses, and your mental state. You become a stronger rider and a stronger person by racing.
Do you know a lot of people who are curious but have never made that final step? Do you have a difficult time convincing people you know to race?
Yeah. There’s a lot of people who ask questions about it. I know the Sunshine Coaster offers a short course and that’s a great way of getting people into it. I don’t want to say a “more achievable” race because I think that for a lot of people, the full course is totally achievable as well, but maybe a “less intimidating” version of the race. Maybe that’s one way of getting more women into it, by offering a shorter, less intimidating, more fun kind of event and then having a more graduated step to racing instead of jumping from going for a social ride and then showing up somewhere dressed in lycra and be surrounded by 600 grunting dudes and see how this goes because that can be kind of a scary transition.
What can we do at the local level to help grow women's participation?
I think there are some initiatives going on right now that are really good. Last year the NSMBA were doing women-only pre-rides for some of the Twoonies. I’m a ride leader for the Mud Bunnies and when we had our season kick-off, a few of the women were asking about some of the Twoonie courses, so we thought what we could do was make our group ride a pre-ride of those courses. I think it’s about giving women a chance to go out and see what a race course is like and what the event is like without necessarily committing to it. Offering a preview really helps. A “learn-to” night really helps. I think men and women learn in different ways, so offering a catering to those differences helps. I definitely did a few camps when I started and that also helped me meet other women to get involved with and once you have people to ride with, you’re going to ride more.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race?
My advice is “don’t overthink it.” We overthink everything! We think “oh, so we’re going to race, we should start taking gels.” We overthink nutrition a lot and then clothing. We decide to wear lycra instead of our normal shorts and we expect to do well with all of these changes. I think what you want to do is know what you’re comfortable with and try one new thing at a time. So, go for a race, use the routine and stuff you’re used to using. There’s this pre-conceived notion of what a racer looks like and people think they have to fit into that model, but in the end, it’s just you, going for a bike ride and you’re just going to try and do that ride just a little bit faster than you normally would. If you’re going to try new things, do them on your training rides. We make all of these changes and then get totally stressed out about what we’re doing to ourselves, so just don’t overthink it. Don’t worry if you show up in your baggies and you have a Camelbak on. You’re showing up. That’s what counts.
It’s just riding a bike. A lot of people, myself included, get stressed out and we worry about our performance, or if we’re going to crash, and what we’re going to eat. Really, we’re just going to go ride a bike. And even if you come in last, you’ve spent your day riding your bike, and that’s awesome. Try not to put too much stress on it. Do a race or two without any pressure on yourself. Do them for fun and for experience, the same way that you would approach anything new. You’d never go and try to play the piano and make it through a full song, so keep some perspective on it and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.