What's your day job?
I am a full-time law student.
How long have you been racing?
This is my second season racing bikes, but I started doing triathlons three years ago.
This was my first season racing cyclocross. Do you have a favourite discipline between the three? I think ‘cross is my favourite; I like the mud and it’s a lot less stressful than road racing because you’re not in a big pack. You’re moving a little bit slower, which is nice, so even though you fall down a lot more, it’s not quite as damaging to yourself or the bike. ‘Cross also has a really fun culture surrounding it with the heckling and cowbells. And the handups. Did you take any handups last season? I didn’t. Somebody tried to force chocolate-dipped bacon on me, but that just sounded like a bad idea.
How do you find balance between training, racing, and the rest of your life?
Well, right now, riding is basically my life outside of being a student. I do rides on my lunch hours and on weekends. How many hours are you putting in weekly? I think ideally, it’s around ten hours on a good week. I kind of have them scheduled and it kind of just repeats week after week when they fit.
What made you want to dive into the competitive side of cycling?
Transitioning from training for three sports into training for one was really nice. But going from triathlon where you’re just time-trialling by yourself to doing a lot group rides and having to race with other people around was challenging mentally. So what made you want to try road racing? Well, I wasn’t a very good swimmer [laughs], so not having to swim was pretty nice. Also, when I started law school, getting the swims in was really difficult because it’s a three hour commitment to go for a swim. You had to get there, and then showering and dried off, and you have to get something to eat before and after. It’s like going to the velodrome; there’s all the travel time and when you’re there, you’re only moving for an hour. UBC closed its outdoor pool last year, so that made all of the swim practices at really awkward times or in the really short indoor pool so at that point, it felt like investing my time into riding more was a better use of it.
Were you nervous or hesitant about the thought of pinning on a number?
Yes, I was nervous. I actually started by doing EV’s young women’s cycling camp with Lisa Howard so that was a really good introduction to group riding. She gave us a lot of advice about how to start road racing. My first race was one of the Tuesday crits and Jen Gerth, who had helped with the camp, was with me during the novice race and made sure I didn’t get dropped and pulled me around the course. That was a really good introduction and it definitely took a lot of the stress off. If the camp hadn’t existed, would you have been as willing to try it? I think the camp was a deciding factor. I maybe would have eventually tried it, but I would have been more hesitant and it would have taken a lot longer.
Do you remember your first race? Tell me what was going through your mind.
I was nervous when I started for sure and then once it got going, I was just trying to stay on Jen’s wheel. There were a couple of times I started dropping and she yelled at me to keep going and catch up. Yelled in a nice way, though. Has that feeling changed now that you’ve been racing for a bit longer? I still get nervous before every race. Not so much for CX anymore because there isn’t the big pack and the risk of crashing is lower. I always get stressed about doing my best and not getting dropped. How do you manage that stress? Well, I’m used to that feeling because I was really into competitive figure skating when I was younger, so it’s the same deal with just feeling really stressed before every competition and just know what you have to do and going out there and doing it.
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing in the Lower Mainland?
Locally, I think it’s a lot better this year. The ATAC team starting out has grouped a lot women into coming to the same races and training together. They’ve also been quite open about joining the Mighty Ride and inviting other people on their rides, so that’s been really helpful. Even though I’m not on that team, it’s nice knowing that when I go to a race, there will probably be other women racing as well.
What can we do at the local level to help grow women's participation?
Using last week’s race as an example with its full “C” field, race organizers should ask women what field they want to race in rather than splitting it by gender. As far as promotion goes, I think that it’s become better with more teams with women on them.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race? I think working up the courage to get in and try one is really important because that was a big stepping stone for me. Once that hurdle is gone, it does become a bit easier. [Did you have other people encouraging you to get over that barrier, or was it more of an internal thing you dealt with?] Well I had the mental block that came with a lot of internal things for me but I had Lisa saying “go try racing” and Jen saying “I’ll come race with you” so that was really helpful. Lisa’s encouragement definitely helped break down the mental barrier. I think the camp was quite a big factor and with the group who did the camp this year, having that encouragement has brought two or three new women who didn’t do racing before this year into the sport. Being able to train as a group makes a big difference. This year, we had Leah Guloien (Trek-Redtruck Racing) do Saturday rides with us and put together a coached program for those of us who were interested, and having that plan to give us some motivation every week was really helpful.
I know that there’s a lot of effort right now within the women’s cycling community in Vancouver to make it feel more like a community. I think the more that we can promote that and make things feel like more than just teams racing against each other would help to break down barriers to entry.