What's your day job?
I’m a full-time pilates instructor. I teach small group and private classes. I also work at an affiliated physiotherapy clinic doing clinical pilates there, so we work as physiotherapy assistants to teach people proper movement patterns after injury and things like that. I’m also in a third year kinesiology student.
How long have you been racing?
I started last year. My sisters both raced when we were younger and I did the odd time trial with them when I came home from ballet school, but I was always afraid of building quads. The things that ballet teachers will tell you […] My legs look better than they ever did dancing! When I moved out here to BC, I retired from dance and actually got into running first. I joined the UBC triathlon club and met Sherwood Plant and started riding with him and he told me “hey, you’re half-decent at this. Maybe you want to consider racing sometime.” His girlfriend, Lindsey, was also in the tri club and we both liked bikes, so we started racing last year, although we ended up joining different teams.
Well, I run, but I’m going to race cyclocross this year. I got a ‘cross bike after seeing a few races and everybody’s like “you need one of those.” Because, you know, N+1. So I was going out all winter with some of the guys from Musette and it’s hilarious because they know the mountains and they’ve been riding bikes for years and here I am, trailing along trying not to fall off my bike and thinking “why am I doing this?” But it’s so much fun! There's no traffic and way more interaction with your bike and the trails and you learn bike handling and get to change things up.
How do you find balance between training, racing, and the rest of your life?
Very carefully? Sometimes it feels like you’re balancing plates and then one falls off and then they all fall off. I have to really keep in mind why I’m riding and what’s important between work and school. I had a professional career as a dancer and I know what it takes to be at a certain level and I tend to get pretty wrapped up in it, but I ended up losing touch with why I was dancing and it became a job more than something I enjoyed so I want bike riding and bike racing to be fun. I want to work hard and go hard and I have no problem doing that, but I want to do it for myself and make sure that it stays fun.
I’m only taking three courses a semester now because I really didn't want to take time off work because the reason I’m going to school is to supplement my pilates training and I really love my job. I love interacting with my clients and it’s kind of a break from the school thing, but I also get to apply what I learn in the setting. So it’s about trying to find that balance; four classes a semester nearly killed me. Nope. I got no sleep, no time with my fiancé, no time to train. Three classes is a happy medium.
School has been a goal of mine for a while so when I retired from dance, I knew I wanted to do it and do it well because I want to get into physiotherapy later on and it’s important for my job. So when I was taking that fourth course at school, I found that my teaching was suffering whereas it was supposed to helping, not hindering. The way I justify training and racing is that it helps me focus with school; it’s great stress release when things become too much but I’ve learned how to plan my days really well so everything is fit in. The odd time I may have to say no to a race if there’s a big project in school, but I take things as they come and decide what’s most important on a given day.
A couple of the other women I’ve talked to have partners and family lives and that’s a big part of managing the balance. Does your partner ride or compete, or how does he fit into the big picture?
My partner is an ex-athlete as well; he was a national team swimmer, so he understands that level of sport. He has a bike and we go riding together sometimes. He wants to get into triathlon too because he just retired from swimming but he really likes running and biking. He really supports my riding and understands that a) it makes me happy and b) it’s a really good balance for me to have, but he’s the first to tell me “Hey, you’re spending a bit too much time on the bike” and I have no problem stepping away. He likes that I ride and has been to a couple of races and thinks that it’s great that I have people to ride with.
What made you want to dive into the competitive side of cycling?
Oh gosh…peer pressure? I dunno. My sisters had done it when they were younger and I really liked riding but I wanted to see how I matched up to everybody else and I like how tactical racing is. It’s a good challenge. I like to set goals for myself and push for new things. I could ride my bike by myself or I could go out with a bunch of people and see how I stand up against them and learn. People who were already doing it told me to just come out and do it and I had so much fun with the first one so I wanted to try it again. I’m competitive; I like to push and I think getting into it was because of friends’ prompts.
You mentioned that you like setting goals. How have your goals changed over time?
Last year’s goal was pretty much to survive. There were no thoughts about winning or placing because I didn’t know where I stood so I just wanted to try races and see how it went. Enumclaw was my first stage race, so I wanted to see how I felt after three consecutive days of racing. I wanted to work on fitness goals like going up Cypress or Seymour for the first time and then wanting to do it again and again and pushing myself a little bit further. I like those little goals. For this year, I have a bit more focus with training so I’m getting help from others to set up a program with specific efforts on specific days and that’s been really helpful. I want to go back to provincials and actually race, not just survive.
Do you remember your first race? Tell me what was going through your mind.
Well, standing on the start line and realizing that I can’t turn back now. You’re amongst all these people and you can feel… In dance, you rely so much on feeling everything; you can’t talk and you can’t see your partner so you learn how to feel the energy around you, so sensing that expectation from everyone meant that I also had to tell myself to chill out. Then you’re off and that was it, but at no point was I ever thinking about dropping out. That’s never crossed my mind in a race. I will fight to the end. I haven’t DNF’d yet. I would have hated myself more for giving up than finishing last. When it gets hard in races, you always have the option of tapping out, but what does that do for you in the long run?
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing in the Lower Mainland?
This is big because just getting into recently, I’m just understanding what the women are facing and some of the inequalities. It’s nice to see strong women out there racing and battling for equality and seeing that type of support locally. I would like to see more women out there; it’s such a male-dominated field and it can be great because it pushes us, but at the same time, it hinders us because the guys focus on themselves and they don’t necessarily want us in the mix. Not all guys, of course, but there are times when you know they don’t want you there. I mean, I’m working just as hard, and we’re all here to race, so why does it matter if I have a ponytail? That guy does and we dropped him back there, so why aren’t you getting mad at your teammate for getting dropped instead of me sitting here beside you?
At any race I’ve gone to, the women’s field has always been smaller. Maybe they don’t have as many races as the men do, or they’re at weird times, or the organizers group us all together and it makes it hard for up and coming racers. You go from Cat. 4 where everybody’s like “excuse me, I’d like to get in here. OK, let’s all take turns…” and then you’re thrown in with Cat. 3 and all of a sudden, you’re in this massive array of women and you find yourself in over your head. I mean, you’re coming from one year of Cat. 4 and now you have to fight for a wheel and I don’t know if I’m necessarily comfortable with that. I mean they have this level of confidence that comes from experience. Some people have get it right away or are born with it. Look at Sara Bergen; she’s in there and she is on it. I wish I had her ability to just get in there and mix it up. You can’t teach that.
This is hard because I’m still getting to know women’s racing in general and trying to understand it. The women I race with are all pretty opinionated and all want to get more women out racing, but I don’t know what else needs to be done.
What can we do at the local level to help grow women's participation?
It would be nice to see more women’s specific races. It’d be nice to have a large enough group of us that we get to learn to race together because women race differently than men. It’s hard to mark other women in the pack when you’re surrounded by men. It’s hard to be present in that race when there’s other stuff going on that isn’t part of your race, but kind of is.
Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say women race differently?
I found that there’s a lot more willingness to work together and there’s a lot of help. Take last year’s provincials for example: a teammate of mine and I got into a group with Sarah Coney, one of the Trek-Redtruck girls and she was giving us directions to get organized. She knew that a couple of us were inexperienced and instead of getting mad or yelling at us, she helped lead us and get us going. I wanted to help, but maybe I didn’t know how to be a useful member of the chase group, so I found that incredibly beneficial. All the girls I’ve raced with have had this attitude.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race?
You just have to get in there and try it. Don’t be afraid of it not going well the first time, or not ending up where you want to be. Everyone wants to win, but go into it with your own goals and not necessarily external goals. Maybe you want to stay at the front of the pack instead of worrying about winning this time. Know what you need to work on and figure out how you’re going to do it in this race so that you can use those skills you learned later in the season.
Finding a good support network, a group of people you actually enjoy riding with. You want a group that’s going to support your riding and push you, but not discourage you. The guys I ride with know I’m a little bit slower, but they never make me feel like I shouldn’t be there. They’ll drop me hard, but they’ll still be there to give me a high five when I get to the top and say “let’s go again.” Find people who don’t make you feel like you’re not wanted.