The Common Threads
About this podcast
The athlete's platform
About this podcast
The athlete's platform
The Common Threads
Pioneering Running Coach Greg McMillan: Extraordinary is in All of Us
Running coach Greg McMillan shares what he's learned through three decades of coaching. Insights on goal setting, discipline and finding your extraordinary. The post Pioneering Running Coach Greg McMillan: Extraordinary is in All of Us appeared first on Prokit.
Tech Veteran Ime Archibong on Leading with Purpose
“Genius is everywhere.” An unsurprising phrase from someone like Ime Archibong who has had a front row seat to some of the greatest movements in tech over the past two The post Tech Veteran Ime Archibong on Leading with Purpose appeared first on Prokit.
Bailey Richardson: Building Communities that Get Together and Stay Together
Bailey Richardson grew up with a foundational belief “that you can make any future you want.” This “naive optimism,” as she calls it, led her to the startup world, where, in The post Bailey Richardson: Building Communities that Get Together and Stay Together appeared first on Prokit.
EverAthlete founder Dr. Matt Smith: Mastering Movement, Strength, Breath and Why the Pros are Pros
Dr. Matt Smith helps the pros reach the highest levels, whether they’re competing at Ironman, chasing gold at the Mountain Bike World Championships, running Western States, or playing in the The post EverAthlete founder Dr. Matt Smith: Mastering Movement, Strength, Breath and Why the Pros are Pros appeared first on Prokit.
Rebecca Rusch: Be Good, Be Vulnerable and Don’t Stop Learning
Rebecca Rusch’s nickname is the Queen of Pain — for good reason. She has pushed herself to excel at every outdoor adventure imaginable, continuously reimagining what’s possible and leaving her The post Rebecca Rusch: Be Good, Be Vulnerable and Don’t Stop Learning appeared first on Prokit.
WIRED Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson on Running and the Future of Media
Wired’s chief editor, Nicholas Thompson, has thought a lot about the intersection of technology, media and society. As a long-time journalist and editor at the The New Yorker and Wired, The post WIRED Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson on Running and the Future of Media appeared first on Prokit.
Dr. Megan Roche and David Roche on Running, Coaching and Finding your Why
Dr. Megan Roche (@meganroche) and David Roche (@davidroche) have made their mark on the trail running world. While they have street cred through national titles and Trail Runner of the The post Dr. Megan Roche and David Roche on Running, Coaching and Finding your Why appeared first on Prokit.
Sports Nutritionist Anne Guzman on health, performance and finding what works for you
Sports nutritionist Anne Guzman shares tips on performance nutrition, food journaling, and health. The post Sports Nutritionist Anne Guzman on health, performance and finding what works for you appeared first on Prokit.
Ultrarunner YiOu Wang: Learning, Consistency & the Pursuit of Excellence
YiOu Wang didn’t grow up a runner, or even an athlete. Her form of competition was excellence in academics and you’d find her on the math and debate teams. Fast forward to today and she’s one of the world’s top trail and ultra runners. Her path has one common thread, whether in sport or academics: setting goals and putting in the work to reach her potential. “One of the reasons I really love running is because you get out of it what you put into it. You can set goals and then over time, as long as you’re consistent and put in the work, those goals are achievable.” YiOu discovered running during college in Boston and has since become a force on both roads and trails. She is a two time Marathon Olympic Trials qualifier, 2017 US 50K trail national champion, two time winner of Lake Sonoma 50, and most recently she won the 2019 North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. YiOu sat down with us and shared insights on her training routine, nutritional strategy and the mental side of running and pursuing goals. Our conversation has been edited for clarity. Listen to the full interview on The Common Threads podcast at: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify. Listen The Making of a Runner David Swain: I like starting with a hard question — what did you have for breakfast this morning? YiOu Wang: I had black coffee and leftover rice with fried eggs and soy sauce. And a chocolate chip cookie. I woke up at 6:30 with a grand plan to do a short, easy 45 minute run. I got up and it was cloudy and foggy. So I started with coffee and then I opened my laptop and got sucked into a lot of work emails. An hour and a half later I thought, oh I’ll just run when it gets sunny later in the day. Tell us about the 10 year old YiOu. Were you playing sports? I wasn’t much of an athlete growing up. I was definitely more focused on academics. I started swimming in middle school because I needed it to go on a college application. I quit swimming after a while because I didn’t like smelling like chlorine all the time. I never thought of myself as an athlete. My parents placed a lot of emphasis on academics because we were an immigrant family. They wanted me to go to college and build this better life in the US which is why they moved here. It was a very strict household, the classic Chinese tiger parents. Growing up, there were moments where I kind of chafed at that because I saw my peers doing things that I was not allowed to do, like going to sleepovers or going to the mall. I was like, what do you do at the mall? It was such a mystery. What were you doing when all your friends were at the mall? There was a lot of studying and extracurricular activities. I was on the math team and debate team and I did get into theater. I played piano quite seriously. There wasn’t time to socialize. Looking back on it, I’m very thankful that my parents made me pursue things. They instilled in me this idea of if you’re going to do something, try to do it the best you can. Take it seriously and actually follow through. There were many times when I wanted to quit my piano lessons, but my parents wouldn’t let me. I’m glad because I learned to love music and that’s something that I’ll have for the rest of my life. They showed me that you have to work hard for whatever you want in life. YiOu and her team winning the Chemathon high school competition in 2002 And you ended up at MIT. When I entered college, I thought that I would follow a pretty traditional track – study science, then get a PhD or maybe medical degree and work as a research scientist for some large biotech or chemical company. When I left home, I finally started developing a sense of what I wanted to do for myself aside from pursuing that very traditional track, like all good Asian children. In Cambridge and Boston is where I first encountered running. I was working hard in my classes but got inspired by all of the energy surrounding the Boston Marathon. During the entire spring leading up the race, the whole city knows about it. Everyone is training for it or getting ready to watch friends or family who are training for it. It really inspired me to want to do the Boston Marathon. My first step was very academic – I did a lot of research. Google had just come out and there were only 10 search results. I would go online and research how to run a marathon or how to start a running program and read as much as I could. I loved learning about the physiology, the footwear, the gear, and the concept of a training program. I always love learning about new subjects or ideas. This was a completely different challenge from what I did in the classroom or in a lab. It felt like a good balance for stress relief and maybe a way to connect with a different group of people. So I started running on my own and really loved it. Are there similarities between reaching your potential in academics and running? One of the reasons I really love running is because you get out of it what you put into it. You can set goals and then over time, as long as you’re consistent and put in the work, those goals are achievable. I get a great sense of confidence and satisfaction when I achieve something. Whether it’s learning a particular subject or piece of music or completing your first 5K or half marathon or marathon, I think having goals is really important in life. I’ve pursued different things over the years – academics, music, running and athletics. But all this time what’s been most rewarding is not necessarily winning, but knowing that I put in all of this really hard work. It took me four years to even finish the North Face 50 Miler. So it’s been a really long journey. Everybody sees a win on this one day, but it really started five years ago with me wanting to just finish this race. What happened after school? Did you find a balance between work and running? I met my husband Sean on the East Coast. He grew up in Mill Valley, CA, and went to Cornell for engineering. We lived together for about a year in Boston. Boston winters are quite tough compared to California ones. After we finished school, we both wanted to be outside, to be more active. We happily moved out to CA in 2009. Sean works for Google and loves it. I kind of kicked around different ideas of working for Genentech or UCSF or another research institute. But without a PhD or an MD, you don’t have very much autonomy in the kind of work that you do. It’s often the same thing day after day, like running assays or tests. You’re at a bench by yourself doing experiments all day. I dreaded getting into that kind of life. Then an opportunity landed in front of me. A small private school in San Rafael was in desperate need of a math teacher. I’ve always liked teaching and tutoring, so I started teaching seventh and eight grade math there. I’d never taught in a classroom before and it seemed really exciting to have to learn a new skill. I’ve learned over time that I’m not someone who can do the same thing day after day. I always want to learn new skills, new knowledge, and that’s what really excites me about life. Most people hear that story and think it’s so crazy. It was crazy! I couldn’t sleep at night because of how challenging it was. I learned that I can take on a job that I don’t have the skills for because I can learn them. As long as I put in the effort, ask people for help, and try to do the best I can, if I’m passionate about what I’m doing, I can do anything. And when did the professional runner part happen? After we moved here, I started running and training more seriously because the climate was more conducive. I was not fully employed at the time, so I had a lot more time to train. I wasn’t thinking that I would ever become a professional runner, but I wanted to keep improving, especially in the marathon. I started working with a coach for the first time in 2010, and I quickly saw a lot of improvement in my marathon time, from three and a half hours to breaking 2:50. I thought, wow, maybe I can get that Olympic trials qualifying time. At the time it was 2:46. I put in a lot of training with my coach and ran a 2:38 marathon in 2011 in Duluth, Minnesota, which was above and beyond what I ever could have imagined myself running. I just enjoyed that day because it didn’t come immediately. It was the result of having dedicated myself to marathon training since 2004. I think after that race I thought of myself as a pretty solid sub elite runner. I ran local road races and marathons for a while. Then I got into trail running just from living in Marin and having access to all these beautiful trails. I found myself doing a lot of training runs on trails, but didn’t really think of it as a space where I could compete until 2013-14. I had a major ankle injury in 2013 and I took the whole year off of running. I had surgery and was on crutches for a while. After I recovered, I thought it was time to dive into trail running, especially ultra running. The endurance aspect of marathoning was a strength of mine and what I enjoyed the most. I wanted to extend that and try a 50K and see what happened. Turns out, I really like it! I also love the community around trail and ultra running. After having done well in some races in 2014 and 2015, sponsors started approaching me, which was really cool. It is validation of the hard work and results. It is a very rewarding process to be involved in making a product and representing a brand. You just won The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. We were there. You came through each check point with a completely stoic, almost zen-like expression, even at mile 42 after 8,000+ feet of climbing. Talk about the mental state you were in, and is that normal or was that a special race? I think that day was special in that a lot of things went right – my fitness going into it, my fueling, and the execution of the race. For every race, I always strive to try to stay as calm as possible. The way I perform best and compete best is when I don’t get overly emotional about the experience. If I get too emotional, I find myself spiraling into ‘I don’t feel good’ or ‘this really hurts.’ It’s a little bit of mind over matter. You have your mind decide that you still feel fine even though it’s mile 42. You try to keep all of those more negative thoughts at bay. I find that I really need to hyper-focus to stay in the “flow state” as much as possible. That is always challenging over the course of a seven-hour plus race. I find my best performances are when I can tap into that zone for as long as possible. For the North Face 50, it helped that I was very familiar with all of those trails on the course. That made the day go by faster because I knew what to expect and I had run the terrain before. YiOu’s Kit: Training, Nutrition, Sleep and Recovery Angela Zaeh: What does your training look like today? How do you plan your race year? I’ve been working with coach Mario Fraioli for four years, maybe more. He’s a really good friend, as well as my coach. That has been an amazing relationship. After my last race of each year, Mario and I plan out a race plan for the next year. It’s very helpful to have someone like Mario be a second set of eyes, because I always want to do everything. Mario will say, hold on, what’s the race you really, really want to do? Then we work backwards from that. We typically target something every quarter. That gives enough time for ramping up training, doing the race and recovering afterwards. For example, the first quarter of 2020 will be the Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. Depending on the race, Mario will tailor different kinds of workouts to that race. For the North Face we were doing a lot of hilly long trail efforts, which is very different than what we do for a fast road marathon, which is going to be track work and shorter intervals on bike paths for example. For the second quarter, I’ll do a April/May race. I want to do a 50K and build off of the speed work that I’ve done for the marathon. That would be a great transition. My big goal for the summer is to do one of the UTMB races, probably CCC the 100K. Between May and August I need to go to the mountains and actually get Alps legs, practice my poles and practice carrying a big pack. After UTMB, I’ll need a two or three week recovery period. Finally there’s another build up for a race in November/December. I get weekly plans from Sunday to Sunday. Typically, Mondays are an easy recovery run. There will be two workouts Wednesday and Friday or Wednesday and Saturday and one day will be shorter, harder like VO2-type intervals and then speed work intervals. Friday or Saturday will be longer threshold tempo work intervals. There will be a long run on Sunday or Saturday. I’ve gone through times where I’ve tried to hit arbitrary mileage numbers and I found that I don’t need to run a hundred or so miles a week. Some people respond better to higher mileage, some people respond better to lower mileage and more quality. I think I’m definitely on the spectrum of not needing super high mileage. Going into the North Face 50 miler, my highest mileage week was 80 or 85 which is pretty low for doing a long endurance event. My longest run was a marathon. Now that I’ve done four or five 50 mile races, my body knows how to run the 50 miles and I don’t have to over-train myself. I’d rather spend the time on quality because as I get older and as I put more miles on my body, there’s so much more that needs to go into recovery. Compared to five years ago, I do much more rehab recovery work. I need time for strength training, yoga, stretching, massage, body work. How do you structure your day? I used to have a very strict routine, especially when I was teaching full-time because the school day starts so early. I had to be at work at 7:30, so on weekdays I set a 5:00 AM alarm and was out the door running by 5:50. I was very strict Monday through Friday and was going to bed by 8:30. There was zero going out in the middle of the week. Now my work schedule is a lot more flexible, since I teach part-time and have some consulting and tutoring projects. I can set my own hours, which is a gift and a curse. Now I have to impose my structure, but I’m also okay with being more flexible. I used to think, if I don’t run in the morning then all my runs will feel terrible. But that’s not necessarily the case. It’s more 90% mental and 10% when you eat your meals. I’ve become much more flexible. It’s okay to enjoy life and to not be so rigid, because the more rigid you are, the more stress you feel if something disturbs the routine. If your alarm is late or if your headlamp battery happens to not be charged in the morning, you have to figure it out. You have to be ok with changes in the routine. Most races never go 100% according to your game plan. You have to be able to problem-solve and not panic. A lot of people can have amazing races until they reach this point when they see a curveball and then they panic. That’s when your race goes totally downhill. Instead, figure out a solution, stay calm and continue on. At this most recent North Face 50, I had a great day, but my legs started cramping between 50K and mile 40. I really thought that there was a point where I would have to stop, but then I thought, ‘no, you’re going to figure out a solution.’ I knew there was an aid station coming up at Muir Woods road, and I thought, ‘just make it there.’ Luckily, it was downhill. I ate a bunch of salts at the aid station and drank water and hiked a little bit uphill. Then my legs felt like moving again. I kept moving forward and I took electrolytes at the next aid station. I knew I had to keep hydrating because it was a very humid day. So even though it felt like one of the best races I’ve ever executed, there were still things I had to keep working through. You just mentioned it’s been one of the best races you’ve ever done. Where does it rank in your running career? I think it would be one of the best moments. It was on home trails and so many things came together to make it a poignant experience, like having so many locals and people that I’ve run with or people that I know in the running community out there cheering for me. There’s nowhere else that I could replicate that experience. Racing on trails that I run every week and have so many good memories on was very special. I enjoyed that finish across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s such an iconic San Francisco Bay Area experience. I actually don’t run across the Golden Gate bridge very often, so it was exciting for me at the end of the 50 miles to run across it. I was also very happy with my nutrition and execution of my nutrition plan during the race. I think nutritionally it was the best I’d ever done in a 50-mile race in terms of feeling like I was adequately fueled the whole day. YiOu Wang winning the 2019 North Face 50 mile championships. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell Can you talk a bit more about how you injury prevention and recovery work into your week? I’m not very good at doing them on my own. I do a lot of classes. I do a strength training class once a week in the city that’s tailored towards endurance running and triathlon sports. I don’t do heavy weights, usually just the bar and the lightest weights that will fit on the bar. It’s excellent for activating some of the muscles that get turned off when you’re sitting or driving. There’s a lot of work on glute activation and hamstring activation versus being overly quad dependent. That class also works on mobility and flexibility. We do box jumps and lunging and that sort of thing. I do a yoga class at least once a week to work on extra stretching. I also do some TRX maybe once or twice a week. I have that at home and it’s a quick 15 minutes routine. Do you do anything for active recovery after hard workouts, races? I walk or hike. I don’t do any cross training because I don’t want to spend that much time working out. If I’ve run for the day, I really don’t want to go and spin. I’d rather just go for a walk and be outside or sit with my legs up against the wall. How important is sleep? Sleep is so important. People often say, I’ll wake up an hour earlier and go to the gym and do my strength training. It’s so much better if you just sleep, which is another thing I’ve discovered. I’ll allow myself to sleep in now. Nowadays I sleep in as much as possible. A lot of times I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep for a long time. I’ve been trying things like listening to Headspace before bed, which helps me a lot. It’s something that I’ll continue to work on and try to fine-tune. What’s your philosophy on food or diet? I am all about eating a lot of food. I think it’s so important to properly fuel your body with not just the energy but also the nutrition that it needs to rebuild and recover after hard efforts. I’m not on any sort of fancy diet. I like to eat whole foods, meat, vegetables, starch, and fruit. I always find it fun to shock people with how much food I can eat at certain meals. I don’t track calories. From my science background, I have a pretty good knowledge of nutrition and energy expenditure and that sort of thing. I know I need to take in carbohydrates, proteins, fats and micronutrients from fruits and vegetables. I listen to my body, especially after a race. I know there are certain things that I crave, whether it’s French fries or a hamburger or avocado toast for five days straight. I’ll eat until I’m full and I’ll eat when I’m hungry. I’m interested in a long term running career and for that you have to adequately fuel your body and not fall into an energy deficiency cycle, which will lead to adverse effects down the road. If you’re on a restrictive diet and you’re training heavily, you can get super lean, super light, super-fast, but that’s a very short term result. Long term you’re going to have bone fracture injuries. You’re going to have the side effects of losing your period. You’re going to have mood disorders because being hungry makes people unhappy. That’s not to say that I am 100% immune to social media. I do look at people’s photos and think, wow, they look super lean or super strong. I’ll look critically at my own photos. But I try not to let those thoughts dominate and dictate my training, which should really be an expression of what I love to do. What have you learned about nutrition that made this race the best from a fueling perspective? I have learned that you need to fuel a lot, you need to practice your fueling and then do what you practice in a race. I used to be very bad about taking in calories. For a marathon, I would take only two or three gels. When running a 50K or 50 miles, I would usually end up in a calorie deficit and barely make it through the end of the race. I would wonder why I felt so horrible at the end of the race. Now for any length of race, I try to eat some sort of breakfast before the race. During the race, starting around 30 or 40 minutes, I’ll start taking in calories. I have an alarm on my phone that goes off every 40 minutes and I’ll take a gel. I’ve been trying more solid food in the beginning part of the race. During the North Face 50, I ate Stroopwafels at the first two aid stations and then moved to gels. Toward the end of the race, it felt like I ate a gel every mile. I felt great. If your stomach can handle it and if you’re used to it in training, then take in all the nutrition you can. Do you practice any kind of mental training? When I am doing a workout, I am pretty serious. If I’m running with someone who doesn’t know me well, I warn them that I’m probably not going to smile until we finish. Any sort of hard run that I do, I am very serious. An easy run is for socializing or for having fun. How do you deal with lack of motivation or even depression or post-race blues? I think everyone goes through it. Obviously I’ve had races that go very poorly and I’ve found that it’s helpful to express my feelings about it. I talk to close friends. I’m not someone who likes to share a lot with a large group of people. Having a couple of close friends that I really trust to talk to has been very helpful. One thing that helps is to have the next goal in mind. Then you can’t dwell on whatever happened at your previous race. I also think that not spending 100% of my time on being a professional runner helps. I can’t just stay home and be miserable. Having other things in your life is key, whether it’s another career, another interest, people that you can focus your energy on. These things help to dissipate feelings. When a race is fresh, it can feel very overwhelming or very emotional. But over time, those feelings tend to fade and you can revisit the race with a less emotionally charged perspective. You can say, ‘okay, why did this race go poorly? What did I learn from it?’ You can always learn from it. You have running, your career, you’re also married, and you have friends. How do you manage all these parts of your life, as well as an intense training schedule? It helps to be in a relationship with someone who also runs. We spend a lot of time together on the trails. I’m very thankful that Sean is a good runner and likes to run with me. That’s how we met and that’s a connection that we’ll always have. It’s something we’ll do for the rest of our lives. I’m also very thankful that I’ve found a close community of runners who are also good friends. We run together and socialize together. And we’re all home by 9pm because we’re up early for a long run. Finding a group of people that share your passions is very important. For people in an intense training program, it can be very lonely. You have to be pretty selfish about how you spend your time when you’re training. Having a few people who I run really well with is also important. Then I don’t feel as if I’m alone all the time. I also stay involved in the community by volunteering at races, going to events, being interested in what other people are doing in the space. I think that having running helps me to be successful as an educator because I bring the same energy and passion to my teaching. When people who excel at a sport retire, their dedication and ability to work hard can be brought to another career. I get a lot of questions from young runners who want to be an elite or professional runners. I always tell them: that’s awesome, but here are some things you should think about. Find relationships and maintain them. Don’t just isolate yourself in a cabin in the woods for 10 months out of the year because that’s what you think you need to do. It’s so important for you to be a well-rounded person and to make connections and be part of a community. Think about what you want to do outside of running. It can be related to running – maybe you want to coach, maybe you want to be a nutritional consultant, maybe you want to write about running, but do something other than just run all the time. If you’re injured, if you decide to retire from a competitive career, what are you going to do next? What have you seen in terms of similarities and differences in the running community in different parts of the world? I think the similarities are that people who are runners are always excited to meet other runners. On the other hand, there are still very different attitudes or philosophies about running in different parts of the world. Running is booming in Asia, for example. Marathons sell out immediately. But people still have a lot to learn about running. There’s a big appetite for education. Through my travel, it was interesting to see how running for pleasure or as a hobby is related to economic development. We went to Ethiopia and sub-Saharan Africa where many elite runners are from, but no one there runs for fun. If you run, it’s a very serious career. It’s a way that you’re going to better the life of your family or your village. In a place like Myanmar, which is still opening up after decades under a military junta, running is not very popular. You can find people in the park doing their morning group workout class or you might see expats jogging, but very few locals. Then you go to a place like Shanghai and there are a lot more locals running, but they’re still wearing tights and long sleeves all the time. This is a reflection of more conservative cultural norms. Singapore is very wealthy, very multicultural, has a lot of expats and everyone runs. There are bike paths everywhere, so the infrastructure is a lot more conducive to running. There are races every weekend and you will see tons of people out on their morning runs along the water. It was interesting to observe the running culture as we moved from country to country. But no matter where we went, the running community was always welcoming. YiOu running on sand dunes in Namibia David Swain: Let’s talk about sponsorships. My primary sponsor is Under Armour. I use their apparel, footwear and accessories. They make pretty much everything. I’m also sponsored by CamelBak, which is a local Petaluma company that makes hydration vests and bottles. My nutrition sponsor is GU Energy Labs for gels and waffles and sports drinks and I work with Equator Coffees cause I’m a coffee fanatic. When looking for a sponsor, you have to figure out what’s in it for both of you. There’s something that you can offer the sponsor and there’s something that the sponsor can offer you. The sponsor pays you to represent their brand and to give them product feedback. They need athletes who are wearing their gear. I’m paid by Under Armour to represent the brand. That means I wear all their products and talk about their products. I provide feedback, especially on the shoes. I tell them what I like about new prototypes that they send. They want to know what works or doesn’t work. It’s a solid commitment from my end, which is why I’ve always limited myself to a smaller group of sponsors. The more sponsors you have, the more responsibilities you have: appearances, photo shoots etc. Because I have another job and career, I’d rather keep the sponsorships more limited and just give my best effort and time to the sponsors that I’m really passionate about and that I’m really comfortable working with. I think that helps me better maintain those relationships and also be a better representative of those brands. YiOu’s Resources & Gear What are the resources that help you do what you do, whether it’s apps or devices? I use Headspace a lot. My coach and I use the Final Surge for the training plans. I do a bit of socializing through Instagram. I’m on Facebook less now. I’ve had a lot of interesting connections happen just through these apps because they open up a line of communication that would not have existed otherwise. I use Gaia GPS to find new trails. I’m on Strava, but I’m moving more towards using MapMyRun, an Under Armour product. What about your watch? I have a pretty simple Garmin GPS watch. I don’t use a smartwatch because I’ll just look at my watch all the time. My Garmin does heart rate and GPS. I find that’s all I need. I do take my phone a lot because I love taking photos – you know, constantly generating content. Books or podcasts. Anything that you’re reading or listening to that hit the spot for you? I’m currently reading a book called The Body by Bill Bryson. He is one of my favorite authors. I really enjoy using his work as teaching tools for my classrooms. He writes about subjects in a very entertaining and approachable way. Running shoes? I’ve been wearing the Velociti shoe line by Under Armour, and I actually wore a pair of Velociti 2s for the entire North Face 50. I still prefer more minimalist shoe construction over maximalist. As someone who’s used to road running, I love wearing road flats for any kind of race trail or road. The feedback I gave to Under Armour was that I want a road racing flat with sticky tread and lugs. That’s what I want as a trail shoe. They have some prototypes that build upon this Velocity racer and put a different outsole on it that’s more appropriate for trail. The post YiOu Wang: Learning, Consistency & the Pursuit of Excellence appeared first on Prokit.
Alison Tetrick: From Brain Injury to Gravel Adventures; Life as a Pro Cyclist
Pro cyclist Alison Tetrick didn’t have a traditional upbringing full of team sports and structured activities. Rather, Alison grew up on a cattle ranch, and used her grit, drive and belief that anything was possible to become a collegiate tennis player before quickly hitting the cycling world tour as a road racer. Today Alison is lauded in the world of gravel biking, and as an ambassador for her sport. But the journey doesn’t follow a straight line. Her cycling career almost came crashing down after a traumatic brain injury from crashes in 2010 and 2011 left her in a spiral of disorientation and depression. We talk about her path back to the top levels of cycling, finding balance, what she’ll be doing in ten years, her career off the bike, role models, and why gravel biking has found the perfect combination whether you’re winning or on the “party bus.” My conversation with Alison has been edited for clarity. Listen to the full interview on The Common Threads podcast at: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify. Listen Playing to Your Strengths David Swain: Most people are used to seeing you on a bike, but you recently hiked up Mount Whitney. How are your legs feeling after a 24-mile hiking adventure? Alison: It was my first hike of the year, so I thought I might as well hike 12 hours up to 14,505 feet. It wasn’t that hard, but walking down completely destroyed my legs. So the fact that we’re sitting here on the couch? Well, good luck to me when it’s time to get up. Growing up on a ranch isn’t your typical upbringing. What was it like? I have amazing, free-spirited parents who are very successful and athletic in their own right. They always had this dream of having a cattle ranch. So, they kept working their way up, and we started out on a ranch in Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County. Alison riding the Oso Flaco Dunes, 1989 When I was in junior high, we moved up to Redding. As a child, I didn’t play a lot of organized sports because the closest town was at least 30 miles away. My parents were not willing to commute to soccer and gymnastics or anything like that when there was work to be done at the ranch. So we were really active, but probably not in the traditional sense. Instead, there was a lot of horseback riding, fence fixing, water checking, and really letting the freedom and the space cultivate our imagination. What did the ranch look like? How many cattle and staff were there? These are 2,000-acre cattle ranches with several hundred heads of beefmaster cows. My parents were pretty much the only staff. From time to time, they’d have a caretaker or a ranch hand help. When there was a big roundup, they’d call in some friends, but it was just the four of us for a couple of years. (I have an older sister.) My mom’s parents lived on the property as well. It was my job every morning to feed the chickens and the horses, and to check on the water. Water is big for cows. Where are your parents from? My parents were both born in Northridge, which is in the L.A. area. They met at Los Angeles Baptist High School, and they’re still going strong and madly in love. They were high school sweethearts, and they both went to UCLA, where my dad played football. My mom is a tremendous athlete, and she is still is out there playing tennis every day. Your grandpa was a competitive cyclist, right? My dad’s father, Paul Tetrick, was an army veteran and a contractor in L.A., and he did a lot of buildings and things like that. He passed away last year. He was a runner, and after age 50, he just couldn’t run anymore. But he saw local group rides in L.A. and thought, I’m going to go keep up with these young guys. Then he hopped on a bike and found a love for cycling. He rode until the age of 85. The guy has over 17 national titles in the master’s categories and rode his bike every day. He was the one who kind of elbowed me and said, “Hey Al, you should try out this whole bike racing thing.” This was after I played tennis in college and started working in Boston. I still had a lot of competitive drive, but I wore tennis skirts and liked to run, and it was not for me. But he said, “Just try it! You know, you can go to the Olympics. You’ll be great.” And I did—I went out and tried a couple of bike races and triathlons. Then I was headed to the Olympic Training Center for a talent identification camp, and the next thing I knew, I was racing all over the world for the national and professional teams. My grandpa was just tickled to death. He was not the most emotional or giddy guy, but he loved me a whole lot. Cycling became our language. My grandfather was the first person I’d call after races, and I would cry, and that made him a little uncomfortable. But he really understood that, and it was a special connection for me. Alison and her Grandpa, Paul Tetrick, in 2012 That is special. Where did your drive and abilities come from—how much do you think is innate and genetic vs. something external? It was interesting, the way I was raised. I wasn’t thinking about gender barriers or what I should or shouldn’t do. I just had this whole open range and freedom to go out and explore. I think it gave me a lot of mental fortitude and stubbornness, and maybe a little fearlessness. My dad raised really strong women, and my mom’s really strong. My parents would say, “Do whatever you set out to do, but just make sure you do your best.” So when I actually did start playing team sports, I said, “I’m going to get a full ride to college and play tennis because that’s what I want to do.” And people said, “You can’t do that. You just started, and you’re a freshman in high school.” I would tell them, “Well, watch me.” Genetics are definitely a factor, though. Playing tennis, I started a little late, but I think my parents are incredible athletes, and my dad’s father showed me you could pretty much perform at any age. I did always feel like I was on my back heels in tennis. You’re playing women who have been practicing the sport for 10 to 15 years. I often felt like I was “dropped,” to use a cycling term. Basically, I felt like I was kind of behind, but when I got on a bike—well, maybe I didn’t have the skillset for fast ascending or a switchback on a single-track mountain bike. But what I did have was that the harder I pedaled, the faster my bike went. In tennis, I never felt the more tennis balls I hit, the better I got. Sometimes it just went in my head and made me want to cry. How do you think about playing to your strengths as an athlete? I think as an athlete—and this applies to the real world as well—a lot of people want to focus on the things you’re not good at. And yes, you should work on your weaknesses in case you need them, but I think training your strengths is just as important. Knowing I am good at solo wins, good at time trialing, good at having a lot of power for a long duration of time—these are all important. I might lose time in technical sections, and maybe these are things I’m not good at, but if I don’t train my strengths, then how am I going to win? I want to train my strengths so I can win with them, and then also work on my weaknesses in case my strengths aren’t working that day. Head Injury & Recovery Talk us through your career as a cyclist and the kind of the progression you went through. I started racing pretty quickly. I was still pinning my number upside down and getting dropped on every start line because I couldn’t figure out how to clip in fast enough. Three months later, I was racing in Europe for the national team; it was a huge trajectory, and it was trial by fire, which meant a lot of failure, some success, and a whole lot of fear. What was the environment like, being new to your sport in Europe on the biggest stage? I was there in a development role. I was really fortunate, when I first started racing, to have this incredible group of women who were confident enough in their own achievements to really help me. Sometimes it felt a little bit like hazing, but they would give me roles and team directors who invested time in me, and coaches, and a whole list of professional teams who believed in me even though I was very new. They were willing to dedicate their time, so I think I was more worried about disappointing the people who believed in me. Then came the results. And with that, it made me dig really deep and find some incredible results and fail pretty hard as well. I started racing in 2009 and 2010, so this was pretty early in my career, but it was probably one of the best years I had racing. We won the Giro d’Italia with the national team, with Mara Abbott. I was winning yellow jerseys, winning overall races. And I was feeling like I was finally losing some fear and gaining experience and thinking I could do this. And then I had this horrific crash in late 2010 that shattered my pelvis, and I was life-flighted out, unconscious, with seizures and a traumatic brain injury. That was pretty-life altering. But I think that injury was such a focus on the bones, and on trying to get me back on the bike, that some of the things that were happening in my head were ignored. Plus it’s really hard to diagnose and quantify head injuries. So in 2011, I came in pretty hot once I could get back on a bike. I was very focused—probably too focused—on external validation. I was thinking about the Olympics, thinking about the national championships, whatever it was. And I went to the Pan American Games for the national team and represented them in the time trial, and I had a flute crash hit my head again, which was only 10 months after the previous traumatic brain injury. This time it was just lights out. So that one was really not as traumatic, because there weren’t broken bones or a scuffed knee—I just hit my head the wrong way. Yet that set me back for years. And it’s something I still deal with every day. And what did that look like? Because like you said, it’s not something that you can see. A broken bone is very easy to diagnose. After the first crash, I couldn’t walk. I was in a wheelchair—I was bedridden. So I was focused on that, and I was on pain meds, and my life turned upside down. I think a lot of that was just muted because I was so focused on coming back to cycling. And then, when the second crash happened, it was just a bloody knee. But I still hit my head. And then I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t read. I went into a dark spiral of depression and disorientation, but those had probably happened earlier. They just weren’t as noticeable because a lot of the time, just like in life, we can mask things by being busy. The second crash forced me to really slow down because I couldn’t move. I couldn’t live by myself; I couldn’t do what I used to do. And that led to a whole other part of the recovery process. What helped get you back after your injury? Are there people you turned to or skills you learned? I think mainly my family. It was really scary, feeling like I’d just gained and then lost my independence, I was a professional athlete, I wanted to be invincible, and then I needed to go back to relying on people. With my friends and family—what I found in that time was that sometimes, when you are that weak and vulnerable, you want to go to the people who tell you what you want to hear. And vulnerability is like blood in the water for people. So is success, you know, and so you might then rely on people you shouldn’t. That’s why I went back to the basics: you know, my family and my loved ones, who I know love me regardless of whether I’m a professional athlete, or a valedictorian, or successful in business. How do you manage fear after having a head injury? I operate on a high dose of fear in general. I’m a pretty anxious person, and I have a very healthy respect for gravity. That said, it depends on the race situation. Sometimes I have to give myself a mantra to calm down. Also, I’ll just tell myself to ride my own race, stay safe, and avoid taking a risk. Or, if I need to, I’ll tell myself to toughen up, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I’m a professional. Most of the time it’s about giving myself grace to be afraid. And if I do need to pull the plug—and even unclip—and take a deep breath, then I will do that because I’ve raced at a high level long enough that I don’t need to go into that fear box where I’m terrified. And I’m okay with that. It did take a little therapy. My therapist asked me whether I was okay with putting my health and safety over my results. And for me, absolutely, yes—I am 100% okay unclipping and losing if it’s pushing me over the limit. I’ve learned I can ride at a very high level and operate on a little bit of fear. At the Belgian Waffle Ride last year, after the crash, I just unclipped, sat down for a bit, and regrouped before realizing I was no longer going to race. I joined the party bus instead. How do you feel now compared to a couple of years ago? I feel like much more of a complete person with a better perspective on life. The head injury and the changes in my brain still affect me, but understanding everything in a more comprehensive way has been really helpful. I’ve also learned to separate my identity from the gold star I get when I do something well. So separating those external validations—navigating those results from overall happiness and satisfaction with a balanced life—has been key. I’m not saying I do that well every day, but I make sure to step back and go through my checklist in a mindful way. I want to make sure I’m healthy, that I’m having fun, that I’m balanced, and that I’m prioritizing the things that matter most to me rather than fixating on some sort of result. Balance, Gravel Biking & Gear Alison bright and early at Dirty Kanza 2019 At this point in your career, you are still showing up and winning races, but you also seem to be having a lot of fun. How do you find the right balance between competing and enjoying the experience? What’s important for me now is to not always race to win. Entering gravel, you find the joys of being able to go out and ride competitively and challenge yourself and still feel good at the end of the day—whether it’s because you’re drinking a beer with friends, or because you rode more elevation or distance than you ever have before. For me it’s about finding a challenge, pushing myself, making sure I’m doing my best, but also about keeping it realistic and making sure I’m having fun and that I’m enjoying it. I have to remind myself that if I drive and go to some travel event or some bike race and I’m not having a good day, that I chose to be there. We all have free will, and I drove myself there, and I’m going to go and do this. So, I think it’s important to enjoy it to the best of your ability. Enjoying it for me might be going for the win, or it might be riding back in the party bus with my friends and stopping a lot and taking photos for Instagram. You’ve done the biggest races and some of the smaller ones as well. Any thoughts on favorite events or gravel rides that people should look into? What’s interesting about gravel is that there are all sorts of different kinds of terrain, and different environments and different structures. Gravel’s different, you know—it’s graveling. Kansas is different from Lincoln, Nebraska, which is different from riding around a volcano in Iceland. For me, it’s about the adventure and about exploring roads you’ve never been on with the coolest likeminded people. My advice is to find a race that inspires you. It’s about finding something that makes you go, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to ride around the Cascades on my gravel bike, camp for five days, and do the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder.” Or maybe it’s Dirty Kanza, and you want to see how you stack up against that. Go do it! How hard was the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder? I didn’t race it, so I had a blast. There were a lot of miles. And honestly, I was on the party bus. I had a flask in my CamelBak; I had a puffy jacket in case it was cold. I was having a blast because I needed to take the pressure off of myself, and I got to camp with my friends for five days, hang out with some loved ones, and see the most stunning views that Oregon has to offer. We get so obsessed with gear in cycling. What do you think of the relationship between gear, training, and other factors? One thing I think we do wrong in cycling is get a little gear heavy—especially as we try to make the sport more accessible. So before I get gear heavy, I’ll say you might have a better day if you have better gear, but that you shouldn’t let gear and the price of gear and a new mortgage on your house get you out of the sport. I do like to control what I can, though. I come from a time trial background for road, and I think preparation is key. Training for me is the easy part. I love riding my bike for me—the hard parts, and then resting and recovering the rest of the time. I just love riding my bike, and I’d do it all day if I could. So again, that’s the easy part. You have to make sure you can train and be prepared that way. And then you can get into the gear. I want to have a good bike fit. I use retail technology, and I am sponsored by Specialized, so I ride some of the best bikes in the world. For gravel, I ride a Diverge with CLX 32 wheels. And then, right now my new thing are these Pathfinder 42s. I’m getting wider and wider on the tires, and they are amazing. And another game-changer for me this year has been putting electronic shifting on my gravel bike. So I’m riding the new SRAM Force etap AXS, with a 44 up front and a 10-50 in the back. They call it the Mullet Bike. And that 50—it’s like a party, right? I can get up some really steep stuff. View this post on Instagram Whoa, there. Letting my take a breather at the hitching post. Or maybe she is letting me rest up for the next effort. Love my @iamspecialized Diverge with @sramroad Force eTap AXS 1x. All the room for fun trots and serious canters with that 10-50 cassette. Giddy Up. #cowgirlup #iamspecialized #seekanddiverge #guforit #sramaxs A post shared by Alison M. Tetrick (@amtetrick) on Oct 1, 2019 at 10:26am PDT The Diverge also has what they call a Future Shock. There’s a shock in the headset, so when the road gets really bumpy, if you have less fatigue in your shoulders and hands, you push out more Watts later because you’re a little more rested from the trauma of the road. And I think the bike really makes a difference. Tires do too, of course; these 42s are so much more comfortable for me, which matters a lot. And then another thing, as far as nutrition goes, is that I wear this CamelBak Chase bike vest. CamelBaks were often known for mountain biking, but for gravel with these long distances, the road is also pretty chunky, and it may not be comfortable grabbing bottles. Hydration is really key, and the CamelBak Chase vest is kind of a mix between your traditional mountain bike vest and a running vest. It’s still short enough where you can reach the rear pockets of your jersey. It’s actually just made for gravel, and it’s really great for staying hydrated. And then you go into your preparation for nutrition. Alison bikepacking in Kyrgyzstan When you’re nervous, you might not be eating and drinking enough because you’re still in a pack of 500 to 1,000 people. That’s where the Chase vest helps too, because I don’t have to grab a bottle; I can just drink out of my hydration bladder. I tend to put GU Roctane in my pack, so every time I’m drinking, I’m taking in calories and electrolytes and nutrients. I think that’s like killing two birds with one stone, although some people prefer water. But often, people ignore the first two hours, and then they’re playing catch-up the rest of the day. Drinking and eating early and often is key. And depending on your body size, I’d recommend 200 to 250 calories an hour. What are you thinking about the morning of a big race, or the days before, in terms of nutrition and hydration? I haven’t done carb loading or found it necessary. For me, hydration matters a lot. I have a lot of obligations when I go to these events with forums and my sponsor booths or talks. I started wearing my Chase vest around even in my street clothes, so I’m reminded to constantly be drinking. A lot of the time it’s hot, and you’re out in the sun—you’re nervous, you’re going to the expo or you’re packing and building your bike or things like that. Hydration is really important. I tend to try and eat an early dinner the night before, and nothing out of the ordinary that whole week—just a normal, clean diet. I make sure I’m drinking enough, staying hydrated. And I’m flushing out my system and getting enough sleep because sometimes, you know, you’re traveling to an event—you’re out with your friends, or you just take a red eye because you have to go to work, and you’re tired. So you have to try not to get sick, and I think hydration and sleep help a lot. Often, these longer races start early in the morning, so I try to eat early to get the digestive system going. 5 or 6 p.m. the night before, I’ll eat dinner, and I’ll eat a fair amount, but just a normal dinner. For breakfast, it depends on my motivation to get up early. I don’t like getting up early. If you’re looking at something like a cyclocross race where you’re starting full-gas and it’s one hour or a time trial, I’ll try to eat three hours beforehand because then it’s clearing my system and not regurgitating breakfast. Dirty Kanza starts at 6 a.m., though, and I am not getting up at 3 a.m. On the training side, how regimented are you for long-distance events? What is your typical week or training block like? I think one mistake people make is thinking they need to go and do the event distance to complete the event. They sign up for something like Dirty Kanza, which is a really daunting 206 miles, or it’s their first century, so they think they need to go ride a century. Well, in my year leading up to Kanza, I’ll only do one other long, long ride, which the last couple of years has been the Belgian Waffle Ride—about 127 miles, I think. What you need to do when you structure your training is build up to distances, and work on your nutrition, and then let it go for the longer ones. It’s important to pace yourself and build up that endurance. I still train like I’m racing road races because that’s what I’ve done the last 11 years. I do a little higher-intensity, go into some longer sub-threshold training, and then jump into events. I try not to do much structured training now because I did it for so long, and I love training, but I also look into whether I’ll get a Strava QOM. That’s kind of how I do my training. And then, twice a week, I have group rides here in Marin County. They give me a good 90 minutes or so of high-intensity race pace. I do that year-round when I’m home, right out of the Java Hut on Wednesdays. On Saturdays it’s called the Roasters Ride. Role Models & The Future of Cycling What has it been like to build a career in cycling? Is there anything you would do differently, or advice you’d give to someone getting started? I started as a road racer. When you sign with a professional team, you get a box of sponsors that come with that contract. I was lucky enough to work with some incredible teams that are all still around and thriving. Through those teams and sponsors, I met a lot of people in the industry, so once I become a gravel racer, I knew exactly who I wanted to work with. I wanted to represent companies I really believe in, and I’ve been very fortunate that way. I have sponsors and partners who believe in me not only as an athlete, but as a human being. That means a lot to me, and it’s not something I take lightly. I do think I invested a lot in them and they invested a lot in me. As a younger athlete, the main thing is to not be entitled with your handout for sponsors and products, but to go out and get on start lines and race your bike and not be afraid to take chances and lose. Keep racing your bike day in, day out if that’s what you love. And remember that being an athlete isn’t just about winning races—it’s about who you are off the bike. Now, that’s not just about Instagram and whether you take a good photo. It’s about investing in your community and building people up and not being threatened by potential competitors. It’s about trying to make a healthy community, and it’s about being a good teammate. With road racing, you have teammates. So sometimes, you’ll have a bad year and not get the results you wanted, but you’re looking for a contract. And you might have a couple teammates who are like, “You know what? She was always positive. She made me breakfast when I crashed,” or, “She went to that sponsor event no one wanted to go to in Las Vegas.” And that adds value as an athlete too. So I think it’s about not being entitled, and not being afraid to buy things and pay your way to races, and just figuring out a way to make it work so you can make yourself visible and get the results that are ultimately what you’re passionate about. Creating a bigger package adds value as well—not for sponsors or selling bikes, but for our overall cycling community and world. I think that’s really important too. Let’s talk about women’s sports and cycling. Where are you seeing progress? Where would you like to see things shift? I think women’s cycling has definitely been growing throughout the years I’ve been competing. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, of course. The sport needs more visibility, but what comes first: more races, more visibility, or more money? It’s a very difficult circle to get into, but I think we have some incredible leaders and sponsors and industry partners who are pushing equality and opportunity for women in the sport. I love being a part of that and watching it grow. Something I love about gravel racing is that they’re mass-start events, so it feels equal and fun. The men who line up can ride with the world’s fastest women, and the women are incredible at these long-distance events. We are so strong when it comes to longer distances, and that’s just shown in science. So that’s super-fun for me. I also love working with people like Kristi Mohn, who’s with Dirty Kanza—she keeps pushing to get more women into gravel. And Rebecca Rush has done an amazing job as well. So I think there’s just so much opportunity to keep pushing that equality, opportunity, and gravel because it’s so inclusive. And then on the road side, we’re pushing for minimum salaries and things like that. It’s fantastic, but there’s a lot of work to be done. And also just for visibility—whether we can get those road races on TV like the men. It’s an exciting time, but we need to keep pushing forward. What are you seeing in youth cycling? The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) has doing an incredible job. If you’re not familiar with NICA, it’s a high school mountain bike league that’s mainly about getting kids on bikes and making it fun. So yes, there are races, but there are lots of different categories, and it is really amazing how many high school girls are out there racing mountain bikes. Look at Kate Courtney, who just won the UCI World Cup last year—she started with NICA here in Marin, and she has an incredible story and put in a lot of hard work. Kate’s a naturally gifted athlete. You in 10 years: What are you doing? Oh, that’s a hard question. Now I feel like I’m in therapy. 10 years—I’ll still be riding my bike. I love riding my bike; the sense of adventure is great. I am definitely falling in love with the exploration side of things, and the travel into more remote, unexplored places. We were talking about this at the beginning of our hike up Mount Whitney. I mean, I’m going to have the John Muir Trail on my calendar. I’m going to have some long hikes and mountain climbing and riding. I did a bikepacking trip in Kyrgyzstan last year where I could kind of get off the beaten path and see some incredible sites. So the bike to me isn’t always going to be about results and racing. It’s going to be about exploration and adventure, whether that’s just exploration within myself riding down the California coast, or it’s exploration into some desert to figure it out. Doing what you do on two wheels in Kyrgyzstan Do you have role models you look to for inspiration? I love Rebecca Rush. She’s so invested in getting more women out on gravel and mountain bikes, and she has an incredible event in her hometown of Ketchum, Idaho. Rebecca was one of the first people to tell me to do Dirty Kanza and get me into gravel racing. And once again, it takes somebody who’s very confident and secure in who they are to bring competition and get more people out there. And so, if I could make an impact like Rebecca has in the world—even the smallest amount—I would be really excited. She is an incredible human being with a heart of gold, and she’s able to use the bike to inspire people to raise money for important causes that she’s passionate about. And she always brings back investment to our local community. You’ve got your master’s in Clinical Psychology, and you do some work with Amgen. How do you all those pieces fit together off the bike? I’ve been very fortunate to have an incredible job throughout my career, and I have consistently worked pretty much full-time outside of cycling. Those stories don’t always make Instagram, but they’re something I’m really proud of. When it comes down to a race, and you think, Oh, I should have trained more, or, I should have done this, but I had too much work or business travel, or too many conference calls, you get to remind yourself that you have another job, and you’ll be okay. So I’m hoping, as the complete package of who I am in 10 years becomes clear, that I can still have a good career doing things I believe in. Whether that’s for a large corporation working toward incredible causes like fighting cancer and heart health, or just using the bike, I hope to be a vessel for that. And I think, in the next 10 years, that’s going to continue to morph—as a big package instead of two separate lives. But it’s been an incredible experience so far. How do you find balance and fit it all in between work and riding 10,000+ miles a year? I just might not be very social at night. I think it’s about structuring your time and your priorities, and we all make time for things that are important to us. Riding my bike allows me to release some of my pent-up energy. And luckily, it makes me fast and allows me to compete at some of these events. But also, it helps me focus—I get back to work more clear and driven and aware of what I need to do. There’s a lot of time management and being efficient and making time for family, baby showers, and things like that. I don’t ever want to put my training over my family and friends when they need me. How can we make endurance sports inclusive and bring more people in? What ingredients have you seen work? When I was racing professional road for 10 years, I was racing the highest level and doing the events people watch on TV. I really loved it, but I felt like I was on somewhat of a pedestal, because you can’t really connect with your fans or supporters—the people who make it all possible. What I love about gravel racing is that it’s very inclusive. I show up at these races with 2,000 of my new best friends, and we all get to experience the same day together—whether you’re two hours in front of me or two hours behind me just trying to finish. Everyone, at the end of the day, can have a beer, a slice of pizza, or a burger, and they can talk about the war stories and their day. Everyone does the same course, and so they remember that river crossing or that steep climb. And just because one person goes up faster than the other doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard for both parties. I think making the sport inclusive is making it about the adventure and the completion and the successful feeling you have at the end of the day, and not about results. To this end, I think gravel racing should be about challenging yourself in whatever capacity you want, and to celebrate life and riding bikes. So I think that’s why, yes—equipment matters a ton, and preparation matters and all of that. But if you want to walk it, walk it. Or, if you have to stop because you’re cramping, stop. And that’s okay. There isn’t this huge barrier to entry because you’re female, or because you don’t look like everybody else, or because your bike isn’t as fancy. The important thing is to just get out there and ride, and challenge yourself, and be better for it. The post Alison Tetrick: From Brain Injury to Gravel Adventures; Life as a Pro Cyclist appeared first on Prokit.