Growing up, I never wanted to do anything “like a girl”. Being able to keep up with the boys was what I lived for.
Why was this? I don’t think it’s too controversial to say, historically, men have been the ones to set the bar for excellence…in and outside the world of endurance sports. If you type, “top cyclists” into your search engine right now, how many women will show up in the results? Where are the Grand Tours for women? Why don’t we trust women to coach our top-tier male athletes? …Or even really talk about them? Like, can you imagine a female Phil Liggett commentating the Tour de France? (I can actually… and it’s absolutely fantastic).
As I grew older, I became more and more aware of what was [still] going on and more motivated to enact change…But usually, this motivation was channeled into an “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better” type of mentality.
And then I met Angela Naeth. She spoke about creating a community where women can support each other, share ideas, trust each other, rely on each other, motivate each other when we’re down, and celebrate our victories both on and off the race course. Instead of distancing herself from the “disgrace” of racing like a girl, she embraced it. Once I adapted this mentality and stopped just trying to outpace the boys I began to really notice the women around me doing extraordinary things.
Our IRACELIKEAGIRL team is filled with women and supporters from every background and every level experience in endurance training. Our teammates range from high school girls to grandmothers. We compete in everything from 5Ks to Ironman races. We finish in first place and last place and, regardless of the race-day outcome, we celebrate our successes and challenge ourselves to be better. We’re mothers, daughters, women with many children and no children, women that work traditional, corporate workweeks and women that work at home, women with partners in our sport and women with partners that hate our sport.
As individuals, we’re different so many ways but what unifies us is our support for one another and our shared experiences that are often uniquely female: We balance a zillion things at once; we’re often too hard on ourselves; we face societal pressures that sometimes make us feel guilty for setting aside time to train, etc.
So we also help each other out with that in a way that we do best: We say that it’s okay to be “selfish” and take time for ourselves. We coach one another, advise on bike mechanics and discuss the products that best fit our different body types. We talk through food cravings and fueling plans. We empathize the many joys of hormonal transitions that women get to go through in their lives.
And on days where we feel like we’re juggling a million glass balls at once and would rather just chuck one of them against the wall … we remind each other that it’s also okay to take a day off every once in a while.
We finally have our own community and set our own bar for excellence. This team has allowed me to stop trying to blend in with the boys and be proud to say “I race like a girl”.