Development race series at the Chicago Velocampus' Velodrome
Moms in the Peloton
There’s lots of talk about subgroups of mothers who tote their youngin’s around for sports; Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms, and those who have a TV show devoted to them, Dance Moms. But what about the mothers who pour their heart and soul into their children and their own sporting life? Can THEY get some airtime?
Cycling is not recreational softball. You don’t go out once a week, play for an hour then head to a pub. If you want to enjoy the weekend’s races, it means hours on the bike during the week. For mothers who race, it’s about balance. Time on the bike means time away from the kids while time with the kids, means time off the bike. As a woman who wants children someday, the mothers who can achieve cycling/parenting balance are my heroes!
When I envisioned this post, I was going to summarize a few short interviews I did with ace Illinois racers who are also ace moms: Pascale Petro, Nikki Nation, Kristen Meshberg, Gina Kenny, Kimberly Gialdini and Nancy Heymann. However, their responses were so eloquent, my paraphrasing wouldn’t do them justice. I wish I could post every word, but I received 5 single spaced, 8-point font pages worth of impassioned material. I’m sharing the best to serve as inspiration for myself and others.
Did you start racing before or after becoming a mother? What was the impetus for your start?
Pascale Petro: I started afterwards…It was just a way to apply the same principles that I wanted my kids to live by: “Don’t settle too easily” and “Use every resource you were blessed with”.
Kristen Meshberg: I Started racing before kids and never thought I would do it after. After having kids I gained 90 pounds and became a stay at home mom. I had a big chip on my shoulder to get back in shape and I really needed the outlet!
Nikki Nation: I have a 10 year old daughter, Hayley and a 4 year old son, Aiden who has Autism. I was a runner and kept getting stress fractures so my doctor talked to me about getting on a road bike. I bought one but my competitive nature took over and I wanted to race it. I did my first race at the Burnham Super Spring Crit in 2011 and I was hooked.
Kim Gialdini: After I had my son Shane, I had gained 50 pounds. I started going to “spin classes” to get back in shape. One day in class a person turned to me and said, “You have really good form and technique, have you ever thought about bike racing? “. That night and the entire week, I could hardly sleep. The thought was in the back of my mind that I had to check it out…Now I feel that I am a role model for my child. I believe in living a healthy life style and having fun in all aspects of this sport.
What about advice for new parents or parents to be?
Gina Kenny: I would say to try not to feel guilty either way – You shouldn’t feel guilty if you decide you would like to take a hiatus from racing and focus on being a mom. You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting some “me-time” by going out and doing a race.
PP: Set realistic goals where you have a true chance at success. Tell your kids what you are going to do and you will find them to be your best supporters!
KM: When mom's happy everybody's happy. It's important to take care of yourself too, not just everyone else.
KG: My friends are my other key component after my family unit. The year I raced on Flatlandia, Kristen Meshberg and I decided to do Superweek and bring our kids. Since I was racing W3/4 and she was racing W1/2, We would watch each other’s kids. We didn't have any real expectations going into Superweek. Long story short, Kristen ended up placing 2nd the 1st day. I ended up winning the W3/4 overall. It was really amazing! Till this day I will always remember this experience because it taught me about support, communication and determination.
Nancy Heymann: My advice to any mom is don’t be too hard on yourself by trying to make the house and the kids perfect. Sometimes the laundry or dishes can wait so you can train or race and sometimes the training or racing has to be put aside so that you can be mom. Another piece of advice is to find a training partner who also has kids. You can trade off babysitting while you train or race.
Do you struggle with fears of injury?
KM: It's tough. I used to think it wouldn't happen to me, and then I had a serious accident on the velodrome. I really had to evaluate whether or not it was worth it to continue pursuing something that could potentially kill me or render me a vegetable. I came to the conclusion that this was something that I loved doing, and I needed to do it. I could get killed or become a vegetable driving in my car or walking down the street.
NN: I struggle with this because I do need to be around and healthy for my children. I still want to race though and try to make sure that I know how to handle my bike and practice different bike skills during my training weeks.
PP: The choice is really to do everything you can to make riding or racing safe: you can practice cornering, ride your rollers, know the course you are riding and the conditions on any specific day. There is a lot you can do to not leave everything to chance!
GK: After breaking the bone in my hand last fall, though, I have become a lot more aware of what I need to do/focus on before a race.
NH: I broke my collarbone when my youngest was not quite two. It was really hard, but you could get injured doing chores around the house. You can't let the fear stop you from doing something you love.
What are your favorite stories about Momming and racing?
KG: It was Snake Alley. My son was standing about middle of the climb and there was one girl in front of me. As I went by him, he yelled "Go Mommy, Go Mommy, Go get her Mommy!". It didn't matter what place I came in that day, it was so rewarding to hear my son's voice.
NN: My daughter always asks if I'm racing the coming weekend and how I did after. It shows that she cares and she is interested! Aiden always gives me a hug when I get home as he is non-verbal. He is thankful to have his mommy back!
GK: It is awesome to hear your little guy cheering for you during a race but I then also start worrying that he will run out onto the race course!
NH: The funniest thing either of my kids has said was about my CX racing. My younger son came out to watch me at Northbrook one year. After I finished I asked him what he thought. He said, "That was really bada** mom!" That's really high praise from your teen-aged son!
I’m really glad I took the time to reach out to these women. It was actually my way of picking their brain for all kinds of great advice like:
-Serving as an inspiration for my (future) children should trump my fears of a bad crash.
-However being prepared can’t hurt and can certainly help calm fears.
-That taking time for yourself is a MUST as a mom.
- And most of all that Nancy Heymann, like all these ladies, IS a Bada$$!
**Addendum! Some of these moms also have time to blog about their racing. Check out Kristen's Pedalling with a Purpose Blog, Gina's Vegan Biker Blog, and Kimberly's Blog, Kimberly-Kimpossible for more about their racing!
Quad Cities Criterium - a portion of the 4 day Memorial Day Weekend race series in Eastern Iowa/Western, IL
The South Chicago Wheelmen
The South Chicago Wheelmen
Thursday night race series that runs throughout the summer at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook