Friday, December 12, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Amanda Batty

Today I’d like to introduce you to Amanda Batty!
She grew up on a farm in Utah and discovered a love of bicycles at an early age. Her recount of how she learned how to ride a bicycle without training wheels is fun. Of course it resulted in a crash-but it didn’t stop her from getting back in the saddle and becoming a great woman rider.

I had read an article recently, and I cannot tell you that it wasn’t inspirational. It was about Amanda’s crash last year, and how even tho she suffered substantial injuries, continued the race and won. When I was asked if I wanted to be put into contact with Amanda, what do you think I said? “Heck yes!!!”

I sat and read through Amanda’s biographies on her website and Facebook, to figure out what kind of questions to ask and find out more about her. I must say, she’s as genuine as they get. 

A breath of fresh air and honesty-one that is willing to admit that she comes with faults, but isn’t interested in compromising her own integrity to blend into the masses.
One thing she stated on her profile is this, and it’s something that I sought for myself for so long and it feels like it’s just starting to happen in my life: “I have a firm belief that there's a place in this world for every single person.

Read Amanda's Women Involved interview!

Keep in touch with Amanda on her WebsiteFacebookPinkbikeInstagram, and Twitter!

When did you first start riding a bike?
As a young kid. They were always sort of a necessity of one sort or another as I grew up on a farm in what used to be a really small town; we were always running from one place to another, but everywhere we were going was anywhere from half of a mile to five miles away, so it was either bikes or horses.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Mostly curiosity and passion -- I wanted to see what riding felt like again as an adult, and once I got back on a bike, I was hooked. I couldn't stay away! It's always been the feeling of freedom that brings me back, and I suspect that's what it will stay for a very long time.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event and why do you enjoy competing?
Oh boy! This one's a tough one... I love local races and World Cup events alike, but for different reasons. My favorite? I can't really nail one down as there are still so many events I haven't been able to make it to. Check back in a year, okay? Ha ha! No, any well-run event where my buddies are at is a great time. 

Why I enjoy competing is both a detailed answer and really simple, so I'll give you the easy one: competition allows me space to be the best version of myself. Racing is about beating a clock, about adapting to conditions and surviving and being my personal best. It's the one place I'm given permission to go as hard as I want, for as long as I want, and where I have free reign. It's about getting to the bottom within a certain line, and everything else is up to me. No speed limits, almost no rules, no one telling me "slow down, you'll kill yourself" for five minutes... That's why I compete.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride?
Yeah, terrified! I was probably five or six with my dad and brother on the deer hunt on this sketchy, muddy trail that had just been beat to all hell, and it was amazing. Fast forward ten years to high school, and I fell in love with it once more in an outdoor science/recreation class. Jump ahead another few years and I found myself riding downhill at Deer Valley in full body armor on a borrowed bike, furious because I kept slamming my knees against the fork. Those first three rides were prolific for me; they required more of me than I thought I had left, and that created something. 

If you have nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Nervousness is usually just fear, and fear is a symptom of the unknown. When I'm most terrified, I just ask myself what I'm really nervous or scared of. What's bothering me? Do I feel unprepared? Am I dealing with a nagging injury? Is there stress in my mind that shouldn't be there? ... And then I go about fixing the situation. If I'm sitting in the starting gate feeling nervous, I don't race well; so I've learned to see fear and address it right there, while I can. It's easier to face it head on than push it down and pretend it doesn't exist. Acknowledging it often kills the nerves and it makes me feel like much less of a head case, ha ha!  

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
How about all of them? Ha ha! I was a mess. But after some trial and error, I figured out that short, two-part commands really helped me focus on what's important, like 'chin up, eyes forward'. It's what I tell all of the ladies I coach, and it's probably been one of the most important athletic commands I've ever spoken. Your body can't understand what to prepare for if it has no idea of what's coming- so chin up, eyes forward. It helps align the body, relax the muscles and you can actually see where you're going, which I hear is pretty important. ;) 

Another one I still struggle with is cornering, and that's another eyes thing: the bike goes where your eyes go. If your chin is up and eyes are looking at the exit of the turn, it helps. 
Lots of little body positioning stuff, but I'm learning that it's mostly about the eyes. 

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I have in the past and I'll be returning to them for the 2015 race schedule, but I'll always keep my flats close by -- there are pros and cons to both pedals. My biggest tip for someone just clipping in is this: be patient. Get your balance, take your time and be patient with yourself. Experiment with shoes and pedals and clips and cranks and even socks. Find what works best for your foot in your shoe in your natural foot position, and be patient with yourself

There has recently been an interview out on your accident last year. Obviously your recovery time for that one was awhile. On a mental/emotional level, what kept you positive during your recovery time?
Ice cream. I won't lie -- I wasn't cheerful all winter, and I wasn't easy to be around. I poured a lot of aggression into starting a non-profit for cleaner air; I dumped a lot of energy at the gym, and the rest I gave to ol' Ben & Jerry. My friends and family helped a lot, but I'm like a wounded animal when I'm hurt -- I retract and hide, which a lot of people don't understand. I was frustrated, and I was angry, and I was horribly ungrateful for what I did have. As soon as I started realizing that my injuries could only dictate my future if I let them, I started to heal. Our minds are powerful, powerful tools, for good or bad. These days I try to be a bit happier and hold onto less of that fire, but it's there -- it always will be. Just knowing that no matter what I'll be okay is enough. And if I'm not okay? Well then, it really won't matter, will it? ;) 

Have you had any other biffs that really tested you on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Well, they all do on some level, but the ones I struggle with are the ones that keep happening, or continuous accidents. Staying positive this last race season was a struggle on so many levels, but it really made me examine what I want and where I'm going, as well as the future for myself and my friends as broken athletes -- it's important to have a backup plan. Even then, it can be tough not to get discouraged. Last weekend I slammed my head pretty hard and I'm trying to recover from a head injury now and brain injuries are frustrating for me, and so scary; it's my mind. I only get one brain. It's tough to deal with the nagging symptoms of any lingering injury, but brain trauma is terrifying.
Feeling 'off' for months at a time sucks, and the emotional instability of PCS (post-concussive syndrome) is awful. But like any injury, we work our way back one step at a time. It's been a wild season, but I'm crazy lucky to be surrounded by some incredible people who know me in and out and who have my back. 

What suggestions do you have for people who have had an accident that keeps them off their bike for awhile?
Be patient. I know, it's the worst thing to hear and it's frustrating and annoying, but it's the truth. Be grateful... For what you have, for what you're doing, for what you still can do. Limitations happen to everyone and we can either waste our time wallowing in what we're missing, or we can focus our efforts elsewhere and make some really cool f*cking sweaters. 

But seriously? Surround yourself with good people. People that will uplift you, people that will encourage you and people who will eat cake with you on the days you want to drive off a cliff. Those days will happen, and sometimes there's nothing you can do to stop them, but having someone who can make you laugh at fart jokes makes it a bit better.  

What do you love about riding your bike?
Everything
The way I can jump on and roll away. The way I can choose to push the limits and scare myself or keep it mellow and take laps with friends. The way it corners. The way a bike stops, and jumps. The way my face slowly curves into a shit-eating grin when I jump off a curb or hit a 40-foot table. The way the leaves rustle during a climb. The way my tires sound on wet dirt, on dry dirt, on dirt in general. The way my heart skips a few beats during a faceoff with wildlife, or when it jumps during a water stop when a squirrel makes a break for the tree line. The lift-chair belly laughs that are only eclipsed by the breathless giggles and shouts at the bottom. The feeling of tying my shoes in the morning. The feeling of peeling my pads and socks off. The way my stomach drops on a new sender or how speechless I am when topping out on a new ridge. The way I want to shout and laugh and cry and hug someone and high five the guy next to me... So many things.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
On any given day, I have a collection of random bike parts in my dining room... Some of them create whole bikes, others are broken bits and pieces that come and go as they please. Right now I've got a couple, and while the frames are all generally chosen for one of two reasons (fun or performance), I like to think it's the small stuff that makes them special, like a custom-tuned race fork on a borrowed frame from a good friend, or a snazzy set of wheels that make me feel faster just looking at them. I'm a big fan of running what feels the best.  

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
Oh, man. These are tough! Clothing-wise: a good bra. Or underwear for the gents reading this. Stay comfortable, stay clean and always make sure you have the right support.  Underwear, grips and pedals are my three biggest 'accessories', followed by bars, brakes and hubs/wheels. It's all personal preference, but it's no hidden secret I love my Lululemon gear, my SDG/odi grips, and my Chris King/ENVE wheels. 

Yes... There's a reason I'm still single. Ha ha!

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