Monday, June 4, 2018

Women Involved Series: Jena Greaser

I race bikes at the professional level. Started my own team with Canadian boyfriend, Dylan Bailey. We met in 2016 on a group ride north of Toronto, in between two Canada Cups.

After coming together as a couple we both had the same vision to form a team and travel the globe, competing and finding the best single track in the world (of course while living the rest of our lives out together amongst the mountain culture).

Last season's races veered away from a sole focus on Pro Tour/Canada Cup events and comprised of everything from Canada Cups, Pro XCT races, MTB Nationals, 3 Stage Races and a few single day marathon events.

Due to this, we have now found our niche and true bliss amongst the stage racing scene.

To us, the bicycle is about so much more than just finding our selves, but rather helping others to do the same and come together as a community. We believe that getting more people out having fun on their bikes is paramount. Dylan is instructing an "Advanced Cycling and Race Preparation" course through the College of the Rockies, Invermere. We will hopefully be able to continue something of the same sort at Fernie's college location.

In the past and present: I have been involved with volunteer and paid positions with cycling events and mountain bike instruction (worked with Rebecca Rush in 2013-2014 when I lived in Sun Valley Idaho and coached mtb program through the Parks and Rec summer camp). I have instructed spin and lead specific cycling training classes at fitness centers.

In the past was a volunteer with CCAP, worked at 2 different bike shops (Benidorm and Competitive Edge) and was the PMC Kids Ride Coordinator in Needham/Brookline Massachusetts in 2011. I was also on the Newton Bike Steering Committee in 2010-2011.

We live in Fernie, BC and are racing for Rocky Mountain Bicycles out of GearHub Sports. This partnership with GearHub is one that we both have been searching for over the past 3 years of our cycling careers and now we have it. So huge! It will provide us with the outlet to lead group rides and turn our racing into more of a career.

Social media

Instagram: @superacingurl

Strava: Jena Greaser

Twitter: @superacingurl

Can you take us back to your first few mountain bike rides? What did you learn and what made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I use to go mountain biking with my Dad in grade-school, close to their home in northwest CT, as well as in rugged VT trails during summer dry-land ski race training camps (Sugarbush and Stowe specifically). I always was the only girl in the advanced group of boys. Upon recall, I am guessing 5th grade was the first "real" mtb experience that sticks with me and I awoke to the FIRE inside that this was a sport I would partake in for life. I just loved being in the woods, sweaty and covered in dirt/mud. A farm-girl growing up, I was raised to live a life connected to nature, as nature is all of us. I was instantly adapted to riding technical terrain on a rigid bike. It was a black Nishiki with bright blue and pink lettering. It got stolen off the back of a friends car en route to Stowe camp one summer (I think this was during my 5th grade "AH-HA!" year), so her folks bought me a more or less "top of the line": $800 Mongoose front suspension with original rock shox rubber dust seals. I had that bike until I worked at a bike shop in 2008 and got a real mtb...a Specialized Era full suspension...this machine and working at the shop, is what spurred my "racing" of mountain bikes.

What spurred the idea to start racing on a professional level?
Cross-country running and downhill ski racing were my main two sports growing up (among many!)...I know, the irony in that combo, but I also know that being such a versatile athlete my entire life, is what has benefited me to excel across multiple cycling disciplines. College and work were a priority, so I just rode and raced bikes as a hobby in the Category 1 (Expert) fields. I had just got in to mountain bike racing in 2008, but contracted lime disease that fall. Just when I had recovered from that and was all excited to race on the road for my first year in 2009, I blew out my ACL/MCL/Meniscus that February during a skier-cross competition. I was able to get back on the bike that following August, but it was a long way back to recovery. Regardless, I competed in every discipline at the collegiate level; Short Track, XC, Dual Slalom, DH and road in 2010. It was 2011 when I heard about XC Nationals being held in Sun Valley Idaho. I set up a fundraiser to get there, knowing that if I finished in the top 3, I would automatically be able to upgrade to "pro." So, the funds were raised from many a folk who believed that I could accomplish this, and accomplish I did, finishing 2nd in the XC. This adventure convinced me to move to Sun Valley. A year later (I had just signed on to a new job outside of Boston), I did! I spent 2 years there, dabbling in and out of the local race scene, as Sun Valley was pretty remote from everything. They held Nationals again there and Marathon MTB Nationals the next year. I raced the 19-29 Category and won by 13 minutes. My time would have placed me in the top 7 of he pro's, which sunk in pretty good-->hmmm, I should probably take this more seriously! It was hard to justify big travel expenses at the time, but I did make my way to Sea Otter Classic in 2014 and had successful results in STXC, XC and CX. For personal reasons, I had to leave Idaho and come back to New England that summer. I raced and won a few local pro-open events and then at 2014 XC Nationals, after being in the top 10 the entire race, with 2 laps to go, my knee was hurting me so badly that I had to abandon ship. My season came to an abrupt stop, as I soon came to discover that I was in need of knee surgery on the same knee, again! This time it was due to impact on my knee; my lateral ligament had shifted, with a partial meniscus tear and fissures under my knee-cap. Without a job that had solid benefits, I couldn't afford an $8,000 surgery out of pocket. I took finding work that I would enjoy and also receive substantial benefits as a priority. By the fall, I was hired on full time and able to have surgery in December 2014. Motivated more than ever before, I recovered quickly and was racing UCI cyclocross in New England the following fall of 2015. While working full-time, the tremendous success from the season, put me on cloud 11 with the notion that "Hey, I can totally do this!" Throwing all else to the wind, quitting the full-time work life and going back to part-time work at a bike shop. I launched myself right in to my first dedicated professional season, putting all my eggs in to the 1 basket, competing amongst the Pro XCT (cross country mtb tour) events in the states and Canada Cups (Mount Tremblant and races north of Toronto...where I met Dylan).
Riding incredible terrain in Pemberton, BC 2018
For folks nervous about racing their first bike race, do you have tips/suggestions that might help them?
1. Pack your gear the night before (including having bottle and food prepped!)

2. Check your bike over and equipment (all of it!). A loose cleat and water-bottle cage can wreck your race (I have had both happen! luckily was able to finish, but LUCKY is the key word here).

3. Make sure you know where to go EXACTLY for parking, registration etc. prior to the night before. Check and double check this!

4. Eat a meal the night before that you would normally eat before a bigger training ride AND HYDRATE (as most people don't learn hydrate enough the morning of/during races...myself included in that group, up until recently.)

5. It sounds silly, but I can pull up several occasions where I know friends that were too nervous to eat breakfast the morning of...that is the BIGGEST NO NO EVER! Eating 3 hours prior, even if you have to set your alarm for 4am to do that for a 7am race start, it is critical.

6. The goal should not really be to win (although having specific technical, tactical and mental race goals is a good idea to work with on your own or with a coach if you have one). Instead, gain experience of being in a race situation, and most importantly, have fun! Reflection will be key for learning how to be enabled to have more "race" specific goals in the future.

What does it take to be a professional mountain bike racer other than being able to ride your bike really, really fast-
COMMITMENT (to the goals, the sacrifices, and the training regiment). MENTAL FORTITUDE. PERSISTENCE. PATIENCE. TRUSTING yourself, the process and your coach. Getting a coach that you can CONNECT with, in the way you need, KEY. I had a coach for a snippet of a few months in 2010 and then did not have a full-time coach again until the winter of 2017---and our current coach, Dylan's brother with Catalyst Coaching & SportLab. This changed everything for me and is a big reason as to why I am where I am now with my growth as an individual and athlete. Lastly, nowadays, being able to create your own positive, unique image via SOCIAL MEDIA is vital...it basically becomes another part-time job to stay on top of the posting aspect and can be challenging but is at the same time, a fun way to build relationships and connect with not only sponsors and other cyclists, but friends/family and other "world relationships" at large.

Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
CLIPS, since I started in 2008, except for on my pump track bike I had for 2 years (when I lived in Sun Valley, Idaho there was a pump-track literally 1/4 mile from the apartment) and DH in 2009 I had flats because of just coming off my knee surgery (and clips riding DH really weren't a thing yet at all). But currently, even with enduro/dh and fat biking I always use clips. The ability to connect with the bike is KEY and energy efficiency is critical in XC racing. IMO. it is better to learn to clip and unclip as second nature than to ride flats. When air-born, I feel so bizarre without being clipped in. With clips, the connection to the bike and pedal stroke's being more "circular" in output, becomes easy.
Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Oh heck yeah, where to begin with that one?! Specifics would take all day to write out, but in the big picture: in and outpatient eating disorder treatment ages 14-21, knee surgeries, several close to fatal accidents, moving constantly...the list is long, but every single one of my biffs has been a reward. Cliche as it may sound, life really is about the journey, not the destination. These "set-backs" / "hardships" have been moments of OPPORTUNITY (on and off the bike), catapulting critical life-lessons to put into practice and APPLY, indefinitely. There is not a single professional athlete out there (regardless of the level) that won't tell you there were times that they wanted to give up. Like all of them, I know that I need to stick with this path, no matter how hard it gets. Every flower needs rain to grow!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Since the beginning of first riding a mountain bike, I have loved being in technical terrain. As in rocks and roots. Rough, tough and turny is certainly how I like my singletrack. Technical climbs, in singletrack (as in not wide open areas) are great for me and all-out pedaling power on the flats (technical or none). But my weaknesses since the beginning still remain the same (this part answers the next question as well). I have dabbled in to the basics of getting over these challenges, but big goals and motivated focus are at the forefront of this season to tackle all 4 of these weaknesses. I never really took the time to work on drops (aka being air-born in general) and the more narrow, technical (as in varying widths and rise) skinnies, bridge structures and longer, open climbs (where I can see where I am going and no end in sight...even if I can see the end in sight I am not motivated to push myself on these types of climbs). AS for drops, Dylan has helped me with form on smaller drops and I was able to confidently ride 5-6 foot drops last season. I still "overthink" them at first, but with having a bigger play bike this season and appropriate protection, I know that I will be able to subside my fears. A bigger bike can help "get you out of trouble" and protection, obviously, helps with the "I feel safer" factor. As for riding skinnies and bridges, I know that looking ahead and thinking positively about the end is of the utmost importance. Keeping momentum and speed is also a major factor in riding skinnies and narrow bridges/wet bridges with ease. I still have a ways to go with perfecting my skinnies and bridges riding, but those simple key points have helped tremendously in one season. As for the motivation during longer, less technical, open climbs, my coach and I started working on this at the beginning of last spring and have continued that practice throughout the past months. I know that once I hit the dirt again this year, he will be pushing me to continue onward and upward with where we left off at the end of 2017. The main takeaway here is to know that my strength and power is incredible, to nix the daunting voices in my head and think positively about what is to come. With all 4 of these area I will be working on in 2018, they are 75% mental. I look forward to be excited to practice features more (rather than ride "faster" around them/make up time elsewhere on the course), and cresting long climbs this season, with more positivity and ease than ever before!

What do you love about riding your bike?
Many of the reasons I love riding my bike, reciprocate to the answers below on "What inspires you to encourage women to ride?" Coincidence? I think not ;-) Case in point...IT MAKES ME SO FRIGGIN' HAPPY to be outdoors, moving my body and working hard. It provides me with EMPOWERMENT. INSPIRES me. CONNECTS me to nature, community and most importantly, myself. Riding a bike brings about BALANCE in all senses of the word. Riding bikes GIVES ME PURPOSE and provides me with incredible mental, physical, emotional and spiritual STRENGTH!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
This is a really exciting year for me bike wise! Dylan and I are Rocky Mountain Ambassadors. I will have the Element (with a 120mm front fork and dropper post!) for my main endurance/stage race bike and the Altitude for my enduro training / "big-bike." Last year, Dylan was on his 2016 Norco Revolver and I was on my 2017 Kona Hei Hei Race Supreme. In 2016, I was racing for Van Dessel Cycles for cyclocross, so kept the Full Tilt Boogies for my "road bike" training indoors and outdoors. I am still a pro-athlete for Van Dessel, but now within the fat bike scene! Dylan and I entered are both training and racing on the Primo Ballerino's. It has been huge to get technical outdoor training on the snow all winter, instead of just being on the rollers/trainer and only getting outdoor endurance through nordic skiing.

Reasons for Rocky Mountain: Rocky Mountain has an incredible program for athletes and we are so honored to become a part of the team. The pivotal reason for this coming about is us moving to Fernie, British Columbia in May and GearHub Sports (located there) believing in us 100%. The shop is supporting us as true professional athletes. GearHub was the #1 Rocky Mountain dealer in 2017 and we look forward to being a part of helping them continue that title in 2018.

Van Dessel has been of amazing support to me from the start. In 2016 I had no bikes to start the cyclocross season. Owner, Edwin Bull, was stoked to have me reach out and sent 2 frames and parts my way. He is so ambitious, successful and generous. Forming a relationship with him has been one-of-a-kind, just like his one-of-a-kind super sexy looking, not to mention super fast riding, bikes!

You and your boyfriend are your own racing team and plan to race together at a couple events this year. What do you love most about having a partner who is so in-line with what you're doing?
We are living the dream together, pursuing the same vision, accomplishing many of the same goals. In both our ways of thinking (by any means, not saying that this is or needs to be everyone's way of thinking!), it is easier to understand the other person in the relationship, when the main aspirations and activities are shared. Daily, we support and inspire one another through our #bikelife. We can empathize what the other person is going through when they hit a rough patch in training or feel the same overwhelming joy when they have the race of their life! It is just the best thing ever, to be able to travel together to so many awesome places for races and connect with those communities. Sharing this experience is fulfilling on every level of relationship!
Are there challenges to being a team/racing together? Are you both similar in strength or do you play off of each other's strengths?
GREAT question! So yes, as fulfilling and awesome as this is together, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. Certainly, there are challenges, but just like challenges in life and in the relationship in general, it has actually made us closer and helped us grow as individuals. We both have completely different strengths on and off the bike and this has opened both our eyes, hearts, and minds to a whole new level of trust, respect, and generosity. Setting many of the same goals, training A LOT together and going to almost all of the same races last year, was an incredible learning experience, but the biggest hurdle we both faced was actually putting some of our extreme differences in to full-fledged contact with one another racing as a duo co-ed team at Single Track 6 stage race. We laugh, but it is kind of true...every biking couple should go through a stage race as a team, in order to see if they are going to make it together for eternity! Our saying to one another during hard times came about from overcoming the challenges amidst this race. It goes, "We've GOT THIS!"

What are you looking forward to the most for your 2018 season?
We both were super pumped to get into fat biking for the first time! It was a blast and we are looking forward to expanding our race circuit for the sport next winter. As for our main focus, we have finally found our niche amongst the sport; endurance and stage racing. If you would have asked me in 2015 if I would ever see myself doing a 6-day stage race, I would have said, "Uh, no. I can't do that. I am an 'all-out, hour-of-power' kind of rider." False. Yes, I certainly possess that strength as an athlete naturally. However, I am so glad to have met Dylan, who opened my eyes and doors for me to a whole new realm within the sport. We were planning 2017 to be an entire year chasing the full Pro XCT and Canada Cups, as well as the Mount Sainte Anne World Cup and possibly a trip to Europe for 2 more World Cups. The process was stressing both of us out, and we could both tell, something was missing from this plan. HAPPINESS! Where was the fun-factor in it all? If we were going to be putting most of our own money into equipment and travel, we might as well do it for the main reason we love to ride. To have FUN! Our goals immediately transitioned from chasing points to chasing what mountain biking is really all about...finding EPIC trails and having EPIC experiences! This aspect was not being filled within the Olympic course format of racing, so shifting gears was a no-brainer. Last year, we knew we couldn't go full-throttle into a completely new type of racing all season, so we decided to mix-it-up with 3 stage races, progressing from 3-day to 5-day to 6-day at the end of the summer. Amidst those races, we competed in some of the Pro XCT races (myself only), Canada Cups and single day endurance ("marathon distance") mountain bike formatted events. This year, we are pushing into the endurance scene full-throttle with 2-3 stage races, as well as several single day endurance races.

We are really stoked to be working with GearHub Sports in our new (as of May 1st) hometown, Fernie, who was the 2017 #1 Rocky Mountain seller in BC. Our partnership with both GearHub and Rocky Mountain is off to an incredible start. Dylan and I are so happy to become fully immersed in the bountiful cycling community that exists here and we are all thrilled for the connections to organically evolve deeper.  We have enduro bikes (myself on the Rocky Mountain Alloy 70 Sram Altitude) this year and that has us charged up! I am really pumped to practice riding even more technical terrain, with bikes better designed to get after it! I am so excited for the commitment to this new journey with Dylan and our returning and new sponsors.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
1. Fear...of getting hurt/bruises/scars/the uncertainty factor/being judged. Despite it being freeing for those of us who have become "more of less confident" riding in the woods, there is a fear of getting lost, animals, psychos...common', we ALL think those things and always will, but it just becomes less with time.

2. Stigma of being "clean rather than dirty."

3. The investment in expensive and A LOT of equipment/not knowing what equipment is right to buy...overwhelmed with "what to do."

4. Being intimidated by male presence on group rides, although, THIS IS CHANGING ENTIRELY nowadays with women's rides popping up in almost every community, some places multiple opportunities a week. Also, ladies only clinics.

5. Feeling pressure/obligation to have children and or be present for current children/family (societal role effect).

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
More women shop managers and more women instructors are becoming present within the industry by the daily...the tides are turning and the playing field for opportunity/recognition in all sports is starting to become more equalized. Women at all levels in the sport, are stepping up to the plate to do whatever they can in their cycling communities to bring about more women on bikes. Youth programs are critical to keep putting forth energy in to and to keep the momentum going with speaking up to national cycling bodies/race organizers about equal prize money for men and women.
Taking the overall "Enduro Queen" title at Pisgah Stage Race 2018
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
EMPOWERMENT: being a part of women challenging themselves: over-coming fears, tackling obstacles...basically what I as women go through every day! It is awesome to be able to RELATE and I feel that is mutual for every female who participates in sport. It is inspiring to encourage and it is inspiring to be inspired by working with women on bikes. It is so wonderful in this time of life, to see women realizing that their capabilities are far more than we have been told through history lessons and the messed-up messages portrayed through media.

Riding bikes provide outdoor opportunities, fun, and holistic health/strength, aka TRUE fitness---of the mind, body, soul, and spirit. The act of riding bikes, helps women find community, connection and balance (literally and figuratively)! By riding a bike, regardless of gender, it is all about becoming the best person you can be!

Tell us a random fact about yourself-
I prefer even numbers over odd number. My spirit animal is the wolf and Dory ;-p I still love backing up stuff by emailing myself. Ice cream is my weakness. I have never spoken the words "I am bored." I can't pick favorites. I can make my tongue into a "W." I was in a serious chairlift accident at the age of 13, where the detachable quad in front of 3 of us kids detached and slid backward into us. Pretty much, lucky to be riding my bike like I do, never the less functioning day-to-day I say.
Current Sponsors
CanadaRail.ca (financial) ● Catalyst Coaching & Sport Lab ● Gear Hub ● Hyperthreads Gold ● Diabetic Cats in Need (financial) ● Rocky Mountain Bicycles ● Dirt Bicycle Components (wheels) Silver ● Orange Seal ● Kenda Tires ● Crankbrothers Pedals and Tools ● Sidi Cycling Shoes (XC MTB) ● Suomy Cycling Helmets (XC MTB) ● SixSixOne Body Armor, Gloves and Full Face Helmets (XC MTB & Enduro/Downhill) Bronze ● Sirrs LLP (financial) ● Julbo Eyewear ● Planet Foods (Canadian local/organic food product distributor: Stoked Oats, Go Macro, Ultima Replenisher, etc.) ● Honey Stinger ● WPL Oils (Whistler Production Lubricants) ● Rooftop Coffee Roasters ● SockGuy ● The Ritual Natural Skin Care Products Partner ● Evolution Fitness (gym) ● Horst Spikes ● Samurai Cereal ● VestPac ● Bar Mitts ● ESI Grips ● RockTape

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