Women on Bikes Series: Sarah Cooper

I'm 42, married with four kids. I'm formerly an acute care nurse practitioner specializing in cardiology, but I've been at home with the kids for 8 years. I grew up near Detroit, Michigan.
Sarah's blog: sixcoopers

When did you first start riding a bike?
I learned to ride as a little kid, but my most memorable childhood bike was when I got my first 10 speed at age 10. I used to ride all over the city for hours, all by myself. I didn't need a destination or company, I just liked to ride. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I spent my 20's and 30's working and having kids. I didn't ride much at all except to commute. I have more time and energy now in my 40's, and I like to travel. I've been to cycling and triathlon events all over the country. It's an excuse to go someplace I've never been, or always wanted to see.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)
 Paved or gravel. I'm pretty new to mountain biking, and quite terrible at it. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I remember one of my first rides on the road bike I bought for Hyvee, I averaged 15mph. It felt so fast, and I remember being terrified to go any faster. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it? 
I've always been nervous near traffic, and on busy roads. I never ride with headphones or music, and I try to ride defensively.

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? Yes, I use clipless pedals. Just make sure they aren't set super tight and you won’t have trouble with them.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
 I used to be a commuter, but not since the kids came along many years ago.
Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
 I was hit by a car that ran a red light over 20 years ago. She hit the rear fork of my bike, and missed crushing my leg by inches. I have residual hearing loss, but my other injuries healing quickly. I am very uncomfortable riding in high traffic areas, and with large groups of cyclists, but other than that I've been able to move past it. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love to be outside, I love to travel to new places, and I like to get away from the city. I enjoy riding with friends when I can, and I really enjoy racing. I've met so many interesting people all over the country through cycling and triathlon, and I've seen some really incredible and often funny things. 

What inspired you to start competing?
I happened to be downtown in
2007 for the finish of the HyVee triathlon. I decided I needed to do
that, just once. I ended up signing up for a half ironman before I'd
even finished my first HyVee triathlon. It's just spiraled into all
kinds of adventure.

Have you done many time trials like the one you just completed?
That was my first 24 hour time trial. But true to form, I'd already signed

up for a few other 24 hour or longer gigs before I finished that one.
I'm very glad I enjoyed it.

Could you describe your most exciting competition?
Exciting to me means traveling someplace beautiful, or wild. The AdventureCorps
cycling events and Ironman Canada (Whistler) are probably my all time
favorites. I'd much rather see and experience a new place on a bike or
while running. Seeing it through the windshield of a car is just not
the same.

What is the most important lesson you've learned with competing?
Never mentally give up before you've reached the limits of your physical
ability. Find humor in the times when your day is not going well, and
use it to get beyond the rough moments.