Women on Bikes Series: Emily Meagher

Meet Emily! I "met" her on the Shebeest Facebook page where she posted about having finished a century ride. I thought that was awesome, so I asked if she'd like to participate with a blog interview.

Emily is truly an inspiration-reading her interview you'll find she used cycling to regain strength and recover (after her accident). Soon hill-climbs, marathons and other long-distance rides became a source of excitement!

When did you first start riding a bike?
I rode bikes all over as a child, and had a hard lesson at age 7 which involved pedaling backwards on a ten speed in attempts to stop and riding out into traffic.

Luckily, that didn’t scare me away from cycling all together and I continued to ride through elementary and high school. I began riding as an adult about a year and a half ago.

I was a pedestrian in a drunk driver hit and run accident, and needed a way to regain strength and recover. Prior to the accident, my sport of choice had been running.

After my accident I thought cycling would be a great way to supplement my cardio, take some stress off my knees and get me back into the emotional and physical state I desired. I once racked up marathons, and now I get excited about hill climbs and century rides.  

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I have been encouraged by many important people in my life (TNT Teammates, my brother and my favorite sports massage therapist) to take up cycling as I would likely enjoy it immensely and it would be a good workout and would ease the pounding my body takes as I am not built like the runners or cyclists you see on TV. Yep, I’m a Clydesdale. Shortly after my accident, I purchased my bicycle and have been in love with cycling ever since.

What was your first century ride like and how did you gear up/train for it?
My first century ride was Reach the Beach which benefits the American Lung Association. After hearing that my big brother had completed centuries in the past, I was inspired by him and his endeavor and encouraged in him telling me that if I have what it takes to run all those marathons, I can certainly train myself for and complete a century. He was right! I trained for my first century by riding a couple of nights a week after work and then completing one or two long rides over the weekend. I made myself a training schedule similar to those I’d used for marathons. I got to 70% of the full distance at least two weeks before my event and it seemed to work quite nicely for me. 

Tell us about the McKenzie Hwy Pass ride and what that’s all about!
Ride for Two Rivers is a great ride on a scenic highway near Bend, OR. Ride for Two Rivers benefits The National Forest Foundation, so while taking in great scenery and challenging yourself, you are also doing something good for the environment. The ride begins in a small park in Sisters, OR, rides to Route 242, which at the time of the ride is closed to cars for winter. Riders can choose their distance and complete almost 80 miles over the course of the day. The scenery changes as you ride west from lava fields and wide open views of Three Sisters Mountains and some snow patches the side of the road to lush green forests and the creeks running alongside the route. I rode 75 miles, gained over 6,200 feet in elevation and completed my hardest ride to date.

Where is your next century ride?
My next century ride, The Crater Lake Century, takes place on 8/15/14. I convinced my big brother that we should ride a century together, this one happens to be epic and the day before his birthday! Bicycling Magazine called the Crater Lake Century “The Best Ride in Oregon.” I can’t wait to find out! Since moving to Oregon, Crater Lake has been on my list of places to visit, and I can’t think of a better way to see it than by bicycle. The ride is rated at extremely difficult over 100 miles and 3,000-3,500+ feet in vertical gain. I am anxious for the challenge and gearing up by riding all of the climbs I can tack on to my regular training rides.

What are your reasons for doing these rides and what have you learned about yourself from them?I ride because it keeps me healthy and helps to ease the stress of a long work week in child welfare. I ride to be a good example for my young nieces that girls really can do anything they set their minds to and to never give up. I also ride because I’ve never felt as happy as when the chills and tears come when crossing the finish line of an event that I’ve spent months training for. I have learned that I can depend on myself and get things done as long as I believe I can. I was once afraid of changing my tire, and now I am quite proficient at it and am confident enough to assist someone if they needed it.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
Paved riding is my favorite. I shy away from gravel and lose ground as much as possible as we don’t have the greatest track record together.

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 have not been on a mountain bike ride. Given my accident prone tendencies, I am hesitant to try. I think it would be something I would really enjoy as I have learned to love climbing and I don’t mind getting dirty.

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 use Look clipless pedals. I tipped over on a big hill my second day of using them. I’ve read articles that recommend trying out your pedals in a parking lot or your driveway. I was given this morsel of information after learning the hard way, but it sounds like a great suggestion. Practicing in a bicycle trainer might not be a bad idea either so you can get the feel for turning your ankles out to release and hop off or prepare for stopping at intersections.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I do not currently commute, but plan to once my new bicycle arrives. Some things that make me anxious about commuting are helmet head, being sweaty at my desk and how do I secure my fantastic bicycle while I am at work, and keep my coworkers’ hands off of it.  Those pale in comparison though to worries about people texting while driving, not obeying traffic rules and debris or other road hazards in the bicycle lanes.

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I live in Oregon, so it is frequently damp or rainy. I have trained in a downpour, but don’t really want to ride to work in one. I won’t let a mist or a few sprinkles keep me from getting to work or getting in my training rides.

Have you had a bike accident? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
At age 7 I rode out into traffic on a ten speed. I did not know that there were hand brakes and so I tried to pedal backwards to stop. In Emily vs. Minivan, Minivan took victory. This earned me a brief visit to Akron Children’s Hospital where I received over 40 stitches to my shin, both inside and out. I now have a killer scar that I rarely think about until someone asks me about it.

Over the past year and a half I have had a few spills while riding; fortunately, they have been some cuts and bruises, and one which resulted in a concussion but nothing beyond that. The concussion was the result of someone doing wheelies during a group ride, losing his balance and running into me pushing me off the road. I was incredibly upset by this lack of respect or courtesy and will not be participating in that particular group’s rides anymore.  I feel pretty fortunate that this has been the extent of my injuries and I will not let one person’s disregard of others dissuade me from riding. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love taking in the scenery of my new home, Oregon. I love seeing the calories I have torched. I love the view from the top of a strenuous climb. I love the descent and the rush I get when reaching top speeds and feeling the wind on my face. I love knowing that I have the grit and strength to ride 100 miles at a time and that surely this carries over into life in general and shows me that I can do just about anything I set my mind to.

Tell us about your bike(s)! Do you have a favorite?
I own a 2012 Trek Madone 4.6 WSD. I was drawn to this bicycle because of its great sea foam color. I read about it online, and happened to snag it at year end close out price. It was still quite a big purchase going from no bicycle to Madone status, but it was incredibly worth it. Recently, I won a LIV road bicycle which I plan to use for commuting and rainy day training rides as it is equipped with disc brakes. I can’t wait for it to arrive.

What are some of your favorite clothing/bike related accessories you love and would recommend to friends?
I love having co2 cartridges handy. They are so much easier for fixing a flat than my pump. Although I do carry one of those in my pocket too. I am a big fan of cycling bibs now, and don't know if I will buy any pairs of just shorts from now on. I like the fit and comfort of bibs and that should the wind blow or my jersey ride up, my back won't be exposed to the elements. I love Woolie Bullie socks for riding in the cold, wet Oregon weather in winter and spring. Come summer time it’s no show socks to stay cool and keep pesky tan lines to a minimum. I am a big fan of head bands for keeping my hair out of my face and enjoy the ones that wick sweat away from your forehead as well.  I also don't go anywhere without my Road ID, I appreciate the online profile that stores my emergency contact info as well as medical and insurance info. I also like knowing that given my accident prone tendencies, if anything should happen to me, my nearest and dearest are only a phone call away and can be contacted by first responders and/or medical staff. They also made a band in sea foam that is in the same shade of sea foam as my bicycle. So I'm being responsible and stylish, I'll call that a win-win. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to do their first century ride?
To anyone who wants to do a century, I would say read up on the course so you know what to expect and what you need to train for, find a realistic training schedule, tune up your bike and hit the road! Having a training partner is nice, but not necessary. Finding a mantra probably won't hurt either. Some sayings I am fond of are: “What better place than here, what better time than now?”  “She can, she will, she does and I can, I will, I am able.” “Be crazy enough to believe in yourself and your abilities and give it a whirl.” “The ride will change you whether in the people you meet, the emotions you experience, the muscles you gain or baggage you lose.”

What would you suggest as items for a person to bring along on their century ride?
When suiting up for a century ride, remember that you don't need anything you can't fit in your pockets! If your rain shell or jacket has a big pocket, use it! And remember you can always roll up your jacket with pocket full of contents and put it in a back jersey pocket. If you have a saddle bag or extra room in your pockets, stock yourself up with patches, a boot, levers, a multi tool, some tubes and co2 cartridges. You will want to take your tried and trusted nutrition such as gels, bites or waffles. It’s also nice to have whatever hydration products you like to use. I carry a tube of tablets in my back pocket and refill a bottle with electrolyte goodness when I stop for water. I have found that chamois butter can be a nice thing to have just in case. Beyond that have whatever you'd want for a work day's worth of riding: sunglasses, spf lip balm, your debit card in case you want to hail a cab or purchase souvenirs at the end of the ride, ID, insurance and emergency contact info and of course your mobile device secured in a plastic baggy to sweat proof it. You may see some great scenery you'll want to take pictures of or call home to tell them about your amazing accomplishment.