Women Involved Series: Liz Sampey

I’m Liz Sampey, I’m 32 years old, and I live in the beautiful mountains of Crested Butte, Colorado. I am a professional endurance mountain bike racer, competing in ultraendurance and stage races around the US and the world. I am also a USAC and PMBIA certified cycling performance and mountain bike skills coach. I own a coaching business called Vital Motion, where I combine my expertise as a physical therapist (I have a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree) and my experience as an athlete to help other athletes, both recreational and competitive, reach their athletic goals as well as rehabilitate from any injuries they might be dealing with. I coach private athletes, small groups, and for awesome camps and clinics like VIDA! When I am at home in the Gunnison Valley, I also practice as a physical therapist with Heights Performance. My life is full, and I love every second!

Athlete website/blog: www.speedy-lizard.com
Coaching website: www.vitalmotioncoaching.com
Instagram/Twitter: @speedylizard 

What inspired you to become a mountain bike coach?
Mountain biking has absolutely changed my life and even possibly saved my life. It pulled me through the darkest time in my life during my divorce. I know firsthand how powerful the bike can be in giving people inspiration, tempting them to try things they never thought possible, making them get up each time they fall, rising to big and small challenges, celebrating big and small victories, and teaching people patience, persistence, discipline, creativity, and resilience. It is an amazing sport, and its lessons translate directly to the rest of life. I have also made so many amazing friends through mountain biking, throughout the world.

I was just in Guatemala for a stage race, and it was amazing to see how mountain biking brought people from all over the world together for that race and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I love every single person I met at that race. This is the way it is with everyone I meet through racing and riding. This sport is just full of incredible people. When I coach, I take all of that, my love for life as experienced from the seat of a bicycle, and pass it on. Coaching helps me open doors for people to live extraordinary lives. For me, there is absolutely nothing in life better than that.

What inspired you to become involved with VIDA MTB?
I have known Sarah Rawley for quite some time, and her passion for riding and for sharing her love of riding with other women was inspiring to me. Sarah and I have always been very supportive of each other as athletes, in our individual passion projects- me as a coach and her as an event mastermind, and as two women who have big dreams. We have very similar goals and beliefs, and I love the philosophy on which VIDA was built. For me, it was a natural fit.

Why do you feel new (or seasoned) riders should look into mountain bike clinics like VIDA MTB?
This is the wonderful thing about mountain biking. ANYONE, at ANY level, can improve in their skills, confidence, and enjoyment of riding! VIDA caters to all women, from never-ever beginner to professional racer. I know that I learn many things every time I coach, and every time I take a clinic myself. There is always a new or different way of looking at things that resonates with me either in my own riding or in my coaching style. If I could give one piece of advice to anyone, it would be to NEVER stop learning, and never stop being passionately curious.

What has been one of your most inspiring moments since being involved with VIDA MTB?
When I was coaching at the Crested Butte clinic last year, there was definitely a special energy in the air. My group was amazing in how each woman supported, encouraged, and inspired one another to rise to challenges and overcome fears. Watching them progress in not only their skills, but their confidence in themselves and their “team,” was incredible. Lindsey and I were simply facilitators of the magic that happened with our athletes that weekend. I remember thinking to myself that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

With coaching, what is one of the most common situations you've had to deal with when it comes to new mtb riders?
The mental game seems to be the most challenging aspect of riding for any new rider- whether it’s a brand new rider or someone just getting into racing, or someone who has been at it for years but hasn’t specifically worked on this skill. Negative thoughts, self-doubt, and sending ourselves into the black hole of “I suck” or “I’m not good enough” is the most common challenge I see riders deal with. We ALL go through it. I don’t know one athlete, beginner or professional, myself included, that has not dealt with this at some point. Our minds can be our best friend, or our worst enemy, and it will honestly make the biggest difference in the world if a rider can master the mental game.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I think the fear of getting injured and not being able to tend to their life’s responsibilities, whether that’s a career, a family, or just not being able to do the things they love, holds a lot of women back from getting involved. I think skills clinics like VIDA play a HUGE role in calming those fears. Most women, myself included, don’t like to just wildly hurl themselves over things or off things hoping for the best- we have way too much on the line to risk injury like that. At clinics like VIDA, or with coaching, we can actually LEARN the skills we need to ride correctly so that our risk of getting injured is much less. Education is empowerment. When we feel in control of what we are doing, we are much more likely to put ourselves out there and accept the challenge of trying something new.
Also, I really see the fear for a lot of women that they will not be able to balance their new sport with their family life, career, other interests, etc. I hear many women say “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy with xyz” or “I can’t take that kind of time for myself, I have my family/job/house to take care of.” We women are such natural caretakers that we tend to always put others first, and neglect ourselves. But, I would argue that if WE feel joy, strength, fulfillment, passion in our own lives- which cycling and mountain biking can certainly provide- that we are better able to care for our loved ones and our life’s responsibilities. And there is no better way to lead our loved ones than by example.

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
As I said, I think the rise of women’s skills camps and clinics is a HUGE factor in encouraging women to ride, for reasons I explained above. I also think that having more women’s mentorship in beginner mountain bike races would be really helpful. I used to be involved in a women’s mentoring program with road racing, both as a beginning racer being mentored, and later as an elite racer doing the mentoring. We would race the criteriums alongside the new racers, giving them coaching on tactics and strategy, and encouragement along the way. I would love to be able to do this with mountain biking: ride in a beginner’s field and give coaching and support to the women who are getting out there and trying it for the first few times, showing them that it doesn’t have to be intimidating and scary but that challenging themselves in this way can actually be really empowering and fun!

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I think I said pretty much everything I have to say… riding has been such a powerful, positive force in my life. It has shaped the person I am today. I am continuing to learn and grow as a person and as an athlete every day through my time spent on my bike. Opening doors for more women to enter this amazing sport is the most fulfilling path I could possibly think of.  

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
Worms make me really happy. I love when it rains and they all come out and wriggle around. They are cute. :)