Monday, February 20, 2017
Women Involved Series: Thursday Gervals-Dubina
In this interview we learn more about Thursday's life as an ultra-endurance athlete (who is raising funds for the National Kidney Foundation as she trains for her biggest endurance event yet, the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme.) Thursday hopes to be the first woman to complete this epic bike journey!
Thursday is passionate about the world of ultra-endurance cycling and hopes to inspire other women to find out for themselves that they are also capable of endurance and ultra-endurance cycling, too.
Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife
Like many folks, I had a bike as a kid. I rode it everywhere- to school, to visit friends, my high school job, and swimming practice. Literally everywhere and even in the rain or snow! We lived in the country, so I had some distance to ride if I wanted to go anywhere. Most kids would get a car, I got a bike. My sister-in-law owned a bike store so I had my pick of pretty much any bike I liked. She was also a triathlete from way back when, when doing Ironmans as a female was different than it is today.
What inspired you to take on triathlons and ultra-endurance style events?
Watching my sister-in-law was my first introduction to triathlons. I was amazed by her abilities to go out there and compete in an extreme sport most women wouldn't consider doing.
It was also in the mid 80's and there were some great cyclists out there racing on the track and on the road. Mario Cipollini was my first big cycling influence and I started watching and reading as much as I could about the Tour de France and trying to learn more about the history of racing. The TDF was really put in the spotlight back then. Few women had been at the TDF and I had wild dreams that one day, I could do it. Again, back then, there weren't any women's races, no TDF for women, and female racing [in general] was hard to find. I still rode, just not in race settings. I found myself getting lost in my own world on my bike, for hours at a time, and I think this was really the first seeds of my growth.
What would you say is your favorite event that you've done to date?
They are all special for different reasons. Each ride is a different adventure with different people, and that make the experiences unique. I've met so many inspiring people at every event! If I really have to pick just one, I would say it was the 24 hour World Time Trials in Borrego Springs. It featured the best ultra racers from around the world and the support we all have for each other. It's a unique bond we all have because we know how much work goes into it.
For ultra-endurance events, what do you do to train yourself physically and mentally?
There is so much that goes into my training. Gradual builds in distance, strength, whole nutrition, and fueling. Add to the mix that some rides are 24 hours or longer, you've got to be prepared! The mental game will break you down before your body gives out.
For those who are interested in doing their first ultra-endurance event, what suggestions would you give them?
Get a good bike fitting- Comfort is the key to going longer distances. You may need to get fitted more than once- don't be afraid to tell your shop that you need a readjustment. The bike you are currently riding may feel great for shorter distances, but as you put in more miles, you'll notice new aches in your body that weren't there before. Pay attention to any numbness or limbs/digits falling asleep and let your shop help you!
Be seen- Wear hi-viz/reflective clothes and use lights in the day time, always!
Go with a group- Others supporting you will help you gain confidence and during those long hours in the saddle, you'll enjoy the company. Designate each person to be in charge of something specific, have one as your designated route planner, one person as your repair person, another in charge of nutrition, maybe one for medical. This way, you don't need to bring everything yourself. If you share the duties, you'll make it less stressful.
Break your rides up- If you can't go the planned distance in one shot and you need to stop, then stop! Look around you, enjoy the scenery, take pictures, stretch out, plan water breaks and bathroom breaks. First, work on dialing in your bike fit and becoming comfortable riding longer distances on your bike. You can put focus on form and speed later! I like to ride with people who are better racers than I am because it pushes me to do be better.
Most importantly, remember to HAVE FUN! Make each ride a positive experience and don't let any minor issues prevent you form continuing on. Trust me, everything that can happen on long rides, WILL happen sooner or later! Good planning and preparation will keep your wheels spinning.
4 years ago you had a battle with cancer- how did that affect your #bikelife and how has it influenced it?
I was out for quite some time with tumors on my ovaries and had a full hysterectomy that didn't go so well. After 3 months in the hospital and almost a year on my couch recovering, I couldn't take it anymore. This was not me and I wasn't going to let it control me; I definitely wasn't going to let being sick define who I was. I refused to let "it" keep me from achieving my personal goals. I took the whole experience as a dare, like being sick was just daring me to fight hard, and that's what I did. I fought back by riding my bike and getting healthy again.
I threw away my medications and said "Nope, this isn't my way. " The best medicine and therapy was getting back on my bike, being around my friends who supported me, and eating a proper all-natural diet. I set minor goals to reach like doing a local sprint triathlon. Then from there, as I was getting stronger, I started entering longer distances again, a 70.3, then a full Ironman. I did every race I could featuring triathlons and cycling.
At first it was just a way to get healthy again, but my competitive edge came back and it felt great! It wasn't about beating anyone but myself. To me, these races are more of a celebration of my life. That I'm here- alive and able.
I've met so many amazing people at races with virtually the same story as mine; they are inspiring to be around. The energy is so positive, and that energy helps your whole body and mind.
The better I felt resulted in my goals becoming bigger and longer. When I completed my first 24 hour ride, I knew at that exact moment, what was next on my list to do.
You are training for the Trans-Siberian Extreme- tell us why you are excited to participate in this event and what you hope to accomplish-
First let me say, I'm very honored to have been accepted. Only 15 riders are allowed to race, and I feel very fortunate to be one of them. These are the best ultra racers in the world that I have an opportunity to ride with, and I still can't believe I'm doing it!
There's a huge range of emotions I'm going through with my participation. Excitement happens about every 45 seconds throughout my day!
It's the most extreme race on the planet and to cross the finish line will be the ultimate test to my body and mind. I love to challenge myself, which is why I wanted to be a part of it to begin with. Last year only 3 men finished, this year, I plan on being the first female solo to ever complete this race.
With being the first female, I've put a lot if pressure on myself to cross that finish line for all women in the sport. This race is dedicated to every female on a bike that had to fight. I'm extremely serious about my training and my planning for this race. It's all very well thought out and I hope on race day, to do my best. This is a race of unexpected factors and anything can happen; how I deal with those unexpected things and trusting my training will help me get across the finish line.
More than anything though, I will take all these kind words of encouragement I'm getting from friends, family, and strangers and put them in my memory banks. When it gets tough out there I'm going to reflect on all the hope everyone has given me!
The personal goal for me is to finish, but the bonus goal is hoping I can inspire a few more women to join the sport of ultra cycling.
Women out there can do it, we are designed for endurance. We belong in this sport and we are just as good at it as men. These long races are a true challenge to the body and mind, a true test of overcoming, perseverance and tenacity- traits that make us strong women.
The National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families, and tens of millions of Americans at risk.
You can help by getting on the organ donor list and the living donor list.you can also help by going to my gofundme page and donating whatever you can at- https://www.gofundme.com/thursdaygervais1
Why is it important to you to support and give back to an organization thru your riding?
I've been on a few different charity boards for the past 15 years. I've personally seen what a difference fundraising can make to help the lives of others.
On a more personal side, I also know how many people helped me when I needed it. These people are forever in my heart. I know I wouldn't be here today without their help. They took care of me for months,and I cant forget that, ever.
This is my way of giving back. I was given a chance at life, and to participate in this race, and I want to take that chance and do whatever I can to help others in the process. It's a great opportunity and its a win-win-win for all of us♡
Have you had any biffs that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
Hahaha!! Yes! So many!!! I've had over 23 broken bones from my younger years of being an equestrian and working with stallions. Those have had some lingering effects now that I'm older! I break more easily now because of osteopenia, but I've been fortunate in not having any serious bike crashes.
I think most of the physical challenges were at my own fault of over training and not letting my body rest and heal. I'm the type of person who says to myself "the pain isn't that bad, get over it, you've got goals to reach, you've fought bigger battles."
It's hard to accept that some days, I need to unexpectedly rest my body or risk further injury.
I try to keep my emotions out of racing. They don't belong there, but they do creep in on those long rides and I have to talk myself out of the negative doubts. The hardest one for me was 24hr Worlds. It was much colder than I was prepared for. My hands and toes were freezing, cramping, and stiff. It was painful! I had stop, jump inside the car, and thaw out for longer than I wanted.
It was the first time I've ever had to stop and get off my bike during an event. I knew I had lost my target mileage goal and I struggled with wanting to quit, which was another first for me. I had to keep telling myself, "I'm not a quitter, I've never been a quitter. Thaw out, get over it, and enjoy the rest of the ride! It's not the end of the world."
My emotional side comes out on the back side of the finish line when the race is over. I usually shed a few tears of joy, but I think it's just a release of emotions that were held in during a race.
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
I think the hardest part has been cornering on a TT bike. They aren't meant to turn like a crit bike and a lot of tri courses have plenty of turns. It’s also hard to sprint through a corner on a TT bike as the front aero bars are completely different than drop bars, and you can't get good standing positions either.
I've learned to check how many turns are in the tri or bike courses now to calculate my estimated finish times, as I know I lose speed on the corners. Overall, my TT bike is still my favorite because it just slices through the wind, and there's nothing more relaxing than sound of a disc wheel!
What do you love about riding your bike?
There's no quick answer to that question! Being outside is always a new adventure. I've driven to places, but when I bike the same route, I notice more things in the scenery that I didn't see from the car. It keeps my mind active on the ride and it's like discovering a whole new place from a different point of view.
I love the peace of mind I get while riding my bike, too. I completely forget other things that are on my mind when I'm cycling. I'm focused on my ride and that's it. There's a truth in that cycling is therapeutic.
I've met so many different people on either my group or solo rides; I love coming across other cyclists on the road! We might stop for a quick chat, maybe join each other for the rest of the ride, or it's simply lending support to a fellow cyclist.
The health benefits of riding are also high on the list. I know I'm physically healthy and mentally healthy because of cycling.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially ultra-endurance riding?
This us the golden question! We could write another whole article on this!
I think it is lack of confidence to begin with. Sure, there are plenty of confident women riding, but what I come across a lot, is a lack of confidence at the ultra distances. There's always the lingering "what if something happens" feeling, "I'm out there alone, I'd get lost, what if I forget something, what if I get hurt, or what if my bike breaks?" There are also questions about the physical abilities that arise. Women tend to think that they can't physically go the distance, but they can! I believe women's bodies are designed for endurance.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
There is a lot to choose from from that I own and ride. I've got a pretty serious collection of classics that I've acquired over the years and love each one for different reason. I love my old triple 3x7 chain rings, and the styling of some of my older Campy components. I've still got a beautiful set of Shimano 600 Arabesque and another Sachs Huret groupset and wheels. I love the old lug work on bikes too. Timeless...
I'll start with my first "big girl" bike. It's an '83 Cannondale that I had to have because I wanted to be like Mario and it was one of the first aluminum bikes on the market. I raced around like a demon on that thing and have tons of great memories from growing up with that bike. I recently gave it a new paint job and upgraded all of its components.
My next bike was a Lemond track bike. I rode that in circles for hours at a time with a 54 chainring way back in the day as a kid. I also still ride my Gary Fischer Katai. It's a classic, literally, and its one of the very first mountain bikes he built.
There were a lot of others in between before settling on my current favorites, my Trek bikes. Over the last 15 years, I've had many Treks.
My new all time favorite award goes to my Trek Speed Concept. It fits perfectly and I'm extremely comfortable in the aero postion pushing big those gears. This is my 24 hour TT bike and we have a special bond. I also love the Trek Silque. It has a great women's specific design with dimensions suited for a women's body. It takes me on long training miles, group rides, and road races. It's extremely adjustable, light, responsive, and comfortable.
Nextt on my list of bikes that I "need".. are the Trek Madone for races I can't "legally" ride my speed concept, and a Trek Domane SLR Disc- it's the do it all bike in my opinion.
I could go on and on about each specific bike I own and why I love them, but we'd be here for days!
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
Simple. Employ more women in the industry! When you enter a bike shop, what do you see? You see more men's bikes compared to women's, a mostly male staff (hardly ever do you see a female mechanic), and more bike gear and shoes for men that far outweigh the choices for women.
Lack of women in the industry, I think, is one of the major contributing factors for women's lower confidence. Newer riders don't want to discuss to a man about their saddle discomfort, or their shorts and padding. We want the support of women we know who are also riders in the shops to give us advice on our bike choices, shoe fit, and clothing. We want more women specific shop rides that cater to all levels, too!
Interestingly, women make up 80% of consumer spending!
You can't just make something pink and call it a women's specific product.
Women's bodies are different and there need to be more choices in women's specific bikes; how many women's road bikes have you seen compared to men's with disc brakes?
How many women do you see in the pits at races wrenching compared to men? How many races still have prize purses that are less than for women than the men's purse for the same race??
It's not yet an equal ratio but, on a positive note, I think the bike industry has finally started noticing women who cycle and are in the industry.
For instance, Trek has a whole women's division that is rapidly growing . They offer a Women's Specific Certified Mechanic Course and scholarship. I was very proud to have been a recipient of one of their scholarships. They also employ many women who work at their Waterloo facility, doing everything from assembly to design. Their focus on educating women and making it a fair playing field is a gigantic movement that is empowering women. It gives them confidence in the industry, racing, and leisure cycling; I think others will follow with their business models.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
When I see women successfully reach their goals or things they didn't expect to be able to achieve, it makes the joy of being on a bike even more special.
When I see a group of women out bonding, being adventurous, kicking some butt, and taking time out for their health and enjoying the sport, it proves to me that we can do anything we want and do it well!
There are more and more strong females who are becoming involved with cycling than ever before, and it's inspiring to see these women share their stories and become role models.
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I'm an artist, I've been painting for over 20 years professionally and I have had my work displayed in many galleries and museums world wide.