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Pave It Forward: As Good As Gold {Giveaway}

Posted Sep 10 2012 4:30am

Good Morning!

How was your weekend? Not long enough? Yes, I know, me too. They never are! This morning I’m starting my new job and I sort of feel like I’m going back to school! I’m excited for the day ahead, but I’ve also got something exciting for YOU!

Earlier this month, I announced that I finished reading As Good As Gold by Kathryn Bertine , an elite triathlete, pro cyclist, and ESPN columnist. I won this book a couple of months ago in PavementRunner ‘s “Pave It Forward” giveaway. The whole idea behind the giveaway was to read the book, then pass it on (or pave it forward) to another lucky person.

In case you’ve only recently started reading Eat Spin Run Repeat and haven’t heard me rave about As Good As Gold before, here’s a quick back-cover summary of what it’s about:

 At the age of thirty, elite triathlete Kathryn Bertine had no job, no home of her own, no direction, a canceled wedding, and just over $200 in her checking account. Just as she was about to renounce her athletic dreams, the phone rang. ESPN The Magazine made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: Bertine would have two years to make the 2008 Summer Olympic Games – by any means necessary – as long as she survived to tell the tale.

The result is As Good As Gold, the wise, witty, and epic story of one woman, nine sports, ten countries, two years, one unbreakable heart, and what it really takes to be the best.

To say that I was motivated and inspired after reading Kathryn’s adventure from cover to cover would be an understatement. It left me itching to know, “What next? I WANT MOOOOORRE!!!!!” So more I sought. Kathryn was gracious enough to take time out of her crazy busy cycling schedule to answer some interview questions, and I’m excited to share them with you today.

Source: Aaron Goodman for ESPN

Q: Throughout the book, you talk about every step in your journey to chasing your Olympic dream. As a professional athlete, who are some of the female Olympians and pro cyclists that you’ve always looked up to?

A: I’ve always gained huge inspiration from Kathrine Switzer and Billie Jean King for what they’ve done for equality in women’s sports. On the cycling side, Marianne Vos, the newly crowned Olympic champ is a truly inspirational leader. She’s so talented yet so humble. I’ve been in races where–although she’s the leader–she will domestique for her teammates. That’s a rare quality.

Q: How did you manage to find the time to write your ESPN articles while training so intensely?

A: Those pieces came out once a month, and I credit ESPN for the clarity in knowing that good writing necessitates time to reflect and craft. It was much easier to form a good quality piece I could work on all month, than try to post some daily blog-like drivel. I fear we’ve lost touch with that in many online forums, especially in the sports journalism world.

Q: You talk in the book about women frantically trying to drop weight in order to be eligible to compete in the sub-135lb weight category in lightweight rowing, and you make it clear that you’re not of sacrificing muscle and strength for this purpose. In your experience, how prevalent would you say eating disorders and body image disorders are in women’s cycling?

Well, when you have bike races with 200+ type A, driven, competitive athletes, yes, you will find some eating disorders here and there. Sadly, those who succumb usually don’t last too long at the competitive level. I’ve seen it a few times: an eating disordered cyclist might have one or two fantastic seasons, but the body can’t sustain the demands of starvation, and injuries set in. However, in all the sports I’ve had personal experience with, cycling is the best in terms of body image. Unlike other sports (skating, gymnastics, etc) which often demand one specific physique in order to achieve elite success,the beauty of cycling is that it caters to so many body types: the little wispy bodies find success in the hills while the women with gloriously generous thighs and booty muscles often dominate the sprints and flatter races. For everyone in between, endurance and power is equally rewarded depending on the type of race. And height is no object, either. It is a really terrific sport for literally every “body”.

Q: This summer at the London 2012 games, there was a lot of media attention dedicated to critiquing various female athletes. For example, the comments about gymnast Gabby Douglas’ hair, and the figures of Jessica Ennis and Leisel Jones all made headlines. With road cycling still being a very male-dominant sport, would you say female cyclists face as much criticism as women in other Olympic sports?

A: Clearly the problem isn’t with the athletes in this case, it’s with the media! We can fix this by demanding that our Olympic commentators be former (and recent) athletes within the sport they are commenting on. I guarantee most of the asinine comments come from uneducated commentators and journalists. As for the female cyclists, we aren’t even at the stage where we get commentary-based criticism. First we need to fight the battle of more media exposure. I’ll know where making progress when I hear a commentator remark disapprovingly on our helmet color or thigh girth. (That’s a joke. Sort of.)

Photo Credit: Aaron Goodman for ESPN. Click for source.

Q: On a lighter note, aside from pizza, what’s your next favourite recovery meal?

A: I’m a sushi fan. Awesome healing powers. Burritos are great, too. Seeing as those are largely not accessible options at the immediate end of a race, especially in European competitions, I’ll go with chocolate milk and bananas.

Q: Towards the end of As Good As Gold, you had a race schedule of 13 events in 3 weeks. That’s a LOT of cycling, not to mention the travel between countries. In your training and racing, how do you prevent burnout and stay injury free?

A: It’s all about the Big Picture. Travel is hard and time zones are not always our friends, but when I’m drifting in and out of REM state on an airport floor in somewhere in the middle of rural Colombia, I try to remember how lucky I am to live this life of athleticism and exploration. It all comes down to perspective. As for burnout and injury free living, I firmly believe in taking two months off in Nov and Dec. I still move my body, but I don’t train. At 37, this helps more than hinders.

Q: Looking all of the setbacks your quest for the Beijing 2008 games – the exhaustion, the rejection, being pushed out of the running for qualifying points – there were several times when it appeared you weren’t going to get to the Olympics at all. I’m sure a lot of people would have given up. You however, are one of the most persistent people I know! What sort of mental strategies do you use to block the negativity out and keep yourself moving forward?

A: Again, the Big Picture. I was given a chance to see if I could get to the Olympics, with all finances covered. To give up would have been a slap in the face to every athlete out there struggling their way to greatness. And there’s a lot of them! I know because I was one. And then I got a huge gift that merged my two passions, sport and writing. Giving up never entered the picture.

Q: From the beginning of the book, you make it very clear that earning a living as an athlete is not as glamorous as most people think. Aside from this, is there anything else you wish the general population knew about what it’s like to be a professional cyclist chasing Olympic dreams?

A: There are a lot of stories to tell in that regard. I could go on and on about the struggles female cyclists face in terms of salaries and equality and politics, so I’ll cover it with one blanket statement: getting to the Olympics isn’t all about talent. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and the current system for qualification in cycling needs an overhaul. I’m okay with the fact I didn’t make the Games, but I’m bothered how hard it is for some nations to break into cycling at the Olympic level. The current system under the UCI and IOC does not make it viable for smaller nations or poorer countries to get their deserving athletes to the Games. I have ideas on how to change that, but as always, the hard part will be finding people who will listen to me yammer on.

Q: In your downtime, (that is, if you have any), how do you relax?

A: Still searching for that answer. Love reading and watching indie films, but when they’re really good, it just gets me all fired up again.

Q: What’s up next on your race calendar?

A: World Championships are in Limburg, Holland. I race Sept 18 and 22nd in the time trial and road race. After that, my husband and I are going to cycle–recreationally!–in Italy to take in the sights. And then I’ll shut ‘er down for the season.

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom to offer other women that dream of rising to the top of their sports?

In the words of Nike (likely the ad department and not the goddess): Just do it. I really believe all we’re supposed to do in life is try. Start the journey and don’t worry if you make it or not. Don’t be afraid of failing, it doesn’t really exist. Trying always trumps failure.

Photo Credit: Shelley Welander. Click for source.

And now, for the giveaway!

Today I’m ‘paving it forward’ and giving you the chance to win As Good As Gold. Since the intention is to see how far around the world we can get the book to go, I’m opening this giveaway up to EVERYBODY. No matter where you live, I will send it your way! In true ‘pave it forward’ fashion, the winner should be willing to keep the book moving after they finish it. Of course, if you absolutely can’t wait and need to have it now (trust me, you’ll love it), you can head over to either Amazon.com or iTunes .

In order to enter, please comment below and answer the following question:

In her first attempt at qualifying for the summer Olympics, Kathryn attempts the modern pentathlon: cross country running, swimming, fencing, horseback riding, and pistol shooting. If you could create and compete in your own pentathlon, which events would be included?

This giveaway is open until this Thursday, September 13th at midnight EST, and the winner will be announced in Friday morning’s post.

Alright, ready? Steady? GO!

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