Let me introduce you to Wendy Simms, a professional cyclist on the Kona Factory Team. Wendy is a six-time Canadian National Cyclocross Champion, and has way too many podium finishes in cyclocross and mountain biking nationally and internationally too count over her long career on the bike! After just missing out on the Beijing Olympics for mountain biking, Wendy went on to win the mixed category in the Transrockies Challenge with her husband, Norm Thibeault, as well as winning the B.C. Bike Race. She is an amazing technical rider, and lives in one of the best places to ride in the world to ride in Nanaimo, B.C. on Vancouver Island. Wendy and Norm have a 3-year old son, Tycho, and a 1.5 year old daughter. While Wendy works full-time as a Biology Lab Technician at Vancouver Island University, Norm is busy running one of my favourite running shoe stores back home, Frontrunners. After recently competing in the World Cyclocross Championships a few weeks ago, Wendy generously took the time to share how traning and competing still fits in her busy schedule. Read on for yet another refreshing perspective and some excellent advice….
1. Can you describe how your athletic/competitive life has evolved before and since becoming a mom of one and now two?
Before kids I trained a lot more, I raced a lot more, I traveled a lot more, I slept a lot more, I ate healthier, I trained with other people, I recovered faster, I stretched and did core exercises regularly, and I was sick a lot less. But if you are reading this, you have probably already experienced this yourself!
After having Tycho (my first) I left the door open to walk away from racing. I didn’t commit to any events at all, just focussed on being a mom and getting back into shape. I did the baby boot camp and went to coffee with the other moms but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I still wanted a physical challenge. I started skiing with Tycho in the Chariot to get some fitness back. Eventually I cracked and called KONA to set up a race season at the last second. Once I committed to a few races I became pretty determined to prove (to myself? to others?) that I could still race at the elite level.
After having Tessa (my second) things became a LOT harder in every aspect of life. I had substantially less time, I barely slept and had no time to think about my own health. The “training” became my sanity break. I had daycare 2 mornings a week (we don’t have family in town) and even though the logistics of getting everyone organized and out the door was mind-boggling, I went for a ride even if the conditions were horrendous. Anything else I could squeeze in during the week was a bonus. This time around I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone, I just wanted to be outside doing something for myself and my own health. I was pleasantly surprised and had some great results.
But after returning to full-time work with both kids in daycare there is even less time, less sleep and the worst part is that we have been sick for the majority of the last 6 months. Colds, belly bugs, pink eye, strep throat, more colds, repeat. Every time you start to feel good and get out training again, everyone gets sick. It has been extremely frustrating so I have had to back off quite a bit. Every little nugget of exercise I get in these days is considered a victory. (As you can see below, Wendy and Norm have also enjoyed training with a Chariot Carrier)
2. Has your motivation and perspective on training and racing changed since becoming a mom? And how?
My motivation has definitely changed since having kids. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to get results. Now, I have no expectations when I race. There are so many factors working against me now that if I had expectations I would just get disappointed or frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, I am still extremely competitive but now I find I have a lot less motivation to actually train. Since I went back to work I see the kids a lot less and I find some days I just don’t want to spend my time training. I want to play with the kids. So I use local events to “race into shape” these days. They are loads of fun, I get a great workout, it’s a good example for the kids and I get to be social. It might not be exactly what a coach would prescribe but its close enough.
2. How do you balance your family, work, and training/racing?
I have a very supportive husband (Norm Thibault) who also loves to race and train so we try to help each other get out the door (the hardest part). We work together to find the gaps in the day and squeeze in the appropriate activity. It’s almost like a flow chart or choose your own adventure:
Question #1 – Am I healthy (go to #2), feeling like I am coming down with something (=easy day) or sick (=rest day)?
Question #2 – Did I get <4 hours sleep (=rest day)? 5-6 hours sleep (easy day)? or more than 6 hours sleep (go to #3)?
Question #3 – Do I work (go to #4) or do I have a baby sitter (go to#5)?
Question #4 – Can I ride to work with the kids in the Chariot (do it!)? or Can I run at lunch (do it!)?
Question #5- Do I have less than an hour (=run)? Less than 2 hours (=speed workout)? 2 hours or more (=hill workout)?
4. Any big challenges and competition goals for 2013?
I just got back from cyclocross world championships so I am just taking a breather and re-assessing what the goals are for 2013. KONA has been a great sponsor and his given me full flexibility. Norm has mapped out a season’s worth of possibilities for us so now we just need to sit down and figure out what works for our family.
5. Any advice you have for other mom’s trying to balance it all, while training and competing?
I would say the biggest things that I have learned are:
a) Listen to your body! If you are sick, exhausted, run-down, overwhelmed etc just have an easy day with no structure or rest completely.
b) You do not have to train as much as you think you do. Just make sure you have some quality, key workouts that your body responds to.
c) Do not feel guilty! I am always a happier, more patient and overall better mom after I come back from a run or a ride.
d) Be creative and flexible! If you aren’t, well you probably won’t get out nearly as much as you could. Those minutes add up!
e) Dont be afraid to cross train if it is more time efficient
f) Have a few workout routes close to home to minimize wasted transit time. I have a run workout that doesn’t get more than 500m from my house and a bike workout that doesn’t get more than 2km from my house
g) Be proud of yourself. It IS extremely hard to have kids & train/race. If you are even attempting it you should be proud and know there are many women in awe of you
h) You CAN do it all, but maybe not all at once. There will be cycles of training that might correlate to life more than the physiological requirements of racing but that is part of the deal when you are juggling it all.
Thank you for these posts. I love the athlete-mom interviews. It helps even a recreational racer like myself feel better about the compromises to training. I look forward to the next one in your series.
Thanks! Super inspiring AND helpful!
Wendy has for some time been my Women’s Cycling Hero so when she mentioned to me during one of our talks that she didnt think she was going to continue racing after she had my niece I was a bit worried. I know how much cycling is a huge part of her life and of course I would miss watching her race and hearing all the great stories over family dinners….she has completely surpassed all expectations…we are so proud of her always but watching her become this great mom, athlete, wife, and career woman has been inspirational and for all those reasons and more is why we love her so much and are happy she is part of our family..Love you Wendy!
Great interview – I loved reading about Wendy and how she juggles kids, training and competing. That’s the challenge, finding time when you’re trying to mind a small baby and give a husband a bit of attention to! Maintaining sanity and my identity was a big motivation to keep it going. When i had my first baby Tori last June I had to train much smarter due to the constraints. Instead of putting in hours of junk miles, i had to make every workout count, were it 40 minutes on the rollers when she was napping or taking advantage of an hour or two in the evening when my hubby came home.. The funny thing is I got my best results ever while on maternity leave for 6 months! Being forced to train smarter is one thing but also you’re forced to take more quality rest. You might be sleep deprived but you can still lie down and you don’t have to deal with the normal stresses of work. Its like being a full time athlete! Well the closest i will ever come anyway! Now two kids is a different story…