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Georgina Miranda | 08.01.2019

Anne Galyean is a scientist and mountain biker, and she created a lifestyle in which she has been able to pursue professional careers in both the outdoor and STEM world. She continues to push through barriers and challenges, and she believes in growing more female representation and role models in both aspects.

At Outdoor Project, we've made it part of our mission to celebrate and amplify the voices of women in the outdoors, and Anne continues to be a driving force not only for women in the mountain biking community, but STEM as well. In our third year of Women in the Wild, we are proud to share our platform again with courageous and inspiring female figures who are making a difference in the outdoor industry and the world at-large. It’s been an honor to be a guest editor this year for Women in the Wild, and I am grateful and inspired by all of the remarkable women that I got to connect with and interview. They are shaping a new narrative daily, and they show us anything is possible with tenacity, creativity, and purpose.

 

It’s important to remember that being a weekend warrior isn’t a sacrifice. It’s the maximization and realization of a set of well-rounded, ambitious goals in all aspects of life.⁣ ⁣Own it. Enjoy your career, your family/friends, and your hobbies.

—Anne Galyean

 

In this interview, we talk to Anne Galyean about her decisions leading to racing mountain bikes and pursuing a career as a scientist while learning to create a lifestyle that allows to navigate between the two.

 


Photo by Matthew DeLorme/@mdelormephoto.

Georgina Miranda: Tell us about Anne Galyean. How would you describe your connection to the outdoors?  

Anne Galyean: I'm a scientist (bachelor of chemistry, doctorate in aquatic nanochemistry) and mountain biker. I used to race bikes professionally, but now I spend time just being outside without any racing or training pressure. I try to help bridge the gap between full-time working folx and outdoor adventuring through media, mountain bike coaching, and other projects showing both aspects of everyday life.

GM: You have the molecule for epinephrine tattooed on your arm. Have you always been drawn to high-adrenaline sports/activities? How did your journey get you to where you are today?

AG: Yes, I'd say I've always been a little high-strung. My journey in competitive sports started in gymnastics then moved through swimming, water polo, and rock climbing/bouldering before settling on bikes. Going really fast downhill on my bike is by far my favorite part.

My mom said that, when I was little, I'd be the kid crawling around on top of the swing set while the other kids were swinging. She said other parents would be appalled and ask, "How can you let her do that?" She would respond, "How can I not?"

GM: You speak of work/life balance and how it is a myth. Share more with us about this and how you find balance in your life.

AG: I get a lot of questions about work-life "balance." How do you work hard at your job, train, race, engage with your community, sleep, eat, volunteer, side hustle, raise a family, have a social life, and ride for fun?⁣ ⁣The answer? Physics.⁣⁣ Specifically, the pendulum effect.

Perfect balance isn’t real or achievable. It will drive you crazy trying to keep it all going in perfect alignment.⁣⁣ The work-life concept can be described as "integrated." Work-life integration is a pendulum that sometimes swings far to one side or the other.⁣⁣

When your values and your work-life life are harmonized, you learn to accept when the pendulum is oscillating more toward work or the rest of your life. ⁣⁣For example, there are times when you have a big work goal—you're gunning for a promotion or taking on an important project. At that point, your pendulum might swing toward work.

It’s exhausting and probably unsustainable. But is it the right form of work-life integration at a given time to achieve your goal? Absolutely. When your goal is met, the pendulum can swing back the other way.⁣⁣ The pendulum effect tells us that, when displaced sideways from its equilibrium position, a pendulum experiences a restoring gravitational force that will accelerate it back toward the center.⁣⁣

GM: What initiatives/projects/goals are you focused on? 

AG: My biggest project of 2019, the Working Woman's Trans BC Enduro, is wrapping up. I trained about 8 months to race one of the hardest blind multi-day enduro events anywhere. I ended up surviving (miraculously) and even managed to snag fourth overall! I've been retired from full-time racing for a couple years now, so shaking off the rust and completing something so challenging was really special. The project is to highlight real-life working women racing the Trans BC while we balance training and full-time careers. The race is over, but we've collected a lot of media assets that we will compile into a video and photo story.

My other big project for this fall is coaching for the VIDA MTB Rider to Racer program in Colorado. The participants spend a season with mountain bike coaches, riding on group rides, nutrition/fitness professionals, and learning from bike mechanics to prepare them for racing. In August, I get to help coach and support them during their first race! It's a really fun time.

GM: Where do you draw your inspiration/motivation from? Has that changed over your time?

AG: I'm definitely motivated being around driven people, regardless of their pursuits. Any time people get excited about what they're doing, it makes me want to reach higher goals.

GM: What have been some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome related to your outdoor pursuits or your career? What helped you overcome those challenges?

AG: The biggest factor I’ve experienced in both mountain bike racing and in STEM is being underestimated. Whether that’s a male rider cutting me off at the trailhead because he assumes that he’s faster, only to hold me up once I catch him, or a scientific colleague who doesn’t give me a chance to take on a challenging task because he doesn’t think I can handle it, being underestimated is a challenge. Addressing both scenarios requires being bold and taking up space. I will assert that I am a faster rider, and I will speak up to take on the challenging task. Playing small serves no one and just means you will miss an opportunity to go faster, learn something new, or solve a problem.

GM: As you transition out of the mountain biking world and into the sciences, how do you see yourself representing the biking community, specifically the women in the mountain biking community, as a professional in the sciences?

AG: My biggest push right now is helping the mountain biking industry relate better to us weekend warriors. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing epic adventure stories from folx who can afford to spend a week or more in a faraway place showcasing amazing landscapes. Yet that's not representative of my own life anymore. I’m more likely getting away somewhere fairly local on weekends. These days, I like to show how much fun you can have with limited time. Similarly, I think us STEM nerds can get a reputation for not being very outdoorsy. I do get some small satisfaction at the look on people's faces when I explain to them that I like to blast down steep mountain trails on my bike when I'm not in the office!

GM: What do you see as the most important issue or set of issues affecting women in your line of work and the biking community?

AG: One of the biggest issues I see in both STEM and mountain biking is the lack of representation available to serve as role models for young people. This includes both women and people of color. Representation matters. For example, according to the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, women receive only about 4% of all sports media coverage, and yet women comprise 40% of all sports participants.

GM: What can the greater outdoor community and companies like OP do to better amplify and celebrate the voices of ALL women in our community?

AG: Listen. There are many womxn, especially BIPOC womxn, who are already leading diversity and inclusion initiatives in the outdoor industry. Support and engage with them by listening to their experiences, sponsoring their projects, and promoting their work.

GM: How do you keep your pursuits going? How did you get it all to a point where this is a feasible lifestyle for you? How do you support your adventures/passions? Has this changed over time? 

AG: I started riding and racing my senior year of college. Heading into graduate school for STEM, I received a modest stipend on top of my tuition, since STEM Ph.D. students perform research that benefit the institution and therefore get "paid.” I'm not an overly social person, so almost all of my non-essential funds all through grad school got dumped into my bike and race fees. After the first year of racing, I started getting pro-deals on gear, which really helped me build better and better bikes.

By the time I graduated, I had a couple solid industry sponsors to cover most of my equipment and race fees. Race winnings really went a long way to funding my travel. As a postdoc, I made a lot more money than when I was in grad school. I also found a partner who was also in the MTB industry and helped share costs. It was about this time that I joined a factory racing team, which covered so many of my racing/equipment/travel costs and added podium bonuses to any of my race winnings.

All of this made it a potentially viable longer term option, however, podium bonuses and race winnings are contingent on performance, which is never a guarantee. So, with my postdoc completed, I started looking for science jobs and left racing behind to pursue my full-time career. I've been privileged to maintain the wonderful support from several amazing companies, allowing me to continue riding on the best gear and equipment available.

GM: What’s been the most useful advice given to you along your journey? What advice do you wish you were given when you were younger? 

AG: Nobody cares how fast you are! I still have to remind myself of this regularly, but I wish I learned this long ago. It would have saved (and continue to save) me lots of anxiety about “holding people up.” Honestly, nobody cares. Everyone is just out having fun and stoked on bikes. I ride with a lot of people who are faster than me. One thing that really helped me is changing my own language from “sorry, I’m slow” to “thanks for waiting.” It keeps things more positive and reduces the pressure I put on myself to keep up.

GM: Do you have any other tips/advice/encouragement for women looking to embark on a similar career or path or wanting to make a difference in the world?

AG: Be decisive. It seems reckless, making decisions quickly. However, it’s a skill I developed through mountain bike racing! When you’re racing bikes, information is coming at you very quickly. You might have a split second to gather input on obstacles, braking points, and line choices.

Once you make a decision, the next step is equally as important: move on. Mistakes can be made if your brain is focused on something that happened 5 seconds ago instead of the big rock directly in front of your tire. While professional or career decisions aren’t often on the same time scale, the approach is a good one. Gather information as quickly as possible, assess your choices, and make a decision. Once made, move on and keep focused on what’s ahead. There will always be another decision to make later on. No single choice is (usually) catastrophic, and if the decision turns out to be a bad one, you can reassess and make a better decision at the next opportunity.

GM: At Outdoor Project, we put a strong emphasis on the phrase “adventure like you give a damn,” which refers to putting effort into responsible recreation. This can come through volunteering with a local conservation group that stewards an area you care about or helping getting an underserved community into the outdoors; educating others on Leave No Trace practices; packing out extra trash; or even doing things at home that help protect the environment and nature, like reducing use of plastics. How do you “adventure like you give a damn” in your own way?

AG: I used to feel very overwhelmed with trying to “fix” everything. I attended a presentation by Chasing Ice director Jeff Orlowski, who said, “just pick one thing” that you can really commit to. That’s how I’ve approached giving a damn ever since. I started with one thing: less plastic. That looked like bamboo travel utensils, beeswax food wraps, and metal water bottles. Then, once that was habitual, I moved onto other things: picking up trash on trails, being a one-car household, taking public transit and bike commuting, eating less meat, etc. This stuff is really integrated into my everyday life, so it’s not just reserved for adventuring.

GM: What’s been your favorite adventure/singletrack/ride to date and why? What’s on your adventure bucket list and/or coming up for you?

AG: The Trans BC Enduro. It’s still fresh in my mind, but it was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had on a bike. 

The stoke is high, and everyone both supports and encourages each other.⁣ At the end of the week, you've ridden more, pedaled longer, and had more fun than you thought was possible.⁣ Despite the sheer physicality of the event, the body perseveres.⁣

It's truly a privilege to ride and experience such beautiful places. Specifically, we explored the traditional lands of the Niitsítapi, Secwépemc, and Ktunaxa First Nations people. The awe, reverence, and humility that I feel being out in the mountains is indescribable. 

I don’t have any big trips planned at the moment. I’m actually looking forward to some low pressure weekends to just go smash laps at the local bike park with my friends!⁣

⁣⁣GM: What is the message you would like to share with the world, the outdoor community, and other women in general? Or what is a story you hope to tell in your lifetime? 

AG: It’s important to remember that being a weekend warrior isn’t a sacrifice. It’s the maximization and realization of a set of well-rounded, ambitious goals in all aspects of life.⁣ ⁣Own it. Enjoy your career, your family/friends, and your hobbies.

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Brought to you by:

Women in the Wild 2019

Women in the Wild is a movement that recognizes the amazing women who enrich the outdoor community with their passions, inspirations, and accomplishments. Outdoor Project is proud to grow this campaign in 2019 with the help of guest editor and 2018 #womaninthewild Georgina Miranda, adventurer, entrepreneur, mountaineer, and founder and CEO of She Ventures. We're proud to open our platform once again for the incredible stories and photography of women throughout our community. From in-depth interviews with outdoor advocates, influencers, and athletes to female-focused content from the community, Women in the Wild 2019 aims to amplify the voice of women in celebration of female fortitude, strength, and camaraderie in the outdoors.

For a complete list of content published in correlation with Women in the Wild 2019, visit Women in the Wild 2019: Amplifying Women in the Outdoors.

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