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Storytellers | Betsy

Posted by Lexi Miller on

January is over and done with, as are many of those resolutions which we made at the dawn of 2019.  Recently, we caught up with Betsy.  A few years ago, she made a huge resolution to change her life, and she stayed with it. 

Read her story about how she changed, and in fact saved her life.  Oh, and in the meantime, she learned that she loved to ride a bike.

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Alexis: 

So, how are you doing today?

Betsy:  

I'm doing really well. I just got back from a run, so I'm still kind of sniffling and coughing, so I apologize for that.

Alexis: 

It's okay. And you're in Bend, right? 

Betsy:  

Yeah, I am.

Alexis: 

Got it.  I have a friend from high school who moved out there from New Jersey...I guess maybe like three years ago or something? His wife is a floral designer, and she's incredibly successful and they love their life there and it looks amazing.

Betsy:  

This was a very intentional choice, and it took me a while to get here, and I just wish I would've done it sooner, I love living here.

Alexis: 

Yeah, It seems like a pretty cool community.

Betsy:  

Yeah, its amazing.

Alexis: 

Well, thanks for taking some time to chat. I don't know if you have seen any of these other emails or blog posts and kinda get the gist for what I'm doing here?

Betsy:  

I get it, I kind of looked through it. I'm not sure how closely my story aligns to where you want things to go but I'll just talk through my story.

Alexis: 

There's really no objective of where I want to go. I just find that cycling is a pretty unique sport in that it involves a lot of time, there's an element of risk, and so the women that choose to make it a part of their lives...it's not tennis, you know? It's different. There's something different about us and it often leads to a story.

Betsy:  

Yeah you're right it's not tennis. I needed to buy a new bike this summer cause a car got close enough that I actually hit a ditch and I cracked the frame of my bike.

Alexis: 

Oh no.

Betsy:  

I mean, I don't know what happened -- I could feel something over my shoulder and I turned and it was a truck. And he was kinda close and I scooted over onto the shoulder a little bit more, and I could feel something else and I turned around and it was his trailer, and his trailer was completely over the white line, and I just steered hard to the right and went right in the ditch. And I was like this is not a big car.  It took everything in me to go get a new bike, get on it, get back on the road.

Alexis: 

Wow...so I guess maybe rewind a little bit further and just tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into cycling.

Betsy:  

I'm 50 years old and the big part of my story, that I think is the most intriguing, is that I used to weigh 400 pounds, and I was a type 2 diabetic. I've lost over 200 pounds, and I've reversed type 2 diabetes. Being active and changing my diet are the two things that basically saved my life. I started off with running but I got recruited by the Oregon chapter of the American Diabetes Association Board and their big fundraiser is a biking event called Tour De Cure. On a whim, I signed up and thought that I would ride a hundred mile bike ride, then I went and bought a bike and started training.

How I got into cycling was I wanted to ride in this event that was gonna raise money and awareness for a cause that was near and dear to my heart, then I kind of fell in love with cycling, and I rode a duathlon, and have now kind of ventured over into triathlon and I use my road bike. Just did my first Half Ironman in Los Cabos, Mexico in November. I packed up my little road bike in a case and we flew down on a plane, got down there, did my first Half Ironman, and it was fantastic. But I signed up for a cycling event before I ever even owned bike and then I went out and bought a road bike and loved it, loved the community, loved the activities, loved that it took as little skill as you wanted or it took as much skill as you wanted. I fell in love with it.

Alexis: 

Wow, so at the time that you signed up for that hundred mile bike ride, was that before, after, or during your weight loss journey?

Betsy:  

It was in 2013 and I was super close to the weight that I am now, I've been weight stable for about seven years now I think? So it was really close. And I was using it as a celebration, why? Because I had officially gotten off injectable insulin so, I was still on some diabetes medicine, I hadn't reversed type two but I had reversed the fact that I needed injections, so I was kind of using the bike ride as a celebration of, I'm losing weight, I'm almost to where I want to be, I'm active and I'm getting off all this medicine, so initially it was celebration.

Alexis: 

That's amazing, that's quite an accomplishment. Just to change the course of your life and of your health as well.  Was exercise hard to love when you first got into it?

Betsy:   Oh heavens yeah...When I bought my bike I was probably, at my largest I weighed 400 pounds. I weigh just under 200 pounds right now and this is where I'm comfortable. But when I bought my first road bike, and my first pair of biking shorts, which, as a heavy girl, biking shorts are not always your friend, at least I didn't think they were at the time. I was probably, when I started the whole thing, 250 pounds and by the time I actually got on the bike to ride I was just about where I am now, just around 200 pounds so, when I first got my bike I definitely was not at the end of the journey. By the time I got to the diabetes ride and the rides after that it was just a matter of continuing to build skill, stay healthy and be active but, damn it was hard to walk into a bike shop as a large woman, dealing mostly with men, I was afraid that they were gonna judge me. I was afraid they were gonna say that bikes didn't carry my weight, like bikes aren't for people your size. Thank goodness I had a local bike shop in Corvallis, it was just amazing and wonderful and got me on a bike, made sure I wouldn't leave until I got a helmet. They made sure that I was safe and ready to go. But it was intimidating as hell really to get started, but I knew I wanted to ride in that fundraising ride and so, I just kinda put on my big girl pants and went in and got a bike and got started.

Alexis: 

Yeah, I definitely relate to the intimidation factor of walking into a bike shop and buying your first bike.  I don't know any woman who was like, yeah that was an awesome experience.

Betsy:  

And yet I have to say the bike I bought to replace the one I wrecked over here, personally I know more, like not walking into the store completely blind but, our bike store over here has some very capable female mechanics and sales women so you can deal with women if that's what you want. But when I bought a bike even seven years ago, that was not the case.  But yeah It was very intimidating to get started, I'm not gonna lie.

Alexis: 

Yes, I agree, there's definitely a theme of that in the sport, but also things are changing. There are definitely more women on bikes, there's more female representation in bike shops, more female specific apparel, and that's why I started Lexi Miller, because I just felt like there was no female voice. I didn't like the clothes, I felt like some person designed it as an afterthought, so it just didn't feel like we had a space here, it was like we were treated as visitors.

Betsy:  

No, you definitely have, you have done something good.

Alexis: 

Well thank you.  And I'm glad that you found us too, and you found us through that Tour De France guess-the-winner contest.

Betsy:  

I know isn't that bizarre! So fun.

Alexis: 

I didn't even know who was gonna win.

Betsy:  

I had heard about you from one of my local friends last summer because I was telling her, I'm turning 50, and I'm gonna do a self timed century, and damnit I want something cute. All my bike clothes, I'm embarrassed to admit, were mostly hand me downs from the people around me, including a lot of guys. I wore a lot of guys stuff just because it was hand me down stuff, and even though I am healthy, I'm perfectly okay with who I am and where I am, I'm still an extra large, I'm not a small woman, never going to be a small woman so men's stuff kinda fit me better, but I ran into this girl at a random biking event, she was wearing that black crossover jersey with the teal piping and I was like, oh my god where did you get that? I said, is that a bike jersey? Where? Tell me! She told me and I came home and googled your company and saw you were having your contest and entered the contest while I was shopping for a jersey at the same time. So that's how I actually found you was visual and word of mouth at an event where somebody was wearing one of your products.

Alexis: 

That's awesome.

Betsy:  

Cause it was cute, and it was normal, and it wasn't guy's stuff.

Alexis: 

Well, that's great.

Alexis: 

So how often do you get on the bike these days, because you are in the high desert, right?

Betsy:  

Yeah we can get out often. Right now you've met me in a little bit of a bad time cause I'm actually kind of taking an off season from the half marathon- or the half Ironman, But typically I'm on my bike three to four days a week.

We had ice today so I did a spin class because.  I'm actually not so worried about me or my bike handling on the ice, I'm worried about all the cars so I took a spin class but, here in the next two or three weeks I'm gonna be ramping back up into training and I'll be on the road, if I can go out east where there's no ice and snow, I'll be out four days a week with at least one long ride on a weekend day, for sure.

Alexis: 

So cycling and exercise started out as a way to improve your health but, a lot of times people do it because they have to but then they never really love it, you know? So I guess, what made that happen for you, what made it go from, okay I'm just exercising to get healthy to, this is something I love to do? What made you love it?

Betsy:  

That's a really good question, for me a lot of things with activity and weight loss and health all come back to community. The community piece of it, other women, other people out riding, getting ready for an event, having that goal that you're working for and you're trying to accomplish something so that you're not just literally spinning wheels but it all comes down to community.  We've got some amazing people running and cycling and doing all this stuff so I would have to say the community piece is huge.

Yeah I'm not someone who has won an event and stood on a podium and that's not it for me.

Alexis: 

I'm not either. I always say that race is a four letter word. I have no desire to race anything ever, you know, which some people might find weird. So what's your next thing? 

Betsy:  

This year I'm actually gonna do a Half Ironman in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in June but I'm gonna ramp up over the summer to do an ultra in the fall, but I'll keep the bike and the swim definitely in the cross training for sure, for sure.

And like I said, I had to replace my bike and I absolutely freaking love my new bike and if my friends get a bug up their butt and they wanna train to do 200 mile bike ride in the summer, I wanna be able to do it.

Alexis: 

I guess I have a question, or a couple questions just getting back to how you found yourself to be a cyclist and through losing a lot of weight. I can only imagine that when you're standing at the beginning of that process ,it must just seem like it's really hard and I can only imagine you might have had some doubt in the beginning, like, all right I'm gonna try to loose this weight but how is it gonna happen, right?  Can you just talk about that a little bit?  What it's like to look back and if you could have a conversation with yourself at that point, knowing what you know now, or if you were talking to somebody who is in your shoes that you were 6 or whatever years ago.

Betsy:  

I'm actually writing a book right now about my journey, my story, about reversing type two diabetes and losing weight. And a chapter that re-resonates for me every single time is one that I wrote, and it's called how to eat an elephant, it's how I talk about how I sat down and I had to break down every single thing I wanted to do into the tiniest little piece and start there. That is how you eat an elephant, you know, so one bite at a time. And please, I don't want any animal rights activists after me, I'm not actually gonna eat an elephant...

But I had to start with: what does it look like to lose 10 percent of my body weight? What does it like to walk a 5k? What does it look like to go to the gym two days a week? I had to start super super simple, and I would say that they were full on screaming tantrums of I'm never gonna get there, I can't do this, how am I ever gonna make this happen, and I don't know, I had a bigger why and a bigger goal than I'd ever had in my life, which was, I don't wanna be diabetic and I wanna stay alive. I could bounce everything against that and stay motivated, go to the gym, not eat the extra cookie, go out and go for an additional walk, then I started coming off of insulin, and I started being able to walk faster and further, then I was able to throw in a little bit of running. I started seeing the positives and just kept clamoring for that next positive. But was it overwhelming and sad and hard and where there a lot of tears? Yes a ton, but I don't know anybody that strives for something they really want but doesn't have some element of that. Most of us are not where we wanna be, most of us are constantly trying to go somewhere else. I kinda hate that but I mean, a lot of times that's what were doing -- I wanna be different tomorrow than I am today, I wanna be better tomorrow than I am today but we only have one day, we just got the day in front of us that's all we've got that we can use. But yeah it was completely overwhelming. I had to break everything down into the smallest element, I had to surround myself with an accountability team that could remind me, hey it took you 42 years to gain this weight, you're not gonna loose it in 42 seconds so chill out, it's gonna take some time, and you're committed to it, so let's back up.  What are you gonna do?  What do you need to do today? What is the next right thing? And I try to get my head back in the game.

I still, to be honest with you, I look back at it sometimes and I don't understand why I stayed with it, that's the great mystery for me. I still don't completely understand why I stayed with it at times cause it was just brutally hard.

Alexis: 

Good for you. That's awesome.

Betsy:  

I wouldn't trade the life I have now for anything.

Alexis: 

Well when does your book come out?

Betsy:  

Well I'm in the edit right now and it should come out this spring.

Alexis: 

Oh wow!

Betsy:  

I'm working with the final content editing, making sure that we have all the right stuff in there and its really aimed at the audience that, people who've been given a type two diabetes diagnoses or pre-diabetes diagnoses and really encouraging them that type two is a lifestyle disease and they might be able to reverse it or turn it around, or manage it without as much medication. That's not a message that's out there loud and clear and yet it's possible, I'm not the only one. There aren't a ton of us, but I'm not the only one.

I wanted to write a book about running and cycling and all these things because I think it's still amazing that I'm this back-of-the-pack athlete, and I'm happy being there. That's where some of the best people are, honestly. But I think, if I'm trying to talk to people who are trying to change their life, talking to them about the fact that I've run a hundred miler isn't motivating, it's scary. Or that I think it's exciting to ride a hundred miles on my birthday just because -- I can't start with those stories.

Alexis: 

Well that's great, thank you for sharing that, it was good to chat and to get to know you at least over the phone, and if I ever make it out to Bend I'll be sure to let you know.

Betsy:  

You better, I would absolutely like to take you on my favorite bike ride.

Alexis: 

Yeah, it looks beautiful.

Betsy:  

It's really 26 miles but is a 12 mile climb

Alexis: 

Oh wow

Betsy:  

On the road with a really wide, clean shoulder and view of the mountains.

Alexis: 

That sounds amazing.

Betsy:  

Bring a bike.

Alexis: 

Yeah it's on my list. Well, unless you have anything else to add I'll let you go.

Betsy:  

No, thank you for including me in this, I'm honored, I love being able to talk about the good stuff and I really like being able to support women and women owned companies. That's more and more important to me these days.

Alexis: 

Of course I appreciate your time and your story.

Betsy:  

Thank you.

Alexis: 

Alright, thanks so much.

Betsy:  

Have a good night!

Alexis: 

All right you too.

Check out Besty's blog and feel free to connect with her <<HERE>>

 

 

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