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Storytellers | Kay

Posted by Lexi Miller on

Happy Spring!

Recently we caught up with Kay, our neighbor across the Bay, who is originally from across the pond.  We talked about what brought her to the US, what brought her to cycling, and...guess what her cute dog's name happens to be....?!

Enjoy

xo Alexis

.........................

Alexis:             

Hi Kay!

Kay:                 

Hi, how are you? Happy new year!

Alexis:             

Yeah, same to you! It's already flying by, I can't believe it we're ten days in.

Kay:                 

I know! I'm like oh God, when will it be over? So where are you now? In the city, in Tahoe, somewhere else?

Alexis:             

I'm in the city now. Yeah, I had two weeks of really fun traveling and whatnot. It was pretty much my vacation for 2018 to 2019 all in one.

Kay:                 

Nice. Because your family's in Florida?

Alexis:             

No, they're in New Jersey.

Kay:                 

Okay.

Alexis:             

Yeah, so you know from following along, that I've gotten to get to know people who started as customers over the past year.  I feel like every conversation turns into an interesting story. So, I guess for those who don't know you as well as I do, which isn't even that well, tell us a little bit about yourself. Like how you found yourself in California, and how you found yourself as a cyclist.  What's your story?

Kay:                 

I'm from the UK. When I was growing up, my dad used to work for a multinational company and we spent time in my middle school and high school years living outside the UK, first in France and then Australia. And it's really weird because I have a brother, who's three and half years younger. And I must've been at the age where living overseas, and being in a different environment and in the case of France, you know having to navigate life and growing up in a foreign language, seemed to have more of a lasting impact on me, because I'm the one who from that point on has continued to be a bit of a vagabond and not settled down and kind of play it safe. Where, bless his heart, he stuck a little bit more to the perfect route.

I'm the one who's like "I'm doing this! I'm doing that! I'm going to go live here! Or I'm traveling here, whatever." So I find the whole nature and nurture thing fascinating.

But yeah, I grew up living overseas, came back to the UK, studied languages at college with a view that it would get me somewhere, and then just panicked and got jobs that involved using my languages but stayed in the UK and worked for 12 years and said, "Right, this is it. This is my chance, I have a financial mattress, I've cleared out my debt, so I have enough to tie me over for a period," and I went to work in business school career management services at a business school program just outside of Paris.

And then, when I was there, the first year, I had a mentor there that said : "Look, if you really want a career in this industry, you have to spend time in a U.S. school because it gets you that credibility, it gets you the badge of honor, the MBA was invented in the U.S. If you think you'd ever like to be head of a business school career management operation or even another administrative position, you're going to get that in a U.S. school far more quickly than you would do in a European school. The MBA just because it's valued much over there."

So, I ended up spending three years in Chicago, at the University of School and Business. During the first 18 months there, I thought, "My God, this weather is horrific.”  I got in with one of these urban running crews.

They're a great bunch of people. I did various marathons, half marathons, through the dead of winter. Let me tell you, when you're running in the dark, it's 7:00, and it's below zero and you've got all layers on and you're thinking: "Is this stupid? Am I endangering my health and my safety in the pursuit of running excellence?"

And then I came out to San Francisco in the West Coast on a business trip in...I want to say it was October 2014.  It was Sunday morning and I was staying in Japantown. I ran down to Crissy Field and I was in shorts and a t-shirt in November and I remember turning around and getting that shot from the bridge back looking towards the city. I posted it on Instagram. I said:" Mark my word. One day I will live here." A year later I made it happen.

I didn't want to take up cycling in Chicago because it's goddamn so flat.  I didn't pick it up until a guy I was dating at the time had a lot of cycling gear and just said he had a bike that was like an inch or so too big for him. He's like: " Why don't we just get you a new component set, some new wheels, and you can learn to road ride on a proper bike," rather than using bike hire riding that I had been doing up to that point. It was horrific to begin with because for a number of reasons. He's a clueless idiot but he just took me out on the hills of Marin almost for me from the get go. I'd never quite ridden with clipped in pedals before; I'd never ridden hills, and even now with two years into it I still don't have the best technique in terms of how you properly cycle. So I hated it to begin with because it was just a slog up all of these hills.

Then I started sort of saying: " If I met friends and I met people who would help me be a better runner by going on social media and finding groups, it must be the same for cycling". So I went to find more groups and therefore different people I could bike with that weren't him. I understood it doesn't have to be a competition; you can see the more enjoyable side of just where can cycling take me. I now absolutely love it.

I got into triathlons because I got bored of just running and I was starting to enjoy cycling and I've always liked swimming. Now running's the discipline I hate and actually more time on the bike is what I enjoy doing because when I was at college, I used to row and I loved it. I loved the pain you get from the intensity of training, the thrill from competition, that feeling of that flow when the entire team of you plus the cox, the boat is just singing underneath you and just the echo of breathing through the water. I guess the places you can go and the times I've been out cycling... a little bit of time in the rain but also elsewhere where either I've been going downhill or I've been going on a flat stretch and my legs are driving, my lungs are burning and I'm like: " That's the feeling I used to love when I was rowing competitively," because something my mind and my body just working together just...I really enjoy it.

The scenery you get to see out here is fantastic.  Just the fact that I now know enough to get on the bike, I can drag myself up to Pantoll in Marin or I can do a Metric Century with a bunch of people. You can stop for coffee on the way and just admire the view and think on the back of your day trip and go: " Wow, look how far I climbed. Look what my average output was. Look how many miles I covered. Here are the pictures I took of the amazing scenery I saw on the way."

Alexis:             

Yeah, I definitely can relate. I mean, I think a lot of people find that cycling fills a void, maybe if that's some other sport or what not. I feel the same way. I used to ride horses and it's like there's no other feeling that I can get. Maybe skiing to some degree, but...when you're just like descending down Mount Tam and you've done it so many times and you just know those switchbacks so well that it's kind of like you're flying.

Kay:                 

Exactly, but every time it's like you can't relax. There could be there's a slick patch or a particular car coming around. So you're always hyper vigilant and yet you're like yeah. It's the feel of how you start to push the boundary where how do you lean into your turn; how do you go like: " Yeah, I'm not going to actually step on the brakes this time," and you let them out a little bit to see what the feeling of speed is and getting to the edge of being out of control where still knowing I am smart enough to reign the horse back in if I need to.

So I think definitely that cycling is one of sports where you can use it to go and see different places. I think the fact that, and one of the things I enjoy about it, is that you can cover rates and distance too. I used to be this person who would say: "Oh, I want to go to a city where I haven't been, run a half marathon there, and then do sightseeing afterward." I can now with cycling see myself looking to go: "Okay, which part of the country do I want to go to," and do a 10 day massive loop around somewhere, and then back, and then go eating and drinking on the way and say: " Okay so life is a little bit harder, but look at where I've been, look at what I've done, and look at what I've experienced at the same time I've been burning off some of my energy."

Alexis:             

Yeah, exactly. I mean. I used to run too and then I remembered when I started riding. I was like: " Wow, I can actually...I can ride for hours on end. I can ride 100 miles." Not all the time, but it's possible. If you really want to, you could probably do that every weekend, if you have the time and you have nothing better to do. With running, it's not quite the same. You can't really run a marathon every weekend. You kind of tap out after, I don't know, an hour or two. It beats your life up a lot more.

Kay:                 

Yeah. That's why I do half marathons. The idea of running for more than two hours is just dull. So, yeah, a couple of hours. Six hours on a bike with snack stops in between, perfect. Riding up to Point Reyes, going to ...I don't know where that bakery is, but it's got absolutely beautiful pastries.

Alexis:             

The Bovine Bakery?

Kay:                 

Yes, that's the one. Then I'm coming back and I'm like: " That is my idea of a Saturday well spent." Just seeing...who knows. I've only ever really done cycling here and maybe because the nature of Northern California and just the climate lends itself more but there's these well known cycle routes and we went up to Bovine maybe like 10 or 11 in the morning. Then we're cycling. They're all there; they're all holding their coffee and pastries and everyone gradually gets back on the bike, fires up the computer again, and goes somewhere else.        

The fact that, yes there are the hardcore dudes who were super stringy and  and there's me going: "Well, I'll just go up to Four Corners because I've done that a fair few times and I'll scoot down the other side and come back into Mill Valley and do Paradise Loop." Those are the two well known routes I know I can do and I just have fun with it, then go home and it's New Year's Eve, and I can watch Netflix and go to bed, which is what I did.

Alexis:             

That sounds like a perfect New Year's Eve.

Kay:                 

You get back, you have your tea, you have your Epsom salts bath and go: " Look, job well done. I can now relax."

Alexis:             

Yes, absolutely. So how long do you see yourself staying in California? Do you feel like its home?

Kay:                 

So I've got my visa renewed, so I'm here for another three years, definitely. Then I'm trying to get permanent residency because I...aside from how expensive everything is, something resonates with me here. I'm someone that just gets a lot of enjoyment from mountains and water. So we're perfectly positioned here to have access to that. The energy out here just seems to work really well with me. I think barring major tragedies, either personal or geological, I do intend to be here for a while. I feel better out here.

I've been out of the UK since August 2010 was when I left the UK. Even when I lived there, maybe because I spent time living overseas when I was growing up, I never really felt truly connected. I get away with being a foreigner here. I'm not questioned for my decisions on the basis of what my peers should be doing back in the UK. It's like: " Oh, you're foreign. You just do things differently." So, I think I'll be here for a while.

Alexis:             

That's cool. I feel the same way. I'm not from a different country, but I'm from a different coast. I don't know if I would've taken up cycling if I'd lived in another part of the world or even a part of the country. It is so prevalent here and everybody does it. When it's a huge part of your life, it definitely impacts your decision on where you want to live and how you want to live. It's pretty great here.

Kay:                 

Exactly.  There's a slim chance I'll be moving to Marin later this spring. Aside from the horrific commute, I'm really excited about the concept of having those climbs on my doorstep. So, I'm thinking early summer morning or late summer evening after work, I can get home, take the dogs on a walk, and then go : " Mom's going out for now." I'm going to climb up to somewhere and zoom back and that's it; I'm done. I don't have to sit on the spin bike or whatever. I can get up early in the morning and take the dogs for a run on some of the trails. To me, that's quality of life and I will suck up a horrific commute if that means on evenings and weekends I can be surrounded by nature.

Alexis:             

Definitely. That's pretty cool. I totally forgot your dog's name is Lexi.

Kay:                 

My dog's name is Lexi.

Alexis:             

It's like it was all meant to be.

Kay:                 

There you go. She came with it that name. That was her name. I thought if things didn't join up, I can't change her name. It suits her, so it stays. Although she's Lexie with an E, so there was some slight difference.

Alexis:             

Oh, there we go. Well, she's cute.

Kay:                 

I moved out here in November and the job that they told me it was going to be, no surprises, was not the job it turned out to be. I felt like I was in a state where I didn't have any kind of ability to make my own decisions at work or in my life. I was either just struggling to find somewhere to live or something to make sense of what this new work environment was. I was director by title but basically the power was taken away from me. I just said: " I want to be able to make one decision that's mine alone to make."             

I fostered dogs in Chicago and always knew at some point I'd want one. I went on Craigslist and said: " There's got to be some dog I could save," and just searched for free dogs. I was in a back and forth email with the owners. Next thing I know they're like:" We like you. We like the fact that you'll take her on adventures; nature valley. She'll be your companion. You'll have time for her. So, yeah she's yours." So here I am on a Sunday morning. I'm driving back from Daly City with a dog in the car. We both look at each other going: " Okay. What do we do now?" She's been with me ever since.

Alexis:             

That's great. So then you Googled free dogs, you found Lexie, and then you googled what, like cycling apparel, and you found Lexi Miller, right?

Kay:                 

It may have popped up in a Google ad or a Facebook. I was probably looking at stuff on REI, at cycling deals going: "Oh God, this is all horrific." Then your ad popped up and I was like: " Oh, this is very woman centric," and I kid you not, it was the wrap jersey with the aqua piping where I was like: "That's it. I'm sold. I want that one."

I like what it stands for. I like the fact that you haven't yet made a million different versions of everything. The product line is very simple, it's very streamlined, it's very clear, and it's interesting to look at rather than just here is the generic jersey and shorts that hug in all the wrong places and make me look like I've got sausages for legs. That was what did it. Once I bought some super reduced stuff by Trek...I though if I don't enjoy cycling I’d rather not spend a lot of money...a pair of shorts and a jersey. I think not long after I got your stuff. I haven't worn the Trek stuff since. I'm like: " This isn't comfortable. It doesn't fit me in the way that I want things to fit me."              

I've read your blog, I've found your videos of stuff you've posted on the site, and I think the whole ethos ... There should be a funnel of fashion sense today. It shouldn't be awful neon colors or low to pink and garish patterns."               

If you're kind of the...you're lone wolfish; you're the kind of woman who enjoys the endurance side or the challenge of cycling, but doesn't want to just look like a man. I'm not a complete fashion hound, but I do take care and pride in my appearance. I like interesting details rather than just generic stuff all the time. So the fact that there were things that were interesting around beyond just the colors and the logo, I was like: " Okay, this is the kind of thing that will more fit with how I operate," which is if someone notices something I'm wearing like: " Oh, where'd you get that wrap top from," I could say:" Oh, it's from a brand made here in California."

Alexis:             

That’s awesome. Thank you.  Anything you want to tell the world about yourself?

Kay:                 

I guess for me, I was pleasantly surprised at how actually once you get on the bike and get going, how not scary it is.

One of the things that really helped me was a colleague at work mentioned that there was a Women's biking group that operated out of Sharp Bicycles in Lafayette. She organized once a month a Women's specific ride. Went to meet her and she's great. She also coaches for Wentell Coaching and she founded this clinic for women.  Just by doing that course it was night and day; I was feeling so much better on the roads the next day.

So I think, knowing that you learned to ride a bike as a kid, but riding a road bike out here is not the same as just getting on and pedaling. And having the sense to say: " Alright, I probably could get better at this and make it more enjoyable," and facing that fear and going and doing a course or asking for help and then it's going to be a heck of a lot easier.

Alexis:             

Yeah I definitely think so.

Kay:                 

And don't listen to your idiot boyfriend who doesn't know what he's talking about.

Alexis:             

Yeah.

Kay:                 

Ex-boyfriend, I should clarify it.

Alexis:             

Yeah, it's good sage advice because it is an intimidating sport and the bikes--your first road bike as an adult is nothing like the one you had when you were 10. I know that was the case for me too. I demoed a bike and I fell over and I wasn't even clipped in. My friend laughed at me and I was like: " Oh my God, this is awful,".

Kay:                 

I remember I was in Paris, two friends and I decided to do the Paris Triathlon. I did it mainly because at the time the swim was in the river Seine. I also thought: "How hard can this be? I can swim, I can ride a bike, and I can run." Getting into the river, which was super swollen because it had loads of rainfall, the third time for me, I had a panic attack.

I bought my bike from the local police station. Twice a year they auction off bikes that had been stolen or left or whatever. So I bought a completely second hand bike. It had those weird rabbit ears, gear chained levers. I had no idea what gear I should be in or what I should be doing. So I probably did the whole thing in completely the wrong gear. I was being passed by people.  By the time I got to the run I was just so exhausted that I basically walked the whole thing.

Now I'm like : "Oh, this is how I change quickly from one ring to the next ring, this is how I do this, I can get a bigger cassette; get a mimic card and tell them we're in, so having a few gears will be helpful." It makes a huge difference.

Alexis:             

Yes, knowledge is certainly power.

Kay:                 

Absolutely.

Alexis:             

Yeah. Well, once it gets warmer and stops raining, we should definitely ride. There's a few women who take my spin class that I teach here in the city, and we've been talking about getting a ladies' ride out. I'll keep you posted for sure.

Kay:                 

Perfect. Sounds great.

Alexis:             

Some Saturday when it's above 55 degrees and dry.

Kay:                 

See, you've gone totally California now, haven't you?

Alexis:             

I'm so soft. I've lost my East Coast grit.  I'm ashamed, but not really.

Kay:                 

It's fine. That's why you go swimming. Go swimming and go to spin classes. You'll get your fitness in.

Alexis:             

Exactly. Alright well, it was really good chatting.

Kay:                 

Alright see you soon.

 

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