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Storytellers | Theia: Coach, Mom, Survivor.

Posted by Lexi Miller on

And we're back!  Happy New Year.  Here's our latest installment of "Storytellers": profiles on women who ride bikes.  I recently had a chat with Theia, talking about her life as a cycling coach, a mom, and once a lawyer.  

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Alexis:             

Hi, Theia. It's Alexis from Lexi Miller. How are you?

Theia:              

I'm great. How about you?

Alexis:         

Great. So you're outside of Chicago, right?

Theia:              

Yes. I'm about 14 miles North in the suburbs.

Alexis:             

Got it. So it's pretty freezing there, huh?

Theia:              

Yeah, yeah. Oh, my gosh. Yes.

Alexis:             

Well, yeah, so I guess you've seen a couple of these posts on the blog. And just a quick little history,... ever since I started Lexi Miller,... Instead of wanting, say, ambassadors or people to represent the brand, I always saw it as a way of telling stories about women and how they got into cycling and what it means to them. It's been a goal of mine to weave these stories together and make that the collective story of Lexi Miller. So maybe you can tell a little bit about yourself, where you're from, how long you've been riding, how you got into it, and we'll go from there.       

Theia:    

Okay, sure. So I was born and raised in Brazil, and I moved to the United States about 20 years ago. So I was about 25 years old. I'm a lawyer by background and was working as a lawyer in Brazil. And then I moved to the United States, got my LLM here, and went to work to become a consultant in mergers and acquisitions, specializing tax and working for three of the Big Four accounting firms in mergers and acquisitions for the next 20 years. And over time, I was doing this work, but it wasn't fulfilling enough. It provided for my family. My husband, about 10 years ago, opened his own business. So starting from scratch, it was great for me to have an income that I could count on. And I liked the semantics of it, but it was a lot of travel. A lot of international travel. There was a year that I visited seven countries in one year, and it was just very, very demanding, as you can imagine.        

On the other side of it, it wasn't fulfilling in a sense that ... It's almost like I didn't even know how I got into tax in the first place. Because it's not even fun. It's essentially the law, but it's not fun to do tax because I don't feel like I'm benefiting people in their life. And I always wanted to do something that was related to helping other people and seeing the benefits of it. I was just behind a computer desk working with numbers all the time, and a report went out to some major corporations. That's all I did. And that, for me, just wasn't fulfilling enough. So I knew I wanted to do something else with my life. I never really knew exactly what. I just think that when we decide early on when we're 17, 18 what we're going to study in college and what we're going do. It's hard to make a decision and say, "This is exactly what I'm going do for the rest of my life."

So I came at a crossroads about 10 years ago, and I decided, "You know what? I'm just gonna change completely. I'm going to leave all this behind." And some people thought I was completely crazy for leaving a career of 20 plus years, and I decided to become a full-time cycling coach.

Alexis:             

So in the time that you were a tax attorney and consultant and all that, were you riding? When did cycling become a part of your life?

Theia:              

So cycling became a part of my life more consistently about three and a half years ago. So I had been cycling as a child, I think everybody does it. And then at some point, I had a bike that I would take to the trail locally here, and I didn't even have clipless pedals or anything. I would just go and ride for a long time because I always thought it was fun to do so. But it was my husband who really got me into the more serious side of cycling. So for one of our anniversaries three years ago, he gave me my first road bike. He did a lot of cycling in college, and he had recently gotten back to cycling. And when he gave me a road bike, he said, "You know what? It'd be super fun to ride together." And that's how I got into cycling more consistently.

But growing up, I did a lot of different sports, volleyball and ballet, and I became a ballet teacher in my late teens. And I had students, and my first job was owning a ballet academy. And I had about 60 students in my academy. I taught young girls ages three to twelve. So that was during law school, and so I transitioned into working in law. Studying and working at the same time is something very common that we do, as well.

Alexis:             

So then three and a half or so years ago when you decided to start your coaching business, were you racing?

Theia:              

No. So when I first started cycling, I knew nothing about training. I knew nothing about power. I knew nothing about measuring your power, cadence, all the things that I know today. I knew absolutely nothing about it. I knew I had to wear a helmet. I didn't know about having to wear shorts with a chamois. I had no idea. It was really that much of a learning curve. And so I didn't become a coach until about a year and a half ago. I learned a lot from my husband. I joined a group coaching program locally here, and that's where I started doing cycling training. And it was great because they had rides for beginners, and it was very supportive. So it's not like I would just join a group where everybody knew what they were doing and I would just be sitting there by myself having no idea what was going on, so that was a big help. And so from doing that is how I learned a lot. And at the beginning, I didn't race. But after one year of training, I did my first century, and it was a sub five-hour finish. It was about four hours and forty-five minutes.

And I never looked back. So in the short term, I would just do the longest rides I could find. Because it just seemed like that's what everybody was doing. And so I did the ride across Wisconsin, which is 175 miles. I would go to camps and ride for several days in a row. And then after that, I sort of matured a little bit in what I like and my rider type and what I like to do. And then I got into racing in 2017. That was my first big event in cyclocross, crit racing, and road racing. And it was a lot of learning, as you can imagine. Because crits are so hard, and I find that it's just not for me just because it's too risky.

And yes, I crashed. Luckily, it wasn't anything serious. But I just don't want to be taking that risk at this point in my life, given all my responsibilities as a mom and everything. And so I'm going to stick to cyclocross and road racing.  In 2018, I did win my age group for the 2018 Road Race for ABR. And then I got third in the USEC state championship. Road, also.

Alexis:             

Congratulations.

Theia:              

Thank you. And then in cyclocross ... I fell in love so much with cyclocross that I did the whole season. I decided to do the race from the very first one, that I had no idea what to do, but there's something so incredibly liberating about knowing that you know nothing because you just go there and you have fun. So I was just there to laugh at myself and see how it went. I fell in love with it and was great. I was seeded very last in the start, and I just gave a distance even to the people who cut off me. And I think, "I better not get too close because they go up a certain hill, I might not be able to. I don't know how to dismount and all that." But in the course of the season, I learned a ton. I have videos from my first race to my sixth or seventh race, and you can clearly see the progress. And I use that as encouragement to the other women that I coach so they can just try something new. You never know. And yeah, so I think of all the disciplines, cyclocross is my favorite now.

Alexis:             

Oh, that's cool. I think there's something particularly interesting about cycling in that many women who do it come to it later in life, and it is, I'd say, such a growing sport right now. So it's not like tennis or something. There is this intimidation factor. There's so much to learn. Even if we all rode bikes as kids, when we come to it as adults in our 30s or 40s, it's different. And I feel like every woman can relate to that first ride or buying a bike and just being completely clueless and being overwhelmed by how much there is to know. And then you get more into it, and then you discover things like power and watts and clipping in and the equipment and all of that. And I feel like telling these stories is really useful for women who are, say, just thinking about getting into it because it is so intimidating.

Theia:              

Yeah. I was well into my 40s when I started.

Alexis:             

That's great. How old are your kids?

Theia:              

I have a 12-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl.

Alexis:             

I mean, I don't want to sound condescending or obnoxious, but I don't have kids, so when I find women who do have kids and still devote that time and also do take the risk to get out on a road bike, I'm a little bit ... I wouldn't say fascinated by it, but I find it really great. Because I wish that there were more women out there, and a lot of women do kind drop off during the years that their kids are in school. And when I'm out on a Saturday, I see all these dads. And I'm like, "Hey, where are the moms?" So how do you balance that? How do you balance, being a mom and ... Or is that a conflict at all? I'm really curious about that.

Theia:              

Yeah. Well, I'll start with the psychological side of it first, and then talk about time, balance, and management. In terms of exposing myself and the risk of something happening to you because of something that you're doing ... I'll give you the crit crash, for example. I drove myself to the doctor. I just walked in, and I saod, "Oh, yeah. I just had a bike crash. I need some x-rays." And the doctor looked at me and said, "You do not have enough excitement in your life? What's going on?" But to me, life is risky no matter what. I survived 9/11. I was working in the building across the street from the World Trade Center, and I was actually in the last subway that came in underneath the World Trade Center after the first plane hit, and the second plane hit and I was walking half a block from the building when the second plane hit.          

And I grew up in Brazil. There's violence everywhere. I had guns to my head. You can die, and things can happen to you at any time.  So that's my mindset. I think that it's not like I'm going to purposefully put myself at risk. The roads that I am riding on: are they completely safe? No. There's no completely safe roads. But there are safer roads, and I usually go at 4:30 in the morning when people are still sleeping and there's barely any cars on the road. I do that. I do those things and try to be as safe as I can. But at the end of the day, we're all here, and we're all subject to something that could happen at any point. So that's how I look at it.        

When I used to do international travel, I would go to these crazy countries and be in, say, a cab in Mexico City. I mean, who knows? So there's all of that. And in terms of time management, I think the busier you are, the more efficient you become. And because I spent so many years working, I learned how to manage my time pretty wisely. And I fit that in by doing it before the kids are up. So basically, my training is done before they wake up.

Alexis:             

Yeah. I definitely agree with that. The busier you are, the more efficient you are. You have to be. You can't waste time. So then when you transitioned from your legal and consulting career into your coaching career, what was that like? Was it a pretty linear path?

Theia:              

It was. I was doing it already when I was a tax consultant, and I started coaching people on the side. And I just found that I loved talking to them and helping them and putting plans together and training and just spending every single minute of free time that I had on it. And so once I transitioned into doing that full-time, the hard part was really just getting used to it and becoming an entrepreneur. Because being an entrepreneur is very, very hard, as you know. It's super hard. I mean, a lot of people that I used to work with always said, "Oh, I wish I had my own business." Well, really you don't know what is involved until you actually do it. It's really hard. But it was very clear that that's what I wanted to do. It's absolutely so fulfilling. I love doing it.

Alexis:             

Do you have a physical studio space? Because I know you coach for the Zwift community, as well. So is it a physical studio in the Chicago area?

Theia:              

So we don't have a physical studio. It's me and three other coaches. We coach remotely, and we have athletes from all over the world. We have people from the US. We have people from Europe. And it's all remote coaching in that we give them their training plans, but we are in constant interaction with them. And our business is not in the traditional coaching business. Typically what you have is either off-the-shelf plans, or you have one-on-one coaching. Ours is different in that it's group coached in a sense. But for example, if somebody who doesn't want to or cannot afford one-on-one coaching, but also somebody who needs guidance, and we wouldn't just be able to be asking so many different questions if they just did an off-the-shelf plan. And if we do an off-the-shelf plan ... Things happen in life. So we have commitments. We have travel. We have goals in terms of events and this, that, and the other. It's kind of difficult for the athlete who's really not knowledgeable enough to put together their own training plan based on off-the-shelf plan.

So we have a combination of our plans, but then we guide the athlete through it. We have a forum for the members where they have access to us 24/7. They ask questions. We help them with their schedules. Yeah. So it's all remote.

Alexis:             

So are your clients mostly triathletes?

Theia:              

We have both. We have cyclists and triathletes.

Alexis:             

That's great. Where do you see all of this taking you in terms of your coaching career and your own competitive cycling career?

Theia:              

I have two major things that I would like to accomplish. One is I really want to grow my business. Because well, sure, it pays the bills, right? That's one thing. I have to pay the bills. But also, I think it's ... We have, in a short period of being in business ... This is our second year. It's been so successful in terms of the community that it's built and the motivation that you get from one another. So having that community help each other out, motivate each other, and then having the access, it's just very, I think ... It's a great model, and I think I would love to see it grow. And that way, you have a larger community to draw from as one of our members. And then personally, I really want to start doing masters races. I think that given my age, I have no inspiration for going pro. My goal is to go to state championships and national championships as a master racer. And right now, I think my first target discipline is cyclocross.          

So that said, that's where I see myself really spending energy on in terms of getting to that point at some point. But again, there's something about being focused on the process and not on the outcome. And I think it's something that I also like to talk to athletes about. I'm not gonna go pro, and it's the process because it's every day. It's what you can accomplish every day. It's what you can accomplish each week. Yes, it's great to have these long-term goals. But the long-term goals don't need to involve the podium. They don't need involve results. They just need to involve you fixing yourself and wanting to do something for yourself that you're really gonna love doing. So yes, I'm very competitive, but at the end of the day, it's really about day-to-day and my mind's on training today. My route's exciting. I get on a bike and gosh, these intervals are challenging me. Next week, maybe I'll do a local event. Or maybe I don't. And you know what? Those very long entry rides that I used to do back then, the 150, 175-mile events, I'm not doing them anymore because I don't really feel like it. And so having that freedom to do what you feel like you really want to do ... And if that takes me to nationals, if that takes me to an age group championship, awesome.

Alexis:             

Yeah, that's great. I definitely agree with a lot of what you said. I mean, I feel like cycling is one of those sports that if you get into, it becomes such a big part of your life. And even if you don't have any competitive aspirations ... I don't. Because I love doing it so much, I need to stay in shape so that I can keep enjoying it. And it becomes this kind of cycle of its own as it's a part of your life. And that in itself is good for you. Again, it's not like tennis. And it is nice to just know that you're doing it because you love it, like you said, being more involved in the process and not the outcome. Pretty much every Saturday that it's not pouring out or I'm not skiing, I'm on my bike. And I'll make a plan to go somewhere or ride somewhere, just because I love it and it's part of my life. And whenever I come back from a ride, I'm never thinking, "Oh, I wish I hadn't done that."

Theia:              

For sure. 

Alexis:             

Great. Well, thank you for sharing your story. I'm excited to add it to the ones we've got so far and keep this going.

Theia:

Thank you.

For for information on Theia's coaching business visit www.endurancelab.fit.

 

 

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