Goat Wrestling Perseverance

Episode 27 - Think it's too late for you? Know how to pivot with Janel (Spilker) Holcomb with host Dave Swanson

June 09, 2019 Dave Swanson / Janel (Spilker) Holcomb Season 2 Episode 27
Goat Wrestling Perseverance
Episode 27 - Think it's too late for you? Know how to pivot with Janel (Spilker) Holcomb with host Dave Swanson
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Goat Wrestling Perseverance
Episode 27 - Think it's too late for you? Know how to pivot with Janel (Spilker) Holcomb with host Dave Swanson
Jun 09, 2019 Season 2 Episode 27
Dave Swanson / Janel (Spilker) Holcomb

Before pedaling her way into the world of cycling camps and coaching, Janel was a competitive runner, studious kid turned enginerd, singer, and happy when spending time with family, friends or playing outdoors.

While finishing up grad school and teaching high school full-time, Janel bought her first road bike in 2006. At first, she participated in Team In Training, but soon Janel’s competitive side surfaced, and she turned her ambitions to road racing. She began working with coach Arnie Baker and entered her first race in January of 2007. Janel, Arnie & road racing proved to be the perfect fit.

By the end of her first season on the road, Janel was invited to guest ride at a stage race for the California-based professional team Webcor Builders. An entry-level bike didn’t slow her down too much as she was able to help secure the overall win for her teammate and find her way to the podium in the time trial. Janel signed to race full-time with Webcor and her career as a pro bike racer began.

In 2008, she began racing in Europe with Webcor and she continued to head to Europe each year with either her trade team or the U.S. national team. Janel is at her best when the road turns up, but she is certainly no slouch in the time trials. That combination made her one of the favorites in difficult U.S. stage races such as the Tour of the Gila and the Cascade Cycling Classic.

Janel rode a breakout season in 2011 racing for Colavita – Forno d’Asolo. She won the Joe Martin Stage Race, her first National Racing Calendar (NRC) stage race victory. Janel also won the overall at the Tour de Toona and Oregon’s challenging Cascade Cycling Classic. Thanks to her consistency, Janel finished the season by winning the NRC individual title.

Janel’s 2013 season was highlighted by a solo stage win at the Tour of Gila, finishing 2nd the following day in the time trial, and third overall. She was also a key member of the US team that brought home overall victory from the Giro Donne in Italy. For Janel, though, all the podium results were overshadowed by participating in the Team Time Trial at the World Championships in Florence 2013 and Ponferrada 2014 with her Optum teammates. Other career highlights include being named to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Long Team.

Since retiring from pro road racing in 2015, Janel has directed her efforts toward individual coaching, running cycling camps and clinics, and staying active in the cycling community as a brand ambassador. In 2017 as a retiree, Janel focused on gravel events and won Crusher in the Tushar and placed 3rd at Dirty Kanza 200. She continues to ride her road, gravel or mountain bike almost daily in and around the Santa Monica Mountains from her home in Newbury Park, CA.

In addition to her cycling successes, Janel has a degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s degree in education from the University of San Diego. Before turning bike racer, she taught high school math, physics and chemistry in San Diego.

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Dave Swanson

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Show Notes Transcript

Before pedaling her way into the world of cycling camps and coaching, Janel was a competitive runner, studious kid turned enginerd, singer, and happy when spending time with family, friends or playing outdoors.

While finishing up grad school and teaching high school full-time, Janel bought her first road bike in 2006. At first, she participated in Team In Training, but soon Janel’s competitive side surfaced, and she turned her ambitions to road racing. She began working with coach Arnie Baker and entered her first race in January of 2007. Janel, Arnie & road racing proved to be the perfect fit.

By the end of her first season on the road, Janel was invited to guest ride at a stage race for the California-based professional team Webcor Builders. An entry-level bike didn’t slow her down too much as she was able to help secure the overall win for her teammate and find her way to the podium in the time trial. Janel signed to race full-time with Webcor and her career as a pro bike racer began.

In 2008, she began racing in Europe with Webcor and she continued to head to Europe each year with either her trade team or the U.S. national team. Janel is at her best when the road turns up, but she is certainly no slouch in the time trials. That combination made her one of the favorites in difficult U.S. stage races such as the Tour of the Gila and the Cascade Cycling Classic.

Janel rode a breakout season in 2011 racing for Colavita – Forno d’Asolo. She won the Joe Martin Stage Race, her first National Racing Calendar (NRC) stage race victory. Janel also won the overall at the Tour de Toona and Oregon’s challenging Cascade Cycling Classic. Thanks to her consistency, Janel finished the season by winning the NRC individual title.

Janel’s 2013 season was highlighted by a solo stage win at the Tour of Gila, finishing 2nd the following day in the time trial, and third overall. She was also a key member of the US team that brought home overall victory from the Giro Donne in Italy. For Janel, though, all the podium results were overshadowed by participating in the Team Time Trial at the World Championships in Florence 2013 and Ponferrada 2014 with her Optum teammates. Other career highlights include being named to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Long Team.

Since retiring from pro road racing in 2015, Janel has directed her efforts toward individual coaching, running cycling camps and clinics, and staying active in the cycling community as a brand ambassador. In 2017 as a retiree, Janel focused on gravel events and won Crusher in the Tushar and placed 3rd at Dirty Kanza 200. She continues to ride her road, gravel or mountain bike almost daily in and around the Santa Monica Mountains from her home in Newbury Park, CA.

In addition to her cycling successes, Janel has a degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s degree in education from the University of San Diego. Before turning bike racer, she taught high school math, physics and chemistry in San Diego.

Camp

Dave Swanson

Website

Book 

Goat Wrestling Perseverance Clothes 

Free Chapter of my Bestselling Book? 



Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/GWPPodcast)

Dave Swanson:

Welcome to Goat Wrestling Perseverance, I'm here with a guest today, If you think you have pivoted careers before, you have not met someone like this. In fact, she had actually pivoted from being a chemical engineer from RPI to going to get a master's degree in education, but then after that, decided to become a professional bike racer and after becoming a professional bike racer. See now does camps for those that want to be professional bicyclist. And not only that, she's had a spectacular career in 2011 2013 she's won all kinds of awards, but not only that, she did not start cycling until her late twenties and as most of us know, athletes generally tend to start at a younger age. And so today I have Janell (Spilker) Holcomb and Janell, Thanks for being on the show today.

Janel Holcomb:

Thanks for having me, Dave.

Dave Swanson:

All right. Jumping into goat wrestling, perseverance, and our stories, let's go ahead and jump into it right away.

Janel Holcomb:

My career, like you said, his pivoted quite a lot. And what's always been interesting to me is that in those moments I haven't really seen them as major changes or hadn't seen as daunting changes. Uh, when I was pursuing my career in engineering, it seemed right on an intellectual side, uh, but it didn't seem right on a personal side. And the change to pursue teaching kind of came from, came from a lifelong love of the outdoors. I had been and I had been working at an environmental education camp every summer since I was a teenager. And as I was considering this career in chemical engineering or whether I wanted to go get my phd in chemical engineering, I had gone back to working at this environmental education camp for a couple of weeks and it made me realize that I loved helping people. I love helping kids learn. Um, and, and it struck me so quickly. MMM. Even though I had a year left in my undergraduate degree, I already knew that I wanted to go to Grad School for teaching. Um, fast forward a few years, I was living in San Diego and loving my career as a high school teacher. I was teaching at a really cool school that was project a project based. We wrote all our own, we didn't use textbooks. It was a very dynamic and exciting place to work and I was devoting most of my life to teaching at that point and it was exciting and I wasn't looking for anything else. And I got a bike on a whim and one of the women that I worked with at at school was coaching this program called Tina training where you raise money for the leukemia lymphoma society and they teach you to, or they coach you to ride a century, which is a hundred miles. And I hadn't ever done anything like it. I had just gotten a bike. I was commuting to and from work on my bicycle for not doing much else on it. And I jumped into this team and training program and suddenly I was captivated by everything that was cycling. I knew nothing about cycling, but I, I was completely engrossed in it and wanted to basically kept catch up on having missed 26 years of cycling and I wanted to learn as much as possible. Um, meanwhile I'm still teaching full time. Uh, but I was surrounded by the most amazing group of mentors and coaches. And of course all of these people are fundraising for the leukemia, lymphoma society as well. It's not their full time job, it's their hobby. But they, uh, they taught me how to ride. They taught me everything that I needed to know to do the century ride. And then they said, look to now, it's great to have you as a part of this program, but we think you have talent. And we'd like to introduce you to someone who's a real coach, who coaches professional, who's coached racers in the Tour de France and his coach women. And then you've gone to the Olympics. And I kind of figured, oh, wait a second, aren't you guys professionals? Isn't this what you do? And they're like, no, no. We were fundraising organization. We just ride bikes for fun. Um, and I was suddenly on this path, uh, where I couldn't get enough. And so it seemed fitting to start to look at it from the competitive side into connect with this coach. Um, so I met, I've met this coach and he turned out to be my coach through my entire career doctor Ernie Baker. And he had a very practical approach to everything. And when I first went out on one of his group rides, he said, Janell, are you interested in racing? And I said, yes, I am, but isn't it the middle of the race season? I'm not sure how to approach this. And he said, well, when you want to talk about racing, come see me. And so I finally went to go see him a few months later and I said, I think I want to do this full time. And he told me, well to know, I think you have worldclass ability but you'll make more money working full time at Walmart. So I was in, I, if, if someone tells me that I have world class ability, I'm, I'm going to commit to it. It wasn't a, like you said, most people who become professional athletes had been practicing that sport for their entire life and that wasn't my story, but when I saw a shot at it, I wanted to go for it. So I was still working as a teacher and as all as these things go. It was a, it was the day that I, uh, told my boss that I told the school director that I wasn't going to, that I wanted to pursue professional cycling. It was actually the same day that they announced me as the new director for school, that we were opening that coming fall and I had been, you know, involved in the project and they announced to be the director and I went straight from that all school meeting to, to the CEO's office and I said, actually, I have other plans I'd like to, I want to pursue as a career. And uh, that's what I did.

Dave Swanson:

Wow. That's such an amazing story. You think about, you've been into that career. They just announced you as director, but how did you balance the comment from the coach? That really stuck out to me that, you know, you'd make more money at Walmart than you would as a professional cyclist and that's gotta be weighing on your mind. Especially as you got this steady job. You have a master's degree in education, you kind of knew what you were great at it as well. And do you think that you would've been this world class teacher as well as a world class cyclist? Or what was that kind of unsettling feeling that you may have had at that moment?

Janel Holcomb:

MMM, yeah, there wasn't. I felt like I was moving from one great thing to something that had great potential as well. And the way I saw it was teaching would always be there for me. Uh, I could always go back to it, but I had a limited window in which to pursue a professional athletic career. You know, I was 28 years old when I started, when I signed my first professional contract and, and if I had waited a few more years, I don't know that I would've had the same opportunity. Certainly as I think we can see in, in professional careers everywhere that if you step away from one, you lose ground quicker. You know, I have a degree in chemical engineering, but I don't think I could ever go back to chemical engineering. I've been out of it and I thought at the time stepping away from teaching, I could go back and I think that provided enough comfort. But the truth was that I was, I was stepping away from something and I wasn't looking back. I don't know that I could've gone back to teaching them. I'm sure I could have, but I was totally committed to this idea of pursuing my race career and, and so I think even though I should have been scared about the, the leap, I wasn't, I just was looking forward,

Dave Swanson:

you know, it's rare to have somebody jump into a new career, look into that and not be afraid of something about it. What gave you that confidence? You know, that kind of, you knew this person is very, or it's, I mean you had to feel pretty good, right? You have this professional coach telling you, you work class, you just road with a bunch of other professional writers and you held your ground. So I guess that's kind of where you got the confidence from. Whoa. What about from when you were younger? I mean, just something that may have stuck out to you that, hey, I can't be great at this, you know, beyond, you know, what you had recently been told by the coach and stuff.

Janel Holcomb:

Great question. Probably gained a lot of confidence from, from my upbringing, upbringing. My parents were very good at letting myself and my sister and my brother pursue what we wanted to pursue. Um, and um, supporting us, but Ooh, may, you know, making sure that we did it on our, um, um, you know, we, I was, I was heavily involved in a lot of different activities growing up and certainly my parents would, uh, helped me get from point a to point B and, and uh, you know, I can certainly remember many nights when my mom or my dad would help me on challenging homework assignments or whatever it was. But, um, needless to say, it was, uh, you know, I decided, okay, I want to sing, I want to be a runner. I wanted, have academic goals, I want to be an outdoors person. I, you know, there was all these different things that I wanted to do and they said, okay, okay, keep going, keep going, keep doing it. So, uh, that probably played a big role. And I think the other big factor is that when you had solid people on your team, when you have really good people around you, then, you know, like I had confidence that I could do my part, but I also had complete confidence in my coach Arnie that he was going to give me the tools that I needed and helped me learn. You know, I have a lot of catching up to do so to speak because I hadn't been riding a bike that long. Um, physiologically I, I had some, some gifts, but I had to do a lot of training. I was years behind in training and years behind in race strategy and tactic. I didn't have the experience and the bike handling that other research had. Um, but I had confidence that Arnie was going to be able to help get me there. And I also trusted that if there was something that he couldn't help me with, you would find someone who, so I, you know, a lot of it to me comes down to the people that we surround ourselves with.

Dave Swanson:

It's something I glossed over. I wouldn't say glossed over, but I did not mention in the introduction is a little bit about the Olympic team here in 2012. I'm, you know, for the audience, what's, what's that light? Just the experience knowing that you're representing, you know, the u s that way. I just, uh, I'm guessing in London and what that was like for you.

Janel Holcomb:

So I, um, so process to go to the Olympics in every sport is a little bit different. And in cycling, what they do is in, at the beginning of an Olympic year, they put together a list of writers that they think would be highly qualified for the Olympic team. So I was on that list of writers. So they put together a list and you know, about eight or 10 women who could potentially go to the Olympics and then you spend the next seven months or so trying to earn your spot. Ultimately we got four spots for the London Olympics and I wasn't selected. And that process was, um, was very interesting. Um, you know, we, we think of the Olympics as a completely athletic pursuit, but it, um, it is a lot more complex than that. Um, and it was a, a process that I was, uh, I, you know, I, as a member of the national team, it was always amazing to represent the u s um, there was always something special about pulling on a US jersey, um, racing my bike all over the world for the u s but the Olympic process was trying to qualify for the team was, uh, was a lot different than anything I had ever done athletically. It was much more political than I would've ever expected.

Dave Swanson:

Well, to put it in perspective for the audience to know. I mean, think about it. You bought your first road bike in 2006 and six years later you are being asked to represent the United States and this. And so I know that it may have been a political side of it, but you have to understand and just six years, you know, that's all it took for you to represent, you know, the country or at least be considered, you know, I talk about, you know, the ability to master something and you know, to go from apprenticeship to, to really mastering something, it could take a minimum of seven years, maybe up to 10 years. And for some people a lifetime to master something. So put that in perspective that in less than six years you're able to achieve the highest level of cycling. And so I think it's pretty impressive. I know that you probably would have loved to have been there and possibly be part of the team as well. Um, but you know, understanding that and knowing how far you had to come from, it's something I think the audience understands and have them having to persevere like that.

Janel Holcomb:

Thanks Dave. Thanks. I really appreciate that. Yeah, it was an amazing journey.

Dave Swanson:

Well, for the next step, we're just talking about Janell. You are doing some camps, you're doing some other things to really get people out there. And I know that you'd recently been out there scouting some different routes for different training camps in what, what's kind of next for Janell? What are you doing after this? Cause I, it sounds like you're not going back to teaching and you know, sticking with what you love doing. So what's kind of those next steps?

Janel Holcomb:

So I think, um, you know, I was coaching, I'm still racing and, but what I found was that in addition to coaching writers one on one, I loved working with athletes for an intensive period of time and getting to spend a good deal of time with them over the course of a few days. Um, I don't know how many of your listeners have had the, a privilege of going to a camp as a kid where you're surrounded by, you're surrounded by a bunch of other kids in Europe. It's all about fun and immersing yourself in this experience. Where are we from home? But cycling camps have a very similar feel. It's like being a kid again. It's like going to summer camp, but you're doing something that you love with other people who love the same thing. And I've found that my coaching and ability to provide a very rich experience kind of came together really nicely in these sites, in camps. So I started off by doing one camp every winter called the burrito spring cycling camp or [inaudible] for short. And we would have 60 riders a day out on the roads around Borrego Springs, California. And I saw people tackling more miles, more feet of climbing, weather conditions they would have dreamed that they could tackle. And I realized that that was the kind of experience I wanted to provide to more people. And so this past year I teamed up with live cycling, which is a women's brand of bikes and bike gear. They're there, uh, brother companies, so to speak, as giant bicycles. And I have teamed up with live to provide more camps so that we can get more people on bikes. So I've done some women's camp and I'm going to be doing some men's and women's camps with, with, and giant. And, um, I really want people to be able to have the, a kind of a space to enjoy cycling and to gain confidence and have a once in a lifetime experience that they want to continue coming back for again and again.

Dave Swanson:

Well, that's awesome. I think that, like you said, the, you know, when you're out there and doing a camp like that, it goes back to the what we love doing and that's learning, you know, and it's one of those things that you can't pass up. And then if you're out there learning with everyone else, you realize you're, everybody's going to make mistakes. And you know, it's just fun being in that kind of environment. And I'm glad that you're out there putting it out there for the cycling world. Cause I think that's definitely some of those things that people need. And so Janell, again, thank you for being on the show. It's been an honor to have you.

Janel Holcomb:

Thank you so much, Dave.