24 Oct Up Close and Personal with Basecamp Ambassador Pippa Lyon
One hour ago Pippa scored her first Clean & Jerk at the Saturday morning 7am Joe’s Basecamp class.
One week ago she just returned to work from maternity leave, and only four weeks ago, she finished 21 days of cycling, covering a grand total of 3,460kms. Pippa rode the Tour de France alongside a team of 9 international women, a day ahead of the lads.
This isn’t the first year this event has happened. It started in 2015 with three French women. They were aiming to raise awareness for gender equality in cycling and campaign for a women’s tour to be held alongside the men’s. It has grown every year since, with 2019 seeing such growth that a whole new international team was created. Welcome the InternationElles. Ten women riders, four crew, representing seven countries. Pippa and her team joined the French team and on the 5th to 27th July 2019 they rode the course from Brussels to Paris. Each of the 21 stages of the Tour de France. The event was totally self-supported and met the aims of the initial ride back in 2015, receiving global attention.
Some of the team were interviewed on BBC breakfast, the women’s efforts were covered by the likes of Al Jazeera, NY TImes and had viral broadcasts across social media.
I met up with Pippa after her Saturday 7am Joe’s Basecamp class (legendary for being brutal) and we went out for a coffee and a chat. I actually felt humbled to sit across from her, Pippa’s one-year-old Mawson chewing the head of my pen in the middle of the table between us. We drank coffee (“Don’t tell Joe” [about the milk]) and spoke of training, event planning, goals and juggling motherhood.
Pippa agreed to join the InternationElles just 12 weeks before the event. Hearing this I thought sure, and she must of had a great base level of fitness from other recent cycling events. You’d be surprised to know that Pippa’s most recent major event was the ‘Race Around Ireland’ [2200km] with her home team,The Veloroos, was almost three years ago. Okay. Whoa.
So, with 12 weeks out and a baby what training did she do?
Pippa made it happen by getting up at 5am, doing ‘Zwift’ workouts. Hard, high-intensity indoor bike sessions at home which she would squeeze in before Mawson her son would wake up. She would be done before 6:45am, and then switch into ‘mum’ mode. On long weekend sessions where her training days would be 200km and 10 hours long, she would leave at 5am, and get home at 4pm. Pre-prepped recovery drinks and a shower were her only ‘non-negotiables’ before the mum switch was flipped again.
Mawson joined her at The Basecamp to strength and conditioning sessions, Pippa stating “Everyone there was really great, they would take him off me when they saw he was becoming too much [so she could finish the session].”
The volume of her training increased, I took a guess at 20 hours a week, Pippa however measures it in km. Stating she was clocking over 350km a week in her peak phase. The training paid off. Pippa felt great during the rides each day of the Tour, reiterating that ‘The body is amazing and just adapts”. At the end of each day in France she dialed in her recovery to: a post-cycle shake, a round spikey roller ball session” often done when we were driving to the next start location” and by sleeping in compression tights. All methods gleaned from her previous experiences competing in past endurance events.
She wasn’t starting completely from scratch at the start of her 12 week program. Before commencing the 12 week program Pippa had been to Buggy Boot camp after she had Mawson. She’d also finished 6th in the ‘TAP’ race down in Kosciuszko 4 weeks prior with only “little training.” This placement gave her the confidence to say yes to the Tour. With her fellow Veloroos chatting about it weeks prior, the seed had already been planted. Pippa had been looking for a challenge, but “nothing with too much endurance.” When she told me this I laughed internally at the irony. She was after something that “scared you enough to get you out of bed at 5am, because if you don’t train for it, then there’s a real possibility you might not make it.”
Team work & Women’s equality
I was curious how the team meshed. With members coming from 7 different countries, that’s a whole lot of new faces on your team, also who you’ve never ridden with before. I questioned Pippa on the dynamics and how that affected the ride. She smiled and said that the InternationElles gelled from the beginning. On the first day they were doing a photo shoot on some playground equipment, and everyone was having a laugh. Pippa thought ‘this is going to be fun.’ I pondered if this event, a bit of fun in itself, removed from the pressures of professional competition and with its intention to promote, connect and celebrate women helped this ‘gelling.’
Pippa is also a feminist, although she wouldnt call herself that. With the hashtag of #ThisIsOurTime and #Equality, being shared across the socials, the women rode hard and swelled the hearts of women worldwide watching. This is no hyperbole, I actually felt rising pride as a woman. I followed the journey, and saw my mates from various countries overseas share the InternationElles on their social feeds as well. I was so f*ing proud! This is one of the reasons I train at Joes, people like this. Anyways, back to Pippa!
Although Pippa was aware of the media coverage, she didn’t want to buy into the sensationalism. Her intention was to create a new ‘normal.’ She stated she wants her son to see women doing these kind of events (the Tour) and think “Oh Yeah. That’s normal.” Pippa went on to say that the segregation of male and female events is the problem, although understanding that some women may not feel comfortable within men’s company and it’s male dominated culture established. It’s this segregation which makes us say “oh that’s incredible” when we see women doing things [like the tour], when, according to Pippa, it should actually just be normal.
She wants Mawson to see this ‘normality’ in the future. When he sees women doing things events such as this. To view it not as “Oh, that’s incredible. The boys are doing this – the girls are doing that,” but that all people are doing everything, and that is ordinary.
Balance between life and adventure
At Joe’s Basecamp, everyone is training for something. Be it life’s everyday adventures, an event or long term goal. I asked Pippa how she manages her time between her many different hats of being a new mum, competing at a professional athlete level and even getting organised leading up to the Tour ride.
In the prep phase leading up to her cycle, Pippa said there was no element that was easy. She said this with gravitas. I was sharply reminded that within media, we mostly see the successes, the post event photos, arms raised, flowers and smiles. The hard, grindy effort and work prior to the event becomes condensed, acknowledged ‘of course that’s what you must do’. Those 12 weeks of hard training, early mornings, organisation and preparation become forgotten and never really celebrated. I mentally put a floral wreath around Pippa’s neck when she said that ‘no element was easy.’ That is half the battle. It is the people who persevere through that hard effort who receive that external reward.
Pippa confessed however she even thought about quitting right before stepping onto the plane; there was stress, a constant mental battle, and the biggest thing? The unknown.
I queried what she meant about this. Pippa brought bub Mawson along with her to France and he was looked after by her mum and step dad, as well as her partner’s parents. The unknown for Pippa was what was going to happen for Mawson during the event. Pippa went on to divulge that she was never felt fully committed to the event until the moment she stepped on the plane. Leaving Mawson, thinking “How can I do this,” the unknown of what can happen with her 1-year-old as he followed her around France. That was the biggest thing, Pippa reaffirmed.
Mawson traveled as a part of the entourage alongside the InternationElles, and each day during the half-hour lunch break Pippa was able to hang out with him. I queried if that switching between athletic performance and mum mode had any negative effect on either of those roles. Pippa squinted her eyes trying to think about it, and simply said “not really.” I don’t think Pippa had even considered this before. It amazed me that someone can switch into gear so quickly and I thought whatever mental game Pippa has going on, I want some.
When discussing some of the everyday routines leading up to the event, Pippa made a rule not to be on her phone too much around Mawson. She didn’t want him to see someone with their head stuck in their screen as ‘normal.’ Although this tidbit may seem off topic and unrelated to her cycling 3,460kms around three countries I thought it speaks volumes on how she approaches life. Making conscious decisions about actions and the effects of those actions on others. Making decisions for yourself about how you are going to act in the world, how you are going to be. Then, simply implementing them. Even when you are tired, over it and want to scroll Instagram at breakfast time or don’t want to get up at 5am. I think this type of deep reflection, decision making and actions are how great people get to be great. And? This is how Pippa gets it done!
Pippa said everything was at capacity right before she left; organising day care, what to do when she came back, returning to work a week after she landed, her mum’s accommodation in France. Pippa definitely had a full plate. It shows us that amazing feats can still be achieved, no matter what is going on in your life!
She went on to tell how she and Joe (her partner) wanted Mawson to fit into their lives. She didn’t not want to get up in the morning when the baby got up and start the day then. I could see how she really meant this. I mean, she was still breastfeeding 2 days before she started the event.
So, two weeks after sitting down and chatting with Pippa, I am still talking about her to my friends. Like I said before, I love training at Joe’s for the simple fact that you get to rub shoulders with regular people achieving amazing things (sorry Pippa, I still think it’s incredible). It’s people like Pippa that set the example for other women, that once you set your mind to something, anything is achievable. I can’t wait to see the women’s event grow next year and for the evolution of the new normal.