By Becky Furuta
“Keep the balance. Time doesn’t wait for you to finish your dreams. Your kids won’t, either.” Tom Campbell, former mechanic at Team Novo Nordisk
It was freezing cold for Nashville, TN. I sat on the team bus alongside five other riders, all of us wishing we had known just how miserable the weather would turn. When we boarded the flight, the forecast didn’t call for incessant rain and wind. I had only packed a long-sleeved base layer and jersey, bibs and leg warmers and a thin set of full finger gloves. I didn’t even have wool socks or shoe covers.
My teammate finished pulling a shot of espresso, and turned to look at my reaction when Tom said those words, knowing me well enough to assume I would take a defensive posture. I did.
“What could he possibly know about raising children and being a parent,” I thought. Tom was a single guy with only a moderate level of patience for most kids, anyway. He had never had to miss a day of training because the school called to say that a child needed emergency x-rays after eating a bunch of Lego bricks, or had to stay up all night after five days of stage racing and an eight-hour drive because a kid broke out in hives from a milk allergy. “Who the hell does he think he is, anyway?”
Maybe my initial reaction was colored by the weather and the early hour, or maybe it was because – in all my years of racing and doing interviews alongside men who also have children – I am still asked every single time about what I “do with” my kids when I travel, as if my husband were profoundly unable to care for them, too. But in that moment, I was incensed.
Still, every time for the five years thereafter that I would board a plane, I would stop and ask myself, “Am I keeping the balance?” Tom was right. Just like I can’t get back all the years of racing behind me, I also can’t get back the moments of magic as I watched my children transform before my eyes, or the times when they needed to be swept up in the arms of their mother. Tom made me consider he value of the hours I was trading to race my bicycle. For what, exactly, was I exchanging my time….and when was it too much?
For the most part, I have done a good job of preserving that balance, I think. But I often wonder if I would have been so intentional about doing so, and so mindful of keeping my children at the forefront of my decisions, were it not for that early morning exchange on a team bus in Nashville, TN. And it was Tom who, years later, would gently pat those same children on the head and give them water bottles amid a sweltering day in downtown Denver at the USA Pro Challenge, because he knew that’s what they needed.
He looked up at me and said, “Good job, Mom.” And for a million reasons and a hundred flights, I said, “Thanks, Tom.”
Becky Furuta is an elite cyclist who has spent the last seven years racing for some of the most recognizable teams in cycling. She has worked to advocate for greater equality in the sport of women’s cycling, and volunteers for programs aimed at teaching kids with disabilities to ride bicycles. In her spare time, she works as a sports vision specialist at an optometric practice in Golden. She makes her home in Longmont with her husband, two children and her hound.
“SPOKE” Series background:
My life could be as easily measured in the passing of minutes as in the strokes of pedals. Much of my 39 years on the planet has been spent riding, from the moment my dad bought me my first black and white BMX bicycle to the afternoon when a large cardboard box arrived on my front doorstep containing a sponsor provided road bike that looked more like art than a machine. For more than seven years spread over a decade, I have raced a bike all over the world. I was given the kind of opportunities most bike racers can only dream of having, and I knew it could all be gone in an instant.
Elite cycling can be exhausting and relentless, physically and psychologically stressful and entirely unforgiving. It can also be absolute magic. I made it work because, for the most part, I was able to remain present in the moment. I never looked too far ahead or worried about what would come next because, just like riding itself, there were way too many variables. Instead, I drank up every thirsty moment and was grateful for the chance to just be a part of the show.
Cycling has a spectacular way of creating human connections, breaking down barriers and cultural differences, and creating unity. For all the solitary hours I spend inside the space of my thoughts, training and traveling by myself, I am rarely alone. And for the last five years of sponsorship, I have kept safe in the pocket of my pants the best of the people I have met and the lessons I have learned. I wish, in retrospect, that I were the kind of person who could keep a journal, but I rarely had time to write much of anything on the road. Instead, I kept the bits and pieces of wisdom and advice in a series of memos and texts stored in my phone. As you can imagine, there are hundreds of these little snippets, cast over Girona and Copenhagen and Lisbon, Dickinson, North Dakota and Tulsa, Oklahoma. They have become the patchwork of my experiences that will last long after I cross the final finish line of my racing career.