By Becky Furuta
“Go slow before you go fast.”
Matt Vogel, former staff member at Team Novo Nordisk, Santa Barbara, CA
Training camp can be hectic. For Team Novo Nordisk, it was often the rare occasion when all the athletes from each discipline – the women’s team and the men’s, the runners and the triathletes and all of the staff – would end up in the same place at the same time. Inevitably, trying to manage 100 different athletes while juggling individual and team photo shoots, training time, sponsor presentations and logistics meant that the daily schedule was constantly evolving. One particularly frustrating afternoon, the need to move around blocks of time resulted in my losing the only hour-and-a-half chunk I’d been granted during the day to actually go ride my bike. With races right around the corner and a training plan to which I was adhering like a religious commandment, I promptly freaked out.
I marched up to Matt in total frustration and launched into an unbecoming rant about how desperately I needed that training time. Matt, wisely, cut me off by turning his back. When I gained my composure, he spun around and said, “That’s what it’s like talking to you. You’re too abrupt.”
I cringe now to think how I must have come across in that moment, standing on the edge of so many opportunities, angry with the team for carving out time to do promotional work on my behalf because it meant losing 90 minutes of pedaling around California. “This is the only time you will have with some of these people all year long. Enjoy it. The time you take to connect with people – especially your teammates – is as important as the time it takes to get everything done. Sometimes, you have to go slow before you go fast.”
That moment with Matt helped me change how I approach people. I still forget his advice from time-to-time, but I now make a more conscious effort to be in the moment with those around me, and to take a few moments to really connect with the people in my life.
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.