Introduction to Athletic by Bike with Jennifer Tetrick

Image: Carson Blume Photography

My name is Jennifer Tetrick.  I am a professional triathlete, former communications director for a Member of Congress and a newbie bike advocate.  

Riding a bike is a part of my life just as much as sitting in a chair or driving a car.  As a triathlete, going to the “office” entails riding my bike, whether it be on the local streets of Southern California, in the Santa Monica Mountains or in different places around the country.  By bike, I have seen, felt and learned things and made new friends that I never would have otherwise.        

I remember the first time I awkwardly clipped into my first road bike only a few years ago; it was like discovering something I always knew.  I guess you could say that I am genetically inclined towards bicycles:  my grandfather, at 81, still races bikes and my sister Alison is a cyclist for Exergy Twenty16 UCI Professional Cycling Team.  My first long ride was a road race, but even still, bikes, with all the equipment, gear and maintenance, were intimidating to me.  And while my whole family was into bikes, they all lived back West, and I was living and working in Washington, D.C., a bit too far to get help changing a flat and learn basic cycling things like what to wear (and what not to wear), how to shift, ride in a group or even where to ride... 

It wasn’t until walking into CycleLife, a shop nestled along the Potomac River in Georgetown, that I began to truly embrace bicycles.  The shop manager got me out on the group rides and linked me into their racing team, and through a growing network of people that became some of my closest friends, I learned a lot about the basics of riding a bike.  It was in that “safe” context that I was able challenge myself, ride longer, harder and further than I ever would have without such a motivating and accepting group of people.  And some lessons I have just learned the hard way over the last few years - by experience, trial and error.  Sometimes you just have to try things at least once.  (Noted: Underwear does not work under cycling shorts).  

Growing up on a ranch in California, I rode horses far more than riding bikes as a kid.  However, being outside, working hard and pushing oneself beyond what is comfortable has always been a core aspect of the Tetrick lifestyle, the competitive spirit permeating everything from games of Candy Land to sports.  Thus, it wasn’t too far a stretch to wind up playing competitive volleyball in college, in addition to running cross country and track and field and helping my team win the National Championships.    

After college, I pursued a career in communications on Capitol Hill and later at the Department of Energy, but I always had a lingering desire to go back to sports.  It wasn’t until I was teetering on the edge of injury after running the Berlin Marathon that I finally decided to join the rest of my family in riding bikes...    

One of my favorite quotes that I had seen in a Nike ad when I was a teenager was, “You never work out and regret it.  You never go for a run and wish you had just stayed home.  You never climb a mountain, get to the top and say, ‘I should have been content to stay where I was’.”  I knew that I wanted to pursue being an athlete and wouldn’t be content standing on the sidelines.  So, I made the leap from the professional life of dresses, heels and styled hair to the professional life of spandex, running shoes and ponytails, and I moved back to my home state of California, closer to my family and to seek coaching guidance from swim guru Gerry Rodrigues of Tower26 and my head coach, Purplepatch Fitness’ Matt Dixon.   

If you had asked me five years ago if this would be the life I would be living, I wouldn’t probably have believed you, but life has a way of throwing curveballs that later provide unheard of - and sometimes better - opportunities.  

I look forward to being a part of this column with Women on Bikes SoCal, and look forward to hearing from you with any questions about riding bikes in our beautiful State of California, racing triathlons or anything else.  And until then, see you out on the roads! :)