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In the (Feed)Zone - Liz So Interview

By: TrueSport.com
Posted: Dec 5, 2011

This past season I enjoyed watching the astonishing development of a new rider that burst onto the scene as a women`s Cat 4 rider winning some local races and doing post ups with flair as she crossed the finish line, more often than not, solo with the shattered field far off in the distance. Meh, big deal - quirky Cat 4 wins races with small fields, I`ve seen this dance… But as the wins piled up against larger and larger fields I began to wonder if there was something special happening. In June and July, I got my answer. The newbie rider, Liz So who raced for Team Tati (Tati Hottie?) sprouted from being pack fill at the Tour of America`s Dairyland to taking a notable 16th spot at the NRC Glencoe Grand Prix to dominating the 3,4 women`s races at Superweek. When she started doubling up and doing the Women`s Pro 1-3 in addition to the 3,4 – even I was impressed as she was not only holding her own but placing in the money. After graduating from the University of Chicago – in 3 freaking years no less! – Liz is doing post graduate work in a 1 year pre med course at Georgetown University and is fully engulfed in the cycloscross season placing high in UCI and USGP races. I was able to squeeze a few minutes between molecular biology flashcards and training rides to get to know this remarkable young lady a bit better. Here you go:

LIZ SO INTERVIEW

So, Liz Seriously, are you really going to start with that? My Bad Let`s do this. What are you up to these days? I recently moved to DC for grad school. I`m also in the middle of my third cyclocross season. I finished at the University of Chicago in Biological Sciences (in three years, editors note – with a Fulbright Grant no less…bloody impressive) and later was accepted into Georgetown in a 1 year program designed to get students into med school. I`d eventually like to pursue pediatrics or sports medicine. DRUBER NOTE: All you people that quit your jobs and/or drop out of school so you can `concentrate on training` have just been served! Where did you grow up and what is your athletic background? I`m a Jersey girl, and proud of it. Exit 37B…Rockaway. That`s two miles past the Townsquare Mall exit in North Jersey. In grade school, I was a terrible softball and soccer player and was fortunate to find my calling in endurance sports when I entered high school. It took me too long to realize that I`m complete rubbish in any sport that primarily involves hand-eye coordination. I ran cross country and track in high school and college. I did the 800 meter through the 5k but my favorite event was the 2k steeplechase. That does not surprise me what with the bent toward cyclocross Is there a question here? Sorry Let`s keep going! How/Why did you begin cycling? It`s the classic injured-runner-turned-cyclist story. After a couple years of competitive running, I began to experience burnout and persistent overuse injuries. My friend, Megan Garlapow, also had an extensive running injury history but switched to cycling and had a lot of fun with the sport. With her example and mentorship, I decided to give cycling a try. From the beginning, I was fortunate enough to find support and resources from the local cycling community. J Tati of TATI Cycles helped me with my bike and told me about a new team he was starting. I joined Team TATI, which at that time only took on lower category riders because of its strong developmental focus. The months after I got a bike, I remember doing lots of bike handling drills and organized team rides. J and my teammates helped me gain confidence on the bike and encouraged me to try racing. My first race was the Monsters of the Midway criterium in 2008. I was dropped within a few laps and finished off the back, but I was hooked. HMMM, that doesn`t fit the meme that when newbie racers are dropped in their first races they generally just quit and become triathletes. Maybe I`m a glutton for punishment?

It takes some panache to show up for the podium in those glasses.

The only woman I`ve seen dominate the 3-4 races like you did this season was Stacy Applewick in 2010. Are you a natural or do you just work really hard at it? Ha, I think this is a trick question. It is very flattering to be compared to Stacy. I hope she doesn`t think it`s a slight! Regarding cycling, I love the daily grind and the small improvements that come with each day of consistent effort. My tutelage under my team`s DS, J Tati, has unquestionably shaped me into the racer I am today. J tells everyone that in road racing, the first year is always a wash—that it takes several years to develop as a cyclist. This past road season, things just really seemed to come together. I followed a steady winter training plan, and it launched my upgrade to category 3. I also raced a tremendous amount, more than all my previous seasons combined. It`s hard not to improve if you keep training and racing year after year. I did 42 races, not including Tuesday Matteson practice crits, and often doubled when the categories permitted. My success as a racer now has a lot to do with the bike handling practice and the racing strategy discussions that I`ve been so lucky to have since the beginning. I owe a lot to J and Team TATI beyond my obsession with the color orange. With that being said, I am still learning from every competition, and see several areas I can improve. For me, this is what makes cycling so rewarding.

 

I saw you took a top 20 in a big `cross race recently. Was it USGP or UCI? What was that like? Earlier in the season, I took a leap and got an international cycling license. My first UCI race was at Granogue in Wilmington, Delaware and it was certainly different than what I was used to. In a sense, I`ve had to relearn how to race my bike. In the elite fields, the women are more aggressive; you have to stay more focused and can`t let your guard down. Also, the small things become very important at that level. Mistakes, whether or not they are in your control, are very significant. I`m definitely gaining a lot of experience from this level of competition. It has been challenging to race out of my comfort zone, but I don`t view this as a one-year experiment. I have to start somewhere. `Cross or road – which do you prefer? It depends on the season. So right now—I prefer `cross, but road is a close second. Do you do time trials? Other than in practice or short time trials in stage races, no. How can you call yourself a cyclist ferchissakes! Is time trialing bike racing? I`m sorry, I didn`t realize. I`ll try a few next season if you agree to do some cyclocross races! DRUBER NOTE: Looks like Liz will most likely not be seen sporting a goofy helmet on an aero bike any time soon. What are your plans for the 2012 season? I`m interested in racing some of the collegiate season and trying out local races around the DC area, but it really depends on my school schedule, managing carpools, and budgeting finances. I`m planning to upgrade to Category 2 by the end of the 2012 season. In the summer, I will be returning to Chicago to race with a new Chicago-based women`s elite team. The team will be officially announced on December 1st, so stay tuned! DRUBER NOTE: The new Chicago based women`s team Les Petites Victoires was recently announced - www.lespetitesvictoires.org. Go there, read that, support them.

In a TIBCO sandwich at Glencoe.

Do you have an off season? To prevent burnout, I do take some time off in between `cross and road. Last summer, I raced Elk Grove, hopped on a plane to DC the next day, and had my first day of school the day after that. With settling into a new city and waiting for my bikes to ship, I took a few weeks off and cross-trained. I do some running and the obligatory ab, back, core stuff…blah, blah…read a Human Kinetics cycling book where Druber is the model if you need details. DRUBER NOTE: You can see photos and drawings of Druber in the Human Kinetics published books Distance Cycling and Strength Training for Cyclists. Because of `cross ending so late this season, I`m planning to start my winter base training a few weeks later than usual. Focused work outs or just riding... what is your training style? I do both. It`s funny—people have asked me how I train and are always surprised to hear how minimalistic it is. Last winter, I rode a lot of base miles outside when the weather allowed or indoors on the rollers. I didn`t add any interval workouts until around late March. In the winter of Chicago I mostly ride rollers. I don`t last very long on the trainer. I`ve become quite proficient in riding rollers, one legged, no hands, standing all that. DRUBER NOTE: I long ago determined that it`s a damned shame that any serious cyclist should become so proficient. I used to do all that stuff while stoned on aged Nicaraguan Rum then after 3 years of not using my Tacx rollers, I put them in the alley behind the house. They disappeared. Presumably an old migrant woman picked them up and sold them for scrap. That is a much better use in my mind, but that`s just me. In Chicago, I usually do coffee rides MWF, intervals on Tuesday, a practice crit on Thursdays, and long rides or racing on the weekends. The simple structure of my training works because I am consistent. Though honestly, it`s difficult for me to view what I do as strict training because I really enjoy it. It`s fun! Every morning, I get to ride bikes with my friends. I`m not claiming that this is the best way to train, but it has been very sustainable for me. What is your favorite part of cycling? Aside from watching you race? Just joking... As much as I enjoy a victory on the bike, it is always much sweeter when earned with teammates. The TATI women experimented with team tactics throughout the entire season, and it really came together beautifully at the Tour of Elk Grove criterium. My leadout women got me to the line in perfect position, and I was honored to deliver the team win. It was my last race in Chicago, and the best sendoff my teammates could have given me.

 

I love cycling so much that I strive to give back to the community and share my passion with others. Last April, I started a blog called Chicago Women`s Bike Racing (CWBR) which seeks to support and promote all woman racers who make up the Chicago women`s peloton. The site has exploded into a community-wide effort, hosting dozens of contributors representing all ages, levels, and cycling disciplines. Plans on returning to the Midwest any time soon? Absolutely. I`ll be in Chicago for the New Years Resolution cyclocross race, and then in Madison for Nationals the following week. I`ll also return sometime in June to race with my new team for the summer road season. There are lots of things to look forward to! Will you marry me? I`m going to politely decline. Interview over, you creepo (laughs)....

 

And there you have it. We here in the (Feed)Zone look forward to watching the continued development of Ms So next season. It is also, the sincere hope from this vantage point that more new riders, both male and female have the opportunity to receive the mentoring, encouragement and support that helped Liz develop as well as she did last season. Kudos to Team Tati for its grass roots commitment to developing new riders and a challenge to all of us to look for opportunities to do the same – this is the future of our sport.


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