Have you ever dreamt of becoming the first to accomplish some feat in your field? Ayesha McGowan is on a mission to do just that and become the first ever African-American pro female road racer. Ayesha’s incredible work toward this goal is an example to us all of what it takes to accomplish a feat that hasn’t been done before.
Behind Ayesha’s drive to become the first African-American pro female road racer is a passion to create female African-American representation in cycling. “If you don't see yourself, it's really hard to imagine yourself in those spaces,” Ayesha shared. “My big mission is to create more representation and encourage more representation from the industry.”
Read on to learn from this incredible woman what it takes to pursue a dream of becoming the first!
Give Yourself a Do-Over
Ayesha’s first real race in 2014 was a terrible experience. It was freezing cold, raining, and full of troubling sights. While Ayesha had been excited leading up to the event, the day came and she froze.
“I felt like I could probably do pretty well in the competition,” Ayesha said, “But I just froze. I was not ready mentally and my brain game was off that day.” Not long after the race began, there was a big accident where a racer was badly hurt. Ayesha was shocked when the race continued after that.
Despite the fact that Ayesha did not have a good time in her first race, she knew she had to keep going with her passion. “I decided that cannot be my bike racing experience,” Ayesha remembered. “I know that I'm capable of having a much better time than I have. I know that this is something that I could truly enjoy. But I do need to learn a lot more things.”
What an incredible example this is! It’s OK if your first experience is terrible. That doesn’t mean everything after that will be terrible too. Give yourself another chance to explore a passion even if things go wrong.
Always Be Learning
After this difficult experience, Ayesha decided to sign up for some clinics to improve her skills and facilitate a more positive experience for herself. Since then, Ayesha hasn’t stopped learning.
“I feel like every time you race, you either do something right and you decide to do that again or you do something wrong and you decide not to do that again,” Ayesha said. “But no matter what, you always learn something. That’s just how it's gone for me. I just keep racing and I keep learning. It doesn't necessarily get easier. I just get better at it.”
Whether it is from official training or learning from experience, discovering new things about your passion of choice will only help you improve your skills and bring more good things to your endeavours. Take time to ponder your learning experiences and even think of exciting opportunities to increase your knowledge.
Become the Role Model
Ayesha relates that her decision to go pro was pretty impulsive. Within a year of racing, she decided she wanted to try for pro. “It was pretty unrealistic, to be honest with you,” Ayesha said. “But for me, it didn’t seem so. What I've learned along the way is that if this is something that you want, it's something that you really genuinely have to commit to.”
Committing to your big goal isn’t really a one-time thing. “Every year that I'm on this journey, I dig deeper and dive deeper into committing myself even more to this cause and this goal,” Ayesha shared. For Ayesha, reaching her goal consisted of one part racing, one part learning and one part advocacy.
Because she didn’t see representation for women of colour in the racing scene, Ayesha decided to go for it and be the first. In addition to her mission to become the first female African-American pro road racer, Ayesha launched an initiative to promote representation and created a platform to feature women of colour in cycling.
“There's a whole demographic of people who don't get any limelight,” Ayesha remarked. “I think it's really important to spread those stories because young people of colour have an opportunity to really go far in the sport. But they don't have access because they don't know about it. The more we talk about it, the more we share their stories, the more likely people are to find cycling at a younger age.”
Tied to Ayesha’s goal of becoming the first in her field is a strong purpose to create representation. As you strive to become the first in your field, you inspire people too. Consider all the great things that your mission could bring about.
Get Back Up Quickly
While competing in the National Championship, Ayesha slid on a crosswalk and railed her chin against a barrier. That was the end of the race for her. Glad that she wasn’t terribly injured, Ayesha sat out the next race to ensure her performance throughout the whole season instead of overdoing it.
“I didn't feel confident racing again right away,” Ayesha said, “but I could ride. For me, the sooner I get back on the bike, the better it is. The longer you wait, the harder it is for you to get over that.”
After your first injury, fear can be consuming. Ayesha shows that it’s all about getting back up as soon as you can and doing something, even if it’s not getting right back to 100%. Once you do, you’ll see that you can do this. You can get back up again and it’s OK.
Huge thanks to Ayesha for sharing her story! Take a listen to our conversation on the Tough Girl podcast to hear more about her cycling experience and the insights she’s gained along the way.
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