This is our first instalment of the philosophy side-interest/hobby project. The author is Rachel McKinnon, Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Charleston.
Can you tell me something about your side-interest/hobby?
I race bikes (bicycles) at an elite level internationally. In the US, I carry a ‘Category 1’ license, which is the highest category (they go from 5 to 1). I also have an international ‘UCI’ license, which lets me race around the world. This year, I’ll race primarily in the US, and I’m targeting the Canadian Elite Road National Championships in June. Next spring, I’ll spend some time in and around the Netherlands racing (e.g., possibly also Belgium, Germany, France).
I also co-founded and serve as captain for an international cycling team, Foxy Moxy Racing. Our one sentence description is: "Racing bikes, radically promoting trans and gender non-conforming inclusion in sport." We have racers all over the US and Canada. That adds an extra, interesting layer to my life.
I started racing just over two years ago. I’ve been an elite athlete most of my life, with my primary focus on badminton and golf when I was younger. But when I moved to the US in 2014, there wasn’t any elite badminton in my area. I needed a new sport, and somehow I found myself in cycling.
At the moment, I train 12-15hrs/week. In the winter it’s a little more (up to 18-20hrs/week).
How did you get into this hobby?
Since I couldn’t really continue training in badminton without quality facilities and competition in my area, I struggled to stay fit. I don’t really like running, and it’s pretty hard on my body. So I put on some weight, and found my way in a spin class in December 2014. And I loved it! I had a road bike in undergrad, and had thought about racing, but never got around to it. I was loving the spin classes and decided to buy a road bike in February 2015. I did my first race in March 2015, and won my first race in April.
Are there any significant accomplishments you’d like to share?
I’m a two-time defending state champion in the road race and current criterium champion. In 2016 one of my main season goals was the Crossroads Classic, a four-day race series in NC. I won all four stages, the overall yellow jersey, and the blue jersey sprint competition. I also took 3rd in a big pro criterium—the USA Crits Speed Week #3: Michelin Test Track event. In 2017 I’ve had a great start to my season with four wins, including Stage 2 in the pro Tour of the Southern Highlands stage race.
Do you have goals that you want to achieve (e.g., getting to a certain level/winning in a certain kind of competition?)
My primary goal is to win the 2018 Canadian Elite Road Race National Championships. I’m hoping to be on the podium this year. I think that’s attainable. My really ambitious goal is to make Team Canada for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the road cycling event.
Does your hobby relate to philosophy at all? Any crossovers?
My various sports careers (including my 6yr stint as a professional poker player) have certainly informed my philosophical work on the metaphysics of luck and how we evaluate performances. I think that athletes (and poker players, definitely) have fairly sophisticated understandings of luck and how to think about performance norms. I draw on sports examples often. Much more recently, I’ve been working on issues of trans-inclusive sport ethics, law, and policy. And being an elite trans athlete is certainly helpful for that work! Increasingly, I find myself enjoying that work, too. I think it has the chance to make a real difference in people’s lives. I’ve also started teaching our sports ethics course, and the personal experience as an elite athlete is extremely valuable.
How do you make enough time for your hobby?
Really, really good time management. I basically only have my work and my cycling. I’m single; I don’t have much time for a social life. I don’t really drink, since that interferes with training. I think I’m pretty lucky that I’m able to finish projects relatively quickly. But I’ve certainly had to scale back my research output as my cycling became more serious. I rarely work on weekends, as I’m usually doing 8+ hrs of training, or I’m out of town racing. So I mostly schedule my life around training and racing where I can. I have a really good daily planner and calendar!