Mari Holden: I'm not finished

Some will let life happen and others will make life happen. We are the ones who determine our destiny based on our choices, which shape our character. We make choices everyday. Choices of perseverance, and just how bad do you want it. Sometimes you go through life not knowing why you do the things you do, but there is something inside of you that compels you to keep pushing, to do the work, to get back up when it gets hard. Sometimes in life you need to take a risk and follow the passion that fuels you with absolutely no reserve. Passion is infectious, and we see this passion in our fellow sisterhood of women's professional cycling and women's professional athletics as a whole. From professional racer to retirement from racing. Retirement has an interesting connotation - we spend our lives transitioning and arriving. These new crossroads and plateaus are excellent spots to appreciate the moment, and catch your breath. They help honor where you've been, before you look at what's next. I had an opportunity to talk with Mari and to me she represents this notion. Mari has won six U.S championships, becoming the first American woman to win three consecutive U.S time trial championships and scoring a double by winning the U.S time trial and road championships in 1999. In 2000 Mari won a silver medal in the Olympic Games time trial in Sydney and that same year winning the world time trial championship. Recently this November of 2016 Mari was inducted into the Bicycle Hall of Fame. Currently Mari is the director to the UCI women's team Twenty16-RideBiker. I have been a long time fan of Mari and after our heartfelt talk full of optimism, honesty and what she offers to female professional athletes I became more smitten. 

When you first learned that you were going to be inducted into the U.S Bicycling Hall of Fame - what were your first reactions and thoughts? 

Complete surprise! [laughing] I was not expecting it at all. I was so humbled especially when you consider other people I would be joining. It's been a long time since I've been overcome with that kind of emotion. 

You've had an amazing journey. What have you held true through it all?

You have to be open to the possibilities of what could happen if you give things a chance. Obviously there will be hard times and you have to persevere. It's about perseverance. I don't look at my journey as being finished. I'm not done. I'm only 45 [laughing] and I'm going to continue to follow dreams. 

What did you want to be growing up?

First an archeologist. My dad was in the military and we traveled a lot. I would visit the ruins and I just loved going into the different sites. I remember my dad took me to an actual archaeological dig, and I saw what the actual work was, and it was boring! I was a very active child as you can imagine, so that quickly changed my mind. And for the better. After that, I always wanted to be a professional athlete. 

What does success mean to you?

"It's about perseverance" - Mari Holden

"It's about perseverance" - Mari Holden

Success is being proud of your accomplishments and the way you achieved them knowing you did it well.

Was there a time when you didn't know what you were to do next? Did you ever feel like giving up?

Of course. It happens a lot. You're always on that edge. We face it all the time. Especially with women's cycling. It's important to question things and question the current situation but always remember what you are after. When I was racing we didn't really have the social media and community that exists today. That was good and bad. It made focusing easier, but nobody at home ever had any information about what we were doing. So there was a sense of loneliness at times. In 94' I crashed badly and came back in 95' - it was terrible - but I did it and won Nationals. In 96' I didn't make the Olympic team. I could have quit then. I didn't and went on to winning silver and the worlds time trial championship in 2000. 

What is your most proud moment thus far?

As a director it was when the girls won the ATOC team time trial. The girls worked so hard. It was our focus, we even had training camps that everyone committed to. As an athlete it was winning an Olympic medal. 

What is your greatest strength and how does this apply to your management style with the team?

I'm tougher than a lot of people think. Mentally strong. I have empathy and understand the girls. I think this works well with them, as I am able to relate, I am in-tune with the riders and how they are feeling. I understand the pressures, the stress and the desires of the riders. 


Who have been your personal mentors?

I would say, I do not have one in particular. Many people come through our lives offering advice and we can learn from them. My parents were my role models growing up and shaped my character. But Dean Golich was the biggest influence in my cycling career and Barry Bonds for helping me get back involved in directing. 

What was the transition like from athlete to race director?

It was 7 years before I became involved as a team director after I stopped racing. I was bitter from injuries and not understanding what was wrong. It's incredibly frustrating to not be able to compete at the level you expect of yourself. I needed that break and transition time to grow. Having that time - the space - puts it all in perspective. I realized I needed to get back in what I knew and loved. I also think, having that time away has made me a better person and director. I love seeing what is happening in our industry and the women I had a chance to work with. 

What in your opinion are the fundamentals that make a great team?

Tenacity. When a rider keeps at you. We have a lot of riders who inquire about the team, and yes of course strength and talent are part of it. To me though, you have to be a good person. Your team has to work well together - as a group. Getting along and teamwork is everything. It doesn't matter how strong and talented you are as a rider, if you don't get along with the other girls and you have a hard time working in a team setting - well it's just not what I look for. 

What was the best advice you were given when you first started out?

On the bike the best advice was to leave it all out on the road. Don't come back from the finish with excuses. Off the bike, the best advice is do your research, and have a plan. That's the same advice I give the girls. Surround yourself with like minded people. You know, surround yourself with people who's goals align with yours - thats really the key. 

If you could go back and tell your younger self anything, what would you say?

[Laughing] I would tell myself not to be so hard on myself. It's going to be okay.

If you could have a drink and sit down with anyone who and what would it be?

Iced tea with Maya Angelou

What is your favorite way to gain back your zen and recharge?

 I love being outside. Long bike rides, and trail runs. Last year I hiked Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon with Kimberly Baldwin and Ina Yoko Teutenberg. It was awesome. 

What does the world need more of? Less of?

More equality. The level of support with men and women. I understand the reasons there is not the same support with women as that of the men. But, I wish we could learn how to have more equality. Less sexualization of the sport and just recognize the impact that does have.

What does your horizon look like?

I don't know what it looks like, but I'm hoping to continue to be involved. Continue to be a director with the team. I'm hoping to develop the next generation - for our team to be a platform - a development for the girls career's. 

*I want to thank Mari for her time. As Mari mentioned, she is not finished and nor should she be, and for that matter it's a reminder for us all, to not ever make the mistake of thinking you can, or will, or have ever arrived, and think that's it. No matter our age. No matter if we have accomplished a dream, we are still full of wonder, it's okay to have new dreams and pursue them at any given time in your life. Thinking you have arrived and people assuming you surely must be finished is a static worldview and stunts your growth. I think if you want to achieve, you can never stop trying, learning, and growing into new endeavors, and chapters in your life.*



jen agan