Interview with Lisa Jacobs, 2x National Cyclocross ChampionBack to Blog
18 December 2014
The delightful Lisa Jacobs (aka LJRideHappy) is a 2x Cyclocross national champ, rides with Rapha-Focus, is chair of the Cycling Australia's Athletes Commission, runs a blog, writes for RIDE and oh... did we mention she moonlights as a full-time lawyer?
We met LJ this year at Rapha Supercross Sydney and came home that day with somewhat more spring in our step. She's just one of those people who has humungous amounts of highly contagious, hard-hitting... happiness. We chat to her about juggling life as a lawyer with elite racing, being 'happy', womens participation in cycling, and more.
Good Fuel Co: You came to cycling relatively late in life, so how did it all start? How did you get into CX?
Lisa Jacobs: I came to road cycling via a national talent identification program in 2007 run out of SASI in South Australia. I’d come from various sports, most recently duathlon and had raced briefly as a pro overseas. In duathlon my strength was the bike leg, and I kept getting injured running, so the switch to road cycling was an easy decision. At the time I was 26 which is relatively ‘old’ to start a new sport but the luxury of being a female endurance athlete is that your peak is often when you’re older. I spent a year with SASI, then spent a season in Europe with the Australian national road team in 2010, and spent 5 years with the VIS which I loved. Towards the end of my road career I dabbled in CX in 2012 when the national CX series started, just for fun and to improve my skills. I really enjoyed it, it seemed to suit my strengths and now it’s my main focus.
Good Fuel Co: Lots of opportunities have probably presented themselves over the years, what made you decide not to go full-time as an elite?
Lisa Jacobs: To me, sport has always been about fun, rather than a career plan. I’ve been lucky to have both, but I was a lawyer for 2 years before I started road racing and it’s something I really enjoy. I am also lousy at being a full time athlete! I’ve tried it in the past and it just doesn’t work for me – I need my brain working and I need to see my hard work pay off in a predictable, consistent way. Elite sport is so fickle. Hard work doesn’t always pay off and if it’s all you have in the world it can really mess with your head. But yes, I’ll admit there are times during the year, especially when the weather is good and you’re in good form, when I just want to ride my bike!
Good Fuel Co: We love your motto “Life’s too short to ride mad”! Can you tell us how you came up with this?
Lisa Jacobs: It’s easy as an elite athlete to lose sight of the enjoyment of sport when it’s something you stake your livelihood on. I see a lot of inherently unhappy athletes. Ride Happy is a reminder to me of the most important thing about riding a bike – it’s fun.
Good Fuel Co: You’ve had some low points in your career like your injuries in 2009 and 2011, what have you learned from those times?
Lisa Jacobs: Absolutely injuries have been my low point. I have had a couple of long term biomechanical injuries in particular which really curtailed some of my road racing opportunities. But they also taught me that elite sport is temporary, and that staking your sense of well-being on something so transient doesn’t make sense. I think that explains my general approach to having other things in my life to balance out sport! Having said that, there’s not many things more frustrating that an injury that no one can explain or solve despite all the hard work in the world.
Good Fuel Co: Being a lawyer is a pretty demanding job on its own, not to mention racing! How has being an elite athlete helped/ hindered your professional life and vice versa?
Lisa Jacobs: I rely on sport to switch off from work. My work has some high-stress moments and I find that physical exercise is my most effective head-clear and stress relief. But it doesn’t always work – I spend a lot of time feeling strung out and I fall into holes easily because I cut things pretty fine. I implode probably once every 6 months. But everything I do is my choice, and I love what I do. Over the last couple of years I’ve also been doing some sports governance work on sports boards (most recently Cycling Australia) and I am Chair of the Cycling Australia Athletes Commission. It’s been a good way to combine sport and my professional skills. Elite sport has taught me a lot about managing adversity, goal setting, hard work… it’s amazing how much translates to the professional world
Good Fuel Co: What do you like doing to unwind when you're not working or riding?
Lisa Jacobs: I don’t have much down time, but I love sitting at a café with my mates after a ride talking smack. If I’m not riding or working you can usually find me stretched out full-length on my couch. I have an aim of being able to do that one night a week, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. I also love fly fishing, although I rarely get the chance to go now.
Good Fuel Co: How does food help you in your training as well as your daily life? What's a typical meal plan (if any)?
Lisa Jacobs: Because I cut everything pretty fine (sleep, stress, time) and I work pretty hard physically and mentally, eating well is non-negotiable. I just don’t have the time to get sick. I have a pretty good immune system, and I love food, although the food I naturally like is all generally healthy stuff. I love salty treats (just ask my coach!). I don’t really have a sweet tooth which is lucky, otherwise I’d be massive. So I love ride food that is pretty close to the source and a lot of Good Fuel Co’s bars are like crack to me. But I can’t really name anything I won’t eat. Maybe Praise mayonnaise. What is that stuff?
Generally at breakfast I’ll have porridge with cinnamon, banana, dried fruit and pepitas and chia seeds. I’ll also have the strongest coffee my barista can pull. Lunchtime I have banh-mi because it’s the greatest lunch in the world. Dinner varies, but at the moment I’m on a quinoa salad streak, usually with avocado and poached eggs. Hmm. That all sounds a bit healthy doesn’t it? If it is any consolation after a race you can usually find me having a steak sandwich with the lot or a few dim sims. Pre CX race my ideal meal is poached eggs on sourdough with Promite, which I’ll have about 3 or 4 hours before race start. I hate having too much food in my stomach in a race.
Good Fuel Co: How have you seen womens participation in cycling change over your career?
Lisa Jacobs: Women are certainly a lot more empowered now. It’s been helped by having role models who are just normal people, and also by the fact that good health and exercise is trendy again, which encourages more women to get active. In Melbourne I ride with the Rapha women’s bunch on a Thursday morning, and I love seeing all these women, from Olympians to recreational riders, forming friendships over a mutual enjoyment of riding. I think also that the cycling industry has realised the potential of the women’s market and is actively promoting and supporting women’s cycling, which is brilliant. I love that there’s no excuse now for treating women’s cycling as second class to the men. It still happens, but now people call it.
Good Fuel Co: What advice would you give to young women who are trying to juggle studying or working full-time and training?
Lisa Jacobs: I say just do it. People throughout your career will tell you that you have to choose between elite sport and your professional career. It isn’t a binary choice. It’s about prioritising what you want to do at particular times, and the decisions make themselves. If you show that you can add value to your company while following your sporting ambitions, you’ll find a way to make it work. It isn’t easy, and it involves hard work and putting in extra effort at times. But that’s why you’re in sport, right? Just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
If somewhere in a parallel universe, another Lisa Jacobs didn’t discover cycling and the law, what would she be doing instead?
Lisa Jacobs: To be honest, I’ve always been pretty stubborn and goal focused. You don’t often see me doing something I don’t want to do. So my life now is my favourite one. I should probably say charity work or something altruistic, but the truth is I’m really happy doing a sport that I love and a job that I enjoy. When I find a better option I’ll switch to it!