What started as a pact to commit to arguably one of the hardest Enduro stage races in the world transformed into a yearlong journey. Two women stemming from completely different professional backgrounds, share what it means to live a life brimming with aspirations, and prove that you can still find your greatest successes on the bike through work-life integration.
Meet Anne Galyean. She holds a PhD in aquatic analytical chemistry and is a force to be reckoned with on the bike, in the gym, in the workplace, and anywhere she puts her mind to. Galyean started racing downhill on the East Coast during college and spent six years racing at the national level through grad school. In 2017, Galyean joined the Yeti/Fox National Factory Enduro Team, where she raced full-time while completing her postdoctoral work at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo. In the same season, she won the Big Mountain Enduro Series and Scott Enduro Cup and was the fastest American woman at the Enduro World Series in Snowmass/Aspen, Colo.
Competitive in nature, more stubborn than anything, Galyean was seeking out the next challenge after retiring from professional racing in 2018 and catapulting her career as a staff scientist at Intertox Inc., a Seattle-based scientific consulting firm.
A typical day in the life of Anne begins at 5 a.m. An hour-long commute into the city and a strength training session proceed walking into the office at 8 a.m.
“Of all the things I do on a regular basis, most of them can be boiled down to two major endeavors — being a scientist and a mountain bike athlete. Being a scientist is an obvious path for me. I like solving puzzles and exploring. I also feel a sense of responsibility to use my privilege, education, and able brain to help make the world a better place. At Intertox, we use science to solve problems. High level, we conduct toxicological assessments to determine potential risks to human and environmental health.”
“As for mountain biking, aside from the obvious thrill of riding bikes, I think there is a ton that a sport like mountain biking can offer people. I’ve been trying to create content around the idea that being a weekend warrior isn’t a sacrifice. It’s the maximization and realization of a set of well-rounded, ambitious goals in all aspects of life. I try to talk a lot about work-life integration, about enjoying your hobbies regardless of how much time you have to give. Mountain bike racing has a lot to offer, to women especially, because it teaches us skills like being decisive, embracing fear, and not playing small.”
With a pedigree in gravity racing, the idea of a six-day race, composed of grueling transfers — averaging five to six-thousand feet per day — and some of the steepest, most technical trails that Interior B.C. is notorious for — fit the mold of Galyean’s next challenge. The 2019 Trans BC was on.
Meet Sarah Rawley. Spunky, adventurous, and kale-obsessed, she is also described by her peers as an incredibly busy, productive, and driven individual. At the ripe age of 33 years old, she is already an industry vet of 13 years, entrepreneur, and founder of renowned women’s mountain bike events including the Beti Bike Bash and VIDA MTB Series. Rawley breezed her way through a B.A. in Technical Journalism from Colorado State University and landed her dream job straight out of school with Yeti Cycles in Golden, Colo. There, she developed a knack for producing mountain bike events and embarked on the creative path of writing about the latest trends and events in the industry.
“My introduction to mountain biking was trial-by-fire through collegiate racing. Every race was a lesson learned — whether learning how to ride clipless pedals the first time in the middle of a race, duct-taping body armor before dropping into my first downhill race at Collegiate Nationals. It’s been humbling since the beginning but a constant source of motivation fueled by aspiration."
Nutrition has always been a priority in Sarah's training regimen. Over the years Sarah has become a kale connoisseur, mastering the techniques of creating the perfectly massaged kale salad.
Rawley’s background in cross country and road racing followed a natural path towards Enduro when the discipline became more prevalent in North America. Behind the scenes, she helped get Colorado’s premier Enduro series off the ground while competing in as many Enduro races within driving distance as possible. In the summer of 2015, Galyean and Rawley meet at the top of Elk Camp Chair on Snowmass Resort, waiting to drop in for the first run of the day.
“We all knew Anne was fast and would shake up the competition pool in our region. But she didn’t just show up to win. Anne shared her time on practice days helping some of us get more comfortable on features and jumping. She found joy in helping others get out of their comfort zone and accomplish something new.”
The same year, Rawley began to dabble in longer formats of Enduro stage racing. The Andes Pacifico threw her into the deep end of tackling demanding and raw terrain blind, with a heavy dose of culture and adventure. She published her exploits in Mountain Flyer Magazine, thus cementing the goal of combining adventure travel, writing, and racing into one experience.
Fast forward three years. Galyean and Rawley hadn’t seen each other since standing on the podium at the BME Finals the previous summer. Galyean was fully immersed in her new career in Seattle, the daily structure of early morning strength sessions, and commuting in and out of the big city, rain or shine. Rawley was recovering from knee surgery, long overdue from years of endurance pursuits, jugging her full-time job, side business, and gearing up to bikepack the 250-mile Coconino Loop for a media project in a few months.
This is when the pact was created.
It was August, and Galyean was already calculating her approach into what feels like unfamiliar territory. It started with a call to pick Rawley's brain, “I’m thinking about racing the Trans BC next summer, but I’m nervous.”
“What do you have to be nervous about?” Rawley jests, fully knowing that Galyean has the capability to ride any terrain — fast, smooth, intuitively, and fearlessly.
“The climbs. Racing for six days straight. And blind. The hike a’ bikes. The altitude. Getting my nutrition dialed. Being able to train for it while working full-time.”
“If I can make it through the week, you can certainly do it,” Rawley reassures. “How about this? I’ll tow us up the climbs if you wait for me at the end of each stage.”
Throughout the winter, the two kept tabs on each other. Training in the dark, wet days in the PNW can be very different than Colorado. Both women logged time on the trainer to compensate for limited daylight outside the office. While Galyean sampled dank loam on the weekends, Rawley traded some long training days on the bike for ski touring in the alpine. She was, after all, headed down to New Zealand mid-February to once again, double down on writing and riding at the Trans NZ Enduro.
Day 5 of the Trans NZ Enduro transported racers to Alexandra, where roots were replaced by rocks, the dense canopy of the beech forest evaporated into thin air. "It’s most similar to Colorado and where I feel at home. I was JRA… must have clipped a pedal and sidelined myself in a pile of rocks. Frantic, I tried to push myself up. The clock was still ticking. Something wasn’t right. I tried to push again. I still couldn’t get up. I pulled my arm out from a crack in the rocks and realized that my arm had an extra bend in it. As I headed into shock and later on, the surreal drug-induced euphoria until my dislocated elbow was reduced, I hadn’t quite comprehended what this would mean for the rest of the year.”
Six weeks of full-time RoboArm left Rawley with 12 weeks to rebuild before the Trans BC. It felt inconceivable that racing another stage race, one that is unequivocally more technical and strenuous, would be possible. While Galyean was reaching max weight on her deadlifts, Rawley celebrated the day she did bicep curls with a 2-pound weight.
As doubt begins to seep in, Sarah focuses on what she can do to make small gains. Working with Dee Tidwell from Enduro MTB Training since 2011, Sarah is no stranger to spending time in the gym and credits being able to return to racing after dislocating her elbow with a regimented program of consistent PT, soft tissue therapy and kale.
The weeks ticked by. Seven weeks until the first day of racing, Rawley was back on her mountain bike and for the first time racing felt remotely within reach.
The week before the race, both Galyean and Rawley tricked themselves into thinking they were taking a rest week when really, they were just trading training hours for a 60-hour workweek. After their respective flights to Calgary, Alberta, high-fives were met with hugs and a sense of relief.
“We made it. I’ve always said the hardest part is showing up. That was my goal— to be physically capable to ride all of the stages, overcome the fears of injury, and have the focus amidst a hectic summer of my own event planning to keep churning out daily reports,” Rawley said.
Galyean did everything possible in her bandwidth to be strong, mentally prepared and focused to put down some fast times, but she knew the transfers would be a challenge. Together, the two set out with different goals but committed to supporting each other through the highs and lows of a demanding week in the saddle.
While Enduro racing is a solo effort, it helps to have a partner in crime to hold you accountable, keep the spirits high, and share snacks when you're running low.
“Blind racing was totally new for me, and it took me half of Trans BC to figure out what blind racing was all about.” Eventually, Galyean found her cadence. She won Day 5 in Crowsnest Pass and ended up in 2nd place on Day 6. “I finally learned to stop attacking like it was a regular race, relax, and have more fun.”
The final day of an Enduro stage race feels like it should be the home stretch, but after six days,165 kilometers (103 miles), 8,300 meters (27,230 feet) of climbing and 11,500 meters (37,730 feet) of descending, the back-to-back days made the last push feel even more punishing before dropping into the final stage of the week.
In different shapes, both Galyean and Rawley achieved their goals at the Trans BC, but it didn’t linger long. Savoring the last couple hours in the airport before departing for home, they shared their next set of goals.
Upon returning home, Sarah took a leap in her professional life to accept a new role with RockShox and move to Colorado Springs to further explore her passion for integrating work and travel.
Anne continues to solve the world's problems by week and crush QOM's on the weekends now as a Free Agent for Juliana Bicycles and SRAM Women's Program Ambassador. Galyean is steadily climbing the corporate ladder and building new mountain bike coaching programs that focus on racing for intermediate and advanced riders.
While these two pressed pause on one aspect of their lives to fully live out the adventure they had once manifested, they knew returning home would be just as gratifying.
Project Supported by: Smith Optics and Maxxis Tires
Filmed and Edited by: Ben Duke
Additional Footage by: Ben Saheb
Words by: Sarah Rawley
Photo Credits: Ben Duke, Natalie Starr, Matthew DeLorme, Flow Photo Co, Joey Schusler, Kristina Vackova