October 2015 — Swami of the Month
Our October selection for SOTM is the female version of Jason Lee. Natalie Walker is a dynamo who recently joined Swami’s and instantly jumped in with both feet. Before hardly knowing anyone she worked the CGP registration booth for the entire day (not just a shift). On top of that, she and Jason were equally impressive by visiting Tyler Merrill in the hospital on multiple occasions after his crash at the CGP. And she has now taken on the future role of Sponsor Liaison for help with our upcoming Newsletter. Due to her true positive nature she has helped make the transition of the Swami’s/Team Fun merger seamless. She continues to have a positive influence on all she crosses paths with which helps put people at ease and join into more rides…as well as more after ride festivities:)
As is the custom Natalie was “grilled” by our tenacious reporter, Therese Nugent, and the following is the result of their Q&A:
1.You have been participating in many bike rides and events with Swami’s lately. What are some of your favorites?
I have too many favorites to count. The PBR (*Pabst Blue Ribbon) ride, the Margarita ride and Swamdo are probably all on the top of my list. As you can see, I like the longer rides that challenge me, keep a nice strong pace and I really love to eat/drink and hang out afterward. Although I have only done it once, I really enjoyed Palomar Punishment with Jason Lee. The downhill was fun and the taco shop food after was great, but the best part was to experience it with 5 of our Team Fun gals who had also never attempted it before.
2. What is your favorite ride?
I think racing in Mexico with Troy, Tyler, Dave W. and Tanya was my favorite. The group was fun, with lots of good food and drink and it was my first ever road race which was exciting. Especially considering how well I did… honestly I just wanted to go fast. I think if I have more team support next time I might even be able to beat Mony (the only gal who beat me)… but I think HB is going next time so I’m guessing I will get 2nd again… so long as it is my teammate and friend who wins I will be happy (:
3. Team Fun has joined Swami’s with a splash! Tell us first about the genesis of Team Fun?
Team Fun is the brain child of Heather Bruemmer (HB) who after moving to SD about 5 years ago wanted to find some female friends to ride with. She started the Meetup group, created a website, started blogging, planned lots of routes and found sponsors for her team. I joined about a year ago, after a back injury kept me out of cycling for almost 7 years. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the fast Freddies I used to ride with and I wanted to find a group who would allow me to increase my ability without feeling pressured.
Team Fun was just what I needed! Friendly, supportive and encouraging. I knew I wouldn’t be dropped and I was able to advance in the ranks as I became faster and stronger.
4. How’d Team Fun join up with Swami’s Cycling?
HB posted a Meetup event for us with Swami’s last spring for the Sunday Social ride. Since Saturday rides are difficult for me to join with my business schedule I was very happy to have another ride option. I must admit I had heard daunting stories of Swami’s and how fast they were, that they would drop you and never look back… but I was an A rider with Team Fun by then and figured Swami’s wouldn’t drop me quickly… if they did.
It was a fun social pace and Team Fun had the opportunity to talk with lots of the members. Swami’s even bought us coffee and a treat as we socialized at the Corner Bakery. I spoke to Fred, Dave W. Jason Lee and many others and I realized that I really liked this club. For $65 I figured I would get some great discounts and it would more then cover the cost of my treats as I planned to attend the first Sunday of every month for the Social ride. I think I joined right before the next Social Sunday and I have been attending as many rides as my schedule allows since.
5. Tell us about one of your first bikes and/or your favorite bike. Did you buy that Cannondale in the picture?
Ha, I wish… I just bought a new bike 4 months ago and I am very happy with it. Anything was an upgrade from the 13 year old Schwinn I was riding before! I don’t remember the brand of my first bike but I remember the training wheels were white, as was the banana seat and handle bar ends. It was purple overall with pretty stickers and white, pink and purple plastic tassels, It was sooooo pretty!!! I LOVED it and I was 5 years old.
6. What are some of your earliest cycling experiences?
Riding up and down the cul de sac where I grew up and racing my best friend Amy. Actually I used try to race all the boys in the neighborhood too but I never beat them because they were all older. I remember one time I was so excited to be so far ahead of Amy that I was looking back at the distance (probably only a house length) and I wasn’t looking forward at the parked car in front of me… I slammed into it and cut up my chin pretty good. It’s a good thing I wasn’t very fast on that fixie when I was 8.
7. Do you have any cool nicknames?
I have several, but I don’t know if they are cool. In fact, the boys in the neighborhood growing up used to call me the Queen of all Gnats in the summertime and would tell me to call off the troops… very funny guys! I have been and am still called Nat. Other nicknames have been Natty, Natty Fatty (only my sister gets away with calling me that), Noodle and “The Machine”.
8. Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I am a Tomboy at heart… always have been. I like to push myself to the limit in most things and I always try to keep up with the boys, which doesn’t always end well! I broke my nose playing roller hockey, my knee dancing, my tailbone snowboarding, my hand dirt bike riding which is also how I injured my back, separated my shoulder falling out of a tree and tore a few ligaments in my ankle after I walked 60 mile for breast cancer in Chicago a few years back. Some people say I am accident prone but I disagree. I think I just put myself out there more then the average person and I’m rarely afraid of trying new things! I am also great with power tools, can do basic electrical work (always with the main power off, Daddy taught me that) and like to fix things.
9. If you could be any famous cyclist for a month, who would you select?
Troy Huerta… any man about town who can drink Grandpa’s tequila and still place 5th in a race the next day against lots of men almost half his age is famous in my eyes!
10. What other competitive sports have you done?
I love soccer. I started playing when I was 11 and stopped at 15. I was always selected as an All-star and when I was around 13 I was selected as the goalie on a traveling soccer team. That year we competed in the Coca-Cola Tournament which took us to Oregon, Washington and Canada. The games were immediate DQ if you lost so we were very lucky with a strong team and two excellent coaches to make it to the finals. We placed 4th and got a few extra days to climb glaciers while camping in the Canadian Rocky mountains, visit Banff, see the Calgary Stampede and spend time with other Canadian team members. Then I entered high school and got into drama and didn’t have time for soccer anymore. I still love to play a little but with all my injuries it’s just too stressful on my body.
11. You seem super motivated! What are your short term/long term goals on the bike?
I have always loved the freedom and speed you can attain on a bike. It’s exhilarating to me. It was very difficult when I made the decision to give it up as my back was getting worse after the dirt-biking accident. So now that I have returned I just don’t want to be out for any long period of time. I try to listen to my body and keep my core strong and my body flexible with Pilates. I will take time off if I think there is any risk of making my back worse. Overall I want to have fun, ride the central coast of California, various places in the US and Mexico, and eventually ride through and around Europe. I’ve wanted to do that since I was a teenager. So I guess my motivation to do long endurance rides is to aid in my long term goals to travel on my bike, while in the short term I just want to see how fast I can go.