Don’t let Eliza fool you. She might be softly spoken but just like a glitch in a computer game, if you look close enough you’ll see sparks. What are these sparks exactly? We think they’re a combination of a spunky personality and a desire to never be boxed into social conventions.
Not long ago Eliza weighed 110kg, now she’s jumping off rock faces and carving up mountain bike tracks around Sydney and Canberra.
Fresh from her graduation Eliza is beaming as she tells me about how she got into cycling and why she loves to ride. She’s just finished her PhD, so one can understand the smile that challenges Julie Roberts’.
Two years ago Eliza traded in her commuting bike for a road bike and started racing the novice criteriums in Canberra. But it was mountain biking that really won her heart.
“I’ve always been really passionate about empowering women, and I feel like the best way to do that is through fitness” - Eliza
“I found that if I went for a long road ride I would be constantly ticking over everything about my PhD. But then when I started mountain biking I noticed very quickly that if you’re not paying attention you kind of lose control on that corner or you don’t quite go over that log the right way,” Eliza said.
“Mountain biking really became a refuge. If I wanted to stop thinking and kind of relax for a bit, which is really really hard for me, going out there where the outcome is you either get around the corner or you don’t, it became a really good way of relieving stress,” she said.
While cycling acted as a way to escape from the stress of her PhD studies it also helped Eliza feel better about herself, something she is passionate about helping other women realise too.
“I’ve always been really passionate about empowering women, and I feel like the best way to do that is through fitness,” she said.
“I feel like once you feel fit and you feel strong, you feel capable and so you’re more likely to stand up for yourself and say ‘no, no you can’t get away with that.’”
“I know for me, in my personal journey, when I was obese it was so easy for people to walk all over me,” she said.
Eliza mixes her mountain biking with road and cyclo-cross riding as well as some running and weight lifting. It’s a recipe that’s helped her keep the 60kgs she lost off for the past two years.
When she saw the #mygoalrox ambassador program advertised she thought the program would be a good reason to put her fitness to good use and actually work towards something.
“Cycling wise but fitness in general wise too, I’ve always wanted to do something really hard,” she said when quizzed about why she applied for the program.
“So I thought the program would be a good excuse for me to actually commit to something and then actually find proper help to achieve that thing.”
“I don’t want women to let feeling ‘too big’ or their perceived level of fitness stop them from trying" - Eliza
She wasn’t kidding around either when she selected her goal. Targeting the Scott 6+6 mountain bike event in September 2015 Eliza will race for six hours off road before having a six hour rest and then jumping back on the bike again to ride another six hours. Did we mention half of it will be in the dark?
But for Eliza it’s more than just the personal challenge that pushes her forward.
“I feel like I’d really like to be in a position where I can encourage and empower other women, and if that’s through cycling which I feel is quite an easy thing to get into then that’s great.”
“I don’t want women to let feeling ‘too big’ or their perceived level of fitness stop them from trying. Those thing mean nothing on the trails. You’ll never know what you’ll enjoy if you don’t try it, and mountain biking could be the ride for you.”
Well, Eliza. You’ve sold it to us! Where’s my mountain bike?