The Gnarly athlete roster is full of inspirational women. We’re left with jaws on the floor as we watch them crush races, take on personal challenges to push their possible, and help others do the same. We find inspiration in each of them everyday, but we also know that success isn’t an individual achievement - it’s a team of support, a whole slew of sacrifices, and a solid cheering squad.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re checking in with Gnarly women to find out who they look to for inspiration. A toast to women’s achievements, their ability to empower others and to honor women’s achievements in athletes, these are some of the females Gnarly women look up to.
One woman I look to for inspiration is Jane Goodall. She combines her background in science with the magic of awe-inspiring nature and consistently looks toward the future with hope. In the face of overwhelming odds against the fate of the environment, she moves forward with a smile. That’s endurance.
I listened to Billie Jean King's autobiography All In. I'm super inspired by all she did for women's tennis. I love that she was both the best in the sport and advocated for women's opportunities to be professional and compete. It definitely got me fired up!
I'm also really inspired by my wife, Rugile Kaladyte. Through photos and video, she really captures our experiences traveling the world by bike and my ultra-endurance races. I feel like documenting these experiences is really important because that's how we can share them with others and hopefully inspire them to get outside taking on challenges and going on adventures.
Otherwise, I'm really grateful to have supportive parents. They always encouraged me to go after my dreams. My mom went back to school in her 40s to become an elementary school teacher. I feel like her motivation to help kids has really inspired me to work with girls and give them opportunities to ride-- like for Anchorage and Tucson GRIT (my girls cycling mentorship programs).
Growing up as the only girl with 3 older brothers, I have had a great deal of male influence in my life. My brothers were always my main motivators and inspiration as a child, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps in everything I did. But it was my mom who championed all my efforts, who signed me up for all-boys soccer teams so I could play with my brothers, who told me I was tough and strong enough and who didn't let me set my own limitations. She gave me my love for running and an appreciation of the beauty in all the little things around me, my sense of adventure and curiosity. Above all else, she taught me to be kind, uplifting and encouraging; the kind of person you want in your corner and who you want to be in theirs.
There's one lady in particular who has been my number one source of inspiration for a very long time. She's hardworking, passionate, but also understands the importance of self-care. She was the one who encouraged me to pursue my SPI (single pitch instructor) and the catalyst to where I am today. She always believed that I could do more even when I had no faith in myself and to have that level of support in a friend is something we all should cherish. Watching her juggle a career, family, supporting her community, time for herself and still finding time for her friends is astonishing and a superpower I wish I had.
However, watching her crush life and seeing that it's possible to do it all is enough of a motivation for me to keep pushing in my own life. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have believed that I could be a guide and now after two years of SPI work, I'm in the process of applying to the AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) Rock Guide course this year. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to believe in you for you to find it in yourself.
The females I look to most for motivation and inspiration aren’t “women” yet. They are my 11 and 15 year-old daughters. Both girls are the MOST important thing in my life, so when I make choices from large (like career changes) to small (like should I eat that entire pizza) I consider the way it affects them. Their overall well being, mental, physical and emotional, all tie into how I show up in this world.
When I lack motivation, big or small, I think about who is watching. What kind of example am I setting for them? What are my hopes for their future? They constantly keep me grounded yet encourage me to dream big just by watching what I do. They inspire me by fighting and struggling and finding their own ways in this world, by failing and daring to keep trying. They are growing into incredible humans and our relationship is very much one of checks and balances in the healthiest sense of the phrase.
As a child, my paternal grandmother taught me to make time for memories, invest in those who can love you fully and reciprocally, and never stop pursuing your deepest dreams and values with curiosity. Her legacy lives on through my zealous approach to the everyday and intent to show appreciation for those who positively impact my life.
As a teenager, I found my first two female mentors in the sport of running who created a safe space for me to be my full self and gave me the courage to run in a sports bra for the first time. I remember the exhilarating feeling of freedom and timidity.
As a college undergrad, I met five of my best friends, and through hours spent on the track, in the locker room and on campus together, I got to know an incredibly impressive group of genuine, tenacious women. They challenge me to seek understanding from different perspectives, explore how my actions impact others and learn about passions different from my own.
As a young professional woman working in finance, the female leaders on my team and at my company show me that women serve an important role in the industry. My boss, a mother of three young children and the leader of our team, has coached and challenged me to lean into the investments realm to the point where I now feel confident in my vision of long-term success. Inspiration is a powerful force in my life. By surrounding myself with women who have qualities and strengths that I admire, I gain the confidence to confront barriers in sport, at work and in my personal life with grace and confidence.
I have been fortunate to work with and for women for most of my professional career. Many of these intelligent, caring and thoughtful women inspire me to be a strong leader and lift up other women. In some professional spaces, women are the minority in the room and it can be intimidating to speak up. I have been motivated by the ways that these tough women have learned to stick up for themselves, as well as lift up others around them. I take notes so I can learn how to best approach difficult situations, where it may be a challenge to be heard. I'm grateful to have witnessed some firm and strong women in the workplace!
I look up to my best friend of 20 years, Katie. The best things in life are simple, and I've found the same holds true for my friendship with her. Although we've gone through many stages of life with varying degrees of contact, there has never been a time where I doubted whether Katie would be there for me if I needed her. What has always drawn me to her is her ability to eliminate the unneeded or unwanted distractions in life and invest a rich focus on anything she sets her mind to. She also might be the only person I've met who matches my sense of humor. Although our lives and interests have gone different directions in the last half of our relationship, there is never a doubt that we are proud of each other for pursuing our passions.
I also feel very fortunate to have found a haven within the women in the mountain running community. There is something very empowering about conquering literal and figurative mountains with partners who can empathize with me through all the highs and lows that come with trying to pursue trail running goals while being a wife, mother, business owner and community leader. Oftentimes, I have found the women I train with are also some of the same that I compete with in races. Instead of letting this be something where I feel like there has to be one winner, it has been a powerful experience to recognize that in this sport, we are not competing against each other, we are competing against ourselves. In this sense, I have never felt a shortage of high fives, kind words or empathetic tears from the women I'm surrounded by.
When I was younger, I swam competitively, year-round on a club team. I don’t think I was super good, but I loved it. That was when I first started understanding my passion for sport and that with my body, I could move myself and do something that I found great satisfaction in. Our club team practiced at the same time as the women’s swim team from Furman University in South Carolina. We had the last three lanes and they had the rest of the pool. I was probably 11 or 12 years old and there were these elite college women swimming in the lanes beside me and they were really good.
One woman was just incredible and she had the most beautiful butterfly stroke I’ve ever seen. At certain times, we could push off of the wall at the same time so I was swimming beside her. It was just so much admiration and respect for this swimmer. She made the Olympics in the butterfly and a couple of other strokes. Just to swim beside her and to catch a glimpse of her was just phenomenal for me as a young athlete. It was super exciting for me because I could see the effort she'd put in. I could see her dedication. She was there every single day trying to perfect her craft.