(Editor’s note: This blog post was written by 15-year-old Cadence Youth Cycling committee member and All Star Tamia Santiago. Learn more about Cadence Youth Cycling here.)
It began with an idea– a thought with no actual plan. I had agreed, of course, it would be the experience of a lifetime. Yet I didn’t believe I could pull it off. The it: an interview with Lisa Nutter.
She’ll be too busy, I thought, and I’m not even an experienced interviewer; I’m just a high school sophomore. Such haunting thoughts demolished my confidence. But Cadence believed in me, so the typing began.
Dear Mrs. Nutter—scrap.
Hello I’m currently a—scrap.
Scrap after scrap. How is it that just a simple email with a simple question would be the most challenging piece I’d ever written? It had to be crafted with perfection: not too wordy, not too basic. And so there I sat typing, mashing away on my keyboard. But as dawn fell to night, my stylistic perfection disorder— an excuse for my insanity– began to compromise my health.
It took three hours to complete the following email, plus another three to build the courage to actually push “Send.” But I did it, and here it is:
My name is Tamia Santiago, and I’m a cyclist for the Cadence Cycling Foundation (part of the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia). I’m currently enrolled at Roxborough High School. We’ve actually met before at the Women’s Cycling Pre-Race Reception on May 31, but that interaction was so eye opening, so memorable that I wanted to reach out to you again.
This summer, all-star Cadence members have to complete an extracurricular assignment related to biking. I chose to write blogs not only for the opportunity to have a voice in Cadence, but to also portray the common struggles of a cyclist through a young person’s perspective. Therefore, because I know that you are a huge advocate for cycling in Philadelphia, it would mean the world to me if you would allow me to interview you about cycling.
If you do choose to participate in this interview, the time and location will be of your choosing. Furthermore, I cannot put in words how much impact this interview will have not only on me, but also on Cadence, the Bicycle Coalition, and aspiring female riders in and around Philadelphia.
After about a week of no response, Khoury, my mentor, advised me to send a follow up email. That, again, was a struggle but I mustered the confidence to draft another email.
Dear Mrs. Nutter,
I hope the previous email I sent you has found you well. As my time to complete the project winds down, I’m just hoping for a response. I know you have a busy schedule, so any response will be greatly respected and appreciated.
Best, Tamia Santiago
This was her response:
Hi! So sorry for the delay. I’m away from the office and checking email periodically. I’d be happy to do this and I do remember meeting you. I’ve copied Dianne Myers in my office and am asking her via this email to schedule us.
I look forward to seeing you again and learning more about what you are up to.
Lisa J. Nutter
Paralyzed in disbelief, I sat with my mouth wide open and my eyes glued to the screen. She said yes? She said yes! I immediately informed Cadence and, of course, my mother.This was exciting news to receive and to deliver, but it was also a pretty big responsibility to take in. I was so fixated on rejection that I didn’t plan for success. I watched multiple interviews to (hopefully) pick up key techniques and even did some extra research, but what I really noticed was that the most successful interviewers build from what is received, almost like a freestyle. I now had a game plan.
After volleying emails back and forth to find a time to meet Mrs. Nutter, Dianne and I agreed on a date: September 25th, 4:00-5:00pm. I prepared in various ways, but of course, there’s never a certainty. No matter how many times I reset my alarm clock, rehearsed my questions, the ride there was nerve-wracking. A series of hypotheticals overwhelmed my mind, shrinking the tiny bit of morale I managed to hold onto. In efforts to distract myself from these thoughts, I began to embrace the gleams of sunlight reflecting on the Schuylkill River. Taking note of every stroke of my pedal, feeling the crisp air flowing freely through my lungs, I calmed my nerves and relaxed myself before walking into the building.
Lisa Nutter greeted me with smiles and offered me refreshments. My nerves began to calm at this point, but it was of natural reactions to decline. After the exchanging of a few words, we went to her office and began the interview.
“Everyone gets their first bike for Christmas,” responded Mrs. Nutter. However, she took this gift to the next level. One of her good friends, Lamar who she still rides with, introduced her to fitness cycling. And from there cycling became her own thing.
Spinning classes were the spark of the journey. She portrayed spinning as being intense; you couldn’t escape from the burn of muscles and rivers of sweat, in this training. This was only the beginning, though, the preparation of fitness for the real journey. Her spinning coach— a competitive cyclist trainer with Breakaway Bikes— then introduced her to cycling classes which helped with the development of “technique” therefore, making the transition less complicated. She expressed her struggles in cycling as well. One of her main obstacles was being able to accept what she can and cannot do. Specifically, she couldn’t keep up with climbers on a hill. She was simply too heavy, however, she had power and could ride faster on flats. “I love to go fast,” she added.
Once she got the technique down cycling became second nature—“it was more enjoyable.” Unfortunately, when Michael Nutter ran for office, this passion was put on hold.
What inspired me most was the fact that she took such immense time from cycling, yet returned like a pro. She’s currently participating in track cycling and continues to pursue cycling training.
Lisa Nutter is a huge advocate for cycling, so I began to ask her intentions for building a stronger cycling community in Philadelphia. She wants to make it a cultural thing. “It’s Philadelphia’s duty to make cycling more accessible and to share [our knowledge] with youth and others,” she said. She wants to make cycling more known, for the more people that ride, the safer beginners feel i.e. it’s always better with a friend. Mrs. Nutter wants to make cycling more accessible for the youth in particular. Not many kids know about a program like Cadence Youth Cycling—I didn’t know until high school. Lastly, on an international basis for females, she wants to create more opportunities for pro women to ride. There is a huge gender gap in cycling and she stated some ways, such as UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) proposing a Women’s World Cup, to minimize and soon close this gap.
Before cycling, before this remarkable interview, I didn’t really know much about Lisa Nutter. I always knew she was an important figure but I never knew why or for what. I never knew she would become an idol of mine. But Lisa Nutter is one of the most inspiring females that I’ve ever met. She participates in so much, yet still finds time for her family. Day after day, she’s in a spotlight with no room for imperfection, yet she still keeps it together. Most importantly, she’s human. I cannot put in words how nervous I was for that interview, but she made it so much easier. In sum, Lisa Nutter is the perfect advocate for aspiring cycling not only in Philadelphia, but globally.