Written by: Chelsea Marie Hill
Play Hard Give Back (PHGB) and SheJumps – A series of interviews with professional female athletes giving back to aspirational women around the world…
Play Hard Give Back (PHGB) is a movement that unites athletes with advocacy. This organization has developed nutritional products, recruited professional athletes, and partnered with nonprofit organizations throughout the world to increase inspiration, funding, well-being worldwide. How? PHGB recruits athletes with admirable lifestyles, and enlists them to choose a non-profit organization that speaks to their heart. PHGB then has the chosen athlete identify which nutritional product best fuels their success in their own sport! These athletes encourage their following to use the product they fuel themselves with, and by doing so, their supporters help fund the nonprofit organizations! Founder, Spencer Brendel, found himself feeling self-focused and benefitting from his sponsorships and sport, but wanted to help others experience the same wonderful experience. However, most are not that fortunate. Therefore, in 2012, he began reaching out to athletes as his bars and nutritional snacks emerged, stirring conversation and excitement over sports, health, and social platforms. He encouraged athletes to leverage their networks to increase awareness around causes they wished to support and provide funding to change others’ lives through their sport, not just their own.
One such athlete, is Starla Teddergreen…
Give me an “S!” Why? Starla, SheJumps, Saddles, Shoes, Seattle, San Francisco, Sanctions, Spandex, and so so much more…
Many professional athletes have a story of entering their sport as a young child, being recognized by colleges or sponsors. Starla… well she was recognized while running errands around a big city.
Starla Teddergreen, professional cyclist, lives in Portland, Oregon and has been racing professionally for 6 out of her 9 years on the bike. Starla began her relationship with wheels and pavement as a bike messenger in Seattle. She moved to the Bay Area for school and began bike messengering in San Francisco. She primarily worked for messenger companies who contracted to legal firms, racing important documents through downtown.
City bike messengers cycled in unsanctioned races, where friends would gather and create a manifest that tested messengers’ routing skills to see who was most efficient with navigation and speed. These races were called “Alley Cats.” On Friday nights after work messengers would race one another. Involvement in these casual races provoked Starla to enter sanctioned races that expand across the United State, Europe and Worldwide. With speed she could barely grasp, Starla soon found herself at the World Championship race in Budapest.
Shortly after a messenger friend invited her to spend the day with road racers. The goal was to get Starla to take her racing from the streets to USA cycling sanctioned races, a legitimate sport. Starla showed up in a t-shirt and jean shorts, with her u-lock tucked away in her back pocket. She was aghast to find everyone in spandex. Spandex?! What had she gotten herself into? Instinctively, they knew they had a lot to teach her, but she was excited to learn.
Eight years later, as a professional cyclist, she proudly claims a closet filled to the brim with spandex gear, but admitted she once thought, “I would die if I saw someone I knew while I was wearing something like that!” Now, she sports it nearly every day.
Achievement as a professional athlete is rewarding, however, Starla’s ambition flows beyond personal success. “When you spend so much time, dedication, and effort to your personal success and sport, and further are supported by companies and businesses, you should be looking for a way to give back!”
After one phone call with Jeff Brendel of PHGB, Starla knew it was a match. She felt professional athleticism can sometimes be a selfish endeavor, and PHGB was a vehicle to allow Starla to use the talent and love of cycling to benefit others and inspire young women. Starla then began research into non-profit organizations, feeling particularly drawn to the importance of getting women and girls involved in sports. Personally, she was always looking to assist women with becoming more comfortable on the bike. She claimed SheJumps was “the perfect combo! Girls, teens, mothers, and women who get active outdoors…it just provides pure joy, improves self-confidence, and helps them feel more alive!”
Starla attended the Pretty Faces movie tour in Portland, and first began to make personal connections with the SheJumps women. She believes the SheJumps motto encourages women to never fear the unknown, but rather, get excited about it. It was through a conversation with a long-time friend during a period of struggle and sacrifice, that Starla discovered her life’s motto. She expressed that it is hard to put into words what motivates her, because it is actually the uncertainty of what life and adventure might bring that drives her interest in being active and just trying! Her friend provided her a quote that she’s kept close to heart with every new race or goal. “Only those who will risk going too far, can possibly find out how far one can go.” -T. S. Eliot. Starla admitted it simply as, “if I don’t go on this ride, I’ll never know how far I could have gone, how fast, or what I may have found!”
During cyclocross season, Starla trains indoors in the weight room and on the trails. However, during road season she explores all of Portland. “The beauty of cycling is never having a ‘favorite place,’ but rather always going new places. Training is limitless.”
Off road, Starla is found at home! Racing takes a lot of time and energy, so when she’s off the saddle she is at home with family, her new husband, her Australian Shepherd Abi, and working as a Graphic Designer.
And speaking of saddles, Starla is most particular about her saddle and shoes. Aside from the bike itself, she considers shoes, saddle, and bars most important components of racing “gear.” “These are your three points of contact when riding. I often need to wear ‘shoe covers’ to remain sponsor correct, but this allows me to wear my go-to shoes that deliver success!”
The shoes may help, but Starla raging race success takes consistent training, structure and planning. Starla has a pre-race night routine involving physical and mental preparedness. With serenity and focus, Starla pins her number to her gear and begins her race visualization. She mentally navigates the course and prepares for any possible scenarios. Her preparations are ritualistic to eliminate stress and franticness. The morning of race day is entirely focused on nutrition. She begins with coffee and the same breakfast, then packs to accommodate driving, recovery, and conserving energy. She stays present and mindful, and only attempts to control what are in her hands – her focus, her frame-of-mind, and her fuel.
Her favorite PHGB snack-to-pack is the Espresso Date Nut Bar. “It’s perfect for long training rides! It is a great pick-me-up, isn’t too sweet. It tastes real, healthy, and awesome!”
Starla’s energy and attitude are also real, healthy, and awesome! On the day of our interview, she was preparing for her wedding on Saturday, and a race on Sunday! She certainly doesn’t let anything stop her from chasing her goals. However, back in her bike messengering days, an older male cyclist coach once said to Starla, “You’re super talented, and a natural sprinter, but you’re too old. You should have started when you were 15.” At a ripe 25, Starla was a bit alarmed at his claim, and actually stopped racing for a while pursuing other goals. However, a few years later she ignited the fire to race and got back into it. If she could say anything to her younger self, she would encourage ‘young Starla’ not to listen to what anyone else says! “Don’t be discouraged by the naysayers. Be true to yourself and chase your own dreams.”