Abuse, Despair and Bikes: How Zilker Pace Came to Life
In high-school, I was a prodigy in graphic design. I earned state and national awards for design, was a sickeningly favored teacher’s pet and knew without a doubt I was going to be a graphic designer for the rest of my life.
In 2005, I passed on the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue a more traditionally accredited degree in graphic design, and compete as a pole vaulter. My 1st semester, I quickly climbed to the top of the class and felt the familiar false sense of entitlement, immortality and security I’d known through high-school.
By my 2nd year, it was all over.
I was sexually assaulted. It was violent and merciless. When I was released from the hospital, I immediately transferred schools, believing I could outrun my brokeness.
I caved completely inward. I went to track practice 4 times before I disappeared forever from a sport I loved. When the time came to present our portfolios to complete the design program, I lobbed in a half-assed submission, riddled with a track-record of more missed classes than attended.
I was rejected from finishing the graphic design program and politely asked to choose a “better-suited” degree.
Graphic design was all I had thought about for myself since I was 11. There was nothing better suited. Haunted by ghosts and failure, I transferred a final time to Portland, Oregon and picked up a degree in communications. I graduated just as the recession ravaged unemployment. I had no passion and arguably no marketable skills for a failing economy.
I heard a lot over the years about what I could and couldn't do. And I put to bed my dream of being a designer. I convinced myself there wasn’t room for me in that world. I held various non-profit and corporate jobs, but could never spark a passion for my work and never shook the feeling of despairing purposeless that often followed.
Through the years, I found a lot of healing and relief in exercise. I started swimming, rock climbing, playing ultimate frisbee, walked across Spain.
...you know, all the normal coping methods.
And then, one brisk day in 2013, I rode my old steel-frame suicide shifter bike, 165 miles from Houston, TX to Austin, TX in the MS 150.
It was not love at first sight.
It was hard. It was painful. It was chafing. It was a lot of time with nothing but my own thoughts. It was mentally and physically exhausting.
I'd spend the following years commuting by bike, mountain biking and eventually picking up a road bike that wasn't handmade in the 1960's (what a difference that makes!). I never considered myself a cyclist, because I thought I needed a lot more equipment, money and cares about watts to be that.
Fast forward to 2018 and for the first time, the exhausting time with my thoughts on the bike was now coupled with a sense of joy, happiness and even inspiration. And I didn't care if anyone considered me a cyclist or not, I was riding the damn bike.
Unable to put to words my healing through cycling, I started designing, and out came a bunch of middle fingers and the simple line, "on your left".
It felt right. It was my way of saying I'm back, I'm not letting life pass me by, and I don't really care what sponsorships and accolades the world does or doesn't give.
These designs organically grew into what is now, Zilker Pace, an Austin-based cycling apparel and lifestyle brand. A brand that is still getting on it's feet. A brand designed to inspire every rider to be the best they can be with what they have.
As I build this brand, I don't know how far it will go. But I know it has already succeeded, because it has helped me, quite literally, get back on the saddle.
My commitment is that Zilker Pace will encompass quality, community and enrichment. I have always been attracted to the social aspect of sports and fitness. Through Zilker Pace, it is my determination to not only bring thoughtfully designed cycling apparel for every rider, it is also my goal to enhance the lives of people who like bikes- through relationships, events, rides, conversations and awareness.
Getting to build this brand has awakened me in a way that is forever enriching. I thank you for sharing in this journey with me, and hope to return the favor by making your ride a little richer.
Enjoy the ride,