When I started rowing in high school I realized pretty quickly that I was an above average rower. I was decent at most of the other sports I did, but I was told I could go places in rowing, so I stopped playing the other sports and committed all my time to rowing.
How I got into bike racing is a little bit of a different story. During my 5 years training with the US National Rowing Team I spent a lot of time injured. What does one do when they cant row and has to stay fit? They spend HOURS on the bike. Mainly the BikeErg and Watt Bike. There was a period of time where I was off the water for a couple months and I needed something to keep my mind engaged. Something to work towards. I knew that Concept2 had world records for the Erg so they must have world records for the BikeErg, and they did! I broke all the records that I set out to break, which I am pretty sure have all been shattered now, but it made me feel like I was making progress while I was injured. It also taught me that I have some pretty decent "biking legs". Fast forward about a year and the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, forcing us Olympic hopefuls into our garages and basements. I don't know about you, but if I had to erg 35k+ alone in my basement I would absolutely lose all of my marbles. My parents sent me out one of our family friend's road bikes for me to ride and I started hittin' the streets. Some of my teammates hopped on the bike train and within weeks we had our own little cycle gang. Was our coach happy with us riding outside? Absolutely not, but sometimes you just have to do what is best for your mental health. We were still erging, but we were finding another way to make training fun, and in those dark COVID times, fun was hard to come by. I fell in love with the feeling of the wind rushing against my face and the road flying underneath me. An added bonus with biking is that you actually get to see where you are going!
After the Tokyo 2020 Olympics the fire and love that I had felt for rowing for all those years was barely a little flame. I started riding my bike just for the sake of fitness, until one day I came across two female cyclists when I was out riding with my Aunt's group ride in Marin County, CA. They flew by our group so naturally, being the competitor that I am with absolutely no chill, I had to chase them down. I rode the next 15 or so minutes with them until their ride ended. We got to talking and it turns out they were pros training for the iron man world championships. I ended up riding with one of them again the next day and she said, "Kendall you are so fast and you are riding a piece of garbage." She told me I should look into racing. Fast forward about 6 months and I am racing my first race, in a large field of men nonetheless.
What I love about racing bikes is that it adds this whole new layer of complexity that my rowing brain isn't used to. Rowing is checkers and bike racing is chess
you could be the strongest rider in the field, but if you aren't strategic your power means nothing. There are so many elements of the sport that I have yet to learn and that entices me. Racing my bike is a new, fun, and exciting challenge. At my core I am an athlete who loves competing, regardless of the sport. I have fallen in love with a sport that allows me to feel free, pushes me to my absolute limits, and is challenging me to be a better athlete.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE PERFORMANCE, AND WHY? I wish I could say the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but I can't. Sure it has been the most memorable event I have ever competed at, but most memorable performance? No. For me personally, my most memorable performance wasn't even a race, it was just surviving Olympic selection and making it. Making the Olympic team was the hardest thing I have ever been through in my entire athletic career. Two straight weeks of piece after piece, seat race after seat race, wondering "am I going to be next" every single piece. When you think you have nothing left in your tank, but you muster up what remaining fuel you have to keep pushing, even though that fuel may be fumes. Our performance at the Olympic was "memorable" in its own way, but for me it was the journey to just get there, especially after all of the injury hardships I had to go through.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR TOUGHEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE HAD TO FACE IN YOUR SPORT, AND WHAT DID IT TEACH YOU?
In rowing, the toughest challenge I had to face was just keeping my body in one piece. Staying healthy was a full time job and I was very bad at it. Not that I would spend my time off doing stupid things, but it took me a long time to figure out how to navigate the castle of glass that is my body, and rehab and recover in productive ways. Spending countless weeks and months stuck on the indoor trainer was probably the toughest mental challenge I had to face during my time with the National Team, and probably my entire athletic career. It was tough to find the motivation to head to the gym, knowing that I would be sitting going nowhere fast, alone, for hours, but I kept showing up, regardless of how I was feeling mentally. I put in the work on the bike so that I wouldn't be deep in the pits when I was finally able to row again.
Dealing with injuries on and off for 4+ years taught me how to be resilient and showed me that if you have the courage to just keep showing up, no matter how in the dumps you are, your hard work will pay off. You may not see results the next day, or even the next week, but your hard work, dedication, and sheer will to push through the sh*t days, will make you a better athlete.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? WHAT KEEPS YOU GETTING UP EVERY MORNING?
I am motivated by a variety of different things. My morning cup of coffee is definitely something that motivates me to get out of bed. Outside of that, I would say that my biggest motivating factor is my future self. I have always tried to maintain the mindset that aims to make my future self proud. When I am feeling like I am having an off day and am off spiraling into a pit of questioning my existence I ask myself, "what can I do in this moment to set my future self up for success?" Every day we make choices and these choices effect our future. I do my best to make the choices that my future self would be proud of. There is one more thing that motivates me to get out of bed in the morning, and that's the eyes of the younger generation. I may not ever know these kids personally, but I know they are watching me. They are watching how I hold myself, what I stand for, how I train, and how I just live and go about life in general. Social media is an extremely powerful beast with both negative and positive elements. Outside of athletics, I try to be my most authentic self on the internet, avoiding sugar coating the harsh realities that come with training, and just being a good role model for the younger generation. I receive messages pretty frequently from younger athletes thanking me for being "an inspiration" and "someone they can look up to." I want to continue to be that person that these kids can look up to and that is a huge motivating factor for me to get my ass out of bed and do something meaningful with my day.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNGER ATHLETES ENTERING THE SPORT ASPIRING GREATNESS ON THE WORLD STAGE?
First piece of advice I have is that it is ok to make mistakes, it is ok to fail, and it is ok to have a bad day. We are human. It is only natural for us to make mistakes. Mistakes force us to grow. What separates the good athletes from the great athletes, is the ability to learn from their mistakes, grow, and move on, accepting the fact that there is nothing they can do to change the past, but realizing they can use this knowledge to better themselves moving forward. Not every erg test or bike race is going to be your greatest performance, but all you can ask of yourself is that you do the best you can do on that day. My second piece of advice would be believe in yourself. You are your biggest advocate and you know yourself more than anyone else. You could have the entire world rooting for you and on your side, but if you don't believe in yourself and your capabilities you wont get anywhere. A coach of mine once said, "whether you think you can or you cant, you are right." Lastly, if you want to reach the highest level of sport, you have to love what you do. If you aren't able to find joy in the hardships that is training, you will have a really hard time fully committing yourself to your sport, and in order to make it to the top you have to be all in. Once you make the conscious decision to be all in, training will be easier, the hard days will just be hard days, and you'll come to learn that it's all a part of the process of progress. You have to be able to find fun in the munydineitey that is training and just keep showing up.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF YOUR SPORT? INTERESTS? CAREER?
I LOVE playing games! Really any card game, but I am partial to liars dice. What is liars dice you ask? Only the best game to ever exist and a great way to connect and bond with teammates. When I am not playing games, sitting in boats, or riding my bike, I like to draw and create abstract art.