#TeamJetlagged Featured Jetter: Lauren Mitchell

Welcome to a new post in the Featured Jetter series! A Featured Jetter is someone who either has diabetes/is involved in the diabetes world, or is a bike rider of some sort/is involved in the biking world, or both. While we started this blog to share our journey of raising $11k for the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Death Valley, CA this October 2018 (donate here!), a blog only about us would be, well, kinda boring. In doing this ride, we wanted to connect with the wider diabetes and biking communities, and in doing this blog, we’ve decided we would like to raise up and highlight some amazing people doing wonderful work.

Featured Jetter - Lauren Mitchell

Lauren is not only an incredible cook and baker, a world traveler, and a philosophical conversationalist, she’s also a thoughtful friend and community builder. In other words, she’s the best type of person out there. Broche first met Lauren when Broche was planning a move to Portland, Oregon, from Boston, Massachusetts. Broche knew two people in the entire state of Oregon at the time, and was visiting the city for a week. It was April 2012, and even though she wasn’t planning to move until the summer, she still jumped on Craigslist to see what housing was available. Because she’s a planner, she ended up sending an email to one place looking for a new roommate, and even got an interview. And then she got what remains to this day one of her favorite emails. Basically, the email said that though the house decided to go with someone else for a roommate, the person who wrote the email thought Broche was neat and wanted to stay in touch to hang out when she got back to Portland. That person was Lauren, and stay in touch they did. Hang out, they did. Do Thanksgiving dinner together with a really fun bunch of people Broche didn’t know before that night, they did. Broche continues to be grateful for the honesty, the warm welcome to a new place, and the continued supportive friendship. While they’ve never gone biking together, Broche hopes they can do so when she gets back to Portland sometime. Read on!

Featured Jetter: Lauren Mitchell
Lauren Mitchell
Photo from Lauren’s Instagram account, posted Sept 9, 2017. This was her amazing and relevant caption: “Here is a selfie taken in a mirror purchased by the last generation of my family that was born into slavery. Let’s go for a bike ride. #iamheretosubvertyourfitspo

What is your relation to biking and/or diabetes?

I moved to Portland after a few years out of the country, and when I left, I’d sold my car. When I came back, I didn’t want to buy another one, so I chose Portland as my landing spot partially as encouragement to bike, because the infrastructure here is so good for it. I bought a 40-pound cruiser the week I arrived, but I took my sweet time getting on it. About three years in, I started commuting — 2 miles each way — and tootling around town. New house + new job means that now my commute is 9 miles each way (and I have a much more suitable bike), and I’m doing it at least four days a week.

How has biking and/or diabetes impacted your life?
In 2014 I had some back issues that kept me off my bike for a few months. I malingered. Then I moved in 2016, and the fastest way to get to work in the morning from my new house was to stop malingering.

Nothing about it was easy. I was starting with a body that was different from when I’d been riding previously, and I was jumping into the deep end of a long daily commute, in January, with decent rain gear at least but not a lot of bike-friendly clothing. I am particularly terrible at doing things that are hard, but I also know how to make excuses that appeal to my pragmatism so I can trick myself into doing the hard thing when it’s actually the most efficient thing. [Yes to all of this!]

I also want to talk about the massive mental sludge that I needed to wade through to be a fat person on a bike. I was a size 18/20 when I started biking again this time, and much of my malingering had to do with the shame of exercising in public when my size is incongruous with most people’s idea of #fitspo. I researched: I looked around for other fat people on bikes. I hardly ever saw them. Cyclists were white and lean and I felt very disconnected from them. I felt disconnected from everyone who made exercise a part of their daily lives: I felt like they had gotten a memo twenty years ago that gave them the leg up on how to do this, and that their struggles were humblebrags, their successes merely perfunctory acknowledgments of the package of abilities they’d already been bequeathed. [More yes, and thank you for putting words to this, too!]

I was always strong but I was never really athletic. Athleticism meant team sports, the culture of which was completely beyond me. I had to do some team sports for Phys Ed requirement in high school but I remained the weakest link, because I never understood what about any of it was compelling. I was overweight then, too, and this was before there was any decent plus size clothing so my awkward, teenaged, hormone-addled self had no easy positive reinforcements on her appearance. I felt that there were two ways that Athletic People encouraged me to exercise: the first was “What? Your body can’t run a mile. Just look at it. Run a mile. I dare you. No really, I dare you.” The second was “C’mon! You can run a mile! You’re fat now, but by the end of that mile, you’ll be less fat!” I was not having it, and I put up several walls to keep anyone from trying to convince me otherwise. I couldn’t separate the idea of exercising just to get out and move around from the idea of a punishing workout that moved you to an impossible goal.

In 2015 I was at a party and I overheard someone retelling the first conversation he’d had with his personal trainer. The trainer had asked him what his fitness goals were, and he said, “I want to not be depressed.” That was it. He didn’t need to run a marathon or lift his body weight or swim the Channel. He was doing it only for his mental health, and that was enough. I was quietly floored. This approach gave no need for amateur soccer leagues, running clubs, scales, tape measures, calorie counters, loyalty to sports teams, or rabid worship of bike racers. The whole point was to make my happiness and mental clarity nonnegotiable. This cut the number of fucks I gave about how I looked on a bike right in half, and when I started to find more good-quality gear in my size, it smashed down to nearly zero.
Now I’m One Of Those People Who Needs To Exercise; I get cabin fever without my bike. I could care less about the Tour de France, but this morning, I clocked my commute at 40 minutes, where it was an hour when I started two years ago. I went on a 55-mile ride in October, and I thumbed my nose a little bit at every aspect of our culture that discourages my body from being able to make progress. I know now that I’m capable of making progress, and that makes me gentler with myself, and that makes me harder on myself. I’ve shifted the needle on what is realistic.

What is your next goal related to biking and/or diabetes?

I reached my goal of a 50-mile ride last year; if I can do a century this year I’ll start to think about doing the Seattle-to-Portland ride in 2-3 years.
[Congratulations! And you can always join us for a JDRF century ride, you know…just sayin’. :-)]

What song should we add to our biking playlist?

I listen to a lot of podcasts on my rides, because listening to something keeps me from thinking about how hard that hill is, but I’m biking in the city so I don’t listen to music because I need to be able to hear/pay attention to traffic. Food, sex, and race are the things that I talk about the most, so they’re the topics of podcasts that I listen to the most: Gravy, Milk Street, Food Non-Fiction, Savage Lovecast, Sex with Strangers, Code Switch, The Nod, 2 Dope Queens.