You don’t meet people like Mim Taylor-Carter every day*.
(*but if you’re lucky you get to ride
with her at our weekly
NGNM Women’s Crush Wednesday
social ride on Zwift.)
Anyway, as we were saying, there’s something about Mim that’s not found in everyone else.
The first thing you notice is her modesty. We know she’s a strong rider but occasionally she drops in these unpretentious hints to her athletic past:
‘Oh, many years ago I was a rower, a fairly good one.’
By fairly good, she’s referring to the fact that she is a former World Champion (Women’s Lightweight Pairs racing over 2000 metres in Zagreb, Croatia), who dominated the women’s rowing scene around the time of the millennium.
This lack of vanity is a trait we’ve come to love about this neuro-physiotherapist.
We also like the fact that on 12 September 2021, 49-year-old Mim did her first proper bike race.
Here at NGNM, we have strong values, especially when it comes to personal and collective wellbeing. So when we meet people holding similar values (and we do, frequently, hello all of you👋), we get excited. We love to have a connection and learn more about the community, of which Mim has become an integral part.
Being on the start line and competing—properly competing, not just making up the admittedly very low numbers—was all part of her big plan and represented the fulfilment of a dream that’s been fermenting over the past 18 months since the pandemic hit. We’ve followed her exploits closely as she became a regular feature at our weekly rides, finding her place within the NGNM community first, then leading the NGNM Women Crush Weds rides twice a month, alternating with Nan Deardorff McClain (check her story here).
The story of Mim’s recent years is, as with so many of us, a story of three parts: there’s pre- and post-Covid, interspersed with a whole lot of Zwifting.
Pre-Covid comes with a backstory: picture Mim in a boat, an elite rower training three-to-four times per day and holding down an almost full-time job (‘I dropped down to 80% but that’s what it was like for women’s sport back then – these days there’s full lottery funding so it’s very different'). After discovering rowing at the age of 18, Mim enjoyed a rapid upward trajectory but eventually, those intense years of training twice per day and competing with the world’s best led to a significant back injury that progressively got worse, as well as what Mim classifies as serious overtraining. ‘The pain in my back and ribs was getting worse and worse, and I couldn’t train enough without pain to stay at the top level,’ she explains.
She could only see one cure and it involved leaving the sport she’d been involved in since fresher’s week at university.
What came next came as a surprise to us: ‘I did five years of nothing,’ she puts it bluntly, explaining how unfit she got in that initial period. Nowadays she’s pragmatic about her departure from rowing, but you get the sense that there was something missing during this period.
‘I worked on fixing my back and eventually got back on a bike about five years ago, promising myself that this time I’d be doing sport for pleasure, for the enjoyment of being in a club, without any pressure or even a heart rate monitor.’
The cycling goes well. There are friends and club mates, group rides and training sessions to attend. She finds an additional community through NGNM and we get the sense that Mim starts to feel a bit more of a purpose. Sure, the injuries sustained from her rowing career have not totally disappeared, but thanks to her education in physiotherapy, the self-coached athlete is able to control the discomfort and, judging by just how much she has got into bike riding, they are clearly not holding her back in the slightest.
“Oh, crikey, where do I start?” Mim tries to recall just how many times she has competed recently. It sounds like a lot from our perspective (and somewhat at odds with her pressure-free approach when she first got back into cycling, but she’s clearly happy to lean into her competitive side and sensible enough to know when to stop and when to push). As the women’s captain of her local club (Bedfordshire Road Cycling Club, BRCC), she’s a fixture at their weekly club races, plus has spent the past five months chasing times in Individual Time Trials across the UK in a bid to creep up the rankings in the BBAR – a nationwide series aimed at finding the Best British All-Rounder over a range of time trial distances, with rankings based on average speeds. Mim laughs, pointing out that for future reference, neither a 100-mile time trial in Yorkshire nor a 50-miler in Wales are particularly conducive for fast times.
“I’ll have to check the standings for 2021 soon now that the time trialling season is over, but I’ve really enjoyed doing the BBAR; it’s been a good way to get my goals sorted out. Just a shame that I’m no longer 25 years old.” She grins, fiercely competitive as ever. “I also started crit racing after being advised that it is the best way to build a foundation for racing—I only hit the tarmac once.” It’s hard to say if there’s an element of surprise in her voice as she admits having relished the fast-paced, hectic nature of criterium racing: “It’s a bit addictive, the focus and concentration needed for being bar-to-bar and I actually really enjoyed it. I just want to see more women competing. The problem in Britain is that there aren’t enough women’s races, and the ones that are on the calendar aren’t sensibly spread out geographically so it’s understandably hard to get women into racing. Fortunately there are people like Alice Lethbridge who are taking the initiative to improve the situation.”
This is also what Mim is trying to do through her role as Women’s Captain at BRCC and her fortnightly ride leading for NGNM at the virtual Women’s Crush Wednesday on Zwift, which can be a great (and gentle) launchpad for women looking to develop their bike skills and get into racing. “The NGNM hour ride is something I discovered during the first lockdown in spring 2020 and it’s been fantastic. I like getting to know all the characters. I use it mainly for recovery, but as ride leader I’m adding in some climbing work or cadence changers following Milly’s playlist on Spotify. It’s important to mix it up each week and keep it fun.”
With her self-deprecating smile and infinite energy, freshness is exactly what Mim brings to cycling, and we couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to get to know this inspiring individual, who shares so many values with us here at NGNM.
We look forward to learning more from her through our weekly rides, the United We Are tour in June, and supporting her as she takes off on two wheels for her second adventure in sports. Oh, and for anyone living in the south of the UK, look out for a series of real-life NGNM rides led by Mim.