Succeeding, failing and learning to love the process: Ally Murphy ’10 delivers keynote address titled, “Dream Big”

September 19, 2017

Photo courtesy of BrakeThrough Media

Ally Murphy no longer has that constant sense of urgency she once had.

It wasn’t because she gave up one day, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Murphy knows a thing or two about working smarter, not necessarily harder, even though she’ll tell you, “I like to crank the dial…I can put in work and suffer for a long time,” she said to explain why she’s been able to succeed in endurance sports such as cycling.

In a few short years, Murphy went from a young student-athlete on a women’s collegiate wrestling team in Northern California, to testing the waters—and ultimately succeeding—in the women’s professional cycling ranks.

Murphy shared her wisdom, including her more recent entrepreneurial endeavor—Ally’s Bar—with students, faculty and staff during the annual Convocation event in Hayes Auditorium Thursday, Sept. 14.

Her keynote speech titled “Dream Big” aimed to teach the Lees-McRae community that nothing is beyond the scope of probability and to, “never be afraid to just go for it.”  

The Lees-McRae ’10 alumna has had her fair share of success on and off the bike, both during her time at Lees-McRae and in the years that followed.

Murphy moved out of her family’s home at the age of 15 to work and live on a cattle ranch. Since she was too young to drive, her primary mode of transportation was her bike.

“It was my ticket to freedom,” Murphy said during her keynote address. “No matter where I wanted to go, I was set free by the fact that all I had to do was pack up my backpack and go.”

Her love for cycling followed her into college. Murphy rode her bike to maintain her fitness during wrestling’s off-season. However, after breaking her elbow during a match, Murphy’s wrestling career ceased.

She took refuge on her bike more than ever before—she even discovered a new way to compete.

“I decided to get a racing license (a requirement by most U.S.A. Cycling-sanctioned cycling events) and compete at a few local bike races,” Murphy said.

That’s when one day, “a small little school out in the mountains of North Carolina” contacted her. It was part of a campaign to grow the already booming Lees-McRae Cycling program.

After speaking to the coach over the phone who agreed to take a chance on her, Murphy decided to pack her bags, kiss her family goodbye and head for the East Coast.

With Lees-McRae as her launch pad, Murphy’s cycling career took off almost immediately. Within the span of a few short years, all while working and studying full-time as a history student, Murphy went from beginner “Cat 4” (the novice ranking for competitive cyclists) to entering the professional world of cycling.

During her time at Lees-McRae, Murphy received the Carla Swart Sportsmanship Award, an award presented to the female rider who sacrificed their own chances at victory for the good of the team. 

A few years after graduating, Murphy was invited back to campus to be inducted into the Fred I. Dickerson Athletics Hall of Fame award for her hard work, commitment, accomplishments and dedication to her team and the sport of cycling as a whole.

After graduating from college and racing around the world for several years, Murphy decided to hang up the bike to start a family and build Ally’s Bar.

Ally’s Bar, a sweet potato-based snack bar, began when Murphy looked for a healthy option to fuel her and her fellow teammates on and off the bike.

With her one-year-old son, Liam, and a company also in its early infancy, Murphy admitted to getting a lot less sleep, but feeling lucky she had found something that excites her just as much as competitive cycling once did.

“I want my son to work hard, but I also want to provide anything that I am able to,” Murphy said. “He is my reason…he’s my everything.”

Becoming a new mom all while growing a brand in an already highly competitive market has taught Murphy more lessons than one, she said.

“I once had a mentor who told me, ‘Ally, don’t ever come to me with problems, only solutions,’” she said. “I’ve also learned that having this constant sense of urgency and stress really isn’t going to help me. It makes more sense to take your time with something, make sure you do it right, than stress and risk missing an important step.”

It’s all about learning to love the process, Murphy explained. Even when it comes to your failures.

“After all, when you fail, it is your opportunity to learn,” she added. “Get back up and do better next time.”

As for her goals moving forward, Murphy plans to build Ally’s Bar into a nationally recognized brand, providing consumers the opportunity to fuel their bodies with healthy, tasty food.

Murphy said it will take time and patience to finally bring her company to that scale, but she doesn’t worry, because after all, it’s about dreaming big and enjoying the process.  

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