HELLO!

I get so many great questions in my inbox, at events, and even just hanging out in my hometown of Ketchum, Idaho. After years of answering insightful monthly questions through Ask Reba on this site, I made the below categories to review all the advice I’ve given and to blog about the more popular questions and subjects we’ve covered!
Everyone has questions and if you browse the archives, you can see I’ve been asked everything from finding motivation and bike preferences to my favorite junk food and best jeans to fit muscular legs. Take some time to surf through the tips for some great info.

Don’t see your question in the list? You can still submit it through the form to the side. It will get right to me and I’ll answer it and get it up on the archive as well.

Thanks for tuning in.

–Rebecca

If you didn't find the answer to your question in the archives, Ask Reba here:

Question & Answer Archive

Click on categories questions to open or close them.

Monthly Winners:

Monthly Winners

What do you do when the S@#! hits the fan in a race? (4/2012)

Q: Hypothetically, if you were in a race and the S@#! was hitting the fan and you saw a hat rack at the top of a climb and it had a cheerleaders hat, a firefighters hat, a police officers hat, a teachers hat, or a mentors hat, which one would you choose to put on and finish the race and why? – L. Updyke

A: Oh, I’d probably take the whole rack with me and pull from all of the hats.  It often takes a smorgasbord of tactics to keep ourselves motivated when we need it the most. Beeing a cheerleader for myeslf is essential in so many races.  I’ve even said out loud “come on Rebecca!”  The firefighter’s hat is important for methodically putting out all the little fires that are going on.  Take one thing at a time and fix it, then move onto the next.  Police officer’s hat to make sure I’m really following my own rules like not quitting, trying to stay positive, just taking one pedal stroke at a time.  I sometimes have to remind myself of those personal rules when I really need to remember them most.  Teacher’s hat because I feel like in 20 years of being a pro athlete, I’m still learning lessons every single day.  As soon as you stop learning, life will get a bit boring.  The mentor’s hat because I have to remind myself that I am no longer racing just for myself.  There are other people who find inspiration from me and I would not want to let them down.  My most recent local XC race was one such experience where I was having a terrible race and getting down on myself.  The option of quitting popped into my head and then not 30 seconds later, there were a couple of junior race kids by the side of the trail cheering for me by name.  Seeing those kids knocked me out of my pity party and made me realize that if I quit, that’s what those kids would remember from me.

We are all mentors and teachers to people around us.  I have a responsibility to myself to feel good about my experiences and how I handle them.  I want to look in the mirror and be OK with how I conduct myself when things are the most challenging.  I also want to be able to turn the mirror around and have other people see strength in themselves.

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I generally race long distance events…should I be worried about cramping and re-think my hydration strategy? (08/11)

Q:  I generally race long distance events: 100m to 24hr to multi-day. Recently I did a shorter race–63m–and cramped badly, which is something that almost never happens in longer races. In two weeks I do another 100 mile race at high elevation. Should I be worried about cramping  and re-think my hydration strategy or do you think that was an anomaly due to racing a shorter distance? - S. Edwards

A: Steve:  I am going to refer your question to Dr. Holden MacRae, professor of Sports Medicine at Pepperdine and part of the Red Bull Performance Testing Team.  I have worked with him and discussed cramping with him recently.  Here is his response to my query about cramping in Leadville.  It relates directly to your shorter distance, higher output cramping issue.  Read on, but bottom line is more strength training.

Here is Holden’s response:

I am assuming that the cramps did not start until the final 25% to 33% of each race when you were most fatigued, and that the cramps were localized (either gastroc/soleus – “calf muscles” or quads). I did my PhD in Cape Town, and one of the researchers there, Dr Martin Schwellnus (an MD/PhD) has done quite a bit of research in this area and has also worked in medical tents for years at endurance races. They have proposed a neural fatigue mechanism for cramping that has high validity. Basically, you have 2 important types of neural control at the muscle level via

  • Type Ia muscle spindles whose activity will cause a muscle to contract, and
  • Type Ib Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s) whose activity will cause a muscle to relax. If the GTO is inhibited, then the muscle will contract.

In studies of muscle function and fatigue, the following has been found:

  • When muscle becomes fatigued, the firing rate of the Type Ia afferent fibers from the muscle spindle INCREASES (the muscle contracts)
  • and the firing rate from the Type Ib afferent fibers from the Golgi tendon organ DECREASES (the muscle contracts)

Therefore, my thinking on this is that you are racing at higher speeds which requires higher power outputs (and hence higher levels of muscle activation), and when the muscles are not conditioned for this, as you get far into the race, fatigue causes the following;

  • Spindle activity increases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction
  • GTO activity decreases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction

And so in muscles that cross two joints (gastroc/soleus and/or quads) you will cramp more often; if a muscle crosses two joints, then it means that the muscle is going to be in a shortened position when it contracts. When the muscle is in this position, then the activity of the GTO is going to be reduced even more than normal. Add to this the contraction, which stimulates the muscle spindle, and the net result is that the inhibition of the motor neuron is reduced even further, predisposing one to cramp.

Probably the most effective countermeasure for those affected muscles will be to increase their strength/power such that they will be less prone to fatigue during high levels of activation.

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How do you compare the suffering in Multi-Day Adventure Races to the multiday stage mt. bike race? (11/2010)

Q: How do you compare the suffering you’ve endured in Multi-Day Adventure Races to the multiday stage mt. bike race? Is it harder to duke it out alone with a night of rest between stages or harder with others who are pushing the pace with limited to no sleep over several days? 

A: Suffering is suffering and both non-stop races and multi-day stage races hurt. However, my least favorite part of racing is the start line. It’s that intense period where everyone is scoping everyone else out, the pressure is palpable and I usually feel the dread of self-doubt coursing through my body. Once a race has started, the path and the goal is very clear…get to the finish as fast as you can and empty the tank. I find more clarity and confidence after a race has started and there is nothing left to do except my best. The beauty of non-stop, multi day events is that there is only one start and one finish, so I only have to go through my least favorite part of racing once. In stage races, you get that surge of adrenalin at the start line day after day. You get reminded again and again who your competitors are and you have to look them in the eye, as they are trying to decipher how fatigued you are.
I do find that non-stop races have a different sort of challenge with sleep deprivation and team dynamics. Sometimes, it’s really nice to have a teammates’ shoulder to lean on. However you are also at the mercy of their performance and their weaknesses as well. I’ve done plenty of adventure races where I felt fantastic, but our team dropped out because someone was injured or sick. You share the good and the bad in team events. The stage racing hurts in a different way because it is way faster paced since everyone is going to get to sleep at night. You are still breaking down day after day as with non-stop events, but you are partially recovering in between stages. Either type of race is a blast, hurts like hell and requires recovery management to get through. I love both styles of racing for different reasons. Luckily, there are plenty of both kinds to choose from!

 

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What is it like to be at the place where enjoyment has ended and PAIN has truly begun? (12/2010)

Q: In order to have been crowned “Queen of Pain”, you must know a thing or two about pain: so tell me, what is it like to be at the place where enjoyment has ended and PAIN has truly begun?

A; It’s like a little dance between heaven and hell.  Manage the pain well and you are on your way to a highly rewarding experience once it’s all over.  Succumb to the pain like a baby and you will end up looking back on the event with shame and disappointment.  Everyone feels pain, it’s what you do with it that counts.

I also want to make sure that everyone’s questions are answered as there is a ton of useful information for every rider out there. If you go to the Ask Reba Archives you will find the answers to all the questions by topic from all the previous months. So keep on sending in questions, because I love hearing what you have to say!

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I was wondering, using Restwise, what happens if you wake up on race day…and it tells you to take a day off? (07/11)

Q: I was wondering…with Restwise…what happens if you wake up on race day, put in your numbers and it tells you to take a day off? – S. Richardson

A: According to my coach, Matthew, a high score does not necessarily guarantee a great result.  FYI, my score was 90 this AM and I felt flat and slow today even though on paper, I shouldn’t have. Similarly, a low score does not mean you’ll have a bad day.  It just means on paper, you haven’t fully recovered from life, training, whatever, but you should still by all means go out on race day and work as hard as you can.  They’ve also had athletes with low scores race morning, due to stress, lack of sleep, being nervous about the race and then they pop a good one.

The recovery score should not keep you from racing.  Instead, it should assist you more with training when you have the freedom to change your plans.  It’s also important to look at trends.  If you are always trending toward low scores, then a major adjustment is needed in lifestyle or training.  If it’s just one day of low scores due to travel (this happens to me all the time) or some other unavoidable factor such as your kids kept you up all night, then it’s not a trend.  You can just be conscious to get more sleep the next night, hydrate better, stretch, relax, etc when you hit these occasional low scores.

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How do I convince my wife to ride a bike? (Oct. 2012)

Q: How do I convince my wife to ride a bike? – D. Decena

A:  Find a women’s group for her to learn from and get inspired by. This is one of the reasons I started the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour two years ago. Women learn better (and more) from other women, in a non-intimidating environment.  (Sorry, but you will not be the best teacher initially).  Let her discover how great mountain biking is with a group of like-minded individuals she can relate to.  Check your local shop for women’s rides and events.  Also, demo a fabulous bike for her.  Don’t give her your crappy old bike that’s too big for her to start on.  There’s nothing like a fantastic piece of shiny performance equipment to ensure a really fun ride.  Stack the odds in her favor, don’t push too hard and let her progress at her own pace.

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How do you see your racing style and role as a professional racer evolve and change with age? (06/11)

Q: I’m in no way trying to be insulting about you age here :) – but as you put on more miles, races, and seasons – How do you see your racing style and role as a professional racer evolve and change with age? Do you become more selective on what events you pick in every season? Do you see yourself becoming a mentor to younger riders similar to what Ned Overend does in the Specialized XC team (and still kick their butts, just like him)?  – S. Murtaugh

A: Thanks for the compliment by associating me with someone like Ned Overend.  Ned is a legend and has done an amazing job inspiring other riders and staying super involved in the bike industry.  He also still continues to race at a super elite level.  There is a point in every athlete’s career when they transition away from being 100% focused on race results.  Some athletes just leave the sport and others, like Ned, stay involved and continue to inspire.  I know I will always be an athlete and I will always have a competitive streak and my goal is to stay involved with the bike industry.  I love getting other people on bikes and that is the main reason I designed the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour for this year.  If  my riding and racing is motivating to younger (or older) riders, then I’ll consider my career a successful one!

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Why is it important for you to race clean and naturally? (05/11)

Q: Why is it important for you to race clean and naturally? - M. McCorry

A: Great question Myles, especially in light of all that’s going on in the news with cycling (and most other professional sports).   There are two main reasons that I must race clean and naturally.

1.  I value my health and want to live and cycling for a very long time.  These toxins are known to cause heart issues, cancer and a ton of other diseases that are still unknown.  The health risk is just not worth it for me.

2.  I couldn’t stand on a podium or feel good about a result if I had cheated.  Doping is cutting corners the same as cutting off part of the course.   It would be a hollow victory.  I get reward from hard work and clean effort.  If I make it to a podium, I know it’s because I worked hard to get there.

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How much do you rely on what your equipment, like HR monitor and computer, tell you versus how you feel? (02/11)

Q: How much do you rely on what your equipment, like HR Monitor and Computer, tell you versus how you feel, do you do exactly what the equipment says you should be doing for HR?  You are the Queen of Pain after all… - S. Herrara

A: The tools I use for training and recovery are my Suunto T6c and Restwise recovery system. I just got a brand new PowerTap that I have yet to learn how to use yet. Suunto and Restwise are basically my daily training partners and are essential to keeping me on track. They both give me numbers that help shape my training. My coach and I look at the numbers every single day, however, how I’m feeling must play a big role. People are not machines and the measuring tools we use are just guidelines.

Many times, if my heart rate is not responding how I’d like or my Restwise numbers are low, it tells me to back off on training and take a rest day. Tools like these are excellent guides as long as you supplement their use with your brain as well. I see many athletes just relying on a number on a digital readout instead of making intelligent training decisions. As a side note, when I’m racing, I have my HR monitor on, but don’t look at it until after the race is over. I rely on my own brain to pace during a race.

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When you ride with men who are faster, what is your motivation to just kick it into gear and show them up? (Winner 09/11)

Q: When you ride with men who are faster, what is your motivation to just kick it into gear and show them up? I ride with guys and I absolutely hate when I can’t keep up with them.

A: For me internal motivation is way stronger than external. When I’m riding with someone faster than me (male or female), my motivation is not to show them up, it’s more wanting to raise my own level. Whether I’m in a race or training, I really focus on trying not to worry about the riders around me and instead ride the best that I can. When I ride with that approach, I ride faster. If you have overwhelmingly competitive thoughts when you ride with guys, perhaps it’s time to do some solo riding or find some women to ride with. For me, it’s beneficial to ride with all different levels for different experiences. Faster people will push you and raise your level. Slower riders will allow you to give the brain a break and get in some easier endurance training. Riding with beginners gives you the opportunity to teach and at the same time improve your own skills by teaching them.

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Have you learned anything while riding with regular folks that has helped you get faster? (10/11)

Q: One of the best parts of our sport is working-class-heroes (like me) get to ride with pro-class-fast-folks (like you). I’ve learned a lot on those rides that have made me a better rider afterwards. Have you learned anything while riding with regular folks that has helped you get faster? And I don’t mean faster at drinking beer, though feel free to share those stories as well. – D. Pryor

A: Dave, thanks for the kind words.  I often feel like “regular” riders might be disappointed when they race along side me and see that I get frazzled, frustrated, crash and blow snot rockets, just like everyone else.  I question my ability, fumble over those slippery logs in PA and sometimes even cry or cuss a little.  I guess it’s good for people to see that the pros are human too, but I do feel badly that sometimes I might not live up to my super-hero persona in situations like that!  Keep in mind that any pro who has experienced some great wins has also experienced 10x as many losses.  I will also tell you that it’s often easier to win than it is to lose.  I’ve been on both sides many times and probably learn more from my back or middle of the pack experiences than from the wins.  Riding with “regular” people when I expect to be up with the pros always brings me back to reality and reminds me of how awesome mountain biking people are.  The reason we all lined up in the first place was because we like riding bikes and pushing ourselves.  Hanging with the riff raff (and I mean that in the nicest way) reminds me to laugh a little more, take myself less seriously and to just enjoy the ride!  A PBR or two along the trail never hurts with this life lesson either.  Thanks for always sharing your beer and laughs.

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How important is a good looking kit? What’s the most hideous kit you’ve ever seen? (11/2011)

Q: How important is a good looking kit?   What’s the most hideous kit you’ve ever seen (at a race or training/fun ride)? – C. Cataneda

 

A:  A good looking kit is KEY!  It’s like a super-hero putting on their cloak or a knight stepping into their armor.  Your kit needs to make you feel fast and invincible!  You need to WANT to put it on and be proud to stand on the start line.  I hate to say it, but for me the most hideous kit was my very own 2008 race kit.  I call it The Pink Year.  There’s nothing wrong with the color pink.  Some people love it.  I do not.  It doesn’t suit me one bit and despite being female, I’ve never gravitated towards pink.  I’m attaching a photo for full comic relief.  I looked like a highlighter and I was embarrassed.  I will say I got really fast during the pink year.  My theory was if I had to wear a hideous kit, then I’d dang well better make up for it by winning.  It’s harder to make fun of someone if they are in front of you, right?

Rebecca’s 2008 Kit

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Who has been the most inspirational and had the biggest impact on your career as a professional athlete? (11/2011)

Q: Who has been the most inspirational and had the biggest impact on your career as a professional athlete primarily mountain biking?  How do they inspire you and why? – B. Barton

A:  My high school cross country coach had the biggest impact on my career because he was my first exposure to athletics, teamwork, coaching, setting goals and hard work.  He inspired me and the rest of the team by pushing us in a patient and supportive way.  He made us want to work hard and our efforts paid off.  The trajectory of my life was forever changed by joining the team and having such a positive experience for those four years.  A more current mentor has to be Marla Streb for her non-traditional jump into mountain biking and the way she exploded onto the scene.  She’s a super talented rider and really smart business woman.  I admire her riding and even more how she’s conducted herself throughout her career.

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What is your #1 tip for being a better Rebecca Rusch everyday? (12/2011)

Q: What is your #1 tip for being a better Rebecca Rusch everyday? - J. Stern

A: Here are two things I do that keep me working to better myself and feel happy.

1.  Practice Appreciation:  Every night before falling asleep, I ask myself, “what was the best part of my day?”  Even if it was a horrible day, I find some little thing to appreciate.  Believe me, sometimes I have to dig deep to find something to feel good about, but I do it anyway.

2.  Live with Intention:  In the morning before getting out of bed, I spend a few moments setting mini goals for the day.  I decide what I intend to do and then try to live up to that.  I fail on a regular basis for various reasons, but I also succeed some days.  The practice of being intentional about how you want to live each day helps me stay focused and on track.

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What are some various ways you can use a Buff as a tool to help get someone out to safety? (2/2012)

Q: Say you’re out in the back country, something happens to someone. What are some various ways you can use a Buff as a tool to help get someone out to safety? – N. Amos

1.  Wound dressing

2.  Tourniquet

3.  Toilet paper (I’ve done this before)

4.  Eye mask (so they don’t see the compound fracture on their leg)

5.  Visibility flag and wind sock for the helicopter landing

6.  Hat to keep warm

7. Sunburn protection (while waiting to be rescued)

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What are the three most important takeaways for you from the time you spent on the ROW and the time at The National Bike Summit? (3/2012)

Q: What are the three most important takeaways for you from the time you spent on the ROW and the time at The National Bike Summit? – K. Begg

1.  Join your local IMBA Chapter, the League of American Bicyclists and sign the People for Bikes Pledge.

These inexpensive memberships give us a voice and strength in numbers.  Small groups of people can do amazing things, but to be heard on the National level, we need to band as a unified voice.  In DC, it was amazing to see the work that was being done by so many people with the same goal.  Joining also directly leads to step #2.

2.  Educate yourself on cycling / pedestrian issues and Federal / local policies.  It doesn’t take much time at all and it’s not as dry and boring as you’d think.  If we just naively go riding without ever appreciating how our trails and bike paths got there, then we are missing an essential piece of the puzzle.  We can’t fight for it if we don’t know what the issues are.  IMBA and League of American Bicyclists make it easy to learn about cycling advocacy issues.  Not everyone has to go lobby on Capitol Hill but we do have a responsibility to be considerate users and know the etiquette and issues.

4.  Talk about advocacy in your local community.  At the bike summit, I learned that racers (all levels) are the highest user groups of our roads and trails, but the smallest group represented when it comes to advocacy.  The bike commuters are there in huge numbers, but the race community is poorly represented.  I know it’s not because the race community doesn’t care, it just hasn’t been made a focus or been talked about enough in the racing world.  So start talking to your riding friends.  Ask them if they’ve joined the local IMBA club.  Strike up the conversation at races about the “three foot rule” for bikes on the road.  Be the person in your community who starts a little wave of awareness and involvement will sprout from there.

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Any tips on how to deal with the pressure? (June 2012)

Q: Racing is tough–and really rewarding! I’ve been racing two series this year and have seen some good results. All second places, and last weekend I got my first Cat 1 Win! After my win last week, I felt the pressure really ramp up for my race this weekend.  The chatter about the course, and ride strategy is great, but the chatter about who is racing and where we all stack up is interesting because the pressure to win again is really obvious.  Any tips on how to deal with the pressure you not only put on yourself to win, but also dealing with the pressure others unknowingly place on you? – E. Johnson

A: Pressure to perform is a tricky thing.  Yes, racing is addictive and rewarding in so many ways. It’s also sometimes not a ton of fun and can get very stressful and hard.  Pressure to perform is often self-imposed.  Your friends who are talking about ranking and placings are just excited and happy to see you do well.  They will still be your friends if you have a bad performance.  It’s important to regularly re-visit why you started racing in the first place, what you love about it and why you are there.  It’s probably a mix of motivations including scoring a good result.  Controlling stress is an important strategy for me.  Of course I am nervous before almost every race, but I offset that with doing my best to prepare and train properly so I can stand at the start line and feel like I’m ready.  I also practice quite a bit of internal dialogue to let myself know that a person’s worth is not based on one race performance.  A good day or a bad day will not change who you are.

I have the most respect for athletes who can lose gracefully, pick themselves back up, learn from the experience and race well another day.  I also look at an athlete’s entire body of work and the ones who have many consistent results are more impressive to me than one flash in the pan performance.  The bottom line is that it’s bike racing and nothing more.  Racing is a powerful, wonderful experience in so many ways.  Putting yourself on the line and working hard for a result is a worthy endeavor.  However, extra pressure just makes you waste energy and burn calories you could use for pedaling.  Just keep a realistic view and don’t forget why you signed up in the first place.

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Do you think the media should give more value to women’s races? (July 2012)

Q: Do you think the media should give more value to women’s races? – D. Guedes

 

A: Absolutely!  Women make up 51% of the population.  Women are also athletes, consumers and influencers, so why wouldn’t women’s racing be given more coverage?  It’s sort of shocking to me that this issue still needs to be raised.  Just as men’s racing is interesting to all genders, so would women’s racing if it got the coverage and the athletes were given a platform to be known.   I meet men, women, boys and girls everywhere who tell me I inspire them.  That’s great and it shows me that inspiration is not gender specific.  We all need heros and I’ve been inspired by female athletes like Marla Streb and male athletes like Tim Johnson.  I’m inspired by who the athlete is, regardless of  gender.

In a time when kids and adults are so bombarded with computer games, iphones, drugs and many other unhealthy temptations, it’s crucial that the media provide a positive example of what athletes are doing out there (male and female).  One of the main reasons I launched the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour women’s events was to provide opportunity for women’s media, pro athletes and female riders to get more involved and have a bigger voice.  The tide has started to change slowly, but I want to fuel the momentum.  Once a little girl sees her Mom, or a pro athlete ripping it up on a bike, or reads about women’s cycling in the media, a seed of possibility is planted.  If she never sees these images, then she doesn’t know what’s possible and might just assume that sports are for only boys.  Wouldn’t that be sad?  Check out this video trailer for a film that talks about women’s representation in the media.  It’s not cycling related, but shows the power of what is put out there. Miss Representation

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Do you think the mnt biking scene will become popular, again? (8/12)

Q: So we all know about the mountain biking boom in the 90’s when the sport really took off and racing was getting tons of press.  Do you think the Mountain Bike racing scene will ever get back to that level of press and hype?  As an avid mtn biker racer I love the sport, it just seems all the popular press is given to the road and even the big time talents migrate to road for big contracts for example: Cadel Evans, Peter Sagan, Lars Boom.  Just want to get your thoughts on how we can take our sport to the next level. - K. Rozek

A: Well, as you said, money talks.  Athletes are drawn to bigger paying road contracts, sponsors support road because of the advertising dollars and TV coverage, media goes there because they are paid to cover these events, so it’s all a cycle that follows the money.

This 2005 Demographics of  Mountain Biking study on the IMBA site shows MTB participation holding steady at around 40 million participants.  Road cycling is double the participation numbers and growing a bit faster than MTB.  Sponsors, media, manufacturers put more energy where the participation and money are.  This is not to say that since this 2005 study, mountain biking has not grown or that the industry does not support dirt riders.   The boom of the 90’s was an awesome kick start to our sport.  It was flashy and glamorous.  Now, more than 25 years into our sport, we are in a position to look at how it can grow in a more sustainable way.  Even if the media is not blowing up the sport and athletes are not making super star wages, participation numbers are growing.  Organizations like NICA and IMBA have launched and are proof that the sport is growing.

How can we take the sport we love to the next level?  Be part of the solution!  It takes individuals to start a revolution. Invovlement can take many forms and once the snowball starts gaining momentum, it’ll be hard to stop.

Here are ways to spread the joy of mountain biking and grow our community:

1.  Join IMBA at the national level and local level.  If you don’t have an IMBA club or chapter near you, start one.

2.  Take part in local shop rides, take a kid riding, coach for your local team, volunteer for a MTB race…just be involved to help grow the community.

3.  Go to your local city council meetings or the National Bike Summit in DC to talk to the decision makers about recreational trail support, recreation economy, and how important mountain biking is to you and your community.

4.  Be vocal with the local and national media about the kids of articles you want to see and will support.  They do listen, but only if we speak up.

5.  Support great dirt media like Switchback Magazine, Dirt Rag, Bike, CyclingNews and Mountain Bike Action.

6.  Tweet and talk about your MTB heroes to generate exposure and awareness for these amazing athletes.  They are the ones racing for the love of the sport and not the paycheck, although they wouldn’t mind a bigger paycheck.

7.  Tell your shop and MTB manufacturers your opinion about product, athletes, marketing.  Again, they do listen if you take the time to say something.

8.  Go riding and take your friends with you!!

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How do I maintain glycogen stores while tapering for a race? (9/2012)

Scenario:

During the days leading up to the taper for an endurance event, volume typically goes down but intensity can remain moderate to high over shorter periods of time.  The idea is not to do too much, let the body recover and be ready to explode on race day with new found strength.  During the final few days of the taper my personal challenge is to eat enough food as to not gain any weight but also pack the muscles with much needed glycogen for race day.  During the taper phase one taps into the existing glycogen reserves especially if  the exercise has some moderate to high levels of efforts over short periods of time (anaerobic efforts).  From what I have read eating 30-60 minutes after the effort is the best to pack the muscles with energy for the next day.

Question:

In the final days of taper (maybe even the day before, which is more critical in my mind) how much time is required of moderate to high intensity exercise to induce a glycogen response that packs the muscles with more energy? The goal is to still feel super fresh on race day but get that extra edge of performance by packing the muscles and liver with extra glycogen. Everything I have read does not provide a range of time or effort needed to trigger the glycogen response.

Follow-up Question:

Once the glycogen response is triggered should one eat high glycemic or low glycemic foods?  Does it matter?  During the week low glycemic foods are probably better because of the complex carbohydrate chains.

Thanks for any help you can provide. J. Alas

 

A:  Thanks for the thoughtful question. For the answer, I relied on my coach, Dean Golich,  from my Carmichael Training Systems.

Dean:  “The idea is to maintain  some intensity during taper while reducing the volume to around 50%.  This means that they should maintain their same diet thru the taper thus making sure all stores are at full capacity.  Yes, 30 minutes after exercise is most beneficial for replacing muscle glycogen but in a taper period it is less important, since you are not depleting glycogen stores completely or to the point where you will not have enough time (ie: back to back workouts) to replenish over a day or so.  So this is not important.

The final days are predominately rest with short efforts of maybe 2×10 tempo or LT or other short efforts.  These will deplete glycogen stores at most 25-35%.  Remember you have about 2000-2500 Kcal of glycogen storage.  So if the question is more about the old school thought of carbo loading, we do not use that technique these days.  Now we just maintain the same diet while reducing the volume and some intensity.  Within the 30 min. window high glycemic is best and at other times in a taper it does not matter since there is plenty of time for absorbtion when back to back workouts and depletion are rare”.

 

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Racing:

Racing

How do you deal with deep quad cramping?

Q: I am a flat lander from Michigan – I have tried/completed the leadville silver rush 50 2X now and on both occassions have experienced deep quad cramping.  It almost runs into the groin.  I am pushing electrolytes and fluid – and feel I have enough base miles that the distance is not the issue.

Acclimating – I arrive 7 days pre-race to get used to the altitude. I am stumped, I would love to try the LV100 or Breck 100 but my last bout at the SR50 was no fun. I can’t seem to replicate the cramping outside of altitude, even with similar elevation gain. Have you experienced?  If so what have you done to overcome? –  G. Hofmann

A:  I have occasionally experienced cramping and this year’s Leadville was one of those situations.  I talked with Dr. Holden MacRae who works with the Red Bull Performance Center.  Here is his response.  It’s a bit long and scientific, but very informative.  What I take from this is that strength and power training should be increased to ward off cramps in race situations.

“On the cramping issue. You probably know that the majority of scientists who work in this area would say that it is either dehydration or electrolyte disturbances, or both, that are the cause for cramping in endurance athletes. Unfortunately, there is no evidence for this hypothesis from studies in endurance athletes (crampers and non-crampers) who performed in endurance competition. The interesting thing is that cramping usually only occurs in competition – I think you have probably not experienced it during typical training sessions.  There are a few good studies on runners and Iron Man triathletes which compared crampers to non-crampers and showed that dehydration and electrolyte levels are not associated with muscle cramping during or after exercise. So, something else must be going on.

Given that your nutrition (and I assume hydration before and during the races) was ‘as usual”, and also because we (those of us who are not funded or supported by drink companies such as Gatorade) have no evidence for dehydration/electrolyte disturbances causing muscle cramps, then riding faster was probably the cause for the cramping.

I am assuming that the cramps did not start until the final 25% to 33% of each race when you were most fatigued, and that the cramps were localized (either gastroc/soleus – “calf muscles” or quads). I did my PhD in Cape Town, and one of the researchers there, Dr Martin Schwellnus (an MD/PhD) has done quite a bit of research in this area and has also worked in medical tents for years at endurance races. They have proposed a neural fatigue mechanism for cramping that has high validity. Basically, you have 2 important types of neural control at the muscle level via

  • Type Ia muscle spindles whose activity will cause a muscle to contract, and
  • Type Ib Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s) whose activity will cause a muscle to relax. If the GTO is inhibited, then the muscle will contract.

In studies of muscle function and fatigue, the following has been found:

  • When muscle becomes fatigued, the firing rate of the Type Ia afferent fibers from the muscle spindle INCREASES (the muscle contracts)
  • and the firing rate from the Type Ib afferent fibers from the Golgi tendon organ DECREASES (the muscle contracts)

Therefore, my thinking on this is that you are racing at higher speeds which requires higher power outputs (and hence higher levels of muscle activation), and when the muscles are not conditioned for this, as you get far into the race, fatigue causes the following;

  • Spindle activity increases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction
  • GTO activity decreases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction

And so in muscles that cross two joints (gastroc/soleus and/or quads) you will cramp more often; if a muscle crosses two joints, then it means that the muscle is going to be in a shortened position when it contracts. When the muscle is in this position, then the activity of the GTO is going to be reduced even more than normal. Add to this the contraction, which stimulates the muscle spindle, and the net result is that the inhibition of the motor neuron is reduced even further, predisposing one to cramp.

Probably the most effective countermeasure for those affected muscles will be to increase their strength/power such that they will be less prone to fatigue during high levels of activation.”

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What’s the difference between Short Track, XC race, and Super D ?

Q: New to Mtb,  what’s the difference between Short track,  XC race,  and  Super D ?  P. Luna

A: Short track:  similar to cyclocross, but on a mountain bike.  It’s a short loop of around 5 minutes that riders will race around in circles/laps.  Race times are pre-determined and usually about 30-60 minutes.  They are very spectator friendly.

XC:  these races are usually 1.5-2.5 hours in length on a technical course that may be a loop format, but a bigger loop than short track.

Super D:  a cross between downhill racing and cross country.  It’s a little more technical than cross country, but not so technical that you need a different bike.  The course is generally descending, but will also have some pedaling sections as well.  These races are anywhere from 10-45 minutes depending on the course.  You start at the top and get to the bottom as fast as you can.

All formats are all super fun and I’d recommend checking out all of them.  Even if you are better at one discipline, dabbling in all of them makes you a better rider.

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What is the best way to acclimate to high altitude riding with little time to acclimate?

Q: What is the best way to acclimate to high altitude riding and you have no time to acclimate to the altitude? - D. Hahn

A – There are various theories of acclimatization, but two common threads seem to run throughout most of them.
1. Go plenty early to acclimatize if possible, or
2. If you cannot do #1, then go as late as possible.

I tried out both of these theories for the 2009 and 2010 Leadville Trail 100. In 2009, I could not spare the time to acclimatize properly, so I arrived in Leadville Thursday afternoon and raced on Saturday morning. The general thought is that your body has not yet realized what you are doing to it. From many reports, the third day at altitude seems to be the worst, so avoid that dreaded time frame if possible.

For 2010, my coach and I discussed a strategy for going earlier to acclimatize. In his findings, it takes at least 10 days to be 85% acclimatized, three weeks to get to about 95% and a full 5 weeks to get all the way there. Due to my race schedule, I could only squeeze in a 10-day stay up in Leadville prior to the event. I won both years, so perhaps that’s proof that both theories work.

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What exactly did you eat during the race at this years Leadville?

Q: What exactly did you eat during the race at this years Leadville? – J. Humphries

A: 10 water bottles of Hammer Heed, 4 flasks of Hammer Perpetuem, a bunch of Hammer gel, Endurolytes, some clif bloks and a Red Bull.

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I’ve heard various tricks (mental pictures, mantras, etc) for getting up long climbs, do you have a favorite?

Q: I’ve heard various tricks (mental pictures, mantras, etc) for getting up long climbs, do you have a favorite when you’re climbing Columbine [Leadville 100]?  Is it different later in the day when you [climb] Powerline? – M. Reardon

A: For some reason, I really enjoy long climbs.  I embrace the rhythm and the mental challenge.  For me a little pre-preparation helps.  I like to know if the climb is an hour, two hours, 1000 ft or whatever.  Those sort of concrete statistics help me wrap my head around the effort and give me markers to shoot for along the way.  If I know a big climb is coming up, I will be sure to hydrate and top off fuels before I get there so that I’m ready for it.  Once on the climb, I tend to use my odometer to see my speed.  I experiment with trying to go .1mph faster or change pedal cadence and see if that ramps up my speed.  I try to hold a consistent mph if I know the climb.  On a long climb like Columbine, I meter the effort to be consistent instead of bursts of harder efforts.  Mentally, I’m thinking of the top, the next corner and focusing on just that climb.  I’m not thinking of the remaining 50 miles to go.  On Powerline, it’s such a steep grade that there is no way to meter your efforts.  It’s just all out hard no matter what you do.  At that point in the race, climbing is more survival than a plotted strategy.  When the body has broken down, this is where the mental games really come into play and endurance racing gets exciting.

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How did you hydrate for Leadville?

Q: How did you hydrate for Leadville? I didn’t see a camelback,  and your bottles had colored liquid (perpetuem?) in them…With altitude,  one even gets more dehydrated,  but I didn’t see any of the pros wearing camelbacks. How can you carry enough water in one bottle,  and food too? Given that most frames have bosses for only two bottles. Some only have bosses for one bottle. – B. Mau

A: Leadville has 4 aid stations.  I started with two full bottles and took two new ones at every aid station for a total of 10 bottles for the race.  I normally plan for a minimum of about 1 bottle per hour.  You are right that demands like extreme high altitude require even more hydration.  Since my finishing time in 2010 was 7:47, I had planned for 8 hours of nutrition plus a couple of extra bottles for good measure.  I finished 2011 in 7:31 and still drank every single drop of those 10 bottles.  I set up my bike with a seat post mounted water bottle cage so I could carry two bottles at once.  My food and tools were in my pockets.  The liquid in my bottles was Hammer Heed, an electrolyte drink.  I kept Perpetuem in flasks and the rest of my nutrition was in the form of gels.   The bottom line is that I planned out my nutrition and the timing of the aid stations carefully.  I knew I could do this race with just bottles.  However, those decisions depend on the course, your speed and when you can resupply.   I race with a Hydrapak often if bottles are not a reasonable option.  Research the course and plan accordingly.  If I don’t know the distance between aid stations or how long it will take me, I always err on the side of being more conservative and taking more food and drink with me.  Keep in mind that what the pros do might not be right for everyone.  They are generally out on the course for a shorter amount of time and have planned their nutrition accordingly.

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What do you do when the S@#! hits the fan in a race? (4/2012)

Q: Hypothetically, if you were in a race and the S@#! was hitting the fan and you saw a hat rack at the top of a climb and it had a cheerleaders hat, a firefighters hat, a police officers hat, a teachers hat, or a mentors hat, which one would you choose to put on and finish the race and why? – L. Updyke

A: Oh, I’d probably take the whole rack with me and pull from all of the hats.  It often takes a smorgasbord of tactics to keep ourselves motivated when we need it the most. Beeing a cheerleader for myeslf is essential in so many races.  I’ve even said out loud “come on Rebecca!”  The firefighter’s hat is important for methodically putting out all the little fires that are going on.  Take one thing at a time and fix it, then move onto the next.  Police officer’s hat to make sure I’m really following my own rules like not quitting, trying to stay positive, just taking one pedal stroke at a time.  I sometimes have to remind myself of those personal rules when I really need to remember them most.  Teacher’s hat because I feel like in 20 years of being a pro athlete, I’m still learning lessons every single day.  As soon as you stop learning, life will get a bit boring.  The mentor’s hat because I have to remind myself that I am no longer racing just for myself.  There are other people who find inspiration from me and I would not want to let them down.  My most recent local XC race was one such experience where I was having a terrible race and getting down on myself.  The option of quitting popped into my head and then not 30 seconds later, there were a couple of junior race kids by the side of the trail cheering for me by name.  Seeing those kids knocked me out of my pity party and made me realize that if I quit, that’s what those kids would remember from me.

We are all mentors and teachers to people around us.  I have a responsibility to myself to feel good about my experiences and how I handle them.  I want to look in the mirror and be OK with how I conduct myself when things are the most challenging.  I also want to be able to turn the mirror around and have other people see strength in themselves.

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I generally race long distance events…should I be worried about cramping and re-think my hydration strategy? (08/11)

Q:  I generally race long distance events: 100m to 24hr to multi-day. Recently I did a shorter race–63m–and cramped badly, which is something that almost never happens in longer races. In two weeks I do another 100 mile race at high elevation. Should I be worried about cramping  and re-think my hydration strategy or do you think that was an anomaly due to racing a shorter distance? - S. Edwards

A: Steve:  I am going to refer your question to Dr. Holden MacRae, professor of Sports Medicine at Pepperdine and part of the Red Bull Performance Testing Team.  I have worked with him and discussed cramping with him recently.  Here is his response to my query about cramping in Leadville.  It relates directly to your shorter distance, higher output cramping issue.  Read on, but bottom line is more strength training.

Here is Holden’s response:

I am assuming that the cramps did not start until the final 25% to 33% of each race when you were most fatigued, and that the cramps were localized (either gastroc/soleus – “calf muscles” or quads). I did my PhD in Cape Town, and one of the researchers there, Dr Martin Schwellnus (an MD/PhD) has done quite a bit of research in this area and has also worked in medical tents for years at endurance races. They have proposed a neural fatigue mechanism for cramping that has high validity. Basically, you have 2 important types of neural control at the muscle level via

  • Type Ia muscle spindles whose activity will cause a muscle to contract, and
  • Type Ib Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s) whose activity will cause a muscle to relax. If the GTO is inhibited, then the muscle will contract.

In studies of muscle function and fatigue, the following has been found:

  • When muscle becomes fatigued, the firing rate of the Type Ia afferent fibers from the muscle spindle INCREASES (the muscle contracts)
  • and the firing rate from the Type Ib afferent fibers from the Golgi tendon organ DECREASES (the muscle contracts)

Therefore, my thinking on this is that you are racing at higher speeds which requires higher power outputs (and hence higher levels of muscle activation), and when the muscles are not conditioned for this, as you get far into the race, fatigue causes the following;

  • Spindle activity increases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction
  • GTO activity decreases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction

And so in muscles that cross two joints (gastroc/soleus and/or quads) you will cramp more often; if a muscle crosses two joints, then it means that the muscle is going to be in a shortened position when it contracts. When the muscle is in this position, then the activity of the GTO is going to be reduced even more than normal. Add to this the contraction, which stimulates the muscle spindle, and the net result is that the inhibition of the motor neuron is reduced even further, predisposing one to cramp.

Probably the most effective countermeasure for those affected muscles will be to increase their strength/power such that they will be less prone to fatigue during high levels of activation.

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Which collapsible bottles did you use in Leadville?

Q: I recently watched a Specialized video of you at the LeadvilleTrail 100 and I saw that you were making some sort of concoction and put it in a collapsible bottle and said that it was food for 2 hours. I would like to know what was in the bottles and where did you get said collapsible bottles? I am starting to do longer endurance races and was looking for a great way to get the food/calories that I need on the long rides. – J. Bennett

A:  Nice job taking your food delivery seriously.  It seems like a little thing, but being able to access your food and open the package easily can be the difference between proper nutrition and a bonk.  Those flasks I use are the Hydrapak Soft Flask.  I love them for gels or any other calorie drink mix concoction.  They are easy to use, you can squeeze every last bit of nutrition out of them and when they are empty they take up less space than a traditional hard plastic flask. During my longer races I fill the flasks with Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem.

 

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During your hardest rides, when does it become all mental?

Q:  Since you are super human, this may not apply to you but….  during your hardest rides, when does it become all mental?  When your body says I can’t go anymore (doubt you are ever in that position), what do you do, what do you say to yourself?  Do you talk to Smurfs or any other mythical creature?  My imaginary friend Paco would like to know. – N. Salvador

A:  Hi Paco or Mr. Smurf:  I find sports are a large percentage mental most of the time.  Even when I’m at the start line and my body is fresh and primed, I’m still having to give myself pep talks to calm down, to go out fast, to push out of the comfort zone.  During an event, the mental chatter comes and goes, but is always there.  If it’s early in a race, I’m telling myself to close a gap or keep the pressure up.  In the middle, I’m talking to myself to keep pushing hard and, if I’m behind not to give up and get down on my performance.  If it’s at the end of the race and the legs and body are really giving out, then I am still trying to be my best cheerleader to keep the pedals turning, but also to take care of myself and ride the fine line between pushing to the limit, but not blowing up.  I’m usually talking to myself and not an imaginary friend.  Sometimes I’m pretty nice to myself and other times I beat myself up a bit.  Whatever mind games work for you, it’s important to keep it colorful and lively since it can be lonely out there in long races.  If my body and mind are really giving up, I often remind myself that the fastest way to get to the finish line is to ride faster and don’t stop.  Why prolong the suffering?  A favorite quote from a friend before my first Eco Challenge:  “You can either run across the hot coals or walk across them.”

 

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What tips could you give a fellow female on preparing for the Leadville 100 MTB Race?

Q: You might not remember me but I own a bicycle shop and rode with you on the Specialized Morgan Hill to Vegas ride in 2010.  You were as always amazing.  I managed to get in on the lottery for Leadville this year.  So the question I have is what tips could you give a fellow female on preparing for this epic event? – J. Johnson

A: Hi Jennifer! Congrats on getting into the lottery.  Since you rode from CA to Vegas, you are used to long miles.  Leadville is very much a road race on a mountain bike.  Draft when you can, learn to ride in a crowd, eat and drink consistently, be patient and don’t burn all your matches too early.  The specifics that make Leadville really unique are the massive amount of climbing and the extremely high altitude.  Do lots of climbing in your training.  Long climbs that last more than an hour, or repeats if you don’t have hills that long.  Go hard, go easy, just climb lots and lots.  For altitude, if you don’t live that high , then acclimatization is a big help if you can do it.  You can do some short stints up to altitude leading up to the event.  For best acclimatization for the event, either go really early (more than a week) or arrive as close to the event as possible. See you there!

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How do you manage hydration…..

How do you manage hydration needs during ultra distance racing, say Breck 100 where each loop last 3-4 hrs? I noticed most of the top riders do not use a camelbac and most small hardtails and almost all suspension bikes only have room for one bottle cage. I know you said your boyfriend chased you around with a motorcycle at Leadville, but that isn’t feasible for all riders or at all races and lots of people like their “”favorite”” product to drink which isn’t available at intermediate stops.

I use a hydration pack often.  I like the Hydrapak Avila because it weighs only 7 oz and can carry 70 oz of water.  It’s super minimal, but has enough space for water and a small repair kit or jacket.  I would say that I race more often with a Hydrapak than without.  I find on really technical terrain, it’s easier to drink from a tube than to reach down and grab a bottle.  It’s also less tiring.

Here’s the pack I use.

http://www.hydrapak.com/store-2/ – ecwid:category=632541&mode=product&product=2479641

For races where I don’t wear the Hydrapak and want a 2nd water bottle, I use the Specialized MTB Rear Cage Mount to put a bottle on the back of my seat post.

http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/SBCEqProduct.jsp?spid=56734

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Are there stage races out there in North America that are not only for elites?

Q: Are there stage races out there in North America that are not only for elites but can give me a good feel for what the bigger multi-day races are like?

A: Absolutely, there are many multi-day stage races to choose from in North America.  If you can’t find one, you’re not looking!  Breck Epic, BC Bike Race, Trans-Sylvania Epic, Colorado Trail Race, Trans Wisconsin, etc, etc, etc.  There’s a really complete endurance schedule posted at XXCMag.com that should give you plenty of ammunition to get the wheels turning in your head.  Good luck finding an event that inspires you.  I think setting big goals and going after them is a healthy way to stay motivated and fit.

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What do you eat the night before Leadville

What do you eat the night before Leadville, and the morning of the race?  Are these meals the norm for you on race days?

A:  There are a bunch of nutrition questions answered in the Ask Reba Archives.

The night before a race is just a regular healthy meal with protein, veggies, rice.  Morning of is usually a smoothie with greens, protein and fruit. 

 

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I’m a soloist racing a 104-miler the week before the 24 Hours of Leadville.

I’m a soloist racing a 104-miler the week before the 24 Hours of Leadville.  The hundy course is mostly fire roads with about 6,300 ft total elevation gain, so not terribly difficult

I did the 24 Hours of Moab last year 3 weeks after the same 104-miler and was fine, but is racing Leadville on one week’s rest pushing it too hard?  Would you recommend that I try and do the hundy as a duo instead?”

 

A:  If the 24 Hrs of Leadville is the priority race for you, I’d either race duo in the 100 miler or just race a notch slower than race pace in the 100 miler, if you are able to do that.  One week out from a key event is not the time to pile on miles.  You are not going to get anymore fit and the only danger that close to your key event is over-training and showing up tired.  2 weeks until your main event is the time to be tapering and storing up all your energy.

 

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How do you keep your vision in check while racing at night?

Q: When racing/riding at night, I have horrible depth perception on the bike.  Have you experienced this and if so, how do you help keep your vision in check? – D. Baurhenn

A: I ride with Light and Motion lights and riding at night is one of my favorite things to do.  The first step in good night vision is making sure you have a good light system on your helmet and handle bar.  If you only have access to one light, put it on your helmet so that your light will shine where you are looking.  If that still doesn’t work, check that you have enough lumens in your current light system.  Lumens are the measurement for how much light a system will put out.  Running two lights gives you different depth perception.   I run my handle bar Stella 300 at a closer angle to shine right in front of the bike.  The Seca 1400 on my helmet is shot so that I can look further down the trail with this light.  Between the two I get a great depth perception.  Also make sure that you’re using clear lenses in your glasses. If that doesn’t work then perhaps a trip to the eye doctor is in store!

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What advice do you have on what repair equip to carry during an XC race, vs. An Epic, vs. Regular riding?

Q: What advice do you have on what repair equip to carry during an XC race, vs. An Epic, vs. Regular riding? I want a lite bike for racing but fret about how much to carry…tubes, tire worms/patch repair, levers, chain link/breaker, rear hanger, air catridges vs. Micro pump, hex keys. Also, don’t want different setups all the time because then I get confused about how to handle a problem with race fog going on. Advice please? – J. Gaston

 

A: First, when you have to fix a mechanical in the middle of “race fog”, stop for a few seconds, take a deep breath and calm down.  It’s much faster to fix a repair in a calm manner than to be dropping tools in the dirt, spraying the air cartridge into the air and fumbling around.  If you saw the 2009 Race Across the Sky movie, it was sort of hilarious to watch one of the best cyclists in the world, Lance Armstrong, struggle with a Co2 cartridge and have to ride a flat for 10 miles because he couldn’t change a flat.  Don’t be that guy.  Practice a little and stay calm.

Here are the basics of what I carry all the time, with the additions below as the races get longer and more epic.  The only time I carry nothing is in a cyclocross or short track race where a flat pretty much ends your race.

All rides, XC races, 50/100 miler with frequent aid stations and resupply:

Tube

Multi-tool w chain breaker

Quicklink for chain

Tire lever, the really fat kind so I only need one.

C02 cartridges (2 small or one Big Air)

Co2 head for cartridges

Tire boot (or gel wrapper)

Additional gear for epic multi hour training ride, long stage race event or 100 miler with few aid stations:

Another tube

A small mini pump, in case I use all my air

A derailleur hangar

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As the Queen of Pain, how do you persevere through the pain? Any suggestions for a TT?

Q: At 60+ I just defended my MTB marathon national championship. Hurrah for me!!  I have a coach and train a lot on the road with intervals and love to do early mid-season stage races. The hardest event for me is the tt. I’m a little light 135 lbs, but the real problem is riding through the pain. Last year a fried passed me in a tt and said it looked like was on a club ride. I seem to pace well in the MTB environment, but not alone on the road.

As the Queen of Pain, how do you persevere through the pain? Any suggestions for a TT? – D. Hibdon

 

A: Congratulations on your National Championship!  Hopefully we will see you in Sun Valley, ID in 2013/14 for USAC marathon nationals to defend. To answer your question, when I was just about to compete in my first Eco Challenge in Australia, an experience friend said to me, “you can either run across the hot coals or walk across them.”  This little piece of advice has stuck with me for 15 years.  There are many times when I’m deep in the pain cave and the thought of just getting it over more quickly is the only thing pushing me.  TT’s are short compared to marathons, but there isn’t the outside stimulation you get from a mountain bike race.  You are alone in your head and need to self motivate.  I’ve never done a TT, even though I really want to.  However, I do plenty of races and rides where I’m alone and have to just keep pushing hard even though no one is around.  In training, I visualize some of my strongest competitors and pretend they are just in front of me.  I also watch my odometer and try to push .1 mph faster.  I stare at that number and go into my own head.   I imagine a race coming down to a sprint and losing by 1 second and think about getting a bigger buffer now so that I don’t have to sprint at the end.  There are tons of mind games that you can practice in your training.  A power meter might also help you with something like this so you can try to keep constant power throughout the TT.

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What’s the most common mistake that 1st timers at a race like Leadville make?

Q: What’s the most common mistake that 1st timers at a race like Leadville make, either during the race or in training? – S. Rash

A:  For first timers in a long endurance event like Leadville, I think the most common mistake is going out too fast and paying for it around mile 70.  Start conservatively and ramp it up as you get further and further into the race.  Good luck.

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Any mantra or song when the going gets tough?

Q: Any mantra or song when the going gets tough? – J. Schwartz

A: My first Eco Challenge race in Australia was an eye opening experience for me.  I’d always been an athlete, but this was venturing into totally unknown territory.  Two different friends had words for me that will forever ring true in everything I do.  I think of these words of wisdom on a very regular basis.

“You can walk across the hot coals or run across them”.  Tommy Baynard

“No matter how good or bad you feel, it will not last”.  Cathy Sassin

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Have you ever questioned your training while racing the Leadville 100?

Q: Have you ever questioned your training while racing the Leadville 100? For example the asphalt climb from the lake on the way back in, have you put your head down and said yo yourself, wished I would have had a couple more long rides or wished I would have taken a few more rest days? – A. Morris

A: I don’t question my training during a race.  During the event, I am 100% in the moment and whatever I have on that day is what I’m going to race with.  It’s too late at that point to look back 2 weeks and wonder if you should have done something different.  By the time the race arrives, your physical preparation is done.  The only thing you can do at that point is blow it by not being mentally there.  I have had a cycling coach for 7 years and it has been the most valuable experience.  I have 100% confidence in my coaching and basically just try to do what I’m told to the best of my ability.  Of course, there is dialog during the season with my coach and things ebb and flow, but on the most basic level, I trust the coaching process to deliver to me to an event ready.  By the time I am riding up the asphalt climb from Turquoise Lake, I am really just taking one pedal stroke at a time and doing my very best in that moment to get myself to the finish line as fast as I can.  I put my head down, experience doubts in my ability and suffer just like everyone.  However, I don’t ever want to be in a race moment and think that I should have trained differently or done more work.  This is the kind of visualization that motivates me in April when I don’t want to do a hard workout that is on the schedule.  Pay now or pay later is sort of how I think about it.

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How would you fuel for a 100 mile race, specifically implementing GU products?

Q: So how would you fuel for a 100 mile race, specifically implementing GU products? – D. Mahoney

A: This is pretty personal based on what flavors you like and how you like to injest your calories and fluids and also how long it takes you to ride 100 miles, but here are some general guidelines of what I would do.  Be sure to experiment in training!  Things like which pockets are easiest to access, which flavors taste good when you are maxed, how you open the packages when you’re tired are all important considerations.

-Pre-hydrate and eat well leading up to the event.

-I aim to drink at least one 20 oz water bottle per hour (more if it’s hot).

-I mix Gu Brew electrolyte drink in most of my water bottles. (approx 100 cal)

-I aim for approximately 200 cal / hour.  Your body cannot digest much more than that.

-I love Roctane (gel and drink mix) for endurance events because of the added amino acids that are added and needed for long races. I will have at least one Roctane bottle every 2 hrs as part of my calories.

-I get my calories with a mix of GU Gel, Roctane and Chomps.  I like the variety of flavors and textures, but I also like getting calories in my water bottle because its simpler.

-My new favorite GU flavor right now is Peanut Butter!!!

-Finish with Chocolate Smoothie Recovery drink.

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What do you do in your training to increase your mental toughness?

Q: Chrissie Wellington attributes her success to training her brain to be as strong as her body.  By that I believe she is saying that a lot of her training involves developing her mental toughness.  What do you do in your training to increase your mental toughness? – M. Jacobsen

A: There are two answers to this question.  I do believe that some people are born with more mental fortitude than others.  People like Chrissie Wellington, Sir Edmund Hilary, Ernest Shakleton, etc are just cut from a different cloth.  They were born with a strong will and ended up gravitating towards endeavors that suited their strength.  Not everyone has the mind or body to do what they’ve done.  However, you can train your brain.  I have been taking part in some fascinating brain training with the Red Bull Performance Team and Neurotopia.  It’s all a bit sci-fi, but the bottom line is that Red Bull has athletes play video games without touching any controls.  You control the game and drive the car via the electdrodes on your head and how you concentrate and think about the performance.  Loose focus or try too hard and the car stops.  Find the sweet spot or the “zone” and the car goes.  I have access to this really cool tool through Red Bull, but I also do my own effective, but less sophisticated form of mental training at home and in races.  Basic visualization of success, riding strong, crossing a finish line are all ways to strengthen your thoughts.  Positive talk is key in racing and training.  It may not be as sci-fi as the Neurotopia game, but I believe it works.

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Do you ride better if your body is acclimated?

Q: We are riding the Copper Triangle in August.  Do you think it’s imperative that we go in before and ride to get our bodies acclimated elevation wise?  We loved your talk in Lawrence. Great job on Dirty Kanza! – K. Heisdorffer

 

A: I looked up the Copper Triangle to see that the whole event is above 10,000 ft.  Your body will absolutely perform better with proper acclimatization.  This is proven science.  In general it takes more than two weeks to get acclimatized properly.  Going out 3 days early is actually worse because you body is working hard to get used to the new altitude and will be very tired with this effort.  If you can’t get out there early, then the next best theory is to get to altitude less than 24 hours before the event begins.  This way, your body hasn’t realized what you’ve done to it yet and hasn’t started feeling the affects of trying to acclimatize.  The bottom line is to take it easy at high altitude and don’t expect the same sort of speed and snap as you have at sea level.  Be conservative at the start and be sure to hydrate and fuel properly.

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Do you drink protein during your endurance events?

Q: You previously did a video before LT on your food prep in flasks. I’m guessing it was a protein carb mix? – G. Fredrickson

 

1) How long did it take you to transition to all GU and Roctane / electrolytes?

Not long at all once I learned about the science behind GU and Roctane.

I used to be one of those people who believed the hype that protein was necessary for endurance events and that’s what I’d mix up into a thick concoction into those little flasks.  This winter, I did a little personal research of my own to find scientific proof and answer the question once and for all if protein is performance enhancing for endurance events.  I looked all over the internet and queried various reputable scientists and coaches.  The bottom line is that I found no solid proof that protein is beneficial during athletic activity.  Yes, it’s widely accepted that it’s beneficial AFTER exercise for recovery and rebuilding, but I could find nothing to substantiate the claim that it’s beneficial DURING activity.  What I DID learn is that there are certain amino acids (found in protein) that are proven to be beneficial and performance enhancing in long endurance events.  If you eat a complete protein during exercise, you get those beneficial amino acids, but you also get a whole bunch of other stuff that’s non-essential and difficult to digest.  What GU did was isolate the amino acids that we need and put them into their Roctane Endurance drink and Roctane energy gels.  You get everything you need and nothing you don’t.  Read HERE for some of the specifics on how Roctane works.

 

2) Would Roctane take the place of your flask? or everything can be bottled and individually packaged?

No, I don’t use the flasks anymore.  I use Roctane Drink that mixes in a water bottle and/or the Roctane Gel that comes in packets.  It’s way simpler and easier and really works for me.

 

 

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With your experience, are you still nervous before a race?

Q: I can relate to this question best from when I played paintball with friends. When we were out there sometimes halfway through the game we were tired, obviously from the adrenaline dump at the start of the game, but when I last played a few months ago I was calm and prepared while every one else was freaking out. Now I have only raced mountain bikes twice a few years ago and want to do it again. With all of your racing are you still nervous, or have you reached that point of calm before and during the race? Are there any suggestions for nervousness?
Stu Mat

A: The best way to line up supremely confident is to be supremely prepared. Preparation and planning allow you to show up to a race and know that you have done everything you could to be ready for that day. I get the most nervous when I don’t know what to expect or feel I’ve not done my homework. Of course I still get sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, dry mouth on the start line wondering if I’m going to do well, how the race will play out, etc. I get this at our weekly, local short track races with all my friends. However, those things just mean your body is ready for battle. If you did not have any nerves, it’d be hard to race well and really boring. That nervous energy is what separates training from racing and why it’s so fun to race! It’s good to harness that adrenaline into smooth, fast racing. Just don’t let your nerves take over.

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What is your number one priority you have to prepare for next year?

Q: Now that the bulk of the racing year is behind you and you are coming into the “off season” what is your number one priority you have to prepare for next year? What are you going to do to accomplish that?
Cameron Chambers

A: #1 priority for me in the winter in Idaho is to try not to grow a winter fat coat. It’s a challenge not to get a bit chunky in the off-season up here. My plan for that is to basically not have much of an off-season. I’ll Nordic and backcountry ski, sit on the trainer, go to the gym, etc. I’m still putting together the race schedule for 2011, so I don’t know my specific race goals yet. I will get out of town this winter to be sure I can ride and recharge a bit. Once I have a race schedule sorted out, I’ll coordinate with my coach Matthew to set up a specific plan.

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Have you ever thought of hitting up the USGP of Cyclocross series?

Q: As a cyclist and an awesome Mountain bike endurance racer, have you ever thought of hitting up the USGP of Cyclocross series? I mean with your motor and mad skills I think you would make an awesome impact on the race and get in the mix of a very fast moving sport. How do you feel your current level of training would cross over so to speak?  – G. Smith – Crossniac

A: I LOVE ‘cross racing and do take part in some local races such as Crosstoberfest in Ketchum. I think it’s a blast and a great way to hone handling skills and perfect that high intensity post race cough. I usually want to start staying home in October after a long season of travel, so that’s the main reason I don’t hit the USGP series. If I did want to be competitive in those races I’d definitely have to tweak my training to focus on shorter events. I’ve done that a bit this season as I’ve focused more on 100 milers instead of 24 hour races. However, a 40 minute ‘cross race is a whole different ball game.

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How did you figure out nutrition/hydration for 100 mile race?

How did you figure out the correct nutrients/hydration combo for a century race (Leadville)? I’m doing my first mid-June (Lumberjack 100)?  I’m female.  I can keep everything I need for about 28 miles.  After that, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to pack and eat at what intervals.  I don’t have a nutritionist I can afford.  Thanks!

Check out Hammer Nutrition’s Endurance Athlete’s Guide to Success.

You can download the info for free and it’s FULL of nutritional info for endurance athletes.  Even if you don’t choose to use Hammer products, it spells out the body’s specific needs for calories, fluids, nutrients, etc.

 

http://www.hammernutrition.com/products/the-endurance-athlete-s-guide-to-success.fh.html?navcat=bookstore

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How hard do you push yourself in early days of multi-day race?

On a multi-day race, how do you know how hard to push on early days for a good result but to not destroy yourself for later days?

 I did La Ruta with you last November and I went too hard (for me) the first two days and suffered badly on the third. I actually recovered a bit on the last day, but probably would have had a better overall if I’d gone a bit easier on the early days.

I only know pacing from experience.  Live and learn.  It just takes practice and botching it up a few times to figure this out.  A decent rule of thumb if you use a HR monitor is to be sure not to spend much time above your lactic threshold for a very long event.

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How do you pick your race schedule?

I’m finished with my 1st two big events of the year and wondering, “”what’s next?”” So… How do you pick your race schedule each year? Do your sponsors suggest events, or do you just google events with “”Death”” or “”Epic”” in the titles and go from there?

Yeah Death or Epic are all good markers when choosing an event!  Building my calendar for the year includes a ton of factors.  Sponsors suggest events sometimes if they are supporting them.  Sometimes I get invited by race directors or Specialized dealers.  I go by friend recommendations.  I look at places I’d love to travel.  I also look for Southern Hemisphere events to escape the Idaho winter.  Bottom line is that I need to be intrigued by the format of an event, the location, the reputation or all three.  I love adventure, so choosing and experiencing new events is always part of the fun of my job!

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What are your biggest fears in a race/event?

What are your biggest fears in a race/event and how do you cope with them or make sure they won’t come out?

  Biggest fear is going to a race unprepared.  I address this by having a coach and doing my homework long before I get to a race.  This includes training, nutrition, gear selection and all the preparation that begins months before the event.  If I’ve done those things, then come race day, I just race and can rest assured knowing that I’ve prepared well.  Everything else will fall into place.

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What are the most essential items you bring for unexpected repairs?

When you don’t have a SAG team, what are the most essential items you bring for unexpected repairs?

 If I have the luxury of a sag team, I bring a fully functioning second race bike.  I did this for all of my 24 hour World championship races just to be extra sure that the equipment would not be the limiting factor.  Bottom line is to bring as much as you can fit and afford to have with you.  It’s like taking an umbrella to make sure it won’t rain.

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Will I look like a loser if I wear my hydration pack in an mtb race? I’m quite attached to it, how come no other racers use them?”

You won’t look like a loser when you are passing them!

And, who cares?  If you want to wear a hydration pack and it helps you stay hydrated, go for it.  See this month’s previous question about hydration packs.  I wear one too much of the time.  If you are in a race though, choose a sleek, slim model that’s appropriate for racing.  You will look like a dork of you look like you’re going on a week long adventure in an XC race.

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What is your advice, thoughts on racing as a pro athlete if you are a female, 40+ yr old with a full time job? Is it ever too late to throw yourself into competitive mtn bike racing and hope to do really well?

Bottom line is that I know very few people who start riding bikes with the intention to turn pro and make a great living.  Obviously, it does happen, but it’s the exception, not the norm.   Your main motivation needs to be that you absolutely love to ride your bike.  If you are in the sport because you love it, then the results fall into place whether you have a full time job or not.  I know plenty of athletes who race at the pro level and still have full time jobs.  Racing as a pro does not mean you get full sponsorship, race funding and free bikes.  Many pros have to work another job in order to make ends meet.  I can tell you from experience, it’s not a very lucrative way to make a living.  It’s a blast, but I could be making a much better salary in a different job.

Regarding your age, it’s never to late to throw yourself into the mix and see what happens.   Like I said, if the passion is there, you can overcome age, schedule conflicts, or whatever else might be holding you back on paper.

On the sponsorship level, you must first put yourself in game before ever thinking about approaching people for sponsorship.  You need to build a reputation, a resume and something to offer before you can develop those relationships.  Good luck!

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What are your 3 essentials when you race?

What are your 3 essentials when you race?

A:  A good attitude, great preparation, completely dialed equipment.  I TRY to take all three to every race.  

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I recently entered a 12-hour endurance race and was physically prepared

I recently entered a 12-hour endurance race and was physically prepared.  However, my mental endurance was not good enough.   After about 7 hours my brain was my limiter.  This was a big surprise to me.

So, how do you handle the mental portion of endurance events such as the LT100?  Do you do any mental training or preparation?  How often do you hit a mental low in a race?  What do you do to overcome?

 

A:  I’ve answered a bunch of motivation questions in the Ask Reba Archive.  Check these out and hopefully this will help.  Mental highs and lows are a regular part of any endurance race and the fittest person in the world won’t finish if they don’t have the mental fortitude to keep going when the body wants to stop.  Like anything this really just takes practice. 

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For race day, do you ride with a monitor or computer?

Q: I have a friend who is always speaks of an older friend who does a weekly crit series ..  He always finishes well if he doesn’t win.  I was asking questions about miles, ave. speed, ave. HR and such…  And it got back to me that he does not ride with a monitor or computer or anything..  So.. For Race day do you ride with anything? – M. Gerlach

A: Yes. I’ve answered a similar question like this: My Suunto T6d is the training partner I rely on the most.  It is the one piece of equipment that I use on EVERY ride, race or training session.  During training, yes I use it for pacing, to keep my prescribed workout on track and make sure I am training in the right zone for that day.  During races, I start my log, but I rarely look at it during the event.  During the event, I rely on perceived exertion and my own experience to race as hard as I can.  After the race is over, I will absolutely analyze the results with my coach.  We use all of the logs from my training session and races to customize my workouts so that I can get the best performance.  I accomplish more with the Movescount and the T6d because I can analyze so many more factors than just heart rate.

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Why is it important for you to race clean and naturally? (05/11)

Q: Why is it important for you to race clean and naturally? - M. McCorry

A: Great question Myles, especially in light of all that’s going on in the news with cycling (and most other professional sports).   There are two main reasons that I must race clean and naturally.

1.  I value my health and want to live and cycling for a very long time.  These toxins are known to cause heart issues, cancer and a ton of other diseases that are still unknown.  The health risk is just not worth it for me.

2.  I couldn’t stand on a podium or feel good about a result if I had cheated.  Doping is cutting corners the same as cutting off part of the course.   It would be a hollow victory.  I get reward from hard work and clean effort.  If I make it to a podium, I know it’s because I worked hard to get there.

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How much do you rely on what your equipment, like HR monitor and computer, tell you versus how you feel? (02/11)

Q: How much do you rely on what your equipment, like HR Monitor and Computer, tell you versus how you feel, do you do exactly what the equipment says you should be doing for HR?  You are the Queen of Pain after all… - S. Herrara

A: The tools I use for training and recovery are my Suunto T6c and Restwise recovery system. I just got a brand new PowerTap that I have yet to learn how to use yet. Suunto and Restwise are basically my daily training partners and are essential to keeping me on track. They both give me numbers that help shape my training. My coach and I look at the numbers every single day, however, how I’m feeling must play a big role. People are not machines and the measuring tools we use are just guidelines.

Many times, if my heart rate is not responding how I’d like or my Restwise numbers are low, it tells me to back off on training and take a rest day. Tools like these are excellent guides as long as you supplement their use with your brain as well. I see many athletes just relying on a number on a digital readout instead of making intelligent training decisions. As a side note, when I’m racing, I have my HR monitor on, but don’t look at it until after the race is over. I rely on my own brain to pace during a race.

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What advice/tips do you suggest to quickly recover from feeling a bonk during a race?

Q: As a non-pro, I try to stay hydrated and eat on long rides and races.  Sometimes, I forget to eat enough during a race and start to feel the bonk coming on.  What advice/tips do you suggest to quickly recover from such a feeling during a race? -  G. Underdahl

A: I will tell you it’s MUCH easier to prevent a bonk than it is to recover from one.  Set a timer on your watch to beep every 20 minutes to remind you to eat and drink or find some other mind game to make sure you do not forget.  Fueling is an essential part of the riding and racing experience that you cannot afford to forget.

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What supplements do you use for a MTB endurance race lasting longer than 5 hours to combat cramping?

Q:  What supplements do you use for a MTB endurance race lasting longer than 5 hours to combat cramping? – J. Soliz

A: I’ve been asked a few questions about cramping. Here is how I answered the others:

First, I relax my breathing and try not to stress out.  Then, take some electrolytes and down a bunch of water.  Then, work on pedaling efficiency to utilize other muscles and let the cramped area relax.   Here’s what Hammer Nutrition advises to avoid cramping.

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What strategies do you implement when your mind is ready to take the pain but your body is not capable of responding?

Q: As the Queen of Pain, what strategies do you implement when your mind is ready to take the pain but your body is not capable of responding….does this get chalked up as mental weakness or have you even found times where you have to throw in the towel for a given effort? –  S. Venza

A: The mind is a powerful tool and in most cases, the body is capable of doing more, but the mind puts the brakes on.  Physical discomfort during a race is sending signals to our brains to make it stop.  After a certain point, we end up listening and the brain gives up when the body could keep going.  There are certain situations where an injury or some other physical problem is getting in the way of doing what our minds want to do.  The trick is to know the difference in our minds.  Are we slowing down or stopping because of regular race/training pain, or is there a real physical reason that requires us to stop so we don’t hurt ourselves?  I talk more about mental strategies and motivation in the Ask Reba Archives.  Yes, there have been times where I end a workout early if I’m not recovering between intervals and I’m not getting the training benefit anymore. This is not mental weakness, but smart training.  In races, I rarely quit.  There has to be something physically wrong with me to stop.  If I’m just not having the race I would like and not going fast enough, that is not reason enough to quit.  Instead, I try to forge on, get the training benefit and keep riding.  In endurance events, this often still works out to a high placing where attrition is happening all through the field.

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What do you crave 6 hours into a race?

Q: OK, so what do you crave 6 hours into a race? A girl can’t survive on gel alone, or can she? Do you keep a secret Snickers bar stashed somewhere in your gear, just in case? – AC Shilton

A:  I rarely crave food in a race.  I usually do not feel like eating if the intensity is really high.  The food becomes fuel only, in most cases.  However, there’s a value in having some comfort food along with you.  I always did this adventure racing and had a stash of Pringles or some salty snack tucked away for when I was really hitting  the wall.  I have found there are two types of people, those who crave salty and those who crave sweets.  Sounds like Snickers is your secret weapon.

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What do you use for fuel while doing your longest events and how much do you eat?

Q: What do you use for fuel while doing your longest events and how much do you eat? – R. Owen

A:  I get this question all the time, in slightly different formats. I think you can find all of my nutritional information in these archives. If you want more specifics please ask me another (specific) question next month!

 

 

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Isn’t it time to bring back the Idaho Women’s challenge to Idaho once again?

Q: Why not….isn’t it time to bring back the Idaho Women’s challenge to Idaho once again?  With the popularity of cycling now in the US, couldn’t it go?  Who could be the sponsor?  What could be the obstacles?  The days of Rebecca Twig and Jeannie Longo were great for Idaho and overall cycling.  Rabdau is still around and Boise and Sun Valley are prime for prologues and crits… Couldn’t it happen again? –  J. Bate

A:  You may have your wish come true much sooner than you think!!!!  STAY TUNED on this!

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Are there times of the month where energy is higher and better for racing?

Q: I did my first endurance race yesterday, I trained all summer for it!  However I was bummed because my race was kinda  ‘cramped’ by one particular inconvenience of being a woman.  So my question is,  (For Women) are there times of the month where energy is higher and better for racing? – J. Ridd

A:  There are tons of articles on this topic.  Here’s one from the NY Times that refers to three different studies and they basically did not find strong evidence that women were weaker or compromised during menstruation.  Everyone is different and I know some women who cramp so badly, they could not compete at a high level during that time.  I also know of one Olympic athlete who took birth control and manipulated the dosage to control the timing of her period for key races.  My experience has been that I’ve raced well and poorly at all different times of the month and I have not found any direct correlation.  I believe in this situation, that regardless of the timing, do not let your head convince you that you will be weaker if you get a surprise visit before a race.

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Half way into a race and you need the toilet, what do you do?

Q: Half way into a race and you need the toilet, what do you do? – K. Walters

A; Surprisingly, this happens way less than you would expect.  If you plan your coffee, hydration and pre-race meal properly, you should be empty and ready to race before the gun goes off.  Eat 3 hours before race start, stop hydrating 30 minutes prior to start, and have some coffee with breakfast is the formula that works for me.  If you cannot eat 3 hours before, choose a smoothie or something easily digestible so you don’t go to the start with a gut full of food that you have to haul around.  Also, adrenaline and hard efforts slow the digestion process since most of the blood is being used to supply your muscles. If all of this still doesn’t work and there’s an emergency, then it depends on how long the race is and if I can hold it or not. I’m proud to say, I’ve never once gone #2 in my chamois during a race and only once went #1 and that was in high school. Usually, I just pull over, make it quick and then keep racing.

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How do you decide your race schedule?

Q: How do you decide your race schedule?  Is it by fitness level at certain times of the year, what your sponsors dictate or which venues are the most fun to ride??  Combination of all? - E. Moody

A: Great question Eric. I actually have a video from last season (2011) that answers your question! How I Choose My Races

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What is your overall approach to your nutrition during races and what are things that really helped you dial it in?

Q: With all your endurance racing, nutrition probably plays a huge role in how well you do in the races.  I know nutrition is a personal thing, what works for one might not work for someone else.  I was just wondering what your overall approach is to your nutrition during races and any things that really helped you dial it in? – G. Lyons

A: Trial and error has been my biggest educator for race nutrition.  I used to love to bring Cheetos and Swedish Fish for adventure races.  It was my comfort food, but I soon learned that “garbage in = garbage out.”  My nutrition has morphed over the years and in general, the shorter the event, the less solid food I will eat.  Higher intensities make digestion more difficult, so I change my nutrition based on the length of the event.  In any race that’s 8 hours or less, I will do mostly liquid nutrition such as Perpetuem, gel, and drink mixes.  As it goes longer, more solid food gets worked into the equation.  Chose things that digest easily to put less strain on the stomach, but still supply the nutrients you need.  In endurance events, protein plays a bigger role.  Other factors to be sure to address are hydration and electrolytes.  There are basic guidelines of how many calories and how much fluid is appropriate on the Hammer Nutrition site.  After that, it’s trial and error and personal experience.   Also, there’s nothing wrong with a Swedish Fish or two for comfort food during a race as well.

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When you are in the pain cave do you have any odd mind tricks that you do to keep yourself focused?

Q: When you are in the pain cave do you have any odd mind tricks that you do to keep yourself focused? Like I count pedal strokes, but only on my left foot and I always seem to start subconsciously at 90 and count to 100 and start back over at 90, I know it’s really weird, but one of the things I do. – J. Rogers

A: Counting is great.  I do that too, although not just 90 to 100.  That is weird. I also use my odometer to look at average speed, current speed and try to tick those numbers up by varying my cadence or changing gears.  I also calculate how much time I have left if I keep moving at a certain speed.  I focus on other riders and try to keep them in sight or pass them.  I convert miles to km and back again.  That one really stumps me most of the time.  I flip flop between mindless diversion thinking such as counting, and focused race thoughts such as mph, calories, pedal strokes, time left on the bike and how to go faster.

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While the Sun Valley area is high, do you feel that the training you get prepares you for races over 8000 ft?

Q: I just had the opportunity to ride in your back yard (Sun Valley, ID) for four days last week.  I now totally understand how you can race at such a high level, as the trails are amazing and brutal all at the same time.  My question is: while the Sun Valley area is high, do you feel that the training you get leaves you prepared for races over 8000 ft?  If not what do you do to compensate for the difference in elevation with a limited training schedule at home? – J. Higley

A: I know that training in Sun Valley where I ride between 6000 and 9000 feet on a regular basis helps prepare me for other high altitude venues. When entire races are at really high (above 9000′) I try to arrive early enough to acclimate. Following is what I did my first two years in Leadville:

There are various theories of acclimatization, but two common threads seem to run throughout most of them.
1. Go plenty early to acclimatize if possible, or
2. If you cannot do #1, then go as late as possible.

I tried out both of these theories for the 2009 and 2010 Leadville Trail 100. In 2009, I could not spare the time to acclimatize properly, so I arrived in Leadville Thursday afternoon and raced on Saturday morning. The general thought is that your body has not yet realized what you are doing to it. From many reports, the third day at altitude seems to be the worst, so avoid that dreaded time frame if possible.

For 2010, my coach and I discussed a strategy for going earlier to acclimatize. In his findings, it takes at least 10 days to be 85% acclimatized, three weeks to get to about 95% and a full 5 weeks to get all the way there. Due to my race schedule, I could only squeeze in a 10-day stay up in Leadville prior to the event. I won both years, so perhaps that’s proof that both theories work.

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How is your use of Twitter and participation in online communities affect your day-to-day training and racing?

Q: How is your use of Twitter and participation in online communities affect your day-to-day training and racing? (Do we motivate you like you motivate us!?) - C. Birch

A: I have to be honest, I love social media and I hate it sometimes too!  I love the interaction and how connected people are.  It’s so great to see what my high school friend is doing, to get really great props from a fan I’ve never met and to keep up with other athletes in real time.  However, there are days when it feels like a job to communicate.  If I’ve done an amazing ride, seen a rainbow and an elk, can’t I just soak in that experience without having to document it?  Did it really happen if I don’t Twitter about it?  I ride the middle line on this topic.  I know people want to hear stories and I could probably communicate more, but sometimes, I just want to wash my bike, stretch and enjoy a great day without turning on the computer.  I love to hear that people are motivated by my endeavors and if I encourage someone to get after it, then the time on the computer is worth it.  We are a social society and there is strength and motivation that we all get from each other. Yes, I am motivated by stories from friends, family and strangers who write to me.  It makes it all seem worth it instead of writing into a black void and wondering if I’m wasting my time.  If someone out there is reading and is inspired then that motivates me and I’ll keep posting stuff as best as I can.

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What do you think about when you’re 6-7 hrs into a 100 miler that keeps you going?

Q: What do you think about when you’re 6-7 hrs into a 100 miler that keeps you going? – A. Combes

A: After about 5 hours, I feel like I really hit my stride in a race.  It’s where I feel I am strongest and other riders are perhaps starting to fade.  I’m super focused on nutrition and timing how much I eat and drink per hour.  I know I have to stay on top of this.  I also watch my odometer and play games with myself to try to be .1 MPH faster.  I calculate mileage left, average mileage and what I think I have left.  I try to pick off other riders in front of me.  Mostly, I am not thinking of much of anything except being in the zone and riding fast and efficiently and getting to the finish line.  Even in a long race, every second counts, so shaving them here and there adds up to minutes in the end.

 

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What motivates you when racing long distance events?

Q: What motivates you when racing long distance events? – C. Baker

A: I love the roller coaster ride of an endurance event.  No matter how good or bad you feel, it won’t last.  For motivation, I use other people around me or just go to another place in my head.  I also break the race into smaller sections and just focus on one thing at a time, such as climbing Columbine in Leadville, or the next lap in a 24 hour race.  Breaking things into mini races within a race seems to help me keep focused and pushing hard instead of thinking about how many hours are really ahead of me.  When all else fails and it’s super hard, I just take solace in the fact that the course is the same for everyone and if it’s hard for me, then everyone else is suffering too.

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When are you going to spend your winter vacation in Alaska and rewrite a bunch of these winter bike course records?

Q: When are you going to spend your winter vacation in Alaska and rewrite a bunch of these winter bike course records? – J. Boutet

A: Probably never. Alaskans are WAY harder than I am.  I have always suffered from severely cold hands and feet. I sweat a lot and also have Raynaud’s Syndrome. That combination makes for some serious cold fingers.  It’s the reason I had to give up ice climbing and I carry hand warmers and multiple pairs of gloves when I ski. The idea of snow biking is intriguing, but I also fear I wouldn’t make it out of Alaska with all my digits intact. Ned Overend once gave me a piece of advice. “Choose races that suit your riding style and where you will be the most competitive.” That’s not to say that I don’t work on my weaknesses by doing races like short track and cyclocross, but the Alaska winter bike records are safe as far as I’m concerned.

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What do you know now about racing that you wish you could tell your 20-something self?

Q: What do you know now about racing that you wish you could tell your 20-something self? – L. Brett

A:  I would tell my 20 year old self to “take a deep breath and relax”.  Being stressed and overly anxious really doesn’t help any situation, including a race.  It just burns calories, makes me fumble and stressed out everyone else in the near vicinity.  I keep telling my 40 something year old self that as well.

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Have you ever thought of getting a fat bike like a Pugsley or Mukluk and maybe racing a 100 race in Alaska?

Q: Have you ever thought of getting a fat bike like a Pugsley or Mukluk for riding all winter and maybe racing a 100 race in Alaska? – H. LeDuc

A:  Short answer: No!…..winter’s for skiing or heading to the Southern Hemisphere to ride.

I just answered a similar question about racing in Alaska…this is what I wrote:

Alaskans are WAY harder than I am.  I have always suffered from severely cold hands and feet. I sweat a lot and also have Raynaud’s Syndrome. That combination makes for some serious cold fingers.  It’s the reason I had to give up ice climbing and I carry hand warmers and multiple pairs of gloves when I ski. The idea of snow biking is intriguing, but I also fear I wouldn’t make it out of Alaska with all my digits intact. Ned Overend once gave me a piece of advice. “Choose races that suit your riding style and where you will be the most competitive.” That’s not to say that I don’t work on my weaknesses by doing races like short track and cyclocross, but the Alaska winter bike records are safe as far as I’m concerned.

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What do you do in a race when things continue to go wrong?

Q: I find my racing attitude can change during a long race.  What do you do in a race when things continue to go wrong?  How do you turn it around ? – J. Miller

A:  I think of two quotes that have had an impact on me.  “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.”  And “in an endurance event, no matter how good or bad you feel, it won’t last.”  These quotes and all the thoughts that go along with them have guided me through some really tough, long, frustrating situations.

Also, sometimes, getting to the finish line is the fastest way out of the situation you are in.

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How important is a good looking kit? What’s the most hideous kit you’ve ever seen? (11/2011)

Q: How important is a good looking kit?   What’s the most hideous kit you’ve ever seen (at a race or training/fun ride)? – C. Cataneda

 

A:  A good looking kit is KEY!  It’s like a super-hero putting on their cloak or a knight stepping into their armor.  Your kit needs to make you feel fast and invincible!  You need to WANT to put it on and be proud to stand on the start line.  I hate to say it, but for me the most hideous kit was my very own 2008 race kit.  I call it The Pink Year.  There’s nothing wrong with the color pink.  Some people love it.  I do not.  It doesn’t suit me one bit and despite being female, I’ve never gravitated towards pink.  I’m attaching a photo for full comic relief.  I looked like a highlighter and I was embarrassed.  I will say I got really fast during the pink year.  My theory was if I had to wear a hideous kit, then I’d dang well better make up for it by winning.  It’s harder to make fun of someone if they are in front of you, right?

Rebecca’s 2008 Kit

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How do you adjust/set up your light for very dense fog at night?

Q: How do you adjust/set up your light for very dense fog at night? – S. Butler

A:  There is no fog adjustment on the Light and Motion lights that I use.  There are different settings for high, medium and low beams.  I do ride with two lights, one on my helmet and one on my handlebar.  I will position the helmet mounted light beam further out the trail and my handle bar mounted light more towards the ground in front of my front wheel.  This set up gives me the most peripheral vision and the longest reach for high speed riding.  Light and Motion’s background is in underwater photography lighting and dive equipment, so they are well versed at designing lights that have the best vision in rain or fog.   All of their bike light housings are also water resistant and I haven’t found a need to look for anything different in rain, fog, sandy or other challenging conditions.

 

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Could I improve my game using a power meter or speedometer?

Q: I tend to race based on feel and how much power I think I can put down for the duration of the event, rather than using a power meter or even a speedometer.  Do you think I could significantly improve my game with a more scientific approach? – M. Robb

A:  Yes.  A scientific approach to training really works.  I’m living proof that you can get faster even as you get older.  The biggest reason I’ve had success on the bike is that the last five years I have embraced a more scientific approach to training.  Power meters and HR monitors are great for gauging your training and seeing improvements or drop offs that tell you to take a break.  I use these tools in training with great success.  However, I also think some people can get too addicted and reliant on the science.  I rarely look at these sort of measurements when I’m racing.  I race by feel and will look at the statistics afterwards.  There is a happy medium where you can use the technology to greatly improve your riding, but where you can also turn it off and rely on your experience to push you through a race.

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How did I pass you in La Ruta?

Hi Reba!

Not really a question here but something I wanted to share.

I am very new to cycling and mountain biking in particular. I had actually only owned a mountain bike since October of this year. A friend of mine lives in Costa Rica and talked me into doing La Ruta. After signing up for the race I figured I better learn some more about the sport. So I began watching videos and reading articles about racing and races. Over and over I would come across various interviews that you have done. I quickly became a fan. You come across as a down to earth person, who genuinely loves riding/racing your bike. Needless to say I was very psyched to know that you were racing La Ruta again this year.

Well during stage 4, shortly after hitting the beach section, you and Louise come blowing by our group. The 4 of us in our group look at each other and wondered, how in the heck did we get in front of them!?!? I assumed, correctly, that you must have gotten off course at some point. However I was just excited to be able to actually watch some pros in action. So I jumped on your train and just held on. The egos of a couple guys in our group got the better of them and they broke away from the pace line and surged past. I wasn’t about to try and pass you ladies in the sand. Who knows how many cool points I would have lost if I had wrecked you guys trying to pass on the beach. I noticed the guy from Carmichael Training Systems was doing a lot of pulling for the group. Once we got on to the regular road  I rode up to the front with the intent of pulling for you and Louise and sharing the work with the CTS guy. I remember as I rode by, you gave me a little attaboy, good job. That little comment really showed just how much of a class act you truly are. Even though you rode 20+ kilometers more than I had at that point you still had the energy and the sportsmanship to give an attaboy.

Well I get up front and I tell the CTS guy that I would like to work in with him to share the pulling duties. So I get on the front, bury my head and start mashing pedals. I thought to myself, these girls are pros so I better pedal hard so I don’t slow them down any. After about 20 seconds I look back to check on the group. I had managed to pull away from the group. Great. They probably think, that I think I am some big bad ass. I was so embarrassed that I just redlined it the rest of the way in to the finish.

You probably don’t remember that little episode but for me, a regular Joe just getting into the sport, it was definitely one of the highlights of my race.

Thanks for being cool people. – E. Clark

 

A:  Eddie, great story and thanks for sharing.  Yes, of course I remember the sand situation and your group ripping it up.  Louise and I were pretty spent at that moment after being lost and out of water for way too long.  We were both just barely hanging on and fighting to keep our 2nd and 3rd placings overall.  It was nice to come across some riders with some energy left because we felt like we were riding backwards.  We were able to hang onto our placings and once again, La Ruta provided an adventure.  I hope you had a great time.  Congratulations on your finish.

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What is the one nutritional item you cannot do without while racing?

Q: Sponsorship’s aside what is the one nutritional item you cannot do without while racing? – K. Rozek

A: Enough hydration and calories for the duration are key.  I’ve survived on rides on gummy bears and Gatorade.  It’s not ideal and I prefer a bit more scientific approach to my nutrition, but really, you can get by as long as you have enough food and fluid.  Once those are gone, so are you.  Plan ahead for the # of hours for an event or training ride, calculate the calories and hydration needed per hour, then throw in a bit of extra for insurance.  If you really want to do more than survive and enhance your performance as well, then check out products like GU Roctane, my new favorite nutrition for endurance events.

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How in the heck did you get that chunk of wood jammed in your bike during your race in Argentina?

Q: How in the heck did you get that chunk of wood jammed in your bike during your race in Argentina???????  I really am wanting to hear the story!!!!  :)K. Peterson

A: Seriously, I was just riding along (“JRA”)!  Well, sort of ripping down a fast descent, trying to keep up with my teammate, Chris Carmichael.  I turned a corner into a bit of sand, heard the sound of kicking up a piece of wood, then my wheel stopped…immediately!  My instincts told me to stop pedaling right away and I’m glad I did. That baby was so jammed up into my spokes and frame that we had to take all the air out of the tire, remove the skewer and gently wiggle the wheel out of the frame in order to remove the log.  That could have been such a deal breaker, but luck was on our side that day and we went on to win the stage in our category!


 

 

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Do you change your nutrition strategy the week before a 100 mile race?

Q: Do you change your nutrition strategy the week before a 100 mile race? Details please :)S. Anderson

A: Not really.  In the words of my coach: the week before a 100 miler, your work is done and all you can do is mess it up at this point.  He always has me focus on very light training, healthy eating, low stress levels, good sleep, maintain hydration.  It’s not rocket science and I really just try to be as healthy as possible all year ‘round, but for sure I clean things up a bit nutritionally as I get closer to a big event.  The only big change I make is nearly eliminating dairy products because it seems to aggravate my asthma.

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How do you travel with your bike?

Q: With all the travel and flights you have to carry your bike with you. Could you see the benefit of a case that Split your bike in smaller pieces to fit under the size restriction and a cheaper prices? – G. Fredrickson

A: I have a new EVOC case that I really love.  I’ve used it for two flights now and it’s far and away the best case I’ve ever used.  Unfortunately, unless I wanted to split my frame in half, there’s no way to get the bike down to a smaller size.  I already remove wheels and other parts.  There are certain bikes where you can break the frame down smaller, but they are not the same as a high performance race bike.  For now, I have to just swallow my anger and pay the airlines in order to have my machine with me.

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Tell us about your most spectacular crash.

Q: Tell us about your most spectacular crash. – R. Nelson

A: Hi Russ, please check the archives; this has been asked before. My worst crash was at 24 Hr. Worlds when I landed on my head…

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Has racing always been your passion?

Q: Has racing always been your passion? – N. Seaux

A: Yes and no.  It’s always been a passion and a nemesis.  I love it and hate it.

I am inspired by pushing my limits racing, but it’s also nerve wracking, stressful and sometimes disappointing.

Like anything that is really worthwhile, it’s effort, hard work, insecurity and finally overcoming those things that is so rewarding.  I honestly believe that lining up for a race and putting yourself to the test physically and mentally is one of the most valuable things we can do as humans.  The result in the end doesn’t really matter, but the commitment, effort and growth are the things that make us better people in the end.  I know I will always race in some fashion because I feel the most lack of direction and focus in all parts of my life when I do not have a goal to work towards.  Racing definitely makes me a better person.

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What part of your season do you feel strongest?

Q: What part of your racing season (beginning, middle, or end) do you feel the strongest and has it changed over time because of your training? – J. Morgan

A: This is sort of a trick question because there are days, races and segments of every season where I feel strong and weak.  Sometimes this feeling of greatness or weakness is separated by only one day.  One of the really challenging parts of a specific training plan is that you are constantly building yourself up and tearing yourself down and doing it over again.  Over the course of a season, there may only be one or two races where I really feel like I’m strong.  The rest of the time, the process of getting stronger and fitter can feel like voodoo and I am not always sure where I stand.  It takes a strong will and some good pep talks from friends and a coach to keep psyched during this building process.  There is a direct science to training, but there is also the mental aspect to all of this and the necessary trust in the process.  For me it is absolutely essential to have a coach to guide me and tweak things when they are not going well.  Many people thing pro athletes are just strong all the time, but this is not the case.  We are all human.  I regularly get beaten at local races and have to swallow my pride and have confidence that I will be strong when it matters.  So, to answer your question, training and coaching has made me realized how amazing a planned peak can be.  It’s absolutely intoxicating, but it will not last.  I have also learned how quickly you have to let that performance go and begin the work all over again for the next one.  Yes, it’s a cruel reality, but it keeps us all working and training hard.  FYI, need great coaching?  Go to Carmichael Training Systems and get $100 off if you use the referral code “Queen of Pain” to sign-up.  It’s not a sales pitch, this absolutely works.

 

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What’s the highest elevation you have ever ridden at? Where was it?

Q: What’s the highest elevation you have ever ridden at?  Where was it? – T. Rinkenberger

A: Raid Gauloises in Tibet / Nepal in 2001 (or around there).  Our team rode our bikes at 13,000 feet and finished 7th, the highest ranking American team at that time.  It was like riding underwater.

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Can I become faster at age 50?

Q: I’m 50, started riding a MTB 5 or 6 years ago, race Cat 2 in small, local XC races. Am I crazy to think I can ramp it up now, find a training program & move on up to the front half of the pack at this late date?

Could you recommend a short list of coaches and/or training programs to look into? I don’t want to get bogged down in the search, I want to get out there and learn, and train! – S. Bowen

 

Q: Are you kidding me?  I’m living proof that it’s never too late to get faster!  If you just started 5 or 6 years ago and have never had coaching, you have nowhere to go but up!  Isn’t that exciting?!!!  Coaching works and I attribute going faster as I get older to race experience, maturity, good coaching, smarter training and recovery.  I would recommend Carmichael Training Systems  and “interview” a few coaches over there.  What I like about CTS is that they are all athletes and racers themselves, so they really get it and understand the passion.  They specialize in cycling and endurance, so it’s right up your alley.  A coach is really a personal relationship, so choose someone you hit it off with.  They have lots of great ones, but I think Jane Rynbrandt and Adam Pulford are top notch peeps.  Also, if you mention “Queen of Pain” as a referral when you sign up, you get $100 off!

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Is it too late for me to start racing?

Q: Maybe you’ve been asked this a thousand times, but is it too late for me (34yrs) to do what you do? And, if not, how can I get a start? It feels like the mtb scene is very male dominated. That’s fine, but it’s difficult to find other women to share the sport with or who’ve made a career out of it. I’ve of course ridden a bike my whole life, but I’ve been mountain biking for over a decade. I love it. Could I be delusional to dream that I could trade my computer job for riding? I understand it takes working your way up. A process. If I knew how to get started, I’d be all over it. I jokingly said recently that in another 10 years I wouldn’t have any business riding the way I do now. Now, I’m reconsidering…. – S. Pennewell

A: It’s never to late to follow your dreams.  I started a mountain bike racing career at about your age, so why not.  Yes, the sport has more male participation than women right now, but it’s changing right before our eyes. You can see the change at the start lines of all events, in the high school mtb leagues and out on the trails.  Getting started is just that.  Get started. Sign up for races, get involved with your local club, shop and let it grow from there.  The opportunities to ride and race are out there, you just need to go grab them.  Good luck.

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If there was one aspect of cycling you wish you were better at, what would it be and why?

Q: If there was one aspect of cycling you wish you were better at, what would it be and why? – K. Donnelly

A: Descending.  Hate losing time on the downs after working so hard on the ups.

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How different was your power output in your recent road races compared to your mtb races?

Q: How different was your power output in your recent road races compared to your mtb races? – A. Fish

 

A: My power outputs road and mtb racing are very similar in climbing efforts and when I’m working hard, like in a TT.  The road powers are probably more variable due to the nature of group riding.  Sometimes everyone is soft pedaling and then hits the gas.  Mountain biking seems to be more steady.  The amount of output I can generate is obviously still the same regardless of what bike I’m on.

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Any tips on how to deal with the pressure? (June 2012)

Q: Racing is tough–and really rewarding! I’ve been racing two series this year and have seen some good results. All second places, and last weekend I got my first Cat 1 Win! After my win last week, I felt the pressure really ramp up for my race this weekend.  The chatter about the course, and ride strategy is great, but the chatter about who is racing and where we all stack up is interesting because the pressure to win again is really obvious.  Any tips on how to deal with the pressure you not only put on yourself to win, but also dealing with the pressure others unknowingly place on you? – E. Johnson

A: Pressure to perform is a tricky thing.  Yes, racing is addictive and rewarding in so many ways. It’s also sometimes not a ton of fun and can get very stressful and hard.  Pressure to perform is often self-imposed.  Your friends who are talking about ranking and placings are just excited and happy to see you do well.  They will still be your friends if you have a bad performance.  It’s important to regularly re-visit why you started racing in the first place, what you love about it and why you are there.  It’s probably a mix of motivations including scoring a good result.  Controlling stress is an important strategy for me.  Of course I am nervous before almost every race, but I offset that with doing my best to prepare and train properly so I can stand at the start line and feel like I’m ready.  I also practice quite a bit of internal dialogue to let myself know that a person’s worth is not based on one race performance.  A good day or a bad day will not change who you are.

I have the most respect for athletes who can lose gracefully, pick themselves back up, learn from the experience and race well another day.  I also look at an athlete’s entire body of work and the ones who have many consistent results are more impressive to me than one flash in the pan performance.  The bottom line is that it’s bike racing and nothing more.  Racing is a powerful, wonderful experience in so many ways.  Putting yourself on the line and working hard for a result is a worthy endeavor.  However, extra pressure just makes you waste energy and burn calories you could use for pedaling.  Just keep a realistic view and don’t forget why you signed up in the first place.

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How do you snap out of it- that white noise sensation- while racing?

Q: How do you snap out of it- that white noise sensation- while racing? – J. White

A: Hmm, I’m not entirely sure what you mean, but I’m guessing you’re talking about losing focus while racing.  If so, I stay focused by breaking the race into smaller chunks such as aid station to aid station.  I treat each section as a mini race.  I also look at other competitors to chase as rabbits, regardless of if they are in my category or not.  If I am alone on course, I use my Garmin 500 as motivation and try to push the mph a little faster and faster.  I also visualize the other competitors behind me and imagine that they are closing in and trying to catch me.  Even if I can’t see them, this keeps me focused.  If I have a lead, I am still not satisfied knowing that flats and issues can happen, so I still try to build and build a lead to allow for a buffer in case something happens.

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How can I train for a triathalon?

Q: I just signed up for my first mini triathlon! this is a 400-yard swim, 12 miles biking and 5k running. I feel intimidated, I’ve done all three separately, however the biking and running part worries me. How can I train and what can I do on race day to ensure that I conserve energy on my legs in order to run effectively and fast after I bike 12 miles? thank you very much! – M. Huston

A: Practice makes perfect.  You just have to do some “brick” workouts as triathletes call them.  Set up workouts where you ride and then run straight afterwards.  You can also set up your own mini tri with a swim, bike, run workout.  Just get your gear organized ahead of time and find a place where you can do all disciplines without much down time in between.

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Where does the competition balance fall for you?

Q: Where does the competition balance fall for you – does your road bike competition (time trials, road racing) help your mountain bike racing more, or does the mountain bike racing (especially endurance stuff) help you more in the road competition? – K. Canniff

 

A: They both help each other, although I have much less road racing experience than MTB.  Many endurance mountain bike events like Leadville 100 have elements of road tactics in them.  It has been a good lesson to learn to be patient, conserve energy and wait to make a move.  Mountain bike races can also be very much like one long time trial, so that has benefited me in the few road races I’ve done where I’m used to putting my head down and just hammering out a consistent effort alone.  I also cyclocross race a little, dabble in Super D events, play in the pump track occasionally.  I believe that all of the cycling disciplines compliment each other and it’s great to mix it up.

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What tire pressure do you generally run for Leadville?

Q: This will be my first year riding Leadville. I’m excited and nervous! :-) I ride a 29er, tubeless. Wondering what tire pressure you generally run for Leadville and how does that vary from your other rides/races? – J. Meneely

 

A: Tires and tire pressure is a big question and not an easy, straightforward answer.  6 time Leadville 100 winner, Dave Wiens just addressed this topic at length in the most recent issue of  Dispatches from Columbine.  Read here for his insight on tires, tire pressure and what works for Leadville.

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What kind of recovery do you take between 100 mile events?

Q: What kind of recovery do you take between 100 mile events …two weeks? and what kind of training would you squeeze in between these events? – P. Berry

 

A: I commonly race back to back weekends.  Just before racing the Wilmington Whiteface 100 km, the most recent Leadville Race Series, I raced the Dirty Kanza 200 miler one weekend, then the Mt Hood Cycling Classic then next, then straight to Wilmington.

Needless to say, I was tired and not properly recovered, but that was part of the training plan for future goals.  Your training and rest between events depends on what your goals are.  If you are peaking for a 100 miler, then I wouldn’t race another 100 miler any closer than 3 weeks prior.  Shorter races two weeks prior would be OK.  My first Leadville 100 was just 3 weeks after racing and winning 24 hr solo World Champs.  This recovery window was too short after such a big 24 hr solo effort, however, sometimes events don’t work around your own schedule.

After a really big event like the Leadville 100,  I wouldn’t plan on racing at top form until a few weeks later.  Training begins right after the event with active recovery on the very next day.  Your body recovers better with easy efforts than with nothing at all.  Specifics of exact training plans really depend on your race schedule and your body.  Check out Carmichael Training if you’re looking to really take your performance to the next level.  Mention the Queen of Pain (me) and save $100.  I can’t say enough about having a coach answer all of these questions for you.

 

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What drives you most to compete in endurance XC Racing?

Q: What drives you most to compete in endurance XC Racing? Many people shy away from these races due to many factors such as the distance and altitude. You have absolutely thrived and have become a superhero, the Queen of Pain! – A. Kalliokoski

 

A: I love endurance racing for a few reasons.  I love the adventure and the exploration and the fact that every course is different.  I also love the fact that the longer and harder the event, the more I find out what I’m really made of.  It sometimes takes hours and days to strip away all of the exterior to find out who you are inside.  People who shy away from these events and just stay within their comfort zone are really missing the big rewards that come at the end of a really committing and difficult endurance event.

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Do you think the media should give more value to women’s races? (July 2012)

Q: Do you think the media should give more value to women’s races? – D. Guedes

 

A: Absolutely!  Women make up 51% of the population.  Women are also athletes, consumers and influencers, so why wouldn’t women’s racing be given more coverage?  It’s sort of shocking to me that this issue still needs to be raised.  Just as men’s racing is interesting to all genders, so would women’s racing if it got the coverage and the athletes were given a platform to be known.   I meet men, women, boys and girls everywhere who tell me I inspire them.  That’s great and it shows me that inspiration is not gender specific.  We all need heros and I’ve been inspired by female athletes like Marla Streb and male athletes like Tim Johnson.  I’m inspired by who the athlete is, regardless of  gender.

In a time when kids and adults are so bombarded with computer games, iphones, drugs and many other unhealthy temptations, it’s crucial that the media provide a positive example of what athletes are doing out there (male and female).  One of the main reasons I launched the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour women’s events was to provide opportunity for women’s media, pro athletes and female riders to get more involved and have a bigger voice.  The tide has started to change slowly, but I want to fuel the momentum.  Once a little girl sees her Mom, or a pro athlete ripping it up on a bike, or reads about women’s cycling in the media, a seed of possibility is planted.  If she never sees these images, then she doesn’t know what’s possible and might just assume that sports are for only boys.  Wouldn’t that be sad?  Check out this video trailer for a film that talks about women’s representation in the media.  It’s not cycling related, but shows the power of what is put out there. Miss Representation

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How should intervals be setup to best boost fitness?

Q: How should intervals be setup to best boost fitness and how close to a race is it OK to do intervals? – K. Andersen

 

A: That is a HUGE question that cannot be answered simply.  Intervals are an essential part of training, so you should be using them.  They can be used all year, but there are so many different types of intervals with different focus, so there is not one clear answer to say “do intervals this way to get more fit.”  Longer intervals vs. shorter ones train different systems in the body and are used in different ways.  You should for sure be doing intervals, but how to add them to your training properly takes some education.  Get a coach, click here and save $100 with Carmichael Training Systems if you mention my name.  I can’t say enough for coaching and having a personalized road map to where you want to go.  If coaching’s not for you, check out some interval and workout ideas in this book.  The tips are short and to the point.

Time Crunched Athlete.  Good luck.

 

 

 

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How important is rivalry during a season?

Q: How important is rivalry during a season, and has rivalry ever become a negative influence on your performance? – D. Leece

A: For me competition is a great motivator and the reason I have been singing up for various races and events since high school.  Being in a competition motivates me, focuses me, gives me a goal to shoot for and brings out the extra level of commitment that I don’t find riding on my own.  I don’t necessarily care who else is on the start line with me, it’s more the stopwatch, the accountability, the measured effort that are motivating.  Competition pushes me to be better and work harder than I would otherwise.  I’m always pushing athletes to sign up for races and letting them know that “race” is not a four letter word, but really a way to bring out your best performance and commitment.  Rivalry on the other hand is way more personal and, in my opinion, adds a negative twist to competition.  When I race, I try hard not to focus on an individual person that I’m racing, but instead focus on my performance.  There is no one I can control except for myself, so doing the best I can instead of fueling a personal rivalry has always provided better results for me and feels much less negative.  Most of the women I race against on the endurance circuit are great friends.  On the race course, we are doing our best and everyone’s trying to win, but after we cross the finish line, the competition ends.

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Can I ride the LT100 if I did the SR50?

Q: I have heard that the Leadville 50 Silver Rush is all of the hard parts of the Leadville 100. I have ridden the Silver Rush 50 before but never the 100. Is this true? Really… I always thought it was what people said that could ride the 50 but never would ride the 100 cause it seems a LITTLE scary. I do know that I seriously doubt that I could have ridden another 50 miles after finishing the Silver Rush even if it was flat.

I really want to take that step to the 100 but am not sure I could. – M. Dixon

A: The Silver Rush 50 is quite hard and a great measuring stick for the LT100.  The SR50 is more technical and has more climbing per 50 miles than ½ of the LT100 does.  Yes, the LT100 is twice as long in distance, but not in time.  For example, my SR50 time was around 4:33.  My best LT100 time is 7:31.  There are more fast sections on the LT100 where you are moving quickly and ticking off miles.  The entire middle section between Powerline and Columbine is relatively flat and fast.  I do believe that if you completed the SR50 in a decent time that you can tackle the LT100.  Go for it.

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How do you manage the start at Leadville to avoid blowing up?

Q: I’m a notoriously slow starter. I wasn’t warmed up, in fact I was freezing, when we hit St. Kevin’s last year, so I really suffered and lost a ton of time. The neutral start leaves only a short time to get ready for St. Kevin’s. I assume I will be starting in the very back again this year as I only made it 60 miles last year. How do you manage the start at Leadville to avoid blowing up? A better question would be what advice can you give me for the start as I am just an average mountain biker starting in the nose bleed corral? Oh and I’m not a youngster (46) so I am not a super fast climber. I am in much better shape this year and have no doubt I will be able to finish. Any tidbit you can give to help me drag myself up and over St. Kevin’s would be much appreciated. Thanks for all you do to get more women into biking. You are a true inspiration. – S. Kuhns

A: I’m not a fast starter either.  It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses on the course, but don’t let them bog you down.  Instead, use your race knowledge to your advantage in order to ride the course to the best of your ability.  St. Kevins is essentially a warm up for many riders.  It’s cold and this is really the first effort of the course.  Treat it with respect and don’t go out too hard.  You might get bogged behind some other riders and watch people rip by you who are amped up, but be patient and warm up at your own speed.  This climb is not super long and the gradient is much more mellow than some of the other big climbs, so try to spin, breathe and get your muscles moving.  As you start to feel warm, calmly start passing people and moving into a better position.  I guarantee you will eventually pass many of the folks who passed you initially.  You have the benefit of being in better shape this year and the course knowledge of where you had issues last year.  Knowledge and experience is a big benefit in a race like LT100.

I also had to focus on pacing on St. Kevins during last year’s LT100.  I went out at a speed that seemed right for me and watched as four of my main competitors all rode by me on the lower slopes of St. Kevins.  I took note, was a little bummed, but also realized that I could only go the speed that was right for me on this climb.  I kept the pressure on the pedals and paced myself.   I gave away about 3-5 minutes on the leaders by the time I got to the bottom of Powerline.  I stayed focused on myself and not the riders in front of me and ended up catching the leaders about 2/3 of the way up Columbine and won the race.

I firmly believe that if I’d gone out faster and tried to stay with the group on St. Kevins, I would not have had the energy to push hard up Columbine.  Have a great race!

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What are tips to make sure my wife has fun racing?

Q: My wife hinted that she’d like to do a citizen’s mountain bike race this summer. What are some race day tips to make sure it goes well and she wants to keep racing? – S. Guse

A: GREAT!  Help her out with race day nutrition, equipment, how to change a flat and what to wear.  Share your experience about how the start will work, riding in a group, and simple pacing.  If you can practice the course ahead of time, that will inspire confidence on race day.  No need to overwhelm her with information, but it is good to provide her with the tools to make sure she has a great day and can take care of herself out there.  Be sure to keep the pressure low and encourage her to have fun. It’s really just a bike ride with a bunch of other people.  First time racing can be intimidating, so take away some of the questions and give her some tools, but don’t add any pressure to perform.  Hopefully, she’ll have a blast and want to do more!

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Should I fix my burped tire during a race?

Q: Recently I was racing and clipped my handlebar on the edge of a tree.  I crashed, got back up and popped back on my bike because I didn’t want to loose the leader, thinking all was OK.  A little bit further into the race, a realized my tubeless tire must have burped some air pressure from the crash.  I just kept on riding. I’m wondering, in a twisty course like the one I raced on, would it have been faster for me to stop and add a little air, or do what I did and keep going?  When I checked my tire pressure at the end of the race, it was around 12! – E. Johnson

 

A: So, did you catch the leader on your squishy tire, or did she ride away from you?  The answer to that question might tell you if you made the right decision.  In my opinion, you should have added a quick shot of air with a C02 cartridge.  The only time I wouldn’t do this is if I was right near the finish line with a competitor close by.   In a race, I have a cartridge and inflator head all ready to go and super accessible for quick fixes like this.  It’s in my pocket or on my bike, not in a hydration pack or seat bag.   It should only take about 10 seconds to add a hit of air.   Riding with a super low tire pressure is more work and way less efficient.  Sometimes being smarter works better than just trying to muscle it.

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Is an extended warm-up helpful before a race?

Q: I have read alot about warming up, this year I have been more aware of my response to warming up before my local races.  Recently I was on my home course and did a few minutes tooling around the lot and went for my first lap.  My home course is a 7.5 mile loop, not real technical but with some small climbs to get your legs moving and the blood flowing.  After my first lap we always sit around the tables and drink whatever water or hydration drink we have and usually do a GU pack.  On my second lap I felt stronger, with less lactic acid buildup and less fatigue.  I would have thought that the first lap would drain more energy but it seems the first lap acts like the warm up and I am stronger the second lap and sometimes the third lap is even better.  Does that make sense or am I dreaming.  Is an extended warm up like my first lap make sense and is that something I should try before my next race? – R. Beauchamp

A: YES!  Your experiment is right on.  Warming up is essential for peak performance.  It takes the body a while for all systems to be firing.  My “normal” warm up for an important race is about 45 minutes of slowly ramping up the intensity and ending with a few all out sprints.  I’ve never been a super fast starter, so if I want my best performance from the gun, I need to do this warm up.  Also, in my training intervals, I also feel like my 2nd one is the best quality in terms of sensation, fatigue, and power.  Congratulations on your revelation!  Just don’t tell your race buddies about your new secret weapon!

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Why do you to race ultra-endurance events instead of cross country races?

Q: Why do you race?  And why do you to race ultra-endurance events instead of cross country races?  Isn’t that just more suffering? - L. Blake

A: I race for motivation, fitness, social interaction, fun, travel, exploration and to constantly push myself.  I do best with a goal on the horizon, so I sign up for races to keep me honest and motivated and to have something to look forward to.  It’s my job, but I also chose this because I get so much out of racing. All of my best life lessons and experiences have been on a race course of some sort.  My best friends and boyfriend are all athletes.

I take part in all races, like XC, cyclocross and road racing for fun and fitness, but my passion is endurance mountain bike racing.  I gravitated towards the longs stuff because I had a background in ultra endurance events like Eco Challenge and I’m just better at long events.  Even in high school running, I was better at the 2 mile than the 400 meter.

I also feel like the ultra endurance events offer a much more complete experience package for me than a 1.5 hr XC race.  Yes, it’s “more suffering” as you put it, but it’s also more great riding, more mental strength required, more fitness, more outdoor experience and more of an adventure for me.  The longer the race, the more the exterior layers get stripped away and we discover what we’re really made of.  Crossing a finish line on a 100 miler or even longer is way more rewarding to me than a sprint event because I know the commitment and work I had to put in to get there.  Happy trails!  I hope to see you on a really long race course sometime!

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Do you believe that women’s specific bikes are actually a benefit to female riders in the competitive realm of cycling?

Q: Do you believe that women’s specific bikes, like the fate, are actually a benefit to female riders in the competitive realm of cycling? – A. Chamberlin

A: “If the shoe fits, wear it”!  I absolutely believe in the fit benefits of women’s specific bikes like the Specialized Fate  that I ride.  I know that the Specialized women’s product team has spent a great deal of time and energy studying antrhopomorphics (body types) for women and their bike design is focused on creating the best fitting bikes for women’s bodies.  No doubt about it, men are built differently.  That said, we are all individuals and I encourage all women to try many bikes (women’s specific and not) so they can see what fits them best.  Just as some women fit in men’s jeans and some do not, bikes are the same.  The fit is personal.

I will say that for me, the Fate 29er HT fits me better than the Stumpy 29 HT, which is a similar bike built to men’s specs.  The biggest differences are the lower standover height for better control and fit, shorter head tube for better fit and front end handling, lighter carbon layup for average women’s weights instead of men, and specifically tuned fork for lighter weights.  My Fate is lighter, fits me like a glove and I feel like it handles better, so I feel zippier and more confident on this bike than I did on the Stumpy.

My advice:  demo some bikes and see for yourself.   If you like the women’s specific version, speak up so the manufacturers and shops know to keep providing what women want!

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I’m a sport/expert racer, how can I race La Ruta?

Q: I have always dreamed of doing La Ruta de los conquistadores but  I am only a sport/expert racer.  How can I make it happen?!! – J. Ridd

A: The first step for any big goal is commitment.  Sign up for the race, tell your friends and make a commitment to yourself that you are going to do this.  Next step, make a plan.  This can involve getting a coach, which I highly recommend.  Side Note:  if anyone reading this signs up for coaching with Carmichael Training Systems, you save $100 by just mentioning my name.  Either way, make a plan for training and developing the fitness to achieve your goal.  Step 3:  perseverance.  You will falter along the way during your plan, but stick with it and keep your eyes on the goal.  Step 4:  just do it!  Step up to the line and the hard part is done.

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How does it feel to be racing against the Master of Consumption in the GranDonut Race?

Q: How does it feel to be racing against the Master of Consumption in the GranDonut Race? – S. Rose

A: I got my donut handed to me by the Fat Cyclist, literally.  However, I don’t feel badly losing an eating contest to a guy named Fattie.  He invited some of the best cyclists in the world, made the rules to grossly favor his abilities and we never even had a chance.  It was pretty sweet to see Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Kristin Armstrong and Patrick Dempsey get super competitive stuffing donuts into their faces.  I might have gotten a little competitive too.  Despite losing, the good news is we raised $12,000 for Levi’s GranFondo charities.  Even though I felt sick to my stomach, I felt good about the money that was raised and I laughed my head off.  If you want to read the whole story, click HERE for Fattie’s race report.  It might be the best race report ever written.

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How can I make racing approachable to inexperienced but enthusiastic riders?

Q: I’m a high school senior in Washington and I LOVE mountain biking; I even started a racing team at my school through NICA! I want my team to be about having fun riding together — How can I make racing approachable to inexperienced but enthusiastic riders? Many of the students I’ve talked to enjoy mountain biking but are hesitant to try racing because it seems so competitive and scary. – J. Pemble

A: Great question Jessie.  Congratulations on getting involved and starting a racing team through NICA!  That’s awesome.  It’s also so great that you want to get more students involved.  Riding (and racing) should always be for fun and presented in an approachable way.  Most people are afraid of things that they don’t know about.  Fear of the unknown is super strong.  So, the best way to get new riders involved is to educate them through fun riding, skills sessions and non-intimidating “race” clinics so they know what to expect and know they can do it even before they show up to a race.  Pre-riding a race course is really important.  Practice riding in groups to simulate a race start. Practice passing each other on the trail so they are used to this.  Teach how to eat and drink from your water bottle on the fly.  Do a mini-race, or group ride where you just all start together and ride the race course at whatever speed people want.  Also, let riders know who join your team that they don’t have to race right away, or at all. They can ride with the team for practices and volunteer for the race instead.  Then, once they see the race and how much fun everyone is having, they’ll be inclined to sign up for the next one.

Education and a good vibe are the key ingredients!  Good luck and great job!

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How do I maintain glycogen stores while tapering for a race? (9/2012)

Scenario:

During the days leading up to the taper for an endurance event, volume typically goes down but intensity can remain moderate to high over shorter periods of time.  The idea is not to do too much, let the body recover and be ready to explode on race day with new found strength.  During the final few days of the taper my personal challenge is to eat enough food as to not gain any weight but also pack the muscles with much needed glycogen for race day.  During the taper phase one taps into the existing glycogen reserves especially if  the exercise has some moderate to high levels of efforts over short periods of time (anaerobic efforts).  From what I have read eating 30-60 minutes after the effort is the best to pack the muscles with energy for the next day.

Question:

In the final days of taper (maybe even the day before, which is more critical in my mind) how much time is required of moderate to high intensity exercise to induce a glycogen response that packs the muscles with more energy? The goal is to still feel super fresh on race day but get that extra edge of performance by packing the muscles and liver with extra glycogen. Everything I have read does not provide a range of time or effort needed to trigger the glycogen response.

Follow-up Question:

Once the glycogen response is triggered should one eat high glycemic or low glycemic foods?  Does it matter?  During the week low glycemic foods are probably better because of the complex carbohydrate chains.

Thanks for any help you can provide. J. Alas

 

A:  Thanks for the thoughtful question. For the answer, I relied on my coach, Dean Golich,  from my Carmichael Training Systems.

Dean:  “The idea is to maintain  some intensity during taper while reducing the volume to around 50%.  This means that they should maintain their same diet thru the taper thus making sure all stores are at full capacity.  Yes, 30 minutes after exercise is most beneficial for replacing muscle glycogen but in a taper period it is less important, since you are not depleting glycogen stores completely or to the point where you will not have enough time (ie: back to back workouts) to replenish over a day or so.  So this is not important.

The final days are predominately rest with short efforts of maybe 2×10 tempo or LT or other short efforts.  These will deplete glycogen stores at most 25-35%.  Remember you have about 2000-2500 Kcal of glycogen storage.  So if the question is more about the old school thought of carbo loading, we do not use that technique these days.  Now we just maintain the same diet while reducing the volume and some intensity.  Within the 30 min. window high glycemic is best and at other times in a taper it does not matter since there is plenty of time for absorbtion when back to back workouts and depletion are rare”.

 

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Best way to train and qualify for Leadville – first timer?

What is the best way to train and qualify for the Leadville 100 for a first timer?

Thanks and you are a fantastic rider. – T. Armbruster

A: You need a plan.  Hot tip: if you elect to sign up with any Carmichael Training coach, you get $100 off by mentioning my name.  You can go it alone, but find training info online and develop a roadmap of training.  The Leadville Qualifying races are also great events to test your fitness, your nutrition, your gear and do a bit of a dry run before the big day.  The series starts in April, so this gives you plenty of time to work out the kinks and get in some great training races.  Your placement in the qualifiers not only can earn you an entry to the Big Show, but also moves you up in the starting corral based on your qualifier finishing time.  That’s a big benefit come race day in Leadville.  Good luck and enjoy the process!

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Where do you find it best to keep your food and fluids during racing?

Q: Where do you find it best to keep your food and fluids during racing? – J. Beadel

A:  That really depends on the length of the race and access to aid stations.

In a race like Leadville, the aid stations are close enough together that I can ride that event with two water bottles and my food easily accessible in jersey pockets.  Then re-supply at each aid station.  If it’s a longer stage race, I will often ride with a hydration pack to have more fluid carrying capacity.  I still keep my food accessible in pockets so I don’t have to stop to access food.  I put things like bike tools and rain jacket in the hydration pack for these types of events.  If it’s a super short XC race or short track, I’ll use a bottle and put one or two GU gels under the leg of my shorts for easy access.  If the race is super technical, I also might use a hydration pack since taking my hands off the bars to drink is not an option.  I hope that helps.  Every situation is a little different.  Just be sure to practice with different options so you are comfortable and quick at getting to your nutrition.

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Which do you enjoy more and why: Leadville 100 or Dirty Kanza?

Q: Different races, different terrain, but which do you enjoy more and why: Leadville 100 in Colorado fresh air, or Dirty Kanza in the flinty hills? – A. Jardon

A:  The Leadville Trail 100 has been a signature and big focus event for me for the last four years.  I know this race well now and have so many friends in the race community and town of Leadville.  I’ve gotten to know every inch of the course and also the surrounding mountains.  It holds a special meaning for me now because I’ve got so many great memories from that event and have had some of my most intense racing moments there.  However, I intentionally choose new races each year because I love adventure and not knowing what’s around the next corner.  I raced the Dirty Kanza 200 last year just because I was curious.  That race surprised me and exceeded my expectations.  I loved it, but for different reasons.  No one really knew me there, I was a bit under the radar and riding with no course experience.  For me, there is value in going to events that you know and have experience, but also doing something totally different and new on a regular basis to keep things exciting.  Sorry not to really answer your question, but I love both races!!

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Training:

Training

What is the best way to acclimate to high altitude riding with little time to acclimate?

Q: What is the best way to acclimate to high altitude riding and you have no time to acclimate to the altitude? - D. Hahn

A – There are various theories of acclimatization, but two common threads seem to run throughout most of them.
1. Go plenty early to acclimatize if possible, or
2. If you cannot do #1, then go as late as possible.

I tried out both of these theories for the 2009 and 2010 Leadville Trail 100. In 2009, I could not spare the time to acclimatize properly, so I arrived in Leadville Thursday afternoon and raced on Saturday morning. The general thought is that your body has not yet realized what you are doing to it. From many reports, the third day at altitude seems to be the worst, so avoid that dreaded time frame if possible.

For 2010, my coach and I discussed a strategy for going earlier to acclimatize. In his findings, it takes at least 10 days to be 85% acclimatized, three weeks to get to about 95% and a full 5 weeks to get all the way there. Due to my race schedule, I could only squeeze in a 10-day stay up in Leadville prior to the event. I won both years, so perhaps that’s proof that both theories work.

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Do you implement any resistance and/or plyometric training into your yearly program?

Q: Do you implement any resistance and/or plyometric training into your yearly program, and if so, what are a few exercises you’d highly recommend to any cyclist?
- S. Staveley

A: Yes. I use both resistance training and plyometrics in my training. Both are fabulous for strength, muscle balance, injury prevention, power and speed of muscle contractions. Cycling alone is not enough. It’s also not a weight bearing exercise, so for joint, bone and ligament strength, it’s important to do weight bearing exercise in addition to your riding. Weights and plyos can be used all year. Just bear in mind that they are fatiguing, so you have to work them into your training schedule in a way that does not hinder your other hard workouts.
I do box jumps, squat jumps, telemark jumps, and bounding. These are all great for explosive leg power. I throw them into the middle of a run or do them in the gym along with a more traditional weight workout.

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What is the best way you have found to improve climbing skill and speed?

Q: I just completed my first Endurance mountain bike race, 50/100 miles of Capitol Forest. I am 48 years old and just starting into mountain bike racing. I am a lousy climber, but great at downhill and technical. What is the best way you have found to improve climbing skill and speed? – S. Sutherland

A: You’re lucky!  Downhill and technical skills take much more time to develop than fitness.   Getting climbing fit takes a bit of commitment and a plan. For me, a coach is essential to provide a road map.  Any level of athlete can benefit from a coach.  It’s personalized, helps you make the most of your training time and it’s the quickest path to your own goals.   If you chose to check out a coach and want to try Carmichael Training Systems, you save $100 just by mentioning my name.  If you decide to go it alone, then do a bit of research on endurance training and find a few intensity workouts to add to your rides a couple of times per week.  Hill climbing intervals, climbing time trials and also signing up for races (short and long)  are all good ways to boost your climbing fitness. Have fun and promise not to pass me on a descent!

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I ride everyday. Friends say I ride too much. Is this possible?

Q: Rebecca, I ride everyday. Loving it and getting in better shape. Friends say I ride too much. Is this possible? My mileage is between 9 and 16 miles a day. My legs are tired by the time I’m done, but the next morning I feel great. One day a week I take off. I know male riders that don’t get flack who ride frequently. When do I know when I’m doing too much? Do you think the comments are because I’m a female? 

A: Jami, your male friends are saying this because they’re scared you are going to get faster than they are. Every person is different in energy levels and response to the stress of training. As a general rule, it’s good practice to take 1-2 days/week completely off. It’s also good to mix a bit of swimming, running, weights, yoga, etc into your routine to keep you balanced and strong all over. If you change things up, your body responds better. How you feel in the morning is a good gauge of how your body is adapting to the stress you are dishing out. If you feel sluggish getting out of bed, or your resting heart rate is high, those are signs to back off. The BEST and only tool I have found for accurately and scientifically measuring recovery is Restwise (insert web link and description here). I have been using this for 3 months and it has very realistically helped me chart when I’m training too hard or can go a little harder. Otherwise, tell your friends to eat your dust. Listen to your own body. If your motivation falters, you feel tired, get injured or just want to do something different, it’s telling you to slow down.

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Do you have recommendations for workouts?

I’m getting into mountain bike endurance events, but have found them kicking my butt (and raising my heart rate) way more than my training!  Since I have a busy work schedule I don’t have unlimited time to ride my mountain bike.  Also, I’ve found that I tend to just ride for fun and am having trouble finding motivation to work hard on training rides.  Do you have recommendations for workouts or ways to tweak my rides to better prepare for the hard efforts of racing?

 It is possible to “ride for fun” and train at the same time.  I do it all the time and it’s essential for me to keep fun in my training.  If you want to do well at endurance events, or any sort of race, then it’s worth it to put in a little extra effort on your rides so that you can have more fun racing too!  I always say “pay now or pay later.”  If you push yourself a bit more on your rides, the races will just be that much more enjoyable because you’ll be fitter and faster.  The basic credo in training is to go hard and short or go easy and long and avoid the so called “garbage zone” that’s just sort of hard.  On your rides with friends, just sprinkle in some natural intervals that match the terrain.  Go as hard as you can up a hill, then recover afterwards and regroup with the  other riders.  Do this multiple times in your ride and you will see improvements in your fitness right away.

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What tips could you give a fellow female on preparing for the Leadville 100 MTB Race?

Q: You might not remember me but I own a bicycle shop and rode with you on the Specialized Morgan Hill to Vegas ride in 2010.  You were as always amazing.  I managed to get in on the lottery for Leadville this year.  So the question I have is what tips could you give a fellow female on preparing for this epic event? – J. Johnson

A: Hi Jennifer! Congrats on getting into the lottery.  Since you rode from CA to Vegas, you are used to long miles.  Leadville is very much a road race on a mountain bike.  Draft when you can, learn to ride in a crowd, eat and drink consistently, be patient and don’t burn all your matches too early.  The specifics that make Leadville really unique are the massive amount of climbing and the extremely high altitude.  Do lots of climbing in your training.  Long climbs that last more than an hour, or repeats if you don’t have hills that long.  Go hard, go easy, just climb lots and lots.  For altitude, if you don’t live that high , then acclimatization is a big help if you can do it.  You can do some short stints up to altitude leading up to the event.  For best acclimatization for the event, either go really early (more than a week) or arrive as close to the event as possible. See you there!

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How do you know if you are good at metabolising fats?

Q: You mentioned in an earlier question that you metabolise fats good.  How do you know if you are good at metabolising fats?  Is there a gadget you haven’t told us about that you use for this? – H. Williams

A: No gadgets, just official Red Bull Performance Division testing.  I highly recommend getting a lactate threshold / V02 max test for anyone, professional or recreational  This is going to help you find out where your power zones, HR zones, metabolic thresholds, metabolism and all sorts of other really useful pieces of info lie.  Any reputable coaching facility, such as Carmichael Training Systems, can perform this test for you.  I get tested at least once and usually twice per year because these zones and numbers will change.  The test will help you fine tune your training and nutrition.  It will allow you to be way more efficient in the time you spend working and you’ll get the most out of your efforts.

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How do you train for 50 mile endurance race?

Because you have done the Whiskey 50.  What kind of training regimen would you recommend to get ready?  I have been riding about 50 miles a week, but as we get close I want to really focus and dial it in.

I have a coach, so I can’t share all my trade secrets with you!  However, I can recommend Lynda Wallenfels for coaching.  She’s an endurance cyclist and has successfully coached many of my friends, including my boyfriend Greg for his first solo win at 24 hr Worlds.  She has simple online coaching or full blown private coaching.  She also has some great free articles on training/racing on her website.  Good luck.

http://www.lwcoaching.com/

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A multipart question on food intake:

A multipart question on food intake:  For the longest races (ultra), how do you ensure that you maintain adequate nutrition intake?  Do you use a timer?  When it is inconvenient to eat, what do you do?  For example, in a tough long uphill or fighting to stay in place or in front.  Finally, can you recover if you don’t eat enough and start to bonk?”

A: It’s super hard to come back after the dreaded bonk.  Your body is just working too hard to reverse the nutritional deficit you’ve put it in.  I plan my food by hourly intake for calories, fluids, electrolytes.  I plan places on the course where I can eat and drink.  In the heat of the moment, or on a really hard climb, I still force myself to focus on nutrition because I know I can’t race without the right fuel.  You will pay heavily for it later.  Better to lose a few seconds now than pay in minutes later.  I plan ways to eat and drink.  For example, I will wear a Hydrapak in a really technical mountain bike event where I know I cannot reach down and grab a water bottle.  For foods, I make sure my pockets are easily accessible and the food packaging is easy to open.  Simple planning like this will save you frustration later.  

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With respect to the Suunto t6d, what particular items do you monitor while you are riding?

Q: While you are riding, with respect to the Suunto t6d (which I have been looking at), what particular items do you monitor? I seem to just look at heart rate and for whatever reason Avg. speed. I’m not sure as an amateur rider if there are other “on the bike” stats that you or other pros might monitor which would be useful to someone like me. – A. Bruce

A:  When I’m actually racing, I occasionally look at HR and also look at the time quite often.  But mostly, I look at all the markers afterwards and find that EPOC and Training Effect are especially useful to compare and get a good feeling for how the workout went. Sometimes a heart rate reading doesn’t give you enough information alone.  Suunto does a good job of taking more factors into consideration to give you a more complete picture.  During the race/ride, I’m relying on experience and perceived exertion for my pacing.

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If you could only give one piece of advice regarding training for competitive mountain biking, what would that be?

Q: If you could only give one piece of advice regarding training for competitive mountain biking, what would that be? – M. Runge

A: Use racing as training.  There is no better way to replicate the intensity, the nutritional needs, the psychological factors, the race strategy and the gear performance.  Select smaller races to work up to your big event and you will learn something every time you race.

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As the Queen of Pain, how do you persevere through the pain? Any suggestions for a TT?

Q: At 60+ I just defended my MTB marathon national championship. Hurrah for me!!  I have a coach and train a lot on the road with intervals and love to do early mid-season stage races. The hardest event for me is the tt. I’m a little light 135 lbs, but the real problem is riding through the pain. Last year a fried passed me in a tt and said it looked like was on a club ride. I seem to pace well in the MTB environment, but not alone on the road.

As the Queen of Pain, how do you persevere through the pain? Any suggestions for a TT? – D. Hibdon

 

A: Congratulations on your National Championship!  Hopefully we will see you in Sun Valley, ID in 2013/14 for USAC marathon nationals to defend. To answer your question, when I was just about to compete in my first Eco Challenge in Australia, an experience friend said to me, “you can either run across the hot coals or walk across them.”  This little piece of advice has stuck with me for 15 years.  There are many times when I’m deep in the pain cave and the thought of just getting it over more quickly is the only thing pushing me.  TT’s are short compared to marathons, but there isn’t the outside stimulation you get from a mountain bike race.  You are alone in your head and need to self motivate.  I’ve never done a TT, even though I really want to.  However, I do plenty of races and rides where I’m alone and have to just keep pushing hard even though no one is around.  In training, I visualize some of my strongest competitors and pretend they are just in front of me.  I also watch my odometer and try to push .1 mph faster.  I stare at that number and go into my own head.   I imagine a race coming down to a sprint and losing by 1 second and think about getting a bigger buffer now so that I don’t have to sprint at the end.  There are tons of mind games that you can practice in your training.  A power meter might also help you with something like this so you can try to keep constant power throughout the TT.

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What’s the most common mistake that 1st timers at a race like Leadville make?

Q: What’s the most common mistake that 1st timers at a race like Leadville make, either during the race or in training? – S. Rash

A:  For first timers in a long endurance event like Leadville, I think the most common mistake is going out too fast and paying for it around mile 70.  Start conservatively and ramp it up as you get further and further into the race.  Good luck.

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What strategies do you use to combat upper body fatigue during long rides?

Q: Can you discuss specific strategies (exercises, bike set up, etc.) that you use to combat upper body fatique during long training sessions and races? Thank you. – S. Anderson

A: Bike fit is key for anyone, especially endurance riders.  This is the first crucial step in comfort and performance on the bike.  If you have not had a professional bike fit, do it now.  It’s worth the money.  If your upper body is getting extremely tired on rides, then I’m assuming that your cockpit length is not right and you are putting too much weight on your arms.  Specialized Body Geometry Fits are offered at many Specialized dealers around the country and it doesn’t matter what brand of bike you ride. They do a great job.

If your fit is dialed and you are still getting tons of upper body fatigue, it might be time to consider some cross training to strengthen your upper body.  Many cyclists who don’t do any other sports suffer from muscle imbalances and lack of flexibility.  It might be worth it to throw in some gym time, swimming or rock climbing to balance and strengthen your upper body a bit more. Two key exercises are push-ups and up-right rows.

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What’s your best method of motivation to just get out and ride?

Q: I live in the northwest so sometimes getting out to ride in the winter can be a battle.  At a certain point during the winter you just get sick of staring at the wall on your trainer in the garage.  Whats your best method of motivation to just get out and ride? – J. Rickards

A: I have four things to say about winter cycling motivation:

1.  Do the short, hard days inside. The longer ones outside on skis or on foot.  It’s OK not to do all of your winter training in the saddle.

2.  Travel to somewhere warm and ride at least once during the winter.

3.  Solicit friends to suffer with you outside when the Spring weather is cold and rainy.

4.  Remember “pay now or pay later” and just get out the door.

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Have you ever questioned your training while racing the Leadville 100?

Q: Have you ever questioned your training while racing the Leadville 100? For example the asphalt climb from the lake on the way back in, have you put your head down and said yo yourself, wished I would have had a couple more long rides or wished I would have taken a few more rest days? – A. Morris

A: I don’t question my training during a race.  During the event, I am 100% in the moment and whatever I have on that day is what I’m going to race with.  It’s too late at that point to look back 2 weeks and wonder if you should have done something different.  By the time the race arrives, your physical preparation is done.  The only thing you can do at that point is blow it by not being mentally there.  I have had a cycling coach for 7 years and it has been the most valuable experience.  I have 100% confidence in my coaching and basically just try to do what I’m told to the best of my ability.  Of course, there is dialog during the season with my coach and things ebb and flow, but on the most basic level, I trust the coaching process to deliver to me to an event ready.  By the time I am riding up the asphalt climb from Turquoise Lake, I am really just taking one pedal stroke at a time and doing my very best in that moment to get myself to the finish line as fast as I can.  I put my head down, experience doubts in my ability and suffer just like everyone.  However, I don’t ever want to be in a race moment and think that I should have trained differently or done more work.  This is the kind of visualization that motivates me in April when I don’t want to do a hard workout that is on the schedule.  Pay now or pay later is sort of how I think about it.

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How do you get back into a training regimen after some time off due to traveling or injury?

Q: Last year, I had settled into a strict training and eating routine. I was in the best shape of my life. This year, life has really gotten in the way of any routine. I feel like I’m constantly starting up my training. How do you get back into a training regimen after some time off due to traveling or injury? – A. Nguyen

A: I can relate to getting off schedule and not feeling motivated.  It’s super hard to get back at it when you’ve lost momentum.  I rely heavily on friends and training partners as motivation to get me out the door and onto the bike or into the gym.  I also sign up for events on the horizon to instill even more motivation.  Finally, I rely on my coach to provide a daily road map.  It takes patience and time to get to where you want to be and you have to take it one small step at a time.  A coaching plan is essential to hold me accountable.

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You often do you enjoy beer/wine/spirits in race season?

Q: You often do you enjoy beer/wine/spirits in race season? How does is influence your training results? – B. Lyon

A: Everything in moderation!  Every choice you make influences your training in one way or another.

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How do you manage your time with family/friends, training & career?

As a pro athlete, and as busy as the world is …how do you manage spending time with family/friends and training for your career???

My friends and boyfriend all ride bikes and love to be outside, so our quality time revolves around sporting activities.  My family is another story, and I don’t see them enough.  I do try to schedule races near my Mom and she loves to come out and cheer and be part of the scene.

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I don’t have a road bike; how do I do intervals on dirt?

So I do not own a road bike, but I am trying to get ready to do a fifty miler.  How do I do intervals on dirt?

The same as you do them on the road.

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What is your base training schedule during the off season?

What is your base training schedule like during the off season?  What HR zones do you stay in when you are building up your base and how long do you do base work?  I am slowly getting back into cycling so I am trying to stay in Zone 2 and figure out how to do hills in the granny gear.  It’s tough getting passed by everyone but I have been told that it will make me stronger.

Be patient.  Easy base training is essential and something that many riders do not have the discipline to accomplish.  Staying in Zone 2 for base training is the normal recipe.  I put in multi hour days in the backcountry during the winter months.  How long you go just depends on the time you have available, but shoot for a couple long, easy workouts a week.  Don’t worry about the people passing you on the hills, you’ll be flying by them later in the season.

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What is the best way to incorporate races in preparation for goal race?

What is the best/most effective way to incorporate cross-country, or 50-100 mile race events into a preparation for a 24 hour solo goal race  and is it possible to treat these events as “”A”” races without detracting from the 24 solo program?

  You can absolutely incorporate other races into your training for a 24 Hour solo.  I do it all the time and it’s a fantastic way to get intensity training and also sort out your nutrition and gear for your “A” race.  You probably can’t choose and XC and a 24 Hour race both as “A” races and expect to do that well in both because the training for those distances is drastically different.  However, you could choose a 100 miler as another top goal as long as it’s not too close to the 24 hour race.  I find I need at least 3-4 weeks after a 24 hour solo to feel spunky again.  The first year I won Leadville, it was just 3 weeks after winning my 3rd 24 Hour World Championships.  I was unsure if I’d be recovered in time, but it worked beautifully.  For all the other races, just use them as training races and don’t worry about the result.   Save yourself for the one or two big goals during the season.

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What do you like to do to prepare for the demands of ultra-distance racing?

What is a key workout or workouts you like to do to prepare for the demands of ultra-distance racing?

 I love riding around my hometown of Ketchum Idaho and have a few regular epic rides that I really love to do.  One is about 4.5 hours and includes two 3000 ft climbs.  I like to do that ride and push the climbs, then enjoy the amazing mountain views and the huge descents.  I also like using other races as great training an motivation.  There’s nothing like a race to make you work hard and it’s a good excuse to go visit a new area to ride.

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I just read your post about being sick and your workout at the gym.

I just read your post about being sick and your workout at the gym. Do you incorporate gym/ply/weight workouts during season on a consistent basis?  If so, how many times per week and for how long?

  Yes I go to the gym 1-2 times per week.  I incorporate plyos as well.  It takes me no more than an hour to get in a really good gym workout.  I believe it’s super important for injury prevention, balancing your muscle groups and overall health.  I’m convinced that the reason I’ve been able to maintain a career as a pro athlete for so long is because I continue to do many different sports that keep my body balanced.

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I have a climber’s physique but I just don’t seem to be able to climb as well as I would want to.

First of all, thank you ever so much for answering my previous question. I have decided to follow your advice , pursue my dreams and try not to think so much about what obstacles might or might not pop up along my way. I’ll deal with that as I go along.

My major goal for this year is riding my first mtb century. It will be an amazing 162 k desert ride and it will involve some serious climbing which brings me to my question:

I have a climber’s physique but I just don’t seem to be able to climb as well as I would want to.  As long as the gradient is relatively moderate I do O.K. (but not brilliant) but when the going gets really steep I run into  difficulty. Throw in something technical to the climb and you’ll probably see me walking.

What training advice would you recommend? What is the best training method or methods to better my climbing abilities ?

 

Practice your weaknesses until they are no longer weaknesses.

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Can you advise me on proper nutrition intake before, during and after the marathon races?

I usually dread the marathon rides and races because mentally and physically, I am always done when I reach the 4 hrs threshold.  I would like to overcome this and do more marathon rides and races in 2011.  Can you advise me on proper nutrition intake before, during and after the marathon races?  Thank you!

Hammer Nutrition is a great resource for fueling information for sports.  Even if you don’t use their products, they have a ton of great info on their website.  Here’s what they say about fueling for endurance events and avoiding the dreaded bonk.  I hope this helps.

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Is there a way to compare power levels between my husband and I?

First, stop comparing yourself to your husband.  He is a different person and he is a male.  All athletes are individual and one person’s heart rate, power output or capacity is not the same as yours.  Even if you travel the same speed, everyone is different.  Power, heart rate and training numbers are only helpful in helping you compare yourself to yourself.  It sounds like you might be the kind of person who would benefit from a bit of personal coaching.  Lynda Wallenfels has a great program with different levels from online programs to fully personalized programs.  She’s an endurance athlete herself and really understands what mountain bike race training is all about.  Your second question about bike choice is a similar answer:  ignore what the guys are telling you and get yourself to a demo and try out some of these bikes yourself.  I love my ERA FSR, but you have to try it for yourself.  It depends on fit, personal riding preference, how much suspension you are looking for, if you will be racing, etc, etc, etc.

Check out Specialized Test the Best demo schedule to find when the next demo will be happening near you.

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How best is it to train at sea level to prepare for a mtn race? For example, is it sprint training, long rides, incorporating weight training?

Here’s what I found from Chris Carmichael on how to train for the mountains when you don’t live near any.

The No Climb Climbing Workout posted on Bicycling.com.  Chris also recommends hitting the gym hard, then getting straight on your bike to simulate a good powerful climbing workout.  I hope this helps.

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I’m starting to race by RPE on the run, and power on the bike as a triathlete

I’m starting to race by RPE on the run, and power on the bike as a triathlete.  I tried using an HRM before, but it just never worked.  I’d lose my signal in races, or it just wouldn’t work.

Since electronics fail, do you recommend focusing on learning true RPE with the HRM in training, validating it in races when available, and then applying it when something happens?  I’ve had a few races where my bike computer went out and gave up on using my HRM.  My RPE on the run was higher then what I thought it was and crashed early.

 

A:  Just like any mechanical tool, there are failures and you should not rely 100% on them.  However, a HR monitor is a very useful tool in learning your body and how it responds to training and racing stressors.  After more than 10 years of using a Suunto HR monitor, I know myself pretty well and can often guess my HR within a couple of beats based on perceived exertion.  Where the HR monitor really comes into play and is super useful is when you feel like you are working really hard, but the heart rate is not responding as you would expect.  There are times when my heart rate will not go high (such as at altitude, when I’m getting sick, when I’m over trained) and I still feel like I’m working very, very hard.  These are the types of situations where if you just went off perceived exertion, you could do the wrong thing and keep digging yourself into hole.  On the flip side, if my HR is popping up nicely right before a big event, it’s another affirmation that my peaking is working and I’m ready to race.  In my opinion, it’s a balance between using the heart rate monitor as a great tool, but also knowing your body well enough to pace yourself on your own.

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What is the best way for a person who lives 150′ above sea level to prepare for dealing with oxygen levels at 9K to 11K?

I’m planning on heading out to CO or UT next year for a family vacation and plan to take my bike with me.  What is the best way for a person who lives 150′ above sea level to prepare for dealing with oxygen levels at 9K to 11K?

I will have a short window of time and want to have to enjoy the surroundings without losing a lung in the process.

A:  You can’t really prepare without going to altitude.  Adjust your mindset a little when you get there and just take it easy on yourself.  You will not be able to go as fast or as long as you can at home.  You can still get out an enjoy the place, just keep the expectations in check.  Also the basics:  hydrate, eat well and avoid alcohol while at altitude if you want your body to respond the best it can.

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What percentage (if any) of your training do you do road rides and what is your focus on this rides?”

What percentage (if any) of your training do you do road rides and what is your focus on this rides?”

A:  road riding makes up about 40% of my training time.  I do a ton of road riding Spring and Fall when the trails in Idaho are not an option.  If I have a choice, I’ll ride my mountain bike, but the road bike is awesome for really specific interval workouts where I need to meter my efforts and stay consistent.  I also use the road bike for long, slow endurance rides in the Spring.

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When on the bike (training) what do you prefer?

When on the bike (training) what do you prefer? Point to point? Loops? GPS/preloaded maps? Whatever the road serves up? What is your favorite training workout.”

A:  Long, adventure rides are my favorite.  I love not knowing what’s around the next corner or how long it will take.  I prefer a regular, old fashioned paper map to a GPS, preloaded route plan.

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What is your fitness routine (workouts , eating, etc) in the ‘off season’ to keep you prepared for the next race season?

Q: Your fitness level is incredible to perform at the level you do!  What is your fitness routine (workouts , eating, etc) in the ‘off season’ to keep you prepared for the next race season?  Do you remain as focused or do you allow yourself some downtime?”

 

A:  I always take downtime each week, at regular intervals during the season and in the off season.  I believe it’s essential for my body and my mind to have a break from structured training.  However, focused training is also a big part of the equation.  I have a coach that keeps me dialed on this stuff.  For specific answers to training questions, read more of the archived askReba questions.

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Do you develop your own training plans for specific events

Do you develop your own training plans for specific events or do you have a coach that does that for you?

 

A;  I have a coach and he is essential for me.  He’s a mentor, friend, motivator, and coach.  I could not do my job without him.  For more info about Matthew and what he does, click on the Restwise website.

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I tend to get caught up in the numbers (pace, HR, distance, etc.

I tend to get caught up in the numbers (pace, HR, distance, etc.) and can get all “”heady”” while training. How do you honor the importance of this information while still having a good time in the process?  How often do you just ride and look at the data later?  ”

 

A:  Here’s this question answered previously from the Ask Reba Archives.

My Suunto T6d is the training partner I rely on the most.  It is the one piece of equipment that I use on EVERY ride, race or training session.  During training, yes I use it for pacing, to keep my prescribed workout on track and make sure I am training in the right zone for that day.  During races, I start my log, but I rarely look at it during the event.  During the event, I rely on perceived exertion and my own experience to race as hard as I can.  After the race is over, I will absolutely analyze the results with my coach.  We use all of the logs from my training session and races to customize my workouts so that I can get the best performance.  I accomplish more with the Movescount and the T6d because I can analyze so many more factors than just heart rate.

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What is the surest way to detect overtraining?

What is the surest way to detect overtraining and how would you remedy overtraining?

 

A:  Restwise.  This is an awesome tool for gauging stress and recovery and avoid overtraining.  There are a ton of factors that contribute to over training. This is the only tool I know of and have been able to rely on with confidence.

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What off bike training you do keep your lower back happy and healthy during long races?

Q:  Can you please talk about the off bike training you do keep your lower back happy and healthy during long races? - S. Anderson

A:  We all have our trigger points that flare up when we are most tired.  I do not suffer from lower back pain when I ride.  Mine tends to be more upper back and neck.  However, my boyfriend, Greg, who’s also a World Champion 24 Hour racer has struggled with lower back pain a ton.  He is able to combat this with really good hip flexor stretching on a regular basis.  According to my bodyworker, pain in one area is almost always tightness and weakness in an opposing muscle group.  You can stretch out your low back as much as you want, but you won’t fix the problem until you release the hips and hip flexors.  Foam rolling has saved Greg’s back and mine. Also, make sure you have a proper bike fit.  Too stretched forward on the bike can cause back issues too.

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How much do you rely on what your equipment, like HR monitor and computer, tell you versus how you feel? (02/11)

Q: How much do you rely on what your equipment, like HR Monitor and Computer, tell you versus how you feel, do you do exactly what the equipment says you should be doing for HR?  You are the Queen of Pain after all… - S. Herrara

A: The tools I use for training and recovery are my Suunto T6c and Restwise recovery system. I just got a brand new PowerTap that I have yet to learn how to use yet. Suunto and Restwise are basically my daily training partners and are essential to keeping me on track. They both give me numbers that help shape my training. My coach and I look at the numbers every single day, however, how I’m feeling must play a big role. People are not machines and the measuring tools we use are just guidelines.

Many times, if my heart rate is not responding how I’d like or my Restwise numbers are low, it tells me to back off on training and take a rest day. Tools like these are excellent guides as long as you supplement their use with your brain as well. I see many athletes just relying on a number on a digital readout instead of making intelligent training decisions. As a side note, when I’m racing, I have my HR monitor on, but don’t look at it until after the race is over. I rely on my own brain to pace during a race.

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How many avg miles do you run weekly to be in decent shape? And how do you stay out of injuries?

Q:  How many avg miles do you run weekly to be in decent shape? And how do you stay out of injuries? - M. Rodriguez

A: I run, ride, weight train about 6 days a week.  The mileage and amount of time depends totally on what part of the season it is and what I am training for.  I believe it’s not the number of hours you do, but the quality.  Even if you only have 45 minutes, you can get in a great interval session.  How much you train and rest is personal depending on your goals, life, injuries, job.  I have found that resting a lot, stretching, getting massage and cross training all help keep me injury free.

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Is it good to balance MTB and road biking, and is there a good ratio to achieve best conditioning for MTB performance?

Q: I started out road biking 8+ years ago, and added mountain biking this past year.  After winning an MTB race or two I left the road bike gathering dust for several months, exclusively riding the MTB.  In July I began to notice my endurance and cardiovascular ability was suffering and realized I had lost a lot of conditioning that road biking brings. Question:  Is it good to balance MTB and road biking, and is there a good ratio to achieve best conditioning for MTB performance? - J. Gaston

A:  Absolutely.  They both compliment each other really well.   Every single mountain bike racer I know from downhill to endurance also trains on the road bike for fitness.  I do most of my specific interval and hill training on the road bike because the variables are much easier to control and I can get a very consistent workout.  I save the tempo and long rides for the mountain bike.  I also throw in Cyclocross racing for some great intensity and bike handling skills.  I think spending time in each discipline will make you a more well rounded cyclist.

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When training for endurance events what percentage of your workouts are long rides versus interval training?

Q#1: When training for endurance events like Leadville 100 what percentage of your workouts are long rides versus interval training focusing on increasing your lactate threshold? – B. Barton

Q#2: At what point in your career did you seek help from a coach if you ever have and do you recommend a coach for someone looking to do a race like The Leadville 100 for the first time?

A#1: A SUPER OVERLY GENERAL estimate is 80% of time on a bike is long, easy and 20% is hard interval training.  This sort of equates to one long, easy day per week, two interval sessions and the rest active recovery or strength workouts.

A#2: I will say that there is nothing more effective than hiring a coach to help you train. I started using a coach about 6 years ago and regret that I did not do it sooner.  It has been the #1 biggest factor in my cycling success.  I think everyone should use a coach at some point in their riding lifetime.

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How should one stay in cycling shape over the winter so that warmer weather of spring won’t be such a shock?

Q: As colder weather approaches for most of the country, how should one stay in cycling shape over the winter so that warmer weather of spring won’t be such a shock? - E. Wray

A: I use winter as my off-season to regroup, re-balance my strength and spend time on other body parts that get neglected in the cycling season. I ski, run, weight train, stretch more and mix it up.  I do ride the trainer indoors just to keep the muscle memory in my legs, but this is only about 2-3 hrs per week maximum.  The rest of the time, I’m doing other sports and enjoying the outdoors in a different way.  I also plan at least one trip per winter to a warm weather destination to get on my bike outside.  Come Spring, I’m really motivated to ride and feel stronger and have less chance of injury due to the break in cycling.

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Can someone consider training for a longer race with only one hour a day M-F?

Q:  If you only had one hour a day to train for an endurance race, what would you recommend? Can someone consider training for a longer race with only one hour a day M-F, or is that seriously delusional? - J. Gleckman

A: You can train for an endurance race with 1 hour / day M-F provided you do two things.  First, you must make those 60 minute workouts high quality and very focused.  Secondly, you must fit in one long, multi-hour workout on the weekend. Chris Carmichael has a great book, The Time Crunched Athlete, that outlines programs specifically for people like you.  Chris says you can get fit, fast and strong in 6 hours a week.  Set your goal and make a plan.  It is not delusional if you commit to it.

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If you have a huge training day, but you wake up and cannot stand the idea of exercising, how do you motivate yourself?

Q: When training for an important event and, you have a huge training day but you wake up and absolutely cannot stand the idea of exercising, how do you motivate yourself?  Or do you listen to your body/mind and wait a day?  – B. Olwin

A: That depends on my Restwise score and what has been going on in my life.  Training programs are not set in stone and they need to be adapted to accommodate for life’s stresses such as work, injury, personal problems, etc.  If I don’t want to do the workout just because it’s raining, I’m feeling lazy and am otherwise fine, then I try to recruit friends to help get me out the door to do the workout with me.  Even if they cannot do the whole thing, I’ll ask someone to come out for my warm up, or to ride the first hour with me.  If I cannot find a friend to motivate me, then I usually turn to music as the training partner and just get out the door to get started.  Getting out the door is usually the hardest part for me. If my mind or body truly needs a break, then I take it and focus on a great recovery day and adjust the training plan with my coach.

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Is there any real way to IMPROVE my V02 Max, or am I just destine to be a mid-packer based on my genes?

Q:  Is there any real way to IMPROVE my V02 Max, or am I just destine to be a mid-packer based on my genes? – M. Windsor

A: Vo2 max doesn’t change with training, but Lactate Threshold, power output and metabolic efficiency DO!  Those markers are way more important in performance improvements than Vo2 max.  If it makes you feel any better, I have a fairly average Vo2 max, low lung volume and asthma.   However, I am really good at metabolizing fats, have improved my power steadily over the years and am still seeing measured fitness gains every year.  Mental toughness, skill and experience are also huge factors in performance success. I say, ignore your genes, hire a coach and see where you can take your fitness!

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What strategies do you implement when your mind is ready to take the pain but your body is not capable of responding?

Q: As the Queen of Pain, what strategies do you implement when your mind is ready to take the pain but your body is not capable of responding….does this get chalked up as mental weakness or have you even found times where you have to throw in the towel for a given effort? –  S. Venza

A: The mind is a powerful tool and in most cases, the body is capable of doing more, but the mind puts the brakes on.  Physical discomfort during a race is sending signals to our brains to make it stop.  After a certain point, we end up listening and the brain gives up when the body could keep going.  There are certain situations where an injury or some other physical problem is getting in the way of doing what our minds want to do.  The trick is to know the difference in our minds.  Are we slowing down or stopping because of regular race/training pain, or is there a real physical reason that requires us to stop so we don’t hurt ourselves?  I talk more about mental strategies and motivation in the Ask Reba Archives.  Yes, there have been times where I end a workout early if I’m not recovering between intervals and I’m not getting the training benefit anymore. This is not mental weakness, but smart training.  In races, I rarely quit.  There has to be something physically wrong with me to stop.  If I’m just not having the race I would like and not going fast enough, that is not reason enough to quit.  Instead, I try to forge on, get the training benefit and keep riding.  In endurance events, this often still works out to a high placing where attrition is happening all through the field.

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Do you ever feel the need to take off the watch (and any other gadgets) and just ride without the numbers?

Q: Do you ever feel the need to take off the watch (and any other gadgets) and just ride without the numbers? – J. Vance

A: I’ve answered this question before. Please look in the archives under “Training” and “Motivation”

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How do you feel about doing intervals on an indoor trainer?

Q: I like to do my intervals on the indoor trainer, but friends say it is best to do them outside on the road bike to simulate the actual strain on the body.    However, I feel like intervals on the trainer are more effective.  On the trainer I can easily monitor my cadence, heart rate, time remaining for the interval, and really pay attention to how my body feels.   It’s very focused and precise.   Trying to do intervals on the road, I think, produces less valuable results.  You have to juggle so many things like cars, other riders, elevation gain/loss, intersections…all of which require you to keep your head up and pay attention to your surroundings. It doesn’t allow much time at all to watch the interval time, cadence, or heart rate. It makes it almost impossible to stay above 110rpms with the road at an incline approaching an intersection.  So, how do you feel about doing intervals on an indoor trainer?   Is it okay to do them on the trainer or do I need to just buck up and learn how to manage all of the factors involved in doing intervals on the road?? – S. Reynolds

A:  I’d say yes to both.  I get what you are saying about the controlled elements on a trainer.  Yes, they are affective and you will get the HR and leg training you are looking for.  Outdoors, you do have to deal with balance on the bike, which affects a million tiny muscle groups that are not being trained indoors.  Your senses, your awareness are also being trained.  If you race outdoors, it might be good to at least make sure you are riding outdoors enough to get those benefits as well.  Unless it’s snowing, I prefer to do my intervals outdoors just because they are more motivating for me that way.  I also have some great, secluded places to ride my road bike.  I’m not sure where you live, but it is important to find a place to do your hard work where you can eliminate some of the distractions such as traffic lights and cars.

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How do you stay on form throughout most of the year and never get burned out on the bike?

Q: I love to ride and I race road, mtb and ‘cross (even raced along side of you in Moab in the past – well, behind you!) and mix my training between bikes.  My question to you is how do you stay on form throughout most of the year and never get burned out on the bike?  I am happiest when on my bike but some days I look at them and think: “”I’m going kayaking!!” – E. Moody

A:  Then you should go kayaking!  My coach and I specifically build in fun training that will keep me mentally fresh.  For example, I Nordic and backcountry ski all winter long.  During the season, there are specific times where Matthew will schedule a long backcountry ride with friends or a hike with no specific agenda.  I am a firm believer that variety is the spice of life.  Also, your kayaking is going to be a great strength workout that will help your cycling and your overall health.

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Do you use weights to train in the off season?

Q: Do you use weights to train in the off season? – A. Davis

A: From the archives: Yes. I use both resistance training and plyometrics in my training. Both are fabulous for strength, muscle balance, injury prevention, power and speed of muscle contractions. Cycling alone is not enough. It’s also not a weight bearing exercise, so for joint, bone and ligament strength, it’s important to do weight bearing exercise in addition to your riding. Weights and plyos can be used all year. Just bear in mind that they are fatiguing, so you have to work them into your training schedule in a way that does not hinder your other hard workouts. 
I do box jumps, squat jumps, telemark jumps, and bounding. These are all great for explosive leg power. I throw them into the middle of a run or do them in the gym along with a more traditional weight workout.

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How do you handle this time of the year (Oct/Nov)?

Q: I live in Wisconsin, it’s starting to get cold here, like Idaho. It’s such a tough transition for me when it gets cold. I am able to get outside xc skiing, running, and biking on weekends when its above 20F. I draw the line at 20F.  But mentally, I find it so tough starting around November. By February, I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. How do you handle this time of the year? – J. Pierce

A: Motivation in the fall and winter is also hard for me.  Like you, I’m not tough enough to ride outside when it’s super cold.  I use the winter to hit the gym, do more yoga, cross country and backcountry ski.  I leave the cycling til it’s much warmer.  I sent up my bike trainer in the house and watch a ton more TV than I normally would, but it keeps me active.  I also plan one or two trips each winter to escape the snow and put in some time on my bike outdoors.  I look forward to these mini breaks and they help keep me motivated.

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What is your best off-season workout to prep for endurance races?

Q: What is your best off-season workout to prep for endurance races? why? examples… – D. Sorenson

A: Backcountry and cross country skiing are my main off season workouts that keep me fit over the winter.  Backcountry skiing is excellent for long, multi-hour days of activity.  Hiking uphill for hours is great for the legs and the lungs.  I change the uphill hikes as I would a bike workout.  Sometimes I hike at easy, conversational L1 pace.  Other days, I will do hiking intervals of 5 minutes near threshold L4, then 5 minutes easy, or 20 minute sub threshold efforts.  I can sprinkle a bit of structure in and still have a great day in the backcountry with friends.  I use cross country skiing in a similar fashion.  XC skiing is less of a muscular loading workout than backcountry skiing is, so I use this sort of skiing for harder, shorter intervals and also long, slow endurance sessions.  The bottom line is my muscles, lungs and heart are getting a great workout even if I’m not cycling.  I keep up a little bit of indoor bike trainer time per week just to keep the cycling muscles firing as well.

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Would running improve my fitness on the bike or hurt it?

Q: Would running improve my fitness on the bike or hurt it? - J. Silva

A: I am a supporter of cross-training for life-long health.  Running is a very “quick bang for the buck” workout and is easy to do when traveling or if you are short on time.  It is also a great way to include a weight bearing exercise into your fitness regime.  It’s well documented that cyclists have a lower bone density than other athletes in weight bearing sports.  Throwing in a couple of short runs per week will help your cycling, give you some variety and expand your fitness.  I usually run twice a week for 30-60 minutes at an easy pace.  These workouts are often on the front end of a weight training day as a warm up, or as a recovery day between harder cycling workouts.  You can also throw in a few sprints and plyometrics into the run for a more complete workout.

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What are some ways I can maximize the impact of the little training time I have to myself?

Q: I’m a working mom with a full time job and a toddler, and as a new mom I discovered mtb and adventure racing as a way to keep my former self alive. When my son turned 1, my husband helped me get to the finish line of my first successful adventure race (after my 3 pre-kid DNFs and 21 mtb-induced stitches). We ended up qualifying for, and finishing, 24h nationals that year. As our kid grows up,  we seem to have less time to train. But I don’t want to give up racing. What are some ways I can maximize the impact of the little training time I have to myself? - K. Cross

 

A: Congrats on the AR success!  It shows that persistence pays off.  I realize that I’m in an ultra endurance sport, however, I train less hours now than I used to.  I have learned to be more efficient with my time and make the most of my workouts.   You can do the same.  Keep up the key workouts such as short, hard interval days and one easy long day per week.  Even if you only have an hour, you can get in a great interval session, complete with warm up and cool down.  The rest of the workouts are important, but not as crucial.   It will take commitment and juggling between you and your husband, but I know it can be done.  One of my main training partners is now the mother of two small twin boys and works a few days a week.  She has very little time to get out of the house, but even on that schedule, she managed an age group podium at mountain bike marathon nationals this year.   For specific ideas and workouts, I’d recommend checking out Chris Carmichael’s book, The Time Crunched Cyclist.  There is some great info in there on how to make the most of your time and make it count.

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While the Sun Valley area is high, do you feel that the training you get prepares you for races over 8000 ft?

Q: I just had the opportunity to ride in your back yard (Sun Valley, ID) for four days last week.  I now totally understand how you can race at such a high level, as the trails are amazing and brutal all at the same time.  My question is: while the Sun Valley area is high, do you feel that the training you get leaves you prepared for races over 8000 ft?  If not what do you do to compensate for the difference in elevation with a limited training schedule at home? – J. Higley

A: I know that training in Sun Valley where I ride between 6000 and 9000 feet on a regular basis helps prepare me for other high altitude venues. When entire races are at really high (above 9000′) I try to arrive early enough to acclimate. Following is what I did my first two years in Leadville:

There are various theories of acclimatization, but two common threads seem to run throughout most of them.
1. Go plenty early to acclimatize if possible, or
2. If you cannot do #1, then go as late as possible.

I tried out both of these theories for the 2009 and 2010 Leadville Trail 100. In 2009, I could not spare the time to acclimatize properly, so I arrived in Leadville Thursday afternoon and raced on Saturday morning. The general thought is that your body has not yet realized what you are doing to it. From many reports, the third day at altitude seems to be the worst, so avoid that dreaded time frame if possible.

For 2010, my coach and I discussed a strategy for going earlier to acclimatize. In his findings, it takes at least 10 days to be 85% acclimatized, three weeks to get to about 95% and a full 5 weeks to get all the way there. Due to my race schedule, I could only squeeze in a 10-day stay up in Leadville prior to the event. I won both years, so perhaps that’s proof that both theories work.

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How is your use of Twitter and participation in online communities affect your day-to-day training and racing?

Q: How is your use of Twitter and participation in online communities affect your day-to-day training and racing? (Do we motivate you like you motivate us!?) - C. Birch

A: I have to be honest, I love social media and I hate it sometimes too!  I love the interaction and how connected people are.  It’s so great to see what my high school friend is doing, to get really great props from a fan I’ve never met and to keep up with other athletes in real time.  However, there are days when it feels like a job to communicate.  If I’ve done an amazing ride, seen a rainbow and an elk, can’t I just soak in that experience without having to document it?  Did it really happen if I don’t Twitter about it?  I ride the middle line on this topic.  I know people want to hear stories and I could probably communicate more, but sometimes, I just want to wash my bike, stretch and enjoy a great day without turning on the computer.  I love to hear that people are motivated by my endeavors and if I encourage someone to get after it, then the time on the computer is worth it.  We are a social society and there is strength and motivation that we all get from each other. Yes, I am motivated by stories from friends, family and strangers who write to me.  It makes it all seem worth it instead of writing into a black void and wondering if I’m wasting my time.  If someone out there is reading and is inspired then that motivates me and I’ll keep posting stuff as best as I can.

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How much actual riding versus strength training will you do in a one week period?

Q: What types of training will you do to prepare for a season? Meaning, how much actual riding versus strength training will you do in a one week period? I am looking for improvements in my riding and just wondering if I should be doing more strength training or if I should just add miles to my rides. – G. Sanchez

A: Tough question and “yes” to both is really the answer.  I’m convinced, and so are the exercise scientists, that strength training is key for performance, injury prevention, explosive power and muscle recruitment.  However, I know it’s hard to fit it all in.  Off season is really when I spend more time in the gym and as I start traveling, those workouts get sidelined.  Put in the strength work now and if  you can carry it through the season, you will see benefits.  The season will go in phases, but strength training is a great way to bump up your cycling performance.

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What’s your training approach for the fall? What can we all be doing now to make for a strong next season?

Q: What’s your training approach for the fall? What can we all be doing now to make for a strong next season? – J. Sagebiel

A: Fall and Winter is foundation time.  Start letting the body and mind recover and rejuvenate from a hard season, but stay active.  I get back into the gym this time of year to even out muscle groups that have been neglected.  I stretch more, do some hiking, running and skiing when the snow flies.  I am putting in hours and time, but it’s less structured and strict than the usual race season training.  Around December, things start to get more structured.   Your training will depend on how soon you start racing in 2012, but the bottom line is to make sure you start the season strong, limber, injury free and motivated.  Do whatever it takes this Fall to be sure you enter your season prepped in this way.

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How do you motivate to workout in the morning?

Q: Do you have any advice for changing from an afternoon exercise routine to a morning one?  I am having a real hard time waking up in the mornings and getting motivated to work out in the mornings instead of the afternoons. – S. Durham

A:  Ouch.  If I could answer this one for you, I’d do it myself.  I’m generally NOT a morning person despite my best efforts.  I have tried, but my natural rhythm is to do smaller workouts in the AM, such as a short run or gym, and save the really hard stuff for the afternoon.  Some people are just wired this way.  If I really need to push myself to do early workouts, it’s pretty essential that I rally the troops and arrange to meet someone else.  That’s sort of the only way I can be held responsible and not roll back over in bed and hit the snooze button.

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What does a typical week of winter training look like for you?

Q: With the winter months coming and the racing season ending.  What is your plan for training during these cold times?  What does a typical week of winter training look like for you? – G. Lyons

A: Greg, please reference similar questions in the training section of my askReba archives. I will add that, this winter, as usual, I’ll be Nordic skiing and backcountry skiing.  I will also be taking a few more bike trips than I have before.  I have a training camp in Tucson with Carmichael Training Systems and will head to Argentina for Trans Andes at the end of January.  In between those trips, I will be doing the usual winter training.

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Do you feel not riding in the winter is actually helpful?

Q: Do you feel living in Idaho and not being able to get on the bike at anytime in the winter is actually helpful in keeping you from burn out on training?  Due to this are you more excited when riding season comes and more mentally ready to get back on the bike? – B. Barton

A:  Yes, living in Idaho is a forced time off the bike and serves as a mental and physical break from training.  I am still active in the winter and still have specific training but it’s more creative and varied than my training in during the riding months.  I take the time in the winter to do drills on the trainer to improve my pedal stroke.  I get to the gym to stretch and work on strength and I do plenty of walking uphill on skis.  I also plan a few riding trips during the winter to keep the muscle memory in my legs.  Come Spring, I am very motivated to ride and get back on the bike.  This schedule does make it tough for me to be super sharp in the early season races, but it also allows me to be motivated and strong all the way through the end of the season in November.  The bottom line is that I live in Idaho because I love it here.  Everyone has to make sacrifices and figure out a way to train that works with their lifestyle.  There is no one perfect training solution for everyone.

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What do you think is the best way to stay in shape in areas with lots of snow and cold?

Q: What do you think is the best way to stay in shape in areas with lots of snow and cold? – B. Thompson

A:  Embrace Nordic and backcountry skiing and plan a couple of winter riding trips to warm places.  Really, it’s not that hard to do.  You just have to be OK with putting the bike away and get into the sports that are available during the cold months.

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How important is a good looking kit? What’s the most hideous kit you’ve ever seen? (11/2011)

Q: How important is a good looking kit?   What’s the most hideous kit you’ve ever seen (at a race or training/fun ride)? – C. Cataneda

 

A:  A good looking kit is KEY!  It’s like a super-hero putting on their cloak or a knight stepping into their armor.  Your kit needs to make you feel fast and invincible!  You need to WANT to put it on and be proud to stand on the start line.  I hate to say it, but for me the most hideous kit was my very own 2008 race kit.  I call it The Pink Year.  There’s nothing wrong with the color pink.  Some people love it.  I do not.  It doesn’t suit me one bit and despite being female, I’ve never gravitated towards pink.  I’m attaching a photo for full comic relief.  I looked like a highlighter and I was embarrassed.  I will say I got really fast during the pink year.  My theory was if I had to wear a hideous kit, then I’d dang well better make up for it by winning.  It’s harder to make fun of someone if they are in front of you, right?

Rebecca’s 2008 Kit

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How do you adjust/set up your light for very dense fog at night?

Q: How do you adjust/set up your light for very dense fog at night? – S. Butler

A:  There is no fog adjustment on the Light and Motion lights that I use.  There are different settings for high, medium and low beams.  I do ride with two lights, one on my helmet and one on my handlebar.  I will position the helmet mounted light beam further out the trail and my handle bar mounted light more towards the ground in front of my front wheel.  This set up gives me the most peripheral vision and the longest reach for high speed riding.  Light and Motion’s background is in underwater photography lighting and dive equipment, so they are well versed at designing lights that have the best vision in rain or fog.   All of their bike light housings are also water resistant and I haven’t found a need to look for anything different in rain, fog, sandy or other challenging conditions.

 

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What does it take to come out in the spring with that same killer instinct you had before the snow arrives?

Q: Obviously the winters are long where you live.  What do you do to keep that mental fire strong. What does it take to come out in the spring with that same killer instinct you had before the snow arrives? – C. Fowler

A:  The forced break is actually a motivator for me.  Come Spring I am chomping to get back on the bike because I’ve been away from it.  I do a small amount of indoor trainer time in the winter and schedule a couple of winter bike trips to warmer places, just to keep the riding fire stoked.

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Could I improve my game using a power meter or speedometer?

Q: I tend to race based on feel and how much power I think I can put down for the duration of the event, rather than using a power meter or even a speedometer.  Do you think I could significantly improve my game with a more scientific approach? – M. Robb

A:  Yes.  A scientific approach to training really works.  I’m living proof that you can get faster even as you get older.  The biggest reason I’ve had success on the bike is that the last five years I have embraced a more scientific approach to training.  Power meters and HR monitors are great for gauging your training and seeing improvements or drop offs that tell you to take a break.  I use these tools in training with great success.  However, I also think some people can get too addicted and reliant on the science.  I rarely look at these sort of measurements when I’m racing.  I race by feel and will look at the statistics afterwards.  There is a happy medium where you can use the technology to greatly improve your riding, but where you can also turn it off and rely on your experience to push you through a race.

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What is the best performance facility you have attended/worked out?

Q: What is the best performance facility you have attended/worked out? – M. Fox

A:  The USSA Center of Excellence in Park City, UT.  I did not have the pleasure of working out there, but got to visit and give a speech.  The facility is world class with trampolines, giant ski treadmills and more equipment than you can imagine.  It it the kind of place that is state of the art, but still motivating and you could picture getting sweaty and wanting to work hard there.  The giant photos of Olympians scattered on the walls watching over the gym would provide major motivation as well.

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Is there time in your race training to just go and kick it on a hometown trail?

Q: Is there time in your race training to just go and kick it on a hometown trail? Or does it always feel like your training for the next person to pass? – W. Godfrey

A:  I kick it on my hometown trails quite a bit.  The reason I live in Ketchum, ID is the world class single track and a thriving bike community of friends who will go out and ride for hours on a regular basis.  Much of my training is low level volume training and those are the days I save for long rides with friends, where the goal is a big day in the saddle and NOT at race pace.  I look forward to these workouts mentally and physically.

 

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How do you stay so BUFF?

Q: Reba, how do you stay so BUFF? – I. Wysong

A: LMFAO!!  “I work out”

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Do you have tips on training for a cross-USA cycling adventure?

Q: Do you have any good tips on training for my upcoming cross country cycle adventure? – Meagan D.

A: Hey Meagan, I’m not a coach, so I’m going to refer you to Carmichael Training Systems. They have great programs and a few good, simple books to kick start your fitness.  I work with them and they coach every type of athlete.  This month I will be offering a coaching discount through them as well, so stay tuned on the website for more info.  In the meantime, I think Chris’s book, The Time Crunched Athlete has some great workouts to start putting into your plan.  Congrats on signing up for such a big adventure!!!!

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What is your best motivation strategy for those days when you feel tired/behind/slow?

Q: What is your best motivation strategy for those days when you feel tired/behind/slow and/or how do you get yourself out of bed for early morning workouts? – L. Malone

A: First, I really, really try to avoid early morning workouts.  I’ve tried and my body just doesn’t respond well.  I try to tailor my day so that I can do my hard workouts when I have the most energy.  If you must do early morning workouts, then it’s key to have a training buddy to keep you from rolling back over and blowing off the workout.

Second, finding motivation is a continual struggle for ALL athletes.  There are just days where it’s hard and not going well.  During those times, I practice positive talk to myself, try to forgive myself if I’m not as fast as I want to be and focus on the fact that I’m doing the work and that’s better than not doing it.  I also have a few visual cues I bring into my head of really great race finishes or highlights in my career that mean a lot to me.  Those moments seem so far away when you’re having an off training day, but I think about those and remind myself that all of these little building blocks must be in place in order to have those special moments.  When that fails, just keep plugging along and stop listening to the negative talk in your head.

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What do you do if you get pain sticks with you for days and won’t give up?

Q: I know you have pain.  I know that you keep going through the pain.  But, what do you do if you get pain sticks with you for days and won’t give up?  Do you resort to meds or do you have another way? – J. Cochran

A: Truthfully, I’ve been quite lucky in avoiding chronic pain and injury.  I attribute this to good genes,  a multi-sport lifestyle and fairly regular stretching and foam rolling.   I am rarely in a situation where I have to take pain medications.  I have a great PT who’s a personal friend and on my speed dial.  I have ice packs and Epsom salts at home.  Muscle fatigue is combated with rest, Epsom salt baths, massage and stretching.  Injury pain is taken care of with ice packs, a call to my PT, rest and usually some sort of movement exercise to work through the injury. If any sort of pain is lasting for more than a few days, then it’s time to visit a professional and figure out what’s going on.  Rest is the common theme here.  Our bodies can handle an immense amount of work, but only if you allow them to recovery and rejuvenate in between.  Good luck.

 

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How do you organize your training for a 100 mile race?

Q: I am a xc racer and am training for my first 100 mile MTB race. Traditional training theory says you should build a large aerobic base with lots of miles during the winter, and lessen the miles and up the intensity as you get closer to your goal event. This approach doesn’t make sense when prepping for ultra distances. How do you organize your training year? Do you build mileage throughout the year? –  D. Gillespie

A: Debbie- Welcome to the world of endurance!  The basic training principles are still similar to your XC training.  Yes, I’m building mileage now and will continue to build on that throughout the year and even from year to year.  Yes, I will do more intense shorter workouts as I get closer to my key events.  The biggest difference for you will be that instead of training for a 1.5 hr race, you are training for a multi-hour race.  The principles are the same, but the distances and lengths of intervals and workouts will be higher.

You may do more threshold training in endurance racing than you would for XC.   XC racing is also great training for endurance.  I use my home XC and short track races for workouts leading up to 100 milers.  Happy training.

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Would you rather RU(c)SH to a bike race serving your favorite replacement drink.. or to a fasion show/movie premier serving wine?

Q: Would you rather RU(c)SH to a Bike Race serving your favorite replacement drink.. or to a fasion show/movie premier serving wine? – Mud Honey Cylcling Team

A: Ohhhhh Noooo!  Can’t I do both?  I love bike racing and I really do try to hold myself to a hard and fast rule to drink my recovery drink before I have an adult beverage.  After I’ve downed my Recovery Brew, all bets are off.   Besides, a girl can’t be all bike racing all the time.

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Do you change your nutrition strategy the week before a 100 mile race?

Q: Do you change your nutrition strategy the week before a 100 mile race? Details please :)S. Anderson

A: Not really.  In the words of my coach: the week before a 100 miler, your work is done and all you can do is mess it up at this point.  He always has me focus on very light training, healthy eating, low stress levels, good sleep, maintain hydration.  It’s not rocket science and I really just try to be as healthy as possible all year ‘round, but for sure I clean things up a bit nutritionally as I get closer to a big event.  The only big change I make is nearly eliminating dairy products because it seems to aggravate my asthma.

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When your on a training ride do you stop to take breaks?

Q: When your on a training ride do you stop to take breaks, to refuel, etc. or do simulate racing as much as possible? – H. Williams

A:  This sort of depends on the ride.  If I’m out on a long, fun relaxing ride with friends, then I stop and take pictures, eat snacks, etc.  If I’m doing a specific training workout like intervals and the job at hand is more defined, then I do practice race techniques and eat on the bike.  I think it’s good to be able to do both.  It’s not always about the racing.  You have to take time to enjoy the ride as well.

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What part of your season do you feel strongest?

Q: What part of your racing season (beginning, middle, or end) do you feel the strongest and has it changed over time because of your training? – J. Morgan

A: This is sort of a trick question because there are days, races and segments of every season where I feel strong and weak.  Sometimes this feeling of greatness or weakness is separated by only one day.  One of the really challenging parts of a specific training plan is that you are constantly building yourself up and tearing yourself down and doing it over again.  Over the course of a season, there may only be one or two races where I really feel like I’m strong.  The rest of the time, the process of getting stronger and fitter can feel like voodoo and I am not always sure where I stand.  It takes a strong will and some good pep talks from friends and a coach to keep psyched during this building process.  There is a direct science to training, but there is also the mental aspect to all of this and the necessary trust in the process.  For me it is absolutely essential to have a coach to guide me and tweak things when they are not going well.  Many people thing pro athletes are just strong all the time, but this is not the case.  We are all human.  I regularly get beaten at local races and have to swallow my pride and have confidence that I will be strong when it matters.  So, to answer your question, training and coaching has made me realized how amazing a planned peak can be.  It’s absolutely intoxicating, but it will not last.  I have also learned how quickly you have to let that performance go and begin the work all over again for the next one.  Yes, it’s a cruel reality, but it keeps us all working and training hard.  FYI, need great coaching?  Go to Carmichael Training Systems and get $100 off if you use the referral code “Queen of Pain” to sign-up.  It’s not a sales pitch, this absolutely works.

 

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Do you have a key workout or ride you do to see where your fitness is at?

Q: Do you have a key workout or ride you do to see where your fitness is at? – T. Pitman

A: Not really.  I know that coaches always say you should have a ride like this to do as a regular gauge, but I don’t.  I have always shied away from this sort of a “test” because I am always so much better in a race than a personal time trial on my own.  I’m just not always able rally the same sort of motivation and intensity alone as I can in a race.  I just started implementing training with power this year and am using the SRAM Quarq power meter on my mountain bike and road bike with the Garmin 500.  Despite my reservations and not being a huge numbers geek, I absolutely love it.  These sort of numbers have been an awesome way to see average power numbers over the training months without having to do a specific time trial test on a designated course.  I can see average 5 min and 20 min powers on races, training, and compare them over time.

 

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Can I become faster at age 50?

Q: I’m 50, started riding a MTB 5 or 6 years ago, race Cat 2 in small, local XC races. Am I crazy to think I can ramp it up now, find a training program & move on up to the front half of the pack at this late date?

Could you recommend a short list of coaches and/or training programs to look into? I don’t want to get bogged down in the search, I want to get out there and learn, and train! – S. Bowen

 

Q: Are you kidding me?  I’m living proof that it’s never too late to get faster!  If you just started 5 or 6 years ago and have never had coaching, you have nowhere to go but up!  Isn’t that exciting?!!!  Coaching works and I attribute going faster as I get older to race experience, maturity, good coaching, smarter training and recovery.  I would recommend Carmichael Training Systems  and “interview” a few coaches over there.  What I like about CTS is that they are all athletes and racers themselves, so they really get it and understand the passion.  They specialize in cycling and endurance, so it’s right up your alley.  A coach is really a personal relationship, so choose someone you hit it off with.  They have lots of great ones, but I think Jane Rynbrandt and Adam Pulford are top notch peeps.  Also, if you mention “Queen of Pain” as a referral when you sign up, you get $100 off!

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Is it possible to split up endurance workouts and still get the benefit?

Q: Sometimes my busy work schedule keeps me from getting in a 3-4 hour endurance paced effort during the week.

Is it possible to split up endurance workouts, i.e. a 1-2 hour session before work and a 1-2 hour session after work and still get the benefit doing the longer ride. – M. Kesecker

A: According to my CTS coach Dean Golich, the long session is still better than two short ones.  There are all sorts of adaptations that your body goes through in long, endurance efforts that are not replicated with multiple shorter efforts.  Still, life sometimes has to predict how and when we can train.  Two shorter sessions is still better than not doing anything.  Check out Chris Carmichael’s Time Crunched Athlete  for good suggestions on how to make the most of the time you do have.

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How should intervals be setup to best boost fitness?

Q: How should intervals be setup to best boost fitness and how close to a race is it OK to do intervals? – K. Andersen

 

A: That is a HUGE question that cannot be answered simply.  Intervals are an essential part of training, so you should be using them.  They can be used all year, but there are so many different types of intervals with different focus, so there is not one clear answer to say “do intervals this way to get more fit.”  Longer intervals vs. shorter ones train different systems in the body and are used in different ways.  You should for sure be doing intervals, but how to add them to your training properly takes some education.  Get a coach, click here and save $100 with Carmichael Training Systems if you mention my name.  I can’t say enough for coaching and having a personalized road map to where you want to go.  If coaching’s not for you, check out some interval and workout ideas in this book.  The tips are short and to the point.

Time Crunched Athlete.  Good luck.

 

 

 

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Can I work on a lower heart-rate?

Q: I notice that your average heart rate, for what I can only assume are hard efforts!, remains low.  Is this something that took time to achieve?  I am 50 and run an average of 149 to 159 for a hard effort ride.  I consider myself a strong rider, which makes me wonder if each body is different or if this is something to be worked on.  Your thoughts? – M. Jespersen

A: Yes, every person is completely different and heart rates are 100% individual.  Numbers vary by gender, age, fitness, and genetics.  You can’t really look at someone else’s heart rate and compare numbers to gauge fitness or effort.

For example, one of my main training partners is consistently about 20 bpm higher than I am.  We can do the same workout, same effort and have drastically different HR numbers.  The only way to really know your own HR levels is to get a lactate threshold test in a lab. I highly recommend this, even for the recreational athlete.  What this does is give you a clear measure of where your training zones are so that you can train more efficiently and waste less time.  Check out Carmichael Training for more info on testing and coaching.  I highly recommend getting a road map to help you out.

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How can I train to recover more quickly after a hill?

Q: After a long hill climb, I have so much trouble letting my legs recover fast enough to dig back in to my ride. Any training tips? – S. Lowery

A: Check your gearing while you’re climbing.  If you are pushing a big gear and really fatiguing your muscles and building up tons of lactic acid, it’s hard to recover and come back from that.  You might need to work on being more efficient on the climbs.  Play with trying to spin in an easier gear and higher RPM uphill so that you have something left for the rest of the ride.  You can time your RPMs to see what your pedal speed is and compare your miles per hour at different cadences on the same climb.  Often, you can go just as fast with a higher cadence and save your muscles.  Even if you are climbing slightly slower with a higher cadence, you will still have something left for the rest of the ride.

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Best coach for mtb skills and fitness for non-elite rider?

Q: How can a non-elite rider in a small town find or choose a good coach for mtb skills & fitness? – S. Bowen

A: I know I say this all the time, but I’m a believer! Get a coach!  No matter what your level, where you live or what your goals are, you will get there quicker with a bit of expert guidance.  I work with Carmichael Training.  You can check it out for a trial 3 months and I guarantee you will learn more than you expect.  If you mention my name, you also save $100!

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What is the most effective way for me to be prepared for Leadville [altitude]?

Q: I have followed you on FB and other social medias for a few years now.  I really enjoy seeing what and where a pro is up to.  I started racing adventure races about 5 years ago and have switched over to primarily mtb and marathon races.  I am committing myself to race and finish Leadville MTB in 2014.  My question is:

Being from Phoenix and nearly no altitude here.  What is the most effective way for me to be prepared for Leadville?  I have done Old Pueblo as a solo rider, but there is no altitude in that race really. – S. Thomas

 

A: Congrats on identifying and committing to a worthy goal!  As a lowlander, training for a race that starts at 10,200 ft can be a challenge.  Definitely incorporate hill climbing workouts into your training schedule.  If you are able to take a couple of trips up to altitude in the months leading up to the event, this will help your body acclimatize more easily for the big event.  For the event itself, it takes nearly 3 weeks to fully acclimatize at altitude.  For Leadville, I’ve gone out approximately 10-14 days early.  If you do not have at least a week prior to the race, then the next best theory is to go to altitude just 24 hours before the event.  The “death zone” where you will feel the worst is about 3 days after arriving at altitude.  The body is trying to adjust and has not yet started to be able to build more red blood cells.  After that period, you are on the upswing, but I recommend more than a week to really start feeling like yourself again up that high.  Bottom line:  train as best as you can, hydrate when you get there and the more fit you are, the better you will handle the altitude.  See you out there.

 

 

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What do you do to train for cycling when the snow flies?

Q: We both live in ski towns in the Northwest, what do you do to train for cycling when the snow inevitably flies? – M. Oakley

A: I cross-country ski (GREAT FITNESS), backcountry ski, do a little bit of trainer time inside, get back into the gym and book trips to warmer climates at least a couple of times per winter to ride my bike.  I actually enjoy mixing it up and I think the time off the bike is rejuvenating for me mentally and physically.

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How do you go “deeper in the pain cave” on a trainer?

Q: Put me (49yo) on a punchy climb up some loamy tractor scarred two track, and my heart rate threatens to blow up my heart rate monitor…strapped to a trainer and I struggle to reach steady state. How to go deeper in the pain cave? – S. Guse

 

A:  Ah Grasshopper, the answer is between your ears.  You must learn to go to the dirt track in your mind.  It can be done and you will be stronger if you can master this.

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How cold and nasty does it have to get before you’ll workout indoors?

Q: How cold and nasty does it have to get before you’ll workout indoors?  Do you use rollers, a trainer, mountain rollers, cross-training i.e. yoga or swimming? Do you find it hard to stay motivated?

If you do go out in nasty weather, what changes do you make to your bike and to what you wear?

Just curious. I saw an interesting article about a woman who rides all winter in Canada and actually explained how to stud your own tires.

 

A: When I ride outside, I don’t put studs in my tires or fenders on my bike. If it’s that snowy and crappy out, I go skiing or ride inside.  I’m definitely NOT tough enough to ride in Idaho all winter.  That’s what skiing’s for.  I get some really good aerobic training done on Nordic skis and backcountry skiing.  I do ride inside and split my time between a traditional trainer and e-motion rollers.  I do believe there’s value in spending some time on the bike each week, although it’s not a huge chunk of time for me.  It’s quality vs. quantity on the indoor bike.  It also keeps my coach at CTS happy if he can see power numbers, cadence and all of the usual stuff that makes his brain spin.

That said, if the roads are not icy, I will happily head outside to ride if it’s above 35 and not raining.  I always take shell gloves, shell jacket, Buff on my head and an extra layer, just in case.  I wear booties, wool socks and wool under layers that will stay warm when wet.

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How do you handle burnout and exhaustion?

Q: After a long season of travel, racing and eating gels, how do you handle burnout and exhaustion? What do you do to recharge so that the training doesn’t seem so overwhelming come next season? – T. Downs

 

A:  I spend time at home doing other sports, re-connecting with friends, getting my life in order and schedule non-training specific workouts.  I don’t shut down completely because it’s hard to get back to training if you take too much time off, but it’s really just activity with friends, enjoying the late season fitness, but with no real goals or times in mind.  It’s one of my favorite times of year because I have earned the right to be a bit chill and unstructured for a while before training gets serious again.

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Dealing with soreness in the front of the hips?

Q: After stepping up the training intensity the past month, I’m beginning to have a lot of trouble with soreness in the front of the hips, something I have never had before. I’ve recently purchased a new bike, a 2013 sworks Amira, so position on the bike may have changed a bit, whether that may be the problem? Anyway, is there anything I can do to help alleviate the pain? I do a bit of stretching in that area, and get a massage once a month but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. Thank you for your time. – M. Murray

 

A: First you need a professional bike fit. This is an absolute MUST for anyone.  Once you have your fit numbers from a pro, you can keep those measurements and apply them to any new bike you get, or a demo you might ride.  From your question, I’m pretty sure the fit on the new bike is the issue that caused the pain, so take care of that first.  Second, you need to deal with the tighness and pain.  My massage therapist, who’s worked with many pro cyclists, tells me that if your hip flexors feel tight, it’s actually tightness in opposing muscles that is usually the cause.  So stretch your glutes, external rotators and IT bands in order to relieve pressure on your hip flexors.  A foam roller is an essential tool for this. And, you should still stretch your hip flexors, which is best done in kneeling with tight abs. If you don’t tighten your core, you won’t stretch your hip flexors, since they attach to the anterior aspect of the lower part of your spine.

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Any ideas for staying focused over the cold months?

Q: Without any planned cycling events until the end of March 2013, I am finding it hard to stay focused on training in October. I have decided to mix it up and sign up for a winter marathon and have been anjoying the change. Any other ideas for keeping the focus over the cold months? I’d love to hear what your off-season looks like? if you even have one :) – J. Toole

A:  Keeping focused over the winter months is hard and takes discipline.  I too struggle with this when the next goal is far away.  I have to implement a bit of self discipline by signing up for local cross country ski races, soliciting the help of friends to train with me and get me out the door, sign up for gym classes to keep me on a bit of a schedule.  I find I struggle to stay super motivated on my own, so I need races, friends and other commitments to keep me going.  My CTS coach Dean Golich also keeps me honest because I am downloading workouts and if I’ve got nothing to download, then I have to answer to him about it.  I do take it easy in the off season and mix up the sports, but I also don’t want to get too lazy or it’s a whole lot harder come Spring.  Other motivation tips are to keep a calendar with a countdown to your event, set some interim goals and just keep reminding your self that work now will pay off later.

 

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Recovery:

Recovery

Are there rules of thumb for how much rest is enough or too much?

Q: My question goes back to September’s topic – rest. Apart from subjective feelings (e.g., legs not being sore), are there rules of thumb for how much rest is enough? After, say, a medium-hard four-hour ride, is a day off enough? Too much? After, say, an hour’s hard interval riding, can you ride again the next day without undoing the positive training effects?
Obviously all of these answers are subjective, but I wonder whether you and your coach have general guidelines.
Christopher Tassava

A: Sorry, but I can’t really answer that. Everyone is different and that’s the value of having a coach, using Restwise to gauge recovery and Suunto Movescount to track workout stressors. Recovery is a complicated topic. I can tell you that in my experience it’s common for motivated athletes to over train and not rest enough. Just as a gauge, it takes me 3-4 weeks to be completely recovered from a 24-hour solo race effort. That doesn’t mean I don’t train for those weeks, but my body is definitely not ready for hard efforts until nearly a month later.

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Any recovery tricks for “weekend warrior” racers who have to go to work on Monday?

Q: Do you have any recovery tricks up your sleeve for those “weekend warrior” racer-types who have to go to work on Monday (aside from rest and proper nutrition)?
Carey Lowery

A: Skins recovery tights and socks have been a huge help for me. I use them when I travel, have to stand around at a tradeshow, sit in the car, etc. I use them before and after races and also during training blocks. Compression is nothing new and has a long history in the medical industry. There is a ton of scientific research that proves that they accelerate recovery by aiding in venous return, removing lactic acid and improving muscle oxygenation. You can read more Skins science here:

The only thing the weekend warrior athlete has to consider is what to wear to work that will cover the Skins. It’s not a good look to head to the office in a skirt with compression tights underneath!

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I was wondering, using Restwise, what happens if you wake up on race day…and it tells you to take a day off? (07/11)

Q: I was wondering…with Restwise…what happens if you wake up on race day, put in your numbers and it tells you to take a day off? – S. Richardson

A: According to my coach, Matthew, a high score does not necessarily guarantee a great result.  FYI, my score was 90 this AM and I felt flat and slow today even though on paper, I shouldn’t have. Similarly, a low score does not mean you’ll have a bad day.  It just means on paper, you haven’t fully recovered from life, training, whatever, but you should still by all means go out on race day and work as hard as you can.  They’ve also had athletes with low scores race morning, due to stress, lack of sleep, being nervous about the race and then they pop a good one.

The recovery score should not keep you from racing.  Instead, it should assist you more with training when you have the freedom to change your plans.  It’s also important to look at trends.  If you are always trending toward low scores, then a major adjustment is needed in lifestyle or training.  If it’s just one day of low scores due to travel (this happens to me all the time) or some other unavoidable factor such as your kids kept you up all night, then it’s not a trend.  You can just be conscious to get more sleep the next night, hydrate better, stretch, relax, etc when you hit these occasional low scores.

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How long did it take to notice improvement from using Restwise and in what ways did you notice it?

Q: I have a pretty simple question about Restwise. After seeing the give away on Twitter I hopped over to see what Restwise was all about, then I went to their site and looked at how they pitch their product. What I am curious about is how long did it take to notice improvement from using restwise and in what ways did you notice it?
Luke Nelson – Athlete La Sportiva Mountain Running Team, Nuun Ultra Running Team

A: Luke, I’ve been using Restwise for nearly a year. It takes about a month for the algorithm to get to know your habits and give you really accurate scores. It also took me a couple of weeks to get into the habit of entering the data each morning. It only takes about 20 seconds, but I was forgetful until I really got addicted to the scores. It has been another tool to help me fine-tune my training. It did two main things. First it gave me a recovery score to let me know if I was training too hard, not getting enough sleep, getting stressed, etc. Many athletes are really good at flogging themselves. We are not always so good at giving ourselves a break when needed. A high score could also reflect if I was ready for more intense training and could ramp it up or if I was truly tapering well for a big event.
The second thing that Restwise really did for me was make me more accountable of my health. It made me more aware on a daily basis of my sleep patterns, hydration and other health markers that can slip if I am not paying attention.

My coach and I have come to rely on my Restwise score as part of my training schedule. We will tweak workouts on a continuous basis depending on how my scores are looking. I know it works because I have not been sick all season and I achieved all of my goals for the year.

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Are compression tights beneficial to weekend warriors or just endurance riders?

Q: Congrats on the Leadville 100! Very impressive!
I’m a newbie mountain biker…less than 6 months under my belt. A typical weekend ride is about 30 miles. Are compression tights beneficial to the weekend warrior or are they more for endurance riders?
Amy Koenig

A: Compression For All! Yes, compression is beneficial for absolutely everyone. They even use compression tights in hospitals post surgery to help recovery. I wear them on the plane and in the car to combat the negative affects of traveling.
Regardless of the amount of miles you put in, compression wear is scientifically proven to increase venous blood flow to the heart, which speeds up recovery.

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What’s your most enjoyable way to spend those valuable rest days?

Q: What’s the most enjoyable way to spend those valuable rest days – be honest – and I mean the moments when you totally switch off from the sport?
Chris Russell

A: For me, my total relaxation and down time usually entails gardening and nesting at home. I tune out and do not look at CyclingNews or even answer email. I go into hermit mode at home. I get huge satisfaction from organizing my closets, getting ride of old clothes and gear that I don’t use, re-arranging the Tupperware items so they all fit inside of each other, and stacking up all the spare bike tires by size and tread. I’m a Virgo and much of my life is spent in disarray when traveling, so when I’m home, I love to just get organized. I know it sounds weird, but it’s therapeutic.

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How are you adjusting recovery time and nutrition through the years as father time marches on?

I’ve gotten way smarter and more experienced after so many years of racing.  My training (with my coach) is way more scientific and specific than it used to be and so is my recovery.  As athletes, we can race for a good, long time, but we can’t just go out and thrash day after day like we used to without paying the price later.  What has kept me getting faster and faster each year, despite aging is smarter training (including increased speed and strength work), better nutrition and focused recovery.  I use a fabulous tool designed by my coach called Restwise.  It helps me track when I’m run down due to training stress, life stress, lack of sleep, illness, mood, etc.  It’s been super helpful in telling me when I can really ramp it up and when I need to take another day off.  So the remedy, or the fountain of youth, so to speak is to train, rest and eat smarter.  Hopefully, like Ned Overend, we’ll all still be beating 25 year olds when we’re 50!

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What is the surest way to detect overtraining?

What is the surest way to detect overtraining and how would you remedy overtraining?

 

A:  Restwise.  This is an awesome tool for gauging stress and recovery and avoid overtraining.  There are a ton of factors that contribute to over training. This is the only tool I know of and have been able to rely on with confidence.

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What was the most frustrating injury you’ve ever recovered from?

Q:   I know you’ve endured a crash here or there – what was the most frustrating injury you’ve ever recovered from? Maybe it wasn’t the most severe injury; I mean the toughest to recover from, mentally? – R. Simpson

A: Knock on wood, I’ve been virtually injury free for most of my career.  I hope I never have to answer your question.  Check the Ask Reba archives though for other motivation questions I’ve answered in the past.

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For recovery, is a Manhattan better or should I stick with a Martini?

Q: For recovery is a Manhattan better, or should I stick with a Martini? Also does it change depending on whether I did a big cardio workout or if it was a strength workout? What if weights are involved? I’ve been using mostly Martinis for recovery but I think it’s because it just feels more relaxing when I’m sitting back in the recliner trying to ice my knees when finished with a good cardio or plyo workout, but I’ve started to wonder if the Manhattan would be a better choice. What do you think? – – R. Bartlett

 

A: Martini all the way.  It’s clean burning rocket fuel.  How could you think otherwise?

Rebecca on the Podium with Mr. Martini! (2007 24 Hrs. of Moab)

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When is it the best time to get a massage?

Q: When is it the best time to get a massage; how many days to wait before resuming on the bike? – K. Trevizo

A: If you have a good massage therapist, there’s no reason to wait between training, racing and massage.  I get massage on a regular basis at home and just plan them at the end of the day when my training is done.  During stage races like Titan Desert, I get recovery massages after every stage.  Your therapist should be able to adjust your massage based on what you need at the moment.  If you have a therapist who does not understand this, then it’s time to find someone else.

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What kind of recovery do you take between 100 mile events?

Q: What kind of recovery do you take between 100 mile events …two weeks? and what kind of training would you squeeze in between these events? – P. Berry

 

A: I commonly race back to back weekends.  Just before racing the Wilmington Whiteface 100 km, the most recent Leadville Race Series, I raced the Dirty Kanza 200 miler one weekend, then the Mt Hood Cycling Classic then next, then straight to Wilmington.

Needless to say, I was tired and not properly recovered, but that was part of the training plan for future goals.  Your training and rest between events depends on what your goals are.  If you are peaking for a 100 miler, then I wouldn’t race another 100 miler any closer than 3 weeks prior.  Shorter races two weeks prior would be OK.  My first Leadville 100 was just 3 weeks after racing and winning 24 hr solo World Champs.  This recovery window was too short after such a big 24 hr solo effort, however, sometimes events don’t work around your own schedule.

After a really big event like the Leadville 100,  I wouldn’t plan on racing at top form until a few weeks later.  Training begins right after the event with active recovery on the very next day.  Your body recovers better with easy efforts than with nothing at all.  Specifics of exact training plans really depend on your race schedule and your body.  Check out Carmichael Training if you’re looking to really take your performance to the next level.  Mention the Queen of Pain (me) and save $100.  I can’t say enough about having a coach answer all of these questions for you.

 

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How do you handle burnout and exhaustion?

Q: After a long season of travel, racing and eating gels, how do you handle burnout and exhaustion? What do you do to recharge so that the training doesn’t seem so overwhelming come next season? – T. Downs

 

A:  I spend time at home doing other sports, re-connecting with friends, getting my life in order and schedule non-training specific workouts.  I don’t shut down completely because it’s hard to get back to training if you take too much time off, but it’s really just activity with friends, enjoying the late season fitness, but with no real goals or times in mind.  It’s one of my favorite times of year because I have earned the right to be a bit chill and unstructured for a while before training gets serious again.

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Motivation:

Motivation

I’ve heard various tricks (mental pictures, mantras, etc) for getting up long climbs, do you have a favorite?

Q: I’ve heard various tricks (mental pictures, mantras, etc) for getting up long climbs, do you have a favorite when you’re climbing Columbine [Leadville 100]?  Is it different later in the day when you [climb] Powerline? – M. Reardon

A: For some reason, I really enjoy long climbs.  I embrace the rhythm and the mental challenge.  For me a little pre-preparation helps.  I like to know if the climb is an hour, two hours, 1000 ft or whatever.  Those sort of concrete statistics help me wrap my head around the effort and give me markers to shoot for along the way.  If I know a big climb is coming up, I will be sure to hydrate and top off fuels before I get there so that I’m ready for it.  Once on the climb, I tend to use my odometer to see my speed.  I experiment with trying to go .1mph faster or change pedal cadence and see if that ramps up my speed.  I try to hold a consistent mph if I know the climb.  On a long climb like Columbine, I meter the effort to be consistent instead of bursts of harder efforts.  Mentally, I’m thinking of the top, the next corner and focusing on just that climb.  I’m not thinking of the remaining 50 miles to go.  On Powerline, it’s such a steep grade that there is no way to meter your efforts.  It’s just all out hard no matter what you do.  At that point in the race, climbing is more survival than a plotted strategy.  When the body has broken down, this is where the mental games really come into play and endurance racing gets exciting.

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What do you do when the S@#! hits the fan in a race? (4/2012)

Q: Hypothetically, if you were in a race and the S@#! was hitting the fan and you saw a hat rack at the top of a climb and it had a cheerleaders hat, a firefighters hat, a police officers hat, a teachers hat, or a mentors hat, which one would you choose to put on and finish the race and why? – L. Updyke

A: Oh, I’d probably take the whole rack with me and pull from all of the hats.  It often takes a smorgasbord of tactics to keep ourselves motivated when we need it the most. Beeing a cheerleader for myeslf is essential in so many races.  I’ve even said out loud “come on Rebecca!”  The firefighter’s hat is important for methodically putting out all the little fires that are going on.  Take one thing at a time and fix it, then move onto the next.  Police officer’s hat to make sure I’m really following my own rules like not quitting, trying to stay positive, just taking one pedal stroke at a time.  I sometimes have to remind myself of those personal rules when I really need to remember them most.  Teacher’s hat because I feel like in 20 years of being a pro athlete, I’m still learning lessons every single day.  As soon as you stop learning, life will get a bit boring.  The mentor’s hat because I have to remind myself that I am no longer racing just for myself.  There are other people who find inspiration from me and I would not want to let them down.  My most recent local XC race was one such experience where I was having a terrible race and getting down on myself.  The option of quitting popped into my head and then not 30 seconds later, there were a couple of junior race kids by the side of the trail cheering for me by name.  Seeing those kids knocked me out of my pity party and made me realize that if I quit, that’s what those kids would remember from me.

We are all mentors and teachers to people around us.  I have a responsibility to myself to feel good about my experiences and how I handle them.  I want to look in the mirror and be OK with how I conduct myself when things are the most challenging.  I also want to be able to turn the mirror around and have other people see strength in themselves.

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During your hardest rides, when does it become all mental?

Q:  Since you are super human, this may not apply to you but….  during your hardest rides, when does it become all mental?  When your body says I can’t go anymore (doubt you are ever in that position), what do you do, what do you say to yourself?  Do you talk to Smurfs or any other mythical creature?  My imaginary friend Paco would like to know. – N. Salvador

A:  Hi Paco or Mr. Smurf:  I find sports are a large percentage mental most of the time.  Even when I’m at the start line and my body is fresh and primed, I’m still having to give myself pep talks to calm down, to go out fast, to push out of the comfort zone.  During an event, the mental chatter comes and goes, but is always there.  If it’s early in a race, I’m telling myself to close a gap or keep the pressure up.  In the middle, I’m talking to myself to keep pushing hard and, if I’m behind not to give up and get down on my performance.  If it’s at the end of the race and the legs and body are really giving out, then I am still trying to be my best cheerleader to keep the pedals turning, but also to take care of myself and ride the fine line between pushing to the limit, but not blowing up.  I’m usually talking to myself and not an imaginary friend.  Sometimes I’m pretty nice to myself and other times I beat myself up a bit.  Whatever mind games work for you, it’s important to keep it colorful and lively since it can be lonely out there in long races.  If my body and mind are really giving up, I often remind myself that the fastest way to get to the finish line is to ride faster and don’t stop.  Why prolong the suffering?  A favorite quote from a friend before my first Eco Challenge:  “You can either run across the hot coals or walk across them.”

 

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Have you ever thought about quitting during long distance races?

Q: Have you ever thought about quitting during long distance races? If so, what did you tell yourself to make yourself keep going?
Heidi Deitrich

A: To steal a Lance Armstrong quote: “Pain is temporary, quitting last forever.”
I have only quit one race in my whole life. It was the regional cross country running championships my junior year of high school. I was having a bad race and about ½ way through I was well behind the usual posse of girls that I was competitive with. I was down on myself, so I just stepped off the course and walked over to my gym bag and put on my sweats. I still remember the emotional pain and embarrassment I felt when the coach and my other teammates expressed concern for me and wondered why I’d quit. I had no reason except for my weak ego and lack of determination. I have never forgotten that day and how lame I felt afterwards. I would have much rather finished last than to have quit. I did not know that lesson at the time, but I know it now. That day left an emotional scar. There have been many races since where I have wanted to quit, but that lesson pops into my head and I soldier on. I respect athletes who can win joyously and lose gracefully without excuses. I strive to do the same.

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What is it like to be at the place where enjoyment has ended and PAIN has truly begun? (12/2010)

Q: In order to have been crowned “Queen of Pain”, you must know a thing or two about pain: so tell me, what is it like to be at the place where enjoyment has ended and PAIN has truly begun?

A; It’s like a little dance between heaven and hell.  Manage the pain well and you are on your way to a highly rewarding experience once it’s all over.  Succumb to the pain like a baby and you will end up looking back on the event with shame and disappointment.  Everyone feels pain, it’s what you do with it that counts.

I also want to make sure that everyone’s questions are answered as there is a ton of useful information for every rider out there. If you go to the Ask Reba Archives you will find the answers to all the questions by topic from all the previous months. So keep on sending in questions, because I love hearing what you have to say!

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How do you keep your winter training motivation?

How do you keep your winter training motivation going when it’s cold and snowy outside?

I ski a bunch and head to South America for a good mid winter break

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What personal attributes do you posses that allowed you to take a leap of faith and follow your dreams?

Every day I am surrounded by individuals who spend 40 hours a week doing something they truly dislike.  As someone who is following her dreams and living every day to the fullest, what personal attributes do you posses that allowed you to take a leap of faith and follow your dreams?  If so, what are they and can they be taught or learned?”

 

A:  I know what you mean!  I distinctly remember going to my 10 year high school reunion (a long while ago) and hearing fellow classmates tell me how “lucky” I was to be teaching rock climbing, traveling around and living in a beautiful place, while they lamented about their long commute and lame jobs.  I thanked them, but thought to myself, I’m not lucky, I chose this path.   Everything that’s been worthwhile in my various career trajectories has started with a leap of faith and a whole bunch of uncertainty.  For me, a savings plan, big house and security were less important than freedom and adventure.  Neither path is right or wrong, but for me, I had to choose what I was most passionate about and then be smart about making them work and designing a career out of what I loved to do.  It has been a bumpy, but rewarding road and I wouldn’t change any of it.  I don’t know if you can teach someone how to take risks.  I think that choice has to come from within.

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How do you explain the process of learning how to suffer?

Q: How do you explain the process of learning how to suffer? -K. Cross

A: To learn to suffer, you must just put yourself in that position and see what happens.  Some people are great sufferers and some are not.  Here’s a quote about suffering that I found.  Maybe this can tell you something.

“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.” Paulo Coehlo

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As the Queen of Pain, how do you persevere through the pain? Any suggestions for a TT?

Q: At 60+ I just defended my MTB marathon national championship. Hurrah for me!!  I have a coach and train a lot on the road with intervals and love to do early mid-season stage races. The hardest event for me is the tt. I’m a little light 135 lbs, but the real problem is riding through the pain. Last year a fried passed me in a tt and said it looked like was on a club ride. I seem to pace well in the MTB environment, but not alone on the road.

As the Queen of Pain, how do you persevere through the pain? Any suggestions for a TT? – D. Hibdon

 

A: Congratulations on your National Championship!  Hopefully we will see you in Sun Valley, ID in 2013/14 for USAC marathon nationals to defend. To answer your question, when I was just about to compete in my first Eco Challenge in Australia, an experience friend said to me, “you can either run across the hot coals or walk across them.”  This little piece of advice has stuck with me for 15 years.  There are many times when I’m deep in the pain cave and the thought of just getting it over more quickly is the only thing pushing me.  TT’s are short compared to marathons, but there isn’t the outside stimulation you get from a mountain bike race.  You are alone in your head and need to self motivate.  I’ve never done a TT, even though I really want to.  However, I do plenty of races and rides where I’m alone and have to just keep pushing hard even though no one is around.  In training, I visualize some of my strongest competitors and pretend they are just in front of me.  I also watch my odometer and try to push .1 mph faster.  I stare at that number and go into my own head.   I imagine a race coming down to a sprint and losing by 1 second and think about getting a bigger buffer now so that I don’t have to sprint at the end.  There are tons of mind games that you can practice in your training.  A power meter might also help you with something like this so you can try to keep constant power throughout the TT.

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What’s your best method of motivation to just get out and ride?

Q: I live in the northwest so sometimes getting out to ride in the winter can be a battle.  At a certain point during the winter you just get sick of staring at the wall on your trainer in the garage.  Whats your best method of motivation to just get out and ride? – J. Rickards

A: I have four things to say about winter cycling motivation:

1.  Do the short, hard days inside. The longer ones outside on skis or on foot.  It’s OK not to do all of your winter training in the saddle.

2.  Travel to somewhere warm and ride at least once during the winter.

3.  Solicit friends to suffer with you outside when the Spring weather is cold and rainy.

4.  Remember “pay now or pay later” and just get out the door.

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Any mantra or song when the going gets tough?

Q: Any mantra or song when the going gets tough? – J. Schwartz

A: My first Eco Challenge race in Australia was an eye opening experience for me.  I’d always been an athlete, but this was venturing into totally unknown territory.  Two different friends had words for me that will forever ring true in everything I do.  I think of these words of wisdom on a very regular basis.

“You can walk across the hot coals or run across them”.  Tommy Baynard

“No matter how good or bad you feel, it will not last”.  Cathy Sassin

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What do you do in your training to increase your mental toughness?

Q: Chrissie Wellington attributes her success to training her brain to be as strong as her body.  By that I believe she is saying that a lot of her training involves developing her mental toughness.  What do you do in your training to increase your mental toughness? – M. Jacobsen

A: There are two answers to this question.  I do believe that some people are born with more mental fortitude than others.  People like Chrissie Wellington, Sir Edmund Hilary, Ernest Shakleton, etc are just cut from a different cloth.  They were born with a strong will and ended up gravitating towards endeavors that suited their strength.  Not everyone has the mind or body to do what they’ve done.  However, you can train your brain.  I have been taking part in some fascinating brain training with the Red Bull Performance Team and Neurotopia.  It’s all a bit sci-fi, but the bottom line is that Red Bull has athletes play video games without touching any controls.  You control the game and drive the car via the electdrodes on your head and how you concentrate and think about the performance.  Loose focus or try too hard and the car stops.  Find the sweet spot or the “zone” and the car goes.  I have access to this really cool tool through Red Bull, but I also do my own effective, but less sophisticated form of mental training at home and in races.  Basic visualization of success, riding strong, crossing a finish line are all ways to strengthen your thoughts.  Positive talk is key in racing and training.  It may not be as sci-fi as the Neurotopia game, but I believe it works.

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Do you have a mantra?

Q: Do you have a mantra? If so what is it, if not why? – R. Morris

Previous similar questions and answers:

Q: I’ve heard various tricks (mental pictures, mantras, etc) for getting up long climbs, do you have a favorite when you’re climbing Columbine [Leadville 100]?  Is it different later in the day when you [climb] Powerline? – M. Reardon

A: For some reason, I really enjoy long climbs.  I embrace the rhythm and the mental challenge.  For me a little pre-preparation helps.  I like to know if the climb is an hour, two hours, 1000 ft or whatever.  Those sort of concrete statistics help me wrap my head around the effort and give me markers to shoot for along the way.  If I know a big climb is coming up, I will be sure to hydrate and top off fuels before I get there so that I’m ready for it.  Once on the climb, I tend to use my odometer to see my speed.  I experiment with trying to go .1mph faster or change pedal cadence and see if that ramps up my speed.  I try to hold a consistent mph if I know the climb.  On a long climb like Columbine, I meter the effort to be consistent instead of bursts of harder efforts.  Mentally, I’m thinking of the top, the next corner and focusing on just that climb.  I’m not thinking of the remaining 50 miles to go.  On Powerline, it’s such a steep grade that there is no way to meter your efforts.  It’s just all out hard no matter what you do.  At that point in the race, climbing is more survival than a plotted strategy.  When the body has broken down, this is where the mental games really come into play and endurance racing gets exciting.

 

Q:You are known in the cyber world as the Queen of Pain, however, every time we see you, you have your typical RR huge smile.  What was your most painful moment, adventure racing / mtb’ing, and how did you get through it?

 

A:  It’s not always a smile, sometimes a grimace that is mistaken for a smile!

Ups and downs come along in every ride and race.   Basically I have a mantra that a friend told me long ago:  “no matter how good or bad you feel, it won’t last.”

I think about this all the time.  I have a 2nd mantra that another friend told me:  “you can either run across the hot coals or walk across them.” 

Both of these ideas get me through.  I also think of the alternative, which is quitting and that just doesn’t sit well with me.

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How do you balance, or serve two different passions in life?

Q: My question is, you’re a firefighter as well. How do you balance, or serve two different passions in life? Is it possible? I want to do everything I do with the same intensity and passion that I do with racing. I wish I could just race and have that be what I do for a living, but I’m 40 now, and no where near as fast as I would need to be to be pro, but of course, I work my butt off, and there are other racing industry jobs and such that I could do. I find it so hard to keep the intensity high, and balanced though. However, being azombie at a job is not for me anymore, even if it was paying the bills better than my current situation is. How do you do it?
Jeffrey Ryan

A: You already answered your own question. Balance, passion, intensity. Those are your words and the key to finding a lifestyle that works for you. It’s hard to do it all, but for me, being part of the fire department, skiing in the winter, teaching women’s clinics are all things that make me more of a complete person and add a bit of essential diversity to my life. They take time, commitment and a bit of juggling, but the break from my “work” of cycling is also refreshing from time to time.

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How would you define ‘impossibility’ – what makes one dream a worthy goal and another just an escape?

Q: I’m a 33-year-old amateur cyclist. I’ve been cycling for about 4-5 years, and no, mine is not one of those ‘hidden talent booms into late bloom kind of story. My riding is not bad but it is not very good either. My question is as follows. I love riding. I’m addicted to it, especially the long ones. I dream of becoming an ultra cyclist. However, every time I tell myself ‘why not invest more time and energy in riding?’ there’s a little voice in the back of my head that tells me ‘but you’re too old’… ‘ you can’t do it’… ‘don’t quit your day job’…, etc.
You do things that verge on the impossible.
How would you define ‘impossibility?’ what makes one dream a worthy goal and another just an escape from reality?
Thanks for reading :-)
Tal David

A: Tal,
There’s a quote that says “a goal is just a dream with a plan.” So go out and live your dreams. You will never know unless you try. I make a point of not defining what is “impossible.” All of my seemingly impossible achievements came to fruition because I took some risk and the outcome was unknown. You must risk in order to find reward.

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What advice would you give a teenage girl that wanted to get started in mountain biking?

Q: What advice would you give a teenage girl that wanted to get started in mountain biking and dreamed about being you?
Heather Williams

A: Keep dreaming! Dreams are a crucial part of our lives no matter what age. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you cannot do something. It’s great to be inspired by people who are heroes to you, but create your own, unique path that leads to achieving your dreams.

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What’s the best way for women to get into mountain bike racing?

What’s the best way for women to get into mountain bike racing?

Find a race that sounds fun, sign up and make a commitment, convince some friends to do the same.  It’s really that easy and you will have a blast.

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What is your mindset when you race?

When you race, what is your mindset, do you race the competition, or are you racing yourself?  Do you go into your own world to ride your best ride, regardless of what’s around you?  Or are you fueling off the idea of passing the person you know is in front of you, or keeping your lead and fighting off the field.

 

Yes to all of those things.  I thrive on competition and there’s nothing like a starting line and a bunch of other people to fuel my motivation.  However, if no one is near me, I can use my own time splits, heart rate, speed and other factors to keep pushing myself.

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Who inspired you the most at a time when you were down?

My best girlfriends and my boyfriend are usually the ones to dig me out of a hole when I’m down.

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What do you tell yourself or think about to keep such a great attitude while spending time in the pain cave?

Well, there were a few things in the works there.  One, I’d never done a crit in my life (dirt or road), so it was a bit of a novelty and way more fun than I’d expected.  I really enjoyed all the cheering fans by the side of the road.  It helped get me pumped to go around another lap.  Two, I was laughing at myself because doing a 30 minute race is really not my thing and trying to sprint around downtown Prescott was funny.  Three, it might not have been a smile.  I’ve been told many times that it looks like I’m smiling when I’m racing, when in reality it’s a grimace.  Believe me, I was working super hard.  Regarding keeping a attitude when things hurt, cheers from fans/friends always help.  When I’m alone out there though, there are a number of games I play such as watching my odometer and trying to go .1 mph faster, changing my pedal stroke to be more efficient, sing, do math, focus on just the moment or that one climb instead of the whole race, tell myself that everyone else is hurting too, etc, etc.  Mental gymnastics while in the physical pain cave.

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How can I overcome the fear of mountain biking after my first crash and go off road again?

The mind is a powerful tool in both the negative and positive.  Your fear is not irrational because you don’t have the mountain bike skills yet that you possess for road cycling. There’s no solution except to get back on the horse and try again.  Start easy and slowly work your way up again.  I will admit that in my adventure racing days, cycling was always my worst discipline and I dreaded it.  I found no joy in it and was regularly reduced to tears and throwing my bike because I had no skill.  Gradually as I got a bit better and saw some improvement, I started enjoying it more and now it’s my main sport.  I still fear technical sections and most people I know get scared at some point while riding.  It’s a natural human instinct.  My question to your brother is if he’s a cycling coach for fitness training or if he’s a skills coach.  If he’s not a skills coach, then sign up for a class or two from someone who can teach you a few key skills to get started again…like how to fall properly!  Good luck.  It’s worth the time investment and a great complement to road cycling.

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Do you have any resources you can recommend for the mental aspect of training? Specifically, any techniques for getting your head back together when you’re suffering frustration?

We all go through confidence peaks and valleys, me included.  Pretty much every Spring I struggle with this exact topic.  For me, I find when I’m in the biggest hole, sometimes training alone without the pressure of a group and the automatic peer comparisons is better for me.  I can take my time to warm up, instead of jetting out of the parking lot at someone else’s pace and I can push when I feel ready to do so.  I also find that going out with friends who are not racers and just doing fun rides will help me rediscover why I’m riding in the first place.  The bottom line is that even for pro riders, if you take the joy out of riding, then what’s the point?  Your post ride evaluation is a good strategy to figure out what was happening that day.  The next step is to decipher what the trigger points are that set off your frustration and address those by first avoiding those situations until you get your confidence back.  Next, develop tools to deal with those triggers in the future such as warming up before the group ride so you are ready to hit it, and practicing positive self talk when you do get in those situations.

 

There are tons of books, videos and resources for mental training in sports.  One that I read ages ago is called Thinking Body, Dancing Mind.

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How do you deal with close family and friends who feel you’re pushing too hard, try to discourage you, and make you quit?

I haven’t had that issue because my family and friends have always been super supportive.  One suggestion I might have is to bring them into your new passion by inviting them to a race as support crew or just to be part of the action.  Perhaps when they see for themselves all the positive things you are gaining from ultra running, they might understand this culture and group of people a bit better.  For years my Mom volunteered at adventure races while I was racing and got to know the racers, the organizers and got to see all the people striving for their goals.  I think it helped her really understand and respect my sport even if it’s something she would never do.

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What is the one thing over everything else that you feel has had the biggest impact on you reaching the level of success you have in endurance sports?

If I had to pick one thing, I’d say mental toughness and the ability to keep going has had the biggest impact on my career.  There have been tons of barriers in races, with teammates, establishing sponsorship, balancing life and finances, etc.  I’ve learned so many lessons and had tons of ups and downs, but the bottom line is I keep going in races and in my career.  I keep finding a way to get to the next finish line.   This sort of perseverance has paid off and I’ve been rewarded with an amazing career, friends all over the world, a resume that I am really proud of and a lifestyle that I cherish.

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Is there anyone you credit for getting you into biking, skiing, adventure racing, etc?

Hi!  First of all, congrats on Leadville, you go girl!  I read all the questions on the website and googled your name- lots of great interviews and pictures!  What I didn’t find and am now wondering is how you got into all this!  I know you ran x-country in high school, but what after that?  How did you go from a “”cross country runner with a bum knee”” as one website said to a professional athlete who excels in everything from x-country skiing to mtn biking?  Is there anyone you credit for getting you into biking, skiing, adventure racing, etc?  What age did you begin all these sports?  Okay, so that’s more than one question, but I was wondering if you would give us a more in depth bio.  A huge thank you for being so fan friendly with your website, facebook and twitter feeds.

 

A:  I credit my high school running coach with sparking my passion in sports.  I never had a bum knee.  I ran in college, but was turned off by the negative coaching style there and quit the team.  I briefly dabbled in road biking in college, but didn’t really pick up another sport until I learned to rock climb a few years after college.  Rock climbing was the 2nd spark in my life that led me to outdoor sports and my love for adventure.  Climbing brought me West and that snowballed into paddling and then adventure racing, skiing, and finally cycling.  I have had mentors along the way in pretty much all of these sports, but the common theme was always someone saying “you should try this” and I said “OK”.  I was open to new experiences and that has in turn opened doors for my career, to new friends, to living in Idaho.  Just for reference, mountain biking was my most recent sport added and I didn’t get into it until well into my 30’s.  It’s never to late!

 

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what are some of your favorite ‘On top of the world’, ‘Life is Amazing’,

Aside from the intense competitive racing aspects of your life, what are some of your favorite ‘On top of the world’, ‘Life is Amazing’, ‘I Love Cycling’, ‘This is Why I Ride’ moments while on the bike?

Congrats on your win!!

A:  This year, crossing the finish line first at Leadville was the huge highlight of the season.  I worked hard all year for this one result and was able to harness all of that effort into a winning ride on the right day with a really strong field.   I was truly on top of the world that day and felt that all my hard work paid off.  Winning is an addictive feeling, but it’s also not the only measure of success.  Another great moment for me was riding with the Wheel Girls, a local teen mtb group that I coached this summer.  During one of our rides, we worked on the technical rock gardens that were part of the XC Nationals race course.  Watching the girls tackle and ride through the rock garden was just as exciting as experiencing a win of my own.  I also had a few great moments on backcountry rides with friends this summer as we looked out over the Idaho mountains.  I think it’s healthy and essential to find these sort of moments on a regular basis.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  Thanks for asking.

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Do you feel like your training-regiment keeps you away from making strides in your social existence?

I knew a guy who use to race as an ‘Elite’.  Sponsored by Saucony, could lay down a sub-14min 5k ‘blah’ ‘blah’ ‘blah’…etc, etc.  Anyway, he fell out of competition because he realized that he’d “rather have a life instead of win races”.  Whats your take on this?  Training, Competition, Life, as an Elite?  Do you feel like your training-regiment keeps you away from making strides in your social existence?  Family?  Friends?  Happiness?”

A:  Quite the opposite.  I feel like my chosen career has enhanced my social life and overall happiness.  I’ve met amazing people all over the world, met my boyfriend on bike, share sports with all my closest friends and have been able to design a career around what I love to do.  I won’t lie to you, my job is not easy and there are days when the training is super hard and gets me down.  Managing sponsorships and all the business that goes along with being a pro is also a challenge.  However,  nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  I have chosen this job and have no regrets.  It has been fabulous and opened doors for me in all areas of my life.  I feel I have a fuller life because of my sport.

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What gives you a better Rus(c)h

What gives you a better Rus(c)h, more adrenalin, better feelings afterwards… Racing or Fire Fighting?

A:  Both.  I love both my jobs and get a huge reward from firefighting and bike racing.

The biggest difference is that there is less room for error in firefighting.  If I lose focus in a bike race, I am probably not putting my life or other people in danger.  In firefighting, the consequences are much higher.

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I have a daughter (8) that loves biking and running with me.

I have a daughter (8) that loves biking and running with me. She recently ran a 5k with me and my wife and did an awesome job! I want to encourage her to continue this because I race triathlons and would love for her to “”get the bug””, but don’t want to push her too hard and end up hating outdoor endurance sports “”because daddy made me do it!””. From an experienced woman’s point of view (and once a little girl) how can I encourage and keep it fun without being the exercise Nazi! ;-)”

 

A:  You already answered your own question.  Keep it fun and don’t be an exercise Nazi.

Enjoy rides and physical activity that is not always race related.  Let her choose if she wants to line up for a race.  Play in the pump track, ride to get ice cream, host a girls mtb birthday party.  Keep the fun involved and make sure her friends are involved too.  No kid wants to hang out with their parents all the time, even if they have cool parents.

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What are you doing to be remembered away from your bikes?

What are you doing to be remembered away from your bikes? How are you leaving your legacy off of the trail?”

 

A:  This year I implemented the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour that I am really proud of.  It was a series of different events focused on getting women and girls on bikes.  I spent a great deal of time and effort on these clinics and rides, but they were all super rewarding and I helped generate a ton of smiles by hosting the tour.

I’ve also been able with the help of sponsors to host movie tours with both Race Across the Sky films.  Every single time I’ve shown that film, 100% of proceeds have gone straight to IMBA and the local IMBA chapter in the area where I show the film.  I’ve been able to use the movies as a great tool to raise thousands of dollars for trail advocacy.  I feel just as good, if not better about all of these “on the side” efforts as I do about my race results.  The advocacy and turning people onto bikes will have a longer term affect than any race result.

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What was your most painful moment, adventure racing / mtb’ing, and how did you get through it?

You are known in the cyber world as the Queen of Pain, however, every time we see you, you have your typical RR huge smile.  What was your most painful moment, adventure racing / mtb’ing, and how did you get through it?

 

A:  It’s not always a smile, sometimes a grimace that is mistaken for a smile!

Ups and downs come along in every ride and race.   Basically I have a mantra that a friend told me long ago:  “no matter how good or bad you feel, it won’t last.”

I think about this all the time.  I have a 2nd mantra that another friend told me:  “you can either run across the hot coals or walk across them.” 

Both of these ideas get me through.  I also think of the alternative, which is quitting and that just doesn’t sit well with me.

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My 6 yr old is a natural athlete….

I have a motivation specific question for you, but some background first….  My 6 yr old is a natural athlete. Last month the soccer coach came to my husband and said “”I drop by the school at recess and see her outrunning 4th grade boys. When is she going to play soccer?””  My husband told him, to coaches demise “”She wants to play with her dolls. I won’t force her into sports until she shows interest.””  I don’t know if I agree with my other half.  While he and I both still compete; him on bike, I swim, I am wondering if you have any thoughts on how to kick start her interest in sport?  She is something to watch when running. I am even a bit envious at how natural she looks and how she always seems to be smiling while doing it.  Hubby says don’t mess with her schwa, let it come from her. but I am worried it will be too late and she won’t like any sport because everyone will have developed skills earlier.  Any ideas?

 

A:  You might not want to hear this, but I sort of agree with your husband.  She’s only 6!  She has so much time.  I didn’t start riding a mountain bike until I was over 30!  I was athletic as a kid too, but never got involved with an organized sport (running) until high school.  I do agree that kids develop skills so much easier than adults, so it’s great when they start young.  However, the most important thing in any sport is passion.  If she’s not tempted yet, I wouldn’t push her.  If you and her husband are involved in sport, she is surrounded by it and aware of it.  Also her friends are getting into it at school, so she probably sees it and will come around in her own time.  Keep in mind, I am not a parent so feel free to throw my opinion out the window.

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What is one of the greatest decisions you’ve made in your career?

Q:  What is one of the greatest decisions you’ve made in your career? - K. Peterson

A: To quit my job in LA, move into my 1975 Ford Bronco and start traveling around.  The leap of faith opened the door to my full blown adventure lifestyle and eventually my career.  Every turn of my life that’s been most worthwhile has been proceeded by a scary, risky decision like this.

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When you ride with men who are faster, what is your motivation to just kick it into gear and show them up? (Winner 09/11)

Q: When you ride with men who are faster, what is your motivation to just kick it into gear and show them up? I ride with guys and I absolutely hate when I can’t keep up with them.

A: For me internal motivation is way stronger than external. When I’m riding with someone faster than me (male or female), my motivation is not to show them up, it’s more wanting to raise my own level. Whether I’m in a race or training, I really focus on trying not to worry about the riders around me and instead ride the best that I can. When I ride with that approach, I ride faster. If you have overwhelmingly competitive thoughts when you ride with guys, perhaps it’s time to do some solo riding or find some women to ride with. For me, it’s beneficial to ride with all different levels for different experiences. Faster people will push you and raise your level. Slower riders will allow you to give the brain a break and get in some easier endurance training. Riding with beginners gives you the opportunity to teach and at the same time improve your own skills by teaching them.

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If you have a huge training day, but you wake up and cannot stand the idea of exercising, how do you motivate yourself?

Q: When training for an important event and, you have a huge training day but you wake up and absolutely cannot stand the idea of exercising, how do you motivate yourself?  Or do you listen to your body/mind and wait a day?  – B. Olwin

A: That depends on my Restwise score and what has been going on in my life.  Training programs are not set in stone and they need to be adapted to accommodate for life’s stresses such as work, injury, personal problems, etc.  If I don’t want to do the workout just because it’s raining, I’m feeling lazy and am otherwise fine, then I try to recruit friends to help get me out the door to do the workout with me.  Even if they cannot do the whole thing, I’ll ask someone to come out for my warm up, or to ride the first hour with me.  If I cannot find a friend to motivate me, then I usually turn to music as the training partner and just get out the door to get started.  Getting out the door is usually the hardest part for me. If my mind or body truly needs a break, then I take it and focus on a great recovery day and adjust the training plan with my coach.

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What strategies do you implement when your mind is ready to take the pain but your body is not capable of responding?

Q: As the Queen of Pain, what strategies do you implement when your mind is ready to take the pain but your body is not capable of responding….does this get chalked up as mental weakness or have you even found times where you have to throw in the towel for a given effort? –  S. Venza

A: The mind is a powerful tool and in most cases, the body is capable of doing more, but the mind puts the brakes on.  Physical discomfort during a race is sending signals to our brains to make it stop.  After a certain point, we end up listening and the brain gives up when the body could keep going.  There are certain situations where an injury or some other physical problem is getting in the way of doing what our minds want to do.  The trick is to know the difference in our minds.  Are we slowing down or stopping because of regular race/training pain, or is there a real physical reason that requires us to stop so we don’t hurt ourselves?  I talk more about mental strategies and motivation in the Ask Reba Archives.  Yes, there have been times where I end a workout early if I’m not recovering between intervals and I’m not getting the training benefit anymore. This is not mental weakness, but smart training.  In races, I rarely quit.  There has to be something physically wrong with me to stop.  If I’m just not having the race I would like and not going fast enough, that is not reason enough to quit.  Instead, I try to forge on, get the training benefit and keep riding.  In endurance events, this often still works out to a high placing where attrition is happening all through the field.

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Do you ever feel the need to take off the watch (and any other gadgets) and just ride without the numbers?

Q: Do you ever feel the need to take off the watch (and any other gadgets) and just ride without the numbers? – J. Vance

A: I’ve answered this question before. Please look in the archives under “Training” and “Motivation”

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What is a good way to keep my 5 yr old motived, engaged in the sport and moving forward with her bike riding?

Q: I have a 5 year old daughter, Kiki,  that loves to mountain bike. She has even “”raced”” (totally her idea)  once making around a two lap course one time.  Her drive to win is pretty strong and all we want her to do is have fun.  When she didn’t make it around the course the second time she was a little depressed. What is a good way to keep her motived, engaged in the sport and moving forward with her bike riding?  How do you keep your head in the right place when things don’t go your way? – B. Blitzer

A:  The mental aspect of sport is even more powerful than the physical training. As a 5 year old or 42 year old, finding fun in sports is essential.  Racing is great for certain skill and personality developments, but it cannot be everything.  Every single pro racer I know makes a point of doing regular fun rides with friends.  There is so much more to sports than winning.  There can only be one winner, but the rest of the field is still having a blast, pushing hard and taking positive benefits from the experience.

I’m not a parent, but getting her out to ride with friends and in new places might be important and motivating.

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How do you stay on form throughout most of the year and never get burned out on the bike?

Q: I love to ride and I race road, mtb and ‘cross (even raced along side of you in Moab in the past – well, behind you!) and mix my training between bikes.  My question to you is how do you stay on form throughout most of the year and never get burned out on the bike?  I am happiest when on my bike but some days I look at them and think: “”I’m going kayaking!!” – E. Moody

A:  Then you should go kayaking!  My coach and I specifically build in fun training that will keep me mentally fresh.  For example, I Nordic and backcountry ski all winter long.  During the season, there are specific times where Matthew will schedule a long backcountry ride with friends or a hike with no specific agenda.  I am a firm believer that variety is the spice of life.  Also, your kayaking is going to be a great strength workout that will help your cycling and your overall health.

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Have you ever had a friend/training partner get hurt before a big race & how did you get through it?

Q: Have you ever had a friend/training partner get hurt before a big race & how did you get through it?? I’m running the Chicago marathon in October in Full firefighter gear & my running partner/best friend was in an accident while I was in Colorado for the USAPro cycling Challenge!  So now I must complete this race alone. –  G. Crist

A:  This happened to me just this year when my training partner, Susan, broke her ribs before Leadville.  She was in the best shape of her life and we were both so excited to see how she’d do.  It was disappointing for both of us, but the show must go on.  You will physically be without your friend, but they will absolutely be in your head while you are racing.  You will also have the support of Firefighters around the world (me included) cheering you on!  Go for it and do it for the both of you and for your profession.  Next year, you’ll be ready to race together.

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How do you handle this time of the year (Oct/Nov)?

Q: I live in Wisconsin, it’s starting to get cold here, like Idaho. It’s such a tough transition for me when it gets cold. I am able to get outside xc skiing, running, and biking on weekends when its above 20F. I draw the line at 20F.  But mentally, I find it so tough starting around November. By February, I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. How do you handle this time of the year? – J. Pierce

A: Motivation in the fall and winter is also hard for me.  Like you, I’m not tough enough to ride outside when it’s super cold.  I use the winter to hit the gym, do more yoga, cross country and backcountry ski.  I leave the cycling til it’s much warmer.  I sent up my bike trainer in the house and watch a ton more TV than I normally would, but it keeps me active.  I also plan one or two trips each winter to escape the snow and put in some time on my bike outdoors.  I look forward to these mini breaks and they help keep me motivated.

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Your season is winding down…how do you deal with the excess of energy and the competitive desire that burns within?

Q: Now that your season is beginning to wind down, how do you deal with the excess of energy and the competitive desire that burns within? – P. Moloney

A: Fall is when I usually clean up all the neglected areas of my life that get chaotic during the busy race season.  I clean my closets, organize all of my gear into bins, get rid of old t-shirts, file the piles of paper stacked on my desk, get tax stuff sorted and finalize sponsor/business plans for next season.  It sounds super boring, but it’s therapeutic and clears the clutter so I can start fresh again next year.  I also bake bread, cook more often and get sort of domestic.  Just about the time I’m bored with all of this stuff,  the snow will start flying and ski season arrives.  I spend much of my winter on skis in the backcountry.

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When you are in the pain cave do you have any odd mind tricks that you do to keep yourself focused?

Q: When you are in the pain cave do you have any odd mind tricks that you do to keep yourself focused? Like I count pedal strokes, but only on my left foot and I always seem to start subconsciously at 90 and count to 100 and start back over at 90, I know it’s really weird, but one of the things I do. – J. Rogers

A: Counting is great.  I do that too, although not just 90 to 100.  That is weird. I also use my odometer to look at average speed, current speed and try to tick those numbers up by varying my cadence or changing gears.  I also calculate how much time I have left if I keep moving at a certain speed.  I focus on other riders and try to keep them in sight or pass them.  I convert miles to km and back again.  That one really stumps me most of the time.  I flip flop between mindless diversion thinking such as counting, and focused race thoughts such as mph, calories, pedal strokes, time left on the bike and how to go faster.

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What do you think about when you’re 6-7 hrs into a 100 miler that keeps you going?

Q: What do you think about when you’re 6-7 hrs into a 100 miler that keeps you going? – A. Combes

A: After about 5 hours, I feel like I really hit my stride in a race.  It’s where I feel I am strongest and other riders are perhaps starting to fade.  I’m super focused on nutrition and timing how much I eat and drink per hour.  I know I have to stay on top of this.  I also watch my odometer and play games with myself to try to be .1 MPH faster.  I calculate mileage left, average mileage and what I think I have left.  I try to pick off other riders in front of me.  Mostly, I am not thinking of much of anything except being in the zone and riding fast and efficiently and getting to the finish line.  Even in a long race, every second counts, so shaving them here and there adds up to minutes in the end.

 

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What motivates you when racing long distance events?

Q: What motivates you when racing long distance events? – C. Baker

A: I love the roller coaster ride of an endurance event.  No matter how good or bad you feel, it won’t last.  For motivation, I use other people around me or just go to another place in my head.  I also break the race into smaller sections and just focus on one thing at a time, such as climbing Columbine in Leadville, or the next lap in a 24 hour race.  Breaking things into mini races within a race seems to help me keep focused and pushing hard instead of thinking about how many hours are really ahead of me.  When all else fails and it’s super hard, I just take solace in the fact that the course is the same for everyone and if it’s hard for me, then everyone else is suffering too.

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When you are out there in a race event and 60 miles in, where do you pull strength from?

Q: My question is specific to mental attitude. When you are out there in a race event and 60 miles in where do you pull strength from? – J. Schroeder

A: Great question. I have answered this before. Take a look at the “motivation” questions in my askReba archives. Thanks!

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Do you feel not riding in the winter is actually helpful?

Q: Do you feel living in Idaho and not being able to get on the bike at anytime in the winter is actually helpful in keeping you from burn out on training?  Due to this are you more excited when riding season comes and more mentally ready to get back on the bike? – B. Barton

A:  Yes, living in Idaho is a forced time off the bike and serves as a mental and physical break from training.  I am still active in the winter and still have specific training but it’s more creative and varied than my training in during the riding months.  I take the time in the winter to do drills on the trainer to improve my pedal stroke.  I get to the gym to stretch and work on strength and I do plenty of walking uphill on skis.  I also plan a few riding trips during the winter to keep the muscle memory in my legs.  Come Spring, I am very motivated to ride and get back on the bike.  This schedule does make it tough for me to be super sharp in the early season races, but it also allows me to be motivated and strong all the way through the end of the season in November.  The bottom line is that I live in Idaho because I love it here.  Everyone has to make sacrifices and figure out a way to train that works with their lifestyle.  There is no one perfect training solution for everyone.

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What kind of training goals keep you on task?

Q: I have recently got the cycling bug and never thought I would ever want to do any sort of racing, but the more I ride the more I want to experience in the cycling world and start some new goals.  My question is what kind of training goals do you shoot for to keep your training on task? I only have small baby step goals.  I think it would be motivating to hear what yours could be. – A. Flatin

A:  I think it’s important to pick races or events as motivators.  It’s always easier to stay motivated when you have an exciting event on the horizon.  I pick my events and goals based on places I want to go and races that inspire me.   This might range from a multi-day stage race in Morocco to our local weekly short track races in Idaho.  I have small and big goals all year to keep me motivated.  There are so many great events to choose from that you might fight the biggest problem you have is narrowing down your list.

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What do you do in a race when things continue to go wrong?

Q: I find my racing attitude can change during a long race.  What do you do in a race when things continue to go wrong?  How do you turn it around ? – J. Miller

A:  I think of two quotes that have had an impact on me.  “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.”  And “in an endurance event, no matter how good or bad you feel, it won’t last.”  These quotes and all the thoughts that go along with them have guided me through some really tough, long, frustrating situations.

Also, sometimes, getting to the finish line is the fastest way out of the situation you are in.

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Who has been the most inspirational and had the biggest impact on your career as a professional athlete? (11/2011)

Q: Who has been the most inspirational and had the biggest impact on your career as a professional athlete primarily mountain biking?  How do they inspire you and why? – B. Barton

A:  My high school cross country coach had the biggest impact on my career because he was my first exposure to athletics, teamwork, coaching, setting goals and hard work.  He inspired me and the rest of the team by pushing us in a patient and supportive way.  He made us want to work hard and our efforts paid off.  The trajectory of my life was forever changed by joining the team and having such a positive experience for those four years.  A more current mentor has to be Marla Streb for her non-traditional jump into mountain biking and the way she exploded onto the scene.  She’s a super talented rider and really smart business woman.  I admire her riding and even more how she’s conducted herself throughout her career.

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What does it take to come out in the spring with that same killer instinct you had before the snow arrives?

Q: Obviously the winters are long where you live.  What do you do to keep that mental fire strong. What does it take to come out in the spring with that same killer instinct you had before the snow arrives? – C. Fowler

A:  The forced break is actually a motivator for me.  Come Spring I am chomping to get back on the bike because I’ve been away from it.  I do a small amount of indoor trainer time in the winter and schedule a couple of winter bike trips to warmer places, just to keep the riding fire stoked.

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What is your best motivation strategy for those days when you feel tired/behind/slow?

Q: What is your best motivation strategy for those days when you feel tired/behind/slow and/or how do you get yourself out of bed for early morning workouts? – L. Malone

A: First, I really, really try to avoid early morning workouts.  I’ve tried and my body just doesn’t respond well.  I try to tailor my day so that I can do my hard workouts when I have the most energy.  If you must do early morning workouts, then it’s key to have a training buddy to keep you from rolling back over and blowing off the workout.

Second, finding motivation is a continual struggle for ALL athletes.  There are just days where it’s hard and not going well.  During those times, I practice positive talk to myself, try to forgive myself if I’m not as fast as I want to be and focus on the fact that I’m doing the work and that’s better than not doing it.  I also have a few visual cues I bring into my head of really great race finishes or highlights in my career that mean a lot to me.  Those moments seem so far away when you’re having an off training day, but I think about those and remind myself that all of these little building blocks must be in place in order to have those special moments.  When that fails, just keep plugging along and stop listening to the negative talk in your head.

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Has racing always been your passion?

Q: Has racing always been your passion? – N. Seaux

A: Yes and no.  It’s always been a passion and a nemesis.  I love it and hate it.

I am inspired by pushing my limits racing, but it’s also nerve wracking, stressful and sometimes disappointing.

Like anything that is really worthwhile, it’s effort, hard work, insecurity and finally overcoming those things that is so rewarding.  I honestly believe that lining up for a race and putting yourself to the test physically and mentally is one of the most valuable things we can do as humans.  The result in the end doesn’t really matter, but the commitment, effort and growth are the things that make us better people in the end.  I know I will always race in some fashion because I feel the most lack of direction and focus in all parts of my life when I do not have a goal to work towards.  Racing definitely makes me a better person.

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Any tips on how to deal with the pressure? (June 2012)

Q: Racing is tough–and really rewarding! I’ve been racing two series this year and have seen some good results. All second places, and last weekend I got my first Cat 1 Win! After my win last week, I felt the pressure really ramp up for my race this weekend.  The chatter about the course, and ride strategy is great, but the chatter about who is racing and where we all stack up is interesting because the pressure to win again is really obvious.  Any tips on how to deal with the pressure you not only put on yourself to win, but also dealing with the pressure others unknowingly place on you? – E. Johnson

A: Pressure to perform is a tricky thing.  Yes, racing is addictive and rewarding in so many ways. It’s also sometimes not a ton of fun and can get very stressful and hard.  Pressure to perform is often self-imposed.  Your friends who are talking about ranking and placings are just excited and happy to see you do well.  They will still be your friends if you have a bad performance.  It’s important to regularly re-visit why you started racing in the first place, what you love about it and why you are there.  It’s probably a mix of motivations including scoring a good result.  Controlling stress is an important strategy for me.  Of course I am nervous before almost every race, but I offset that with doing my best to prepare and train properly so I can stand at the start line and feel like I’m ready.  I also practice quite a bit of internal dialogue to let myself know that a person’s worth is not based on one race performance.  A good day or a bad day will not change who you are.

I have the most respect for athletes who can lose gracefully, pick themselves back up, learn from the experience and race well another day.  I also look at an athlete’s entire body of work and the ones who have many consistent results are more impressive to me than one flash in the pan performance.  The bottom line is that it’s bike racing and nothing more.  Racing is a powerful, wonderful experience in so many ways.  Putting yourself on the line and working hard for a result is a worthy endeavor.  However, extra pressure just makes you waste energy and burn calories you could use for pedaling.  Just keep a realistic view and don’t forget why you signed up in the first place.

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What drives you most to compete in endurance XC Racing?

Q: What drives you most to compete in endurance XC Racing? Many people shy away from these races due to many factors such as the distance and altitude. You have absolutely thrived and have become a superhero, the Queen of Pain! – A. Kalliokoski

 

A: I love endurance racing for a few reasons.  I love the adventure and the exploration and the fact that every course is different.  I also love the fact that the longer and harder the event, the more I find out what I’m really made of.  It sometimes takes hours and days to strip away all of the exterior to find out who you are inside.  People who shy away from these events and just stay within their comfort zone are really missing the big rewards that come at the end of a really committing and difficult endurance event.

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How important is rivalry during a season?

Q: How important is rivalry during a season, and has rivalry ever become a negative influence on your performance? – D. Leece

A: For me competition is a great motivator and the reason I have been singing up for various races and events since high school.  Being in a competition motivates me, focuses me, gives me a goal to shoot for and brings out the extra level of commitment that I don’t find riding on my own.  I don’t necessarily care who else is on the start line with me, it’s more the stopwatch, the accountability, the measured effort that are motivating.  Competition pushes me to be better and work harder than I would otherwise.  I’m always pushing athletes to sign up for races and letting them know that “race” is not a four letter word, but really a way to bring out your best performance and commitment.  Rivalry on the other hand is way more personal and, in my opinion, adds a negative twist to competition.  When I race, I try hard not to focus on an individual person that I’m racing, but instead focus on my performance.  There is no one I can control except for myself, so doing the best I can instead of fueling a personal rivalry has always provided better results for me and feels much less negative.  Most of the women I race against on the endurance circuit are great friends.  On the race course, we are doing our best and everyone’s trying to win, but after we cross the finish line, the competition ends.

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How do you motivate a partner who’s scared of the pressure?

Q: How do you motivate your riding companion to work/train harder in order to participate in a mixed team competition when he/she is scared of the pressure? – A. Cravo

 

A: See a therapist?  Seriously, team racing is a blast to have someone to share the experience with, but it does open up a whole can of team dynamic issues that are important to master.  I have years of team racing experience from my adventure racing days.  I learned the hard way that you cannot change people and how to motivate someone is very individual.  Some athletes can be pushed harder and others just need a hug and to slow down before they can go faster.  How you motivate and listen to your partner when he/she is tired, scared, hungry will dictate if you ever race together again.  If you find the right buttons to push, you’ll have success and a great adventure together.  Push the wrong buttons and you may just amplify the fear and insecurities your partner has.  Sorry I can’t give you a better answer, but it’s really time together getting to know each other and having a conversation about what that person needs in order to race harder.  It really is a bit of therapy, so try to put yourself in their shoes and find out where they are coming from.

 

 

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Why do you to race ultra-endurance events instead of cross country races?

Q: Why do you race?  And why do you to race ultra-endurance events instead of cross country races?  Isn’t that just more suffering? - L. Blake

A: I race for motivation, fitness, social interaction, fun, travel, exploration and to constantly push myself.  I do best with a goal on the horizon, so I sign up for races to keep me honest and motivated and to have something to look forward to.  It’s my job, but I also chose this because I get so much out of racing. All of my best life lessons and experiences have been on a race course of some sort.  My best friends and boyfriend are all athletes.

I take part in all races, like XC, cyclocross and road racing for fun and fitness, but my passion is endurance mountain bike racing.  I gravitated towards the longs stuff because I had a background in ultra endurance events like Eco Challenge and I’m just better at long events.  Even in high school running, I was better at the 2 mile than the 400 meter.

I also feel like the ultra endurance events offer a much more complete experience package for me than a 1.5 hr XC race.  Yes, it’s “more suffering” as you put it, but it’s also more great riding, more mental strength required, more fitness, more outdoor experience and more of an adventure for me.  The longer the race, the more the exterior layers get stripped away and we discover what we’re really made of.  Crossing a finish line on a 100 miler or even longer is way more rewarding to me than a sprint event because I know the commitment and work I had to put in to get there.  Happy trails!  I hope to see you on a really long race course sometime!

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How do you handle burnout and exhaustion?

Q: After a long season of travel, racing and eating gels, how do you handle burnout and exhaustion? What do you do to recharge so that the training doesn’t seem so overwhelming come next season? – T. Downs

 

A:  I spend time at home doing other sports, re-connecting with friends, getting my life in order and schedule non-training specific workouts.  I don’t shut down completely because it’s hard to get back to training if you take too much time off, but it’s really just activity with friends, enjoying the late season fitness, but with no real goals or times in mind.  It’s one of my favorite times of year because I have earned the right to be a bit chill and unstructured for a while before training gets serious again.

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Any ideas for staying focused over the cold months?

Q: Without any planned cycling events until the end of March 2013, I am finding it hard to stay focused on training in October. I have decided to mix it up and sign up for a winter marathon and have been anjoying the change. Any other ideas for keeping the focus over the cold months? I’d love to hear what your off-season looks like? if you even have one :) – J. Toole

A:  Keeping focused over the winter months is hard and takes discipline.  I too struggle with this when the next goal is far away.  I have to implement a bit of self discipline by signing up for local cross country ski races, soliciting the help of friends to train with me and get me out the door, sign up for gym classes to keep me on a bit of a schedule.  I find I struggle to stay super motivated on my own, so I need races, friends and other commitments to keep me going.  My CTS coach Dean Golich also keeps me honest because I am downloading workouts and if I’ve got nothing to download, then I have to answer to him about it.  I do take it easy in the off season and mix up the sports, but I also don’t want to get too lazy or it’s a whole lot harder come Spring.  Other motivation tips are to keep a calendar with a countdown to your event, set some interim goals and just keep reminding your self that work now will pay off later.

 

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Health:

Health

How do you deal with deep quad cramping?

Q: I am a flat lander from Michigan – I have tried/completed the leadville silver rush 50 2X now and on both occassions have experienced deep quad cramping.  It almost runs into the groin.  I am pushing electrolytes and fluid – and feel I have enough base miles that the distance is not the issue.

Acclimating – I arrive 7 days pre-race to get used to the altitude. I am stumped, I would love to try the LV100 or Breck 100 but my last bout at the SR50 was no fun. I can’t seem to replicate the cramping outside of altitude, even with similar elevation gain. Have you experienced?  If so what have you done to overcome? –  G. Hofmann

A:  I have occasionally experienced cramping and this year’s Leadville was one of those situations.  I talked with Dr. Holden MacRae who works with the Red Bull Performance Center.  Here is his response.  It’s a bit long and scientific, but very informative.  What I take from this is that strength and power training should be increased to ward off cramps in race situations.

“On the cramping issue. You probably know that the majority of scientists who work in this area would say that it is either dehydration or electrolyte disturbances, or both, that are the cause for cramping in endurance athletes. Unfortunately, there is no evidence for this hypothesis from studies in endurance athletes (crampers and non-crampers) who performed in endurance competition. The interesting thing is that cramping usually only occurs in competition – I think you have probably not experienced it during typical training sessions.  There are a few good studies on runners and Iron Man triathletes which compared crampers to non-crampers and showed that dehydration and electrolyte levels are not associated with muscle cramping during or after exercise. So, something else must be going on.

Given that your nutrition (and I assume hydration before and during the races) was ‘as usual”, and also because we (those of us who are not funded or supported by drink companies such as Gatorade) have no evidence for dehydration/electrolyte disturbances causing muscle cramps, then riding faster was probably the cause for the cramping.

I am assuming that the cramps did not start until the final 25% to 33% of each race when you were most fatigued, and that the cramps were localized (either gastroc/soleus – “calf muscles” or quads). I did my PhD in Cape Town, and one of the researchers there, Dr Martin Schwellnus (an MD/PhD) has done quite a bit of research in this area and has also worked in medical tents for years at endurance races. They have proposed a neural fatigue mechanism for cramping that has high validity. Basically, you have 2 important types of neural control at the muscle level via

  • Type Ia muscle spindles whose activity will cause a muscle to contract, and
  • Type Ib Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s) whose activity will cause a muscle to relax. If the GTO is inhibited, then the muscle will contract.

In studies of muscle function and fatigue, the following has been found:

  • When muscle becomes fatigued, the firing rate of the Type Ia afferent fibers from the muscle spindle INCREASES (the muscle contracts)
  • and the firing rate from the Type Ib afferent fibers from the Golgi tendon organ DECREASES (the muscle contracts)

Therefore, my thinking on this is that you are racing at higher speeds which requires higher power outputs (and hence higher levels of muscle activation), and when the muscles are not conditioned for this, as you get far into the race, fatigue causes the following;

  • Spindle activity increases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction
  • GTO activity decreases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction

And so in muscles that cross two joints (gastroc/soleus and/or quads) you will cramp more often; if a muscle crosses two joints, then it means that the muscle is going to be in a shortened position when it contracts. When the muscle is in this position, then the activity of the GTO is going to be reduced even more than normal. Add to this the contraction, which stimulates the muscle spindle, and the net result is that the inhibition of the motor neuron is reduced even further, predisposing one to cramp.

Probably the most effective countermeasure for those affected muscles will be to increase their strength/power such that they will be less prone to fatigue during high levels of activation.”

Mark as helpful. 18

One of my toes is turning from circular to triangular shape…

My feet have skin tags from wearing long hours of formal shoes to work. Is there any sole product that will help me cure my problem. One of my toes is turning from circular shape to triangular shape.

Whoa! Sounds like you need different shoes for work.  No shoe, no matter how formal should deform your feet.  If this is happening, you should get your feet size measured again and look for shoes with a wider toe box to allow your toes to spread out naturally.  Most of us go up in shoe size as we age and many people wear shoes that are too small.  To answer your question, yes, any of the Sole footbeds can go inside regular shoes to offer more arch support, better foot health and a customized fit to your shoes.

Here are some recommended insoles to help deal specifically with foot pain and other foot problems.

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Can your arm be fractured and you can still move it and move your fingers?

Ben, this comes directly quoted from my physical therapist, training partner and friend, Karoline Droege.  Go get yourself checked out, OK?

“The simple answer to this question is yes. The more appropriate answer is that if you have fallen and suspect you have a broken bone, you should be evaluated by a MD and likely need some imaging to find out more. Not treating a fracture can lead to a number of undesireable outcomes that will keep you off your bike. If you decide it’s not broken but you have soft tissue damage you may want to see a physical therapist to make sure you heal quickly and correctly.”

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How do you know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat?

Q: My 1st question relates to the nutritional/caloric balance between weight loss and performance. How do you know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat? I’m think I’m struggling to loose weight because I’m eating too much or the wrong stuff. I don’t want to lose fitness due to bonking mid workout or have poor recovery due to not eating enough.

A: The weight loss equation is fairly simple. Calories in vs. calories burned. If you want to lose weight, eat less and move more. However, during workouts and post workout are not the times to limit your intake. Starving yourself during a training ride or neglecting immediate post race nutrition will just make your fitness suffer. Also, your body is most efficient at burning calories while you are exercising and just afterwards so those are the times you should be eating. Take a look at the rest of your day’s intake to evaluate where you can cut calories or supplement more nutritional foods.

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How do you avoid common over-use injuries with your endless training and racing miles?

I’ve been sidelined for months with IT Band issues after one endurance race. How do you avoid common over-use injuries with your endless training and racing miles?

The foam roller is my savior.  I use this daily and travel with it.  It’s a poor man’s massage and essential in releasing tight muscles and speeding recovery.  Most injuries are a result of tightness and weakness in an area.  “Overuse” injuries happen many times not because of too much “use”, but due to neglect in other areas such as opposing muscle groups.  The IT band can really benefit from the foam roller.

http://store.tptherapy.com/The_Grid_Revolutionary_Foam_Roller_p/tpt-grd.htm

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How do most people end up breaking their collar bones and how have you prevented yourself from doing the same?

Knock on wood, but I’ve never broken my collar bone.  Like most of us, I have a rational and sometimes irrational fear of falling and hurting myself.  None of us want to get injured, not even the guys who seem fearless.  I guarantee that everyone is afraid, it’s just a a different level for everyone.  From what I know, the typical collar bone break comes from extending your arm straight out in an attempt to catch your fall with your hand.  This is a natural reaction, so not doing it is a challenge.   Everyone I’ve talked to says that “tuck and roll” is the safest way to fall.  You keep your extremities in tight and the change of injury is reduced.  Another tip I’ve heard is to hold onto your handlebars if you are going over.  This also helps avoid sticking your hand out to break your fall.

From my own experience and the never ending process of mtb skill development, I have found that places like the pump track and bike parks are the best tools for learning skills in a controlled and fun environment.  It’s supportive, you can go at your own pace and the features are custom built for bikes, so they flow and they are meant to be ridden.

Start slow and as your skills develop, so will your confidence.

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What strategies do you use to combat upper body fatigue during long rides?

Q: Can you discuss specific strategies (exercises, bike set up, etc.) that you use to combat upper body fatique during long training sessions and races? Thank you. – S. Anderson

A: Bike fit is key for anyone, especially endurance riders.  This is the first crucial step in comfort and performance on the bike.  If you have not had a professional bike fit, do it now.  It’s worth the money.  If your upper body is getting extremely tired on rides, then I’m assuming that your cockpit length is not right and you are putting too much weight on your arms.  Specialized Body Geometry Fits are offered at many Specialized dealers around the country and it doesn’t matter what brand of bike you ride. They do a great job.

If your fit is dialed and you are still getting tons of upper body fatigue, it might be time to consider some cross training to strengthen your upper body.  Many cyclists who don’t do any other sports suffer from muscle imbalances and lack of flexibility.  It might be worth it to throw in some gym time, swimming or rock climbing to balance and strengthen your upper body a bit more. Two key exercises are push-ups and up-right rows.

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What do you do in your training to increase your mental toughness?

Q: Chrissie Wellington attributes her success to training her brain to be as strong as her body.  By that I believe she is saying that a lot of her training involves developing her mental toughness.  What do you do in your training to increase your mental toughness? – M. Jacobsen

A: There are two answers to this question.  I do believe that some people are born with more mental fortitude than others.  People like Chrissie Wellington, Sir Edmund Hilary, Ernest Shakleton, etc are just cut from a different cloth.  They were born with a strong will and ended up gravitating towards endeavors that suited their strength.  Not everyone has the mind or body to do what they’ve done.  However, you can train your brain.  I have been taking part in some fascinating brain training with the Red Bull Performance Team and Neurotopia.  It’s all a bit sci-fi, but the bottom line is that Red Bull has athletes play video games without touching any controls.  You control the game and drive the car via the electdrodes on your head and how you concentrate and think about the performance.  Loose focus or try too hard and the car stops.  Find the sweet spot or the “zone” and the car goes.  I have access to this really cool tool through Red Bull, but I also do my own effective, but less sophisticated form of mental training at home and in races.  Basic visualization of success, riding strong, crossing a finish line are all ways to strengthen your thoughts.  Positive talk is key in racing and training.  It may not be as sci-fi as the Neurotopia game, but I believe it works.

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Do you ride better if your body is acclimated?

Q: We are riding the Copper Triangle in August.  Do you think it’s imperative that we go in before and ride to get our bodies acclimated elevation wise?  We loved your talk in Lawrence. Great job on Dirty Kanza! – K. Heisdorffer

 

A: I looked up the Copper Triangle to see that the whole event is above 10,000 ft.  Your body will absolutely perform better with proper acclimatization.  This is proven science.  In general it takes more than two weeks to get acclimatized properly.  Going out 3 days early is actually worse because you body is working hard to get used to the new altitude and will be very tired with this effort.  If you can’t get out there early, then the next best theory is to get to altitude less than 24 hours before the event begins.  This way, your body hasn’t realized what you’ve done to it yet and hasn’t started feeling the affects of trying to acclimatize.  The bottom line is to take it easy at high altitude and don’t expect the same sort of speed and snap as you have at sea level.  Be conservative at the start and be sure to hydrate and fuel properly.

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Are longer races harder or easier for those with asthma & lung issues?

Q: Hey, I too have asthma and other lung issues. I am a mountain biker, runner, and adventure racer. I read in a past article that you switched to 100 milers. How is that working for your asthma and do you find that with these type of races you have less symptoms???
Thanks, Amy Glover

A: I also have a history with Adventure Racing, running and of course cycling. I rarely had issues in really long adventure races because the intensity was different than with cycling. I LOVE 24 Hour mtb racing, but the solo events were starting to really take a toll on my lungs. I think it is the combination of the very high intensity, prolonged effort, and sometimes dusty breathing conditions that really hit me hard. I do find that my asthma gets kicked off and my breathing deteriorates after about 12-15 hours of hard riding. For me stage racing, 100 milers, even adventure racing allows the body recovery time and a bit of reprieve so it can heal itself a bit. I still cough and get symptoms, as always, but I don’t end up basically with a lung infection after the shorter races. It’s totally manageable with warm up, inhalers, even testing for food allergies. It’s worth it to address your lung issues so that they don’t hold you back in your sports and so that you don’t do irreparable damage to your body. Good luck!

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What’s the best way you’ve found to prevent & treat blisters?

Q: (2 part question) What’s the best way you’ve found to prevent blisters… and what do you think is the best way to treat them so you can keep going when they do happen? – A. Smart

Knock on wood, but the only time I’ve had a blister in my cycling shoes is when I’ve had to walk too far in them during an adventure race. If you are getting blisters riding, your shoes are too small or don’t fit right. I’d suggest getting your feet measured if you have not done it in a while. Our feet get bigger as we age. I’d also suggest insoles to support your arches. Try some different socks. I really like wool socks for most everything.
If you do get a blister or have a spot that’s prone, Adventure Medical Kits makes a great blister treatment and prevention called GlacierGel blister dressing. It’s super thin, has a little bubble that prevents friction on the area and it’ll stay on for a long time.
When all else fails and I have no supplies and have to keep going, I’ve used duct tape in adventure races, but don’t plan to take it off until well after the event ends.

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How do you keep your feet from hurting on long rides?

Q: How do you keep your feet from hurting on long rides.
Dale Lambert

A: See the answer to Alison’s question above regarding shoe selection, sizing and insoles. Otherwise, toughen them up a bit with some running thrown into your training. Your body needs a bit of impact exercise to keep joints and bones strong. It’ll strengthen your feet too!

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What is your best “poison ivy” treatment?

Q: What is your best “poison ivy” treatment? (What you do AFTER it already got you!!!) :)
Thanks!
MAC – MaryAnne Thaldorf

A: Best treatment is absolute avoidance. It’s an evil plant! You can also use Ivy Block before exposure if you’re going to be in an area where it’s prevalent. This will help prevent getting it.

Wash with Ivy Cleanse or some other wash immediately if you suspect you were anywhere near it. Wash all your clothes separately including helmet, gloves, your dog or anything else that might have been in contact. After the fact, use Ivy Soothe or cortisone cream to relieve the itching and DO NOT SCRATCH IT! Cover the exposed area to keep it from spreading.

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What skin care products do you use to keep your skin looking young?

Q: Rebecca, Why wouldn’t you be my girlfriend in high school? Just kidding!

Aside from using a good sunscreen, what skin care products do you use to keep your skin looking young given you are out in the harsh environment day after day. The four women in my house would like to know.
Have a great day!
Dan Smith

A: I wasn’t going to answer this question, but I figured since I blew you off in high school, it would be rude to do it again now! Ha! I remember in the high school days it was cool to slather on baby oil and go fry in the back yard. Well, now I kind of try to avoid the sun. It’s impossible given my profession. I use Beyond Coastal sunscreen. They make safe products that really work. Here are some of their sun safety tips. I also wear Specialized solar arm covers often when I’m riding to keep sun off my forearms. They are super thin and work great.
I’m also wearing a Red Bull hat much of the time to keep sun off my face. I wish there were some magic fountain of youth lotion I could tell you about, but the bottom line is that the sun is the biggest enemy to our skin. So, tell your ladies to drink lots of water, use a good sunscreen every day and cover up outside.
Sorry about the high school thing too! It sounds as if you’ve gotten over it just fine! Cheers.

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What is your training & racing diet?

Q: My husband is a cyclist. I am a chubby Judo player (33 years!). We are both curious about what your training diet is?  That’s our question!

A: My training and racing diet has changed quite a bit over the years. My favorite race food in some of my early adventure races used to be Cheetos and Swedish Fish. They were my favorite comfort foods when I was really suffering. They fed my soul, but did little to feed my body. Over the years, I’ve learned much more about nutrition, hydration and what to put into my mouth to get the most out of my legs. I’m not obsessive about diet and will eat pretty much anything in moderation. However, I have learned “garbage in = garbage out” in terms of energy. The main changes I’ve made are eating less processed foods or things that come in packages, making more food at home, eating more veggies and making my own bread. For racing, I use many Hammer Nutrition products because they are very easy to digest when you are working hard. They also have a great library of information on nutrition on their website and it applies to athletes and non-athletes alike. P.S. Of course I answer all of my own questions! Thanks for writing. I’ll say hi to the family for you!

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Have you experience foot numbness/pain while riding?

Dear Queen of Pain,
When I ride I experience numbness in my left big toe that radiates through my foot which I assume is some nerve-related issue. My doctor advises backing off on my riding – which is a non-option as far as I’m concerned. Have you ever experienced this and do you do anything specific to alleviate nerve pinch while racing? ”

Find yourself a pedorthist to help you out. They are specifically trained in making orthopedics and shoe modifications. I live in a ski town, so custom footbeds and shoe/boot modification is super common. Find someone who specializes in this, especially with athletes. If you come to Sun Valley, ID, I can recommend a good one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedorthist
I’ve never had this problem, but I had an adventure racing teammate who had a similar experience. He was diagnosed with Morton’s Neuroma and it sounds really similar to what you might have. Check out the symptoms and treatment here.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004542
I’m confident that with custom orthopedics and the right shoe (that has a roomy toe box), you will get some relief. Good luck

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Do you have snack foods that you carry with you when traveling?

I once read an article about Juli Furtado that said back when she was racing and traveling a lot she carried a can of corn as a back up to the horrible airplane food.  Do you have any back-up, quick snack, foods that you always have with you when traveling?

Juli is an icon, but who knew she had such bad taste in food?  Is canned corn really that much better than airplane food?  I agree it’s hard to get good food when traveling, but it’s out there if you look.  I do take snacks on the plane, usually nuts and a cashew/coconut/choc chip Hammer bar.  Organic and tastes good.  It’s better than canned corn and better for you, I promise.

http://www.hammernutrition.com/products/hammer-bars.fb.html?navcat=fuels-energy-drinks

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Favoring one leg while riding…

On long rides I find that after many hours of hard riding my right leg gets totally fried while my left is just fine.  I’m assuming that this has to do with favoring my right leg while pedaling without knowing it.  I’ve tried to work on my pedal stroke in the past but obviously I’m not doing something right.  Do you have any pedal stroke suggestions for me?  My fear is if I don’t correct this my right leg will get so strong I will only be able to walk in circles when off the bike.  HELP!!!”

One legged drills on an indoor trainer are the best way to improve pedal stroke and even out any discrepancies.  I do these all winter long.  You will notice immediately where the dead spots in your pedal stroke are.  I do 30 second drills on each leg with a minute of pedaling with both legs in between.  Use an easy gear and strive for a smooth, consistent pedal stroke.

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How many hours of sleep do you get on average?

How many hours of sleep do you get on average?  Does it depend on how you have recovered from your workout?

Here’s what the scientists at Restwise say about sleep.

http://restwise.com/whatwedo/theprocess/ 

It is one of the crucial elements in good recovery which leads to effective training.  For me 8 hrs/night is essential

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Do you recommend commercial variety of compression tight?

Due to experiencing a superficial phlebitis, and general fear of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) on long road trips and flights, I have started wearing compression socks. DVT has seemed to become epidemic among the aging athletes of my small mountain town! I remember your give away of “”squeezy pants”” or compression tights at a Tour Divide showing in Wyoming, and I am curious; though I know they reduce the incidence of clots, what is the general benefit derived from compression tights for muscle recovery? Do you recommend the generally available commercial variety of compression tight (not space legs type technology exactly), and if so why?

 The benefit of recovery from using sports compression garments is scientifically proven.  Skins has done a ton of research in this area and you can read all about the benefits on the Skins website.  The bottom line is that compression increases venous return, accelerates recovery process, reduces lactic acid, reduces ankle swelling.   These are the things that happen during long travel and also during training and racing.  As athletes we are breaking down muscle tissue when we work hard and taking the recovery process seriously and accelerating it just makes sense.  I use the Skins RY400 tights and also the shorter calf tights.  I travel with them and also wear them between stages of races, at home or whenever I’m going to be on my feet a long time.  I absolutely recommend a sport specific type of recovery tight over the medical ones or just regular lycra because they’ve put a ton of time and research into athletes muscles and designed the tights to fit more specifically and offer gradient compression. I’m sure you can find all the scientific answers you are looking for on the Skins site.

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When you are injured, how do you keep the rest of the body fit?

When you pick up an injury – like a broken bone or strained muscle – how do you keep the rest of the body ticking over on fit, whilst you have to rest that particular area of your body?

 I’ve been lucky avoiding injuries, but basically you have to change sports to allow the injury to heal.  Swimming, nordic skiing, cycling are all great recovery sports that allow other body parts to rest.  The bottom line is that you cannot rush recovery.  I know way too many athletes who actually extend the life of their injury by coming back too soon.  Have patience and do what the doctor orders so that you can come back even stronger and put the injury behind you for good.   Once you’re back in the saddle, take your stretching, foam roller and strength training seriously to stay injury free.

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How do you avoid leg cramps during endurance races with extreme heat?

Proper hydration and electrolytes.  Here’s what Hammer Nutrition advises to avoid cramping.

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I find that when I’m training hard I tend to get more colds

I find that when I’m training hard I tend to get more colds.  It doesn’t help that I teach 170 middle school kids everyday–lots of germs.  What are your suggestions for staying healthy while intensely training?

Sleep, hand washing, proper nutrition and vitamin supplements.  I would also say that your job is probably making it harder to stay healthy than your training.

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In one of your videos, you fill a Hydrapak Soft Flask with a liquid and mentioned that it represents 2 hours of food. Can you tell me what that food consists of?

Perpetuem from Hammer Nutrition.  I mix it into a paste that’s easy to get down and packed with just the right mixture of protein, carbs and fat to fuel me for endurance events.  Liquids take less energy to digest than solids and Perpetuem works really well for me.  You can also mix it less concentrated into a water bottle, but I prefer the concentrated soft flask mix.  I like the Caffe Latte flavor and Strawberry Vanilla. Yum, Yum.

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Can you fill us in on your stretching routine?

Just do it.  It’s necessary and beneficial.  I don’t stretch as much as I could, but attempt to stay somewhat regular with a general routine of yoga Sun Salutations that seem to hit many major body groups.  I also spend time stretching tight hips and doing chest openers to counteract the hunched position on the bike.

Trigger Point foam roller is also a staple in my routine.  This thing is almost as good as  getting a daily sports massage.

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What is the best way to get in the most water and keeping the least amount of dirt/ sand out of your mouth?

I use the ultra sanitary method of wiping my water bottle or hydration pack valve on my jersey or glove.  Right along side all the snot that I just wiped off my nose.

Seriously though, staying healthy in foreign countries is a big issue.  I was not able to successfully achieve this in Morocco.  I got sick the last night of the race and spent most of the evening on the toilet.  Needless to say, my result suffered and I had a hideous plane ride home.  It has taken me two weeks to finally recover from that illness.

One tactic I learned from a racer in La Ruta this year during a particular section with a ton of cows, was to put your hydration pack tube on the inside of your jersey to keep the cow paddies from covering your mounthpiece.  Of course you have to keep your mouth closed then too!

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How do you deal with close family and friends who feel you’re pushing too hard, try to discourage you, and make you quit?

I haven’t had that issue because my family and friends have always been super supportive.  One suggestion I might have is to bring them into your new passion by inviting them to a race as support crew or just to be part of the action.  Perhaps when they see for themselves all the positive things you are gaining from ultra running, they might understand this culture and group of people a bit better.  For years my Mom volunteered at adventure races while I was racing and got to know the racers, the organizers and got to see all the people striving for their goals.  I think it helped her really understand and respect my sport even if it’s something she would never do.

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How do you track your nutrition? Do you follow any specific nutritional plan?

I don’t keep a food log or measure out calories, however I have changed my eating significantly over the last few years as I’ve gotten older and wiser and more serious about my training.  I used to love to eat Cheetos and Gummi Bears as race food when I was first adventure racing.  My thought was that since I was working so hard, I earned the right to eat as much crappy, comfort food as I wanted.  I’ve since become more educated and aware that food is fuel and my body is going to respond better if I put in a higher grade of fuel.  Don’t get me wrong, I still eat treats, drink wine and like I said, I don’t harshly ration myself.  What I do is make consistently better choices with more fresh food, less packaged food, more fruits/veg, recovery drinks after training, drink more water than I used to and try to limit the bad stuff.  I make a point of spending the extra money on organic meat and certain items when I can.  I make my own bread and tried to grow a garden, but that’s not feasible where I live.  In summary, I don’t follow a nutrition plan, I just try to eat healthy and I feel better because of it.

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How are you adjusting recovery time and nutrition through the years as father time marches on?

I’ve gotten way smarter and more experienced after so many years of racing.  My training (with my coach) is way more scientific and specific than it used to be and so is my recovery.  As athletes, we can race for a good, long time, but we can’t just go out and thrash day after day like we used to without paying the price later.  What has kept me getting faster and faster each year, despite aging is smarter training (including increased speed and strength work), better nutrition and focused recovery.  I use a fabulous tool designed by my coach called Restwise.  It helps me track when I’m run down due to training stress, life stress, lack of sleep, illness, mood, etc.  It’s been super helpful in telling me when I can really ramp it up and when I need to take another day off.  So the remedy, or the fountain of youth, so to speak is to train, rest and eat smarter.  Hopefully, like Ned Overend, we’ll all still be beating 25 year olds when we’re 50!

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What else can you offer about cramping?

I’ve been surprised to learn that Pro racers struggle with cramping much the same way as the rest of us (mere mortals). In this year’s LT100 you downed a Red Bull Shot to quell the impending spasms. What else can you offer about cramping?  Spasms seem to be the only thing holding me back from my time goals in endurance xc…”

A:  see answer on cramping above and Hammer Nutritions recommendations on combating cramps. http://www.hammernutrition.com/problem-solver/cramping/

Remember pros are humans too.  Our bodies react in the same way to stress as anyone.  Preparation and nutrition are key in making sure you have the strength, endurance and fuel to complete the event you are targeting.  Cramps are a signal that you are spiraling into a hole that your body is not keeping up with.  Anyone, pro or not, who is pushing to their maximum can experience cramps, vomiting, or any of the other usual constraints.

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I broke my femur when I screwed and approach and fell jumping a downed tree last month…

I broke my femur when I screwed and approach and fell jumping a downed tree last month, and have had my leg/hip rebuilt. I should be cleared to walk and ride again in a few weeks, and I am going to concentrate on getting my quads and hips back to my pre crash state. My wind and endurance were pretty good before the injury, since I was training for a few endurance races. My question is whether I should use faster cadence at first and use my heart rate as a monitor, or go for more strength work using a slower cadence and getting out of the saddle more. My knee is a bit weak from an ACL injury many years ago, but has held up pretty well so far. My trails here are mostly flow with a few roots etc. but with short steep sections. What do you think?

 

A:  David, I think you should talk to your physical therapist about all of this stuff.  I’m not really an expert in this field and have never broken my femur or had ACL surgery.  I really can’t say.  My guess would be that you’ll have to do some of both and also include strength workouts in the gym, stretching and specific exercises that your PT gives you.   I wish you a speedy recovery.

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What is the best way to make sure your body does not crash?

At the beginning of the season I was in tiptop form and started a whole foods diet with success.   I was riding excellent and added some running and weights to mix it up . Then my body shut down and I am still recovering . My thought is I pushed way too hard on all of the different forms of training I was doing and then my body just shut down.

So what in your opinion is the best way to make sure your body does not crash  ( diet to calories , Rest , Mixed level training )

 

A:  Restwise.  Check this out and click on the links for the problem and solution with overtraining.  Training, diet, recovery, managing stress are all part of the mixture to avoid overtraining.  It’s a delicate balance.  I hope this helps.

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I am an avid biker who just recently was diagnosed with diabetes

I am an avid biker who just recently was diagnosed with diabetes.  Annually I ride from Colorado to Missouri (500miles).  With your background should I continue to ride bikes alone for training purposes and what are precautions should I take to avoid incidents on the bike? ”

A:  Hey Ed, I wish I could help, but I don’t have the experience in this field to answer your question.  I will say I know a TON of athletes with diabetes who compete, train and kick ass in general.  It can absolutely be managed, but you need to work with a doctor really closely on this.  Good luck.

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For an athlete at your level, can you detail your thoughts on alcohol consumption?

Mountain bikers historically like beer or more generically alcohol.  Even Lance says that its good to have a cold one after a hard training day.  For an athlete at your level, can you detail your thoughts on alcohol consumption and if you have any levels or limits you’ve imposed on your self during the regular season as well as the off season(there is no off season?).

 

A:  I have a short off season from about mid November til early February.  Regarding alcohol consumption, I believe everything in moderation.   I do cut out certain things like alcohol as I am peaking for a big race. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an adult beverage from time to time.

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A detailed meal plan?

A detailed meal plan ?

A:  I’m not super specific about food.  I avoid packaged, processed foods as much as possible.  Try to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  Drink water.  Take vitamins.  Eat organic protein.  I make my own bread.  I don’t skip meals.  Just basic, good nutrition.

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Most nutritious but tasty dessert…..

What would you say is the best, most nutritious but tasty dessert you can get after a great day on the bike? A reward that isn’t bad?

A:  chocolate, it’s and anti-oxidant!

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What off bike training you do keep your lower back happy and healthy during long races?

Q:  Can you please talk about the off bike training you do keep your lower back happy and healthy during long races? - S. Anderson

A:  We all have our trigger points that flare up when we are most tired.  I do not suffer from lower back pain when I ride.  Mine tends to be more upper back and neck.  However, my boyfriend, Greg, who’s also a World Champion 24 Hour racer has struggled with lower back pain a ton.  He is able to combat this with really good hip flexor stretching on a regular basis.  According to my bodyworker, pain in one area is almost always tightness and weakness in an opposing muscle group.  You can stretch out your low back as much as you want, but you won’t fix the problem until you release the hips and hip flexors.  Foam rolling has saved Greg’s back and mine. Also, make sure you have a proper bike fit.  Too stretched forward on the bike can cause back issues too.

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How many avg miles do you run weekly to be in decent shape? And how do you stay out of injuries?

Q:  How many avg miles do you run weekly to be in decent shape? And how do you stay out of injuries? - M. Rodriguez

A: I run, ride, weight train about 6 days a week.  The mileage and amount of time depends totally on what part of the season it is and what I am training for.  I believe it’s not the number of hours you do, but the quality.  Even if you only have 45 minutes, you can get in a great interval session.  How much you train and rest is personal depending on your goals, life, injuries, job.  I have found that resting a lot, stretching, getting massage and cross training all help keep me injury free.

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I’m coming off an injury/surgery…what do you feel would be the best training to get me back in shape for cross?

Q:  I’m coming off an injury/surgery, and have just now been released to start training although not yet on the bike, what do you feel would be the best training to get me back in shape for cross? I should be able to ride in two weeks, and race in 5-6 weeks. – G. Smith

A: From my Physical Therapist and training partner, Karoline Droege:

This is a loaded question and one that is tough to answer not knowing the extent of your injury, if you had surgery and what body part was involved.  It’s also hard to judge, not knowing how much down time occurred and what kind of conditioning you had prior to the injury.  Starting to race 3-4 weeks after getting back on your bike is possible, but I wouldn’t expect huge results. The intensity of cross requires a big base and intensity training, which you’ll have to create in a small window. Keep in mind that cross season will come again but you might end up creating an overuse issue that nags you until then if you push too hard too soon.

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Is there any real way to IMPROVE my V02 Max, or am I just destine to be a mid-packer based on my genes?

Q:  Is there any real way to IMPROVE my V02 Max, or am I just destine to be a mid-packer based on my genes? – M. Windsor

A: Vo2 max doesn’t change with training, but Lactate Threshold, power output and metabolic efficiency DO!  Those markers are way more important in performance improvements than Vo2 max.  If it makes you feel any better, I have a fairly average Vo2 max, low lung volume and asthma.   However, I am really good at metabolizing fats, have improved my power steadily over the years and am still seeing measured fitness gains every year.  Mental toughness, skill and experience are also huge factors in performance success. I say, ignore your genes, hire a coach and see where you can take your fitness!

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Are there times of the month where energy is higher and better for racing?

Q: I did my first endurance race yesterday, I trained all summer for it!  However I was bummed because my race was kinda  ‘cramped’ by one particular inconvenience of being a woman.  So my question is,  (For Women) are there times of the month where energy is higher and better for racing? – J. Ridd

A:  There are tons of articles on this topic.  Here’s one from the NY Times that refers to three different studies and they basically did not find strong evidence that women were weaker or compromised during menstruation.  Everyone is different and I know some women who cramp so badly, they could not compete at a high level during that time.  I also know of one Olympic athlete who took birth control and manipulated the dosage to control the timing of her period for key races.  My experience has been that I’ve raced well and poorly at all different times of the month and I have not found any direct correlation.  I believe in this situation, that regardless of the timing, do not let your head convince you that you will be weaker if you get a surprise visit before a race.

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With all of your travel, what are 3 key things you do to stay healthy?

Q: I’ve found travel usually runs me down mostly because I don’t sleep well out of my own bed.  With all of your travel what are 3 key things you do to stay healthy? - T. Pitman

A: I travel with Skins Compression Wear to keep the blood flowing in my legs and combat the tiring affects of travel.

I hydrate and try to eat really well.

I take all of my usual vitamins and supplements.

I try to book travel to arrive at least a few days before the event so I have time to adjust to regular sleep, the climate, and get over the stress of travel.

I don’t have trouble sleeping, but for your sleep issues, I’d recommend earplugs and an eye mask.  I also know one racer who travels with a small white noise sound machine (or you can download whitenoise to your iPod for free).

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Would running improve my fitness on the bike or hurt it?

Q: Would running improve my fitness on the bike or hurt it? - J. Silva

A: I am a supporter of cross-training for life-long health.  Running is a very “quick bang for the buck” workout and is easy to do when traveling or if you are short on time.  It is also a great way to include a weight bearing exercise into your fitness regime.  It’s well documented that cyclists have a lower bone density than other athletes in weight bearing sports.  Throwing in a couple of short runs per week will help your cycling, give you some variety and expand your fitness.  I usually run twice a week for 30-60 minutes at an easy pace.  These workouts are often on the front end of a weight training day as a warm up, or as a recovery day between harder cycling workouts.  You can also throw in a few sprints and plyometrics into the run for a more complete workout.

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Do you ever require or desire a personal chef?

Q: While doing your endurance races…  Do you ever require or desire a personal chef to have foods ready for you in regards to where you are in the process of the event that will heighten your performance at that time?  And, do you use such a support person for your training and maintenance routine?  Guess what I do for work… –  J. Comer

A: Dear Joe, do I “desire” a personal chef?  Hell yes!  I’ve always said if I were a millionaire, I’d have a personal chef.  Well, I’m not a millionaire, yet, so right now I sort of take care of myself on the road and during races.  Despite what people might think, I mix up my own race bottles,  GU recovery drinks and cook my own meals, and my boyfriend’s meals too!  Even though I’m a pro bike racer, the mountain bike scene is quite different from the road scene.  I have to be pretty self-sufficient in most ways.  If you are ever in Idaho though and want to cook me something as a sort of job interview, I will happily eat what you serve up!

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What do you do if you get pain sticks with you for days and won’t give up?

Q: I know you have pain.  I know that you keep going through the pain.  But, what do you do if you get pain sticks with you for days and won’t give up?  Do you resort to meds or do you have another way? – J. Cochran

A: Truthfully, I’ve been quite lucky in avoiding chronic pain and injury.  I attribute this to good genes,  a multi-sport lifestyle and fairly regular stretching and foam rolling.   I am rarely in a situation where I have to take pain medications.  I have a great PT who’s a personal friend and on my speed dial.  I have ice packs and Epsom salts at home.  Muscle fatigue is combated with rest, Epsom salt baths, massage and stretching.  Injury pain is taken care of with ice packs, a call to my PT, rest and usually some sort of movement exercise to work through the injury. If any sort of pain is lasting for more than a few days, then it’s time to visit a professional and figure out what’s going on.  Rest is the common theme here.  Our bodies can handle an immense amount of work, but only if you allow them to recovery and rejuvenate in between.  Good luck.

 

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What Is the worst injury you have ever got and how long did it keep you out?

Q: What Is the worst injury you have ever got and how long did it keep you out? – R. Caughron

A: I’m either lucky or smart or both!  I have not been plagued by injury over the course of my athletic career.  I’ve had occasional tweaks and bruises, but I’ve never had a really serious injury that has taken me out for a long time.  I swear by good nutrition, lots of sleep, the foam roller and cross training.

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When is it the best time to get a massage?

Q: When is it the best time to get a massage; how many days to wait before resuming on the bike? – K. Trevizo

A: If you have a good massage therapist, there’s no reason to wait between training, racing and massage.  I get massage on a regular basis at home and just plan them at the end of the day when my training is done.  During stage races like Titan Desert, I get recovery massages after every stage.  Your therapist should be able to adjust your massage based on what you need at the moment.  If you have a therapist who does not understand this, then it’s time to find someone else.

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When do you think a women cyclists peak is performance wise?

Q: When do you think a women cyclists peak is performance wise? For instance, when did you feel like you were on top of your game completely or do you still not think you’re there yet? – J. Kerstetter

A: I have no idea where the peak is for men or women.  There are so many athletes blowing expectations out of the water and I don’t think anyone knows what’s possible yet.  Equipment, training knowledge, technology and experience are all improving at a staggering rate and you are seeing the result in older athletes who are still getting faster.  For me, I am still seeing improvement in my Red Bull Performance testing and race performances.  It’s exciting and motivating!

 

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Do you ever think about ticks or lyme disease?

Q: Do you ever think about ticks or lyme disease with the amount of time you spend in nature? How often does Lyme disease and ticks get discussed in the Off Road cycling social network? I first hand know how devastating it can be to ones health if not caught soon enough.  I  read that Mary McConneloug was sidelined in 2011 , missing the US Cross Country Mountain Bike National Championships. I’ve brought the topic up before on a bike forum, but got shut down quickly with interweb macho’ism. Little did I know 1 ounce of knowledge would have saved me a tonne of grief. Be safe.

 

A: Hey Tim-

You are right, it’s not a topic that I hear much about.  I’m aware of Lyme Disease, but rarely think about it or know much about it.  Feel free to share your input in my comments section.

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What sunscreen do you recommend that’s not oily?

Q: Hi I get brown blotches on my face on areas that tend to burn probably from sunburns I had as a kid. They get dark after a day outside. Is there a better sunblock to use on my face that is not as oily and will not clog my poors? – P. Glennon

A: I would recommend a highly rated (By the Environmental Working Group/  EWG.com) all Zinc, all natural sun screen for your face.  Being a zinc sun screen it is a physical black that stays on the out side of your skin and reflects the sun as apposed to soaking into you skin.  I recommend our natural clear 20% Zinc Oxide sun screen.  http://www.beyondcoastal.com/category/natural-formulas/product/natural-clear-sunscreen-spf-30  to read more about the product.

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Can I work on a lower heart-rate?

Q: I notice that your average heart rate, for what I can only assume are hard efforts!, remains low.  Is this something that took time to achieve?  I am 50 and run an average of 149 to 159 for a hard effort ride.  I consider myself a strong rider, which makes me wonder if each body is different or if this is something to be worked on.  Your thoughts? – M. Jespersen

A: Yes, every person is completely different and heart rates are 100% individual.  Numbers vary by gender, age, fitness, and genetics.  You can’t really look at someone else’s heart rate and compare numbers to gauge fitness or effort.

For example, one of my main training partners is consistently about 20 bpm higher than I am.  We can do the same workout, same effort and have drastically different HR numbers.  The only way to really know your own HR levels is to get a lactate threshold test in a lab. I highly recommend this, even for the recreational athlete.  What this does is give you a clear measure of where your training zones are so that you can train more efficiently and waste less time.  Check out Carmichael Training for more info on testing and coaching.  I highly recommend getting a road map to help you out.

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Injury/Prevention:

Injury/Prevention

How do you deal with deep quad cramping?

Q: I am a flat lander from Michigan – I have tried/completed the leadville silver rush 50 2X now and on both occassions have experienced deep quad cramping.  It almost runs into the groin.  I am pushing electrolytes and fluid – and feel I have enough base miles that the distance is not the issue.

Acclimating – I arrive 7 days pre-race to get used to the altitude. I am stumped, I would love to try the LV100 or Breck 100 but my last bout at the SR50 was no fun. I can’t seem to replicate the cramping outside of altitude, even with similar elevation gain. Have you experienced?  If so what have you done to overcome? –  G. Hofmann

A:  I have occasionally experienced cramping and this year’s Leadville was one of those situations.  I talked with Dr. Holden MacRae who works with the Red Bull Performance Center.  Here is his response.  It’s a bit long and scientific, but very informative.  What I take from this is that strength and power training should be increased to ward off cramps in race situations.

“On the cramping issue. You probably know that the majority of scientists who work in this area would say that it is either dehydration or electrolyte disturbances, or both, that are the cause for cramping in endurance athletes. Unfortunately, there is no evidence for this hypothesis from studies in endurance athletes (crampers and non-crampers) who performed in endurance competition. The interesting thing is that cramping usually only occurs in competition – I think you have probably not experienced it during typical training sessions.  There are a few good studies on runners and Iron Man triathletes which compared crampers to non-crampers and showed that dehydration and electrolyte levels are not associated with muscle cramping during or after exercise. So, something else must be going on.

Given that your nutrition (and I assume hydration before and during the races) was ‘as usual”, and also because we (those of us who are not funded or supported by drink companies such as Gatorade) have no evidence for dehydration/electrolyte disturbances causing muscle cramps, then riding faster was probably the cause for the cramping.

I am assuming that the cramps did not start until the final 25% to 33% of each race when you were most fatigued, and that the cramps were localized (either gastroc/soleus – “calf muscles” or quads). I did my PhD in Cape Town, and one of the researchers there, Dr Martin Schwellnus (an MD/PhD) has done quite a bit of research in this area and has also worked in medical tents for years at endurance races. They have proposed a neural fatigue mechanism for cramping that has high validity. Basically, you have 2 important types of neural control at the muscle level via

  • Type Ia muscle spindles whose activity will cause a muscle to contract, and
  • Type Ib Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s) whose activity will cause a muscle to relax. If the GTO is inhibited, then the muscle will contract.

In studies of muscle function and fatigue, the following has been found:

  • When muscle becomes fatigued, the firing rate of the Type Ia afferent fibers from the muscle spindle INCREASES (the muscle contracts)
  • and the firing rate from the Type Ib afferent fibers from the Golgi tendon organ DECREASES (the muscle contracts)

Therefore, my thinking on this is that you are racing at higher speeds which requires higher power outputs (and hence higher levels of muscle activation), and when the muscles are not conditioned for this, as you get far into the race, fatigue causes the following;

  • Spindle activity increases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction
  • GTO activity decreases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction

And so in muscles that cross two joints (gastroc/soleus and/or quads) you will cramp more often; if a muscle crosses two joints, then it means that the muscle is going to be in a shortened position when it contracts. When the muscle is in this position, then the activity of the GTO is going to be reduced even more than normal. Add to this the contraction, which stimulates the muscle spindle, and the net result is that the inhibition of the motor neuron is reduced even further, predisposing one to cramp.

Probably the most effective countermeasure for those affected muscles will be to increase their strength/power such that they will be less prone to fatigue during high levels of activation.”

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I generally race long distance events…should I be worried about cramping and re-think my hydration strategy? (08/11)

Q:  I generally race long distance events: 100m to 24hr to multi-day. Recently I did a shorter race–63m–and cramped badly, which is something that almost never happens in longer races. In two weeks I do another 100 mile race at high elevation. Should I be worried about cramping  and re-think my hydration strategy or do you think that was an anomaly due to racing a shorter distance? - S. Edwards

A: Steve:  I am going to refer your question to Dr. Holden MacRae, professor of Sports Medicine at Pepperdine and part of the Red Bull Performance Testing Team.  I have worked with him and discussed cramping with him recently.  Here is his response to my query about cramping in Leadville.  It relates directly to your shorter distance, higher output cramping issue.  Read on, but bottom line is more strength training.

Here is Holden’s response:

I am assuming that the cramps did not start until the final 25% to 33% of each race when you were most fatigued, and that the cramps were localized (either gastroc/soleus – “calf muscles” or quads). I did my PhD in Cape Town, and one of the researchers there, Dr Martin Schwellnus (an MD/PhD) has done quite a bit of research in this area and has also worked in medical tents for years at endurance races. They have proposed a neural fatigue mechanism for cramping that has high validity. Basically, you have 2 important types of neural control at the muscle level via

  • Type Ia muscle spindles whose activity will cause a muscle to contract, and
  • Type Ib Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s) whose activity will cause a muscle to relax. If the GTO is inhibited, then the muscle will contract.

In studies of muscle function and fatigue, the following has been found:

  • When muscle becomes fatigued, the firing rate of the Type Ia afferent fibers from the muscle spindle INCREASES (the muscle contracts)
  • and the firing rate from the Type Ib afferent fibers from the Golgi tendon organ DECREASES (the muscle contracts)

Therefore, my thinking on this is that you are racing at higher speeds which requires higher power outputs (and hence higher levels of muscle activation), and when the muscles are not conditioned for this, as you get far into the race, fatigue causes the following;

  • Spindle activity increases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction
  • GTO activity decreases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction

And so in muscles that cross two joints (gastroc/soleus and/or quads) you will cramp more often; if a muscle crosses two joints, then it means that the muscle is going to be in a shortened position when it contracts. When the muscle is in this position, then the activity of the GTO is going to be reduced even more than normal. Add to this the contraction, which stimulates the muscle spindle, and the net result is that the inhibition of the motor neuron is reduced even further, predisposing one to cramp.

Probably the most effective countermeasure for those affected muscles will be to increase their strength/power such that they will be less prone to fatigue during high levels of activation.

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Do you get tight hip flexors & what remedy would you recommend for this problem?

Q: I find that with all the activity I do from hiking, climbing, crossfit, running, and biking my hip flexors get really tight. I’ve tried using a foam roller and doing a lunge stretch, but they always seem to be out of balance and tight causing other pain in the body. Do you get tight hip flexors and if so, what things would you recommend for this problem? – M. LeMay

A: Hi Mighty Mo!
Tight hip flexors are really common. I talked to my professional body worker, Brett Hanson, about your issue. Brett has been key in keeping me injury free for the last two years. He’s worked with professional cyclists, tennis players, Nordic skiers and everyone else in between. His comments are as follows.
Tight hip flexors are the result of tightness in the opposing muscle groups of your body. So you can use the foam roller and stretch your hip flexors all you want, but it until you get the back side of your body to release, the hip flexors will continue to be tight. Brett can nearly guarantee that your hamstrings, gluts, hips and lower back erectors are tight. The spasms and tension in those antagonistic muscles will not let the agonist muscles (the hip flexors) release. The counter forces are working against each other. You have the right idea with the foam roller and the stretching. The roller is a magical tool. However, Brett says you must first get gluts, hammies, hip and IT band to release using the roller and stretching, or a great body worker. Then you can address the hip flexors.
I hope that helps.

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How do you avoid common over-use injuries with your endless training and racing miles?

I’ve been sidelined for months with IT Band issues after one endurance race. How do you avoid common over-use injuries with your endless training and racing miles?

The foam roller is my savior.  I use this daily and travel with it.  It’s a poor man’s massage and essential in releasing tight muscles and speeding recovery.  Most injuries are a result of tightness and weakness in an area.  “Overuse” injuries happen many times not because of too much “use”, but due to neglect in other areas such as opposing muscle groups.  The IT band can really benefit from the foam roller.

http://store.tptherapy.com/The_Grid_Revolutionary_Foam_Roller_p/tpt-grd.htm

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How do most people end up breaking their collar bones and how have you prevented yourself from doing the same?

Knock on wood, but I’ve never broken my collar bone.  Like most of us, I have a rational and sometimes irrational fear of falling and hurting myself.  None of us want to get injured, not even the guys who seem fearless.  I guarantee that everyone is afraid, it’s just a a different level for everyone.  From what I know, the typical collar bone break comes from extending your arm straight out in an attempt to catch your fall with your hand.  This is a natural reaction, so not doing it is a challenge.   Everyone I’ve talked to says that “tuck and roll” is the safest way to fall.  You keep your extremities in tight and the change of injury is reduced.  Another tip I’ve heard is to hold onto your handlebars if you are going over.  This also helps avoid sticking your hand out to break your fall.

From my own experience and the never ending process of mtb skill development, I have found that places like the pump track and bike parks are the best tools for learning skills in a controlled and fun environment.  It’s supportive, you can go at your own pace and the features are custom built for bikes, so they flow and they are meant to be ridden.

Start slow and as your skills develop, so will your confidence.

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What strategies do you use to combat upper body fatigue during long rides?

Q: Can you discuss specific strategies (exercises, bike set up, etc.) that you use to combat upper body fatique during long training sessions and races? Thank you. – S. Anderson

A: Bike fit is key for anyone, especially endurance riders.  This is the first crucial step in comfort and performance on the bike.  If you have not had a professional bike fit, do it now.  It’s worth the money.  If your upper body is getting extremely tired on rides, then I’m assuming that your cockpit length is not right and you are putting too much weight on your arms.  Specialized Body Geometry Fits are offered at many Specialized dealers around the country and it doesn’t matter what brand of bike you ride. They do a great job.

If your fit is dialed and you are still getting tons of upper body fatigue, it might be time to consider some cross training to strengthen your upper body.  Many cyclists who don’t do any other sports suffer from muscle imbalances and lack of flexibility.  It might be worth it to throw in some gym time, swimming or rock climbing to balance and strengthen your upper body a bit more. Two key exercises are push-ups and up-right rows.

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What’s the best way you’ve found to prevent & treat blisters?

Q: (2 part question) What’s the best way you’ve found to prevent blisters… and what do you think is the best way to treat them so you can keep going when they do happen? – A. Smart

Knock on wood, but the only time I’ve had a blister in my cycling shoes is when I’ve had to walk too far in them during an adventure race. If you are getting blisters riding, your shoes are too small or don’t fit right. I’d suggest getting your feet measured if you have not done it in a while. Our feet get bigger as we age. I’d also suggest insoles to support your arches. Try some different socks. I really like wool socks for most everything.
If you do get a blister or have a spot that’s prone, Adventure Medical Kits makes a great blister treatment and prevention called GlacierGel blister dressing. It’s super thin, has a little bubble that prevents friction on the area and it’ll stay on for a long time.
When all else fails and I have no supplies and have to keep going, I’ve used duct tape in adventure races, but don’t plan to take it off until well after the event ends.

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When you are injured, how do you keep the rest of the body fit?

When you pick up an injury – like a broken bone or strained muscle – how do you keep the rest of the body ticking over on fit, whilst you have to rest that particular area of your body?

 I’ve been lucky avoiding injuries, but basically you have to change sports to allow the injury to heal.  Swimming, nordic skiing, cycling are all great recovery sports that allow other body parts to rest.  The bottom line is that you cannot rush recovery.  I know way too many athletes who actually extend the life of their injury by coming back too soon.  Have patience and do what the doctor orders so that you can come back even stronger and put the injury behind you for good.   Once you’re back in the saddle, take your stretching, foam roller and strength training seriously to stay injury free.

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How do you avoid leg cramps during endurance races with extreme heat?

Proper hydration and electrolytes.  Here’s what Hammer Nutrition advises to avoid cramping.

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Can you fill us in on your stretching routine?

Just do it.  It’s necessary and beneficial.  I don’t stretch as much as I could, but attempt to stay somewhat regular with a general routine of yoga Sun Salutations that seem to hit many major body groups.  I also spend time stretching tight hips and doing chest openers to counteract the hunched position on the bike.

Trigger Point foam roller is also a staple in my routine.  This thing is almost as good as  getting a daily sports massage.

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I broke my femur when I screwed and approach and fell jumping a downed tree last month…

I broke my femur when I screwed and approach and fell jumping a downed tree last month, and have had my leg/hip rebuilt. I should be cleared to walk and ride again in a few weeks, and I am going to concentrate on getting my quads and hips back to my pre crash state. My wind and endurance were pretty good before the injury, since I was training for a few endurance races. My question is whether I should use faster cadence at first and use my heart rate as a monitor, or go for more strength work using a slower cadence and getting out of the saddle more. My knee is a bit weak from an ACL injury many years ago, but has held up pretty well so far. My trails here are mostly flow with a few roots etc. but with short steep sections. What do you think?

 

A:  David, I think you should talk to your physical therapist about all of this stuff.  I’m not really an expert in this field and have never broken my femur or had ACL surgery.  I really can’t say.  My guess would be that you’ll have to do some of both and also include strength workouts in the gym, stretching and specific exercises that your PT gives you.   I wish you a speedy recovery.

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What is the best way to make sure your body does not crash?

At the beginning of the season I was in tiptop form and started a whole foods diet with success.   I was riding excellent and added some running and weights to mix it up . Then my body shut down and I am still recovering . My thought is I pushed way too hard on all of the different forms of training I was doing and then my body just shut down.

So what in your opinion is the best way to make sure your body does not crash  ( diet to calories , Rest , Mixed level training )

 

A:  Restwise.  Check this out and click on the links for the problem and solution with overtraining.  Training, diet, recovery, managing stress are all part of the mixture to avoid overtraining.  It’s a delicate balance.  I hope this helps.

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What off bike training you do keep your lower back happy and healthy during long races?

Q:  Can you please talk about the off bike training you do keep your lower back happy and healthy during long races? - S. Anderson

A:  We all have our trigger points that flare up when we are most tired.  I do not suffer from lower back pain when I ride.  Mine tends to be more upper back and neck.  However, my boyfriend, Greg, who’s also a World Champion 24 Hour racer has struggled with lower back pain a ton.  He is able to combat this with really good hip flexor stretching on a regular basis.  According to my bodyworker, pain in one area is almost always tightness and weakness in an opposing muscle group.  You can stretch out your low back as much as you want, but you won’t fix the problem until you release the hips and hip flexors.  Foam rolling has saved Greg’s back and mine. Also, make sure you have a proper bike fit.  Too stretched forward on the bike can cause back issues too.

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How many avg miles do you run weekly to be in decent shape? And how do you stay out of injuries?

Q:  How many avg miles do you run weekly to be in decent shape? And how do you stay out of injuries? - M. Rodriguez

A: I run, ride, weight train about 6 days a week.  The mileage and amount of time depends totally on what part of the season it is and what I am training for.  I believe it’s not the number of hours you do, but the quality.  Even if you only have 45 minutes, you can get in a great interval session.  How much you train and rest is personal depending on your goals, life, injuries, job.  I have found that resting a lot, stretching, getting massage and cross training all help keep me injury free.

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In long rides or races, have you ever developed metatarsalgia?

Q:  In long rides or races, have you ever developed metatarsalgia?  If so, what have you done to minimize the impact your feet are placed under when pedaling hour after hour? - C. Lowery

A: I’ve been lucky enough to avoid pain in my feet when I ride. I asked my PT, Karoline about this.  Here’s her answer.  If you’re suffering from metatarsalgia, chances are that your shoe is too narrow and you don’t have enough arch support. In both instances you’ll place too much pressure on the nerves between the long bones of your feet, causing pain. Try a wider shoe and a good orthotic in your shoes. I use Sole footbeds in all of my cycling shoes.

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If you happen to get a calf cramp, what is the first thing you do to get relief?”

Q:  If you happen to get a calf cramp, what is the first thing you do to get relief? – G. Helms

A: First, I relax my breathing and try not to stress out.  Then, take some electrolytes and down a bunch of water.  Then, work on pedaling efficiency to utilize other muscles and let the cramped area relax.   Here’s what Hammer Nutrition advises to avoid cramping.

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I’m coming off an injury/surgery…what do you feel would be the best training to get me back in shape for cross?

Q:  I’m coming off an injury/surgery, and have just now been released to start training although not yet on the bike, what do you feel would be the best training to get me back in shape for cross? I should be able to ride in two weeks, and race in 5-6 weeks. – G. Smith

A: From my Physical Therapist and training partner, Karoline Droege:

This is a loaded question and one that is tough to answer not knowing the extent of your injury, if you had surgery and what body part was involved.  It’s also hard to judge, not knowing how much down time occurred and what kind of conditioning you had prior to the injury.  Starting to race 3-4 weeks after getting back on your bike is possible, but I wouldn’t expect huge results. The intensity of cross requires a big base and intensity training, which you’ll have to create in a small window. Keep in mind that cross season will come again but you might end up creating an overuse issue that nags you until then if you push too hard too soon.

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How should one stay in cycling shape over the winter so that warmer weather of spring won’t be such a shock?

Q: As colder weather approaches for most of the country, how should one stay in cycling shape over the winter so that warmer weather of spring won’t be such a shock? - E. Wray

A: I use winter as my off-season to regroup, re-balance my strength and spend time on other body parts that get neglected in the cycling season. I ski, run, weight train, stretch more and mix it up.  I do ride the trainer indoors just to keep the muscle memory in my legs, but this is only about 2-3 hrs per week maximum.  The rest of the time, I’m doing other sports and enjoying the outdoors in a different way.  I also plan at least one trip per winter to a warm weather destination to get on my bike outside.  Come Spring, I’m really motivated to ride and feel stronger and have less chance of injury due to the break in cycling.

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What supplements do you use for a MTB endurance race lasting longer than 5 hours to combat cramping?

Q:  What supplements do you use for a MTB endurance race lasting longer than 5 hours to combat cramping? – J. Soliz

A: I’ve been asked a few questions about cramping. Here is how I answered the others:

First, I relax my breathing and try not to stress out.  Then, take some electrolytes and down a bunch of water.  Then, work on pedaling efficiency to utilize other muscles and let the cramped area relax.   Here’s what Hammer Nutrition advises to avoid cramping.

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Do you use weights to train in the off season?

Q: Do you use weights to train in the off season? – A. Davis

A: From the archives: Yes. I use both resistance training and plyometrics in my training. Both are fabulous for strength, muscle balance, injury prevention, power and speed of muscle contractions. Cycling alone is not enough. It’s also not a weight bearing exercise, so for joint, bone and ligament strength, it’s important to do weight bearing exercise in addition to your riding. Weights and plyos can be used all year. Just bear in mind that they are fatiguing, so you have to work them into your training schedule in a way that does not hinder your other hard workouts. 
I do box jumps, squat jumps, telemark jumps, and bounding. These are all great for explosive leg power. I throw them into the middle of a run or do them in the gym along with a more traditional weight workout.

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Last month the back of my right knee has been extremely painful. Have you ever dealt with this and if yes, what did you do to resolve the issue?

Q: I have been biking (both road and mountain) for about 20 years. Within the last month the back of my right knee has been extremely painful. The only thing different I’ve done was to raise my seat a little. I have lowered the seat to its original position, but the pain is still there. Have you ever dealt with this and if yes what did you do to resolve the issue? - K. Bliss

A: When I first started mnt bike racing I had knee pain in the back of my knee. I spent lots of money on an MRI that determined that I had a meniscus tear that was unlikely to be the source of my pain. So I went to physical therapy for ultrasound treatments, I had my bike fit checked, I didn’t run because it aggravated my knee and I stretched a ton. In the end my knee stopped hurting, but it took some time. Both your hamstrings and your gastrocnemius (calf) attach behind your knee. I would start by stretching those religiously and also use a foam roller for some myofascial release. If you don’t improve I suggest you see a sports physical therapist who can assess any imbalances you have in strength and flexibility and can help you find relief.

I would also get a professional bike fit.  Even though you’ve been cycling for 20 years, the fit technology has advanced a ton and our bodies change as we age.  I can’t say enough about the importance of a pro bike fit.

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How much actual riding versus strength training will you do in a one week period?

Q: What types of training will you do to prepare for a season? Meaning, how much actual riding versus strength training will you do in a one week period? I am looking for improvements in my riding and just wondering if I should be doing more strength training or if I should just add miles to my rides. – G. Sanchez

A: Tough question and “yes” to both is really the answer.  I’m convinced, and so are the exercise scientists, that strength training is key for performance, injury prevention, explosive power and muscle recruitment.  However, I know it’s hard to fit it all in.  Off season is really when I spend more time in the gym and as I start traveling, those workouts get sidelined.  Put in the strength work now and if  you can carry it through the season, you will see benefits.  The season will go in phases, but strength training is a great way to bump up your cycling performance.

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Would you recommend a compression sleeve to prevent calf injury?

Q: I have been having calf issues while racing. Ended up with a grade 2 calf strain. Would you recommend wearing a compression sleeve and keep racing? – D. Mahoney

A:  I am not a physical therapist, but my training partner, Karoline is.  Here’s what she has to say:

A grade 2 calf strain is a fairly serious injury. A compression sleeve is great for recovery from hard efforts, but really won’t keep you from tearing muscle fibers apart. I suggest a calf and hamstring strength program as well as a good stretching routine. Chances are that your calves are working too hard to make up for weak hamstrings (both cross the knee joint and act as knee flexors). If you keep racing with your injury, chances are that you’ll prolong your recovery. Let your calf heal, fix your imbalances and then return to racing when you’re healthy.

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Have you ever had to deal with plantar fasciitis?

Q: Have you ever had to deal with plantar fascitis?  If so, what did you do for it? – K. Peterson

A: I did have plantar fasciitis in high school when I was running cross country.  It’s super painful and a difficult injury to get rid of.  I had to take a long break from running in order to get it under control.  I’m not a PT, so I asked my training partner and PT, Karoline for her expert advice.  Here’s what she recommends …

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a thick ligamentous band that runs from your heel bone to your toes. It is usually most painful when you first get up in the morning, or after sitting for extended periods of time and then get up. To treat it you need to regularly (multiple times each day) stretch your calf and foot. You can also massage it by rolling your foot over a tennis ball. If it’s really severe it will respond well to a boot that keeps your ankle at 90 degrees during the night (find one on the web). You should ice (try a frozen water bottle to roll your foot on) it and take anti-inflammatories. Lastly, before you get up in the morning or after sitting, spend a few minutes pumping your ankle/foot up and down and massage the plantar fascia with your thumb so that it’s “ready” to have your weight placed on it. A PT can use ultrasound which can help speed things along.

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How many bones you’ve broken in your biking profession?

Q: I just started  Mountain Biking with my daughter to get us into some exercise out in nature. We got Jamis Dakar 650B’s to get started.  I’m over 50 now and was wondering how many bones you’ve broken in your biking profession?   OR   Did you do all of that prior to becoming professional?

As a professional violinist myself, do you think this is a dangerous sport? – J. French

A:  I’ve never broken a bone in my body in all my years of adventure racing, rock climbing, paddling, running, skiing and cycling.  Any sport can be dangerous or safe, it’s all how you approach it.  People break bones walking on the sidewalk, so don’t avoid living your life out of fear of getting hurt.  No one wants to get hurt riding.  Sometimes it happens, but much less than you’d expect.  I think cycling is a great sport for any age because it’s non-weight bearing, easy on the joints and you can go so many places!  Take some classes so you are more comfortable on technical terrain and just ride within your comfort level.  It’s a great sport to explore the outdoors and a fantastic thing to be able to do with your daughter.

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What are some various ways you can use a Buff as a tool to help get someone out to safety? (2/2012)

Q: Say you’re out in the back country, something happens to someone. What are some various ways you can use a Buff as a tool to help get someone out to safety? – N. Amos

1.  Wound dressing

2.  Tourniquet

3.  Toilet paper (I’ve done this before)

4.  Eye mask (so they don’t see the compound fracture on their leg)

5.  Visibility flag and wind sock for the helicopter landing

6.  Hat to keep warm

7. Sunburn protection (while waiting to be rescued)

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What do you do if you get pain sticks with you for days and won’t give up?

Q: I know you have pain.  I know that you keep going through the pain.  But, what do you do if you get pain sticks with you for days and won’t give up?  Do you resort to meds or do you have another way? – J. Cochran

A: Truthfully, I’ve been quite lucky in avoiding chronic pain and injury.  I attribute this to good genes,  a multi-sport lifestyle and fairly regular stretching and foam rolling.   I am rarely in a situation where I have to take pain medications.  I have a great PT who’s a personal friend and on my speed dial.  I have ice packs and Epsom salts at home.  Muscle fatigue is combated with rest, Epsom salt baths, massage and stretching.  Injury pain is taken care of with ice packs, a call to my PT, rest and usually some sort of movement exercise to work through the injury. If any sort of pain is lasting for more than a few days, then it’s time to visit a professional and figure out what’s going on.  Rest is the common theme here.  Our bodies can handle an immense amount of work, but only if you allow them to recovery and rejuvenate in between.  Good luck.

 

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What Is the worst injury you have ever got and how long did it keep you out?

Q: What Is the worst injury you have ever got and how long did it keep you out? – R. Caughron

A: I’m either lucky or smart or both!  I have not been plagued by injury over the course of my athletic career.  I’ve had occasional tweaks and bruises, but I’ve never had a really serious injury that has taken me out for a long time.  I swear by good nutrition, lots of sleep, the foam roller and cross training.

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When is it the best time to get a massage?

Q: When is it the best time to get a massage; how many days to wait before resuming on the bike? – K. Trevizo

A: If you have a good massage therapist, there’s no reason to wait between training, racing and massage.  I get massage on a regular basis at home and just plan them at the end of the day when my training is done.  During stage races like Titan Desert, I get recovery massages after every stage.  Your therapist should be able to adjust your massage based on what you need at the moment.  If you have a therapist who does not understand this, then it’s time to find someone else.

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Do helmets decrease serious injuries?

Q: I recently read an academic study claiming that wearing a helmet does nothing to decrease serious injuries and fatality in high speed bike crashes. What are your thoughts on this? – G. Olsen

A: I had Clint, the helmet engineer at Specialized answer your question.  Here is his response.

The real question is… If you have a choice to crash with a helmet or without, knowing that you may hit your head, what decision would you make? I know what my decision is… I would prefer to wear a helmet.

 

Check out this proof that helmets protect in a high energy impact.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2oymHHyV1M

 

I have visited with the young man in the video and his family, they are all convinced that the only reason he is alive today is because of the helmet. His helmet was smashed beyond anything we have ever seen and he suffered a concussion, a sore neck and some short term memory loss. You never know how or when you will hit your head while riding a bike but wearing a helmet will significantly decrease your chances of severe injury.

 

Note the study on the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute website:

Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Fatality Facts: Bicycles – 2009

Less than two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. The most serious injuries among a majority of those killed are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent.

Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren’t wearing helmets, the same percentage as 2008.

The IIHS is consistently the best source of bicycle fatality statistics on the Web. Their picture of a “typical” bicyclist killed on our roads would be a sober male over 16 not wearing a helmet riding on a major road between intersections in an urban area on a summer evening when hit by a car.

Statistics from New York City

New York issued a statement on their bicycle safety study including these numbers:

Bicycle lanes and helmets may reduce the risk of death.

  1. Almost three-quarters of fatal crashes (74%) involved a head injury.
  2. Nearly all bicyclists who died (97%) were not wearing a helmet.
  3. Helmet use among those bicyclists with serious injuries was low (13%), but it was even lower among bicyclists killed (3%).

The decision to wear a helmet is yours to make, choose wisely.

 

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What’s the craziest thing your sunglasses have protected your eyes from while riding?

Q: What’s the craziest thing your sunglasses have protected your eyes from while riding? Any giant bugs, snakes, pterodactyls, etc? – E. Korsch

A: A bee was probably the worst thing I’ve had in the face and, unfortunately, my Pivlock V2’s didn’t offer the protection I’d hoped for.  There was so much venting, the bee just went behind my glasses. I couldn’t open my left eye for about 24 hours.

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How do you get yourself mentally past the fear of falling?

Q: Three of my friends recently crashed (separate accidents) while riding their bikes. Two of them broke their collar bone and one separated her shoulder requiring surgery. Although I haven’t fallen off my bike for over 30 years I’m afraid to get back on my bike. How do you get yourself mentally past the fear of falling? – A. Amaro

A: It’s really as simple as the old saying, you just have to get back on the horse.  Everyone experiences fear while riding.  I mean, everyone from the newest beginner rider to the top, elite racers.  We ALL have uncertainty and fear.  Start slowly with terrain that is easy for you and comfortable and just have fun.  Slowly build and challenge yourself when you’re ready.  Don’t delay, just get back on the bike.  The longer you delay, the more the fear will build.  You said it yourself, you’ve not fallen off your bike in 30 years.  Your friends are not you.  Give yourself a pep talk and remind yourself of why you love riding.  Focus on the positive, not the fear and stay within your comfort level.  Happy riding.

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Have you had hand/wrist overuse injuries?

Q: Have you had hand/wrist overuse injuries? Do you use any specific grips, bar tape, or do any strengthening or stretching, or use other strategies to prevent injury? – C. Cramer

 

A: Thankfully, I’ve been pretty wrist/hand injury free.  I have experimented with many different grips, tape and combinations, especially when I was racing 24 hour solo events all the time.  I ended up finding that the Specialized BG grips are  best for me.  They are small, but still provide a platform to support your hand. This spreads the pressure across your palm instead of a typical round grip that puts pressure in one spot.  If you have an overuse injury from cycling, see a PT and get some strength/stretching exercises from them.

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Dealing with soreness in the front of the hips?

Q: After stepping up the training intensity the past month, I’m beginning to have a lot of trouble with soreness in the front of the hips, something I have never had before. I’ve recently purchased a new bike, a 2013 sworks Amira, so position on the bike may have changed a bit, whether that may be the problem? Anyway, is there anything I can do to help alleviate the pain? I do a bit of stretching in that area, and get a massage once a month but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. Thank you for your time. – M. Murray

 

A: First you need a professional bike fit. This is an absolute MUST for anyone.  Once you have your fit numbers from a pro, you can keep those measurements and apply them to any new bike you get, or a demo you might ride.  From your question, I’m pretty sure the fit on the new bike is the issue that caused the pain, so take care of that first.  Second, you need to deal with the tighness and pain.  My massage therapist, who’s worked with many pro cyclists, tells me that if your hip flexors feel tight, it’s actually tightness in opposing muscles that is usually the cause.  So stretch your glutes, external rotators and IT bands in order to relieve pressure on your hip flexors.  A foam roller is an essential tool for this. And, you should still stretch your hip flexors, which is best done in kneeling with tight abs. If you don’t tighten your core, you won’t stretch your hip flexors, since they attach to the anterior aspect of the lower part of your spine.

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Nutrition:

Nutrition

Do you have any suggestions for fueling and eating for races longer than 10 hrs?

Q: Do you have any suggestions for fueling and eating for races longer than 10 hrs?  I am having trouble eating, and actually wanting food, after many hours and then I end up bonking.

A: For the ultra long events, it is common for the stomach to shut down because all of the blood is being shunted to your legs to keep the bike moving forward.  That leaves little blood in the digestive system to do it’s job.  They key for me has been to “eat like a baby or old lady.”  What I mean by that is liquid calories and really simple carbs are much easier for the digestive system to process than a sandwich or something that requires more to digest.  When we exercise for a super long time, you want to take it easy on your stomach just like a baby or old person.  I do lots of GU Roctane because it has calories, amino acids and other good stuff and it doesn’t require me to chew or my stomach to have to digest. It’s absorbed super easily.  Stuff like mashed potatoes, cup o soup are also good options if you have an aid station.  Also, if you are craving sugar, eat sugar.  If you are craving salt, eat salt.  The body is telling you something at that point.  Have both options on hand because you never know which one you will crave.

Also, once the stomach starts shutting down, plain water is often the solution.  The gut gets too full of everything you are trying to cram into it and just needs a rest with plain water.  I’ve even been in 24 hour races where I’m trying to eat and eat and eventually just threw everything up and had to start over.  Super small sips and bites every 10 minutes or so is easier on the body than a big stomach blob of food / water all at once.

Laying the groundwork of good nutrition and hydration in steady 1 hour increments from the beginning of the race will set you up for hour 10 or later when your body is getting pissed off at you.

It’s very hard to make up for poor nutrition later in the game.

I hope this helps.

HERE’S SOME MORE GREAT INFORMATION FOR YOUR DIRTY KANZA RACE PREP

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What exactly did you eat during the race at this years Leadville?

Q: What exactly did you eat during the race at this years Leadville? – J. Humphries

A: 10 water bottles of Hammer Heed, 4 flasks of Hammer Perpetuem, a bunch of Hammer gel, Endurolytes, some clif bloks and a Red Bull.

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How did you hydrate for Leadville?

Q: How did you hydrate for Leadville? I didn’t see a camelback,  and your bottles had colored liquid (perpetuem?) in them…With altitude,  one even gets more dehydrated,  but I didn’t see any of the pros wearing camelbacks. How can you carry enough water in one bottle,  and food too? Given that most frames have bosses for only two bottles. Some only have bosses for one bottle. – B. Mau

A: Leadville has 4 aid stations.  I started with two full bottles and took two new ones at every aid station for a total of 10 bottles for the race.  I normally plan for a minimum of about 1 bottle per hour.  You are right that demands like extreme high altitude require even more hydration.  Since my finishing time in 2010 was 7:47, I had planned for 8 hours of nutrition plus a couple of extra bottles for good measure.  I finished 2011 in 7:31 and still drank every single drop of those 10 bottles.  I set up my bike with a seat post mounted water bottle cage so I could carry two bottles at once.  My food and tools were in my pockets.  The liquid in my bottles was Hammer Heed, an electrolyte drink.  I kept Perpetuem in flasks and the rest of my nutrition was in the form of gels.   The bottom line is that I planned out my nutrition and the timing of the aid stations carefully.  I knew I could do this race with just bottles.  However, those decisions depend on the course, your speed and when you can resupply.   I race with a Hydrapak often if bottles are not a reasonable option.  Research the course and plan accordingly.  If I don’t know the distance between aid stations or how long it will take me, I always err on the side of being more conservative and taking more food and drink with me.  Keep in mind that what the pros do might not be right for everyone.  They are generally out on the course for a shorter amount of time and have planned their nutrition accordingly.

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I generally race long distance events…should I be worried about cramping and re-think my hydration strategy? (08/11)

Q:  I generally race long distance events: 100m to 24hr to multi-day. Recently I did a shorter race–63m–and cramped badly, which is something that almost never happens in longer races. In two weeks I do another 100 mile race at high elevation. Should I be worried about cramping  and re-think my hydration strategy or do you think that was an anomaly due to racing a shorter distance? - S. Edwards

A: Steve:  I am going to refer your question to Dr. Holden MacRae, professor of Sports Medicine at Pepperdine and part of the Red Bull Performance Testing Team.  I have worked with him and discussed cramping with him recently.  Here is his response to my query about cramping in Leadville.  It relates directly to your shorter distance, higher output cramping issue.  Read on, but bottom line is more strength training.

Here is Holden’s response:

I am assuming that the cramps did not start until the final 25% to 33% of each race when you were most fatigued, and that the cramps were localized (either gastroc/soleus – “calf muscles” or quads). I did my PhD in Cape Town, and one of the researchers there, Dr Martin Schwellnus (an MD/PhD) has done quite a bit of research in this area and has also worked in medical tents for years at endurance races. They have proposed a neural fatigue mechanism for cramping that has high validity. Basically, you have 2 important types of neural control at the muscle level via

  • Type Ia muscle spindles whose activity will cause a muscle to contract, and
  • Type Ib Golgi tendon organs (GTO’s) whose activity will cause a muscle to relax. If the GTO is inhibited, then the muscle will contract.

In studies of muscle function and fatigue, the following has been found:

  • When muscle becomes fatigued, the firing rate of the Type Ia afferent fibers from the muscle spindle INCREASES (the muscle contracts)
  • and the firing rate from the Type Ib afferent fibers from the Golgi tendon organ DECREASES (the muscle contracts)

Therefore, my thinking on this is that you are racing at higher speeds which requires higher power outputs (and hence higher levels of muscle activation), and when the muscles are not conditioned for this, as you get far into the race, fatigue causes the following;

  • Spindle activity increases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction
  • GTO activity decreases – alpha motor activity increases – muscle contraction

And so in muscles that cross two joints (gastroc/soleus and/or quads) you will cramp more often; if a muscle crosses two joints, then it means that the muscle is going to be in a shortened position when it contracts. When the muscle is in this position, then the activity of the GTO is going to be reduced even more than normal. Add to this the contraction, which stimulates the muscle spindle, and the net result is that the inhibition of the motor neuron is reduced even further, predisposing one to cramp.

Probably the most effective countermeasure for those affected muscles will be to increase their strength/power such that they will be less prone to fatigue during high levels of activation.

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Which collapsible bottles did you use in Leadville?

Q: I recently watched a Specialized video of you at the LeadvilleTrail 100 and I saw that you were making some sort of concoction and put it in a collapsible bottle and said that it was food for 2 hours. I would like to know what was in the bottles and where did you get said collapsible bottles? I am starting to do longer endurance races and was looking for a great way to get the food/calories that I need on the long rides. – J. Bennett

A:  Nice job taking your food delivery seriously.  It seems like a little thing, but being able to access your food and open the package easily can be the difference between proper nutrition and a bonk.  Those flasks I use are the Hydrapak Soft Flask.  I love them for gels or any other calorie drink mix concoction.  They are easy to use, you can squeeze every last bit of nutrition out of them and when they are empty they take up less space than a traditional hard plastic flask. During my longer races I fill the flasks with Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem.

 

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How do you know if you are good at metabolising fats?

Q: You mentioned in an earlier question that you metabolise fats good.  How do you know if you are good at metabolising fats?  Is there a gadget you haven’t told us about that you use for this? – H. Williams

A: No gadgets, just official Red Bull Performance Division testing.  I highly recommend getting a lactate threshold / V02 max test for anyone, professional or recreational  This is going to help you find out where your power zones, HR zones, metabolic thresholds, metabolism and all sorts of other really useful pieces of info lie.  Any reputable coaching facility, such as Carmichael Training Systems, can perform this test for you.  I get tested at least once and usually twice per year because these zones and numbers will change.  The test will help you fine tune your training and nutrition.  It will allow you to be way more efficient in the time you spend working and you’ll get the most out of your efforts.

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How do you know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat?

Q: My 1st question relates to the nutritional/caloric balance between weight loss and performance. How do you know what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat? I’m think I’m struggling to loose weight because I’m eating too much or the wrong stuff. I don’t want to lose fitness due to bonking mid workout or have poor recovery due to not eating enough.

A: The weight loss equation is fairly simple. Calories in vs. calories burned. If you want to lose weight, eat less and move more. However, during workouts and post workout are not the times to limit your intake. Starving yourself during a training ride or neglecting immediate post race nutrition will just make your fitness suffer. Also, your body is most efficient at burning calories while you are exercising and just afterwards so those are the times you should be eating. Take a look at the rest of your day’s intake to evaluate where you can cut calories or supplement more nutritional foods.

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How would you fuel for a 100 mile race, specifically implementing GU products?

Q: So how would you fuel for a 100 mile race, specifically implementing GU products? – D. Mahoney

A: This is pretty personal based on what flavors you like and how you like to injest your calories and fluids and also how long it takes you to ride 100 miles, but here are some general guidelines of what I would do.  Be sure to experiment in training!  Things like which pockets are easiest to access, which flavors taste good when you are maxed, how you open the packages when you’re tired are all important considerations.

-Pre-hydrate and eat well leading up to the event.

-I aim to drink at least one 20 oz water bottle per hour (more if it’s hot).

-I mix Gu Brew electrolyte drink in most of my water bottles. (approx 100 cal)

-I aim for approximately 200 cal / hour.  Your body cannot digest much more than that.

-I love Roctane (gel and drink mix) for endurance events because of the added amino acids that are added and needed for long races. I will have at least one Roctane bottle every 2 hrs as part of my calories.

-I get my calories with a mix of GU Gel, Roctane and Chomps.  I like the variety of flavors and textures, but I also like getting calories in my water bottle because its simpler.

-My new favorite GU flavor right now is Peanut Butter!!!

-Finish with Chocolate Smoothie Recovery drink.

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Do you drink protein during your endurance events?

Q: You previously did a video before LT on your food prep in flasks. I’m guessing it was a protein carb mix? – G. Fredrickson

 

1) How long did it take you to transition to all GU and Roctane / electrolytes?

Not long at all once I learned about the science behind GU and Roctane.

I used to be one of those people who believed the hype that protein was necessary for endurance events and that’s what I’d mix up into a thick concoction into those little flasks.  This winter, I did a little personal research of my own to find scientific proof and answer the question once and for all if protein is performance enhancing for endurance events.  I looked all over the internet and queried various reputable scientists and coaches.  The bottom line is that I found no solid proof that protein is beneficial during athletic activity.  Yes, it’s widely accepted that it’s beneficial AFTER exercise for recovery and rebuilding, but I could find nothing to substantiate the claim that it’s beneficial DURING activity.  What I DID learn is that there are certain amino acids (found in protein) that are proven to be beneficial and performance enhancing in long endurance events.  If you eat a complete protein during exercise, you get those beneficial amino acids, but you also get a whole bunch of other stuff that’s non-essential and difficult to digest.  What GU did was isolate the amino acids that we need and put them into their Roctane Endurance drink and Roctane energy gels.  You get everything you need and nothing you don’t.  Read HERE for some of the specifics on how Roctane works.

 

2) Would Roctane take the place of your flask? or everything can be bottled and individually packaged?

No, I don’t use the flasks anymore.  I use Roctane Drink that mixes in a water bottle and/or the Roctane Gel that comes in packets.  It’s way simpler and easier and really works for me.

 

 

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What is your training & racing diet?

Q: My husband is a cyclist. I am a chubby Judo player (33 years!). We are both curious about what your training diet is?  That’s our question!

A: My training and racing diet has changed quite a bit over the years. My favorite race food in some of my early adventure races used to be Cheetos and Swedish Fish. They were my favorite comfort foods when I was really suffering. They fed my soul, but did little to feed my body. Over the years, I’ve learned much more about nutrition, hydration and what to put into my mouth to get the most out of my legs. I’m not obsessive about diet and will eat pretty much anything in moderation. However, I have learned “garbage in = garbage out” in terms of energy. The main changes I’ve made are eating less processed foods or things that come in packages, making more food at home, eating more veggies and making my own bread. For racing, I use many Hammer Nutrition products because they are very easy to digest when you are working hard. They also have a great library of information on nutrition on their website and it applies to athletes and non-athletes alike. P.S. Of course I answer all of my own questions! Thanks for writing. I’ll say hi to the family for you!

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Do you have snack foods that you carry with you when traveling?

I once read an article about Juli Furtado that said back when she was racing and traveling a lot she carried a can of corn as a back up to the horrible airplane food.  Do you have any back-up, quick snack, foods that you always have with you when traveling?

Juli is an icon, but who knew she had such bad taste in food?  Is canned corn really that much better than airplane food?  I agree it’s hard to get good food when traveling, but it’s out there if you look.  I do take snacks on the plane, usually nuts and a cashew/coconut/choc chip Hammer bar.  Organic and tastes good.  It’s better than canned corn and better for you, I promise.

http://www.hammernutrition.com/products/hammer-bars.fb.html?navcat=fuels-energy-drinks

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In one of your videos, you fill a Hydrapak Soft Flask with a liquid and mentioned that it represents 2 hours of food. Can you tell me what that food consists of?

Perpetuem from Hammer Nutrition.  I mix it into a paste that’s easy to get down and packed with just the right mixture of protein, carbs and fat to fuel me for endurance events.  Liquids take less energy to digest than solids and Perpetuem works really well for me.  You can also mix it less concentrated into a water bottle, but I prefer the concentrated soft flask mix.  I like the Caffe Latte flavor and Strawberry Vanilla. Yum, Yum.

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How do you track your nutrition? Do you follow any specific nutritional plan?

I don’t keep a food log or measure out calories, however I have changed my eating significantly over the last few years as I’ve gotten older and wiser and more serious about my training.  I used to love to eat Cheetos and Gummi Bears as race food when I was first adventure racing.  My thought was that since I was working so hard, I earned the right to eat as much crappy, comfort food as I wanted.  I’ve since become more educated and aware that food is fuel and my body is going to respond better if I put in a higher grade of fuel.  Don’t get me wrong, I still eat treats, drink wine and like I said, I don’t harshly ration myself.  What I do is make consistently better choices with more fresh food, less packaged food, more fruits/veg, recovery drinks after training, drink more water than I used to and try to limit the bad stuff.  I make a point of spending the extra money on organic meat and certain items when I can.  I make my own bread and tried to grow a garden, but that’s not feasible where I live.  In summary, I don’t follow a nutrition plan, I just try to eat healthy and I feel better because of it.

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How are you adjusting recovery time and nutrition through the years as father time marches on?

I’ve gotten way smarter and more experienced after so many years of racing.  My training (with my coach) is way more scientific and specific than it used to be and so is my recovery.  As athletes, we can race for a good, long time, but we can’t just go out and thrash day after day like we used to without paying the price later.  What has kept me getting faster and faster each year, despite aging is smarter training (including increased speed and strength work), better nutrition and focused recovery.  I use a fabulous tool designed by my coach called Restwise.  It helps me track when I’m run down due to training stress, life stress, lack of sleep, illness, mood, etc.  It’s been super helpful in telling me when I can really ramp it up and when I need to take another day off.  So the remedy, or the fountain of youth, so to speak is to train, rest and eat smarter.  Hopefully, like Ned Overend, we’ll all still be beating 25 year olds when we’re 50!

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What else can you offer about cramping?

I’ve been surprised to learn that Pro racers struggle with cramping much the same way as the rest of us (mere mortals). In this year’s LT100 you downed a Red Bull Shot to quell the impending spasms. What else can you offer about cramping?  Spasms seem to be the only thing holding me back from my time goals in endurance xc…”

A:  see answer on cramping above and Hammer Nutritions recommendations on combating cramps. http://www.hammernutrition.com/problem-solver/cramping/

Remember pros are humans too.  Our bodies react in the same way to stress as anyone.  Preparation and nutrition are key in making sure you have the strength, endurance and fuel to complete the event you are targeting.  Cramps are a signal that you are spiraling into a hole that your body is not keeping up with.  Anyone, pro or not, who is pushing to their maximum can experience cramps, vomiting, or any of the other usual constraints.

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For an athlete at your level, can you detail your thoughts on alcohol consumption?

Mountain bikers historically like beer or more generically alcohol.  Even Lance says that its good to have a cold one after a hard training day.  For an athlete at your level, can you detail your thoughts on alcohol consumption and if you have any levels or limits you’ve imposed on your self during the regular season as well as the off season(there is no off season?).

 

A:  I have a short off season from about mid November til early February.  Regarding alcohol consumption, I believe everything in moderation.   I do cut out certain things like alcohol as I am peaking for a big race. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an adult beverage from time to time.

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A detailed meal plan?

A detailed meal plan ?

A:  I’m not super specific about food.  I avoid packaged, processed foods as much as possible.  Try to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  Drink water.  Take vitamins.  Eat organic protein.  I make my own bread.  I don’t skip meals.  Just basic, good nutrition.

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Most nutritious but tasty dessert…..

What would you say is the best, most nutritious but tasty dessert you can get after a great day on the bike? A reward that isn’t bad?

A:  chocolate, it’s and anti-oxidant!

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What are your top 3 nutrition “secrets”?

Q:  What are your top 3 nutrition “secrets”? – A. Lemly

A: These are kind of boring and not really secrets, but this is what I try to do.

1.  Less packaged food, more whole food.

2.  Drink more water

3.  Take vitamin supplements

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What advice/tips do you suggest to quickly recover from feeling a bonk during a race?

Q: As a non-pro, I try to stay hydrated and eat on long rides and races.  Sometimes, I forget to eat enough during a race and start to feel the bonk coming on.  What advice/tips do you suggest to quickly recover from such a feeling during a race? -  G. Underdahl

A: I will tell you it’s MUCH easier to prevent a bonk than it is to recover from one.  Set a timer on your watch to beep every 20 minutes to remind you to eat and drink or find some other mind game to make sure you do not forget.  Fueling is an essential part of the riding and racing experience that you cannot afford to forget.

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Can you elaborate on the role you feel proper nutrition plays and what you have found to work best for you?

Q:  Having gone through a physical and mental metamorphosis with regards to health and nutrition myself over the past 6 years, I have found that you truly are what you eat. I have came to the conclusion that the best diet for me is a Pescatarian diet that includes of course fish, no processed food and is primarily fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts,  whole grains, with very limited dairy products. Can you elaborate on the role you feel proper nutrition plays and what you have found to work best for you? - T. Hassenpflug

A: I absolutely agree that you are what you eat.  I’ve answered this sort of question before, so check the Ask Reba Archives if you want more info.  I’m not super strict with my diet, but I have also moved to more healthy eating and it has made a difference in my performance for sure.  Our bodies are machines that need fuel, so I agree that if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out.

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What supplements do you use for a MTB endurance race lasting longer than 5 hours to combat cramping?

Q:  What supplements do you use for a MTB endurance race lasting longer than 5 hours to combat cramping? – J. Soliz

A: I’ve been asked a few questions about cramping. Here is how I answered the others:

First, I relax my breathing and try not to stress out.  Then, take some electrolytes and down a bunch of water.  Then, work on pedaling efficiency to utilize other muscles and let the cramped area relax.   Here’s what Hammer Nutrition advises to avoid cramping.

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With higher intensities and warmer climates that your hydration needs increase?

Q: Training down here in Florida has its advantages year around but the heat in the summer can be a challenge. I use Hammer products a lot and have found the ones that work well for me on longer rides.  At 6’4″ 200# I generally require more calories.  I have been following the 20 oz. an hour rule but was wondering if you found that with higher intensities and warmer climates that your hydration needs increase? – G. Fredrickson

A:  Absolutely.  The Hammer estimate is just a starting point.  I’m pretty sure it even says on their website that heat, intensity and individual sweat patterns will all affect how much an individual needs to hydrate.  There is no hard and fast rule.  If you suspect you might need more, than I bet you’re right.

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What do you crave 6 hours into a race?

Q: OK, so what do you crave 6 hours into a race? A girl can’t survive on gel alone, or can she? Do you keep a secret Snickers bar stashed somewhere in your gear, just in case? – AC Shilton

A:  I rarely crave food in a race.  I usually do not feel like eating if the intensity is really high.  The food becomes fuel only, in most cases.  However, there’s a value in having some comfort food along with you.  I always did this adventure racing and had a stash of Pringles or some salty snack tucked away for when I was really hitting  the wall.  I have found there are two types of people, those who crave salty and those who crave sweets.  Sounds like Snickers is your secret weapon.

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What do you use for fuel while doing your longest events and how much do you eat?

Q: What do you use for fuel while doing your longest events and how much do you eat? – R. Owen

A:  I get this question all the time, in slightly different formats. I think you can find all of my nutritional information in these archives. If you want more specifics please ask me another (specific) question next month!

 

 

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What is your overall approach to your nutrition during races and what are things that really helped you dial it in?

Q: With all your endurance racing, nutrition probably plays a huge role in how well you do in the races.  I know nutrition is a personal thing, what works for one might not work for someone else.  I was just wondering what your overall approach is to your nutrition during races and any things that really helped you dial it in? – G. Lyons

A: Trial and error has been my biggest educator for race nutrition.  I used to love to bring Cheetos and Swedish Fish for adventure races.  It was my comfort food, but I soon learned that “garbage in = garbage out.”  My nutrition has morphed over the years and in general, the shorter the event, the less solid food I will eat.  Higher intensities make digestion more difficult, so I change my nutrition based on the length of the event.  In any race that’s 8 hours or less, I will do mostly liquid nutrition such as Perpetuem, gel, and drink mixes.  As it goes longer, more solid food gets worked into the equation.  Chose things that digest easily to put less strain on the stomach, but still supply the nutrients you need.  In endurance events, protein plays a bigger role.  Other factors to be sure to address are hydration and electrolytes.  There are basic guidelines of how many calories and how much fluid is appropriate on the Hammer Nutrition site.  After that, it’s trial and error and personal experience.   Also, there’s nothing wrong with a Swedish Fish or two for comfort food during a race as well.

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What’s your favorite PIZZA… details please… ???

Q: What’s your favorite PIZZA… details please… ??? – M. Rusnak

A: I make homemade pizza and Greg, my boyfriend, LOVES pizza night.  We usually do two different ones, a white and a red and the toppings sort of depend on what’s on hand.  The red pizza usually has sausage and spicy items like poblano or red peppers, mushrooms, black olives, chili pepper flakes and mozzerella.  The white one is usually a pesto with chicken, red onion, asparagus, feta, artichoke hearts.  It’s a super fun, super messy meal to make at home and the leftovers are great.

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What is your nutritional plan like? During race season and off-season?

Q: What is your nutritional plan like? During race season and off-season? – H. Williams

A: Hi Heather – Please check out all the questions in the Nutrition archives. I think you’ll find my general nutrition plan there. I really don’t vary my plan too much in the off-season, although I might enjoy a few more “adult beverages” than I do when I’m racing.

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What is your favorite workout to celebrate Thanksgiving?

Q: What is your favorite workout to celebrate Thanksgiving?  Then, what is your favorite part/dish of Thanksgiving dinner? – T. Dick

A:  The traditional Thanskgiving meal is my favorite meal all year.  I like it so much that this year, I made Thanksgiving dinner the week afterwards as well.  Turkey and stuffing are the highlights and also having leftovers.  I don’t have a favorite workout for this day, but I do try to do something so the guilt doesn’t sink in.  This year, I was riding mountain bikes in Moab for Thanksgiving.  Not bad.

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What’s your favorite pre-race meal?

Q: What’s your favorite pre-race meal? – W. Godfrey

A: I’ve answered similar questions before. Please take a look at the askReba archives under the “Nutrition” section and I think you’ll find the answer. I don’t have one favorite meal. I do try to have a nutritionally balanced meal that my stomach can easily absorb. Even if you don’t use Hammer products, their website has a lot of information about fueling: fueling for endurance events.

 

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What is the one nutritional item you cannot do without while racing?

Q: Sponsorship’s aside what is the one nutritional item you cannot do without while racing? – K. Rozek

A: Enough hydration and calories for the duration are key.  I’ve survived on rides on gummy bears and Gatorade.  It’s not ideal and I prefer a bit more scientific approach to my nutrition, but really, you can get by as long as you have enough food and fluid.  Once those are gone, so are you.  Plan ahead for the # of hours for an event or training ride, calculate the calories and hydration needed per hour, then throw in a bit of extra for insurance.  If you really want to do more than survive and enhance your performance as well, then check out products like GU Roctane, my new favorite nutrition for endurance events.

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Do you ever require or desire a personal chef?

Q: While doing your endurance races…  Do you ever require or desire a personal chef to have foods ready for you in regards to where you are in the process of the event that will heighten your performance at that time?  And, do you use such a support person for your training and maintenance routine?  Guess what I do for work… –  J. Comer

A: Dear Joe, do I “desire” a personal chef?  Hell yes!  I’ve always said if I were a millionaire, I’d have a personal chef.  Well, I’m not a millionaire, yet, so right now I sort of take care of myself on the road and during races.  Despite what people might think, I mix up my own race bottles,  GU recovery drinks and cook my own meals, and my boyfriend’s meals too!  Even though I’m a pro bike racer, the mountain bike scene is quite different from the road scene.  I have to be pretty self-sufficient in most ways.  If you are ever in Idaho though and want to cook me something as a sort of job interview, I will happily eat what you serve up!

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Would you rather RU(c)SH to a bike race serving your favorite replacement drink.. or to a fasion show/movie premier serving wine?

Q: Would you rather RU(c)SH to a Bike Race serving your favorite replacement drink.. or to a fasion show/movie premier serving wine? – Mud Honey Cylcling Team

A: Ohhhhh Noooo!  Can’t I do both?  I love bike racing and I really do try to hold myself to a hard and fast rule to drink my recovery drink before I have an adult beverage.  After I’ve downed my Recovery Brew, all bets are off.   Besides, a girl can’t be all bike racing all the time.

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Do you change your nutrition strategy the week before a 100 mile race?

Q: Do you change your nutrition strategy the week before a 100 mile race? Details please :)S. Anderson

A: Not really.  In the words of my coach: the week before a 100 miler, your work is done and all you can do is mess it up at this point.  He always has me focus on very light training, healthy eating, low stress levels, good sleep, maintain hydration.  It’s not rocket science and I really just try to be as healthy as possible all year ‘round, but for sure I clean things up a bit nutritionally as I get closer to a big event.  The only big change I make is nearly eliminating dairy products because it seems to aggravate my asthma.

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When your on a training ride do you stop to take breaks?

Q: When your on a training ride do you stop to take breaks, to refuel, etc. or do simulate racing as much as possible? – H. Williams

A:  This sort of depends on the ride.  If I’m out on a long, fun relaxing ride with friends, then I stop and take pictures, eat snacks, etc.  If I’m doing a specific training workout like intervals and the job at hand is more defined, then I do practice race techniques and eat on the bike.  I think it’s good to be able to do both.  It’s not always about the racing.  You have to take time to enjoy the ride as well.

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How much RedBull do you drink and still be in maximum fitness levels?

Q: How much redbull do you drink and still be in maximum fitness levels? – T. Ichikawa

A: I probably drink about 1 Red Bull per day.  It sort of depends on the situation, how training is going, how much extra motivation I need.  Fitness is not related to drinking Red Bull though!  That takes getting off the couch and doing something to maintain fitness.

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Has minimizing gluten in your diet helped with your management of asthma?

Q: Has minimizing gluten in your diet helped with your management of asthma and have you noticed a difference in overall health? – P. Washburn

A: I wish I could say that minimizing gluten helped with asthma management, but I just have not seen much change.  I was sort of hoping for the holy grail to eliminate asthma, but no such luck.  I’m glad I did the experiment and I do feel that it’s healthier for me to vary my food intake and minimize wheat products.  This is not gluten related, but more because I feel it made me add more variety and minimize processed/packaged food.  It’s fairly easy to choose rice, quinoa, vegetables over wheat and it makes for some fun cooking at home.  However, I have gone back to making my own bread and pizza dough (with gluten) because it just tastes better!  Gluten free is also not always a viable option when I’m traveling and required to eat whatever the race serves up.

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How do I maintain glycogen stores while tapering for a race? (9/2012)

Scenario:

During the days leading up to the taper for an endurance event, volume typically goes down but intensity can remain moderate to high over shorter periods of time.  The idea is not to do too much, let the body recover and be ready to explode on race day with new found strength.  During the final few days of the taper my personal challenge is to eat enough food as to not gain any weight but also pack the muscles with much needed glycogen for race day.  During the taper phase one taps into the existing glycogen reserves especially if  the exercise has some moderate to high levels of efforts over short periods of time (anaerobic efforts).  From what I have read eating 30-60 minutes after the effort is the best to pack the muscles with energy for the next day.

Question:

In the final days of taper (maybe even the day before, which is more critical in my mind) how much time is required of moderate to high intensity exercise to induce a glycogen response that packs the muscles with more energy? The goal is to still feel super fresh on race day but get that extra edge of performance by packing the muscles and liver with extra glycogen. Everything I have read does not provide a range of time or effort needed to trigger the glycogen response.

Follow-up Question:

Once the glycogen response is triggered should one eat high glycemic or low glycemic foods?  Does it matter?  During the week low glycemic foods are probably better because of the complex carbohydrate chains.

Thanks for any help you can provide. J. Alas

 

A:  Thanks for the thoughtful question. For the answer, I relied on my coach, Dean Golich,  from my Carmichael Training Systems.

Dean:  “The idea is to maintain  some intensity during taper while reducing the volume to around 50%.  This means that they should maintain their same diet thru the taper thus making sure all stores are at full capacity.  Yes, 30 minutes after exercise is most beneficial for replacing muscle glycogen but in a taper period it is less important, since you are not depleting glycogen stores completely or to the point where you will not have enough time (ie: back to back workouts) to replenish over a day or so.  So this is not important.

The final days are predominately rest with short efforts of maybe 2×10 tempo or LT or other short efforts.  These will deplete glycogen stores at most 25-35%.  Remember you have about 2000-2500 Kcal of glycogen storage.  So if the question is more about the old school thought of carbo loading, we do not use that technique these days.  Now we just maintain the same diet while reducing the volume and some intensity.  Within the 30 min. window high glycemic is best and at other times in a taper it does not matter since there is plenty of time for absorbtion when back to back workouts and depletion are rare”.

 

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Where do you find it best to keep your food and fluids during racing?

Q: Where do you find it best to keep your food and fluids during racing? – J. Beadel

A:  That really depends on the length of the race and access to aid stations.

In a race like Leadville, the aid stations are close enough together that I can ride that event with two water bottles and my food easily accessible in jersey pockets.  Then re-supply at each aid station.  If it’s a longer stage race, I will often ride with a hydration pack to have more fluid carrying capacity.  I still keep my food accessible in pockets so I don’t have to stop to access food.  I put things like bike tools and rain jacket in the hydration pack for these types of events.  If it’s a super short XC race or short track, I’ll use a bottle and put one or two GU gels under the leg of my shorts for easy access.  If the race is super technical, I also might use a hydration pack since taking my hands off the bars to drink is not an option.  I hope that helps.  Every situation is a little different.  Just be sure to practice with different options so you are comfortable and quick at getting to your nutrition.

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Equipment/Technology:

Equipment/Technology

Does the Brain suspension system really work well when you stand up and pedal & how reliable is it?

Q: My question is about Specialized Epic Marathon 29’er…have you ridden this MTB besides as a test but in the race environment? You’re honest to goodness thoughts here please. I’m researching a late season possible purchase wanting to jump into the 29 scene. Oh yeah – at 6’4” & 190lbs I think a 29’er (wagon wheeler) would suit my body’s geometry would use it for 3, 6 12 & 24hr racing also.
I did a 24 hour solo race last year and I specifically wanted to test out the difference between my S-Works Stumpjumper carbon hard tail 29er and my S-Works Era with 26 inch wheels and Brain suspension. I did multiple laps all day and night switching bikes back and forth. My lap times were really similar, but the bikes were totally different on the same course. On the Era, I could rip through the technical downhill twisty single track much faster. On the Stumpy 29, I rolled over the lumpy grass sections with ease and up an over the small ledge climbs. The Era with the Brain Suspension allowed me to stay seated and let my legs recover more often than the hard tail. I love both bikes and I race them both. I choose depending on the style of the course. However, I did come away from that experiment last year thinking that if I could only have ONE mountain bike (God forbid), then the perfect bike would be a Specialized S-works 29er Era and it would combine the best of both worlds. Well, for the Epic, it already exists. I say go for it. P.S. The 29er revolution is no longer a “scene”, but now here to stay. Go demo one and I bet your decision will be made.
I’m in the process of looking for a new full suspension 29er for next race season. My sponsorship has me in a position where I can choose between Trek and Specialized. I am leaning towards a Specialized S-Works Epic 29er but until I ride one I have some technical questions I’m hoping to get some professional opinions on.

First question: The rear shock, compared to a standard Pro-pedal Fox shock, does the Brain system really work well when you stand up and pedal? Does it nearly lock out? I can still get a bob with a pro-pedal shock. How about technical climbing, will it give when needed such as when that unexpected loose rock slides under the back wheel? If I understand correctly a lot of this response is tunable?

Second question: What has the reliability of the Brain system been? I imagine you have mechanics to help keep things in top-notch working order, but has it ever failed on you? Is there any unusual work that needs to be done to keep it working well? I will have a service course for next year so hopefully I won’t have to wrench on the bike too often but I have had some bad luck with front forks this year and want to avoid further issues that result in the body taking a pounding when suspension parts sudden decide to become rigid in the first 5 miles of a 60-100+ mile race! – M. Berg

A: Your questions about the Brain could come straight from the Specialized catalog. YES, it works like a dream. You can adjust it to be “firm” or “soft” depending on where you’re riding. I ride mine about 3 clicks from full firm for most races, unless I’m going to Moab and want a softer ride. It absolutely rides like a hardtail when you stand and climb. It also responds beautifully to any input from under the tire. The Brain will engage when it feels the terrain change. The firmness setting changes how responsive the Brain is to the bumps. Regarding maintenance, I spoke with Specialized suspension specialist, Fern Hernandez. His official response is that Brain suspension does not require any more attention than standard suspension. The same general rules apply which include keeping the upper seals clean and lubricated and servicing your suspension approximately every 50 hours of riding. In my own personal experience and many hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours of riding on Brain suspension, I can tell you I have never had it just stop working and turn my bike into a rigid. I’m completely sold on it and would not go back.

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How do you figure out what pressure to adjust your shocks to?

Q: How do you figure out what pressure to adjust your shocks to? I am a small female, 5’1, 102lbs. I feel like I get bounced around and can’t get the full advantage of my suspension when my shock is set to the guidelines printed on the shock since it give a general less than 125lb setting. I also wonder if tire pressure has any effect? – T. Deerwester

A:  I just got off the phone with a suspension specialist at Rockshox.  Here’s what I found out:  the settings printed on a Rockshox fork or shock are generally 10-15 PSI higher than what a rider of that weight ends up riding.  The bottom line is that the numbers are just a starting point and it’s up to you to tune your suspension for the best ride.  I also found out that at least with Rockshox, you can go to as low a PSI as you need, as long as you remember to adjust the negative pressure to equal the positive pressure.  This is an important feature that allows someone of any weight (even above or below the chart weights) to have their suspension work properly.  If you are getting bounced around, I’m guessing you have too much air in your suspension, or you’ve forgotten to adjust the negative pressure as well.

The best way to find the right PSI for your body weight is to test the sag.  The sag is how much the suspension will compress with your body weight.  For front and rear suspension, this should be about 20% of the full range of travel.  This is what the little plastic ring on your suspension is for.  If you have lost this, you can put a zip tie around your suspension to check your sag.  For the rear, push the ring to the top of the travel, sit gently on the bike without bouncing, then get off and see how much you pushed the ring down.  Do this while you are not moving.

For the front fork, it’s a similar test, but you can ride around a smooth parking lot and then put your upper body weight over the handle bars a bit as if you were in an attack position on the bike.  Your chest should be above the bar.  Then check the sag on the front.  Adjust accordingly and go ride and test it out.  Bring your shock pump with you for adjustments until you get it dialed.  Once you know your pressure, write it down somewhere and check it often.

 

 

Mark as helpful. 18

With how much air pressure should I fill up my tires for trail riding?

Q: A couple weeks back I filled up my tires to 40 psi,  which is the max I normally fill up my tires.   While riding pretty fast around a bend on the trail I lost control of my bike (for the first) and riding straight the bike started fish tailing and swerving and I was not able to unclip one foot.  The people riding behind thought for sure I was going to wipe out,  but I managed to gain control some how (with a very badly bruised toe from the force of trying to stop). My group leader seemed to think I had too much air pressure in my tires.  My question: How much air pressure should I fill up my tires for trail riding? – S. Morse

A: This depends on the trail condition, your weight, tubeless or not tubeless tires, your riding style, etc.  Your tire will have a PSI range of recommended air pressure for that tire, however that is for non-tubeless set ups.  For example, the Fast Trak tire on my bike right now has a range from 35 – 65 PSI.  However, I run those tires at about 24 PSI tubeless.  Tire pressure is one of the most ignored, but crucial, factors in determining the character of your ride.  Too much pressure and you have no control.  Too little and you risk flats.  Here’s an article I found that discusses how to find the right tire pressure for you.  It’s different for every person and every bike and requires some trial and error.  It’s worth the time. Once you dial this in, your ride will improve.

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What model of grips do you uses on your S-Works 29er?

I would like to know, what is the model of Grips do you use on your S-WORKS Hardtail 29er? Ergon?  What combination of tires do you use for La Ruta?

I use the Specialized Women’s BG Contour grips on all my mountain bikes.  They are smaller and softer than the Ergon grips and fit my hands better.  They are light and keep my hands from falling asleep in long events.

Tires for La Ruta this year were the Fast Trak Control Tubeless.  I considered changing to more of a mud tire for the first day, but when the mud gets bad there, no tire will offer control.  I chose this tire because it’s fast rolling and there are a ton of dirt roads on the course that make up more of the mileage than the mud sections.  I chose the control casing because there are sections that are really prone to causing flats on that course.  

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Which collapsible bottles did you use in Leadville?

Q: I recently watched a Specialized video of you at the LeadvilleTrail 100 and I saw that you were making some sort of concoction and put it in a collapsible bottle and said that it was food for 2 hours. I would like to know what was in the bottles and where did you get said collapsible bottles? I am starting to do longer endurance races and was looking for a great way to get the food/calories that I need on the long rides. – J. Bennett

A:  Nice job taking your food delivery seriously.  It seems like a little thing, but being able to access your food and open the package easily can be the difference between proper nutrition and a bonk.  Those flasks I use are the Hydrapak Soft Flask.  I love them for gels or any other calorie drink mix concoction.  They are easy to use, you can squeeze every last bit of nutrition out of them and when they are empty they take up less space than a traditional hard plastic flask. During my longer races I fill the flasks with Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem.

 

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Fate Expert or the Stumpjumper Expert Carbon HT?

Q: Trying to decide on the Fate Expert or the Stumpjumper Expert Carbon HT….I am 5 feet 4.5 inches, 115 pounds….

Is the sizing different on the frames?  The 15 inch Fate versus the 15.5 Stumpjumper feels MUCH different.

In your opinion, after riding both, which do you like better over the longer haul? Lastly, why no carbon crank on the Fate Expert? – L. Tobin

A:  Absolutely I would choose the Fate over the Stumpy HT.  I love both bikes and have won Leadville on both bikes.  However, I can get the Fate to fit me much better than the Stumpy HT.  I am 5’7” and had my handlebar and stem as low as they could go on the Stumpy.  The Fate has a much shorter head tube to allow for more front end adjustment.  The stand over height is also much lower on the Fate.  In talking to the Specialized Women’s product manager, she says the end result with the geometry of the Fate is that each size is able to fit a much wider range.  That is part of the reason why the 15.5 Stumpy feels so different than the 15 inch Fate.  According to the Specialized sizing chart on their website, the 15 Fate should fit someone in the 5’0” to 5’4”.  The 15.5 Stumpy will fit 5’3” to 5’7”.  The sizes across models do not necessarily correspond directly to each other, so be sure to look at the sizing charts and for sure test ride a bike to get the right size.

The Fate is also lighter and the front fork is custom tuned for a lighter average weight.   For someone your size and weight, I would say there’s no question which bike to choose.  Regarding the crank on the Fate, I’m not sure why they spec’d the bike that way.  I will for sure pass along your feedback.

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What can I do to improve my physical confidence when approaching a tight downhill switchback?

Q: I’m a 44 year old woman who never biked as a kid, started cycling three years ago, and mountain biking a year ago. After a lifetime on the couch, I’m picking up skills and having the time of my life! But without a history of confident balance, I’m finding it hard to untrain my brain and commit on certain features. What can I do to improve my physical confidence when approaching a tight downhill switchback? I find myself unweighting the front wheel, death gripping, and grabbing brake… and usually end up walking the bike through. – A. Pai

A:  CONGRATULATIONS on pulling yourself off the couch and onto the bike.  Developing and improving bike handling skills is a lifelong endeavor.  It takes more than three years to master techniques and once you do, you’ll keep moving to harder and harder skills.  I found this video on uphill and downhill switchback instruction.  There are also some great mountain bike clinics and classes all over the country.  Perhaps sign up for a fun multi-day class in a place you’ve always wanted to ride.  My last suggestion in working on skills is to get a Rockshox Reverb for your bike.  This is a hydraulic dropper seat post that you operate on the fly with a control on your handlebar.  I have been using one of these for the past year and it has been a huge confidence boost for me working on more difficult terrain.  It lets you get the seat out of the way and your center of gravity way back.  I highly recommend one of these.

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Do you find the shaped grips benefit you on longer rides?

I have a couple of questions about the grips you use. Do you find the shaped grips benefit you on longer rides? Do you use them on all rides or just ultra distance?  How many hours in do you feel the benefit? Lastly – what brand/type do you recommend?

I use the Specialized BG Contour women’s grips.  I use them on all my mountain bike for long or short rides and races.  I absolutely believe that they help alleviate pressure on your ulnar nerve by spreading out the pressure on your hands.  I like these because they are a little smaller and softer so I still feel I have control around the handle bar.  It’s personal preference, but there is science behind the design and they work great for me.

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If you ride tubeless w/ stan’s ~ What do you carry while out on “long”” runs in case you get a flat?

The same stuff as you’d carry if you were not using Stans.  If you get a flat with Stans, you just put in a tube, pump it up and carry on.  Simple.

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What do you carry in your hydration pack on a day to day basis (e.g. nutrition, first aid, tools, ect…)?

Hydration is the main purpose for the pack.   For many rides/races, one or two water bottles is just not enough.  I also sometimes wear the super light Hydrapak Avila in events that are as short as 3 hours if the riding is technical because it’s way easier for me to keep my hands on the bars and still drink while wearing a pack vs. water bottles.  I also prefer leaving my jersey pockets available for food instead of putting tools in there.  So, to answer your question, the minimum I’d have in a hydration pack for a ride would be:  multi tool with chain tool, tube, CO2 and/or mini pump, 1 tire iron, SRAM quick link, tire boot (or gel wrapper).  Additional items that sometimes make their way in:  light rain jacket, another tube if it’s a long event, cell phone if I’m training alone, surgical gloves and shower cap, if I’m in the backcountry where unexpected storms can happen, maybe a piece of pizza if I’m lucky.

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How do you pace races that are 50+ miles? Do you use a HR monitor, power meter, or Rate of Perceived Exertion?

I use a Suunto T6d Heart Rate monitor and Powertap for training.  I do not use them in races.  I  will record my HR numbers on my watch during races, but I rarely look at it during the event.  Instead I’m relying more on perceived exertion, how I’m feeling that day and reacting to the rhythm of the race that’s going on around me.  Pacing is really a learned experience to know how hard you can go and still keep going hours later.  My adventure racing experience was a big help with this.  I have actually had to work on starting out harder in the beginning of mountain bike races and not being so conservative with my pacing.  I’ve surprised myself and been able to go faster than I thought prudent at the start of a race and still have enough in the tank for later.  It’s a delicate balance and you only learn this stuff from trial and error.  A HR monitor can help as you’re getting to know your body, but it is also just a tool and not something that dictates how you will do that day.

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What’s your take on why people flat, and do you run tubeless?

In reading all the press about who had what problems, seemed like quite a few people who might have been contenders, were set back by flats. Do you know if all those people who flatted were running tubeless? What’s your take on why people flat, and do you run tubeless? Tire selection as you mentioned in your video, was based on having more tread, since this is a speed race mostly on the fire road and pavement. Do you think having a faster tire but with more tread than knobbies prevents the flats, or do you think its a tube/tubeless issue?

A:  Pretty much every pro I know runs a tubeless set up, including me.   Flatting is an unfortunate part of bike racing, however you can better your odds by running tubeless, riding smoothly, choosing a thicker sidewall tire and being a bit conservative with your choice of lines when you descend.  Sometimes it’s just simple bad luck if you hit a rock the wrong way.

Flatting with a tubeless set up is usually not a tread issue, but more of a sidewall thickness thing.  The tread I chose for this race was fast rolling, but had a medium tread so I could feel more confident on the super high-speed descents in Leadville.  Todd Wells, chose a smoother tread.  It’s just personal preference.   Regarding the pro women who flatted in Leadville, I know one of them had valve stem issues, one had a bent rim and I’m not sure about the rest of the flats.

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Question about 29er wheels, airlines and would you rather…?

- On 29 bike set up, I have heard to spend the extra money to get a superlight layup for your wheels since this is spinning weight and not static – do you agree?

– I had some push back from SouthWest about the size of my box and recently had a phone call saying they would not even take it – which airlines have treated you well while traveling with your bike?

– I play this game with my wife on long car trips – Which would you rather…  to be broke, hungry and a great biker or…. rich, fat and an above average biker?

 

A:  #1 Yes, light wheels are worth it for a 29er.  #2 NO airline has been super cool about taking my bike.  It depends more on the actual person at the ticket counter than which airlines it is.  #3, I never want to be fat or broke, so whichever column that puts me in is OK.  We will all be average cyclists one day.

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I was wondering, using Restwise, what happens if you wake up on race day…and it tells you to take a day off? (07/11)

Q: I was wondering…with Restwise…what happens if you wake up on race day, put in your numbers and it tells you to take a day off? – S. Richardson

A: According to my coach, Matthew, a high score does not necessarily guarantee a great result.  FYI, my score was 90 this AM and I felt flat and slow today even though on paper, I shouldn’t have. Similarly, a low score does not mean you’ll have a bad day.  It just means on paper, you haven’t fully recovered from life, training, whatever, but you should still by all means go out on race day and work as hard as you can.  They’ve also had athletes with low scores race morning, due to stress, lack of sleep, being nervous about the race and then they pop a good one.

The recovery score should not keep you from racing.  Instead, it should assist you more with training when you have the freedom to change your plans.  It’s also important to look at trends.  If you are always trending toward low scores, then a major adjustment is needed in lifestyle or training.  If it’s just one day of low scores due to travel (this happens to me all the time) or some other unavoidable factor such as your kids kept you up all night, then it’s not a trend.  You can just be conscious to get more sleep the next night, hydrate better, stretch, relax, etc when you hit these occasional low scores.

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With respect to the Suunto t6d, what particular items do you monitor while you are riding?

Q: While you are riding, with respect to the Suunto t6d (which I have been looking at), what particular items do you monitor? I seem to just look at heart rate and for whatever reason Avg. speed. I’m not sure as an amateur rider if there are other “on the bike” stats that you or other pros might monitor which would be useful to someone like me. – A. Bruce

A:  When I’m actually racing, I occasionally look at HR and also look at the time quite often.  But mostly, I look at all the markers afterwards and find that EPOC and Training Effect are especially useful to compare and get a good feeling for how the workout went. Sometimes a heart rate reading doesn’t give you enough information alone.  Suunto does a good job of taking more factors into consideration to give you a more complete picture.  During the race/ride, I’m relying on experience and perceived exertion for my pacing.

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How do you keep your vision in check while racing at night?

Q: When racing/riding at night, I have horrible depth perception on the bike.  Have you experienced this and if so, how do you help keep your vision in check? – D. Baurhenn

A: I ride with Light and Motion lights and riding at night is one of my favorite things to do.  The first step in good night vision is making sure you have a good light system on your helmet and handle bar.  If you only have access to one light, put it on your helmet so that your light will shine where you are looking.  If that still doesn’t work, check that you have enough lumens in your current light system.  Lumens are the measurement for how much light a system will put out.  Running two lights gives you different depth perception.   I run my handle bar Stella 300 at a closer angle to shine right in front of the bike.  The Seca 1400 on my helmet is shot so that I can look further down the trail with this light.  Between the two I get a great depth perception.  Also make sure that you’re using clear lenses in your glasses. If that doesn’t work then perhaps a trip to the eye doctor is in store!

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What advice do you have on what repair equip to carry during an XC race, vs. An Epic, vs. Regular riding?

Q: What advice do you have on what repair equip to carry during an XC race, vs. An Epic, vs. Regular riding? I want a lite bike for racing but fret about how much to carry…tubes, tire worms/patch repair, levers, chain link/breaker, rear hanger, air catridges vs. Micro pump, hex keys. Also, don’t want different setups all the time because then I get confused about how to handle a problem with race fog going on. Advice please? – J. Gaston

 

A: First, when you have to fix a mechanical in the middle of “race fog”, stop for a few seconds, take a deep breath and calm down.  It’s much faster to fix a repair in a calm manner than to be dropping tools in the dirt, spraying the air cartridge into the air and fumbling around.  If you saw the 2009 Race Across the Sky movie, it was sort of hilarious to watch one of the best cyclists in the world, Lance Armstrong, struggle with a Co2 cartridge and have to ride a flat for 10 miles because he couldn’t change a flat.  Don’t be that guy.  Practice a little and stay calm.

Here are the basics of what I carry all the time, with the additions below as the races get longer and more epic.  The only time I carry nothing is in a cyclocross or short track race where a flat pretty much ends your race.

All rides, XC races, 50/100 miler with frequent aid stations and resupply:

Tube

Multi-tool w chain breaker

Quicklink for chain

Tire lever, the really fat kind so I only need one.

C02 cartridges (2 small or one Big Air)

Co2 head for cartridges

Tire boot (or gel wrapper)

Additional gear for epic multi hour training ride, long stage race event or 100 miler with few aid stations:

Another tube

A small mini pump, in case I use all my air

A derailleur hangar

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Is it true that the Rock Shox Reba was named after you?

Q: Is it true that the Rock Shox Reba was named after you? – A. Paiso

A: Ah…sadly, no, the Rock Shox Reba was not named after me.  I would love to claim that title, but that honor belongs to a dog of a SRAM employee who is no longer with this world.  I never met Reba.  She was before my mountain biking time, but I’m guessing she was a single track super star.

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I am looking for a good pair of cold weather riding gloves…

Q: I am looking for a good pair of cold weather riding gloves.  Something that will keep my digits warm down to 15 degrees F, but still offer the dexterity to shift, brake, and handle my bike.  I have tried the Sugoi Firewall; good warmth, too bulky.  The Giro Blaze offer great dexterity, but not warm enough.  Any suggestions? – S. Bishop

A:  Warm hands are key for cold weather riding enjoyment. I have Raynaud’s and super bad circulation, so I have to be creative with keeping my hands warm.  I find that layering and using a “glove system” is the only way for me to be comfortable for a whole ride.  One big thick pair of riding gloves doesn’t work for me because of the bulk and once my hands get warm and start to sweat, that’s a sure fire way to freeze them later.  I also don’t like the bulk of a giant glove.   I usually ride in cold weather with two pair of thinner gloves and sometimes a third pair in my pocket just in case.  I like wool liners or a regular long fingered riding glove as the first layer.  For the top layer, I like some sort of thin wind layer like goretex or similar.  If it’s really cold, I might also have a mid fleecy layer that I can pull off part way through the ride.

The Specialized Sub Zero glove is a really warm lobster style glove with a warm shell and a removeable insulation layer.  I usually wear these without the mid layer because the outer layer is beefy and taking out the mid layer gives you more dexterity.

I also like the Marmot Driclime glove as an outer  layer.  I use these gloves for Nordic skiing as well.   Consider looking at light ski gloves if you can’t find what you want in a riding glove.  Be sure to size up a bit on the outer shell glove so you can fit another glove underneath.

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Would you ride a double susser if they could get the weight down enough?

Q: Would you ride a double susser if they could get the weight down enough? I read your bike is 18.5 lbs which for a 29 is awesome. How low can they make a double suspension 29 and can they make one that would fit you? Or, do you feel the weight gain is too much for any increased traction? Or, do you have another reason for not using suspension in the rear? – T. Toister

 

A:  I do ride full suspension bikes.  Depending on what I’m doing and what the terrain is like, I’ll ride an Era or Safire or the Fate.  They are different tools for different jobs.  I will say that riding a 29 hard tail is much different than a 26 hard tail.  The ride is much smoother and more forgiving on the bigger wheels.  I recently took the Fate to La Ruta in Costa Rica.  It’s four days of varied terrain from paved roads to super bumpy, rocky descents and bone shaking railroad tracks. I was a bit nervous about taking a hard tail to this race, but in the end I was super pleased. The 29 inch wheels smooth things out much more than I expected. Having a super light weight bike is amazing, but it’s not the only deciding factor for me when I choose what tool for the job.  For your weight question, the Specialized 29 Epic  in my size weighs 21.5 lbs.

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For Leadville did you ride with a 38-24 chainring or 39-26 chainring?

Q: For Leadville did you ride with a 38-24 chainring or 39-26 chainring?  What is your typically, Rocky Mountains riding setup? – L. Tobin

A: My typical Rocky Mountains riding set up is a SRAM 2×10 with 38-24 chainrings.  I have a bike with 39-26 and it’s good most of the time, but on longer rides, I do prefer the slightly smaller gear.

For Leadville, I actually rode a triple.  I was torn between the triple and 38-24.   It’s the only race of the year where I took the 2×10 off.  In retrospect, I’m not sure I needed the triple.  It was a security blanket, I guess.

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What jeans do you wear?

Q: Hi Rebecca.  I met you at Wilmington 100.  I loved your jeans!!  You told me the brand but I can’t remember the name.  As you said in post in Nov 2011, bike fit is very important, just ’cause boyfriend jeans are all the rage, you need a belt to keep them up!!  So I think my bike fit is ok,  but I’d love a pair of jeans that fit a more athletic body.  Hope you can help.  – F. Tartavel

 

A: Maloja!  Best jeans ever!

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Would using an orthotic in my mtn. bike shoes help my riding?

Q: Your monthly giveaway prize made me think of this question. I’m a skier at heart who likes to mountain bike in the off season. I’ve always used custom orthotics in my ski boots even though I don’t have any crazy or weird foot issues. I find that I have much better control on my alpine and nordic gear if I have good foot support. Would using an orthotic in my mountain bike shoes help my riding? Do you use them? I’m just not sure that it would matter since you don’t stand on your pedals all the time. Thanks! Karoline

A: Absolutely YES. Footbeds, especially customizable ones are beneficial for all footwear from cycling shoes to podium shoes. For weight bearing sports such as Nordic skiing and running, more thickness for impact cushioning is important. For sports like cycling where you have less body weight on your feet, you don’t need as much cushion, but a moldable insole is still key to offer arch support and also to customize the fit of your shoe to your feet. There are dead spots and pressure points in every shoe. Cycling shoes are especially stiff, flat and tight fitting, so having your foot supported and dead spaces filled is especially important. You will have more control, eliminate hot spots and enjoy a more custom fit. I use the Sole Thin Sport insoles in my cycling shoes. To compare different insoles for different sports, check here:

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Do you have a favorite lens you use more than any other?

Q: …Do you have a favorite lens you use more than any other on your Smith Piv Loc’s? Thank You for your time. Oh, I also ride Specialized and made the mistake of demoing one the new Sworks Epic 29ers!! How does one NOT like that bike!!
Thanks again,
Phil Sitterding

A: I use the Smith Ignitor lens for almost everything. It’s great from dawn to dusk. I only use a darker lens in super high intensity light. I use the clear for night riding.
Generally though, I have no need to change the lens. Also, I feel your pain with the S-works Epic 29er. It’s an INCREDIBLE ride! You should know better than to demo a bike like that unless you plan on buying one!

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How important are padded bicycling shorts for a new rider?

Q: Dear Queen of Pain,
How important are padded bicycling shorts for a new rider? My first day riding was on a borrowed mtn. bike with no suspension $ a lightweight racing seat. After a long day of riding & bouncing I had developed a swollen buttocks. This swollen buttocks lasted a week long resulting in the use of an enema for the first time. Could I have avoided this by using padded shorts?
Thank you, Rob Ryan.

A: WOW. There are so many good jokes rolled into your question. I’ll try to be tactful though and help you out.
1.Yes, get some padded shorts. Everyone wears them. Even the people in baggie shorts have padded ones underneath. They are not all created equally. Spend a bit of cash and get a good pair. Don’t borrow them from a friend or buy discounted ones online. Go to a local shop and check them out for yourself.
2.Get your own bike, but try before you buy. Specialized (and most bike manufacturers) have demo vans that drive around the country stopping in various places to let people test bikes. Many shops also have demo bikes to try.
3.Saddles are quite personal. You can also demo saddles at many retailers. Don’t overlook the “lightweight race saddle” you mentioned. Looks are deceiving. I ride the Specialized Ruby and used to ride the Specialized Toupe. These are both wafer thin and ultra light and look hideously painful. However, the whole saddle flexes under the rider, which provides a very comfy ride. Extra padding does not necessarily mean comfort. Saddles also come in different widths. Shop around and when you find one you love, stick with it.
4.I really can’t understand why you needed to resort to the type of therapy you described in your email. I’ve never heard of this and it seems quite extreme. Hopefully this experience has not scarred you for life. I have to assume that if you are asking this question, you want to give mountain biking another go. All I can decipher from your question is that perhaps you were staying seated on the saddle too much. Proper riding technique often involves standing off the saddle on descents or rocky sections. Perhaps in addition to a pair of shorts, you need a few riding tips from your buddies as well.

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How can I get the best fit on my Kona Hoss Mtn. Bike?

Question: I ride a Kona Hoss Mountain Bike. I have read all the articles I can find about bike fit, been to a bike shop and have been fitted and still after riding for more then 1/2 hr I have a back ache. I have made small changes and ridden for awhile and still a sore lower back. I have switched from clipless to flats, moved my seat back and forth in 1/2″ increments, changed my stem height and length. Currently, me and the bike weigh a total of 250#, on a flat surface, the front tire weighs in at 100# and the back weighs in at 150#. Seems that what ever I do, I still walk away with a sore back. I have even started working on my core strength but that hasn’t seemed to help. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Rick Beauchamp

A: Well first, you ride a Kona Hoss. Just the name makes my back hurt! Seriously though, here’s what you have to do. Stretch your hip flexors and keep doing the core exercises. Get a professional, reputable bike fit like BG fit from Specialized. Not all bike shops are created equal with their fit procedures. Specialized actually brings their shop employees to their headquarters and puts them through SBCU (Specialized Bicycle Components University) before they can do any fits. However, if you had a great fit and still have back pain, then the weak link is you, not the bike. If that’s the case, it’s time to suck it up and go to some yoga classes, get into the gym and specifically address the parts of your body that are weak and/or tight.

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Will the Smith pivLock V90 glasses change my mind on comfort?

As a long time wearer of smith products, I have only worn full framed glasses for my sports.  While kayaking it is not so much an issue, but on the bike, the frames begin to get heavy and hurt the bridge of my nose.

 

Will the Smith pivLock V90 glasses change my mind on comfort? I hope so, because i love all of my smiths and want to continue to wear them in all my sports…

 

YES!

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How do you utilize your Suunto T6 watch for daily training?

I recently purchased a Suunto T6 watch and am uploading it’s stored data onto the Movescount.com website.  How do you best interpret and utilize all that information in your daily training?”

My coach looks at my Movescount logs and so do I.  Mostly, I am looking at my HR zones and how quickly I recover (or don’t) in a given workout and in between sets of intervals.  I look at if I’m able to hit the target zones I was going for.  I also find it really valuable to look at Movescount after logging a race, so I can really see what I was able to sustain or if the effort dropped off.  All of this helps me know if I’m on track with my training and recovery.

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I am in need of a new mtb that can serve a few purposes…..

Like many, I am a parent of 3 awesome young kids so my extracurricular activity (mtn biking & xterra tri racing) is kept on a tight budget.  I am in need of purchasing a new ride that can serve a few purposes.  What type of mtn bike would you recommend for someone like me who enjoys hitting the local singletrack to throw the bike around but also needs a set-up that is productive for my 2-3 times a yr racing?  Or would I really even notice much of a difference in MtB types since I’m kind of a newbie still?

Just get the best bike you can afford.  People tell me all the time that since they are “new”, they should get a beginner bike.  I disagree.  Just because you are new, doesn’t mean you should have to push around a heavy bike.  Go demo a few different bikes and see if you notice a difference.  I’m guessing you will.  Just shop around, check for used bikes and get the best one you can afford.

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Your personal opinion on 29er vs. 26 and hardtail vs. dual?

Will you give us your personal opinion on 29er vs. 26 MTB? Also, the advantages and disadvantages of full suspension vs. hardtail?

http://www.rebeccarusch.com/askreba-june-winner

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Can proper eye protection protect you from a bee sting to the eye?

Can proper eye protection protect you from a bee sting to the eye?

Hmmm.  Didn’t work for me last summer.  A bee flew straight into the top of my glasses and got trapped inside.

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Why do I need good sunglasses for riding?

WHY do I need a good pair of sunglasses for cycling, and what should I look for in cycling / active sport optics?

Crappy, cheap sunglasses will ride down your nose when you sweat, get fogged up, block your vision with thick frames, rub between your helmet and temples and give you a headache, make seeing variable lighting situations treacherous.  Being able to see well while you ride is pretty key since vision is one of the essential senses.  There are blind climbers who kick butt, but if that’s not you, then find some good riding glasses.  Look for a minimal or non-existent frame for the best field of view.  Lightweight and a good fit are key as well.  A really quality frame makes riding in and out of the shadows a nonissue.

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What type bike short, chamios do you recommend?

What type of bib short and chamois combination do you recommend for endurance racing? On what type of saddle?  I know it two questions buy they seem to go together.

http://www.rebeccarusch.com/ask-reba-august-winner/

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I ride a combination of trail and pavement in a single ride….

I ride a combination of trail and pavement (no significant incline) on a single ride; the trails are relatively flat tree litter covered with some sandy areas.  Is there an optimum width and tread design for this combination?  I am only competing against myself with a cheap-o mtb I am converting to more of “”hybrid.””  Thank you for any input.

Two words for you:  Cyclocross bike.

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What do you use to track your progress in longer events?

Hey Rebecca, this may be a question for your Adventure Racing days.  I am using a Garmin 405CX watch, Garmin states the battery life is good for about 8 hrs, usually not.  If I need to use it for longer, I will have to stop and recharge, rendering it useless during that time.  What did you do to continue tracking your progress in longer events?

 If you really want to track longer events, you need to use a bigger GPS than a watch unit.  Those are just too small to pack the battery life needed for a multi day event.  During our adventure racing days when GPS was allowed, we made sure to use a GPS unit that took regular batteries so that we could put in new ones on the fly instead of having to re-charge.  If you don’t have that option, you could potentially put a 2nd GPS unit at an aid station during your event and swap out half way through.  Or you could just do the run and not worry about tracking at all.  Sometimes there’s beauty in just being free from technology.

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Do you have a preference on cycling shoe lacing systems?

Do you have a preference on lacing systems on your cycling shoes; Velcro, rachet buckle, or Boa?

 My preference would either be ratchet or Boa.  I find that with mountain biking Velco just loses it’s stick in muddy conditions or after you’ve had the shoes for a long time.   Ratchets and Boa closures are way more secure and durable.   I’ve been using the Specialized S-Works road shoe with Boa closure for over a year. I love the simplicity and being able to really fine tune the fit.  I just started testing the new S-Works women’s mtb shoe with the Boa closure, so I will have to wait and see how those hold up with dirt and mud.  So far, so good.

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I’d like to buy a new mountain bike, but I am quite perplexed by the options…

I’d like to buy a new mountain bike, but I am quite perplexed by the options – hard-tail, full-suspension, 29er, carbon, aluminum….choices!  I mostly ride cross country via single track or forest service roads.  I’m not into steep, technical downhills or jumping in bike parks.  I want a good, light and durable bike.  If you could only pick one bike, what would it be?

Thanks and keep on beating the dudes!”

Specialized just did a great test with Christoph Sauser, one of their Factory Team athletes and a world champion.  He did a comparision ride with the 26 inch Specialized Epic and the 29 inch Specialized Epic.  It’s a great video that shows the benefits of both bikes and his final opinion.  I won’t blow the punch line, but from my riding and testing of bikes,  I agree with his opinion!

Check out the 29 vs 26 video here.

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I am SERIOUSLY thinking about putting in for the 2012 Leadville lottery…

I am SERIOUSLY thinking about putting in for the 2012 Leadville lottery.
I have 2 bikes to choose from: one is a Stumpy FSR and the other is an EPIC 29er (full). Which bike do you think would be best suited for the Leadville terrain?  Why?

Epic 29er full suspension without a doubt.  The Stumpy is a great bike but more suitable for rougher terrain where you’d need more suspension.  Leadville is not a technical race and the 29er wheels are great for this event.  Ned Overend and Mike Sinyard, the owner of Specialized, both rode the 29 Epic in the 2010 Leadville race.

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I recently used a shower cap from a hotel to keep warm while climbing over a mountain pass covered with snow. It worked great! Do you carry anything else handy like this with you?

Sweet! I’m sure you looked ridiculous, but were warm!  Surgical gloves also make for super light, cheap emergency liners that will save your hands.  Zip lock bags work the same for inside your shoes if needed.  I’ve been saved by this stuff on more than one occasion.  I just leave those things in my saddle bag or Hydrapak on a regular basis.

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Do you feel that you accomplish more with your Suunto watch?

My Suunto T6d is the training partner I rely on the most.  It is the one piece of equipment that I use on EVERY ride, race or training session.  During training, yes I use it for pacing, to keep my prescribed workout on track and make sure I am training in the right zone for that day.  During races, I start my log, but I rarely look at it during the event.  During the event, I rely on perceived exertion and my own experience to race as hard as I can.  After the race is over, I will absolutely analyze the results with my coach.  We use all of the logs from my training session and races to customize my workouts so that I can get the best performance.  I accomplish more with the Movescount and the T6d because I can analyze so many more factors than just heart rate.

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What tires would you use on a mostly very smooth trail such as those at Sun Valley, Idaho?

I really like the Specialized Fast Trak LK.  Super light, fast rolling, but enough knob for traction on the loose corners.  I also really like the new Specialized Ground Control tires.  They are not available yet, but will be soon.  I tested them out in the Trans-Sylvania Epic stage race where I still wanted super light, fast rolling tires, but with a teeny bit more tread for the technical PA terrain.  These offer a bit more side knob than the Fast Trak LK, but still very little weight or rolling resistance penalty.

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Do you still train on your 26′ bike, or only your 29′ now?

I ride the Specialized FATE hard tail 29er for many endurance events, especially if the riding is less technical.  I also ride this bike for some short track and XC races.  I ride a 26 Era full suspension for more technical endurance races like the Trans-Sylvania Epic in PA that was 7 days and very rocky and rooty.  I also ride the 26 Era in some XC races.  I ride a 26 Safire with more suspension for Super D events and places like Moab.  Basically, it depends on the course and I think there are benefits to both wheel sizes.

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What size is your Era frame?

I ride a large Era and yes, I’m 5’7”, although you already said it yourself, a bike fit is really personal.  Just make sure you get a good fit before you take the plunge.

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I have added a 29ER to my arsenal and seeing increases in HR / speed performance.

I have added a 29ER to my arsenal and seeing increases in HR / speed performance. Have you found the need to adjust fueling strategies when working the 29er over endurance distances (to compensate for the greater output) ?

A:  Fueling is proportional to effort.  Speed corresponds to effort.  Neither of these have anything to do with wheel size.

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What brand of socks you use?

What brand of socks you use?

A:  Specialized mostly.  I love the wool trainers and the compression socks.

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What is(are) the most important feature(s) on a women’s specific mountain bike

In your opinion, what is(are) the most important feature(s) on a women’s specific mountain bike?

A:  Fit.  Just like a pair of jeans.  Can you imagine buying men’s jeans?  I know there are the “boyfriend jeans” that are all the rage, but you need a belt to hold them up.  A women’s specific bike will fit a woman’s body better.

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Were you wearing the watch (Suunto T6d) during the race?

Not sure if you remember me, but I am one of the Alpine Ortho guys that was riding with you until I flatted in the LTQ in Crested Butte.  Were you wearing the watch during the race, and do you look at it to check your specs during a race to see if you need to pick it up or slow down?  Or are you like some of us that just rely on your gut and how your feeling at the moment and go as hard as you feel you can?

 

A:  Sorry about your flat in Crested Butte!  During a race, I wear my Suunto and log the race, however I don’t look at my heart rate during an event.  I rely on my gut and experience when racing.  After the fact, I look at the data and analyze it with my coach to see things like average HR, max, elevation, and how I responded in hard sections of the course.  

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Do you have some guidelines for choosing sunglass lens colors?

Q:  Do you have some guidelines for choosing sunglass lens colors?  I’ve usually used amber for mixed sun & shade while mountain biking and flat light while skiing, is there another color that is better for certain conditions? - J. Stark

A: I use a Smith Ignitor lens about 90 % of the time.  The only times I use a different lens is a clear one for night riding and a super dark one for desert riding like Morocco.

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For race day, do you ride with a monitor or computer?

Q: I have a friend who is always speaks of an older friend who does a weekly crit series ..  He always finishes well if he doesn’t win.  I was asking questions about miles, ave. speed, ave. HR and such…  And it got back to me that he does not ride with a monitor or computer or anything..  So.. For Race day do you ride with anything? – M. Gerlach

A: Yes. I’ve answered a similar question like this: My Suunto T6d is the training partner I rely on the most.  It is the one piece of equipment that I use on EVERY ride, race or training session.  During training, yes I use it for pacing, to keep my prescribed workout on track and make sure I am training in the right zone for that day.  During races, I start my log, but I rarely look at it during the event.  During the event, I rely on perceived exertion and my own experience to race as hard as I can.  After the race is over, I will absolutely analyze the results with my coach.  We use all of the logs from my training session and races to customize my workouts so that I can get the best performance.  I accomplish more with the Movescount and the T6d because I can analyze so many more factors than just heart rate.

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How much do you rely on what your equipment, like HR monitor and computer, tell you versus how you feel? (02/11)

Q: How much do you rely on what your equipment, like HR Monitor and Computer, tell you versus how you feel, do you do exactly what the equipment says you should be doing for HR?  You are the Queen of Pain after all… - S. Herrara

A: The tools I use for training and recovery are my Suunto T6c and Restwise recovery system. I just got a brand new PowerTap that I have yet to learn how to use yet. Suunto and Restwise are basically my daily training partners and are essential to keeping me on track. They both give me numbers that help shape my training. My coach and I look at the numbers every single day, however, how I’m feeling must play a big role. People are not machines and the measuring tools we use are just guidelines.

Many times, if my heart rate is not responding how I’d like or my Restwise numbers are low, it tells me to back off on training and take a rest day. Tools like these are excellent guides as long as you supplement their use with your brain as well. I see many athletes just relying on a number on a digital readout instead of making intelligent training decisions. As a side note, when I’m racing, I have my HR monitor on, but don’t look at it until after the race is over. I rely on my own brain to pace during a race.

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In long rides or races, have you ever developed metatarsalgia?

Q:  In long rides or races, have you ever developed metatarsalgia?  If so, what have you done to minimize the impact your feet are placed under when pedaling hour after hour? - C. Lowery

A: I’ve been lucky enough to avoid pain in my feet when I ride. I asked my PT, Karoline about this.  Here’s her answer.  If you’re suffering from metatarsalgia, chances are that your shoe is too narrow and you don’t have enough arch support. In both instances you’ll place too much pressure on the nerves between the long bones of your feet, causing pain. Try a wider shoe and a good orthotic in your shoes. I use Sole footbeds in all of my cycling shoes.

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What length cranks do you ride?

Q: I have recently been reading lots about crank length on road bikes and am curious to know if the same thoughts apply to mountain bikes. All of my bikes have 172.5-175mm cranks but most of the literature suggests I should be riding something closer 165mm (I’m 5’5″” with 30″” inseam). Have you found that crank length on a mtb makes a big difference for either power or cadence? What length cranks do you ride? - E. Korsch

A: I ride 170 to 175 cranks and I’m 5’7”.  This discussion just came up recently and there is a trend saying that it’s more efficient to run shorter cranks.  I have not really gotten into the debate yet or started changing around my cranks.  I did google “crank arm length” and got a ton of links to various discussions such as this one.  Good luck making sense of it all.

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What is the the biggest difference between the Era & Fate?

Q:  Since your recent change to the Fate 29er, what would you say is the the biggest difference between the Era & Fate that has made you faster/ better or that has made the biggest difference for your riding style? – T. Luck

A:  They are two different bikes, the Era is a 26 inch wheeled bike that suspension and the FATE is a 29 hard tail.  It’s sort of like comparing apples and oranges.  I did an interview recently with Twentynineinches.com and the last question talks about my choice between 29 and 26.  I do not necessarily think the Fate made me faster than the Era, but I do believe that choosing the right tool for a certain race or situation is faster.

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What requires more maintenance, my singlespeed or my boyfriend’s geared bike?

Q: First, I want to send a load of congrats for your awesome win in Leadville.  You absolutely rock and give me daily inspiration to ride better, be better and do more with my life and my riding.  Second, not trying to kiss ass, just want you to know how much I admire and appreciate the athlete and person that you are.  I think it is rare for a professional athlete to win with such defined confidence, yet gratitude and humility.  You are such a hero among all athletes,  but especially for women’s sports where the focus seems to always turn to something besides the sport.  I applaud you, your determination, your hard work and your ability to suffer and win time after time.  Now, on to my question…  When I saw you were giving away the Suunto for the winning question this month I was so stoked.  I was positive I would win.  Now, here I sit, one day before the end of the month, and I’m still racking my brain for that epic winning question.  Anywho – it’s not earth shattering, but maybe you can help me settle an ongoing debate between me  and my boyfriend.  He claims that my single speed requires more maintenance than his geared bike.  I told him he was crazy.  He said, “I guarantee you ask Rebecca Rusch what her thoughts are on maintenance for a single speed and she will tell you… ”  So that’s it.  I figure between you and Greg you know enough about geared vs. single speed to give us both an education on maintenance, riding, etc.  Also – do you recommend training on a geared bike for racing single speed? Or is it better to train as much as possible on the single speed?  Thanks Reba! Cheers to you!!!   :)” – A. Workman

A:  Thanks for the kind words.  You definitely win the debate with your boyfriend.  There’s no way a SS requires more maintenance than a geared bike.   I just can’t see how this could happen. Greg agrees with me too.

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That site Movescount looks really cool, does that work with your watch or hr monitor device?

Q: That site Movescount looks really cool,  does that work with your watch or hr monitor device? – J. Pierce

A: Movescount.com is a website that my sponsor Suunto created so that users of their heart rate monitors could keep track of their workouts and see all the cool stats online. People can choose to share their “moves” like I do, or they can keep their information private. The monitors download to the computer via a wireless connection; very simple and really slick!  I use this with my coach to monitor my training and also to see how I’m responding to a certain workout.

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I need a new bike…and I’m so confused!

Q: I’m so inspired by your riding! Bear with me on the long question. I work a lot, but have still managed to race off and on. Love to climb and ride long rides. I’m 47 and feeling it,  but I’m eager to keep improving and I need a new bike! I’ve never liked my current Titus,  so I want to go back to Specialized,  which I’ve always loved. But I am so confused about the product line. I thought your site might help – but you ride them all! I want to do Leadville this summer, but more often I ride/race trails like the single track portion of Cowbell Challenge you did (lapped me!) in NC a few years ago…rolling single track,  with some a few steep grades tossed in. Plus I’m small. Any ideas? – S. Edwards

A: Hey Sally, it’s never to late to keep improving and, as they say “use it or lose it.”  There’s nothing like a great bike to motivate you.  Yes, the product lines are getting more and more extensive and perhaps confusing.  It takes time to find the right ride for you, but the search is worth it.  It’s like finding the right mate!  I ride a bunch of different Specialized bikes because I have the luxury of being able to and I ride in so many different types of terrain.  It is a challenge to choose just one bike for everything.  It’d be like having one pair of athletic shoes for all purposes.  I can say that I’m completely sold on the 29 inch wheel size for endurance, climbing and single track.  It used to be that the big wheeled bikes were heavy and hard to fit to a small woman.  That has changed.  Here’s a link to an interview where I talk about riding 29 vs 26 wheeled bikes and specifically about my new Specialized Fate.  In that article, I talk about my own product testing, why the Fate fits small women and how I made my decision to ride a 29er.   It is a hard tail so you have to make the decision if that works for you.  You will find that a 29 hard tail is still a softer ride than a 26 hard tail.  The added wheel size give a bit more cush and smooths out many of the bumps.  That said, I would still choose my Specialized Safire for more techy, trail riding situations.  I wouldn’t really race the Safire unless it was a Super D event.  From the description of your riding, it sounds like the Fate might be in your future. However, there is nothing better than test riding different bikes to feel what works for you.  Specialized has a Test the Best Demo program with women’s and men’s bikes.  Find out if they are coming to a trail near you or hit up your local dealer.

Happy shopping!

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Where would someone be able to buy the red bull hats?

Q: Where would someone be able to buy the red bull hats? i love those millitary style reb bull hats you where in your interviews. – M. Packer

A: You gotta get yourself sponsored by Red Bull.  One of the coolest things about Red Bull is that they don’t sell t-shirts, stickers or hats to the general public.  If you see someone in authentic Red Bull attire, you can be assured that they are world class at whatever it is they do!

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What part of your bike do you take the most care of and why?

Q: What part of your bike do you take the most care of and why? – D. Zondag

A: That’s easy, the drive train.  A quick chain clean and lube after every ride takes less than 5 minutes and will extend the life of your gears and keep your shifting happy.  I rarely clean the rest of my bike but the drive train always gets attention.

Less frequently, but still important is to glance at the brake pads, tire wear/pressure and check the suspension set up every once in a while and for sure before every race or long backcountry ride.  Just a few minutes with your bike can save you hours of headache out on the trail.

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Do you do your own bike maintenance/tuning? How do you find a good local shop?

Q: Do you do your own bike maintenance/tuning?  Or do you trust only a few other people to fix your bikes?  What is the best way to find a local shop that will do a decent job! – L. Brett

A: I have to trust other people to fix my bikes.  I can do a bit of simple bike maintenance, but for most if it, I rely on a bike shop.  Many times, if I’m traveling, I have to take what I can get and hope for the best.  I try to make sure to head to races with a perfectly running bike.  For home repairs, it’s best to develop a relationship with a shop or mechanic that you can rely on.  Finding a great mechanic is sort of like dating.  It’s trial and error and there are good and bad ones out there.  It’s hard to know without asking around and doing a bit of research.  Referrals are great for this.  I found the best mechanic in the world, Jason Bauer, from G-Fit Studio in Boise through a referral from a friend 8 years ago.  He is my “go to” guy and he’s extremely busy because his clients refuse to use any other mechanic.   He is meticulous and a perfectionist.  The best mechanics I have found are all this way.

If you have the time and desire to work on your own bike, then United Bicycle Institute offers great mechanic classes for any level and you can learn to do it yourself.

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What are the best tires for riding semi-frozen single track and fire roads?

Q: What are the best tires for riding semi-frozen single track and fire roads? – M. Johnson

A:  I really like the Specialized S-works Fast Trak tires for that type of terrain.  Another option would be the Specialized Renegade as long as the fire roads aren’t too gravelly and loose.  Both are fast rolling, light and predictable tire treads.   The Fast Trak just has a little more tread than the Renegade.

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Would you recommend a compression sleeve to prevent calf injury?

Q: I have been having calf issues while racing. Ended up with a grade 2 calf strain. Would you recommend wearing a compression sleeve and keep racing? – D. Mahoney

A:  I am not a physical therapist, but my training partner, Karoline is.  Here’s what she has to say:

A grade 2 calf strain is a fairly serious injury. A compression sleeve is great for recovery from hard efforts, but really won’t keep you from tearing muscle fibers apart. I suggest a calf and hamstring strength program as well as a good stretching routine. Chances are that your calves are working too hard to make up for weak hamstrings (both cross the knee joint and act as knee flexors). If you keep racing with your injury, chances are that you’ll prolong your recovery. Let your calf heal, fix your imbalances and then return to racing when you’re healthy.

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How does Firstbeat Athlete compare to Movescount?

Q: I use the Suunto T6D with Firstbeat Athlete and have for over three years.  How does Movescount compare? – L. Silverman

A:  Sorry Larry, I have never used Firstbeat, so I can’t compare it with Movescount for you.  I can tell you the user interface in Movescount is really easy for me and I like all the choices in graphs, comparisons and sharing options.

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What width handlebar do you ride?

Q: What width handlebar do you ride?  Seems they are getting ever longer, especially for 29’ers. – M. Gagliano

A:  Right now I am riding the Truvativ T30 10S flat bar.  It is 700 mm wide and I cut it down to 680.  This is the widest bar I’ve ridden with, but I am converted.  I first tried it because I wanted a flat bar with more backsweep.  This one has 10 degrees.  I intended to cut the bar down for most of my bikes except the single speed.  After riding it, I’m not going to cut it shorter.  I am now running this bar on my Fate, Safire, single speed, Era and Enduro.  I find more control with the wide bar, less hand fatigue with the backsweep and a more comfortable fit.  The only thing I’ve had to get used to is riding through tight trees with this bar.

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What’s the best light to use for riding trails at night?

Q: What’s the best light to use for riding trails at night? – S. Pollard

A:  I’ve been using Light and Motion lights for over 10 years.  During my adventure racing career, I went to Interbike and did a comparison of all the different lights.  At the time, no one had really heard of Light and Motion.  They had a teeny booth but big technology.  Their background is in making camera lights for underwater dive equipment.  They ventured into the bike light industry because they saw an opportunity to use their superior technology in a growing segment.  Basically, I checked out out all the light systems out there and decided that Light and Motion had the most advanced battery and light technology and that I didn’t want to use anything else.  In 10 years, I have never been disappointed with my decision that day.  I’ve been all over the world with these lights and have never had a malfunction.  They are super bright, super durable and the company keeps innovating.  They have a full range of lights, but the top of the line Seca 1400 is essentially as bright as a car headlight.  The whole Seca line is amazing for technical riding and when you want the most light.  The Stella line is excellent for back up lighting, less technical riding, commuting, skiing, etc.  You can compare all the lights here at Light and Motion.  Yes, they are one of my sponsors now, but I still believe they make the best product out there.

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My T6d HR function is not reliable. Has this happend to you?

Q: I’m also using a T6d for training. My frustration about this watch is that the HR is not reliable. On the first 10 minutes of my run the HR jumps up to 180 or higher to finally come down to where it should be i.e. around 135 or so. Have you had that problem also? Tried changing battery, repairing, washing the belt but to no avail. Use this watch with Firsbeat Athlete program. Great combination. – J. Comeault

A:  Jules,  sorry to hear about your frustration with your T6d.   I have not had this experience. I called Suunto to ask them about it and one guy said he had this experience once when he was riding under some powerlines, but it has never happened again.  If this is a regular thing with your T6d, I’d suggest giving Suunto Customer Service a call and getting it fixed or replaced.  Happy trails.

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How important are tires? And do you run tubeless?

Q: How important are tires? And do you run tubeless?

A:  Tire tread and pressure are hugely important in determining the character of your ride.  A few years ago, I was able to attend some Specialized tire testing and it was a huge education for me.  We rode the same section of trail over and over again with different tires.  I could finally feel the difference by doing this side by side comparison.  I change tires based on the terrain, trail conditions, weather conditions, race vs training.  There are a ton of different factors to consider.  Imagine if you only wore on pair of shoes for everything.  It’s sort of like that.  The shoes would work and cover your feet, but they might not be the best tool for the condition.  Yes, I run tubeless and would never consider anything else.  In my opinion, it’s the way to go, no question.

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How important is a good looking kit? What’s the most hideous kit you’ve ever seen? (11/2011)

Q: How important is a good looking kit?   What’s the most hideous kit you’ve ever seen (at a race or training/fun ride)? – C. Cataneda

 

A:  A good looking kit is KEY!  It’s like a super-hero putting on their cloak or a knight stepping into their armor.  Your kit needs to make you feel fast and invincible!  You need to WANT to put it on and be proud to stand on the start line.  I hate to say it, but for me the most hideous kit was my very own 2008 race kit.  I call it The Pink Year.  There’s nothing wrong with the color pink.  Some people love it.  I do not.  It doesn’t suit me one bit and despite being female, I’ve never gravitated towards pink.  I’m attaching a photo for full comic relief.  I looked like a highlighter and I was embarrassed.  I will say I got really fast during the pink year.  My theory was if I had to wear a hideous kit, then I’d dang well better make up for it by winning.  It’s harder to make fun of someone if they are in front of you, right?

Rebecca’s 2008 Kit

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While night riding, do you carry a spare light?

Q: While night riding, do you carry a spare light in case you run out of charge or crash and break your main light/bulb? If so, what do you carry? – M. Green

A:  I like to ride with a Light and Motion Seca on my helmet and the smaller Stella on my handlebars.  The Seca is my main light source, but then I have the Stella with a very small battery as a back up in case something breaks or malfunctions.  I can also give this light to a riding buddy if theirs breaks.  I always race with two lights for the most visibility and for a back up.  In 8 years I’ve only once had to rely on using my back up light when I crashed during 24 Hr Nationals an hit my light on a tree and broke it.  The great thing about Light and Motion is that all the batteries and parts are interchangeable between the different heads, so there’s no worry about not having batteries.

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If you could get the urban 300 anodized any color, what color would you pick?

Q: If you could get the urban 300 anodized any color, what color would you pick? - A. Rollin

 

A:  That’s easy:  Orange!  It’s my favorite color and the same color that Light and Motion made for the limited edition Rusch light they launched a few years ago.

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How do you adjust/set up your light for very dense fog at night?

Q: How do you adjust/set up your light for very dense fog at night? – S. Butler

A:  There is no fog adjustment on the Light and Motion lights that I use.  There are different settings for high, medium and low beams.  I do ride with two lights, one on my helmet and one on my handlebar.  I will position the helmet mounted light beam further out the trail and my handle bar mounted light more towards the ground in front of my front wheel.  This set up gives me the most peripheral vision and the longest reach for high speed riding.  Light and Motion’s background is in underwater photography lighting and dive equipment, so they are well versed at designing lights that have the best vision in rain or fog.   All of their bike light housings are also water resistant and I haven’t found a need to look for anything different in rain, fog, sandy or other challenging conditions.

 

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Could I improve my game using a power meter or speedometer?

Q: I tend to race based on feel and how much power I think I can put down for the duration of the event, rather than using a power meter or even a speedometer.  Do you think I could significantly improve my game with a more scientific approach? – M. Robb

A:  Yes.  A scientific approach to training really works.  I’m living proof that you can get faster even as you get older.  The biggest reason I’ve had success on the bike is that the last five years I have embraced a more scientific approach to training.  Power meters and HR monitors are great for gauging your training and seeing improvements or drop offs that tell you to take a break.  I use these tools in training with great success.  However, I also think some people can get too addicted and reliant on the science.  I rarely look at these sort of measurements when I’m racing.  I race by feel and will look at the statistics afterwards.  There is a happy medium where you can use the technology to greatly improve your riding, but where you can also turn it off and rely on your experience to push you through a race.

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Is there a good winter running shoe that has better traction and insulation?

Q: I love to run but wintertime conditions (icy roads, trails) make it a bit dangerous – Is there a good winter running shoe that has better traction and insulation? – J. Schwartz

A: There are a few traction running products out there that you can place over your shoes.  Yaktrax, Kahtoola and some other companies make them.  They work, but are clunky and  if you run on varied terrain, they are sometimes too much for hard, icy roads because they can lift your feet up and change your stride.  From what I’ve read, the cheapest and easiest way is to screw your shoes!  Literally, you put screws into the soles of your favorite running shoes and it works GREAT.

For warmth, I’d try a Goretex model like the Salomon XT Wings GTX.  This will help keep your body heat in and moisture out.  I’m also a firm believer of wool socks because they stay warm when wet.  Smartwool makes some great ones.  Happy trails.

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What width handlebar are you using?

Q: Just got a new ride.. and all the reviews of the bike were stellar.. except about the width of the handle bars.. Took my new baby out for a ride on the back side of Pikes Peak.. no snow whoo hoo!  Wow.. they were right!  What width are you using and what is the width (if it is different) of the bars you have on the bike that you won Leadville with?  :)  I understand if this stuff is top secret.. heehee.. Thanks!! – R. Jensen

A: I ride the Truvativ Noir T30 10S Flat Bar on all my bikes, except my road bike and ‘cross bike.  I’ve slowly gone wider and wider and love the control and comfort it gives me.  I was first attracted to this bar because it has 10 degree of backsweep, which is more than any other decent flat bar that I could find.  It’s a more natural hand position to have the bars sweep back and for endurance racing, it’s a key factor in comfort and eliminating hand numbing.  I got this 700mm bar and intended to chop it down a bit for racing.  My Leadville bar was 680 mm, but I’m also pretty used to the stock 700 width now.

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Looking for advice on handle bar width…

Q: Currently, I spend hours on a hard tail, rigid fork mountain bike during the winter months and I use a full suspension for racing in the spring and summer, (both have 26 inch wheels)  I have been analyzing the handlebar width of both bikes and trying to decide whether both handlebars are too narrow.  I think the ride on the rigid would improve if I use a wider bar.  I am curious your opinion as to handle bar width and whether the widest bars available should be used only on 29ers.   I would like to know your experiences with testing different handle bars and what you prefer for better handling.   I do participate in longer races: 50 -100 mile, 24 hour races so comfort is a factor. –  H. Westfall

A: I’m 100% sold on the wider bar for single speed, geared, 29, 26, hard tail and full suspension.  Try it, you’ll like it.  I ride the Truvativ Noir T30 10S Flat Bar on all my bikes, except my road bike and ‘cross bike.  I’ve slowly gone wider and wider and love the control and comfort it gives me.  I was first attracted to this bar because it has 10 degree of backsweep, which is more than any other decent flat bar that I could find.  It’s a more natural hand position to have the bars sweep back and for endurance racing, it’s a key factor in comfort and eliminating hand numbing.  I got this 700mm bar and intended to chop it down a bit for racing.  My Leadville bar was 680 mm, but I’m also pretty used to the stock 700 width now.

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What Buff would you suggest for cold weather camping?

Q: What Buff would you suggest for cold weather camping? I love to camp year-round! – W. Peltola

A: I love the Storm Buff for winter activities.  It is fuzzy microfiber with a windstopper layer.  It’s perfect for winter camping, sking, motorcycle riding, and hiking.

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When racing Leadville, what kind of tires do you roll on?

Q: When racing Leadville, what kind of tires do you roll on? – J. Stern

A: I have run the Specialized S-Works Fast Trak tires for the past two years (2010 & 2011) at Leadville.


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How do you travel with your bike?

Q: With all the travel and flights you have to carry your bike with you. Could you see the benefit of a case that Split your bike in smaller pieces to fit under the size restriction and a cheaper prices? – G. Fredrickson

A: I have a new EVOC case that I really love.  I’ve used it for two flights now and it’s far and away the best case I’ve ever used.  Unfortunately, unless I wanted to split my frame in half, there’s no way to get the bike down to a smaller size.  I already remove wheels and other parts.  There are certain bikes where you can break the frame down smaller, but they are not the same as a high performance race bike.  For now, I have to just swallow my anger and pay the airlines in order to have my machine with me.

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What size spacer are you using with your Quarq power meter?

Q: I have noticed you are running the quarq bb30 power meter on you fate for 2012….I was wondering if you could share what spacer you are using on drive side.  I have the same crank and have installed it on my Sworks Stumpjumper 29HT and it seems to be further away from the frame than standard cranks.  I am using the 15.5mm spacer that came with my cranks and I am not happy with the chain line. –  P. Muench

A:

Hey Peter-

I am not using any spacers with the bb30 Quarq power meter.

I agree, that your chain line should not be affected by adding the power meter.  I know there are various ways to attach the magnet.  Check with your local shop or give Quarq a call directly.  Good luck.

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What is your most comfortable mountain bike seat for long rides?

Q: What is your most comfortable mountain bike seat for long rides like LaRuta? – T. White

A: Finding the right bike seat is a very individual pursuit. I use the Specialized Women’s Ruby saddle for everything: road, mountain, ‘cross riding and all my racing.  Once I find something that fits, I really stick with it.  I like this saddle for the shape and also it’s thin so it flexes with my body weight.  Get your bones (your “sit bones” or ischial tuberosities, not the width of your hips) measured at a shop to be sure you get the right width and be sure to demo a few.  When you find the right one, you’ll know!

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Do adjustable seat posts apply to women riders?

Q: Here’s a mtn bike gear question, especially for women riders.

Do you think the benefits of a remote controlled infinite adjustable seat post, for riders who live in canyon country with endless ups and downs (like we do in San Diego), outweigh the cost of the added weight of the thing, especially for women riders for whom the weight of the bike is a real issue? – J. Cooper

A: Bottom line, I think seat post droppers are game changers if you are pushing yourself in more challenging terrain descending.  This can be for a total beginner who’s learning or a real ripper, either way the benefit is the same.  Getting the seat out of the way descending allows more confidence and minimized the chance of going over the handle bars.  I find it especially useful cornering in tight switchbacks as well because you can lean the bike without your seat hitting your inner thigh.  Yes, there is a weight penalty and I don’t use one in races like Leadville, but I would use on in a technical XC race.   The gained confidence outweighs the approx. 500 gram penalty.

I also use one when I’m out riding with friends and it’s not a race, but I want to push myself and have fun on my bike.  Yes, there’s a weight penalty, but I’m still a huge fan.

In comparing models, I’ve only used the Specialized command post and the SRAM Reverb.

What I like about the Reverb:  it’s easy to install, will nestle right in with your SRAM Matchmaker clamp on the handlebar, they are hydraulic, so there’s no rough return bashing you in the butt when they come back up, it’s a very intuitive little push button that’s easy to find, you can get right or left control.  With regards to how a seat dropper applies to women, the one consideration that sets the Reverb apart is that it’s offered in two different seat post lengths and two different sizes for drop.  This is important for someone small who may not have much seat post sticking out of the bike frame.

 

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Why is commuter cycling gear focusing on safety and road racing gear is not?

Q: In the last few years I’ve seen a scary trend. Commute cycling apparel still has volumes of reflective gear.  Road cycling gear on the other hand, each year is getting less reflective and harder to find. Namely road shoes, (also MTB shoes). My Question is… What would  possibly be the reason road cycling gear manufactures, are not on the same bandwagon for being seen and road safety, that manufactures for commuter gear are? Especially since those of us road cycling cover vast amounts of miles on public roads. – T. Rice

A: Great question, Tim.  I just got home from the National Bike Summit in DC and one tidbit I learned is that racers are the highest user group of our roads and trails since we’re out training all the time, but have the smallest representation in road advocacy.  Commuters are much more involved in public bike safety issues than the race community.  Why is that? This disconnect also seems reflected in your question about cycling training gear.  All I can say regarding both advocacy and cycling gear that meets our needs is that we MUST speak up.  The squeaky wheel really does get the grease, so unless you say something to the manufacturers about more reflective material, they’ll just keep making what they think will sell.  Blog about it, let them know at Interbike, tell your retailer and make your voice heard.  While your at it, join your local IMBA club and League of American Bicyclists!  Reflective cycling clothing is a great idea to increase your safety.  Take it a step further and rally for support for bike lanes, a three foot rule and dedicated non-motorized federal funding.

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How do you know which bike helmets are the safest?

Q: How do you know which bike helmets are the safest?  What is the criteria for coverage? – S. Thatcher

Q: I personally use a Specialized Prevail helmet.  I’ve use Specialized helmets for years and survived one of the worst crashes I’ve ever had while wearing one of them.  It was 2 or 3 am in the middle of 24 hour Worlds and I was on my way to my first win, delirious and exhausted.  It was raining like crazy and the course was full of black mud ruts that were hard to see at night.  I hit a rut descending at about 15 mph and torpedoed over the bars, flew in the air and landed far off the trail about 10 feet away from my bike.  I landed squarely on the top of my head.  I finished the lap, shaken.  Got a new bike and my crew pushed me back out on another lap.  I told them I’d crashed, but we were all in race mode, so I just kept going.  Hours later, I won my first Worlds title and took my helmet off for the first time since the crash.  Inside, the whole structure was broken and looked like a spiderweb of cracks and splits.  I wasn’t hurt.  The helmet obviously did it’s job.

Since you had a technical helmet question, I asked Clint Mattacola, head of helmet R & D at Specialized.  This guy knows helmets.  Here’s what Clint has to say.  Long answer, but lots of good info here.

The bottom line is – any certified helmet will protect you better than not wearing a helmet. I don’t discriminate in this area, just wear a helmet. Find one that you like, that fits your style and wear it every time. An important thing to remember is to wear your helmet strap as snug as comfortably possible, this will keep the helmet in place if an accident happens.

How do you know which bike helmets are the safest?

All the helmets sold in the USA are required to pass the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) 16 CRF Part 1203, Safety Standard for Bicycle Helmets, it is a “Pass/Fail” test. Once the helmet passes the standard there is no comparison of data that rates the safety beyond passing the testing. The Specialized helmets go one step beyond the legally required CPSC standard and the helmets are tested by the Snell Memorial Foundation. The Snell standard for bicycle helmets is an elective standard and is more difficult to pass as well as being independently tested by the Snell laboratory.

What is the criteria for coverage?

The criteria for coverage is dictated by the federal standard to which the helmet is tested, for the USA the standard is the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) 16 CRF Part 1203, Safety Standard for Bicycle Helmets. The coverage is dictated by the impact testing area as marked on the helmet by the “test line’. The details of how to draw the test line on the helmet is outlined in section 1203.11 for the CPSC standard and reads as follows.

 

1203.11 Marking the impact test line.

Prior to testing, the impact test line

shall be determined for each helmet in

the following manner.

(a) Position the helmet on the

appropriate headform as specified by

the manufacturer’s helmet positioning

index (HPI), with the brow parallel to

the basic plane. Place a 5-kg (11-lb)

preload ballast on top of the helmet to

set the comfort or fit padding.

(b) Draw the impact test line on the

outer surface of the helmet coinciding

with the intersection of the surface of

the helmet with the impact line planes

defined from the reference headform as

shown in:

(1) Figure 4 of this part for helmets

intended only for persons 5 years of age

and older.

(2) Figure 5 of this part for helmets

intended for persons age 1 and older.

(c) The center of the impact sites shall

be selected at any point on the helmet

on or above the impact test line.

 

Basically, this states that you draw the test line on the helmet using the directions from the CPSC and this becomes the impact testing area and thus dictates the minimum coverage for the helmet.

 

 

 

 

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What type of gloves to you ride in (non-winter) normal weather?

Q: What type of gloves to you ride in (non-winter) normal weather? – C. Simms

A: I ride in some sweet custom Red Bull athlete gloves.  They’re super cool and very simple.  You can’t have a pair, but many gloves like this are out there, minus the custom branding.  My preference with gloves has always been no padding on the palm.  Just one layer that forms a smooth interface between my hands and the grips.  Padded gloves always seem to fold and crease and minimize the feel on the bar for me.  I prefer instead to have my padding on the grips of the bar instead of on the gloves.  The other features I like in gloves are a thin, lycra or other material on the backing, no Velcro, seams that are out of the way of contact points, and a fuzzy thumb for wiping your nose.  Specialized XC Lite glove is the closest thing to what I use.  For winter, I just layer over my thin gloves with shell or other insulating gloves.

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Do helmets decrease serious injuries?

Q: I recently read an academic study claiming that wearing a helmet does nothing to decrease serious injuries and fatality in high speed bike crashes. What are your thoughts on this? – G. Olsen

A: I had Clint, the helmet engineer at Specialized answer your question.  Here is his response.

The real question is… If you have a choice to crash with a helmet or without, knowing that you may hit your head, what decision would you make? I know what my decision is… I would prefer to wear a helmet.

 

Check out this proof that helmets protect in a high energy impact.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2oymHHyV1M

 

I have visited with the young man in the video and his family, they are all convinced that the only reason he is alive today is because of the helmet. His helmet was smashed beyond anything we have ever seen and he suffered a concussion, a sore neck and some short term memory loss. You never know how or when you will hit your head while riding a bike but wearing a helmet will significantly decrease your chances of severe injury.

 

Note the study on the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute website:

Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Fatality Facts: Bicycles – 2009

Less than two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists. The most serious injuries among a majority of those killed are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85 percent.

Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren’t wearing helmets, the same percentage as 2008.

The IIHS is consistently the best source of bicycle fatality statistics on the Web. Their picture of a “typical” bicyclist killed on our roads would be a sober male over 16 not wearing a helmet riding on a major road between intersections in an urban area on a summer evening when hit by a car.

Statistics from New York City

New York issued a statement on their bicycle safety study including these numbers:

Bicycle lanes and helmets may reduce the risk of death.

  1. Almost three-quarters of fatal crashes (74%) involved a head injury.
  2. Nearly all bicyclists who died (97%) were not wearing a helmet.
  3. Helmet use among those bicyclists with serious injuries was low (13%), but it was even lower among bicyclists killed (3%).

The decision to wear a helmet is yours to make, choose wisely.

 

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How do you choose the right glasses for mnt. biking?

Q: Choosing the right glasses for mountain biking is tough. With light conditions constantly changing, sometimes I don’t wear glasses at all. Do you have a favorite lens choice? What do you do to handle changing light conditions, and fogging? – D. Gillespie

A: Search no more.  You have found the Holy Grail of mountain bike glasses.  I would absolutely never ever ride without glasses.  I would feel naked and afraid.  I’ve used the Smith Ignitor lens for years.  I use this lens about 99% of the time.  I use clear lenses for riding at night.  The rest of the time, I’ve got Ignitors in my frames.  I’ve tried photocromic, darker lenses, rose lenses and I always come back to the Ignitor.  They are are the perfect in between so that you can see in and out of shadows on a forested trail or have enough coverage for super bright conditions and low light, evening conditions. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but they really are perfect for just about everything.  You can obviously change the Pivlock lenses, but I really never do.  I don’t have issue with fogging with the Pivlock V2 frames.  I have a small face with round cheeks, so fogging used to be an issue for me.  These frames come in two sizes (small and big).  I wear the small and the frameless design allows for great visibility and tons of airflow.  The new ones also have three different nose piece positions to fine tune the fit to your face and make sure they sit off your face enough to eliminate fogging.

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Do you use grip or trigger type shifters?

Q: Do you use grip or trigger type shifters? Why? If you use trigger shifters what order of placement do you have them on your bars? eg grips, shifter then brakes or grips, brakes then shifters??? – M. Soban

A: I use both SRAM Gripshift and SRAM XX trigger shifters.  I was a huge fan of the old SRAM Gripshift and would often have two bikes set up with triggers and gripshift and use them both in a 24 hour solo race.  It was a nice way to give my hands a break in the really long races.  For the last few years, I’ve raced almost entirely with triggers.  What I absolutely love about the SRAM triggers is how much customization you can make to suit exactly what placement you want for your brakes and shifters.  There are so many adjustments that allow you to fine tune the fit for any size hands or preference.  If you have not taken the time to really dial in the personalized placement with SRAM triggers, you are missing something.  SRAM Matchmaker makes the brake, grip, shifter set up super easy and clean.   The new SRAM Gripshift just came back and I’m using them again on one of my race bikes.  I love how quick and easy the shifting is and how clean the handlebar is with Gripshift.  I will keep bikes set up with both triggers and Gripshift.

The grips I use with both set ups are the Specialized BG grips, with the extra short ones used for Gripshift.

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What is your personal favorite lubricant…..for your chain?

Q: What is your personal favorite lubricant…..for your chain? – J. Rogers

A: Good think you clarified the question.  For the chain, I like Prolink Extreme.

And you have to clean your chain on a very regular basis.  Lubing a dirty chain over and over again is just like grinding dirt into a wound.

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Do you have a key workout or ride you do to see where your fitness is at?

Q: Do you have a key workout or ride you do to see where your fitness is at? – T. Pitman

A: Not really.  I know that coaches always say you should have a ride like this to do as a regular gauge, but I don’t.  I have always shied away from this sort of a “test” because I am always so much better in a race than a personal time trial on my own.  I’m just not always able rally the same sort of motivation and intensity alone as I can in a race.  I just started implementing training with power this year and am using the SRAM Quarq power meter on my mountain bike and road bike with the Garmin 500.  Despite my reservations and not being a huge numbers geek, I absolutely love it.  These sort of numbers have been an awesome way to see average power numbers over the training months without having to do a specific time trial test on a designated course.  I can see average 5 min and 20 min powers on races, training, and compare them over time.

 

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While riding, do you use polarchromic, polarized, or non-polarized lenses?

Tim,Rice,metieval@gmail.com

Q: Do you, while riding, use polarchromic, polarized, or non-polarized lenses. What makes your lenses of choice between those options, your choice? Maybe you can convince me on Pivlock V2 over the Rudy Project RYDON glasses. Yes Oakley isn’t even an option ;) I’ve been looking at both, not sure which way I want to go. For the moment I just blink really fast when I see bugs coming, but my eyelids are getting sore. Oh you get bonus point if you can tell me how easy bug guts are to clean from the Pivlocks V2’s – T. Rice

A: I would NEVER ride without glasses.  It’s just sketchy.  I use the Smith Ingitor lens for almost all of my riding situations and have for years.  It suits me for almost all riding situations.  I do not use polarized for riding because it distorts the trail for me.  Smith has a new Polarchromic Ignitor lens that I am really excited to try.  Read here for more of the lens technology.

Smith Optics Lens Technology

Every pair of Pivlock V2 and V90’s come with three different lenses so you can try them out for yourself and have what you need.  I have never worn the Rudy Project Rydon glasses, but just looking at the photo, I can tell you why the Pivlocks are better.  They are totally frameless and do not have a thick frame material along the top like the Rudy’s.  For cycling, when you often have your head down and are looking out the top portion of your glasses, having a frame along the top of the lense will fall right into your line of sight.  The Pivlocks are going to give you way better visibility, venting and be lighter without that much frame.

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What sunscreen do you recommend that’s not oily?

Q: Hi I get brown blotches on my face on areas that tend to burn probably from sunburns I had as a kid. They get dark after a day outside. Is there a better sunblock to use on my face that is not as oily and will not clog my poors? – P. Glennon

A: I would recommend a highly rated (By the Environmental Working Group/  EWG.com) all Zinc, all natural sun screen for your face.  Being a zinc sun screen it is a physical black that stays on the out side of your skin and reflects the sun as apposed to soaking into you skin.  I recommend our natural clear 20% Zinc Oxide sun screen.  http://www.beyondcoastal.com/category/natural-formulas/product/natural-clear-sunscreen-spf-30  to read more about the product.

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What is the best [bike] for twisty, root laiden, fast trails of the pacific northwest?

Q: I have been researching new bikes and I am still struggling. I am wondering what is the best ride for twisty, root laiden, fast trails of the pacific northwest. A hard tail 29er or a full suspension 110ish mm travel 29er? – M. Johnson

A: Test drive! You’ve got to try before you buy.  Both bikes could be great for that terrain. It just really depends on what’s most important to you and how you ride.  Full suspension is for sure more forgiving and fun to ride.  A HT is light, fast and responsive.  The Specialized Epic 29er is kind of the best of both worlds with BRAIN suspension.  If I were only to have one bike (God forbid) I would probably go with the 29 Epic.

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How do you feel about running a 100mm fork on your Fate?

Q: How do you feel about running a 100mm fork on your Fate? Have you tried this ever? I’m from the Black Hills of South Dakota, tons of awesome to-die-for singletrack, but a lot of it is quite rocky. I have a 17 Fate Expert and am planning on pulling my fork apart to run it out to 100mm to race our local events this summer. My other bike is a 26 full suspension with 5 of travel both front and rear, and riding the same trail on each bike the Fate definitely lives up to it’s race bike reputation and beats me up. I’m thinking running it at longer travel will help somewhat, as well as help me not feel like I’m going to endo when I’m descending some tech sections, even from behind my seat. Just wondering if it’s been tried in R&D of the bike so I will know what to expect in terms of the change in handling. The service guys at Spec. said I should be OK as far as my frame is concerned, not too much leverage on my headtube. Thanks! – A. Biel

 

 

A: I haven’t tried this, so I can’t really say what the affect will be.

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How different was your power output in your recent road races compared to your mtb races?

Q: How different was your power output in your recent road races compared to your mtb races? – A. Fish

 

A: My power outputs road and mtb racing are very similar in climbing efforts and when I’m working hard, like in a TT.  The road powers are probably more variable due to the nature of group riding.  Sometimes everyone is soft pedaling and then hits the gas.  Mountain biking seems to be more steady.  The amount of output I can generate is obviously still the same regardless of what bike I’m on.

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Have you had hand/wrist overuse injuries?

Q: Have you had hand/wrist overuse injuries? Do you use any specific grips, bar tape, or do any strengthening or stretching, or use other strategies to prevent injury? – C. Cramer

 

A: Thankfully, I’ve been pretty wrist/hand injury free.  I have experimented with many different grips, tape and combinations, especially when I was racing 24 hour solo events all the time.  I ended up finding that the Specialized BG grips are  best for me.  They are small, but still provide a platform to support your hand. This spreads the pressure across your palm instead of a typical round grip that puts pressure in one spot.  If you have an overuse injury from cycling, see a PT and get some strength/stretching exercises from them.

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Do you lube your fork stanchion and do you like elliptical front blades?

Q: Probably not award winning questions but because we are the same age and prefer the marathon events I respect your opinions more so than the average 21 year old XCO racer…not to say they aren’t tough riders. – Burt

 

1) If you did not have a mechanic and sponsored bikes, would you lube your Rock Shock’s fork stanchion? Why or why not?

 

A: I do not lube my Rockshox fork stanchions.  I do wipe them down and try to keep the area clean.  However the new technology and materials don’t need lube.

 

2) I ride SRAM and have no problems, but am interested to hear your opinion about the qualities of elliptical front blades (such as Rotor Rings) for the average life long amateur rider?

 

Keep riding, you are an inspiration and motivation to many more than you think…

 

A: I have ridden Rotor Rings  and believe that they are affective for certain athletes.  There are many top level athletes using them and many who are not. It’s really a personal decision and have you have to try them to see what works best for you.  Sorry not to have a better answer, but it’s really a personal decision.

Thank you for the great comment, as well.  It’s really nice to hear that sort of feedback.

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How do you choose the correct saddle?

Q: I have used the same saddle on my mountain bike for years, its starting to show some age. I’m building up a new bike so I want a new saddle but I don’t know how to go about choosing one without actually buying then riding. What if I don’t like it? – S. Neal

A: If you haven’t bought a new saddle in years, you are in for a great discovery!  Saddle technology has drastically improved and what’s out there is now way more sophisticated and varied.  Specialized has ergonomic experts working to create saddles for men and women that fit our bodies, allow for comfort and blood flow and are freaking light!  Gone are the days of big fat granny saddles with 6 inches of foam piled high.  The new saddles are flexible to move with your body, ergonomically designed for our bodies and made of ultra light material.  It used to be that a thin, light saddle meant uncomfortable riding and that comfortable saddles meant heavy and low performance.  Now you can have the best of both worlds.  The big key in fitting a saddle is to have your bones measured.  Saddles come in varying widths and are gender specific in order to put the pressure on your bones and not your soft tissue.  If you are off on this measurement, the best saddle in the world will be painful.  I know this because my boyfriend and I ride the same brand and model of saddle, but in a different width.  I can’t even sit on his bike for a ride to the post office without being in pain.  I know that all Specialized dealers have what I call the “ass-o-meter” to measure the right saddle width for you. It’s just a foam thing you sit on.  Once you have your measurement, then it’s time to try before you buy.  Many shops have demo saddle programs.  Also, all bike demos have different saddles on different bikes.  My new favorite right now is the Specialized Oura

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Is it bad to wear a bandana under my helmet?

Q: Speaking of helmet, which I always wear, is it bad to wear a bandana under the helmet?  I sweat a lot in the 105+ degree weather in DC. I have a sweat band that I wear to keep the sweat out of my eyes, but I would like to wear a bandana to help keep it off my face. Or, Do you have any other suggestions? – N. Breeding

A: I always wear a Buff under my helmet.  It’s thin, absorbs/wicks sweat, has SPF and fits perfectly.

Bandanas are OK but the cotton will hold moisture which will eventually drip into your eyes. Buff has have tons of colors and styles.  They are super useful and functional.

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Difference between a top end helmet and discount store special?

Q: What can an average rider expect to gain from a top end helmet compared to a discount store special? – D. Acosta

 

A: Well, as the saying goes “you get what you pay for.”  All helmets, even the cheap ones must meet certain safety requirements.  However, the additional benefits you get from a high end helmet are ultra light materials, better designed ventilation ports to keep you cool, aerodynamic design, a high tech rentention system that is much more functional, comfortable and adjustable.  You’ll also look cooler than you would with a discount store helmet.

If you want to know more about helmet safety requirements, click here.

 

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What is your favorite bike rack for your car?

Q: What is your favorite bike rack for your car?  I have 2 sons who started to mountain bike and I only want to have to buy one rack that will last and perform. – W. Sorrentino

A: I’ve been a Thule addict for a while now.  I’ve got an Atlantis cargo box, plus 2 Sidearm roof bike racks and my newest addition, the T2 hitch mount racks!  I’ve had the cargo box and roof racks for years with no sign of wear or issues and I use them A LOT!  The brand new T2 hitch rack is dreamy and was super easy to install.  It folds up if you don’t have bikes on the car and folds down so you can access the rear door.  You can get locks to be compatible for all of the racks, so you only need one key.  Everything is simple and burly.  I also would never again get another rack where you have to take the front wheel off the bike.  It’s a pain.  With these racks, the bike just sits on top.  Rack installation and removal is super simple, even if you don’t want to read the instructions!

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I’m 5’1″…can I ride a 29er?

Q: I am tiny (5’1), and ride a 26er.  My bike shop is trying to tell me those are the past, and everyone is going to be riding 29ers.  What are your thoughts on this?  Am I going to be able to ride a 29er comfortably? – M. Christensen

 

A: 100% YES!  Your shop is right and YES, small women can ride 29ers!

Check out Specialized 29 technology.  I can also tell you that the women’s specific 29 ers from Specialized have a few added features that make for a great fit for women of all sizes.  One of the product managers at Specialized is 5’0” and she has been extremely involved in the design and launch of the Specialized women’s 29ers.  Specialized worked extremely hard with the women’s 29 geometry to keep the head tube very short, the standover height low and to create a great fitting, confidence inspiring bike for ANY size woman.  In my opinion, they nailed it.  Get yourself to a demo day to try one out ASAP.  You won’t be sorry.

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How can I get involved with the WRBC & best entry level bike?

Q: Reba – I have really enjoyed The Ride Sun Valley Festival this week. How and when can I be more involved with the Wood River Bike Coalition? Also, Ride Sun Valley has gotten me pumped to go mountain biking but, I only have a road bike. Any recommendations for an entry level mountain bike? – S. Liddle

A: Thanks Skip!  I’m glad that Ride Sun Valley got you pumped to ride and be involved!  The WRBC is our local non-profit IMBA chapter and “encourages human powered and recreation and transportation.”  You can find the blog, donation and member info, trail info, work days and projects all listed here: Wood River Bicycle Coalition. You can also find the WRBC on Facebook  and Twitter @WRbike.  The Wood River Valley is also home to world-class mountain bike trails.  It’d be a crime to spend time there and not ride a mountain bike.  My recommendation for a bike is to try before you buy.  All of the local shops have demo programs so you can test ride a few sweet models.  Happy Trails.

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Do you miss any gear combos from an old 3X9 setup after going 2X10?

Q: Do you miss any gear combos from an old 3X9 setup after going 2X10?  I am an old dyed in the wool triple chainring guy and am afraid I would miss my granny gear if I migrated.  - N. Clark

A: I don’t miss three chainrings for one single second.  2×10 is lighter, has less gear overlap, more simplicity (cross chaining not an issue) and is so smooth.   Triples are soon going to become a thing of the past.  There are 3 different choices for front chainring sizes, so you can choose how small of a gear you want to suit your needs and riding style.  Go for it.  You will wonder why you waited so long.

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The meaning of brand Specialized for you?

Q: The meaning of brand Specialized for you? – B. Passos

A: Passion and innovation.  They live and breathe bikes and continue to churn out the most amazing technology in the world.

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If you only had one bike, what would it be?

Q: If you were to only have one bike (hard tail, F/S, 26er, 29er etc.) What would be your go to rig and why? – R. Kephart

A: Oh my!  I hope I never have to have just one bike!  Bike technology has gotten so advanced that there are different tools for different jobs.  I’m fortunate enough to be able to have a quiver to choose from depending on course and conditions and what I’m in the mood for.  IF I could only ride one mountain bike from the current Specialized models, I would chose the S-Works Epic 29 full suspension with Brain suspension.  This bike is racy and light, and won an Olympic Gold this year.  It’s also super worthy as a trail bike.  With beefier tires, tweaks to the Brain suspension and a Reverb seat post, I can ride this bike on technical backcountry rides.

However, my opinion could change as new Specialized bikes come out.  Every year, they amaze me with yet another “most amazing bike in the world.”

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Trail-side hydraulic brake issue with lock-out…

Q: I run a XX fork on my Niner RDO and had the misfortune of crashing and yanking the hydraulic hose out of the bard fitting on the top of the fork. This caused a fork lockout condition for a very long and bumpy downhill run. Is there a way to defeat the lockout condition while trail side, so the fork remains active throughout its travel? – G. Soster

 

A:  From Greg Herbld: DH World Champ, cycling legend and SRAM product guru…

The Xloc system uses the motion control damper to provide a firm lockout and a comfortable and controlled ride in the open setting.  To add cockpit uniformity and adjustability the same lever is used for front fork and rear shock lockout as well as Reverb action. So  unfortunately when your line was damaged the damper lost Xloc pressure and your fork was locked out. There is no trail side fix for this, but it is usually an easy repair at the shop. The system is pretty strong, but some 29er bikes have poor clearance when the steering wheel is turned too far. I suggest crashing less, or learning to manual wheelie the downhill sections.

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Do you believe that women’s specific bikes are actually a benefit to female riders in the competitive realm of cycling?

Q: Do you believe that women’s specific bikes, like the fate, are actually a benefit to female riders in the competitive realm of cycling? – A. Chamberlin

A: “If the shoe fits, wear it”!  I absolutely believe in the fit benefits of women’s specific bikes like the Specialized Fate  that I ride.  I know that the Specialized women’s product team has spent a great deal of time and energy studying antrhopomorphics (body types) for women and their bike design is focused on creating the best fitting bikes for women’s bodies.  No doubt about it, men are built differently.  That said, we are all individuals and I encourage all women to try many bikes (women’s specific and not) so they can see what fits them best.  Just as some women fit in men’s jeans and some do not, bikes are the same.  The fit is personal.

I will say that for me, the Fate 29er HT fits me better than the Stumpy 29 HT, which is a similar bike built to men’s specs.  The biggest differences are the lower standover height for better control and fit, shorter head tube for better fit and front end handling, lighter carbon layup for average women’s weights instead of men, and specifically tuned fork for lighter weights.  My Fate is lighter, fits me like a glove and I feel like it handles better, so I feel zippier and more confident on this bike than I did on the Stumpy.

My advice:  demo some bikes and see for yourself.   If you like the women’s specific version, speak up so the manufacturers and shops know to keep providing what women want!

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Do you always ride a hard-tail 29er?

Q: I see you are riding a hard tail 29er. Is that all you ride with, or are there still some places where you feel the need break out the full suspension? I replaced my full suspension 29er for a hard tail 29er about a year ago… sometimes I think maybe a full suspension might be beneficial… The leadville 50 was one one of them…I felt like some of the descents were pretty rough… especially when you couldn’t pic a good line because people were walking up one side of the trail. – A. Thomas

A: My main MTB race bike is the Specialized Fate 29 hard tail, however I do have a Specialized Epic 29 , a Specialized Safire and an Enduro. Of course, there are times when I choose a different bike to race or ride.  There are some race courses where suspension is just more effective and efficient.  The Leadville Silver Rush 50 was a course where I think the Fate or the Epic would have been appropriate.  It’s really personal preference.

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Do you wear wool?

Q: We love wool. Do you wear any wool gear or use mostly technical fabrics? – D. Rudinow

 

A: Are you kidding?  I live in Idaho!  Of course I wear wool.  Love it as a base layer for all sports, for socks, for skiing,  etc etc, etc.   It’s a great fabric for what I do.

 

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Do you prefer carbon wheels?

Q: Carbon Wheels – There have been much in the news about them lately. Other than a few grams here and there do you have a true preference? Have you raced some aluminum wheels that are just as responsive and fast as carbon? If you had to pay for them your self and money wasnt an issue, would you really care one way or the other? If you were riding one or the other, but werent told what wheels you were riding, would you know the difference? – K. Lynch

A: Hey Kyle, yes you can feel the difference between carbon and aluminum.   They are more than a few grams lighter and rotational weight is one of the things you can feel the most when you lighten parts of your bike.  If you can only upgrade one thing, the wheels are the place to put your hard earned cash.  If I had to pay for them myself, this is where I would spend my money.  I would also keep my aluminum wheels for training and as a back up set.  That said, many people win races on aluminum wheels.  Get the best ones you can and just enjoy the ride.

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Has Specialized stopped making the Era?

Q: Has Specialized stopped making the Era?  Your video had me convinced I wanted one, but I don’t see them on the Specialized site. – D. Brown

A:  Yes, the Specialized Era is now the end of an Era.  Sorry. It was a great bike, but stay tuned for something really cool coming out soon for women from Specialized!

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Did you use Fast Track tires at Titan Desert?

Q: Did you use Fast Track tires at Titan Desert? Do you have any other thoughts on tires for that event?  Thanks. - D. Woodbury

A:  I used Specialized Fast Trak 2.0 Controle tires for Titan Desert.  I did not want to run the S-works tires because it’s such a remote and long race, so I wanted the security of a thicker sidewall.  Bring spares and extra equipment because you really are in the middle of nowhere.  Have fun.

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Riding Skills:

Riding Skills

With how much air pressure should I fill up my tires for trail riding?

Q: A couple weeks back I filled up my tires to 40 psi,  which is the max I normally fill up my tires.   While riding pretty fast around a bend on the trail I lost control of my bike (for the first) and riding straight the bike started fish tailing and swerving and I was not able to unclip one foot.  The people riding behind thought for sure I was going to wipe out,  but I managed to gain control some how (with a very badly bruised toe from the force of trying to stop). My group leader seemed to think I had too much air pressure in my tires.  My question: How much air pressure should I fill up my tires for trail riding? – S. Morse

A: This depends on the trail condition, your weight, tubeless or not tubeless tires, your riding style, etc.  Your tire will have a PSI range of recommended air pressure for that tire, however that is for non-tubeless set ups.  For example, the Fast Trak tire on my bike right now has a range from 35 – 65 PSI.  However, I run those tires at about 24 PSI tubeless.  Tire pressure is one of the most ignored, but crucial, factors in determining the character of your ride.  Too much pressure and you have no control.  Too little and you risk flats.  Here’s an article I found that discusses how to find the right tire pressure for you.  It’s different for every person and every bike and requires some trial and error.  It’s worth the time. Once you dial this in, your ride will improve.

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What is the best way you have found to improve climbing skill and speed?

Q: I just completed my first Endurance mountain bike race, 50/100 miles of Capitol Forest. I am 48 years old and just starting into mountain bike racing. I am a lousy climber, but great at downhill and technical. What is the best way you have found to improve climbing skill and speed? – S. Sutherland

A: You’re lucky!  Downhill and technical skills take much more time to develop than fitness.   Getting climbing fit takes a bit of commitment and a plan. For me, a coach is essential to provide a road map.  Any level of athlete can benefit from a coach.  It’s personalized, helps you make the most of your training time and it’s the quickest path to your own goals.   If you chose to check out a coach and want to try Carmichael Training Systems, you save $100 just by mentioning my name.  If you decide to go it alone, then do a bit of research on endurance training and find a few intensity workouts to add to your rides a couple of times per week.  Hill climbing intervals, climbing time trials and also signing up for races (short and long)  are all good ways to boost your climbing fitness. Have fun and promise not to pass me on a descent!

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Any tips for a bike newbie that can’t get enough but needs to be more technical to keep up with the boys?

Q: My fiance has been riding his mountain bike with his pals for several years now. He finally got me into the sport when I switched in my 1992 mountain bike for a new 2011 Specialized Myka (I was 12 when I go that old bike brand new and was still using it). With doubts of me ever riding single track, I’ve become hooked on the sport! I got my bike on August 8th of this Summer and immediately fell in love! My first ride was 28 miles up in Acadia National Park and since then I’ve put in over 200 miles of both single and double track. I enjoy seeing my improvements but still fall behind the pack on single track rides and I just want to get better. I know, getting clips for my shoes will help, but I am hesitant to use them as my confidence isn’t quite up to par. Any tips for a newbie that can’t get enough of the sport but needs to get more technical to keep up with the boys? Thanks! We’re looking forward to the 2010 Race Across the Sky! - K. Kotopoulis

A: Forget about trying to keep up with the guys. Get a few girlfriends and go riding! Practice makes perfect, that’s all there is too it. AND, you must get some proper pedals. You will never be able to get to the next level without clipping in. It’s not as scary as it seems and you must be connected to your bike in order to ride the more technical stuff with confidence and skill. Try Crankbrother Candy pedals. They are easy to get in and out of and work really well. Happy trails.

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What can I do to improve my physical confidence when approaching a tight downhill switchback?

Q: I’m a 44 year old woman who never biked as a kid, started cycling three years ago, and mountain biking a year ago. After a lifetime on the couch, I’m picking up skills and having the time of my life! But without a history of confident balance, I’m finding it hard to untrain my brain and commit on certain features. What can I do to improve my physical confidence when approaching a tight downhill switchback? I find myself unweighting the front wheel, death gripping, and grabbing brake… and usually end up walking the bike through. – A. Pai

A:  CONGRATULATIONS on pulling yourself off the couch and onto the bike.  Developing and improving bike handling skills is a lifelong endeavor.  It takes more than three years to master techniques and once you do, you’ll keep moving to harder and harder skills.  I found this video on uphill and downhill switchback instruction.  There are also some great mountain bike clinics and classes all over the country.  Perhaps sign up for a fun multi-day class in a place you’ve always wanted to ride.  My last suggestion in working on skills is to get a Rockshox Reverb for your bike.  This is a hydraulic dropper seat post that you operate on the fly with a control on your handlebar.  I have been using one of these for the past year and it has been a huge confidence boost for me working on more difficult terrain.  It lets you get the seat out of the way and your center of gravity way back.  I highly recommend one of these.

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What is the biggest learning curve you’ve overcome?

Q: As a woman mountain biker, what was the biggest learning curve you had to overcome? And how did you do it? – A. Fisk

A: Fear is probably the biggest barrier that I struggle with in trying to learn to ride.  I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome it because even as your skills develop, there’s always a new challenge and a harder trail.  I get scared on a regular basis when I’m riding and have to work on skills often.  I feel like women learn differently than men.  As a generalization, we are less likely to just throw ourselves down a trail without first thinking about it, learning the skills and contemplating it for a much longer time than a male would.  I see this sort of difference in learning in my SRAM Gold Rusch Tour events.  This is part of the reason I feel like women’s specific events are important.  It’s less intimidating and very motivating to work on skills with riders you can relate to.  It’s often easier for me to have the courage to try a tough section if I’ve seen a woman do it.  So, to answer your question, fear is the biggest hurdle I continue to grapple with in my riding.  It’ll probably never go away, but the way I tackle it is with practice, patience, riding with other women or people who motivate and understand me and then forgiving myself if I’m not able to ride something.

 

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How can I corner better on my 29er?

Q: Hi Reba. I am riding at Fate just like you!

I truly love riding the bike but struggle in some of the cornering with the 29 wheels (as compared to my previous 26 mountain bike).  Do you have any advice on how to tighten my cornering on the trails? – R. Rockwell

A: Practice, practice!  Find a section you can do over and over again on the same day to really dial in the skill.  Here are a few technique videos to get ripping around corners.

http://www.bicycling.com/mountainbikecom/skills/descending-tricky-switchbacks

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF9efIKIvk8

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXUe4ccTadA

 

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How can I improve my ability, particularly with technical obstacles?

Q – My question is related to the “learning curve” associated with mountain biking. I have been riding on and off for a couple of years but this year I have been working hard to improve my riding ability. The problem I am having is dealing with the technical obstacles on the trail (large logs and bridges). The logs I have been working on and feel I can conquer but some of the narrow bridges on my local single track still get to me. I think it is mainly a mental “road block”. Do you ever run into a similar problem and do you have any tips to overcome it?
Your web site is great and provides plenty of motivation to get out and ride!!!
Thanks, Lance Plough

A – If you THINK it’s a mental road block, it is. We all have those nasty voices in our head telling us we cannot do something. It happens at ever level from the pro to the beginner. Our brains are our biggest asset and our biggest enemy. It’s great that you are working on your technical skills. It’s super important to address your weaknesses and being a better technical rider is just more fun! If you feel you have the skill, but need to work on the head for the skinnies, take the risk out of it. We worked on this skill in a women’s camp called Dirt Series that I attended a few years ago. They had us ride on a flat fire hose on the ground, then we stepped that up to a 2×4 that was slightly elevated, then a bit higher. The progression was great. I still ride the center line of the bike path for practice and look for little skinny curbs to try when I’m cruising around. Good luck!

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I find fast descents really scary….

I find fast descents (especially with tight turns) to be so scary! What do you do to keep anxiety under control during fast rides?

Close your eyes! I’m kidding.  Really it’s practice and mind over matter.  If you develop your skills, your brain will begin to understand that you can handle the descents.  If your brain is still getting in the way, sometimes you just have to ignore it and point the bike downhill.  Often times, our heads get in the way of things we are perfectly capable of.

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When I’m on a fast descent, how do I brake without burning out the brakes or doing an endo?

Q: When I’m on a fast descent, how do I brake without burning out the brakes or doing an endo? - E. Pearson

A: Feather, my friend!  Feather the brakes.  That means instead of grabbing a stout handful all at once, be a little gentler and use the brakes lightly on and off.  Brake before the obstacle or corner, then let off to roll through.  If you find yourself dangerously close to an endo, it means you are grabbing too much front brake and letting your weight fly forward.  Gentle feathering and putting your weight back during hard braking will counteract your body’s forward momentum.

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What are a few of the things that go through your mind when you are bunny hopping an obstacle on the trail?

Q: What are a few of the things (self instructions) that go through your mind when you are bunny hopping an obstacle on the trail? I have trouble bunny hopping logs. – K. Labbe

A:  I’m not great at bunny hopping either, but practice helps.  It takes practice so that you don’t panic when you come across a log on the trail.  Spend time in a park or parking lot where you can find some small obstacles to practice on.  Use a paint line first, then move up to small sticks, then little logs, then curbs and bigger things.  A true bunny hop requires a bit of speed and commitment to get both wheels off the ground to clear the object.  One friend taught me a mantra that we used coaching the teen group Wheel Girls.  Her tip:  “load and explode”.  Bend your arms and knees and balance over the center of the pedals, compress your body and your suspension just before the object to “load” up. When you reach the object, explode up with your whole body equally on the handlebar and pedals so that the wheels come off the ground at the same time and clear the object.  Look ahead and not straight down at the object.

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What is the best way to tackle hills?

Q: What is the best way to tackle hills?  And does if differ if it is a short steep hill vs. a long incline? – M. Kiser

A: One is a sprint and one is a marathon.  For a short hill, often I’ll stand and power quickly through with a few hard pedal strokes and a strong upper body.  For a long climb, efficiency is key, so staying seated, choosing a gear you can maintain, relaxing the upper body and breathing and settling in are important.

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Are there drills you can do to improve clipping/unclipping on technical trail sections?

Since your subject is feet/shoes this month, are there drills or practice techniques you can do to improve clipping and unclipping while negotiating a technical trail ride?  Is pedal style and shoe/clip combination just as important as technique?

  Pedal, cleat and shoe compatibility are essential when looking for a solid feel clipping in.  Sometimes the tread on a shoe is too thick or too thin for the pedal you are using and you end up either with a sloppy, loose feeling or a really tight fit that’s hard to get out of.  I use Crank Brothers pedals with Specialized shoes.  The combo works well for me.  Crank Brothers does make shoe shims and pedal shims that are specifically made to customize your shoes to your pedals and get the best fit possible.  Regarding practicing clipping in / out, this is best done just by practicing on easy terrain so it becomes second nature.  You can adjust the spring tension on most pedals to make the release point easier when you are learning.  As you improve, you’ll want to change the tension to a stiffer fit for more control on the trail.  With Crank Brothers this is achieved by changing the cleats on your shoes.

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How do you keep straight what gear you are in?

My question is silly but has to do with something I struggle with…gears and shifting. How do you keep straight what gear you are in? Seriously. My problem is I get lost in the scenery or the moment and forget to shift. My husband tries to remind me but he starts screaming…shift, shift. I get startled and flustered and then make the mistake to look down at what gear I am in. Needless to say I rarely make it to the top and if I do make it to the top I have made it on pure luck, since I was able to change gears despite how tight my chain was!

I know, silly question, but how do you keep everything straight when you are flying and pounding the course? Do you even think about gears and shifting or is it second nature? Also, do you ever train in a fixed gear and track heart rate?

 

A:  Shifting is really second nature for me now.  My suggestion to you is to practice (maybe without your husband screaming at you) or get a single speed.

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Do you find yourself changing your pedal stroke at different points of the ride?

Howdy!  Looking forward to hearing how everyone does at LT100.  Related to that, I’d like to ask you a question about pedaling in general during an endurance mtb event.  Do you find yourself changing your pedal stroke at different points of the ride?  For example, do you emphasize the top or bottom portion of the pedal stroke to give your quads/hamstrings a rest at different times?  Do you fast pedal after a big climb to work the lactic acid out?

 

A:  Round pedal strokes are best.  I try not to deviate from that unless I’m having an issue with cramping or an injury.  I’ve worked hard over the years to refine my pedal stroke and break myself from being a natural masher with slow cadence.  Yes, spinning lightly on a descent or flat can help flush lactic acid out of your legs.

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What is the best way to improve bike-handling skills for rocky terrain?

Q: I am a new to mountain biking and trying to learn here in Tucson, Arizona. The terrain is not very forgiving and my options when falling are either rocks or cactus (neither very good options). What is the best way to improve bike-handling skills for rocky terrain? - J. Applegate

 

A:  I feel your pain.  Literally, I have felt your pain riding in AZ and pulling cactus out of my hands.  My answer to your question is quite basic, but it really is the best advice I can give you. In order to improve your technical skills, you need to get some instruction either from a friend or cycling instructor and then go practice.  I wish there were a short cut to improving skills, but it’s really just putting in the time.  Find a good bike shop in the area and ask them about easier trails to start on and about classes.  Boost your confidence and save your skin by starting on the easier stuff, then moving up when you’re ready.  Good luck.

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How do I overcome the ‘fear factor’ when cycling?

Q: How do I overcome the ‘fear factor’ when cycling? I’ve been cycling on a road bike for about a year and it still scares me, the roads here in Britain are either full of cyclist hating cars or they are winding country roads with poor visibility and potholes, not to even mention the slipperiness caused by the wonderful climate that creates our green and pleasant land. Every now and then I get the sweetest ride and feel elated, but generally I’m fretting, which is exhausting and burns way too many calories! I know I should ‘man up’ but I’m not a man! Any advice, tips, tricks all gratefully received. – S. Ingle

A: My best advice to you is to join a cycling club.  There is strength in numbers, especially when dealing with cyclist hating motorists. They also probably have ride groups that might take you to some new areas where you have not ridden.   A club can also be a forum for advocacy issues such as bike lanes, cycling etiquette and educating motorists.  You also might seek out some different routes that either aren’t so busy or have better road surface.  Try to plan your rides around the least busy times for cars.  Wear reflective gear and make sure you have tire changing gear for those potholes.  As for the weather, I can’t help you there.  There is a reason I live in a place called Sun Valley!

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Did you have any fears when you starting riding/racing and how did you overcome them?

Q: My husband saw you at the presentation you did in California at Rock n Road.  He came home telling me all about it and it wasn’t very long ago you started racing.  I have quarks or fears about some of the obstacles that are on the trails out there, did you have any fears when you starting riding/racing and how did you overcome them? – S. Sandler

A: It’s never to late to learn something new.  Everyone has fears, even the best pros in the world.  As soon as you overcome one fear, there’s always something harder and scarier waiting around the next corner.  So just get riding and practice.  I will tell you that practice makes perfect.  There is no shortcut other than just working on your weaknesses.  I will also tell you that there were and still are races where I get off my bike and run.  It’s OK not to be able to ride everything.  No body’s perfect.  Happy Trails.

If you’re looking for more specific advice, please look at the questions I’ve answered in the Riding Skills portion of Ask Reba. Thanks!

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Best coach for mtb skills and fitness for non-elite rider?

Q: How can a non-elite rider in a small town find or choose a good coach for mtb skills & fitness? – S. Bowen

A: I know I say this all the time, but I’m a believer! Get a coach!  No matter what your level, where you live or what your goals are, you will get there quicker with a bit of expert guidance.  I work with Carmichael Training.  You can check it out for a trial 3 months and I guarantee you will learn more than you expect.  If you mention my name, you also save $100!

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How many falls are “appropriate”?

Q: I’m not here to win anything I just need a number Rebecca. My friends are getting ready to buy bubble wrap for me because I keep falling. I’m new to mountain biking. I have been riding road for 5 years and doing some soul searching and enjoying the beautiful view but the view has been from my back because I keep falling. Not only is there a little lack of empathy when you fall in this sport but it’s expected and celebrated. I’m nursing an elbow right now but it was a great fall! Tucked in all my extremities while flying in the air.  On a single track how may falls is acceptable? Double track? Please give me a number. I need a benchmark. A goal. Thank you so much. – M. Lopez

 

A: Hey Maria-

There is no “acceptable” number of crashes.  It just depends on your comfort level.  You don’t HAVE to crash a bunch to get better at mountain biking.  If you are crashing all the time, you just need a lesson and a better way of learning.  Mountain biking is fun and doesn’t have to be scary and intimidating.  Perhaps you are riding with people who aren’t the best teachers and are taking you on trails that are too hard to start with.  If they have no empathy and are “celebrating” your crashes, you might need a different riding group.

There are tons of great women’s only classes out there.  Take it back a step and learn the skills and get some confidence before you charge forward and keep hurting yourself.

 

 

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General Questions:

General Questions

What’s the difference between Short Track, XC race, and Super D ?

Q: New to Mtb,  what’s the difference between Short track,  XC race,  and  Super D ?  P. Luna

A: Short track:  similar to cyclocross, but on a mountain bike.  It’s a short loop of around 5 minutes that riders will race around in circles/laps.  Race times are pre-determined and usually about 30-60 minutes.  They are very spectator friendly.

XC:  these races are usually 1.5-2.5 hours in length on a technical course that may be a loop format, but a bigger loop than short track.

Super D:  a cross between downhill racing and cross country.  It’s a little more technical than cross country, but not so technical that you need a different bike.  The course is generally descending, but will also have some pedaling sections as well.  These races are anywhere from 10-45 minutes depending on the course.  You start at the top and get to the bottom as fast as you can.

All formats are all super fun and I’d recommend checking out all of them.  Even if you are better at one discipline, dabbling in all of them makes you a better rider.

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I’ve heard various tricks (mental pictures, mantras, etc) for getting up long climbs, do you have a favorite?

Q: I’ve heard various tricks (mental pictures, mantras, etc) for getting up long climbs, do you have a favorite when you’re climbing Columbine [Leadville 100]?  Is it different later in the day when you [climb] Powerline? – M. Reardon

A: For some reason, I really enjoy long climbs.  I embrace the rhythm and the mental challenge.  For me a little pre-preparation helps.  I like to know if the climb is an hour, two hours, 1000 ft or whatever.  Those sort of concrete statistics help me wrap my head around the effort and give me markers to shoot for along the way.  If I know a big climb is coming up, I will be sure to hydrate and top off fuels before I get there so that I’m ready for it.  Once on the climb, I tend to use my odometer to see my speed.  I experiment with trying to go .1mph faster or change pedal cadence and see if that ramps up my speed.  I try to hold a consistent mph if I know the climb.  On a long climb like Columbine, I meter the effort to be consistent instead of bursts of harder efforts.  Mentally, I’m thinking of the top, the next corner and focusing on just that climb.  I’m not thinking of the remaining 50 miles to go.  On Powerline, it’s such a steep grade that there is no way to meter your efforts.  It’s just all out hard no matter what you do.  At that point in the race, climbing is more survival than a plotted strategy.  When the body has broken down, this is where the mental games really come into play and endurance racing gets exciting.

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What do you do when the S@#! hits the fan in a race? (4/2012)

Q: Hypothetically, if you were in a race and the S@#! was hitting the fan and you saw a hat rack at the top of a climb and it had a cheerleaders hat, a firefighters hat, a police officers hat, a teachers hat, or a mentors hat, which one would you choose to put on and finish the race and why? – L. Updyke

A: Oh, I’d probably take the whole rack with me and pull from all of the hats.  It often takes a smorgasbord of tactics to keep ourselves motivated when we need it the most. Beeing a cheerleader for myeslf is essential in so many races.  I’ve even said out loud “come on Rebecca!”  The firefighter’s hat is important for methodically putting out all the little fires that are going on.  Take one thing at a time and fix it, then move onto the next.  Police officer’s hat to make sure I’m really following my own rules like not quitting, trying to stay positive, just taking one pedal stroke at a time.  I sometimes have to remind myself of those personal rules when I really need to remember them most.  Teacher’s hat because I feel like in 20 years of being a pro athlete, I’m still learning lessons every single day.  As soon as you stop learning, life will get a bit boring.  The mentor’s hat because I have to remind myself that I am no longer racing just for myself.  There are other people who find inspiration from me and I would not want to let them down.  My most recent local XC race was one such experience where I was having a terrible race and getting down on myself.  The option of quitting popped into my head and then not 30 seconds later, there were a couple of junior race kids by the side of the trail cheering for me by name.  Seeing those kids knocked me out of my pity party and made me realize that if I quit, that’s what those kids would remember from me.

We are all mentors and teachers to people around us.  I have a responsibility to myself to feel good about my experiences and how I handle them.  I want to look in the mirror and be OK with how I conduct myself when things are the most challenging.  I also want to be able to turn the mirror around and have other people see strength in themselves.

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What is the biggest learning curve you’ve overcome?

Q: As a woman mountain biker, what was the biggest learning curve you had to overcome? And how did you do it? – A. Fisk

A: Fear is probably the biggest barrier that I struggle with in trying to learn to ride.  I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome it because even as your skills develop, there’s always a new challenge and a harder trail.  I get scared on a regular basis when I’m riding and have to work on skills often.  I feel like women learn differently than men.  As a generalization, we are less likely to just throw ourselves down a trail without first thinking about it, learning the skills and contemplating it for a much longer time than a male would.  I see this sort of difference in learning in my SRAM Gold Rusch Tour events.  This is part of the reason I feel like women’s specific events are important.  It’s less intimidating and very motivating to work on skills with riders you can relate to.  It’s often easier for me to have the courage to try a tough section if I’ve seen a woman do it.  So, to answer your question, fear is the biggest hurdle I continue to grapple with in my riding.  It’ll probably never go away, but the way I tackle it is with practice, patience, riding with other women or people who motivate and understand me and then forgiving myself if I’m not able to ride something.

 

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How do you compare the suffering in Multi-Day Adventure Races to the multiday stage mt. bike race? (11/2010)

Q: How do you compare the suffering you’ve endured in Multi-Day Adventure Races to the multiday stage mt. bike race? Is it harder to duke it out alone with a night of rest between stages or harder with others who are pushing the pace with limited to no sleep over several days? 

A: Suffering is suffering and both non-stop races and multi-day stage races hurt. However, my least favorite part of racing is the start line. It’s that intense period where everyone is scoping everyone else out, the pressure is palpable and I usually feel the dread of self-doubt coursing through my body. Once a race has started, the path and the goal is very clear…get to the finish as fast as you can and empty the tank. I find more clarity and confidence after a race has started and there is nothing left to do except my best. The beauty of non-stop, multi day events is that there is only one start and one finish, so I only have to go through my least favorite part of racing once. In stage races, you get that surge of adrenalin at the start line day after day. You get reminded again and again who your competitors are and you have to look them in the eye, as they are trying to decipher how fatigued you are.
I do find that non-stop races have a different sort of challenge with sleep deprivation and team dynamics. Sometimes, it’s really nice to have a teammates’ shoulder to lean on. However you are also at the mercy of their performance and their weaknesses as well. I’ve done plenty of adventure races where I felt fantastic, but our team dropped out because someone was injured or sick. You share the good and the bad in team events. The stage racing hurts in a different way because it is way faster paced since everyone is going to get to sleep at night. You are still breaking down day after day as with non-stop events, but you are partially recovering in between stages. Either type of race is a blast, hurts like hell and requires recovery management to get through. I love both styles of racing for different reasons. Luckily, there are plenty of both kinds to choose from!

 

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Have you ever made the choice to pee your pants while racing?

Q: Congratulations on your outstanding career. So far. :)
My question: After a few years of racing endurance mountain bike events and adventure races I have recently learned that it isn’t only roadies that feel the need to relieve themselves while racing. I was aghast at the idea of my mountain biking brethren being quite so … well, gross. Couldn’t they take a second and go, or hold it for a few more minutes? It is a bit of a personal question (but a serious one) what would you do if the finish line were down to the wire, neck-to-neck with a top competitor and the urge to purge hits with undeniable power? Do you dribble down your leg or grin and bear it (risking an infection?!) and pedal faster?
Thanks for an always interesting question and answer session!
Jeff Papenfus – teamglr.com

A: Your question is hilarious! Yeah, the nature break is part of athletics. It’s even more of a challenge for women. I’ve spent years of adventure racing “holding it” until the guys on my team had to stop to look at maps or fix a flat. If I stopped to drop my pants, I’d have to run to catch back up. I would NEVER go in my pants the beginning or middle of a long race because infection, discomfort, stench and embarrassment would for sure make me deeply regret that decision. However, your question about being in a sprint finish at an important race is an entirely different situation. I love to win and if I’ve worked that hard to get to the finish line, I am not going to give it away because my bladder is full. To be blunt, yes I would pee in my pants, take the win and cut the post race interviews short so I could head straight to the shower before anyone knew. Luckily I haven’t been faced with that decision yet.

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What were your biggest fears when competing in your first Leadville 100?

Q: I have set a goal to race in the Leadville 100 next year. There are many unknowns and fears that I have about trying to achieve that goal. What were your biggest fears when competing in your first Leadville? If you could give one bit of advice about that race what would it be?
Thank you!
Michelle R

A: I played the flute in grade school and high school. I was in the band (OK, stop laughing now) and we always had solos, tryouts and various other situations that put you on the spot. I got extremely nervous about these kinds of performances. I remember the music teacher once telling me that the way to combat fear was with preparation. I don’t play the flute anymore, but that tidbit has stuck with me.
For Leadville, my advice to you is to prepare and get rid of the unknowns. Of course, race day is always unique and there are uncontrolled circumstances. However, you CAN control your training, your course knowledge, your nutrition, your altitude preparation. Basically, do everything possible to prepare yourself and the rest will fall into place. Even if you cannot go out and pre-ride the course, educate yourself on the different climbs, time estimates, % gradient for the course, etc. Mimic and train in those situations so that race day will not be a surprise for you.

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What advice to you have for older women who want to race?

What advice do you have for older women wanting to start racing in mountain bike events? I’ve just gotten started in the last couple of years and being over 50 find there aren’t many at this age, seasoned or not.”

Who cares if there are no other women in your age group?  Just go out and beat the younger women and the men instead.  That’s what I do.  Just keep signing up and putting yourself out there and you are probably inspiring other women to give it a shot as well.

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We are volunteering for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race…

We are staying at the Twin Lakes Campground and working, volunteering, for The Leadvillle Trail 1oo Mtn. Bike Race.  Do you know your race number yet?  See you in Leadville.

They usually give returning racers their overall finish number from the previous year.  I finished 24th overall, so that should be my number.  See you there.

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Are there stage races out there in North America that are not only for elites?

Q: Are there stage races out there in North America that are not only for elites but can give me a good feel for what the bigger multi-day races are like?

A: Absolutely, there are many multi-day stage races to choose from in North America.  If you can’t find one, you’re not looking!  Breck Epic, BC Bike Race, Trans-Sylvania Epic, Colorado Trail Race, Trans Wisconsin, etc, etc, etc.  There’s a really complete endurance schedule posted at XXCMag.com that should give you plenty of ammunition to get the wheels turning in your head.  Good luck finding an event that inspires you.  I think setting big goals and going after them is a healthy way to stay motivated and fit.

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Question about 29er wheels, airlines and would you rather…?

- On 29 bike set up, I have heard to spend the extra money to get a superlight layup for your wheels since this is spinning weight and not static – do you agree?

– I had some push back from SouthWest about the size of my box and recently had a phone call saying they would not even take it – which airlines have treated you well while traveling with your bike?

– I play this game with my wife on long car trips – Which would you rather…  to be broke, hungry and a great biker or…. rich, fat and an above average biker?

 

A:  #1 Yes, light wheels are worth it for a 29er.  #2 NO airline has been super cool about taking my bike.  It depends more on the actual person at the ticket counter than which airlines it is.  #3, I never want to be fat or broke, so whichever column that puts me in is OK.  We will all be average cyclists one day.

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How do you explain the process of learning how to suffer?

Q: How do you explain the process of learning how to suffer? -K. Cross

A: To learn to suffer, you must just put yourself in that position and see what happens.  Some people are great sufferers and some are not.  Here’s a quote about suffering that I found.  Maybe this can tell you something.

“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.” Paulo Coehlo

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Is it true that the Rock Shox Reba was named after you?

Q: Is it true that the Rock Shox Reba was named after you? – A. Paiso

A: Ah…sadly, no, the Rock Shox Reba was not named after me.  I would love to claim that title, but that honor belongs to a dog of a SRAM employee who is no longer with this world.  I never met Reba.  She was before my mountain biking time, but I’m guessing she was a single track super star.

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What do you like most about Costa Rica?

Q: Hi I’m a TICO living now in Canada (Guelph, ON). Which is what you like most about Costa Rica? – J.C. Taborda

A:  either gallo pinto or the friendly people.

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If I wear my hair double ponytail style like yours, will it help me channel your badassery come the Leadville 100?

Q: If I wear my hair double ponytail style like yours, will it help me to channel your badassery come the Leadville 100? – C. Donovan

A: Isn’t it all about the hair?  You’ve gotta look good rolling across that red carpet on 6th Ave.  The bottom line is if you BELIEVE it will help, then yes, it will.

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Any mantra or song when the going gets tough?

Q: Any mantra or song when the going gets tough? – J. Schwartz

A: My first Eco Challenge race in Australia was an eye opening experience for me.  I’d always been an athlete, but this was venturing into totally unknown territory.  Two different friends had words for me that will forever ring true in everything I do.  I think of these words of wisdom on a very regular basis.

“You can walk across the hot coals or run across them”.  Tommy Baynard

“No matter how good or bad you feel, it will not last”.  Cathy Sassin

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Do you have a mantra?

Q: Do you have a mantra? If so what is it, if not why? – R. Morris

Previous similar questions and answers:

Q: I’ve heard various tricks (mental pictures, mantras, etc) for getting up long climbs, do you have a favorite when you’re climbing Columbine [Leadville 100]?  Is it different later in the day when you [climb] Powerline? – M. Reardon

A: For some reason, I really enjoy long climbs.  I embrace the rhythm and the mental challenge.  For me a little pre-preparation helps.  I like to know if the climb is an hour, two hours, 1000 ft or whatever.  Those sort of concrete statistics help me wrap my head around the effort and give me markers to shoot for along the way.  If I know a big climb is coming up, I will be sure to hydrate and top off fuels before I get there so that I’m ready for it.  Once on the climb, I tend to use my odometer to see my speed.  I experiment with trying to go .1mph faster or change pedal cadence and see if that ramps up my speed.  I try to hold a consistent mph if I know the climb.  On a long climb like Columbine, I meter the effort to be consistent instead of bursts of harder efforts.  Mentally, I’m thinking of the top, the next corner and focusing on just that climb.  I’m not thinking of the remaining 50 miles to go.  On Powerline, it’s such a steep grade that there is no way to meter your efforts.  It’s just all out hard no matter what you do.  At that point in the race, climbing is more survival than a plotted strategy.  When the body has broken down, this is where the mental games really come into play and endurance racing gets exciting.

 

Q:You are known in the cyber world as the Queen of Pain, however, every time we see you, you have your typical RR huge smile.  What was your most painful moment, adventure racing / mtb’ing, and how did you get through it?

 

A:  It’s not always a smile, sometimes a grimace that is mistaken for a smile!

Ups and downs come along in every ride and race.   Basically I have a mantra that a friend told me long ago:  “no matter how good or bad you feel, it won’t last.”

I think about this all the time.  I have a 2nd mantra that another friend told me:  “you can either run across the hot coals or walk across them.” 

Both of these ideas get me through.  I also think of the alternative, which is quitting and that just doesn’t sit well with me.

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Do you ride better if your body is acclimated?

Q: We are riding the Copper Triangle in August.  Do you think it’s imperative that we go in before and ride to get our bodies acclimated elevation wise?  We loved your talk in Lawrence. Great job on Dirty Kanza! – K. Heisdorffer

 

A: I looked up the Copper Triangle to see that the whole event is above 10,000 ft.  Your body will absolutely perform better with proper acclimatization.  This is proven science.  In general it takes more than two weeks to get acclimatized properly.  Going out 3 days early is actually worse because you body is working hard to get used to the new altitude and will be very tired with this effort.  If you can’t get out there early, then the next best theory is to get to altitude less than 24 hours before the event begins.  This way, your body hasn’t realized what you’ve done to it yet and hasn’t started feeling the affects of trying to acclimatize.  The bottom line is to take it easy at high altitude and don’t expect the same sort of speed and snap as you have at sea level.  Be conservative at the start and be sure to hydrate and fuel properly.

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What jeans do you wear?

Q: Hi Rebecca.  I met you at Wilmington 100.  I loved your jeans!!  You told me the brand but I can’t remember the name.  As you said in post in Nov 2011, bike fit is very important, just ’cause boyfriend jeans are all the rage, you need a belt to keep them up!!  So I think my bike fit is ok,  but I’d love a pair of jeans that fit a more athletic body.  Hope you can help.  – F. Tartavel

 

A: Maloja!  Best jeans ever!

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You often do you enjoy beer/wine/spirits in race season?

Q: You often do you enjoy beer/wine/spirits in race season? How does is influence your training results? – B. Lyon

A: Everything in moderation!  Every choice you make influences your training in one way or another.

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How do I convince my wife to ride a bike? (Oct. 2012)

Q: How do I convince my wife to ride a bike? – D. Decena

A:  Find a women’s group for her to learn from and get inspired by. This is one of the reasons I started the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour two years ago. Women learn better (and more) from other women, in a non-intimidating environment.  (Sorry, but you will not be the best teacher initially).  Let her discover how great mountain biking is with a group of like-minded individuals she can relate to.  Check your local shop for women’s rides and events.  Also, demo a fabulous bike for her.  Don’t give her your crappy old bike that’s too big for her to start on.  There’s nothing like a fantastic piece of shiny performance equipment to ensure a really fun ride.  Stack the odds in her favor, don’t push too hard and let her progress at her own pace.

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What event are you most looking forward to in 2011 & why?

Q: What event are you most looking forward to in 2011? Why?  -  J. Lewis

My mind is not into 2011 yet. I still have one more race in 2010, La Ruta. I also get to go watch the Race Across the Sky film Nov. 4th in Denver and Nov. 9th in Chicago and re-live the Leadville Trail 100 race which was the major highlight of 2010 for me. It’s showing all around the US. Don’t miss it!

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Have you ever thought of hitting up the USGP of Cyclocross series?

Q: As a cyclist and an awesome Mountain bike endurance racer, have you ever thought of hitting up the USGP of Cyclocross series? I mean with your motor and mad skills I think you would make an awesome impact on the race and get in the mix of a very fast moving sport. How do you feel your current level of training would cross over so to speak?  – G. Smith – Crossniac

A: I LOVE ‘cross racing and do take part in some local races such as Crosstoberfest in Ketchum. I think it’s a blast and a great way to hone handling skills and perfect that high intensity post race cough. I usually want to start staying home in October after a long season of travel, so that’s the main reason I don’t hit the USGP series. If I did want to be competitive in those races I’d definitely have to tweak my training to focus on shorter events. I’ve done that a bit this season as I’ve focused more on 100 milers instead of 24 hour races. However, a 40 minute ‘cross race is a whole different ball game.

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How can more high-school-aged female participants be encouraged to race & to the sport?

Q: The advent of high school mountain bike racing in Colorado points out the enormous gap in participation between boys and girls. Results reveal 17 girls entered a recent race compared with 126 boys. How can greater interest be stoked to draw more high-school-aged female participants to racing, and to the sport?
Steve Coleman

A: In my opinion role models and opportunity are essential to get girls involved in cycling and racing. This is exactly what NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) is doing, one high school team at a time. The bottom line is get out there and coach, encourage kids and provide support for these programs. The growth will follow!
I forwarded your question to Vanessa Hauswald, Executive Director of the NorCal High School Cycling League, to get her take on girls participation and growth. Here is her response.

“Yes, there were 17 girls racing in the Colorado League this year, and about 120 boys. For a first year league, this is normal. In the NorCal League history, girls’ categories have all started significantly smaller than boys’, but have also had the largest and most rapid growth (percentage wise). In NorCal last year we had 30% girls and 70% boys. Greater interest in high school racing (by girls) can be “stoked” by the growth and support of high school cycling Leagues with trained coaches who teach safe training and racing practices. The more that cycling becomes part of the culture of one’s state and one’s school district, the more that participation grows. If cycling is not part of a child’s family culture, it often takes an organized team structure within a school to entice that child to try riding. This is what NICA is providing as Leagues begin to emerge across the country.
One of the main goals at NorCal is to continue to bolster our girls’ racing program. Just like all other genres of professional cycling (bmx, track, dh, xc, etc) women are outnumbered by men. Changing this dynamic one high school at a time is part of our mission.”

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Are you a fan of KISS the band & what music/lyrics gets you race ready?

Q: Are you a fan of KISS, the band? Those shoes look rather like something Ace might wear around the house. Which, begs me to question for this month. What music gets you race ready…what lyrics, why? :)
Jeffrey Ryan

A: You are dating yourself by referencing KISS. OF COURSE I’m a fan. I also owned a pair of silver Moon boots around that same time. Perhaps these Exhale shoes just remind me of the good old days. Besides, who dictates fashion anyway? Just look at how ugly Crocs are? The Exhale are WAY cooler and really good for playing air guitar.
Back to your question: I don’t race with music because I want to hear my bike, my asthmatic breathing and anyone sneaking up on me. I do train with music when I can’t get anyone else to ride with me. I have a mix of stuff, but generally Green Day seems to get me really pumped for a hard session. There isn’t any KISS on the ipod at the moment. Perhaps I should change that.

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How can a mtn. biking science geek keep his thick glasses from bouncing up & down?

Q: I recently started mountain biking and have the following problem. I am a science geek, and therefore wear big glasses (see picture attached). When I ride my mountain bike over roots and rocks, the glasses bounce up and down on my nose. This leaves my nose bruised and sometimes it hurts a lot. I am afraid to ride hard on the trails, since if I lose the glasses I would have no way of finding my way home. I have tried to tape the glasses to my forehead, but it is painful to remove them because it tears out some of my eyebrow. Do you have any advice for me?
Thank you, John Olsen

A: Dear John-
We’re all geeks in one way or another, so don’t worry about that. The biggest concern I had with your email was your singular use of the word “eyebrow.” Do you really just have one? If so, perhaps a bit of tape on the brow on a bit of a regular basis is not such a bad thing.
The solution to keeping your giant glasses on your face is simple. Chums!

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What goes through your head as you realize you’re about to have a really ugly crash?

Q: What goes through your head as you realize you’re about to have a really ugly crash?
Thanks—Erik Pearson

A: Two hints: 4 letters, begins with the letter F.

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What was your highest high and lowest low?

Q: Throughout your great career, I am sure you have had many ups and downs. What was your highest high and lowest low? What did you take away from each that has helped make you the successful athlete that you are? I often try and take away something positive from all experiences, this is not always easy.
Good luck at Leadville! I will be rooting for you!
Scott Rausenberger

A: I’ve had plenty of failures and “learning experiences” in my athletic career. There are multiple highs and lows that have built my personality. A few highs that stand out are: winning the Raid Gauloises Adventure Racing World Championships in Kyrgyzstan, winning 24 Hour Solo mountain bike World Champs 3 years in a row and this year’s Leadville Trail 100 win. By far the lowest was being involved in a rock fall incident during an adventure race that severely injured my teammate and killed another friend. Sometimes the lesson is hard to find and takes years to uncover.
I firmly believe that racing and athletic endeavors are great ways to challenge ourselves, set goals, learn to work hard, learn to be team players and better people. I’ve been involved with sports for as long as I can remember and I could not picture myself without athletics in my life. There are too many lessons to list here, but I do feel that if we all played sports, the world would be a better place. It sounds corny, I know, but I really think it’s true. I also know that it takes a big person to lose gracefully. The athletes I respect the most have been able to win and lose with grace.

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Do you ever get to drive the fire engine?

Q: Do you ever get to drive the fire engine? Alan Jones

A: Yep. It’s really, really cool too!

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How can your quads be so big, while the rest of you is so tiny?

Q: How can your quads be so big, while the rest of you is so tiny?
Mia Phillips – Paralegal, Childers Law Firm, P.C.

A: This is hilarious! Thanks Mia. I’ll take that as a compliment. In some groups, such as the red carpet in Hollywood, large quads are frowned upon. It does make buying jeans a challenge for me! I guess my quads are the tools that help me do my job. I can’t take credit though. I owe my genetics to my Mom and Dad. I’ve always had a fairly muscular build, especially when I was rock climbing and paddling a bunch. Since I’ve focused more exclusively on cycling, my body type has changed quite a bit. All those bicep and back muscles seem to have migrated down to my thighs!

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Where has life given you a gift, what have you done with that gift and how have you accepted the responsibility that goes with it?

Q: Where has life given you a gift, what have you done with that gift and how have you accepted the responsibility that goes with it?
Sunniva

A: Great question! This one is deep!
Yes, our life gifts ARE responsibilities to be shared and passed along, otherwise they just I feel fortunate to have been given the good health, the genes and the opportunities to explore, travel and hold a very unique job. I have filled multiple passports traveling the world, meeting people, seeing incredible places and pushing myself to the limit. I like this question because it brings to light the fact that all the ultra fancy gear, sponsorship support, travel opportunities, and training don’t account for much if you don’t pass along your experiences, your knowledge, your psyche, your energy with other like minded souls. If I’ve seen you out on the trail or you are reading this blog, I hope I’ve been able to provide entertainment, knowledge, motivation or a smile that you have been able to take along with you.

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When are they going to start putting solar panels on the outer flaps of these packs for charging/powering phones/GPS/MP3 players?

Q: When are they going to start putting solar panels on the outer flaps of these packs for charging/powering phones/GPS/MP3 players? That would be sweet!

A: Ben-hopefully never. Believe me, I like my phone and music, but I also cherish the sound of my laboring breath, tires crushing through the dirt and voices of my friends when I ride. I carry a cell phone while riding for safety reasons and use music when riding only as a crutch when I need extra motivation.

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What song(s) do you most often get stuck in your head when training or racing?

What song(s) do you most often get stuck in your head when training or racing?
David Stilwill

A: Cake. Going the Distance
Sample lyric: She’s going the distance, she’s going for speed. She’s all alone in her time of need…or the Ramones . I Wanna Be Sedated.
Sample lyric: twenty twenty twenty four hours to go….I wanna be sedated

These two seem to be common reoccurring songs for me.

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Of a collection of different racers wrecked on a desert island, who survives the longest?

Q: Consider the following scenario: USA Cycling charters a plane to send all of the best cyclists in the United States on a goodwill tour of Asia. The best adventure racer, XC mountain bike, DH mountain bike, marathon mountain bike, 24-Solo mountain bike, road and TT champs are all on the plane. In a complete “accident”, the plane goes down on a deserted island in the Pacific. It takes a year for the rescue teams to find them. Who survives the longest and who is the recognized “King” (or Queen) of the island? Why?
Kit Cischke

A: This is the order of who would survive, from shortest (first to croak or get eaten) to King/Queen of the island. It’s basically an inverse relationship to the stamina and brains required to compete in each event. I’m sure I’ll offend some people here, but I’m OK with that. I’ve raced nearly every discipline on this list, so I’m not exempt from the criticism either. Besides, unfortunately these groups will never be assembled in one place anyway.

DH: These guys have the least amount of stamina so they’d get too tired trying to hunt and gather for food. Also, they are most addicted to their technology, so not being able to Twitter or download apps would cause severe withdrawal symptoms within hours.
TT: These thoroughbreds (spelling?) are trained to stay within the lines and move straight forward while in complete oxygen debt. When the blinders were removed and creative thinking was required, they’d perform poorly on the island.
XC mountain: “where’s my soigneur?” enough said.
Road: These athletes have the stamina to survive, but not the body fat. Without the precious mussette bag handoff for nutrition or domestique to provide water, they would not have the energy to build a hut or search for nuts.
Marathon MTB: These