Training food recipe that’s real food! Coconut raisin rice cakes

By: Heather Nielson

Last night while teaching my last (!) ICE class for the season I think I spent as much time answering questions about balancing nutrition for training & weight loss as I did giving count downs for the work out! I really enjoy helping people where and when I can to reach their fitness goals and many times that includes more than just giving someone a prescribed work-out on the bike. My educational background includes a double minor in chemistry and nutrition and so I can usually answer a lot of questions for people when they feel like they’re ‘stuck’ in trying to get the most out of their training and weight loss goals. Most people generally know how to eat healthy and they know they need to exercise; but it’s not uncommon for someone to reach a plateau in their training and weight loss goals and it requires additional expertise to change a few details in their regimen to jump start their body to another ‘level’. The fact that once you’ve been eating the same way and training the same way for quite awhile, your body adapts to that energy input and output makes the human body both amazing and annoying at the same time! It takes another change or shift in your habits to shift your body to a new normal. When it comes to making or breaking habits, I’ve always been a big proponent of small changes, life long sustainable habits; not short term ‘crash’ diets that require unsustainable lifestyle habits. I’ll write more in future posts about details on the above but my main point for this post is that change takes time, lifestyle habits need to be sustainable over the long term and that diet isn’t necessarily about restricting certain foods but about timing them. Who doesn’t love a cookie, ice cream or dessert? Is it really wise to say you’re never going to have dessert….ever again?! If you want that dessert, or ‘quick carb’ go ahead! My suggestion: time it with your training. Eat those simpler carbs before, during and after work-outs and leave the rest of the day to produce and protein as much as possible.

With the sheer amount of ‘gu’s’ and other syrupy fuels I go through during the race season, I get really sick of that kind of food and so when I’m not racing I prefer real food when training. I decided to try making rice cakes for the first time last weekend, with success! I was sharing this with my ICE students last night and they suggested I post the recipe. So here is my version of Coconut raisin rice cakes


  • 2 C white rice cooked until water is gone. Rice should be starchy sticky
  • 1 C organic shredded coconut
  • 4 Tbl coconut oil (melted if not already liquid at room temperature)
  • 1 C raisins
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly coated
  2. Spread out onto a 9×5 baking dish and pat down
  3. Refrigerate overnight
  4. Cut into squares and wrap in foil
  5. Stack in fridge, grab and go!
Blog, Training, Uncategorized

The Art of Climbing – Unlock your best

I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life to help people improve their cycling, and climbing is almost always at the top of their lists of challenges.  Every rider I work with needs to improve their Climbing, from Century rides, Gravel Grinders, Cyclocross to RAMROD to STP, it is the focus for most riders.  I was lucky to learn to climb early when I moved to Colorado and began racing road in the mountains, everyone who races there is a great climber.  My 2nd race was the Mt. Evans hillclimb (highest paved road in US over 14,000ft) and when I was a pro mountain biker I won a WorldCup medal for 3rd place with the best in the world racing up Mammoth Mountain, so climbing has been my cycling “thesis” and major area of study since 1987.

Climbing requires more than just fitness, I have coached some of the fittest riders around and often is is more subtle techniques like mental “fueling”, pedal stroke or fueling correctly that makes the biggest difference.  Climbing will test you and *can* bring out the best in you, it can also allow you to find ways to give up early.  

If you are trying to unlock your best climber, start with where you are with your fitness now and accept your ability and limitations as starting points.  You have a pattern of how you climb, and if you want to improve there are a number of things you can look at BESIDES your training/fitness level to be sure you are climbing as well as you can:

1.  Pedal stroke optimization

2.  Breathing techniques for steady and hard climbing

3.  Posture and hand position

4.  Bike fit to allow full power

5.  Pacing tools to fit terrain

6.  Shifting smooth transitions and cadence

7.  Standing skills, recovery and full-gas

8.  Fueling precision 

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Variations on the Jicama salad theme: Pineapple Jicama Salad

By: Heather Nielson

I will freely admit I’m on a Jicama kick lately. Food addictions or rather, food repeats are a ‘thing’ for me. Once I discover a recipe or a food that I like I tend to hit ‘repeat’ like I would on a favorite song for….awhile. I discovered pho over the winter and after every long, hard wet ride I went straight to get me some pho….a lot. Naturally I got bored of it after awhile and haven’t touched it in a few months. Another normal thing for me. Experimenting with summer salad recipes are as fun for me as fall and winter soup recipes (obviously you can see the ‘repeat’ theme in my life). I used to use celery to add the ‘crunchy’ element to my salads but after a long time, obviously got bored of celery (#repeattheme). Then I discovered Jicama! I’m sure it will be replaced with something else after awhile; but for now, you’ll be blessed with yet another summer salad Jicama-themed recipe: Pineapple Jicama Salad:



  • 3 Tbl lemon juice
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 C diced pineapple (fresh is waaaayyyyy yummier)
  • 1 C diced jicama
  • 3/4 C chopped red onion
  • 3/4 C chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno chopped
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Mix well
  3. Refrigerate overnight before serving



FTP and fitness

By: Heather Nielson

It seems like the science and technology around training for just about any athletic pursuit has seen a pretty steep upward curve in the last decade or so with heart rate monitors, power meters, nutrition, recovery, oxygen, economy, technique and more.

Power based training for cyclists came after heart rate based training and has turned out to be an arguably far more useful training tool for many reasons. The range of power numbers within any given training zone is far wider and more variable than any heart rate zone (0-2000 watts or so as opposed to 50-200 heart beats). Exerting power into the pedals and the resulting physiological response and neuromuscular recruitment produces a wattage number almost instantaneously whereas heart rate is almost always lagged. For all the above reasons and more, many competitive cyclists prefer training by power rather than by heart rate. This isn’t to say that heart rate isn’t valuable at all. In fact, one of the main measurements of overall fitness is a cyclists’ FTP, or functional threshold power, which is by definition, very closely tied to heart rate.

So what is the relationship between heart rate and power and why pay attention to heart rate at all anymore?

In a former life, I was a scientist and have an education that is based on biochemistry and nutrition. Without getting too scientific, Functional Threshold Power is the power number, or range, that is associated with an individual’s lactate threshold; which is essentially the point at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood stream. How and why does that happen? You breathe in oxygen, oxygen is what enables your body to create energy from ATP, ATP comes from your food in the form of carbohydrates, lipids and amino acids. Obviously, your body is doing this all the time. However, when you exert yourself, the ‘system’ is churning much faster than at rest and if go as hard as you can until your energy supply to meet the demands don’t match up, then ‘bottlenecks’ are formed in the metabolic pathway and metabolites build up along the way. Think of a water fountain where one bowl empties into the next; but if the water, or energy requirement, flows quicker than the bowl is able to ‘absorb’ or handle, then the water spills over. Some of the excess water, or metabolites cause you pain, make it so the individual muscle fibers can’t contract anymore, create an electrolyte imbalance, create an osmotic imbalance and any other number of side effects that basically cause you to want to STOP. Your heart rate and stroke volume then are one of the main limiters in how quickly your metabolism can churn. 

So if we can’t make our hearts beat 400 beats a minute, how do we get fitter? Fitness is really a question of efficiency. You may have an FTP of 250 at say a heart rate of 175, but how long can you hold that….really? There are many definitions of fitness and one’s ability to hold a maximum effort at or near FTP for longer and longer periods of time is certainly one definition. As you get fitter and stronger then your FTP will probably raise also &/or you will get better at holding that FTP for longer at roughly the same heart rate. In other words: a fairly unfit cyclist may have an FTP of 200 at a heart rate of 175 while a pro tour rider may have an FTP of 350 at the same heart rate. Concurrently, you may also find that you can go harder at a lower heart rate as you get fitter because your system has become that much more efficient. How does your body become more efficient? On the biochemical level, over time, your metabolic system essentially becomes more and more efficient at dealing with higher physical demands by using or creating more mitochondria to deal with more oxygen loads, becoming more efficient at clearing the excess metabolites, becoming more efficient at burning sugar over lipids, or the other way around, and many many other pathways.

Your ability to hold that kind of effort for longer and longer periods of time is one way to measure fitness and training that takes a long time, not just one season or a few one hour bike rides. Consistency is your biggest ally. Realize also, that just because your FTP is 250 one day, does not mean it’s 250 the next! Your threshold is variable depending on your recovery, sickness, motivation, cross training, training program, genetics etc. If you’ve had your FTP tested then you’ve probably been given a power range of 10-20 watts around that number; which is the best way to look at it.It’s just one number and there are many thresholds and many other ways to measure fitness. That being said, your overall level of fitness, efficiency, training level and health is most closely tied to your FTP than any other power number.