Warm in the Head for Cycling

I remember my first road race.  It was up Rabbit Ears pass in Steamboat Springs Co.  I realize now that bike racing on courses with 8 mile climbs are pretty simple.  It is all decided on the climb so all you need to do is get to the climb in as good as shape as you can, and then go as hard as you can…for as long as you can.  At the top of the pass you see if anyone else is around to ride with, if not then hammer on till you can’t go anymore and hope you finish well.  That is what I love about cycling, it is just like life.  You seldom know how it will turn out, you set your goal, you work to prepare, and then you race.  Only the racing will tell you what you really want to know, it is how you find out how good you really are and what you need to keep working on. 

I wrote my first bike racing manual in 1998 when I had retired from racing, here is a picture of the cover:  It is short and to the point, getting down what I consider the key points to racing well.  They are what worked for me and what I learned from my previous coaches and following my cycling path for 11 years after college.  It is called “Warm in the Head.  A racers handbook” which is a phrase I heard in Europe racing there with the national team in 1990 during the Tour d la Avenir.  Now I know it means “fever” for cycling, and it makes me laugh because that is what I see in people who love cycling, a fever for the sport.

My fever has changed over the years,

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Should I join a team?

By: Heather Nielson

I started out a mountain biker long before I ever touched a road bike. I met someone who told me he knew a lot about bike racing and said that I should pick up the road bike because that’s how you get really fit. I did my first road race, which was actually a stage race, in Las Vegas wherein the categories for women were so small that all the categories were combined. So, as a cat 4, I lined up for my first criterium next to a few pro’s that had quads twice the size of my trunk and I thought…’they’re gonna eat me for lunch’. Not only did I survive and finish with the group after my first criterium, but my love for road racing began and I quit racing mountain bikes and never looked back.

I upgraded within a season and 1/2 to a Cat 2 and so thought I’d better join a big elite women’s team if I was going to go anywhere as a bike racer. I have learned a LOT since then. I had a lot of natural ability, dedication and willingness to sacrifice and stay focused that helped me upgrade so quickly but getting my Cat 1 was the most difficult upgrade to earn for lots of reasons; but I wanted to talk about how the complex dynamic of bike racing as a team sport played a role in my story. It is the only team sport where individuals win. As a result, the natural human condition to compete, jealousy, self-entitlement, selfishness and basic survival come to the forefront more than they do in other sports.


My first season as a Cat 2 on that team, I DNF’d (did not finish) more races than I actually finished. I spent a lot of energy doing what I thought I should do as a teammate to those who were more veteran riders. Trying to ‘earn’ your spot on a team as a member who the team is going to work for later isn’t so cut and dry. Also, this wasn’t a professional team, so I wasn’t getting paid a salary to do ‘my job’; and yet I still felt all this pressure to work for other teammates. I think this is because of the nature of women in sports. Women feel a larger obligation to other women, we want to be liked and we also want to be asked to return to the team the following year. I believe though that a healthy balance can be made between racing as a teammate while working towards your own goals; although it can be difficult. Some things that I learned over the past several years that may help:

  • If you’re doing what you should, when you should, during a race to give yourself the best possible chance of winning/getting a result, then you ARE being a good teammate by representing your team as a bike racer and athlete. Just don’t race against your teammate. Don’t chase them down if they get in a break or block them in a final sprint. (It happens!) Unless you’re getting paid a salary to do a specific job, or you have agreed before the race starts that you’re working for someone, race your race.
  • Realize that it’s a bike race, a sport, not a social gathering, or a girl’s/guys-day-out. Don’t take things personally by your teammates or your competitors when they attack or do what they need to do in a bike race to secure a result: ITS A BIKE RACE! That’s why we’re there. We’re competitors. Let’s push each other to the limits, not drag each other down.
  • Be professional in the ‘office’. The office as a bike racer is the before and after the race. The car pool rides, the warm-ups, the preparation, the team e-mails, meetings and sponsor agreements. Be responsible, show up on time, take care of your gear and yourself, don’t expect other people to take care of your travel plans, bike, equipment, food etc. Reciprocate, do trades, be pleasant and don’t make it all about you and your race. (Ironically, I find this part of bike racing to be the most difficult part for most of us).

Some of these I learned quickly while others took me YEARS. I hope that this helps you learn how to approach this season as a teammate and an individual athlete.


Resolution friendly recipe: Raw beet, apple & sesame salad

By: Heather Nielson

Most people know they need to eat healthy but sometimes it’s hard when an unhealthy option simply tastes better! I’m always trying to find recipes that I know are healthy and actually taste good. I also agree with experts that having as much variety in your diet as possible is better for you than always eating the same foods everyday. I know that’s another hard habit to break because we do what’s easiest most of the time and when it comes to food, buying and making the same dishes eliminates variables of stress, the unknown, time etc. We are comfortable with what is familiar and requires as little effort as possible. That’s why my collection of recipes fulfills 3 important qualifications: healthy, relatively uncomplicated and takes 30′ or less to make (sometimes soups needs to simmer longer but that’s easy and you can go back to doing other things).

I hope this next recipe motivates you to try something new and easy and tastes good and is healthy! I found this one on-line and originally had radishes and since I hate radishes, I substituted them for apples but feel free to go back to radishes!


Raw beet & apple sesame salad

  • 4 medium sized beets, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 small apples cored and chopped into bit-sized pieces
  • 4 TBL sesame seeds
  • 4 TBL balsamic vinegar
  • 4 TBL lemon juice
  • 2 TBL olive oil
  • Pepper to taste

1-Combine all ingredients, mix well and refrigerate at least 1 hour



You’ve got goals……… now what?

By: Heather Nielson

We’ve been talking a lot about goal setting over the last month with Craig’s post about changing the time line on his personal goals, as well as my other post earlier this month about setting yourself up for success while you think about what your goals are going to be for the coming year. You also may have had the opportunity to hear Craig speak over at Cascade bicycles about goal setting. After all of that, we hope you have some specific, measureable, attainable, realistic & timely (S.M.A.R.T!) goals for yourself. You’ve probably even started working toward them and keeping track of your progress, adjusting your timelines, nailing down your resources and are still really motivated.

I wanted to now talk about what oftentimes happens after you’ve gotten started working toward your goals: you self-sabotage. We’ve all done it. We don’t ‘see’ the results we were expecting as quickly as we were expecting to. I’ll never stop saying it: consistency is your biggest ally. You didn’t get to that high powered career position in just a few months, it took years. You didn’t add all that unwanted weight in just a week, it’ll take more than a few weeks to take it off. In this age of instantaneous gratification, I think sometimes we forget that most things take time. How much time? That depends! It’s also no secret that everyone responds differently to training, new methods of habits are unique to the individual and there is always more than one way to a destination. Again, keep track of your progress. If you decide to change something, change one thing and then wait for a week or two! If you change too many variables at once, you won’t know what was/is working and what is/isn’t.

We aren’t meant to go through life alone. That’s not how/why we evolved nor is it healthy. Surround yourself with experts, people you trust, create a support system, educate yourself, never stop asking questions, trust information from only the most reliable resources and last but certainly not least: don’t stop listening to your body and gut. This is the hardest, but most important part to your success. If something doesn’t feel ‘right’ or like it’s just not working for you, it probably isn’t! Change one thing, ask an expert, keep track, and you will keep pedaling closer to that goal!


The New Year – Grind = Reward!

Well I don’t know how your holidays went, but mine were short and fast!  I am finally feeling recovered and ready to tackle the new year.  Some years I hit the ground running January 1st, but this year I sit here on the 17th and am just barely ready to start the new year.

So the first thing I like to do is look back on last year.  What did I come away from last year feeling was unfinished or needed to be improved?  What sucked and must never be repeated!  What was awesome and must be doubled down on?

Was your year a Grind?

Every year is different, some years I am pretty close to nailing my goals/ideas for the year, others I am so far off I wonder what the hell I was thinking.  This past year was a little of both.  I look at my life in columns, each column can be rated on a scale of 0-100.  Columns include:  Family – Love – Friends – Fitness/Health – Business/Career – Spiritual Connection – Fun.  First question, how did I do last year, how close to 100 am I in each category?  Answer:  70, 80, 60, 80, 50, 55, 60.  

It is interesting to me that I can pour myself into improving one of these columns, only to find I didn’t end up getting any closer to 100.  Then another column like my fitness is the best it has been in years with less time spent working on it as the prior year.  Some years you grind, laying the foundation for future success, other years you reap the reward of prior work done.  This is the game of life.

This is where coaching really pays off

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