We are proud to call Heidi Volpe an LW Coaching athlete and have her on our team. Heidi is a photo design director working with Redbull, Outside Magazine, Playboy and other industry leaders, owner of Awesome Pop gourmet organic popcorn company, a bee keeper, TED Talk speaker, digital content and product creator for Aketta crickets and our 2016 USA Cycling Cross-Country Mountain Bike National Champion in the 45-49 category!! Making this achievement all the more impressive this season is that Heidi also cared for her ailing mother who unfortunately passed away 8 weeks prior to the race.
In short, Heidi is a non-stop dynamo and we love her!! Read how she meshes work, life and training to smash her goals.
Coach Lynda: Heidi, congrats on winning XC Mountain Bike Nationals!! What did winning this National Championship title mean to you this year?
Heidi: Thank you so much, and of course I couldn’t have done this without your coaching guidance. This win carried a lot of gravity for me for several reasons.
Obviously losing my Mom had an impact, it was heartbreaking. I was distraught, confused, stunned, fill in the blanks. As you astutely pointed out I’ve trained through work stress and own my health issue, grief was new territory and we weren’t sure how things would pan out. I remember asking you if it was even worth it to continue to chase my goal since I lost a lot of time off the bike during that period. We found out my Mom had cancer and then three weeks later we put her on comfort care and watched her life get vacuumed up in the ICU. During those three weeks I slept in a chair at the hospital for over a week and at one point was up for 50 hours straight. So when it finally came for me to train, often I felt so empty and had some very hard days. After turning in a few power files you said I was still in the game and I trusted you.
When it came time to execute your training plan I’d turn myself inside out and this year we incorporated Windburn Studios computrainer classes, Tony Manzella (nicked named Danger Man on the road circuit) led the classes. It felt good to show up and do the work, push your numbers, suffer and be inspired by friends and Helen’s teammates while riding indoors, at a bike shop no less. I felt rewarded when all those hard days paid off.
Coach Lynda: Describe how you felt when you finished knowing you had smashed your goal and put together an amazing ride?
Heidi: I was thrilled and proud of myself. Not because I was lucky enough to be a little faster, but because I had worked so hard this year on and off the bike and I was now without parents. Some of my closest friends and my husband were there watching the race, their cheers made me find my 5th gear; made me want it because they all saw me at my lowest points. I also felt grounded because I raced smart, this win was as much about fitness as it was about race experience, I didn’t panic or give up.
There was also a sense of accomplishment that we executed a plan and it worked, that all the training rides I gutted out and the focused days didn’t go to waste.
Truthfully there’s something about riding that helps me cope with the dynamism of life. The bike is an amazing mirroring tool.
Coach Lynda: You live at sea level and Nationals were held over 8,000 feet elevation in Mammoth. How did you prepare for the altitude?
Heidi: I’m so fortunate to have Outside magazine based in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a client. Santa Fe sits at 7000 feet and has one of the highest ski areas in North America near by. I’ve worked on and off for them for the past 16 years and this latest stint happened to fall right before Nationals, so you laid out a plan for me to train at the same altitude as the race. I spent many early mornings before work grinding out intervals up and down the ski basin road and disappointed a lot of my friends in Santa Fe because I was on a specific training plan, fun-riding just wasn’t part of the equation. Santa Fe is also home to the Human Performance Center and there I used oxygen as a recovery tool. The owners Kele and Fred McDaniel are athletes and have a deep understanding of the strain that altitude, cycling, and work puts on the body.
Coach Lynda: Heidi, you continually impress me with your ability to stay focused on your athletic goals while working on multiple projects. This year your energy output was pushed to a 10 with the care and passing of your mother. How do you continue to build fitness and increase your performance with these competing demands?
Heidi: Well firstly, I train under your watchful eye. Secondly I learned over the years about specificity. I can’t tell you how many times you’ve said No or said that if I do x, y or z then it’ll impact my main goal. A few times I’ve over ridden and it’s crystal clear on the next training ride my power numbers aren’t there. I realized it’s much more fun to hit my numbers on important rides.
I always fit in some type of training with work, be it commuting, rides before the office, it’s folded into my day and a part of who I am. Remember this? We figured how I could train while I was working in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a city 29 million strong. Here I am doing intervals ( aka prison miles ) after work on a 8×3 foot balcony. Currently I’m working with Playboy Magazine, just today I apologized to the valet for my car smelling like hot chamois and I found my recovery socks in the fridge at work in my lunch bag. Training and working a lot is like theater.
With regards to my Mother, all my attention went towards the remaining time with her. The fragility of life became much more visceral. Obviously I wasn’t riding so I tried to focus on the simple things: hydration, eating clean, juicing, managing stress and grief, taking a yoga class here and there.
Coach Lynda: Share with us a couple of your must-not-miss recovery strategies that keep you healthy and strong?
Heidi: I found the basics to be the best. Recovery socks, easy to digest post workout plants, strategic rest and cold river soaks make a big difference. Yoga for me is must. I also don’t over plan; if I’ve got a hard training ride, then things are built around that.
Coach Lynda: What role does mountain bike racing play in your life?
Heidi: It grounds me, I’m a task master at heart so it’s fun to have a goal and chase it, it also takes me to some amazing places. We both know it’s also a good measure on how I’m feeling since I need to get regular health check ups to keep an eye on my cancer incident.
Coach Lynda: How pivotal is having a coach for you?
Heidi: Extremely. Left to my own devices I over do it with training. You’ve been such an interesting influence on me in that I’ve become more realistic and not falling victim to the planning fallacy, or experiencing downstream consequences when you become greedy with training. When I work the plan, the plan works!
Coach Lynda: Heidi, thanks for sharing your time, words and pics and most of all for trusting me to be your coach! You are a joy to work with. I love your unbounded energy, and passion for life!! It is exciting to harness a bit of it, direct it onto a bulls-eye and then sit back and watch you hit it. Athlete’s smashing their goals is MY goal.