WOMEN OF ENDURANCE: Erica Tingey
After her very first race Erica knew she was going to become a pro, thus leading to a very serious conversation with her husband and brother-in-law where she made some bold statements about her intentions. She immediately started changing the way she ate and started training with a coach.
2012 Utah State Champion, Erica Tingey, has been riding a mountain bike since age 14. Racing her first official race back in March of 2010, she won the Sport Category by 8 minutes. From there she moved on to the Expert category for a few races and, after winning those as well, she went on to race in the Pro category and received her UCI pro license by winning the first Pro XCT race of the year in 2011 in the Cat 1 field.
Erica is now not only a pro mountain biker but she currently races for Kuhl/Rocky Mountain. On top of those responsibilities she is also a wife and mother which had me wondering where she found her motivation to train and race. She laid it all out stating, "I found my true passion and calling in life with mountain bike racing, so I don't have a hard time becoming motivated to get out and train or pack up for a race. Seriously, I love riding my bike. It is something not a lot of people understand, but there is a passion there that I do not feel for much else. There is just something about filling my lungs with fresh mountain air that truly lifts my spirits and puts a smile on my face. I am a competitive person and I love to win races, but the biggest motivator for me is just putting my leg over a bicycle and clipping into the pedal. The sound of the tires on the dirt and the chain moving through the gears gets my blood pumping in a way that nothing else does."
Erica's husband, John, is an avid cyclist; however, they only get to mountain bike together about once a month. John races occasionally but is generous enough to sacrifice his time for Erica's benefit. Many times he is watching their son while she races. Seeing them as she passes through the aid stations helps propel Erica to the finish and having their support, she says, is paramount to her success as a cyclist.
Splitting her time between Las Vegas, NV, and Park City, UT, Erica says in order to fit in the much needed training it takes to be pro athlete, during the winter months when she is in Las Vegas she and her husband take turns riding some mornings. Also part of a babysitting co-op, this gives her a place to take her son in the mornings from 9am-12pm. During the summers she relies heavily on her family and extended family. "I am lucky enough to have a very supportive network of babysitters!" Stating that her mom duties keep her plenty busy, Erica says, "I would not trade what I do now for anything in the world."
Having ridden and raced in some great places across the US, Erica admits that nothing beats the trail system in Park City, UT. "As far as I know, there is nowhere else in the United States where you can ride such an awesome trail system in such a relatively small area." Her favorite trail there is the new Pinecone Trail. "You start at the base of the mountain at the Park City Mountain Ski Resort and climb all the way to the top through a series of smooth switchbacks in beautiful aspen groves and pine forests. At the top you can see the great Wasatch Range and you are looking down into Park City on one side and the Brighton Ski Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon on the other. The views are unbelievable. The TG trail in Park City takes a close second, there is something magical in those trees, I feel like I'm in the middle of nowhere when I'm flying through there."
Being a pro also requires traveling, which is always a challenge Erica tells me. "Travel is expensive, but I always try to find ways to mitigate those costs. From sharing hotel rooms and rental cars to purchasing airfares far in advance, I am able to keep those costs as low as possible. I rarely eat out at restaurants when I travel, because my diet is so particular. A quick, inexpensive trip to the grocery store usually provides me with enough nutrition to keep me pedaling strong."
A bike bag made by Evoc has made all the difference for Erica when flying to races. "There is quite a bit of work that goes into flying with a bike. It is not like taking skis or golf clubs on a plane. A bike has to be taken apart and gingerly stowed and protected. The time it takes to reassemble and repack my bike is carefully calculated so that I do not miss my race or my flight back home!" Erica chooses to drive to a race if she can do so and one of her newer sponsors, Kuat Racks, sent her the NV and NV add-on, which can carry 4 bikes on the back of her car. "If I can drive, though, I always prefer to have my family there."
When it comes to traveling to races, Erica tells me her favorite race to travel to is the Sea Otter Classic, a favorite of many. Held in Monterrey, CA, "It is a huge bike festival with all sorts of races and activities occurring daily, a long drive from Las Vegas but a great place for my family and me to hang out when I am not racing."
Her favorite race this year was, of course, the Utah State Championship at Deer Valley. "Having grown up in Utah, I really wanted to become the state champion. I worked hard and made that race a priority. Not only that, but I told my friends and family that I was going to win it! My entire family was there, including my in-laws, cheering for me. I was super motivated and ended up winning by over six minutes. I am the 2012 Utah State Champion!"
Very shortly after winning the Utah State Championship, a crash at the Ute Valley Pro XCT sent Erica to the hospital with 2 broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and battered dreams for the 2012 World Cup. Seemingly unaffected by these injuries, having just won the Mt. Ogden 50k only 8 weeks out from a hospital bed, Erica admitted that she was initially more hesitant and tentative while going downhill on her bike and also very protective of the injured side of her body. "The mental aspect of being a professional athlete requires just as much work as the physical one. It is not discussed too often, but training your mind to visualize success, even when your body is screaming for you to stop, is often the difference between first and second place. I am physically healed, but I need to continue to heal the mental wounds that manifest themselves as fear or anxiety."
When asked what else she does outside of mountain biking, her response was quite apropos, "You mean there's life beyond mountain biking?" Although she did admit that she likes listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks and will happily grab a nap if she has any down time. "Most of what I do, however, revolves around racing and taking care of my son."
Erica is also very involved in promoting her sponsors through social media and her Stan's No Tubes mountain biking clinics where she teaches skills, nutrition and introduction to racing. Between posting about products and trying to build her brand, she finds there is not a lot of time for much else. "Being a professional athlete is a full-time job!"
"Stoked" about her 2013 season and with some great training plans for the winter that she's thrilled to get going with, Erica concludes our exchange with the following, "I would just finish by saying that mountain biking is a great sport that anybody can participate in. I would love to get more women out there riding and racing, which is why I am so vocal about how much I love the sport. It has given me so much that I want to do what I can to give back."