How Cycling Changed Me – Kate Ouellette


Name: Kate ouellette
Age: 46
Hometown: Bangor, Maine (currently living in Wilton, New Hampshire)
Occupation: Certified coach in nutrition and MAF method
Cycling time: 1 year, 8 months
Reason for the bike: The possibility of being alone or with people who have the same passion, and to do it in beautiful places or on a virtual platform just to escape reality for a little while by doing something healthy.

Growing up, I was always involved in competitive sports, from playing football in the park with the neighborhood boys to competing in organized sports at school. I have found that competition has helped me develop my mindset to always do my best and do my best.

However, I had my first child at 14 and my second at 18. Suddenly I was a single mom struggling to raise two kids while going to college and working full time, all with four hours of sleep a night. I was always trying to exercise and found comfort in the long distance running. It was the start of my endurance efforts – it was the escape that gave me time to be alone and reflect on my life.

I discovered how I could cope with life’s challenges by breaking down every aspect of my life into bite-sized chunks, thinking about each one, and then solving them. I analyzed my physical and mental health, sleep patterns, nutrition, exercise, and stress triggers. It helped me regain control and I felt empowered. My future looked bright once again, and that’s what motivated me to ride a bike.

With cycling my physical health has always been my priority, but I always seemed to be injured. I’ve always been active – surfing, rock climbing, ice climbing, running, or CrossFit – but found myself always having to modify my activities due to an injury. After four or five years of what seemed like constant injuries, I took a step back and wondered why. In 2016, at the age of 40, I discovered Phil Maffetone’s film Maximum aerobic function (MAF) method– which combines exercise, nutrition and stress to develop your aerobic system – and you are introduced to mountain biking. I stopped running completely and cut back on all of my other activities. Mountain biking has become the main focus.

I fell in love with mountain biking, singletracking over boulders, boulders and tree roots. It required a different kind of physical and mental form, and the ability to be totally present in the moment. I quickly wanted to learn and go faster, so I bought a road bike to increase my leg strength and speed on the road. Cycling has become a great way to fuel my competitive spirit.

I knew very few female mountain bikers so I had to ride with some guy friends who were very competitive. I liked it, but it gave me the need for more women-focused events. So, I turned to the road bike instead. As soon as I got into road cycling, I realized that I was missing the long distance and endurance experience I gained from my racing days. I wanted to go further and longer. I started off with 25 miles on the very hilly and mountainous terrain where I live which I saw as a huge advantage. My goal is to climb 1,000 feet in elevation for every 10 miles I cycle. Twenty-five miles quickly turned into 50 miles.

In November 2020, I found a virtual cycling program called Road Grand Tours (RGT). The trainer has been installed in my home office, which makes it easy for me to ride every day at all times. With only three months of cycling experience, I jumped 100 miles and then signed up to do 225 miles at over 14,000 feet elevation on the Vermont 100 route, and completed it in two. days. I had learned what my body needed for rest, recovery and fuel, and I asked myself: What next? It was then that I discovered the Trans Am Bike Race (TABR).

TABR is 4,100 miles and 119,000 feet above sea level, and that was exactly the challenge I was looking for. In June 2021, I started the epic virtual challenge that was TABR. To break the existing women’s record of 18 days and 10 minutes, I had to ride up to 17 hours a day. There were some parts of the journey where it would have been easy to give up, but those were the times when my approach to life and its challenges shone through. In the end, I completed TABR in 17 days, 14 hours and 23 minutes, a new (unofficial) world record. And I think I’m the only person to have finished it on a home trainer.

Kate’s essential gear

Bioracer shorts and jerseys: This is one of the most comfortable kits I have worn. I literally don’t feel like I’m wearing anything it’s so comfortable.

LMNT electrolytes: I’ve been using it for four years, which says a lot. This product has no fillers and works great. It’s easy to pack up and take with you anywhere. I hid it everywhere: my Jeep, my bags, my desk and my bike gear.

PaleoValley Beef Sticks: I am a nutrition coach and I am very committed to clean food without the addition of junk food. They don’t contain chemicals or questionable ingredients, and they’re easy to pack and transport. They are very delicious and have a lot of flavors to choose from.

A little over a month after TABR in August 2021, I did my very first bikepacking race in Georgia. The race consisted of 350 miles of gravel and a single track with 50,000 feet in elevation called Trans North Georgia (TNGA). I was the first woman to complete the race in 2021.

Right now it’s my off season which means it’s time for me to switch to more virtual cycling again. I train on Zoom with an amazing group of local North East Multisport triathletes, led by Colin Cook, a Peak Triathlon Coaching coach. Having them on Zoom to Suffer twice a week makes it more fun and keeps me accountable.

I want to go back to focusing on the high mileage, with a few team races once a week. And my goal for 2022 will be to do the Unbound Gravel XL, which is a 350 mile gravel race. I’d also like to tour Lael Wilcox’s Alaska FKT pipeline in 2022 and TABR in real life, rather than virtually.

Cycling gave me a new love for exercise. The community of people I have met has been a blessing. With the pandemic and being confined to our home, it opened up a new path of friends. If you had told me two years ago that I would have close friends all over the world, I wouldn’t have believed you. Doing TABR on RGT’s virtual platform brought me closer to my teammates – I now call them family.

My advice to other cyclists: don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. If you truly believe that you can achieve something, then with dedication, guidance, and commitment, you will. Having overcome so many challenges and struggles in my own life from a young age, I honestly believe – and live – this saying. Despite and because of these challenges, I have achieved unimaginable goals, and so have you.

I took this belief for myself as an opportunity to help and encourage women to get involved and feel comfortable in the cycling community, whether they want to compete or just ride a bike and ride with a group of like-minded women without competitive pressure. I have already recruited a number of British and European women through RGT, and I plan to increase the presence and participation of women in cycling both virtually and in real life through races and group rides, by leading by example.

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