Racer Profile: Heidi Shilling

Heidi Shilling races at La Ruta de Conquistadores

Heidi Shilling after stage 2 at La Ruta de Los Conquistadores.
Photo from Facebook

Heidi Shilling, from the Combo Race Team, has carved out quite a niche for herself in the Ohio mountain biking scene.  With her signature pig tails and striped knee high socks, she has left quite an impression.  It’s a sport dominated by men, but walk around with her at a race and you will see that she has won over a ton of fans with her skills on the bike and her vivacious personality.

She won the expert title in the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship 4 times and the Mohican 100k.  This woman loves mountain biking more than most, but where does she find her motivation and how does she approach her training.  I asked her a couple of questions to find out.

James: How long have you been mountain biking/racing and what are some of the highlights from your career?

Heidi: I have been mountain biking a little over 10 years. I started as a true beginner crashing every 20 yards and going off every bridge at my local trail. Some of my racing highlights include, 4 years of winning the OMBC Series for expert women, podiums at 24/12 and 9 hr races on teams and solo, winning the Mohican 100k…finally and sneaking on the podium at La Ruta! However the friendships that I have made through mtn biking far out weigh any of my accomplishments.

James: How do you approach your training? How often? Mileage? Heart Rate Monitor? Intervals? Is there a method to your madness?

Heidi: I used to work with a trainer and heart rate monitor. Everything was planned and monitored from heart rate zones, intensities and duration. It was fairly scientific and incredibly effective. I saw my greatest improvements during this time. However riding my bike started to feel like a job. It started to suck the joy out of what I love to do the most. I took the heart strap off 3 years ago. I didn’t get any slower and fell in love with biking again. I’m considering using heart rate monitor again and coming up with my own program that will keep it fresh.

I work full time and I’m a single mother of three, so I’m a little crunched on time! I try to ride 3 to 4 days on the road at lunch during the week and go on long mtn bike rides on the weekend. The intensities vary. I have learned to listen to my body. I go hard when I feel good and back off when I’m feeling run down. I have found that recovery is every bit as important as training hard. This has kept me injury free and healthy. I base my training on time not mileage. I try to periodize my training so I can peak at important races. For example I might start at 6 hours a week and over a course of weeks build to 14 hours and then taper down to recover before the event.

Heidi Shilling mountain biking

Heidi Shilling tearing up the trails.
Photo from Facebook.

James: How do you gauge your fitness?

Heidi: I gauge my fitness on how I feel while riding and how fast I recover from hard rides and races.

James: You recently raced in La Ruta de Conquistadors in Costa Rica, how did you change your training for an epic stage race like that? What was the race like?

Heidi: I only had 5 weeks to train for La Ruta. I needed about 6 months! I was in good xc racing shape but not stage racing. I asked many of my friends with stage racing experience for training advice. This helped me form a rough plan. Ride as much as I could for 3 weeks, doing back to back hard efforts and then taper down to recover for 2 weeks. I would race one day and then do a long hard ride the next day. I would have blocks of riding 5 days straight before taking a day off. Those three weeks were rough, I was tired and sore the whole time. What little preparation I had seemed to help greatly. My body actually surprised me at La Ruta. I was able to do more than I ever imagined. The race was a true adventure and life changing.

See my race report for the full story at comboraceteam.com.

James: What races are on your mountain bike racing wish list?

Heidi: I want to work in at least one stage race a year. My wish list includes: Trans-Sylvania Epic, Breck Epic, TransAlp Challenge and BC Bike Race. Given the opportunity I would do La Ruta again!

I just need to figure out how to become independently wealthy!

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