Racing Outside the Box

Contributed by Silver Sage sponsored Reno WheelWoman Athlete, Heidi Littenberg

This season, I chose to spend some time working on my time trial racing with the goal of participating in this year’s NCNCA District Championships and, hopefully, the USAC Masters National Championships.  I’m primarily a short-distance criterium racer who does best when I can draft off of other people.  Then, when the time is right, I try to sprint to the finish line.  It’s crafty, but it’s a tactic that has worked well over the years.

But, like everyone, the time comes to try something different.  Time trial racing, solo against the clock, seemed like a good addition to my repertoire with the goal of adding some straight-up speed.  After careful discussion with Coach Julie Young last year, we decided it was the best way to shake things up a bit.


Photo Courtesy of Craig Huffman Photography (

The NCNCA District Time Trial race is 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) and it’s all flat.  There’s no place to hide on this thing.  That meant an increased emphasis on fitness, as well as dialing in the bike fit to maximize my ability to generate power. So, with the killer, aerodynamic bike and fancy wheels procured, we did the Professional Bike Fit at Silver Sage Sports and Fitness Lab and put the training plan in place.

While it’s not the Race Across America (RAAM), it was definitely the “vast unknown” for me, and my nerves were palpable even months before the race took place.  There was a point where I wasn’t sure I was going to even do the race.  I went through a period where I wasn’t feeling up to the challenge of getting outside my comfort zone for a variety of reasons – personal stress, some discomfort on the bike, and lack of confidence.  It’s amazing how, despite a few years of racing experience, I can get so wrapped up in things and bring myself down.

After one of several check-ins with Julie, she helped me get through the pre-race angst with clear explanations about how to train and race a time trial, careful planning of the workouts, extra focus on the bike fit, and lending her own experiences to my situation.  Having a coach who has “walked the talk” as an athlete is invaluable.  When that coach is so good at putting it all into words… it’s amazing how much it helps clear out the mental clutter.


Long story short, Julie’s guidance helped me meet or exceed my goals for speed and power for the race, and I placed third in my group with some pretty stiff competition.  There were plenty of women who were faster than I was, but it’s a big boost to have done better than I thought I could.  Now I know what it takes to race a longer time trial and I took away some valuable information about how I can improve my performance for the next race.

Racing is definitely a mental game as much as a physical one.  Coach Julie and I have already put the plan in place to fine tune things for Masters National Championships in September, so I can focus on the experience of racing and not on all the distractions.  Should be a fun event!