Name: Kate Ouellette
Hometown: Bangor, Maine (currently lives in Wilton, New Hampshire)
Occupation: Certified Nutrition & MAF Method Coach
Time Cycling: 1 year, 8 months
Reason for Cycling: The ability to be alone or with people that 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 had always been involved with competitive sports, from playing football at the park with the local boys to competing in organized sports in school. I found that the competition helped develop my mindset to always try my hardest and do my best.
However, I had my first child at 14 and my second at the age of 18. Suddenly, I was a single mom struggling to raise two children while going to college and working full time—all on four hours of sleep a night. I was still trying to exercise, and I found solace in long-distance running. This was the start of my endurance endeavors—it was the escape that gave me time to be alone and reflect on my life.
I worked out how I could cope with life’s challenges by breaking down each aspect of my life into bite-sized chunks, reflecting on and then problem solving each one. I analyzed my physical and mental health, sleeping habits, nutrition, exercise, and stress triggers. This helped me take back control, and I felt empowered. My future looked bright once more, and this led to my motivation with cycling.
With cycling, the top of my agenda was always my physical health, but I always seemed to be injured. I was always active—surfing, rock climbing, ice climbing, running, or doing CrossFit—but I found myself always having to modify my activities due to an injury. After four or five years of what seemed to be constant injuries, I took a step back and asked myself why. In 2016, at the age of 40, I found Phil Maffetone’s Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method—which combines exercise, nutrition and stress to build your aerobic system—and picked up mountain biking. I gave up running altogether, and cut back on all of my other activities. Mountain biking became the main focus.
I fell in love with mountain biking, riding singletrack over boulders, rocks, and tree roots. It required a different kind of mental and physical fitness, and the ability to be totally present in the moment. I was soon eager to learn and to get faster, so I got a road bike to increase my leg strength and road speed. Cycling became a great way to feed my competitive spirit.
I knew very few women mountain bikers, so I had to ride with guy friends who were very competitive. I enjoyed it, but it did give me the need for more female-oriented events. So, I turned more to road cycling. As soon as I got into road cycling, I realized I missed the long- distance and endurance experience I had from my running days. I craved to go further and longer. I started with 25 miles on the very hilly and mountainous terrain where I live, which I saw as a huge advantage. I set a goal to climb 1,000 feet in elevation for every 10 miles that I biked. Twenty-five miles soon turned into 50 miles.
In November 2020, I found a virtual cycling program called Road Grand Tours (RGT). The trainer was set up in my home office, making it easy for me to ride every day at any time. With only three months of cycling experience, I jumped to 100 miles and subsequently signed up to do 225 miles at over 14,000 feet in elevation on the Vermont 100 route, and I completed it in two days. I had learned what my body needed for rest, recovery, and fuel, and I asked myself: What next? This is when I discovered the Trans Am Bike Race (TABR).
TABR is 4,100 miles and 119,000 feet of elevation, and it was the exact challenge I was looking for. In June 2021, I started the epic virtual challenge that was TABR. In order to break the existing women’s record of 18 days and 10 minutes, I would have to ride for up to 17 hours a day. There were some stages of the ride where it would have been easy to give up, but those were the times when my approach to life and its challenges shined through. Ultimately, I completed TABR in 17 days, 14 hours, and 23 minutes, a new (unofficial) world record. And I believe I’m the only person to have completed it on an indoor trainer.
Kate’s Must-Have Gear
→ Bioracer Bib Shorts and Jerseys: It is one of the most comfortable kits I have worn. I literally do not feel like I am wearing anything, it is so comfortable.
→ LMNT Electrolytes: I have been using this for four years, which says a lot. This product has no fillers and works really well. It is easy to pack and take everywhere with you. I have it stashed everywhere—my Jeep, my bags, my desk, and my biking gear.
→ PaleoValley Beef Sticks: I’m a nutrition coach, and I’m very particular about clean food without junk added in them. They have no chemicals or questionable ingredients, and they are easy to pack and travel with. They’re very delicious and have a lot of flavors to choose from.
Just 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 single track riding with 50,000 feet in elevation called the Trans North Georgia (TNGA). I was the first woman to finish the race in 2021.
Right now is my off season, which means it is my time to shift over to more virtual cycling again. I train on Zoom with an amazing group of local triathletes from North East Multisport, which is led by Colin Cook, a coach for Peak Triathlon Coaching. Having them on Zoom to suffer with twice a week makes it more fun and holds me accountable.
I want to start focusing on high mileage again, with some 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 also would like ride do Lael Wilcox’s Alaska Pipeline FKT in 2022 and TABR in real life—as opposed to virtually.
Cycling has given me a newfound love for exercise. The community of people that I have met has been a blessing. With the pandemic and being confined to our homes, it opened up a new avenue of friends. If you would have told me two years ago that I would have close friends all over the world, I would not have believed you. Doing TABR on the virtual platform of RGT has made 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 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 can you.
I’ve taken this belief of mine as an opportunity to help and encourage women to become involved and feel comfortable in the cycling community, whether they want to compete or just get on a bike and ride with a group of like-minded women without the pressure of competition. I’ve already recruited a number of British and European women through RGT, and I plan to build on the women’s presence and participation in cycling both virtually and in real life through races and group rides, leading by example.
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