I was lucky enough to be given a chance to interview Monique Pua who in 2012 was the winner of the Pro XCT and UET titles. She has been racing mountain bikes professionally since 2005, and earned 7 National titles in endurance racing.  In 2011 she captured the pro women’s Marathon and Solo 24 Hour National Championships, along with an 8th place finish at World Marathon Championships in Italy, where she was the top ranked North American.

How different is your training routine this year as opposed to years past when you focused largely on endurance events?

My focus this year has still been both cross-country and endurance events and the most important things are looking at the race calendar and planning realistically and communicating with both my coach and my team.  It can be tricky when you have a back to back races, especially when you have a 100 miler (7.5 hour race) followed immediately with a 18 mile cross-country race (1.5 hours).  The shift in gears is drastic and the week in between races is so critical, making sure that you get the exact training you need, even if that means all rest and hardly any pedaling.  But when the races are staggered, the training is a lot of volume prior to the endurance events and a lot of intervals and speed work prior to the cross-country type races.  

How much do you train on an average week?

A lot!  Throughout the year, the number of hours varies depending on what time of the season it is.  When I am in the off season or in a bigger break between races, I can be in the 20+ hour range and then when I am in the height of the season and it is basically race, recover, race, recover, the hours come down drastically.  But, no matter how many hours, I am on my bike typically 7 days a week with a couple of days of yoga in between my rides.

What advice can you offer to someone wanting to switch from XC racing to endurance racing (100mile to 24hour events, and stage races)?

Do it!!  You know…I absolutely love racing my bike whether it is for a 24 minute race or a 24 hour race, but I do have to say that there is something about endurance races that an XC race could never provide.  Everything from the camaraderie, the course, the mental challenge, the different elements, pacing, nutrition and the physical challenge, only an endurance race can really put all of these things to a real test.  

There are 3 things that I would advise when making the switch:

1.  Nutrition.

The longer the race, the more essential our race nutrition becomes.  Make sure you have a plan and know what works for you before you find yourself standing at the starting line.  Put as much effort into testing out what nutrition works for you and doesn’t work for you, as you do into the time you spend training.

2.  Love your bike.

To properly prepare for these types of races and make the experience the most enjoyable, you have to love spending time in the saddle.  Get used to it, do it and love it.

3.  Mental preparation.

Your mind is such a strong tool that can be more vital than our physical strength at times.  Races that go on for hours can be so unpredictable and anything can happen (mechanicals, bonking, cramping, weather) and we have to be prepared for these times and never have the thought of quitting even enter our minds, the only option must be to get through the little bump in the road and continue pedaling and moving forward to the finish.  Granted, these races are hard and they are challenging, but the reality is that we knew that is what we signed up for and the crazy thing is that is truly the reason that we signed up for it and we may have hear it a million times, but it is so true, “what will not kill you, will make you stronger.”  And believe me, these races do make you stronger.  

Do you have a prerace routine that you always follow? As in, food you eat the day before, for breakfast, workouts, rest, movies or books to read?

As for a pre-race routine, I don’t want to say that I am married to anything, but I do tend to follow a basic routine.  Staying hydrated is always a must, pre-race or not, but the week before I am really focusing on that and when I am at elevation, pedialyte is my best friend, to allow me to really stay hydrated.  As my menu the day before a race my typical breakfast would be toasted Ezekiel bread topped with my own nut butter, raw honey and bananas.  I usually always have some almond milk with that and although I am not a big caffeine drinker, I may have some green tea.  This breakfast is usually my pre-race meal, but I also sometimes top if off with a drizzle of some of my favorite raw chocolate granola…delicious!  Dinner the night before is usually always some curly Quinoa pasta with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt, and some salmon.  

When it comes to the bike, I have a little 60-75 minute routine that gets the legs spinning and opened up.  The week prior to a race is a little lighter on the typical volume and intensity that I do and I want to make sure my legs know what is expected from them come race day.

After I am off the bike for the day, it is time to focus on resting.  Sometimes resting when we are anxious and excited is really hard, but it is crucial to do.  You want to spend as much time as possible off of the legs and for me, I usually turn to a book to help me do this.  I love reading and it allows me to take my mind somewhere else for a moment and completely relax.

Everyone is a little different, but with more experience you learn what routines and foods work best for you individually.  And for me, when I follow this…I know I am ready.

What’s your favorite non-bike training?

Yoga for sure.  I would love to call myself a yogi, but it is crazy how frustrating it is to walk into a yoga class and see people in handstands, headstands, splits and looking like Gumby, when I am wondering why my hamstrings are so tight!  It is a time for me to get centered and get away from the saddle and everything outside of me and my mat for that hour or hour and a half.

Favorite non-bike activity?

When the season is over and I have some time to really play, I love to do anything that is outdoors and challenging.  One little dream that I have is to become a biathlete, yup, meaning skate skiing and shooting guns!

Have you ever had a sweet crash, crash/recovery that no one else saw, but you really wish someone had seen it?

Hmmm….I know I have had some close calls that I thought for sure I was going down and somehow managed to catch it, but I could not recall that particular moment.  I have witnessed a few of those on rides and it was so crazy, that we would all have to stop, breathe and then laugh about it before starting to pedal again.   

Favorite place to ride?

Ugh..such a hard question!  I am not sure if I could name one place because when this question pops up, there are quite a few places that come to mind.  The first would be Park City, Utah, if you have not experienced this place, do not wait another second, start planning your trip now and I promise you will not be disappointed.  Just imagine a little city that is made up of three different ski resorts and is surrounded by over 400 miles of trails and mostly single track.  You can ride for as long as you are dreaming without touching a single trail twice and although you feel like you are miles and miles away from civilization…if something happens and you need to get down, just take a turn on a trail that heads to town and you will be back before you know it.  And they even have a Whole Foods there!

Another place would have to be Moab.  Maybe this sounds cliché, but the truth is that this little place is absolutely amazing and so unique.  I do have to admit that the first time that I took a trip to Moab, I was about ready to literally throw my bike over the side of the Porcupine Rim trail because I was so sick of having to get off of my bike, walking and crashing.  But with that being said, I was a total newbie and probably had no business being on that trail anyway.  I gave it a few years before heading back and till this very day, I laugh at myself when I think about that first trip because I can’t get enough of those trails now and have no idea what I was complaining about.  I do have to say that it could be a little frustrating for someone just getting into riding and you may want to practice before taking that trip to Moab, but they are expanding the trail systems and there are a little more options than just advanced these days.  

The last place I will mention is Colorado.  Yes, this doesn’t really narrow anything down, but I LOVE Colorado in general…Summit County would have to be one of my favorites.  If you want to experience a little bit of this, check out the Breck Epic Stage Race.  This race goes through some of the most amazing trails there and it will challenge you.

How many bikes do you own?

I am not 100% sure, but I think 8 or 9.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I don’t really remember and I want to call my mom and ask her, but I think I do remember talking and drawing pictures of being a veterinarian.

Do you manage your facebook/twitter accounts or do you have help?

Nope.  It is all me, so send me a message and say hello!

Favorite Food?

Dark Chocolate, 80% + cocao.  Would that be classified as a food?!  

But, if I could live off of my nut butter…I probably would.


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