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Rider Interview with Kenda/Felt racer Amanda Carey

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |March 8, 2011 1:42 AM
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In 2010, Kenda/Felt rider Amanda Carey became the first western-based rider to win the coveted National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) series. She did it by taking 4 out of 4 wins at Cohutta, Mohican, Fool's Gold, and the Shenandoah 100-mile events.

Carey sprinkled that with a second place at the Leadville 100, and wins at Dirt, Sweat, and Gears, the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race, and Iceman Cometh. 

After a full season of winning MTB races all across the country the seemingly unstoppable Kenda racer took on a full season of cyclocross.

After such a hectic season Amanda was happy to sit down with us a share her feelings about her outstanding 2010 season and her passion for mountain bike racing. Read the full interview below.

MTB Race News: You took the 2010 NUE Series overall with 4 wins,  Which of the 4 events was your favorite and why.

Amanda Carey: Shenandoah. It was the hardest and closest race of the series for me and the course was spectacular. The promoter, Chris Scott, put on a great race. Everything was dialed and the post-race party was killer. Sue Haywood (who Iíve pretty much idolized since I began racing) and I battled together until about mile 75 which made it exciting.

MTB Race News: None of the 4 NUEís you did were in High Elevation Terrain, did this make them Ďeasierí or harder?  Did this low elevation nature help you or harm you?

Amanda Carey: I donít think the altitude really mattered. The first 3 NUE races I did happened to go off during biblical-level rain storms. Cohutta, Mohican and Foolís Gold took place in downpours with lightening and sideways winds, so the conditions were plenty "hardĒ. Iím not convinced I ever really feel a high-to-low altitude advantage. Itís been my experience that any advantage from going from home (at 6,400 feet) to low only lasts me about 24hrs. Then itís back to normal. Seeing as I usually try to get to 100s at least 2-3 days in advance, any advantage I could get is probably gone.  Where I do feel altitude is in the recovery. I recover from ultras a lot faster at lower altitudes.

MTB Race News: You are the first western rider to win the NUE series. Do you see that changing in the future? Are more western riders adding NUE races into their schedule?     

Amanda Carey: Now that the calendar gives more opportunity for Western racers to compete for the overall, I hope participation will continue to grow from westerners. It was also important that the series expanded because most of the NUE races sell out. I heard the Lumberjack sold out last week-350 spots in 13 min.!

Speaking of Elevation, will you be returning to the Park City Point to Point for 2011?

Definitely. If I was ever forced to chose one place to ride dirt for the rest of my life, Park City would be it. But, unfortunately, it means I have to skip Shenandoah.

MTB Race News: You travel a lot for bike races, what are 5 keys to success related to this travel?

Amanda Carey: Planning ahead as much as possible while having a flexible attitude when things arenít going as planned is pretty key. But, whatís critical is figuring out what your own 5 key things are, as they are different for everyone. And thatís taken me 3 years of racing pro to figure that out. For me, itís all in the small detailsÖ.for instance, for me that means bringing my GPS, phone charger and ipod connector all in my carryon so that if/when my luggage gets lost, I can still hop in a rental car to get to where I need to go. I always travel in compression tights, I never leave home without my own coffee, aeropress and favorite coffee mug.  I try to book flights to arrive 2-3 days in advance to allow for travel and baggage delays and fly out immediately the next morning so I can get back to my hubby and dog as soon as possible. I travel solo mostly, so I chat up strangers a lot to keep things interesting. Travel is all about minimizing stress, so I generally try to make sure what I can control doesnít suck (coffee being the most important). The rest? I just go with the flow.

MTB Race News: Tell us how you were introduced to MTB racing?

Amanda Carey: I didnít own a car in college, so I bought a mountain bike as a commuter. But, I didnít really use it on trails until I moved to Jackson Hole to be a ski bum after college and was looking for something to do when it wasnít snowing. I basically used it to explore a new town, new mountains and got hooked on racing when I did a local point to point race, Cache-Game, after work one summer day. I tried road racing for a bit. It was awful and I was awful at it.

MTB Race News: You live in a place that is not necessarily considered a winter bike racing training Mecca.  How do you stay focused and motivated to train when the weather outside is, erm, frightful?

Amanda Carey: I try to take advantage of however the snow falls. Deep powder? Ski the backcountry or go telemark the Village. No powder? Lots and lots of skate skiing. I race bikes 10 months/year so winter gives me much needed time away from the bike. However, once serious training starts up again I mix the trainer with on the snow stuff until I leave for Tucson mid-February. By then I pretty much feel done with winter and am ready to focus solely on the bike anyway.

MTB Race News: As one of the top endurance females in the USA, how much trouble do you have passing those of the other gender? What is the most, um, interesting story related to passing a male of the species? (Hopefully it isnít involving me, as you have passed me a few times over the years, including the 2010 Laramie Enduro)

Amanda Carey: I have had very little trouble with passing over the years. Actually, most of my issues have involved men who are friends with the women I am racing against blocking me on purpose, not allowing me to pass after they let her pass.

If youíre being a jerk, youíre a jerk whether you are male or female. The ultra-endurance community is 99.9% gracious folks who have been nothing but accommodating when I ask for passes whether they are male or female. Granted, I try to choose places to where it is easy and energy efficient to pass to be respectful of the person I am passing. Donít forget, I get passed a lot, too. So, I want to treat others on the trail as I want to be treated. Itís up to all of us out there to cultivate mutual respect. When it comes down to it, 4 or 5 seconds in an 8-10 hour effort is not a big deal.

So, 100 milers and Cyclocross, what is the connection for you, which one do you prefer and related, if you could combine the 2, would you?

Other than the fact that I love both disciplines, thereís no connection really. I love cross but I will always be a mountain biker first. Itís my priority and where I focus the majority of my energy and training.

However, racing cross has helped my ultra racing by teaching me the true nature of suffering. Cross is pure physical suffering. In a cross race, you are going so hard that you feel like the effort could possibly kill you, yet you still somehow find a way to go harder, again and again. The lesson lies in the realization that the extra effort didnít actually kill you.

In ultras, the suffering is 60% physical, 40% mental. Cross has taught me that I have the physical capacity to go much harder than I think I can for longer than I think I can. In Ultras, itís just a matter of reminding my brain that my body can endure the pain longer than I think. Cross has taught me to quit over analyzing my efforts in Ultras. The physically suffering I experience in an ultra could never hold a candle to that of a cross race and I draw from that knowledge in all my Ultras. I donít pace myself in ultras. I just go as hard as I can as long as I can, just like cross. Pretty simple. I see and hear of people pacing themselves by heart rate or power meters and it just blows my mind. Thatís just too much to worry about for me.

MTB Race News: Leadville, again speaking of elevation, the race was sold this year to Lifetime Fitness, do you see the race changing for better or worse? What is your favorite memory form the race and what is your worst memory?

Amanda Carey: I think weíve seen some changes already with the new qualifiers system. However, I hope the new owners consider giving equal attention to the womenís field. I have been the second place woman there 3 times now and it just baffles me that the organization historically hasnít cared to develop the womenís field as they do the menís field. If I get into the lottery, Leadville will be on my schedule this year, but it is not at all a priority. In the past Iíve gunned for it. Supporting the NUE series is my priority this year and we have an NUE race in my hometown the weekend before, so I am focusing on that race.

Memories? Iíve flatted there the 2 years in a row, flats that have cost me double-digit time penalties in key moments of the race. Although I have met some amazing people racing there, I donít really have any good memories related to actually racing LeadvilleÖ..yet. Thereís always next year!

MTB Race News: What  do you see  as the future of MTB Racing in the USA ? Do you see USA Cycling as facilitating this or hampering it currently? 

Amanda Carey: I hope to see a resurgence racing in the next few years for two reasons. One is the incredible rise in high school mountain bike leagues across the nation and the second is that we are in a run up to the 2012 Olympics. But generally, I see 50s,100-milers and stage racing as the real future of racing in the USA mostly based on amateur participation. Ultras are far more accessible, appealing and worth the expense/effort for non-professionals. Driving hours and hours to race a 2hr xc race is just not that appealing and people are increasingly seeking out more epic experiences on their bikes. 24-hr racing is just too much to take on for most folks. The NUE series races are huge and I think nearly all hit their registration limit. Stage racing is exploding in popularity. For amateur racers, finishing a 50-miler, 100-miler or a stage race I think feels like much more of an accomplishment than finishing a xc race. Amateur participation is what drives our sport, so thatís where I see it heading.

MTB Race News: What was your favorite race for 2010 and why?

Amanda Carey: The Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race was easily my favorite race. It was the most challenging terrain I had ever raced on and it really pushed me to ride beyond what I previously thought was my comfort zone. The riding quality just blew me away. The entire Brevard community was awesome, my fellow racers were super cool to share the trail with and Todd put on a great event. Iím bummed I have to wait until almost October to go back!

MTB Race News: Name your top three favorite MTB racers of all time and why.

Amanda Carey: Sue Haywood and Mary McConneloug for the same reasons. Obviously, they are both extremely accomplished athletes. However, I have looked up to them since I started racing because of who they are as people. They are both so nice, they genuinely love the sport and they arenít afraid to share that enthusiasm with others. They demonstrate that you donít need a "proĒ attitude to be a successful professional.

My most favorite racer is my older sister, Alyson. Sheís a retired pro downhiller and though she has taught me a lot about riding fast, sheís been the most important influence in encouraging me to be true to myself by doing what keeps me happy. When I was trying to focus on XC when I first turned pro, she was supportive but kept questioning why the hell I wanted to race around in small circles for 2 hours when I clearly had the most fun (and was the best at) the ultra distance. I finally listened to her and (more importantly to myself) before the start of last season and had my best year yet. Even though she has 2 small kids, sheís still a badass. She doesnít get to ride as much as she likes now-thatís the only reason I can keep her in sight now when we ride together.

MTB Race News: What type of advice would you give to an aspiring Junior female racer and her parents?

Amanda Carey: Keep it fun. The most important thing a junior can do is build a strong foundation of technical skills. Iíd say avoid any traditional "trainingĒ (intervals, etc.) The fitness will come along naturally. When youíre young, keeping it focused on enjoying the racing and building skills is the most important thing. Iíd encourage her to ride with friends and adults who keep rides fun and focused on exploring new terrain, trails, techniques and different kinds of bikes. BMX? Definitely. Downhill. Yup. Road racing. Sure. If she learns how to corner, ride technical sections smoothly and be confident on her bikes in all conditions, she will be way ahead of those she competes against later in her career when it comes time to build fitness. Let racing always be her choice, on her terms. Let her decide if skipping a sleepover, movie nights or a day of skiing is worth it to race. She has to feel empowered to make her own choices early on.


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