Mountain biker Erin Huck had no idea what was in store for the summer. But one National Championship title and one Olympic race later, she’s home after a whirlwind month of racing at the highest level. (Huck represented Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics when Chloe Woodruff, the reigning U.S. mountain bike champion, resigned from the U.S. women’s Olympic cycling team.)
“‘Tumultuous’ is the word that I’ve been using to describe what’s been going on … it’s been a bit tough honestly,” she admits. “The Olympics have been a major goal and dream for years, so afterward I was faced with a bit of a void … now what do I focus on? What is my motivation? I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching.”
Huck placed 31st in the women’s cross-country event at this year’s Games.
“In the pursuit of the Olympics, I was proud of myself for navigating the line between pursuit of excellence versus focusing on giving and doing my best,” she says. “Unfortunately, at the Olympics, I didn’t navigate that line very well … so going forward, this was a harsh reminder that ‘my best’ is better than pursuing perfection.”
After returning from Tokyo, Huck needed to make a quick decision about whether or not she would head to Europe to race the World Championships. Ultimately, she made the call to put her mental and physical health first, and decided that it was time for a break. Now, she’s ready to start thinking about what’s next.
“When I got home from the Olympics I was overwhelmed with fatigue: physical, mental, and emotional,” she told Bicycling. “I had been pushing so hard since my ankle injury in 2019, through a whirlwind of spring and then fall racing in 2020, and then to the final push to the Olympics … I just kind of crumbled a bit. A few weeks before World Championships, I came to the realization that I was not in a place physically or mentally where I would be able to perform at my best, and I didn’t want to show up at World Championships unless I was confident I was capable of my best. I know that I made the right decision, and the motivation fire is stoked again, which is a good thing.”
So, how does a cyclist handle when stress is at an all time high and nothing is certain? By ensuring that her nutrition is dialed in—and maybe a glass of whiskey in the evening.
Start the Day Off Right
I usually start the day off with a latte with a nice amount of milk—I drink dairy milk for its calcium—from my espresso machine, latte art courtesy of my husband (he’s great with hearts).
For breakfast, I make oatmeal or the Kodiak Power Pancakes. Pancakes are actually pretty common in our household now—we have them probably three days a week. Depending on how heavy of a training day it is, sometimes, I’ll load them up with nut butter, maple syrup, some kind of fruit, and even Greek yogurt. Or I’ll do a Kodiak Cakes Almond Poppy Seed Power Cake with fresh raspberries—I’ll have that for breakfast or bring it on rides.
I love to get out in the morning to ride, but it usually ends up that I’m riding right around lunch. I don’t like to eat anything super heavy right before I train, so I would eat just a snack, such as a piece of fruit and a Kodiak Cake Bear Bite. They’re awesome because they’re little graham crackers that aren’t super heavy—they’re just enough to make you feel like you’re eating something.
Avocado Toast After a Ride
Postride, usually I will do some fried eggs on toast with slices of avocado and cottage cheese for some extra calcium and protein. That ends up being something between a snack and a meal, but it is usually enough to get me to dinner. And if it was a higher intensity ride, I will add a recovery mix with the Gu Roctane recovery drink.
I love good bread—it’s probably one of my favorite things—so on my recovery days, I’ll actually ride to a local bakery, pick up a little loaf of bread, and ride back with it. I love heritage wheat and sourdough.
Dinner usually pretty simple. We love salmon, so I try and make that two or three times a week—just grilled salmon, and maybe some pasta with pesto on the side. We’re into grilled veggies right now. We just grilled broccolini, which was delicious, and we love grilled purple cabbage. If you grill purple cabbage, it gets kind of sweet. Wedge it pretty small, and add some olive oil and salt. It’s great.
Eat Food That Tastes Good
I enjoy food. I really like eating good food. I don’t really have any restrictions—if it’s good, I’m into it. But “good” has multiple definitions: I really like food that tastes good, but good food also serves a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is fueling a workout. Sometimes the purpose is purely just enjoyment. Sometimes the purpose is to celebrate with friends and family.
I actually really enjoy whiskey. I really like a whiskey with a little bit of peat, but not a super-Scotch taste. How much I drink depends on my race schedule, because I don’t drink that much around races. But in a typical non-race week, I like a glass of wine with dinner or a little glass of whiskey.
Life at Home and on the Road
In my pantry and fridge at home, we keep it simple. We always have eggs, avocados, a good hearty bread, honey, berries, Honeycrisp apples, Kodiak Cake pancake mix, plain Greek yogurt, maple syrup, and different veggies.
For travel, I always have a little snack bag in my carry on. I’ll have the Kodiak Cake Bear Bites, an apple, and a tin of sardines—there’s never enough food in airports or planes, and I don’t know when my next meal is coming. If I am really hungry, I just get some crackers and put the sardines on top—it feels almost like a meal, and it’s great for protein and fat. I’ll sometimes bring a meal replacement bar or shake on planes, too.
I travel with my own coffee. I bring a travel kettle to have hot water, plus a hand grinder and pour-over setup. I also bring little jars of maple syrup, pancake mix, sardines, and nut butter packets.
During racing season, on rides, I am eating what I would eat during a race. So I’ll bring along Gu gels or energy chews, and maybe some leftover pancakes from breakfast if it’s an endurance ride. I’m a strictly fruit gel person—I hate anything that’s chocolate-flavored if it isn’t chocolate.
Pay Attention to Hunger Cues From Yesterday
The thing that I mess up on most frequently is not eating enough—but I don’t know it at the time. I’ll feel like I ate enough, and it’s not until I’m on my ride the next day where I feel like crap, and I’m just hungry. So I really try to make sure that I have enough snacks on hand, and I make sure to prioritize that meal when I get back from my training ride. That’s the one that is most easy to skip.
When I know I’m heading into a hard week, I know I need to stock up on groceries, and I especially make sure that I have that fresh loaf of bread, because I won’t want it to go bad (which is even more motivation to eat it).
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