Building Community Through Cycling

Blue Sky Velo
The Making of a Champion – Valerie Eipper

In early June, our very own Blue Sky member, Valerie Eipper, competed at the 2016 World Duathlon
Championships in Aviles, Spain and brought home a silver medal. Then, at the end of the month, Valerie became the National Duathlon champion after winning the Duathlon Sprint competition in Bend, Oregon.

Very impressive stuff. Val has been competing in cycling/running duathlons (both sprint and standard distances) for the last six years. She’s always been athletic and active, but only relatively recently combined these two talents into a single event. In this short span, there have been at least 10 podium finishes at Nationals (almost all resulting in podium spots, two wins in 2012 and 2015) and 5 trips to Worlds, with two second place finishes and a Duathlon Sprint win at Worlds in Ottawa, Canada in 2013! Let me say that again…. Valerie Eipper is a WORLD CHAMPION !!!

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Valerie and her running coach, Ric Rojas. (photo credit Dave Albo, www.late1photos.com)

 

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2012 World Championships, France (photo credit Dave Albo, ane1photos.com)

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2012 World Championships, France (photo credit Dave Albo, ane1photos.com)

Clearly, during this 6 year period, Val has made training and racing a priority. That means having structured work outs 5-6 days a week, year in and year out. It means setting goals, developing long term plans and then executing. Of course there are recovery days, a mix of intensity, recovery and rest but not a year off, not a season off and probably not even a full month off during that time. How many of us have that level of commitment to our sport?

When Val added her most recent successes the the already long list, I’ve found myself reflecting on what it must take to prepare and keep yourself ready to compete against national and world class competition. What better way to find out than ask someone who has done it. You guessed it, I asked Val and I’d like to share some of what she said.

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Track Relay Team

I already had some first hand knowledge about Val and her training. Her bike was set up on the trainer next to mine at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine PowerMax class during the winter of 2013. She had just undergone knee surgery (not her first) and was on the long and difficult rehab journey. Over the course of the winter, I watched Val push through pain, fatigue and frustration. I witnessed her progress, going from hardly being able to make the pedals go around to giving me a run for my money on any given workout. It takes a very special kind of dedication and desire to come back from surgery and return to competing at the elite level. That’s when I knew that Val was someone special. Clearly Val had what it takes to be a champion.

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Off season training on a Fat Bike!

In addition to her natural ability to run, Val trains hard but she stresses that she also trains smart. As a maturing athlete that now competes in the Senior Women age categories, Val has come to realize that ‘less is often more’ and that quality almost always trumps quantity. She has surrounded herself with fitness professionals — local running coach, Ric Rojas, body work and massage therapist Bryon Thomas, weight training and rehab specialist, Dr. Matthew Smith of REVO among others. Partnering with these professionals as well as training partners (like our own Blue Sky members) builds in a certain accountability that Val says keeps her honest and motivated. Just like the rest of us, having a training buddy who is counting on you to show up helps Val get out on her bike or over to the track on days where she’d rather take a rest day, or go in search of a donut (she LOVES donuts!).

If you really want to wear yourself out — do just one week of Val’s regular workouts. Here’s a sample of what you would be doing…

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Blue Sky Velo PLANK ride – showing off our Stars ‘n Stripes

Monday: rest or swim

Tuesday: track workout (remember our emphasis that less is more).
Quality intervals 10x400m, 3-5x1000m or something equally painful.
The mix will depend on how close the workout is to the next race. As race day approaches, speed work gets added (200s,100s,150s)

Wednesday: bike workout – usually an hour with spin-ups and interval work. Often done as a lunch ride when the weather allows with 3-5 hard efforts thrown in for grins, or go ‘hard’ for 20 minutes then recover.

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Val road races for Blue Sky Velo — but sometimes that means riding on dirt. No problem!

Thursday: strength and mobility – Val includes this type of work because she says “As we age, we need to make sure we re-train our weakest muscles to be strong.” If time allows, she will go ahead and throw in something aerobic. And, as if that isn’t enough, there is often an additional 45 minute run, bike ride or swim if time permits.

Friday: track workout (AGAIN!) however, this time the focus is usually longer intervals totaling about 6 miles.

Saturday/Sunday: Weekends can be flexible (notice I didn’t say easy) and include local running and bike races, club rides with a focus on endurance.

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Valerie is a team player through and through. She worked with Kathy Hix to position Sandy North for the win!

Val is a frequent PLANK rider, helps with the triathlon training and races with the other Blue Sky 50+ women in criteriums, hill climbs, road races and time trials. If you join in on just about any Blue Sky activity your paths are likely to cross. She’s an incredible athlete and an awesome teammate. She’s also very humble and although she’s go a lot to share about training and competing, you’ll probably have to start the conversation.

Val, congratulations on all your local, national and world class accomplishments! Thanks for flying the Blue Sky colors.

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