Interview Achieve Athletes Shelby Tramel & Haley Nielsen
AchievePTC is thrilled to announce two of our athletes took the top step of the 2017 Northern California-Nevada Cycling Association Women’s Series. Shelby Tramel won the Cat 3 series, while Haley Nielsen won the Cat 4 series.
The 2017 NCNCA Women’s Series consisted of 18 races including criteriums and road races from February to May. The months-long series is organized by the NCNCA Women’s Committee, whose mission is to promote and support women on bikes throughout Northern California and Nevada, as well as increase the number and retention of new women racers.
It takes a well-rounded and dedicated rider to win the Series and these ladies are no exception. We sat down with Achieve athletes Shelby and Haley to talk about their preparation, personal triumphs, challenges and the role their coach played throughout the competition. Have a look!
What category and team do you race? How long have you been racing road?
Shelby Tramel: I’m a Category 3 with Razzle Dazzle, this is my second season racing.
Haley Nielsen: I’m a Category 4 racer with SheSpoke Racing. I dabbled in a few races last year, but really stepped up this year. Part of that stepping up was getting a coach.
How does it feel to win the NCNCA Women’s Series?
ST: It definitely feels great. I had a lot of encouragement from my team to pursue the win. To win the Women’s Series you have to be committed to racing almost every spring race, which I did and had so much fun throughout it all. My team is awesome and I got really close to a lot of the Cat 3 women throughout this series. So for that, I’d say it means a lot.
HN: Winning the Series reminds me of the power that I have to decide on a goal and execute it. I struggle with self-doubt and imposter syndrome and this is confirmation that I don’t need to feel that way. This win is exciting, and reaffirms my love for cycling.
Was winning the NCNCA spring series a goal of yours?
ST: It wasn’t an initial goal. I just kept racing every race I could race and eventually discovered I was in the top 3 in the series. That’s when my team said go for it, so I did!
HN: This win was part of achieving other goals. I wanted to push myself to really race a lot this season, and to overcome some mental barriers I have in competition. Once I saw I could possibly be a contender to win, I decided to make it a goal to get top 3, and it worked!
What kind of training and mental preparation did you find most helpful to doing well in the series?
ST: Well, definitely intervals. A lot of solo, 6 a.m. interval sessions that paid off. Mentally I had to believe in my strengths and try not to compare myself to other strong racers, which I’ve been guilty of doing.
HN: I made small goals for myself… I worked on sleeping well, working out in the mornings, good nutrition. I tried not to put too many expectations on myself for the actual races because I don’t do well with that kind of pressure. As a relatively new racer, I thought about what I wanted to accomplish and learn how to do in a race.
What was your favorite race of the series?
ST: Memorial Day Criterium. We had a solid squad of 5 women and we had the goal of getting my teammate Joy on the podium. We really controlled that race and at the end had a killer leadout train. Everyone took insanely strong pulls with 2 laps to go and I took Joy to the final corner. She came around me and sprinted for 1st and I came in 2nd. That was my first time experiencing a legit, successful lead out and full team effort.
HN: Turlock Road Race. I like crits better, but Turlock was special because it was the first race I ever did last year and coming back to it stronger and more determined was exciting. It was also a teammates priority race and I decided to put all my effort into supporting her. I was able to help my teammate get into a good position for the finish and I yelled encouragement at her until we both crossed the line. She managed 3rd and I got 5th. After realizing I still had some umph in my legs, I saw that doing well and podiuming in races was possible for me. It was the race that helped me believe I could break top 3.
What would you say is your biggest victory over the past 6 months?
ST: Mentally my biggest victory is not burning out after a full spring of racing and still being stoked on it. I definitely feel the most confident in my ability as a racer than I ever have.
HN: My biggest victory was overcoming some baggage I had from competition as a kid. I love competing, but I got hung up on the expectation of doing well and feeling like I didn’t deserved it. When you’re working hard as a cyclist, you go through tons of emotions and sorting those out has brought clarity and purpose to why I love this sport. Working with Coach Sofi has taken the mental load off training, freeing up that brain space to just do what I love.
If self doubt ever came up, how did you handle it and get through?
ST: When self doubt comes up I remind myself that this sport, as serious as we sometimes take it, is not all there is in life and I do it for fun. And when self doubt comes up that usually means I’m tired and need to take a breather, so I take a nap and stuff my face.
HN: Self doubt really came up and still does. I try to use mindfulness techniques to recognize it without judgement now. I know I’m doing what I can and need to do to be competitive in this sport, so there is less for that self doubt to stick to. Also, I try to trust that once I get out on the course, I know what to do.
How does your coach support you in pursuing and achieving your goals?
I’m super limited on time with having a full time job, so my workouts have to be short and efficient. – Shelby Tramel
ST: This sport is 90% mental and that can be really tough. My coach, Ryan, is always helping me turn my negative self talk into a positive and always reminding me what I’m capable of. I think having a coach who listens and can relate is so important and I’m super thankful for that.
HN: Oh my gosh, Sofi has helped me so much. I didn’t really feel like I knew how to even set a goal before I had a coach. She’s helped me open myself up to success and really embrace the process and be ambitious. I have mental space and energy to cultivate confidence in myself, and Sofi reinforces that and believes in me.
Is there anything you find particularly advantageous about Achieve coaching or coach interaction?
I like that Sofi takes the guesswork out of training while also really explaining the process. I look forward to our calls and interaction. – Haley Nielsen
ST: I’m super limited on time with having a full time job, so my workouts have to be short and efficient. I’m usually drooling in my workouts and the TSS of them is often times much higher than that of an actual race. Ryan is always available when I need his guidance and really encourages proper rest, which has made a huge difference in my mental state this year compared to last.
HN: Sofi loves what she does and it’s very obvious and infectious. I really enjoy the feedback I get from her, and how she can help me articulate a particular goal, or help me unpack a race question. I like that Sofi takes the guesswork out of training while also really explaining the process. I look forward to our calls and interaction.
Any tips for women interested in trying out bike racing for the first time?
Don’t get discouraged if you’re not smashing from the beginning. This sport takes a lot of time and persistence and you have to enjoy the process of getting stronger. – Shelby Tramel
ST: My first race as a category 4 racer was in NYC. It was a Criterium called Grants Tomb and I got dropped in the first lap. My lungs were burning and I had zero fitness. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not smashing from the beginning. This sport takes a lot of time and persistence and you have to enjoy the process of getting stronger.
HN: Go to a race and find another woman who is racing and say ‘Hi, I’m trying this race thing out for the first time, got an tips?’ I guarantee you she will be supportive and excited you decided to come out. Also, go to early bird clinics in January. Join the Facebook group Support for Cat 3/4/5 Women’s Racing. But above all just go try it.
What are you goals for the remainder of the 2017 season?
ST: Upgrade to Cat 2 and do well in San Rafael P123 race.
HN: I’d like to get a Cat 3 upgrade by next season. I’m excited to get out to Hellyer Velodrome and tear up the track with my teammates!
You can catch Shelby or Haley on the road or at the next AchievePTC Group Ride.