About.com caught up with pro mountain biker Ian Mullins to discuss what got him hooked on the sport, how he copes with racing stress, his advice for those of you just getting started, and more.
Name: Ian ‘Big Dirty’ Mullins
Team: Team NW ShoAir/Raleigh presented by S.E.T. Coaching
About.com: What are your first memories of biking?
Mullins: My Dad took up cycling after being a runner and had me watching the Tour on TV and going on recreational bike tours with him. I think I was the only kid in my school who knew all the pro road riders in the 1980s. I bought a Giant AT740 with my paper route money and took it to the park behind my house for trail riding. I had a bunch of buddies who all rode mountain bikes so riding was the first thing we did when we got out of school.
About.com: How did you get hooked on mountain biking?
Mullins: I had some great trails literally right out my door growing up. I started going to a local mountain bike race series when I was 14 and got hooked on the fun and exhilaration of racing. I also grew up in the Golden Age of cross country racing in the 1990s, watching and idolizing Tomac, Wiens and Tinker.
About.com: How does it feel to be a professional athlete? As a kid, did you think this is what you would be doing?
Mullins: Racing “Pro” level races is definitely an experience I have dreamed about. Racing at this level is no different than other competitive levels: some guys are just going to be faster than you no matter how hard you train. I always hoped I could race pro growing up and with the ultra endurance discipline that I race, that is now a reality.
About.com: What do you feel is your greatest biking accomplishment so far?
Mullins: I have had some success in 24 hour racing and I think getting 2nd overall at my favorite race, 24 Hours Round and Round, in 2012 would be one of my highlights. Beating my hero Tinker Juarez at last year’s 24 Hr nationals was also great, but we both had problems that led to us finishing way off the winning pace so I guess it’s not that great of an accomplishment!
About.com: How do you deal with the physical and emotional stress of racing?
Mullins: I try to keep all other aspects of my life low stress and take care of my body as best I can. You hear this all the time from racers, but recovery and rest are really key to doing well and getting the most out of your body. Having a rad wife that understands my "addiction" helps as well.
About.com: What does a typical day of training consist of? How do you stay fit through the off season?
Mullins: I teach preschool as well as being an elite racer, so balancing training and work is tricky. I usually get up and do an indoor trainer workout before work and then get a solid ride in after work as well. Weekends are for racing or long rides. I do strength and core work three times a week in the winter as well as spending an ungodly amount of time on the indoor trainer or rollers. Training itself is a full time job.
About.com: Do you have advice for mountain bikers who are just getting started?
Mullins: Have Fun! This sport is all about the joy of being on a bike in the woods or mountains. You don’t have to race or have the newest/lightest/best bike. Just ride. Take care of your local trails or any trails you ride on; volunteer to help with trail upkeep. Wear your helmet!