A Quiet Racing Season Opens Up New Challenges for Nicole Mericle

In a year of canceled races and unique constraints on how and where we can work out, many athletes have found new ways to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. We’ve been following Nicole Mericle’s adventures and caught up with her to hear about how she’s been cross training and finding fun in this very different looking year.
Seems like you’ve been riding your bike more than ever recently. What led to diving into a “new” sport so much?
I’m not a high mileage runner, both because my body has always adapted well to less stimulus and also because of my injury history. On the days I don’t run I like to incorporate swimming and biking for added non-weight bearing aerobic training. I usually bike inside, but with the pandemic came gym closures.
What has switching things up been like?
Unsurprisingly, biking outside has been much more stimulating than spinning inside while staring at a wall. The variation in views and uphills and downhills makes going out for a 90 min bike ride much more pleasant and inspiring. If I’m biking due to a little injury or just as supplemental training it’s much easier to enjoy the experience and not just appreciate the means to an end.
Any unexpected benefits or challenges?
I’ve always been hesitant to bike outside near cars, so I choose less busy routes and make sure I’m aware of my surroundings. I also no longer think of cycling as something I’m doing because I can’t run. It’s a whole new activity and it’s easier to get excited about planning routes and making little goals. A big plus is snacking! It’s way easier to eat right before biking and there’s less worry about fueling during as well. Sometime I stop in the middle of a ride for some coffee or a snack that I normally wouldn’t eat mid-run. Cycling jersey pockets accommodate so many Honey Stinger goodies too!
Have you found other activities or cross-training opportunities during COVID?
I haven’t incorporated anything else brand new. I was happy to reintroduce swimming once the outside pools opened up in Boulder. I find cycling builds running fitness better, but getting in the pool a couple times a week does wonders for keeping my body healthy.
Any advice for someone just starting a new sport or looking to mix up their fitness routine (due to covid, injury, boredom, anything!)?
Don’t be afraid to try something new. This is the perfect time to do just that! New experiences are opportunities for growth and understanding. I’ve been the person in the pool who can barely make it to the other side and I’m still the newbie on a bike with running shoes, but I have a lot of fun learning how to improve in both activities and I know I’m a better, healthier athlete.
What have you made of this unexpected “off-season”? How are you feeling as races slowly come back?
As much as I love racing, I’ve found this time off to be very beneficial. The obstacle racing season is incredibly long and we don’t usually have much of an off season to put in quality rest time and lower intensity training. I spent most of the summer enjoying longer mountain runs and incorporated a couple trail races and FKTs as goals. The longer days in the mountains as well as the ultra race I did a few weeks ago have also given me the confidence to seek out some longer races in the future.
What is it like living with other athletes?
I love living with other athletes. We all specialize in slightly different events- OCR for me, trail and road running for Andy, and track for Karley- but we have the same mindset when it comes to training, nutrition and our general lifestyle. It’s easy to understand and support each other. We try to link up for easy runs, mobility sessions, and cross training on the bike.