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Whether it's flying down a rocky hillside on a mountain bike, mixing it up in the peloton, or pushing the limits of endurance in a triathlon, Peace Coffee Racers are there, setting the pace. From group rides to world championship events, the PCR crew has logged some serious miles, seen a few podiums, and spread the gospel of a fully-caffeinated outdoor lifestyle along the way. This month’s featured Peace Coffee Racer is Janet Atkinson, a 36-year-old sport class mountain bike racer.

When did you start riding?
I started riding regularly when I was training for a Figure competition in 2006. (Figure is a category of bodybuilding for women with the goal of building a symmetrical, lean physique without being overly muscular). Cardio in the gym gets old pretty quick. Being on the bike was a great way to do some low impact cardio outdoors. So I joined my husband on mountain bike rides until I learned basic skills and built the confidence to ride alone. When I got closer to the competition, I backed off mountain biking. But the following spring, I was back on my mountain bike and spending more time in the saddle because I loved it so much.

When did you start racing?
I really had no intention of racing. I enjoyed being the support person for my husband during his races. Ton, our team captain, would comment, “When are you going to race? You should race.” I always responded: “I’m a bodybuilder - not a mountain bike racer.” But after watching a few races, competition got the best of me and I decided to give it a try. I remember the feeling of accomplishment when I crossed the finish line after my first race. And that got me hooked. I might not be the fastest rider, but I really enjoy racing.

What motivates you to ride?
There was a time I couldn’t ride because I was injured. I was in an accident that left me with extensive soft tissue damage. It was quite some time before I could get back on my bike. Having experienced freedom ripped away at one time is motivating enough: I ride because I can.

Mental toughness is important when racing. What do you do to hang in there when the going gets tough? I try to push the negative thoughts out of my head and focus on the trail. I have to remind myself to focus 10-20 feet in front of me – not think about that tricky section or long hill climb still ahead in the course. And when the pain comes, I think about my autistic nephew and my father who is a pancreatic cancer survivor. They help inspire me to push through the pain and finish the race.

Why did you join Peace Coffee?
Because I wanted to wear a kit for a company or team that represented my beliefs. I like that Peace Coffee is an environmentally conscious company and that they have fair trade agreements with small farmers. And the coffee tastes good, too!

What’s the best race you’ve ever had?
This season's Red Wing/Memorial Classic. I felt so strong during this race and I really had a great time out on the course. The year before I had finished second to last of the entire sport class and I actually considered DNFing (quitting) after I finished the first lap. I also had to walk my bike up a few difficult climbs during both laps. This year I was able to ride those sections about ¾ of the way to the top. This year’s Red Wing race personally validated how far I’ve come post-injury and how much I’ve improved as an athlete.

What’s the worst race you’ve ever had?
Pretty much every race in 2008. It was so aggravating because I knew I could be better than that. However, with all the soft tissue that needed to be repaired and reprogrammed, there were circumstances beyond my control. But it was important to get out there and push myself so that I could gauge my progress.

What do you like most about cycling?
That it keeps me in shape, the feeling of freedom, and the way I look in spandex shorts (totally kidding with that one). I also enjoy the opportunities it’s given me and the friends I’ve made along the way.

What are your goals for the rest of the season?
To finish every race that I start. It doesn’t matter what place I come in so much – just that I cross the finish line.

Tell us a little bit about your race nutrition.
Well, everyone is different and it’s important to find out what works for you. Personally, I’ve found that a balance of a slow digesting carb and a lean protein is what fuels my ride the best. My typical preride meal is 1/3 cup of 100% oats mixed with protein powder and a banana. Depending on how much time I plan to spend in the saddle, I’ll also hit up a gel about 15 minutes before I ride, keep hydrated with water mixed with a sports powder (Twin Labs Ultra Fuel works good for me). For rides that dip into an hour and a half or more, I’ll eat small pieces of a Cliff bar every half hour or so. Post ride, I drink a protein shake and eat a banana immediately off the bike, and then consume a whole food meal within the hour. On race days, I’ve found that a couple of gluten-free pancakes, fruit, and a cup of Peace Coffee gives me the energy I need to hammer it on the single track.

What is your favorite Peace Coffee selection?
I really love the Mexican/Bird Mountain Dark Roast.

What do you do in the winter to cross train?
My winter cross training is atypical. With my goal of stepping on stage again in 2010 to earn my pro Figure card, you’ll find me in the weight room lifting heavy and trying to build last minute mass before the competition diet begins. But for those who’s main sport is cycling, I believe that winter cross training should consist of eating well (working on not gaining too much weight off-season), circuit training, training the core muscular system, and keeping the cardio system running strong.

Do you listen to music when you work out? If so what is your favorite song/playlist?
I’ve got to have my tunes when I train! If I’m lifting weights, I’ll listen to something heavy and hard: lots of Nine Inch Nails, and a mix of Saliva, Linkin Park, Disturbed, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Metallica, Zeromancer, etc. If I’m doing cardio, I tend to listen to more dance-techno-popish music with a mix of Prodigy, Crystal Method, Pussycat Dolls, JT, Britney, and Madonna. Right now, my favorite song for weight training is “This is the new sh*t” by Marilyn Manson. It’s so angry and really gets me pumped to push some weight!

Where do you see the Peace Coffee Racing Team in five years?
Hopefully with a larger women’s team. And dominating the MNSCS podium (we’re off to a great start this season!). Growing the sport and future of cycling with a juniors program.

When Janet isn’t “spanking dirt” she runs her own personal training business, Bare Essentials, and is also a group fitness & indoor cycling instructor. For Janet’s training tips check out her blog.

Thanks to Dana Schoppe, another awesome female Peace Coffee Racer, for providing the photos of Janet racing. Check out more of Dana’s photography at: www.dschoppe.smugmug.com

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