If you often find it challenging to get motivated to work out after a long day at work, you’re not alone. For the majority of the population, squeezing in a few workouts a week after a long day at work is a common goal. This week’s Shoestring Warrior goes above and beyond the norm when it comes to staying fit while working full time. Meet Shoestring Warrior, professional athlete and insurance accountant Karin S. Weller. Karin is an ultra-distance cyclist and trains six days a week (four of those workouts are after a long day at work)! Twelve years ago she hadn’t even heard of a marathon and now she is competing in cycling races as long as 930 miles!
I did not start cycling with the intention to cycle competitively but it evolved into that. In 2014, I earned the California triple crown by doing three double centuries (200 miles) in a calendar year.
Karin trains solo (with the help of a coach) and usually competes as part of a two-person team. She loves the camaraderie within the ultra-distance cycling community and actively engages in the sport of Randonneuring. Never heard of it? Keep reading to learn more about the sport and to get a glimpse into Karin’s after work training routine. Check out her webpage to learn more about her athletic pursuits!
Shoestring Warrior: Karin S. Weller
What are your passions outside of work?
I like everything outdoors. I don’t like being indoors so I try to stay outdoors when I’m not at work. I like hiking, walking, and any type of cycling. I live in an agricultural area which is good for my training. In 1.5 hours I can be in Yosemite, at the ocean, and in the Sierras. I also like to volunteer for women that have been abused or are coming out of addiction. I was abused and like to help nonprofits that work with those populations in the area. I volunteer at the Haven Women’s Center and help them with their events. My first race partner, Jim Pyatt, opened the Freedom House in Turlock and we helped them with fundraising and raced for them.
Tell us about yourself!
I love healthy living and healthy eating. I stopped drinking before my first ultra-distance cycling race to see if it would improve my speed overall and I planned on drinking after it but I felt so good that I never went back. I just started getting into minimalism so I’m decluttering my life and my house. I’ve come a long way in the three months that I’ve been doing that. Trying to live a healthy lifestyle and a healthy life. I like trying to empower women and I try to inspire them. I spent a lot of my life around guys at a younger age and now I want to find female friends so we can help each other and inspire each other and be there for each other. I have a twin sister, she doesn’t cycle but she supports me in it. I have three daughters. They all live in Southern California. They tell me they are proud of me and what I do, and I’m not sure if they think I am crazy or not.
How would you describe your level of camping experience?
I haven’t camped recently, but I grew up camping. My dad took my siblings and I camping. We went all over the place. We went to Lake Turlock (funny because I’m living here now), Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Oregon, Washington. He is the one who made me realize how beautiful the outdoors is.
When did you first discover your love for the outdoors and specifically ultra-distance cycling?
I gradually discovered cycling. I was introduced to running in 2006 by coworkers who had just run the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon. That was the first time I had heard about a marathon! The next year I trained with Team in Training and ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in San Diego. I had never even run a 10k but I was determined to run a marathon. At mile 20 I was crying because I was so happy. A Team in Training coach came running up to me and was like, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m just so happy that I’m going to make it!” I finished in 5 hrs 14 min. Then I got into trail running, then adventure racing which included mountain biking, and eventually I met some road cyclists.
It was in 2014, when I realized that I could go so much farther on a road bike. I tried picking events that involved many miles. I found I like to be on the bike and be out in nature. I see deer and many other animals. I’ve spotted a fox in Turlock on a ride! I enjoy viewing all of the beauty. I like hiking but it’s a different type of beauty.
There’s different beauty in every outdoor sport.
With ultra-cycling, I think it’s the distance I like and I like challenging myself. It’s not easy, it hurts but it feels so good to know I’m keeping my speed up and I’m pushing myself. I think finishing and knowing I completed the distance gives me that high. I really love riding a lot of miles on the bike. I love how you feel, the freedom, the nature, the things you get to see.
When did you decide to start cycling competitively?
I did not start cycling with the intention to cycle competitively but it evolved into that. In 2014, I earned the California triple crown by doing three double centuries (200 miles) in a calendar year. I was introduced to the sport of randonneuring which involves long-distance unsupported endurance cycling. The style of riding is non-competitive and focuses on the camaraderie of cycling. I joined Randonneurs USA and did a lot of their rides. I’ve always used Strava to record my rides and one of my local cycling friends, Jim Pyatt, saw me on Strava and saw that I was doing long distances. He asked if I’d be interested in doing the Silver State 508 in Nevada as a two-person team. It’s a 508 mile race that starts and finishes in Reno, Nevada and crosses northern Nevada on Highway 50.
I didn’t say yes right away because it sounded crazy and I had never done a long distance race. I eventually told him I was interested and we ended up winning the race!
After I finished that race, I couldn’t wait to find another one. Then we did a 24/hr time trial race and and then we did Race Across the West, a 930 mile race from Oceanside, CA to Durango, CO. It took us two days and nine hours. We won all three of those races! The next year I got sponsored by Hammer Nutrition and became a professional athlete!
What’s your approach to juggling a full-time job and a professional athletic career?
For me, I’m single so it makes it easier, but it is still tough. This is my life and I love it that way. I love having independence. When I get off work, I come home and put Hammer Nutrition in my water bottles, get dressed, and then I get on my Wahoo Kickr Indoor Smart Trainer. The trainer has a cassette that I mount my road bike on and it enables me to ride indoors while still being able to simulate hills. It’s incredible, I love it. It’s easy to just stick to being on my trainer during the week. It totally replicates the outdoors but I don’t have to worry about cars or anything. I do the trainer for 1.5hrs and then I start my dinner, soak my legs, hook myself up to my electrical muscle stimulation machine, and I have my recovery drink. I have a new coach that I’ve been working with and my fitness has really improved. My coach wants me to sleep nine hours but I usually get eight hours a night. It definitely takes dedication but I like it and I like how I feel. Monday is my day off but I still roll my legs and use my muscle stimulator and get my rest. The routine is natural and it totally fits my lifestyle!
What advice do have for people thinking about transitioning from doing a sport as a hobby to doing it competitively?
Don’t be afraid and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Just get out there and have fun!
Be your own competition.
Keep trying to break your own records. If you keep breaking your own records it makes you feel really good and you’re a winner. There’s always going to be someone faster than you and always someone slower. I always try to PR what I did yesterday. Sometimes I’ll look at Strava and compare but you can’t really compare everything. As long as you just feel good about yourself, that’s what matters. I’ve had a few DNFs (did not finishes) and they bum you out but you look at the champions and they DNF too. You can’t get out there and win or complete it every time.
Funniest outdoor experience/mishap?
My friend Ray auctioned off a full moon hike to Clouds Rest in Yosemite at a Rotary Club event. He asked me and another friend to be the tour guides. A man and his son and his son’s friend won the trip. We started at Tenaya Lake and were going to hike up there and take a little nap and wake up with the sun coming up. There was still snow on the ground and it was about 32 degrees. We made our way up and as we got up there I realized I had forgotten my sleeping bag! Someone gave me their mat and I laid down and tried to fall asleep but I couldn’t. Everyone had girlfriends or wives and I felt like I couldn’t ask anyone to snuggle with me for warmth. I eventually decided to tell Ray I was cold and he let me snuggle and I conked out for a second and then the sun came out. It seems funny looking back that I went on this hike and forgot my sleeping bag and didn’t know who I could ask to keep me warm.
What is your most memorable ultra-cycling adventure and why has it had such an impact on you?
In Randonneuring they do something called Flèches. It is usually held on Easter weekend. Teams must be comprised of at least three and no more than five people. Teams must head to a predetermined destination from various starting points. They pick their own starting point and route and get it approved by Randonneurs USA in advance. Teams have 24 hours to make it to the destination and they must cover at least 360KM in that time. See the full list of rules here. The San Francisco Flèches always ends on Easter morning at Crepes on Cole so teams can tell everyone about their 24hrs and trade stories. I always get on a team where I don’t know anyone and it’s really neat because you ride with the people for 24hrs. Last year I was on a team of four; another female and two males. We chose a mixed terrain route. We got a rental car and took our bikes all the way to Eureka. The day before the Flèches, we rode 80 miles from Eureka to Garberville just to get to our starting point. We went to bed and woke up and the 24hr timer started. We rode about 50 miles of dirt along the Unknown Coast which included the Avenue of the Giants. We rode through redwood forests and along the ocean, it was absolutely gorgeous! We took cross bikes because we were going to be biking on roads and dirt. I had too much stuff in my bike pack (from camping the night before) and when I was on the dirt it was swinging back and forth and at one point my bike and I fell over! We rode 250 miles and climbed 17,152 feet. We barely made it to the finish! The dirt/sand really slowed us down. I love that you’re with a team and everyone rides together. I really enjoy the camaraderie.
Which professional athletes inspire you the most?
- Seana Hogan – She started cycling when she was young and then took some time off and got back into it. Every year she does Race Across America, one of the most respected and toughest ultra-endurance events in the world. Racers cross 12 states and cycle 3000 miles. Seana holds the record for the most solo wins. She just keeps going at it every year! I can’t imagine doing that to your body every year.
- Deborah Banks – She does Randonneuring. A few years ago she got hit by a car in one of the events. It’s amazing what she went through over the course of a few years but she’s back on her bike. Last year she was put on the board for Randonneuring USA. She’s a great female athlete!
This sport is dominated by men so it’s nice to see females out there!
A lot of people think that I watch the Tour de France and that I know the main professional athletes but I don’t. I don’t even have a TV. I don’t have time to watch other people. I don’t want to watch the parade, I want to be in the parade.
Where’s your next race or adventure?
The next race is in October in Borrego Springs. It’s the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships. Racers come from all over the world. I’m part of a two person female team and our team name is “In Our Prime.” It’s an 18 mile lap and the aim is to see how many miles you can ride in 24 hours. It starts at 6pm and then goes until 6pm the next day.
The perfect s’more? (if you don’t like s’mores, what’s your favorite campfire dessert?)
S’mores are the perfect campfire snack. I always burn the marshmallow, peel the black off, and then eat the gooey part inside.