What drives an athlete like Rebecca Rusch? Why does she do what she does? The Queen of Pain stopped by the GU Energy Labs office last night on her way to Sea Otter to share some thoughts about these questions. Having collected 6 World Championships in 6 different sports, she is well qualified to share her perspectives on Why? Here are a few nuggets from her talk about motivation, passion, preparation and everything else ultra, ultra endurance. And here is the video Corey Rich shot featuring Rebecca and two other amazing athletes which was aired during the event.

“Rebecca, you gotta lot of work to do…”

Trailing a handful of very fast women in the 2011 Leadville 100, Rebecca was heckled by a spectator admonishing her that “She had a lot of work to do.” This is after having won the women’s title the previous 2 years. She was well on her way to passing the two leaders and crushing the LT100 women’s race record by 16 minutes – crushing her own record. Why is this important in the quest for why? Because it’s motivating and memorable to push through these moments of adversity – sometime physical but often mental or emotional – that threaten to derail even a record breaking performance.

The legs speak for themselves

“You’re lucky to be a pro athlete” she often hears. “It must come easy for you” is another common refrain. No, it doesn’t come easy. A self described “asmatic with bad Vo2 max who just started using a power meter this year”, it takes consistency and commitment to win races. But at the end of the day,” it takes preparation and experience to perform.” “Time in the saddle, rain or hail.” The best way to get back at the hecklers? Prepare and perform. When it was hailing at the top of Columbine in 2011 LT100, Rebecca pulled out a jacket and gloves – “standard gear for an adventure racer” – and had an uneventful descent while the rest of the field was “shivering and frozen”. So preparation allows the legs the chance to speak for themselves….

Of Cheetos and Swedish Fish

“What’s been the evolution of your endurance nutrition regimen?” one person asked. “I LOVED Cheetos and Swedish fish during adventure races” she answered. And from there pizza, a little fling with Ensure -the high calorie shake – and recently a move to more disciplined nutrition choices, both on the bike and off. She bakes her own bread so she “knows what’s in it.” The takeaway is an athlete has to know her body and her needs, and never stop experimenting with what works for them. Sometimes it’s Swedish fish, sometime smoothies…

Pulling on Threads

An overarching theme of Rebecca’s career and outlook is one of saying yes more than saying no. Pulling on threads of opportunity. She got into climbing because she said yes to trying the climbing wall at her fitness center in Chicago. She got into adventure racing because a bunch of adventure racers wanted to learn rappelling at her climbing gym and she said yes when they needed a female teammate. She got into mountain biking because she had a year left of a Red Bull contract and “needed something to do.”  Powerful things happen when a person says yes to opportunity. What opportunity will you say yes to today?

If you’re heading to Sea Otter this week check out the Ladies Lounge event – details here.


Rebecca Rusch  |  Corey Rich  |  Leadville Trail 100  |  Gold Rusch Tour



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