The Feedzone Interview

By: Molly Hurford Apr 4

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While I was on Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington, putting in 530 miles in 5 days in order to raise awareness for Bikes Belong, I became much more interested in cycling advocacy. But, if you’ve read this column before, you might know what a huge nerd I am when it comes to sports nutrition, so when I heard that the ride was going to be supported by the men who wrote The Feed Zone Cookbook, Allen Lim and Biju Thomas, I couldn’t have been more excited. I got the opportunity to sit down with them before breakfast the last morning of the trip and really pick their brains about nutrition and what led them to writing their now famous cookbook. Where I live in Western Massachusetts, their book has become the new bible for racers, who now pound homemade rice cakes on rides, host dinner parties featuring recipes from the cookbook, and spend hefty chunks of time talking nutrition and about the importance of eating real foods, especially bacon.

First, I wanted to know a little bit about how the two came together, and how they ended up writing a cookbook.

Allen Lim gave me a bit of background: “I’m Chinese; I’m from the Philippines; I grew up in LA’s Chinatown and then East LA. I Learned how to run very fast there. Then I eventually went to college and studied exercise physiology. A lot of my original work was based around the use of powermeters, particularly understanding competitive cycling.”

His background explains a lot about both his cooking influences (Asian), and also about how he started caring about the care and feeding of cyclists. But everyone has a story about how they fell in love with cycling, and I wanted to know his.

“It was a little bicycle that I called Snow White. It was a little pink thing with tassels. I found it in my friend’s house and I taught myself how to ride when I was 4 years old by coasting down his driveway with my feet splayed out. I fell in love with bicycling, and from that point on, I found myself riding all over LA. I eventually joined the Boy Scouts, which had nothing to do with getting my ass kicked at all, and eventually got my bicycling merit badge, and with my brother and cousin Shawn, we rode our bikes with the Boy Scouts from LA to San Diego, and learned how to change flats and ride. Then I eventually started bike racing and I’ve been riding ever since. I’d been trying to figure out a way to make cycling a part of my life. My real inspiration was Kevin Costner in the movie American Flyers. I wanted to be Kevin Costner.”

As for his shift to coaching and dealing with professional cyclists, Lim told me, “A lot of the kids I grew up racing with ended up as professionals. I’d always stayed connected. By the time I moved to Boulder, CO, and I was in graduate school, I had already coached at the collegiate level at UC Davis and the University of Colorado. After I finished my Masters, I got picked up by USA Cycling and I was a resident coach at the US Olympic Training Center. That’s when I really started working with more elite level riders. That continued to build upon itself and eventually I started a women’s cycling program, so the first work I did in pro cycling was actually with women. I ran that program for two years and started eventually coaching men in Boulder.”

However, Lim is only half of the dynamic duo of the cycling nutrition world. His co-author, Biju Thomas, is the one responsible for most of the recipes in the cookbook, and it makes sense, since when he and Lim met, Thomas was a chef.

“Biju was good friends with Jonathan Vaughters. So we met through Jonathan and started talking about food. I started having opportunities to go to dinner parties that he was throwing, and his food was fantastic and it was what I was used to, what I ate growing up, since we both have Asian influences, and it just worked out. So when I left Garmin and went on to Radioshack, I brought Biju on to cook for Lance and help me out on the road, and eventually he started cooking for Levi (Leipheimer-Ed.). Then we wrote the book and the rest is history.”

“So did he bring the cooking and you brought the science aspect to it?” I asked.

“I brought the dishwashing aspects to it,” Lim responded, laughing.
Thomas chimed in from the doorway, adding onto Lim’s self-deprecating description: “We spend all our time shopping, driving, and washing dishes. We’re two really, really glorified dishwashers.”

So how did these two “glorified dishwashers” end up writing a top-selling cookbook? Actually, as it turns out, it was more out of practicality than anything else. Lim explained his reasoning:

“It was this kid who rode for Garmin. There was this incident where he had no clue; in Europe for the first time, no idea what to eat, handling nutrition, et cetera. And I realized talking to this guy about fats, carbohydrates, proteins, macronutrients, that kind of stuff, wasn’t going to cut it; I literally had to help this kid go shopping, prepare a couple of meals, teach him some basics about cooking, and I realized that the conversation needed to be much more practical. It needed to be about, ‘hey, here’s what you can make, page 75, the chicken tikka masala, eat it, don’t worry about it, it’s all good, it’s everything that you need.’ So rather than trying to talk the science, we wanted to talk the practice.”

Thomas chimed in here, to explain his motivation: “I was hoping to meet a girl.”
“Let me tell you, Biju did this to enhance his internet dating profile,” Lim told me, poker-faced.


“That’s the only reason he did it.”

Thomas didn’t stop there: “I kept getting not approved for Eharmony because apparently I don’t have a job. Apparently, I’m unemployable: In bed at 1, up at 4, living out of a truck, 9 months out of the year. Who wants to date this guy?”

“That being said, ladies, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Biju does have this dark, Clooney thing going on.”

“Is it the lights? Is it because I’m old and angry?”

Clearly, the two have become close in those 9 months in the truck.

I asked Lim what his core concepts for food for athletes were, and I admit, I loved the answer:

“The fundamental core of our nutrition concepts is, ‘don’t be a douchebag.’ Eat real food, cook from scratch, take the extra time—because it does take work, and not everything in life is convenient. So we try to keep it simple, and we try to keep it real.”

Since we were on such a long trip, I wanted to know the motivations for how they were cooking for us. To give an idea, we’d have a buffet-style meal ready when we got in from our rides (100-140 miles) each day, and the meals were typically a white rice or pasta with a meat sauce, a salad, and options like yogurt, fruit, bread and bottles of Coke (with natural sugar).

Lim explained to me his rationale: “You needed to replace food, so we gave you food. Calories, calories, calories. Everything that’s bad for you when you’re sitting on your butt all day in front of the computer is good for you when you finish a 140 mile bike ride, so we’re feeding you a lot of white rice, a lot of pasta, really easy, digestible foods. We pair that with some sort of meat dish, salad, vegetables, yogurt, nuts. We’re not shy about the calories, we’re not shy about our use of real fat, and things like olive oil and salt.”

Thomas added on, stressing, “If normal people ate like this, they’d be miserable, heart attacks waiting to happen. But when you’re in the middle of the season, racing and training, you can eat like this. That said, everything was real food, everything was made fresh. We don’t have a freezer for that reason, we also don’t have a microwave.”

OK, so on a different note: what about the riders who are looking to drop weight?
According to Lim, “If a rider wants to lose weight, it’s just about portion size. I don’t think there’s anything about the diet that changes. It’s not about doing anything extraordinary, you don’t have to turn into some weird manorexic, you don’t have to start starving yourself or eating just carrots or apples. You just have to watch your portion size. Don’t skimp on what you have before training and after training, but do watch what you eat in the evening. I hate to say it, but you’re going to bed a little hungry every night. And if you’re going to bed hungry every night, that’s maybe about 500 calories that you’re peeling off your diet, so that’s maybe a pound a week, so you have to be super, super patient. And again, the don’t-be-a-douchebag principle applies.”

One of my last questions was a bit self-serving. I’m not the greatest cook in the world, so I wanted to know if he had any secret tips. Turns out, he did.

“If you suck at cooking, all you need to do is buy one of these things. It’s called a rice cooker, and all you need to do is put rice and water in it, and you need to hit the little button. That’s about as easy as it gets. You gotta have confidence in yourself to turn that stove on!”

Lim didn’t want to just talk about food though. For him, taking on the task of cooking for the Ride on Washington was about more than just taking a job. “Working in bicycle advocacy is exponentially more difficult than working the Pro Tour, for a lot of reasons. There are more of them (events-Ed.), and the schedules are terrible. You start way too early, you ride for way too long, you finish way too late. But the juice is worth the squeeze. The bicycle advocacy and the cause is absolutely more noble than chasing each other around on bicycles. Even though that’s fun, this is more than just trying to show off and try to be the best, it’s about trying to help the world.”


Riding on Washington, Pro-Style

By: Molly Hurford Mar 26

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There’s something about riding 130 miles in a day, 4 days in a row, that makes a group of 20 people with absolutely nothing in common, aside from a deep-seeded love of bikes, suddenly become the best of friends. Additionally, there’s something about it that makes that new group of best buddies decide that a bathrobe party at two in the morning is not only a good idea, it has to happen.

That’s what Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington was about (I don’t mean bathrobes!): Bringing unlikely people together to talk about what really matters in bike advocacy. For some of us, that means finding safe routes to school so kids can ride bikes. For others, it means more bike paths in inner city areas. For still others among us, it’s about promoting cycling for women and improving the lives of women racers. Whatever the cause, the overarching goal is to make people more aware of bikes. That’s why Tim and Bikes Belong host the ride, and that’s why the 20 of us put up with each other for 538 miles, from Boston to Washington, DC. Because we all believe that bikes are important for so, so many reasons. Chances are if you’re reading this, you think that too, whether you’re a racer or a commuter or simply a bike advocate.

The ride opened my eyes to a lot of things. For one, I learned that I am capable of holding 400 watts on a downhill, then sprinting up the next climb. I also learned that after 500 miles in 4 days, my heart rate refuses to hit anything over 150, no matter how hard I try. I learned just how important chamois cream really is. I learned that there is no modestly among cyclists, especially when it comes to public urination. Maybe that part wasn’t a highlight of the trip for me, but it definitely showcased how cycling is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO, a bike mechanic, young, old, male, female: when you gotta go, and there are only fields around, guess what? You’re peeing in the field next to whoever happens to be with you. The only weird part about that was how not weird it was.

My capabilities as a cyclist were put to the test each day, when we had miles to go before we slept, and even when we did get to sleep, it was rarely for more than 4 hours at a time. Of course, this isn’t to say it was a hardship. Between nice hotel rooms every night, a neutral support car during the ride, celebrity chefs (well, celebrities to us athletes, anyway) and authors of The Feed Zone Cookbook cooking for us and providing in-ride nutrition in the form of rice cakes and their drink mix, Skratch, I’ve become incredibly spoiled. In fact, when I go out on a ride later today, I’m pretty sure if I do flat, I’ll wait around assuming that the SRAM follow car will be pulling up any minute.

But when you’re one of three women on the trip, and you’re also the only non-pro woman, surrounded by amazing athletes like six-time National Champion Tim Johnson, guess what? It’s hard, no matter how much support there is. Especially when time is of the essence and no one wants to be the first to admit that the pace is getting to them.

The first day, a mere 113 miles in the rain from Boston to Hartford, my heartrate soared as I pumped my SRAM Red-equipped bike up the hills. Maybe switching to a compact crank would have been a good move, because some hills, I was literally standing on the pedals, giving new meaning to the phrase “smashing” hills. It hurt. And it was exhausting.

At breakfast the next morning, I overheard two of the stronger guys talking, complaining that the first day had been entirely too easy. “My heartrate never went above 155,” the one said. I thought I was going to cry, since my heartrate the day before had been averaging around 160 the entire time, redlining for a good chunk of the climbing. It made me nervous. With four days of riding to go, was I going to be tough enough to hack it?

Turns out, you’re exactly as tough as you think you are. A few miles into the Hartford to NYC stretch, I suddenly decided that my attitude sucked. I was worried about staying on a wheel, stressing myself out, bringing my heartrate higher than it needed to be. “You got this,” I reminded myself. “You’re kind of a badass.”

The crazy thing about riding so much in such a short time is that your brain pretty much goes through the stages of grief. There’s denial: “My legs don’t hurt. This saddle isn’t killing me. I’m not hungry.” There’s bargaining: “Legs, just let me get up this hill and I swear I’ll eat a whole sleeve of Shot Bloks.” There’s anger: “Goddammit, when is this hill going to end?” There’s depression: “I’m never going to make it to the end of this ride.” And then, there’s acceptance: “I got this.” And then you hang on to that wheel in front of you for dear life, you watch the miles tick away, you see the city line in the distance, and you know that you made it.

It’s an awesome feeling.

I know for some people on the ride, doing 538 miles in 5 days wasn’t that big of a deal. And I’ve done endurance, I’ve done 30 hour training weeks before. But to do so much in so short a time, to prove such an important point and send such a cool message… now that’s just awesome. I’ve never ridden with so many committed, talented people, and I sincerely hope to do so again in the future. It reminded me that the bike community is unlike any other, where as long as you love the ride, you can be friends.

We are the lucky ones. When I think about how few people could take time out of their lives and do that ride, and how few people could actually handle finishing that ride, I realize just how lucky I am.

To donate to Bikes Belong, a truly awesome organization that is making a huge difference in our community, check out their website


The Why of Behavior

By: Molly Hurford Mar 8

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In order to reach their potential, athletes must sustain a high level of motivation over many years of practice and competition.“ -Brent Hansen

Motivation, Edward Deci states, is the culmination of energy and direction of behavior. He says, “Energy in motivation theory is fundamentally a matter of needs… Direction in motivation theory concerns the processes and structures of the organism that give meaning to internal and external stimuli, thereby directing action toward the satisfaction of needs.” While the second part of that isn’t the most interesting read, I love that he calls motivation “energy and direction.”

With temperatures dropping back down to unsuitable-for-habitation levels upon moving back to New England after a month in Georgia, my motivation to get outside and ride has been at an all-time low. In addition to the chilly temperatures and snow on the ground in my new stomping ground of Easthampton, Massachusetts, I’m mid-move and inundated with work, so my time to play outside has also hit an all-time low. That said, since what I’m working on is primarily cycling-related work and writing, I’m more excited about cycling than ever before. Just maybe not about putting on booties to go for a spin. And while my tempo riding and power outputs are better than they’ve ever been, I just don’t have it in me to do intervals in the cold right now. But as the house comes together and my schedule becomes more worked out as I adjust to my new living situation, I find the motivation to ride and to really excel this season slowly creeping back after going into hiding for the past week.
That brings me to my point today: motivation.

Martin Hagger writes, “It is believed by many that motivation is the foundation of sport performance and achievement. Without motivation, even the most gifted performer is unlikely to reach his or her athletic potential.” That’s a scary thought for someone who is feeling distinctly unmotivated to actually go out and do anything.

Then, Brent Hansen, in an article for The Journal of Physical Education, claims that, “Motivation is thought to encompass ‘personality factors, social variables, and/or cognitions that are assumed to come into play when a person undertakes a task at which he or she is evaluated, enters into competition with others, or attempts to attain some standard of excellence.’” Sounds like cycling to me. And while it’s easy to say that all of us are striving for that standard of excellence, as Hansen so aptly puts it, some of us are better at striving 24/7, while the rest of us have other, conflicting motivators in play.

Deci suggests that, “The study of motivation is an inquiry into the why of behavior.” So, in the off-season, why am I less motivated? I still love cycling just as much as I did back in September, that hasn’t changed. I still have big goals for next season, that hasn’t changed. So what has changed?

Motivation, at it’s most basic, can be defined as our driving force. In 1943, Maslow wrote in the Psychological Review that, “There are 5 sets of goals (basic needs) which are related to each other and are arranged in a hierarchy of prepotency. When the most prepotent goal is realized, the next higher need emerges.” So perhaps my lack of motivation when it comes to getting out on the bike comes from the fact that, with so much other stimuli to focus on, so many other goals to attain (like getting a couch through my front door), my motivation is being used to focus on basic needs (in this case, a “nesting instinct” setting in), therefore pushing cycling goals (since it is the off-season) farther down the hierarchy scale. Arguably, because I spent the last month strictly focusing on cycling, perhaps my brain was ready to shift gears and find new goals, since training, while going well, is fairly redundant.

In fact, Hagger says something to that very effect on the topic of elite athletes’ motivations:

“In the case of elite sport, however, much of training is not very interesting and, although essential to improving performance, extremely repetitive and monotonous. Research has demonstrated, though, that even the most tedious aspects of training can be transcended through the use of interest-enhancing strategies that assist an individual’s internalization of self-determined motivations regulations.”

So, for those who have trouble internalizing motivation and rely on external motivation, their susceptibility to burnout is raised. This is especially important, right, in the off-season. During racing season, internal motivation can easily be overlooked in favor of external motivation, i.e racing on a regular basis. But in the off-season, with the first race months away, it’s hard to find that internal motivation to keep training.

So how will I get over this unmotivated slump? It’s a good thing I just moved to Western Massachusetts, home to racers like Jeremy Powers, Justin Lindine, Jeremy Durrin and Evan Huff. Not to mention, I’ll be living with a good friend, and even better racer, once he gets back from training in Tucson. Hagger believes that this can be the answer, since “social context has a powerful effect upon the forms of motivation adopted by the athlete.”

Because, let’s face it, being intrinsically motivated all of the time is nearly impossible. Rather, Hagger notes, “Previous research that has examined the motivation of elite-level sport performers has suggested that their behavior is not solely intrinsically motivated, that multiple motives are likely to exist, and that the social conditions defining one’s participation are likely to have significant effect on the motivation process.”

So while we might be intrinsically motivated to some extent, it’s really things like our social structures and competitive natures that keep us heading out the door to ride every day, whether it’s alone in hopes of nailing those intervals, or with a group in hopes of showing off on that insanely steep hill that keeps kicking your a$$. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…)

Of course, what it all comes back to, no matter where you live or who you live with, is you. Think beating your friends is going to keep you motivated forever? Far from it, and Hagger adds that, “maladaptive training responses are more likely to occur when an athlete’s reason for participating shifts to a more extrinsic motivation regulation representing a loss of autonomy.”

So if you’re not motivated for your own sake, it might be time to reassess and remember why you love to ride to begin with. I did that today when I was out on my ride, and you know what? Flying down a hill at 45 MPH, face numb from the cold wind, I have never felt more alive, or more happy to be right here, right now at this point in my life. Talk about intrinsic motivation.

Maslow, A. H. “A theory of human motivation.” Psychological Review, Vol 50(4), Jul 1943

Sturman, Ted S. “Achievement Motivation and Type A Behavior as Motivational Orientations” Journal of Research in Personality Volume 33, Issue 2, June 1999

Hansen, Brent & Wade Gilbert, Tim Hamel “Successful Coaches’ Views on Motivation and Motivational Strategies” The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, Vol. 74, 2003

Deci, Edward L. & Richard M. Ryan “Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior”

Hagger, Martin & Nikos Chatzisarantis “Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in exercise and sport”


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