My paths into cycling, private catering, and entrepreneurship are far from typical and inseparably intertwined. Few, if any, people can say they have raced around the world as a paid athlete while concurrently managing a private catering business and an energy bar company. But striking the balance between these three facets of my life has helped to form the foundation of my professional identity and allowed me to express my passions in both food and sport.
After graduating from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s in Exercise Science, I moved to San Diego to pursue a master’s in Exercise Physiology at San Diego State University. Endurance sport had always attracted me from both a scientific and personal perspective. When I moved to San Diego, I saw gangs of people out on the sunny coast riding bikes and I secretly wanted to join them, but had no idea how I could. In order to quell this curiosity, I recruited cyclists to act as my research subjects as part of my lab experiments where I collected data on bone density, or lack thereof, and the relation to calcium lost through sweat. When my mentor-professor suggested that I put myself through the lab protocol I had designed for the athletes, including a test which measures oxygen-carrying and endurance capacity, I tested with an ‘Olympic’ level capacity on a bike.
Upon graduating from SDSU in 2007, this same professor lent me a mountain bike, and introduced me to her mountain biking team. Immediately, I took to the sport, and found I was especially great at climbing long hills and racing long distances. After racing my first mountain bike race, in which I placed second, I read a fascinating article about XTERRA off-road triathlon, and decided to hire a coach so I could learn to swim competitively and race triathlon, a sport that was completely foreign to me. In my first race, I qualified for the national and world championship events, and in my third year racing I won the amateur national championship title, allowing me to graduate to racing in the professional category. During this time, I also began racing the ‘marathon’ mountain bike series as a professional, but sadly, by the end of 2012, a mysterious condition in my right leg sidelined me.
I was diagnosed with Iliac Artery Endofibrosis, a condition causing the arterial wall of the vessel providing blood to your leg to build a fibrotic layer and eventually close, and I had an invasive surgery to repair that artery at the end of 2012. Through my quest to recover, I began using road riding and road racing as a means to gain back stamina and fitness, and began to feel a special connection to the new discipline, one I didn’t realize had been inside me, but which burgeoned as I rode my bike more and more. In 2015 I started my first professional season on the road, only to be diagnosed with the same arterial condition on my left leg. But through a series of surgeries and intense physical therapy, and the unrelenting support of my professional teams and sponsors, I have returned to race-winning form with a new passion for the sport I came to love. 2019 will mark my fifth professional season on the road, and third season with my current team Hagens Berman | Supermint.
As I began to build my career as a professional athlete, I fell into my second career as a private chef. Starting as an assistant to a friend who was a chef and nutritionist, I eventually took over her clientele and grew a catering service that started in southern California, but which branched out to include training camps, as well as private parties all around the country.
In my free time, as my catering company grew, so did my desire to combine my knowledge of food with my fascination of its relationship to athletic performance. Having a master’s in Exercise Physiology definitely gives me more cards to play in this arena, so I created an energy bar to fill a space in the market that was missing, and provide athletes with a product crafted around my food philosophy: food should taste yummy, while also serving a purpose and nourishing you. Thus, JoJé Bar was founded.
Trying to come up with new recipes for our bars means I’m constantly experimenting. Cooking food, much like racing a bike, is a process of trial and error: figuring out what works and what doesn’t; stripping the negatives and building on the positives.
When planning for my next catering event, whether for athletes or friends, potatoes represent an integral and versatile part of my nutritional protocol and directly represent my philosophy of eating real foods that don’t need additives or fuss. This makes it easier for our bodies to take nutrients on board and use them for performance gains, recovery, and immunity.
The year that I won the XTERRA National Championship I had that real “light-bulb” moment as an athlete. My coach suggested sticking to a race-week regimen of nutrition, which included having a meal of steak and roasted potatoes two nights before a target race, with the key being that the food you eat 48 hours prior to a race is the most important. This changed my approach to eating and nutrition forever because it worked! I won the national title, and to this day, I never stray from my steak and roasted potatoes meal two nights before a key training day or race.
Any athlete will tell you the importance of these rituals run on a deep mental and emotional level. Potatoes for me are like that good luck charm, and a food that is rustic, comforting and nourishing.
The versatility and affordability of potatoes are some of the more appealing reasons why I use them in so many of my meals. I love leaving potato skin on, not only because it’s full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but I love the texture the skin adds to a meal of the tuber. In the most basic breakdown of performance, athletes rely on carbohydrates for fuel and recovery, and potatoes are one of the most easily accessible and absorbable forms of this macronutrient. The fact that the nutritional value is so ideal for an athlete makes them a perfect performance boosting package.