• Amy Thornquist: A Triathlete No More

    by  • March 28, 2013 • interviews

    Amy Thornquist at the Merco Time Trial

    Amy Thornquist at the Merco Time Trial

    Amy Thornquist (Pinnacle p/b Argon 18) is having a hard time flying under the radar these days.  Thornquist was the top rider not attached to a Pro women’s team at the Merco Union Classic.  Her top 10 in the TT at Merco put her in contention for the race and her final finish in 13th was enough to beat vets like Ina and Mara Abbot.  Though Thornquist is a relative new comer her long background in athletics and healthcare industry have helped turn her into one of NorCals hottest new prospects.   I caught up with Thornquist a few weeks ago after her Merco rides.

    First off, how did you end up in NorCal?

    I moved to Reno, NV after completing graduate school in Houston, TX. My two sisters lived in Dayton, NV at the time, and I  wanted to move closer to some family. It was here where I established residency for 12 years meeting local triathletes and competing consistently in various triathlon distances. The financial commitment to racing triathlons took its toll and I decided to take a year off, build up some reserves, but continue to train the three disciplines. During that time, I connected with an old friend from my triathlon years. A very handsome boy from Auburn, CA, whom got me involved in bike racing. After 2 years of commuting back and forth from Reno to Auburn, I decided to make the plunge in February to California living. Bam!

    Ewww, triathlons.  Let’s change the subject.  Tell me about your day job and how it impacts your riding… Please, don’t mention tri’s again. 

    I became interested in Nutrition during my undergraduate degree, initially wanting to be a marine biologist, but learned during the course of my freshman year that jobs are limited and living on a boat would not suit me well.  As a dietitian for 13 years, I have worked closely with people suffering from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight issues, food allergies/intolerances, and most recently end stage renal disease/dialysis patients. As a long time athlete, nutrition and its role on the body in hopes to improve overall fitness and racing outcomes, I became increasingly interested in sports nutrition. I worked with many of my training partners nutrition meal plans, tweaking their daily regimen and race day regimens. Trying to juggle food while racing 3 different disciplines is quite the challenge, especially the ironman distance. My favorite! After seeing excellent results in not only myself, but the athletes I counseled. I obtained a specialty certification in sports nutrition.

    So the science piece of your training has been helpful in pinning down details of your training plan then?

    The combination of my initial education and studying for the sports certification has helped immensely in understanding the complexities of how nutrition affects the working muscle. It has also helped me understand the various components added to the plethora of sports products, supplements, energy drinks and herbal items hitting the market every day. The vast amount of information that I learned along with trial and tribulation helped me accomplish the Ironman World Championship in Kona and win the World’s toughest ironman in Henderson, NV. Adequate nutrition is crucial to race day, as we all know, but it is also imperative to the everyday training  full-time work regimen. Staying healthy and injury free is a product of healthy/consistent eating habits, and adequate sleep rather than the workouts and equipment alone.

    Oy! You keep sneaking in those tri-references! Tell me about your pre-cycling – NON-TRIATHLON endeavors…

    I have always been active but mainly in team sports. The ones that require hand-eye coordination, are not my specialty. I played softball as a child all the way through middle school. By high school, I played basketball for 4 years, and one season of softball, but after sitting the bench due to my lack of coordination, I joined the track team. From there I ran, the 400 and 800 meter events for 3 years, never running over 4 miles. Once I got to college, I decided to go out for the cross-country and track team. I can still remember the day I ran 6 miles for the very 1st time in St. Paul, MN and called home about it. This was a “huge” accomplishment in my running career. I ended up running cross country and track all 4 years @ a division III school. I signed up for this pain and torture, no scholarship involved!  This began my love hate relationship with running.

    Oh god, i’m going to have to ask since you obviously have a big TT motor and it comes from your tri background. When did you start experimenting with… (insert gulp and sigh) triathlons?

    Later after school I became involved with a boy at age 25 whom was into triathlons, but also events that included kayaking, biking, and running as well. This began my love for triathlons.

    I raced triathlons off and on until last year when I decided that the entry fees were killing my pocket book. My California boyfriend talked me into bike racing, which always  scared me “shitless.” Triathletes do not bike race:’ (ed. note HERE HERE!) Especially uncoordinated ones. I raced the Landpark and Bariani races, this weekend actually, last year. My first bike races ever. Entry fee, roughly $30 for both and walked away with $250 and a bottle of killer olive oil and balsamic vinegar which was awesome!  And Entry fee for an Ironman, $600 and that does not include travel, place to stay, food etc.  All this combined was my “impetus” to bike racing. 

    So you are a high powered rooking.  You getting yelled at in the peloton yet?

    Yes, at Merco I was getting yelled at quite often actually by the pros. I got thick skin though, they don’t scare me! Actually, the only time I got yelled at during Merco was in the crit. I was breaking into the corners because the speed was so fast! We averaged 30 mph and the corners were knarly. I heard one pro say that that this will be the most technical crit of the year, so that’s a relief.

    I had been getting yelled at long before Merco though and rightfully so because of my lack of experience. Upgrading from a Cat 4 to a Cat 1 in 6 months did not allow me a whole lot of time to learn the necessary bike skills. But Bill Nicely and Felicia Gomez have helped me immensely, along with the angry racers around me.  I still have a lot to learn about an echelon, pulling into the wind, attacking/team tactics,  holding back, etc.  There are a ton of other skills, but my brain totally shuts down when skilled racers begin the banter about it all.

    Though it just started you are in the twilight of  your Elite career so what would be your dream goal in cycling?

    If I could write my own ticket……. I would like to strengthen my TT abilities and compete at Worlds in September. I am competing against girls who have been bike racing for 4 + years and are under 40 years of age. My ticket is up, and I am totally ok being the rookie and getting chewed up a bit, spit out and fighting back for as long as I can.

    Pinnacle p/b Argon 18 is a second year team, and you’ve been with them most of the time now – how do you feel about the set up?  

    I also felt quite fortunate to be on a team where bikes, kits and often times entry fees were provided. These provisions required that a race plan be followed to the best of the racers ability. If my “boss” says do something, then I am going to do it, no questions asked. I want to race with individuals who have the same morals and respect for that “boss”

    Favorite NorCal Race?

    I don’t have a most favorite as I am still so new to the sport, but the most memorable one is Mt Hamilton. This was my first race as a Cat 2 and with the Stevens team. The race consists of a 19 mile climb right out of the gate, descending into some rollers on the back side for a total of 64 miles. There were 4 of us in the race. I was told to take off early so my two other teammates could sit in and attack when I was caught. We wanted one of our teammates to win which would have given her the Nature Valley title.

    Scared shitless and impatient, I took off @ mile 2 and climbed that SOB as hard as I could.  (Backing up a bit. I was not being coached @ the time and was riding my bike 3 days a week along with running one day and swimming 2 days as well)

    I gained 4 minutes by the top of the hill on the field of 7 girls that were chasing me down. Molly Van Howling was driving the pace and knew the course well. I did not handle the knarly descent well as it was new to me and a couple of motorcycle riders kept slowing me down. I hit the back section and was hyperventilating. The chasing group gained 2 minutes on me, but that was ok, because the plan was to have my teammates sit in and relax so that they could attack @ the optimal time. I looked back with 2 miles to go until the finish, and there was the pack. They came around me where I caught on as the caboose. We all came barreling around a corner to find 2 trucks sitting side by side in the road conversing. Our group reacted quickly and split like a heard of scared animals, riding on the shoulder and between the two vehicles. All unscathed amazingly @ that speed, we came together and raced the last mile to the finish. Our teammate out sprinted the field and won the race as planned. Now that was “team work”

    That sounds horrible… but epic.  Now I understand ou have asthma too.  How has that effected your riding?

    I went all through high school and college coughing uncontrollably, struggling to breathe only to be diagnosed every March with bronchitis.  Go figure, right? A consistent pattern of bronchitis and family history of asthma………… WTF?  (sorry, that was my outside voice) I would sleep in the hallway @ college so I would not keep up my roommate with my obnoxious cough after difficult running workouts.

    After college and at the beginning of my triathlon career I started training with a Pulmonologists who heard me wheezing and coughing during a ride. They had me checked out and found that my lungs were worse than my sisters. I was put on meds, which helped incredibly. I later married an internists who loved diagnosing the “missed” diagnosed asthma patients and thrived on the stories of how we “gained” our life back. Being able to breathe is a precious thing.




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    Former NorCal resident now residing in Madison,Wisconsin. I race cross, but I'm named after a velodrome. Support your local bike shop, NorCal race promoters, and go learn to race on a track. Hellyer Velodrome - http://www.ridethetrack.com