Day in the life: Krista Doebel-Hickok

California native and pro road racer Krista Doebel-Hickok on embracing Zwift, taking rest days, and visits from an unusual lockdown friend.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought professional cycling to a halt. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to understand how their lives are continuing amidst the shutdown.

Krista Doebel-Hickok was looking forward to a fast and furious 2020 season with Rally Cycling that began with races in Australia. But she crashed out of the 2020 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and suffered a chipped elbow and a fractured clavicle.

The 31-year-old returned to California to recover from her injuries, and during this time she logged plenty of hours on the indoor trainer. Then, in early March, the coronavirus-forced lockdown happened and Doebel-Hickok watched has her racing schedule was canceled.

During her recovery, Doebel-Hickok became a regular Zwift rider.

She also continued to bond with a squirrel, SixPack…

Location: Marina del Rey, CA

What are the current regulations for where you live about going outside?
The Los Angeles area has been hit hard by COVID-19. Much of the city has shut down, but we are still able to go outside for essential activities and exercise so long as we practice social distancing and wear a mask in public places like grocery stores. I leave the house once every 7-10 days to get groceries for me and my parents who are pushing 70 years of age and thus should not be risking exposure. I could carry on with my usual training outdoors without any limitations or restrictions (with the obvious exclusion of group rides). However, I have not taken a pedal stroke outside in more than 2 weeks and have no idea when I will again — maybe tomorrow, maybe not for months. As long as I’m happy on my Wahoo, I’ll stay there and be grateful for it and the peace of mind that comes from knowing I’m not at risk of crashing or being exposed to COVID-19.

Doebel-Hickok training in Southern California. Photo: Rally Cycling

What races were you planning to do have been canceled or postponed?
After recovering from the crash at Cadel Evans RR in which I chipped my elbow and broke my collarbone, I was slated to do Joe Martin, Redlands, Gila…a big American block, and then off to Europe. And I wasn’t just planning to do them; I was planning to do well at them. It was a bittersweet experience to do a better 10 min effort on the day that would have been the 2020 Joe Martin TT than I did at it last year. I said I would be ready, and I meant it.

SixPack the squirrel keeps the Rally cycling pro company.

What are you doing today?
Well, I did my first pro-Zwift race last Tuesday, and 3-4 hour endurance rides Wednesday and Thursday, so today I’m doing a rest day spin for my training. Before that, I fed my outdoor pet [squirrel] SixPack, as well as did my stretching and core routine. Now that I’m done riding, I’ll make a nice lunch, lay down/nap for 30-60 min, and then wake up to another round of coffee, stretching and checking in on the world before hanging out in my Normatec [recovery boots] for an hour. I will also spend some time online working on projects that create value for our community and our team’s sponsors — something that has become even more critical during this unique and challenging time.

Are you doing workouts? If so, what specifically?
Absolutely! I heard this great analogy yesterday to our current situation: it’s like a Nascar race and when that lead car pulls off then you want your engine revved up — you don’t want to be looking for your keys. I’ve fallen in love with Zwift, so I’ve been using those races and group rides for short and long efforts. I also have gotten my first taste of erg mode workouts, and I’ve learned to love those too. And, some days I just ride around Watopia until I am no longer enjoying doing so — that can take up to 4 hours.

Krista Doebel Hickok
Rest days? Photo: Krista Doebel-Hickok

What indoor gear are you using?
Same as outdoor, minus my helmet and plus my Wahoo Kickr. I bought a cheap laptop table, and a fan as well. My Quarq DZero power meter and stock of Clif bar nutrition are getting a lot of love. I also dual record power on my Garmin. On long rides, I’ll occasionally change kits mid-ride. I’m lucky to have good bib shorts, but I still take precautions to ensure I stay comfortable.

What is your motivation to train right now?
A more applicable question is “what is your motivation to rest right now?” I am like a draft horse — I love to work. I’m motivated to rest when there is an event that I want to be able to perform my best. That event can be found in training or racing. I like to test me against myself. I always want to best my best, so I don’t need others around to feel competitive/driven. Fortunately, right now I have the option of Zwift races and hard trainings to provide that motivation to rest every once in a while.

How are you communicating with friends and family?
Same as before: when I’m not with them in person, then I call/Skype/zoom/text/email. Actually, I’ve found people are communicating way more since the lockdown. It used to be that if you didn’t want to meet up in person, then your means of communicating were limited. Now it’s like everyone has to look for ways to stay in touch when they can’t be together in person. Seeing as this is pretty much the norm for a professional cyclist for much of the year, it’s kind of like more people have joined my way of life. It’s actually easier. It has actually become too easy; like I had to start deleting Zoom calls from my calendar because it was getting to be too much.

I also know some of my friends and family check my social media as well — probably to see how SixPack is doing.

Have you received any helpful advice?
Yes, my coach (Dean Golich), directors (Zach Bell and Joanne Kiesanowski), and virtual-world director (Mari Holden) have given me lots of words of wisdom. So have countless other people in the cycling community. Most of it has been about life, but every once in a while we talk about bikes and bike racing. To even begin to tap into what that advice has been would not do it justice—it simply cannot be summed up in a few sentences.

My friends and family have also been an amazing sounding board. The high-performance cycling community is so tight-knit that sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone outside of it.

In regards to this time and COVID-19, I haven’t received any extra special advice: It is just another chapter of life, the same advice applies. And, actually, it has kind of been a blur for me because when the whole thing started to really have an impact on us, I had just gotten off the trainer and back out on the road following my collarbone and elbow recovery. So it’s kind of like I went from post-surgery lockdown to COVID-19 lockdown. I traded one source of pain, restrictions, uncertainty, and loss of opportunities for another. I’ve done the lockdown thing more than a few times. I know how to cope. Again, it’s kind of like more people are experiencing a taste of my world, only not by their own choosing. And I guess that’s one piece of advice that my coach has given me that applies particularly well to this situation: he sent me a tweet a few days ago reminding me that ‘the most powerful weapon against adversity is having a sense of choice.’ Maybe that’s what makes this time exceptionally hard for people — none of us chose these circumstances. People who lost their jobs didn’t quit. People whose loved ones are ill didn’t inflict it or wish it upon them… It’s one thing to be far away from friends/family and doing something that’s very high risk when I chose that; and it is a whole other thing to be unable to see friends/family and be at high risk when your choices have asked for quite the contrary.

SixPack visits Deobel-Hickok
SixPack and Doebel-Hickcok have become good training friends. Photo: Krista Doebel-Hickok

When do you think you’ll race again?
Seeing as I took a rest day, I’ll probably race others or myself this weekend. Who knows. One day at a time. One week at a time. One month at a time. The truth is, right now, nobody knows what the future holds or when the next race we all were looking forward to will actually happen. And, I’d rather choose to be ok with that uncertainty.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.