Catharine Pendrel on Consistent Performance and Avoiding Burnout

Three-time Olympian and 2016 Bronze medalist Catharine Pendrel grew up riding horses in New Brunswick, Canada. At a young age she discovered mountain biking and the rest, as they say, is history.

She has two World Championship titles for Canada and 40 World Cup podium finishes under her belt, and now lives and trains in Kamloops BC where she is the President of the Kamloops Bike Riders Association.

When she’s not traveling the world competing for the Clif Pro Team, she spends her time with family, unwinding with yoga and and has begun sharing her passion for sport and cycling by introducing  Kamloops’ first Kids’ Mountain Bike Race league. We recently sat down with Catharine to find out what fuels her need for adventure.


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What motivates you?
Being outside, traveling, exploring, seeing new things, trying new food. It aligns perfectly with what I do for a job. Everything I knew I wanted to be part of my life I get to do as a bike racer—traveling the world, meeting new people and experiencing these bike races—all these things I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do if I wasn’t not traveling by foot or by bike.

You are constantly on the go. How do you avoid burnout?
I really love what I do, but what’s really helpful for me is my husband also rides. So as much as it’s a job, it’s also a lifestyle. When I do intervals, that’s work, but when I go for a ride with my friends, or my husband, we’ve got a really amazing community here, it’s easy to distract yourself from the tired legs. It’s easy to not look at it like work. There are just so many different ways to ride a bike that it keeps it fresh.



What is the key to consistent performance?
I just wrote a blog on that, which is kind of funny because I’ve had my least consistent performance this year so far. The key to consistency is, obviously, you have to do the work—you have to train consistently if you want to race consistently. But a big part of it is mental. You have to be able to keep positive, and not get too distracted with a bad result, because it’s just part of the process. It’s believing that the work you put in will pay off. Just being in touch with your goals and why are you riding a bike, and using that to push you to go faster.

So it’s a lot to do with looking at the bigger picture than just a single result?
Exactly, the single races can keep you on track. If you feel the pressure of a result, ask yourself, why do I want to ride a bike in the first place? How can I make sure I’m achieving what I want to get out of riding, whether that’s challenging myself or improving my skills? If one day doesn’t go so well, that doesn’t mean the next day won’t go better.



What’s something about the Olympics that surprised you the most?
I think the coolest thing about it is the community. It’s the best people at what they do, from pretty much every country in the world, all living in this one village. It really struck me in Beijing. Two countries that were at war, yet the their building were beside each in the Village. It’s like this bubble away from the world where everyone’s kind of on a common path, trying to achieve their best and really working hard for something. It’s surreal and also very grounding.

“It’s believing that the work you put in will pay off. Just being in touch with your goals and why are you riding a bike, and using that to push you to go faster.”

Speaking of grounding, how do you stay grounded when you’re traveling and racing all the time?
I think to do this you kind of have to thrive in those hectic times. The busier it is, the more engaged I can be in the job. But there’s always a breaking point, because what I do usually has an element of stress to it. To stay grounded I need that connection at home with family, sometimes it’s just going for a walk and being outside, or doing meditation. And I’m super lucky, I’ve been on Clif for about 10 years now, and the team feels a lot like a family. It’s a very comfortable environment. We’re professional when we put the number plates on, but it’s also very relaxed—cooking together, laughing together, hanging out the rest of the time, so it’s pretty easy to stay grounded.

How important is cross-training to you?
I really love that I live in a winter environment. A lot of people will go south to train, but I’ll go maybe two weeks in the winter. Being able to stay home and appreciate the different seasons and do something different with my body is amazing. It can give you more excitement when you get back on your bike in the spring. You can start the season with really good passion and energy, because it’s something that feels new and fresh.



Tell us about your involvement in your community to get kids into bike racing.
This year, with the local Sprockids program, we wanted to create an avenue to expose mountain bike racing. It’s really a program to expose kids to sports and activities outside of the school stream. Without my older brother introducing me to mountain biking I would have never known I could be really good at something. There are so many talented athletes out there, but it’s all about finding the right sport for them. It was super rewarding, because we doubled our participation during our four races, and we had at least 25-50 percent girls. It’s cool to see how passionate the kids are, and it’s cool to hear parents say their kids really want to go mountain biking with them. For some people, adding competition makes it that much more exciting and engaging. Competition isn’t for everyone, but it really appeals to some kids.


“For some people, adding competition makes it that much more exciting and engaging. Competition isn’t for everyone, but it really appeals to some kids.”

What fuels your passion for adventure?
I would say it’s the unknown. It’s putting yourself into a position where you could discover something really cool. I come from a really small town in rural New Brunswick and when I was in high school, I did an exchange program. One of my friends was like, “But you don’t know anyone there; you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.” I was like, “I know, that’s exactly the point. I have no clue what it will be, but it could be awesome and exciting.” I’m fueled by the opportunity to experience something new.



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