Katrina Strand – Interview
I was recently lucky enough to catch up with Katrina Strand (sadly not during a visit to British Columbia or anything like that). Katrina is an awesome lady who has been a bit of a role model of mine for some time now. Katrina has been mountain biking for over 15 years and has represented Canada at the World Championships, as well as being a passionate advocate for women in cycling. Also she rides a beautiful looking Commencal Meta, so a lady of exceptional taste! Currently Katrina is working as mountain bike coach and trainer, with a particular focus on young mountain bike athletes.
I wanted to ask her about how she got into mountain biking, how it compares to having a (beautiful!) baby and what adventures she has planned for the future. If after reading this you still want to know more about Katrina you should check out her website here.
CB: Congratulations on your beautiful daughter Anna. How is Anna doing? I noticed that she is called Anna Ronnie Strand Barrelli. How did she get her middle name?
KS: Kind of crazy how the first name came about actually! We chose to not find out the gender, but around 3 months pregnant I had a daydream and the name Anna came to me. No idea why or how, I don’t know anyone with that name. Yoann was away at the time, but when he returned I just casually asked out of interest what the name should be if a girl . . . he says “How about Anna?” Turns out he has the same daydream the same day! So wild that it happened that way. Also, we never had a boy name so thankfully a girl arrived! Ronnie is my Dad’s name. He passed away tragically in 2016, and I knew that I wanted his name in there – if Anna grows up with even a fraction of the compassion, humility and grace my Dad has, she and we will be very lucky.
CB: How did you first get into mountain biking? And where were your first rides?
KS: My good friend Lisa Lefroy and I took her parent’s cruisers up the bike park one rainy muddy afternoon and slipped our way down the mountain, crashing and laughing. That day started it all. Soon after I bought my first bike. All my first rides were in the Sea to Sky – Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish and North Shore.
CB: How did you and Yoann meet? Was it a bike related encounter?
KS: We officially met at the Denver airport on route to Whistler from one Enduro World Series race to another. He was on Giant, and I had a few good friends on the same team. The following week we kept on running into each other, which led to riding together and training for the race and and and . . . ha! Coincidentally, I had a trip planned already to France and Italy in the fall, for the Trans Provence and final EWS, flying into Nice, which is his hometown. But anyways, he had already booked his flight back to Canada before I even got on that plane to France! We just knew.
CB: With you running your training and development programme (amongst other things) and Yoan off racing EWS, how do you guys manage during the busy times? Has having baby Anna had an impact on coaching and racing schedules for the upcoming summer season?
KS: Oh for sure she’s had an Impact on schedules, I mean your life completely changes. I think particularly now because she is so young and needs us 24/7. Yoann will still be travelling to races this year, but he has created a schedule that has him home a lot. I have cut back on work, but have kept what is most important to me in full swing and have hired coaches for the programs I can’t physically do at the moment.
CB: Talk us through your current bike choices and how you like them set up? Is there anything special or unusual about them?
KS: I ride a Commencal TR, AM and Supreme DH. Equipped with Fox suspension, Chromag, Maxxis, Shimano. Nothing unusual I’d say, but I do cut my grips so I can have a better match with my shifter and brakes.
CB: It has been roughly three months since Anna was born, have you managed to get back out on your bike since then? If so, how did that feel and what sort of ride was it?
KS: Yes! Just getting back on my bike now. My first ride was in Squamish and I did a really short loop, and kept it to trails that I consider easy. I did another short loop a few days later, and now I’m in Arizona riding. It feels awesome on one end and not so awesome on the other . . . I love riding and so it just feels great to be on my bike again in the woods with my dog and friends. I feel like I have energy, but I am far from healed so I also feel quite fragile. Recovery is really really hard (and this comes from someone who has had major injuries), and I’m taking it seriously so I don’t have any huge setbacks!
CB: Any tips for women getting back on the bike after giving birth? Did you ride when you were pregnant and if so, how late in your pregnancy did you ride? Did you take any medical advice about this?
KS: You’ll likely know when you are ready to give it a try, but that’s just it, give it a try and take small steps forward. Also, don’t get on that bike with expectations! I say that is the most important tip! It takes such a huge toll on your body being pregnant, birth and beyond that you really just need to be patient.
I rode up till about 7 months pregnant. I had a really easy pregnancy I’d say though cause I felt good almost the whole time and stayed very active. I just knew when to stop – intuitively and also, my belly was getting in the way. My doctors encouraged me to get out and live my life! I know myself well enough to know when it was time to call it.
CB: Why did you decide to teach others how to ride bikes? Was it a gradual process or was it a leap of faith?
KS: It started when I was asked to coach for a youth program in Whistler waaaaay back in like 2002. I started there, and grew with the coaching industry. So, totally gradual. Eventually I went back to University to get my degree in Human Kinetics so I could also add Strength and Conditioning to my coaching. It’s really evolved from there. Now, I train and coach mountain bikers, but these days less about skill coaching and more about physical training, and coaching young athletes how to race effectively.
One of my main projects is a Rider Development Team that is backed by Commencal, Fox Head, Fox Shox, Maxxis, Ride 100 percent and Ride Wrap. These select youth are provided with an environment of opportunity that allows them to learn, challenge, and progress their riding, all while learning what it takes to be an athlete in the mountain bike world.
CB: Are there many girls taking part in the coaching courses? Do you run classes solely for women and if so, is that something you consider to be important?
KS: I don’t run classes for women only, but probably would if my focus was skill coaching. I do consider it important, many women learn better in a women only environment and so I feel we need these classes in order to get more ladies riding and/or confident in their riding.
CB: What are the plans for this year’s season? Are you signed up for any races or events?
KS: I am not competing, no. I needed a break far before I knew Anna was coming along. But, I’m busy with my Rider Development Team, coaching courses for youth and children, and brand ambassador work for the companies I work with.
CB: I basically ask everyone this question; how can I learn to jump better? I am comfortable with steep descents but keep struggling to get airborne.
KS: Take a lesson!! 😉
Thank you very much to Katrina for taking the time to speak to us. We wish her and her family all the best.
March 19, 2018