Active Life: Heidi Watson Speeds Through Winter

  • Watson’s Cervélo TT bike is built for speed.

  • Just the essentials.

  • Illustration by Mali Welch

HEIDI WATSON || Although she finished fastest in her division in Tri for a Cure the last two years, Heidi Watson aims to go faster. She is training hardest in the sport she once found most challenging: cycling. Her 2016 goal is to complete the Ironman Mont- Tremblant Race. As the days shorten, Watson’s preparation includes an indoor cycling class run by the Sustainable Athlete at Fleet Feet Sports Maine Running. She works fulltime in human resources at Unum, and she and her husband regularly attend their son’s high school sporting events.

Finding Cycling

Growing up, I didn’t bike a lot. I was a competitive swimmer for ten years and played Division I lacrosse at Temple University. So, swimming and running—those were easy to me. Initially, I was very tentative on the road bike. The first time I did Tri for a Cure, I’d see all these women pass me, and I thought, “How are they going so fast?” I wanted to improve my bike speed and so sought out ways to ride faster. Riding has become, over the years, the thing I enjoy the most in a triathlon. I think it’s the speed—being able to go faster and farther than you can running. Last year, I purchased a Cervélo TT bike, which is a time trial bike—it allows you to be in a more aerodynamic position, and you are better able to shift in an aero position, saving time during races or just riding on the road.

Indoor Cycling

Indoor cycling built my confidence after that first year of riding with the Sustainable Athlete team. There will be 24 cyclists in the class this year, and it’s great to have that camaraderie—the training can be monotonous if you’re just riding at home. The coaches of the class—Doug Welling and Denise Goode—instruct the group to simulate cycling outside, but we use bike trainers. You bring your bike and hook it onto a trainer by placing your rear wheel on the trainer, using a bike skewer, and putting your front tire on a block. As you ride, the bike and seat stays stationary, and you shift gears to increase and decrease the difficulty. You still wear clip-in shoes when you ride indoors.

On Saturdays, we connect our bikes to computrainers—the trainer has preprogrammed race courses you can select from—and your course is projected onto the screen, so you can follow your progress, cadence, and speed. There are seven other riders also projected onto the screen so you simulate a race.

The Benefit of Trainers

The bike trainers ease the transition from training inside in winter to outside in spring, because your body doesn’t have to readjust to a different type of seating, as in traditional spinning. I’m sure you can simulate your bike height in a traditional spin session without trainers, but still the position is a little different, so different muscles are being used. And you get to know your bike; you get the feel of your bike. It’s seated in the most comfortable position for you if you’ve had a bike fit, which is something everyone should have done. The first year I spun inside all winter with a trainer made a huge difference. I had about a seven- minute improvement in my time from the race the previous year.

Daily Life

I have worked in HR for the past 18 years. I currently work in employee relations. My day can be unpredictable, and every day is different, which is what I enjoy most about my position. I’m not the type of person who can split up the day at work—go for a bike ride and then come back. I like to either ride at the front end or back end of the day. As I start to train for a full Ironman, I typically go to bed around 9:00 p.m. during the week and get up around 4:30 a.m. to do a ride. Our hour-long class at Fleet Feet is three days a week at 5:30 a.m. I’m at work by 7:30 a.m., and I work until 5:00 p.m., depending on the day. Then I head out and hopefully catch a sporting event with my son, who plays soccer, lacrosse, and basketball at South Portland High School, or I will go for a run or a swim.

I am also on the board of the Human Resources Association of Southern Maine, and my  son Quinn and I teach Sunday School to kindergarten and first-grade children at the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in South Portland. My husband Blaik is senior bartender at Portland Country Club, so we’re on opposite schedules, but we try to have at least one day a week off together. He’s the cheerleader and coach and loves watching Quinn and me.

Active Maine

When I lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia, it was a 45-minute commute to work each way to go 10 or 15 miles, and you’re just stuck in traffic—that limits your time to do other things. I definitely think it’s easier to be active in the Maine environment. The traffic isn’t bad—my commute is short—and everything is so close in southern Maine. You’re able to shuffle your priorities a bit better. I’ve realized over the past number of years that you need to take time for yourself. It’s a stress reliever— to be biking or running or swimming. And anytime you try to push yourself to achieve a stretch-goal, it increases your confidence.



In South Portland, park on Higgins Lane. Turn left onto Stillman Street. Continue on Stillman until you see a fork in the road, where Stillman curves into T Ledge Drive. At the fork, turn left onto Highland Avenue. Continue for about five miles, then bear left onto Black Point Road/Route 207. Continue for about two miles, bearing right when it intersects with Spurwink Road. This will keep you on the section of Black Point that leads to Prouts Neck, where you can enjoy the view of Saco Bay. Turn back up Black Point, retracing your route until you see Spurwink Road/Route 77. Bear right onto Spurwink, continuing for about five miles until the road becomes Bowery Beach Road just after crossing Spurwink Creek. Bowery Beach Road then turns into Ocean House Road. After passing Cape Elizabeth High School, turn right onto Shore Road. In about two miles, the entrance to Portland Head Light and Fort Williams Park is on your right. For a scenic detour, ride into Fort Williams Park to visit the famous Portland Head Light. Continue your ride on Shore Road, then turn left onto Woodland Road and turn right onto Mitchell Road. Take a left onto Sawyer Street. Bear right to stay on Sawyer Street before it becomes Kaler Road. Continue on Sawyer Street before taking a right back onto Stillman Street. Continue on Stillman Street until you are back where you started on Higgins Lane.




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