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Missy Erickson: Go With the Flow

Missy Erickson

Episode 28

“It’s being able to take your experience and give it to other athletes in a way that they understand because everybody learns differently.”

Did you know that how much dairy you consume can affect your bike fit? Tune in to this week’s Talk of the T-Town to hear Joan and Andy talk with Missy Erickson about the intricacies of bike fitting, how Missy found cycling, and how she approaches coaching her athletes.

Missy Erickson
Missy Erickson


Missy Erickson

Instagram: @missyerickson @erosportspa @bigpicturecycling

Facebook: @missyericksonofficial @EROSportsPA @BigPictureCycling

Websites: ero-sports.com/2020 bigpicturecycling.com

Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast where we discuss All Things Track Cycling. Broadcasting from the Valley Preferred Cycling Center I’m your host and executive director, Joan Hanscom, along with my co-host, Athletic Director Andy Lakatosh.

Andy Lakatosh:

Welcome to the talk of the T-Town podcast, I’m Andy Lakatosh, athletic director of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center here with my co-host Joan Hanscom. Today we have Missy Erickson, the 2016 Valley Preferred Cycling Center rider of the year, World Cup bronze medalist, six-time national champion, and 2016 Olympic Long Team member and might be 2024 if she makes a comeback, sitting here in the studio with us today. Welcome Missy, thanks for coming on, how are you?

Missy Erickson:

I’m good, thanks for having me.

Andy Lakatosh:

For everyone who’s not here, Missy just had her birthday on Sunday and we’re hoping for Spring weather but we just finished wrapping up coaching a very cold and blustery track session this morning straight into the studio to record the podcast. So, fresh off of doing plenty of work and jumping into a little bit of fun. For everyone who doesn’t know Missy and her background, Missy, could you tell us a little bit about how you found cycling, got into it, what you did beforehand, how you came to find velodrome riding.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah. I grew up in Minnesota. I played all sorts of sports growing up. I started cross-country skiing when I was in middle school. Our cross-country ski coach at the time was a cyclist himself so he actually got me involved in cycling for off-season training. So cycling actually was my secondary sport just to get me off of skis all Summer. And then I transitioned into cycling as I become better and better at it. Eventually got offered a collegiate scholarship to Fort Lewis College, I was there for four years. I was only a road cyclist prior to go in and then Fort Lewis actually introduced me to track cycling. They just sent me an email and asked if I would be interested in doing it and my complete attitude about it was just, “Sure, why not.”

Missy Erickson:

And so I just started getting involved with collegiate cycling in that way, I learned how to raise mountain bikes, track bikes, cyclo-cross bikes. I even dabbled in BMX a little bit, I was really bad so that ended very quickly. But it was I think the first time on the velodrome, I remember, I think it was Paper Planes from M.I.A. was playing on the speakers and my friend Sarah and I were screaming at the top of our lungs at Colorado Springs trying to figure out what exactly we were doing. And I think it was the first weekend there I was approached by Mark Tyson actually, who became my first track specific coach in Colorado. And he asked me how high my high jump was, or how my vertical jump was, and I didn’t know who he was or what he was referring to and I had no idea so I just completely washed it off.

Missy Erickson:

But our track season really was only about three weekends, so I think I rode the track bike for five or six days, and then went to collegiate nationals and ended up medaling in a bunch of different events and just fell in love with it. Graduated college after four years…

Andy Lakatosh:

Hold on, before we go any further, that’s a lot of stuff to cover. So we went from cross-country, which of course makes sense in Minnesota because there’s so much snow.

Missy Erickson:

Right.

Andy Lakatosh:

When does snow start falling there usually?

Missy Erickson:

I mean, when I was a kid, we had feet of snow on the ground by Halloween. So, we didn’t have the typical Halloween costumes you see today. We had like, I stuffed an M&M costume full of newspaper and wore a snow suit under it to go trick-or-treating. So, we had snow early and we had snow late, there was always snow on my birthday, so right now we’d still have snow on the ground, so…

Andy Lakatosh:

And you’d still be skiing into May?

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, so that we would… Our high school season would start early, we’d run cross-country running, go into Nordic, and then we would cross-country ski all Winter long as long as we possibly could. State Championships was always probably in late February, and then we’d still have snow into the Spring.

Andy Lakatosh:

What was the highest level you made it to or biggest accomplishment you had in skiing?

Missy Erickson:

I raced a couple of Junior Olympic events but I think I made it to the state skiing three times.

Andy Lakatosh:

And so little known fact, you actually raced with and competed against Jessie Diggins?

Missy Erickson:

Yes.

Andy Lakatosh:

Who-

Joan Hanscom:

That’s crazy.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah.

Missy Erickson:

Who was arguably better than anybody. I actually remember at state my first year, she was on the start list behind me because they went by slowest to fastest ranking order for points of the overall season and my coach said, “When Jesse comes by you,” Because it wasn’t a question of-

Andy Lakatosh:

If.

Missy Erickson:

… if she was, it was when she was. He said, “Stay with her as long as you possibly can.” And Jessie is years younger than me, actually. So she was, I think she won state as probably at eighth or ninth grader, she was really young her first year that she won. And when she came by me, it was on a hill, and I was bigger than I am now, and arguably, if there was power to weight in skiing, it would be quite low. And she flew, for each one of my steps she must have been taking two or three, she was so fast, it was unbelievable. So, the fact that she’s Olympic gold medalist does not surprise me.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, and that was a really big historic Olympic gold medal too because US doesn’t do well in cross-country skiing but we’ve never won in women’s, right?

Missy Erickson:

No, I think the other medal was a man. I’m not familiar with what he actually did but, it’s the first Olympic gold medal by any American female for sure. I mean, she went on to win the World Cup overall, this year she won the Tour de Ski, she’s just breaking so many barriers and she’s just an incredible human being. She’s just incredible and the US Ski Team has come so far in the past couple years and they’ve done so much to build the program and the mentality. So, if you haven’t read Jessie Diggins’ book you should. And they also wrote a book about making the team too and that’s just incredible, the mindset and how they shifted the culture within US skiing and made that team work. So, very good reads for anyone who’s trying to put a program together.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s super interesting. So, but Missy, you came from an endurance background then…

Missy Erickson:

Yeah. And I-

Joan Hanscom:

… and became a sprinter?

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, I mean, the shift for me to go towards sprint was actually just because I fell in love with the keirin. When I was in college, my roommate, his name’s Ian, he, actually, we finished collegiate nationals and we just got in the car as soon as we got back to Durango and we loaded up the car and we went to Elite Nationals because they were out in LA and I had never competed in an event outside of collegiate. And for anyone who has been to collegiate nationals, the atmosphere at collegiate nationals is quite different than Elite’s. Elite’s is a lot more serious, there’s a lot more people, and so we just loaded up the car and took off to LA and I think we slept on the floor of his dad’s apartment in Santa Monica and I remember I rode a 90-inch gear in the women’s keirin and my first year I ended up getting a bronze medal.

Andy Lakatosh:

We’re talking about 2008?

Missy Erickson:

This is probably 2008 or 2009, so years back, that’s when I fell in love with the keirin specifically. I was an endurance athlete, I had only done road cycling up to that point. At collegiate nationals I think I medaled in the points race and scratch race and some more of the endurance stuff, but I just loved the keirin. And so for me, I didn’t have anybody there telling me physiologically, you are an endurance athlete, you’re sprint athlete, I just went by my heart like I did at that point. Wasn’t being coached by anyone specifically, I didn’t have any goals, it was just I went with what I felt was right. But even after that, I continued to do everything. I raced all the road events for Fort Lewis, I did cyclo-cross, I tried mountain biking but that result was very similar to BMX. So everything I did was endurance up until the point that I graduated. And then when I graduated in 2012, I just packed up my car, I sold almost everything, if it didn’t fit in the car it didn’t come with, I moved to Los Angeles with 800 bucks in my pocket because that’s what I sold my mountain bike for.

Andy Lakatosh:

Which is a lot like track sprinters standards, right? You-

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, which I call rich.

Andy Lakatosh:

You were the richest out of all of us.

Missy Erickson:

I found a room in a house in Torrance, where there was already three people living in it, and I didn’t know who they were, and I just moved. I asked the lady, she agreed to waive my deposit for a month until I found a job, I paid her my first month’s rent, which as everyone knows in LA is not cheap. And I literally walked into the velodrome and went into Jamie Staff’s office because he was running the program at the time, and I just said, “Hi, I’m Missy and I want to train with you guys.” I had an aluminum Fuji bike with a bent rear triangle and really bad training wheels, which I still have.

Andy Lakatosh:

Much against my advice.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah. And Jamie pretty much just said, “Okay, well, let’s see what you can do,” And I’m pretty sure my 200-meter that day was slower than 13 seconds, I had no idea what I was doing but he let me jump in the program. He didn’t write me a training plan, I just followed the other girls around, they were all incredibly welcoming. At that point it was like Taylor Crane and Kristen Walker and Dana Fais, all these incredible people that I had watched race Pan Am championships and Pan Am games and I knew I love California and I knew that’s where the indoor velodrome was going to be and that’s where I figured I had to be if I wanted to make it happen. And up until that point I didn’t actually know track cycling was in the Olympics, I just knew that I liked it and I wanted to try as much as I could to go as far as I wanted to.

Andy Lakatosh:

I see. So to me there’s almost a beauty in the fact that you didn’t grow up around track, you didn’t know the culture, you didn’t know the niche of it, you weren’t locked in, you just had a very open and “Hey, I’m going to do what’s fun,” basically instead of like, “Oh, I can’t race on this Saturday because that’s supposed to be my other training day,” You weren’t locked into I got to keep following this, you were like, “Oh, I’m just going to do whatever is fun and I get faster at doing,” So you just winged it because we definitely run into a lot of like, “Ah, I can’t go to California, I have to stay here and train with my coach and do this. I can’t mix it up,” Or just seeing all the roadblocks, it’s expensive, and it’s this, and it’s that and the other thing, and you definitely are always like, “Screw it.”

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, I mean-

Joan Hanscom:

Well…

Missy Erickson:

Go ahead.

Joan Hanscom:

What’s also important, though, is that you pick the thing that spoke to you. And I think, too often you see junior athletes being wedged into a path and they’re not picking, it’s being picked for them. And ultimately, I think that you ended up where you are today, coaching, bike fitting, still riding, because you picked the thing rather than having it thrust upon you. And I think that there’s a lesson in that for a lot of kids in the sport. There’s so many options available, if you love bikes and you love playing on bikes, play on bikes with the discipline that actually speaks to you don’t feel like you have to go down a certain pathway, pick the path that’s right for you. And I think that’s a really important thing for people to just take away from what you’re saying is that, there’s lots of ways to skin the proverbial cat, right? If you want to be pursuing this pathway, then pick the one that speaks to you the most not necessarily the one where people are trying to pigeonhole you or direct you.

Missy Erickson:

Right. I mean, there was even a point when I had an opportunity to be part of the women’s team pursuit program prior to Rio. I attended one of the camps, I did really well, and I had a sit down conversation with the coach, and they wanted me to be part of the program. And at that point, I was…

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, at that point the sprint program had been disban-

Missy Erickson:

Yeah and then-

Andy Lakatosh:

… Jamie had moved on to BMX.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, this is years down the road. Team pursuit always intrigued me as an endurance event and I enjoyed doing it. Even being offered an opportunity to train with the program at the Olympic Training Center, for me it was, I just loved to sprint so much and it wasn’t necessarily the sprints, it was just the keirin and I loved it, I loved every aspect of it and that was just the event that I wanted to do. And I knew if I were to switch, I won’t be able to do what I technically love to do, even though I loved riding and I love track and I love the team environment and everything, I went with what spoke to me across the whole board. When I wanted to race cyclo-cross, I raced cyclo-cross and when I didn’t, I didn’t and when I wanted to race road, I would race road.

Missy Erickson:

I’ve done to America’s Dairyland, I’ve done Superweek, I’ve done Nature Valley Grand Prix, I was part of the collegiate All Star Program. I’ve been there and done those things but it was always just the keirin and I loved it. And the fact that I was able to win a World Cup medal in that event, will always be one of my favorite memories. Everyone has their favorite thing that they got out of their career, but that will always be really important to me because I followed my heart and I did what I knew I could do and what I wanted to do, so…

Joan Hanscom:

So do you still love the keirin?

Missy Erickson:

I still love the keirin. Yeah, I mean, it’s a condensed short scotch race, I love all racing and I love scotch races, I love, like I said, team pursuit, I have a love-hate relationship with points races. The ones that I do do well and I like and the ones that I don’t I don’t. I don’t really like the Madison but that’s for other reasons. I just loved racing my bike and so I just continued on with it so, I think that’s important for anybody.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I agree. And I think Andy and I have talked about this on past pods to racers race, right?

Missy Erickson:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

I like road racing but there’s not a lot of it so I race GRITS and I race Gravel and stuff because I like racing.

Missy Erickson:

Exactly.

Joan Hanscom:

And I’m not terribly good at it but I still like it. And it’s good to… It’s one of those things you do the thing that makes you happy and racers race. And that’s a great mentality to embrace as well, again, for the juniors who are listening, try racing all the things, find your version of keirin, right? If you’re a junior athlete listening to this, race all the things, try them all because you like racing bike and find your version of the keirin and then chase that but if you want to chase cross, chase cross but race all the things and try.

Missy Erickson:

Right. When I went into college that’s just what I did, I was only a road athlete I’d never raced on the track path as a junior, I’d never touched a mountain bike, I didn’t touch a mountain bike until, I mean, I broke my arm on a mountain bike my freshman year of college, it was my second ride and I ended up in a five-foot trench with Ruthie Matthys as my instructor.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh man.

Missy Erickson:

So you do, you just go and you just try everything, don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re not good at something, just keep trying, do everything, you never know what is going to fall into your lap, so…

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that’s it. So, where were we in the Missy story? We were at the Long Team for 2016 then.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, well, I guess what I’m noticing is that, if you look at your resume, you got a lot of really amazing opportunities, right? The collegiate All Star stuff, all the cyclo-cross accomplishments, and I just see so much of that came out of your willingness to be like, “Yeah, sure I’ll give it a shot.” And I think that’s also what got you initially very, very far with Jamie and with USA cycling stuff was you’re just like, “Oh, this is what I got to do next. Cool, I’m going to do it right.” Like you were just on board for anything, I think that’s an important kind of thing. That type of mindset gets you really far because even if you look at Vicki Pendleton, Anna Meares, Chris Hoy, the best in the sport, I bet if you ask them at the end of their careers, did they have it all figured out? And it would probably be no. It would probably be, “No, I was still looking for ways to get more and just being open to opportunities and different viewpoints,” and stuff like that really makes a big difference. I think sometimes that gets lost.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really important to just… My whole perspective was just do whatever you have to do within reason obviously. I did so much traveling back and forth as soon as I got to California, I was there for maybe nine months training. The program fell apart, Jamie left, riders were leaving, so I was again without a coach, didn’t really know what I was doing, and this is Fall of 2012. And so, there was no program with USA cycling. At that point we were getting ready for the Pan Am championships and that was my first national team trip actually. I kept training through that Winter and then made the Pan Am championships team for 2013 with Maddie Godby. I had known Maddie because she was a friend of mine from out in California and she was also coached by Mark Tyson and so we got back together and after the Pan Am championships that year, we set a new team sprint national record and Maddie broke almost every record you can imagine for sprint females at that trip and I moved back to Colorado Springs for that Summer.

Missy Erickson:

So when I moved back to Colorado, because opportunity presented itself, I trained out there all Summer, race, had my first full season, had the opportunity to race on Blaine in Minnesota which is now no longer in existence. And I didn’t know that existed when I was a junior actually, I’m from Minnesota and I didn’t even know we had a track there. And then after that Fall, I actually move back to California again. So, for me it was all just about going where I was happy and my happiness was very important because happy bike racers are fast bike racers and that’s something that still sticks with me. When you’re happy, when you’re calm, and when you’re relaxed you perform well.

Missy Erickson:

And so, that was something that was really important to me throughout my entire career. And the moment that I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t calm and I wasn’t relaxed, I knew something had to change, and so that’s how I ended up back and forth and back and forth and that’s ultimately what led me to stop racing bikes for a while as well. So, that’s all very important is just going with the flow. Anytime I saw something that I could improve upon or whether it was equipment or coaching or where I was or races that I need to go or people I need to surround myself with, training partners, coaches, et cetera, I made the change and that was always really important.

Joan Hanscom:

So, you said something interesting about happy bike racers and certainly that’s been a theme that we’ve had throughout the pod as well. We had Kristen Caiman talking about her business mantra which is happy racers go faster, we had happy Carly is a fast Carly. So, you’re a coach now yourself, how do you help your own athletes realize that happy racers go faster? What’s your philosophy on that now that you’re on the other side of the bike so to speak, how do you help your athletes get to that place as a coach? Because that’s an important thing, I think, it’s for everybody.

Missy Erickson:

When it comes to my athletes, I think all of them will agree that I take a very personable approach to all of them, and I care greatly for every single one of them. And so, it’s really important for me to know what triggers them, what makes them happy, what helps them relax, and every person is different. So, helping the athlete themselves identify what do they need to do to be happy themselves, is it having their favorite breakfast? Is it having conversations with certain people? Is it focusing on the time? Is it focusing on the result? Is it focusing on just simply being present? Every single person is different, but helping the athlete understand that statement is very true. If they are happy, if they are calm, if they are relaxed, they will have a good day regardless of the result.

Missy Erickson:

I can’t really give you a straight up answer about what I do because every single person is different. And it’s just understanding that for each individual and helping them understand that. When I see somebody all wound up, you can see the stress and stress is not conducive to happy bike racers. So, it’s just understanding that and helping them understand it and then figuring out what triggers are going to help them relax and what’s going to make them happy, essentially. So, I don’t know if that answered the question, but…

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I mean, I just think it’s an important coaching philosophy. I think that it’s more and more people have this awareness that matters.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah. And I think that’s the important thing, is that understanding that it does matter, taking the stress off. If you’re traveling to an event and something goes wrong, you have a choice, you have a choice to get really upset about it, you have a choice to be really stressed about it or you can just go with the flow, and that was my whole philosophy. I spent an entire evening for hours walking around Mexico City with the US program trying to find the velodrome and I had two choices. It’s super stressed out about the fact that I’m walking on my legs for two hours the day prior to an event or like, “Oh, cool, we get to see Mexico City. This is kind of funny. We’re all just out here, nobody speaks Spanish, we don’t know where we’re going. Okay, whatever, it is what it is.”

Missy Erickson:

And I think it’s important for athletes to understand that they have that choice. You have a choice to get upset, you have a choice to respond the way that you’re responding and you can shift that mindset. So, you can either go with the flow, accept what’s happening and make the best out of it or everything can be negative, everything can be stressful, and then that’s going to weigh on you throughout your entire event.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, it’s funny, there’s a public very World Tour stage example of that, right? Like in the Tour de Romandie, just a week ago or two weeks ago now, Geraint Thomas crashed on the penultimate stage 20 meters from the finish line. His hands were frozen, he slipped off the bars and he was in a position to win the overall and he was interviewed afterwards and he was like, “Oh, I felt a right walker,” But he made fun of himself and then he put a funny meme up of his glasses falling off his head and he made a joke about it. And then he went out the next day and just crushed the final days time trial. And he had previously done a podcast about this same topic about how you can either get completely flipped out and stressed out and he had his sports psychologist on talking about the ability to laugh stuff off, and how that ability to laugh off stuff when it’s appropriate, is really important. And I think it’s also something really to remember, if you have a bad result, you have to put… It’s like hockey goalies-

Missy Erickson:

Exactly.

Joan Hanscom:

… We’ve talked about hockey goalies on the pod before too, you let a goal in and you have to forget that you let the goal in. You have to be able to laugh it off, you have to be able to put it behind you and not dwell and get caught up in dwelling. And I think that’s a real skill to cultivate, I wish I could cultivate it better, I worry about every single thing, and I don’t let things go. I’ve been standing with the test.

Missy Erickson:

I mean, Andy knows me well enough that he knows that I was not always like that. Every single day mattered, every little thing mattered, I was so superstitious in my career like my socks could not match, I had to eat brownies beforehand and God forbid, I didn’t. So, it comes with experience and I think that’s important for any coaches, not all good athletes make good coaches, and it’s being able to take your experience and give it to other athletes in a way that they understand because everybody learns differently.

Missy Erickson:

So, taking my experience in being able to digest that and give it to somebody else in a way that they understand and they can perceive it, is really important. So, every athlete responds to things differently and so it’s my job to understand that and give them the information in a way that they’re going to understand and they’re going to learn and they’re going to take what they need from it. So, it is a learning process. The whole thing is a learning process and I didn’t understand that until I was well into my career. So there’s always things that I wish I could have changed and I would have done differently but now I know better. So, hopefully I can pass that on to other people.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, with all say, having been privy to witnessing this whole process firsthand is, and I strongly encourage, and this is why I think it’s great that we have the programs that we have here at the track compared to other tracks, but I strongly encourage elite athletes to coach even if it’s not what you want to do as your long-term career path, right? Because there was a point where Missy started coaching some athletes and we discussed training plans and how to correct things and help people improve and she can be like, “Can you believe this one person is freaking out about this one thing and they won’t let it go. And now, every day they expect that they have to be better than they were the day before and if they’re not, it’s a failure.” And I was like, “Yeah. Yeah, I think I’ve encountered an athlete like that a time or two before.”

Andy Lakatosh:

But I even learned too as a coach to like things and then all of a sudden, you just don’t start to sweat the small stuff. I think we spend a lot of time as coaches Missy and I focusing on the process, control what you can control, focus on execution, right? And the only thing that you can really control when something bad happens is your reaction and that goes right back to what Missy said about laughing things off and not stressing about it. But a big part of it is definitely, if you do the work and you put in all the time, you take care of yourself and you recover, then on race day, you’re really focusing about, and this is a harder thing to get people to truly understand, but you’re focusing on executing and just doing what you’ve been programmed to do, you’re not focused on going fast, or beating someone, you’re just focused on executing all the skills and all the abilities that you already have. And then if the result is the best that it can be, and then we get beat, probably we were beaten by somebody better. If we make a mistake, if we don’t execute right, then that’s on us. But there’s nothing wrong with losing.

Joan Hanscom:

There’s real thing, though, into believing in the process that, right?

Andy Lakatosh:

Trusting in the process.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, to show up on race day and say, “I’m not going to worry about all the things that you just rattled off Andy, I’m just going to worry about executing.” That means that you have to have, for the months, years leading up to that day, believed in the process, bought into the process and have confidence that on the day executing is in your reach, right? I think that’s hard for a lot of athletes. I think that there’s anxiety about, “Am I prepared enough? Am I ready to execute on the day?” So how do you handle that? How do you get by it in the process because it’s a months and years long thing, it’s a relationship that goes on for many…

Missy Erickson:

Right. And I think in my own experience that’s I was all in or nothing. And that’s how I operated, it was 100% everything. So, if I had 100% belief that I was doing everything in my power, whether it was sleeping enough, eating the right things, obviously, rest and recovery, anything that I needed to do, I was always seeking out what I knew to be the best, whether it was programs, coaches, facilities, equipment, if someone told me something was better, I researched it and I got it and I made sure I had it. And that was just how I function. So, there was no limitation in my book. I…

Joan Hanscom:

That’s the high performance mindset, right?

Missy Erickson:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

… that [crosstalk 00:31:14] talking about.

Missy Erickson:

And because like then when I showed up to a World Cup, I said, “I have everything that I know. I do not have a doubt that I’ve done everything that I know possible to become a better athlete.” And of course, I left my first World Cup getting dropped off the back for kieran before the race even got started. So, I left that World Cup and said, “Okay. This is what I learned and this is what I need to adjust, because I need to get better.” So, being able to believe in what you’re doing was really big for me. I had to know that people believed in me, and I had to know that I believed in myself. So I surrounded myself with a team of people who I know did, because then I knew that I was in the best hands possible. And at one point if I did not believe so, I brought someone else on board and I made sure that I was always constantly improving because the only way we improve is through change. And so if I’m just doing the same thing over and over and over again and not seeing improvement, then I’m going to change something to make it happen. And obviously change is painful for a lot of people. But you have to do adapt.

Missy Erickson:

So, when someone walks up to an event, our job as coaches is to make sure that we have done everything in our power to make them the best possible athletes that they can. And their job as an athlete is to make sure that they have done everything on their end to make sure that they are the best athlete they can be. And if they do that, they can leave an event regardless of the result and know that they’ve done everything in their power and we can adjust accordingly afterwards. But the worst feeling is when you do as an athlete walk up to an event and say, “I could have done this, this and this and I didn’t and this is the result because of it.”

Andy Lakatosh:

There’s a big part of being able to take ownership over that too.

Missy Erickson:

Exactly.

Andy Lakatosh:

Not casting out blame and going, “Oh, the program wasn’t right.” Because no, you missed XYZ day, you stay up till one in the morning, you don’t eat the right foods, like taking ownership of that, right? That’s-

Joan Hanscom:

100%. 100%.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

And as a coach it’s not a fun conversation to have but I think that we work with a lot of athletes that are prepared to accept those things, right? The first thing you should always do, I think, is look introspective and go, “All right,” Like Missy’s saying, “Did I do everything? If I did everything and I still fell short, then what’s the area of opportunity?” And approaching it that way instead of going, “Something was wrong with you guys.”

Missy Erickson:

Yeah. And I think that’s a maturity thing to the same thing as, like I did that as an athlete. I can count on my hand a handful of times that I did not take ownership for my own mistakes or my own results accordingly. And now as I’m older, I can look back and I can see that. So as a coach I try to stay ahead of the ballgame, right? And you’d have those conversations with the athletes prior and you say, “Okay, this is where we can improve upon, are you willing to take that sort of commitment?” And some are and some aren’t. And the ones that aren’t, then accept that that is what they choose. And it works out for some and it doesn’t for others. So, as an athlete that was how I functioned. It was all or nothing, it was taking ownership and trying to be the best possible athlete that I knew how to be, whether that was eating the right foods, selling equipment, getting new stuff, it didn’t matter what it was, anything that I thought I needed to improve upon, I just did it.

Andy Lakatosh:

One thing I will say is that the OCD side of Missy, that everything has to be perfect and right on point, has come in incredibly useful for her when she’d… So coaching I kind of trust on her, right? I was like, “I need help. Can you help? Can you do this? Can you talk to that person?” And I think as elite athletes we regularly get approached as like, “Hey, would you be willing to coach me?” I know when you start coaching there’s so much fear around like, “I don’t feel I have it all figured out why are you going to give me money to tell you what to do because I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do every day.” But the OCD for Missy has definitely made her an incredible bike fitter, out of this world. Can you tell us a little bit about how you discovered that, how you became a bike fitter, and how it’s been going for you.

Missy Erickson:

Well, my whole fitting process started back in 2012 when I moved out to LA. Jim Manton had his ERO studio inside the velodrome and-

Andy Lakatosh:

Which at that point was just a couple of metal barricades.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, it was. It was just a couple of metal barricades with his equipment sitting there and he was there a couple times. And when I made the Pan Am team for 2013, he walked up to me and I didn’t know who he was, and he didn’t know who I was and he said, “Your position is absolutely terrible and I can’t believe you actually made the team so, can I fit you?” And I was just like, “Sure, why not,” Like another opportunity just there, so why would I say no to it. And then our relationship, Jim and mine, just grew from there, just became a process over the years of getting to know each other and him helping me with various positions whether it was for pursuit or mass start or sprint or…

Andy Lakatosh:

All the bike changes, all the handlebar changes…

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, anything I needed help with, he was there for me and he became a really great sponsor and supporter of mine. And that was just something that just appeared as history of me in the sport. And in 2015, Jim had been asking me throughout the whole the years if I would be interested, he really wanted a female fitter because he wanted a female perspective to come along so he could reach more female athletes because him as a man, he doesn’t know what it’s like to ride a bike as a woman, it’s very, very different, he’s the first person to admit that. So, he-

Joan Hanscom:

Which is great.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, which is great, I mean, Jim is one of the most-

Andy Lakatosh:

I was just going to say, give Jim’s resume so people actually understand who he is.

Missy Erickson:

I mean, Andy, you know Jim’s resume, he’s the man and that’s enough, that’s all you have to say. Like in the-

Andy Lakatosh:

But didn’t he fit X number of the top people that finished at Kona every year or something like that, like he’s the guy.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah. He does so many fits, he is arguably the number one fitter and ERO guru in the world at the moment in terms of cycling world. He’s huge in the triathlon world. He’s worked with the women’s team pursuit program, he’s helped develop products and bikes and equipment and anything and everything under the sun, he is your go-to person. So, I didn’t know any of this, I just thought he was some guy that did bike fit. He’d been asking me for years if I would come on board and do an apprenticeship under him and become part of ERO as I operate, if I can’t give something 100% of my time, I just don’t do it. And so, I was 100% in to try to make the Rio team. And so I told him, “Right now I just don’t have time, maybe in the future.”

Missy Erickson:

In 2015, I had a really bad accident on the track that took me out of the sport in a roundabout way but I didn’t ride a bike for a couple months. And so when that happened, he just looked at me and he said, “You’re not riding right now, so why don’t you come and just see if you like this.” And so, for a couple of months, I just started going into the studio every day whenever he was doing a fit and just listening to what he had to say and how he worked and know his process and methodology and what he did, and I came to really like it. It was, again, with my OCD, it was numbers, it’s so intricate, it’s listening to the athlete but also looking at the numbers and figuring out where an athlete is supposed to be positioned. It’s like a big puzzle you’re just trying to figure out, everyone’s different. And so-

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, there’s so many if then statements and stuff, I know that there’s other fit courses and stuff that you can do in a number of sessions or a long weekend or even a single session, or some people just go, “Oh, here’s an app on my iPad, here’s the angles of…”

Missy Erickson:

Yeah.

Andy Lakatosh:

And as long as you’re at that number, it’s good to go but it’s really so coaching, it’s so personalized, and this is what I came to realize because I was definitely one of those stubborn like, “This is my seat height, this my this,” I don’t change it ever, right? And then I met Jim and Missy and I was like, “All right, I know none of this so I’m going to stop talking about it.” I stopped advising people on fit but, I was amazed at how many… You had a couple month long there every day with him.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, I think in total I did seven to eight months before I did my first solo fit. And that was me just going in every day and just learning. And it took that long for him to be comfortable enough to say, “Okay, you can do this to my standard. I have a standard that I set and that I require and I think you’re ready to do it.” And so, I started fitting out of the ERO studio in Carson and at that point we had an actual studio, a little brick and mortar area, that we fit in out of the track. And so that just became my thing then, just like I went all in for cycling, like I went all in for the fit studio and when Rio wasn’t going to happen, we had the conversation of moving here to T-Town and Jim really wanted a studio on the east coast and so it just worked that Jim operates the West Coast side and I’m here on the East coast and we have our two locations, and it’s been really good. It’s one of those things where I don’t advertise and I don’t market other than what you see on Instagram, which is just my before and after pictures of people’s positions.

Andy Lakatosh:

Yeah, it’s all just word of mouth.

Missy Erickson:

Because I believe that if I do a good enough job, and that if I deserve it that people will comment that it’s worth it. It’s one of those things where if people even they believe in the process, and they believe in what I’ve done or they’re set up in a good position and they perform well and they feel good and they love riding their bikes then that’s all that I care about.

Missy Erickson:

So, my fit process essentially is just every athlete that comes in is treated the same, I don’t care if you’re going to the Olympics or if you’re riding on the Derby, that’s as high of a level as you want to achieve, everyone should be comfortable on their bike, whether they’re in a road position, a mountain position, a TT position. Everyone comes in with their own objectives, I get people who are 10 years old, I get people who are 90 years old, everybody is treated exactly the same. Everyone gets the same level of service. Everyone gets the same attention to detail and my attention to detail, as we all know, having severe OCD is incredible. So I take the time that I need to and if we need more time we take more time and… I don’t know what else to say about it, it’s like geek out with it, it’s fun for me. I have people come to my home and get to meet my dogs and becomes a very personable experience for me. I care about every single person as a person not just as a fixture on a bike that comes to me and I set them up and send them home. I take to heart every single person that comes in and I want to make sure that they love cycling as much as I do.

Joan Hanscom:

And for those of you who are listening, who haven’t had a bike fit yet, who haven’t gone through a full-on professional bike fit, I have not worked with Missy, I had my most recent bike fitting done with Colby Pierce out in Colorado but it was a very similar thing. It was a six to seven hour process of getting that whole aspect of how you sit on the bike dialed in and I’m not an elite athlete but for me, just the way he changed the way the hoods were set up on the bike and the reach, I became a better descender, better person going through corners, it was such subtle manipulations. And so even if you are, like Missy saying, like a Derby rider or you want to go to a Gran Fondo or a Century, it can make such a massive difference. And if you’re going to invest money in a bike, invest money in a fit, because amplify your performance, but being just your pleasure on the bike it’s more fun when nothing hurts and when your weight is distributed correctly on the bike so that your cornering feels better, you feel more secure, it’s definitely something worth investing in if you have a bike that you really love and you want to ride it, I can’t speak highly enough.

Joan Hanscom:

What’s funny, talk about OCD and getting down into the details. When I worked with Colby, one of his questions that leapt out at me that was so stunning was how much dairy do you eat? Because apparently dairy is processed in your pancreas and your pancreas is on your right side and so it can lead to a left-right power distribution. Like how many hours a day do you spend in the car and how much dairy do you eat? And I asked him why that mattered for bike fit and he had such an interesting answer about where your pancreas is, that I thought, “Oh my god, that is the devil in the details,” Right? Because that is-

Missy Erickson:

There’s a lot of stuff like that that people don’t realize [crosstalk 00:45:45]. It’s like we’ll get someone up on a bike and I’ll ask them similar questions and they’re like, “Oh, what does that have to do with this?” Or “What are you seeing?” Or introducing some people to things that they just haven’t thought about like imbalances and realizing that like, “Oh, you actually have a leg length discrepancy,” or “Did you know you’re rotated or did you know that your saddles’ actually really crooked or that it’s bent?” Even little things like that people just don’t think about and there’s this whole stigma on social media about hang slamming your stem which drives me absolutely bonkers.

Missy Erickson:

The other thing too is that fit changes as we’re evolving especially in the track world, there’s so much that’s coming out now where you’re seeing positions change so much. And it’s really important that as fitters you stay up-to-date with that and you evolve with the change. And I think that’s something that alot of people don’t do, they’re so stuck on the numbers that they’ve been presented by software programs, that they don’t accept that there are changes and that there are adaptations that we need to take place and that we need to invest in. And I’ve seen that a lot with the track sprint world. Had the opportunity to work with Cycling Canada and a couple of US athletes and athletes from other countries as well, I learn through every single fit that I perform. You learn something about how somebody works as an athlete and how you can better them as an athlete and I put that inside every other fit that I do regardless if you’re going to the Olympics, like I said, or not, it’s every single person should be treated equal and I take my knowledge that I learn and give it to every single person as well. So, I don’t really know what else to say about it.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, I think-

Joan Hanscom:

It’s just really cool, right? I mean, again, for the non-elites, like for me, I had external iliac artery endofibrosis which came from probably two decades of riding with handlebars that were too low and created an extreme hip angle that then damaged my arteries. So now I ride with a stack of spacers because I don’t want to redamage my arteries but that’s part of a conversation you have with a fitter, right? Like if I didn’t adjust my fit because of my predisposition for this artery thing, then I would just damaged myself again and have more really spendy surgery whereas now I can optimize a fit that’s as good as it’s going to be for what condition I have to work around. So, that’s just so that my legs keep working. But that’s where this all matters for everybody. Again, I’m not going to Tokyo, I’m not going to Paris, but I still want to be able to ride my bike and still want to be able to do it safely, healthy, and so everybody.

Andy Lakatosh:

And as fast as possible.

Joan Hanscom:

Everybody has there issues.

Andy Lakatosh:

So, I guess what I’m saying that ties this whole thing together is the always being open to and willingness to grow and learn and adapt, right? When you were getting out of high school and college you went wherever you had to for your riding. As you transitioned into coachinG you’re always looking for new techniques, things that worked, didn’t work, how to help the next athlete, so we’re always learning and growing as coaching. And as a fitter, you just said the exact same thing, right? Like yes, you did seven, eight months of apprenticeship, you have how many years of fitting under your belt now, but it’s still like got-

Missy Erickson:

An evolving process.

Andy Lakatosh:

… got to keep evolving and you got to keep growing. One of the important things that I had learned is, even if you stay the same way and you do the same events in the same training as you get stronger and as you change how you ride in different phases, you still need to get refit, even if you haven’t changed the bike because you just might sit and produce power differently on the bike, you need to go back for follow ups. But what I wanted to ask just to wrap it up for fun, is what is the biggest Missy bike fitter peeve that you have to deal with clients that come in because I know I’m going to guess that it’s changing handlebars, seat position, pedals, wear the shoes and going… The fit doesn’t feel the same, the fits are wrong. Is that it or there’s something else that drives you more bonkers like not trusting bike size recommendations?

Missy Erickson:

All the above. I mean it. I think the biggest thing is that I don’t ever, I mean, I see people all the time where I’m like, “Oh, if only I could help you,” But I do not approach people and say, “Hey, let me fit you,” I do run a business but I don’t pressure anybody to do what I think they need to do. When someone comes to see me, they believe it’s because they need it and because I can help them. And that’s the only way, same philosophy of coaching. I don’t go out and tell people that, “Oh, let me coach you, I can make you so much better.” If someone wants to come see me, if they want to get fit by me, if they want to be coached by me, it’s because they believe that I can help them.

Missy Erickson:

And so, when someone comes to me for bike recommendations and they do a pre-fit, and I send them a list and their track bike size is four or five sizes bigger than what they’re used to riding. They’ve come to me and they believe in and what I do. And sometimes that doesn’t happen, sometimes I have people come in, I tell them, “Hey, you’ve been writing a 48 and you really need to be on a 59,” And it blows their mind because they’ve never heard that before. When they don’t take those recommendations that gets on my nerves a little bit because I put a lot of work into it. It’s not, like I said, I take a very personal approach to every single client that comes in into my shop, you can tell me somebody’s name that I fit and boom I remember exactly what their process was. I know how they work as an athlete, I remember what they look like, I remember what we did.

Andy Lakatosh:

OCD at its finest.

Missy Erickson:

Yes, yes. And that’s part of it. So, I take to heart the work that I do with my clients so, I mean, when someone comes in and get a fit and they go on a ride once and they say, “Oh, it felt weird I changed everything back,” That drives me a little bit nuts. The body takes time to adapt, and when you change your bike position, you change how your muscles work, so you need to give it time like everything else. You don’t do one training session all of a sudden become a world record 200 meter holder, it takes time. So, I invest time in people and they invest time and believing that what I do works, so…

Andy Lakatosh:

Needless to say, I touched nothing out of my bike after Missy does it or else I pay the price.

Missy Erickson:

No, you don’t.

Andy Lakatosh:

Well, I think that about wraps it up for us, Joan, anything? Any final questions for Missy?

Joan Hanscom:

No, it was super good to have you on the pod, I loved hearing from other women who are trailblazing in our sport. I think we’ve had a bunch of really fascinating female guests on the pod and you are just the latest in a long list of female guests who are really blazing a trail particularly as an athlete but also in the bike fit realm in your coaching and I think that’s awesome and I appreciate you giving us your time to talk about it. And for everybody who is listening, just give a quick shout on how they can find you if they want to get a bike fit.

Missy Erickson:

Facebook and Instagram, it’s all I do, at ERO Sports PA. Website is ero-sports.com. You can find all of our info there whether you’re in California, whether you’re here on the east coast. Jim is still operating out in California too so, I’ll give him a little bit of shout out. And coaching with Big Picture Cycling, so you can find us at the track almost every day. Online, Facebook, Instagram, same type of thing with Big Picture Cycling and ERO sports.

Joan Hanscom:

Awesome. Thank you.

Missy Erickson:

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Joan Hanscom:

All right. This has been the Talk of the T-Town podcast. We’re wrapping up our chat with Missy Erickson, signing off for me and my co worker, Andy Lakatosh, and we will catch you on the next episode.

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the Talk of the T-Town podcast with host Joan Hanscom and Andy Lakatosh. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode, brought to you by B. Braun Medical Inc. Head on over to our website thevelodrome.com where you can check out the show notes and subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode.