Coming out of college where she competed as a NCAA swimmer, Amanda “Panda” Nauman knew she needed something to keep active and keep her competitive edge. She was drawn to cycling. After having spent years in the pool, cycling was something different and, she realized she enjoyed it. She began competing as an amateur at Cross Country Nationals in 2013. In the fall of that year, she competed in her first Elite UCI Cyclocross race. And in 2014 she began racing Elite UCI Cross Country season. She has now won the Dirty Kanza 200 two years in a row. A race that took her over 13 hours to win last year.
We caught up with Amanda Panda between training sessions to talk a bit about Dirty Kanza and her thoughts on going for a third win.
NINER: You’ve won Dirty Kanza twice. What’s motivating you to go for a third?
AMANDA: The first year was one of the hardest Dirty Kanza’s ever. The first hour was all mud. Derailleurs were snapping off. People were hiking their bikes. Because I ride cyclocross, people thought it was a fluke that I won because I can ride in mud. The second year I doubted myself. I was scared I wasn’t going to do well and I also felt I had something to prove. This year I’m heading into the race knowing I can do it. I’m not doing it for anyone other than me this year. I just want to win for me.
NINER: What’s the hardest part about the race?
AMANDA: After the last aid station you realize there’s still a lot of miles to go. Your body doesn’t want to keep going. You go into a dark place and you just have to grind out the miles. It’s something a lot of people who have done the ride talk about. You don’t let yourself sit down at the final aid station. If you do, your body thinks it’s done. You’ve got to keep moving. And riding gravel doesn’t really allow you to shut off and go into cruise mode like you might be able to do in a road race. You have to deal with the terrain and at Kanza it’s rolling hills and rough gravel. You’re going up and down all day.
NINER: What will be the longest ride you do before the race?
AMANDA: The longest ride I’ll do is over in the UK at the Dirty Reiver gravel race. It’s 200km. After that, we’re planning to ride from my front door in Orange County all the way up into the Sierras to Mammoth which is like 400 miles. We’ll do this over a few days and I’ll ride up and over the LA mountains and then down towards the Mojave. It should be a lot of fun.
Niner: How do you manage a full time job and train?
AMANDA: I’m lucky enough to have a job with flexible hours. I get my training in before noon and then go to work. Sometimes I’m at work until 8 p.m. In the summer, sometimes I’ll switch it up and go to work early in the morning and then ride in the afternoon. Thankfully I have a job that allows me to work this way. It makes it all possible.
NINER: If you had one piece of advice for someone training for a long event for the first time, what would it be?
AMANDA: Quality over quantity. Everyone’s time is limited, so make the most of the time you have available to ride! Quality training rides with good intervals will be more beneficial than long, slow “junk” miles : )