Meet Team GB Cross Country Mountain Biker, Isla Short. At five foot one (nearly), Isla is the definition of small but mighty.
We were there to witness Isla at her most recent World Championship race, where she placed an incredible 5th place overall. It’s needless to say that training and competing at a world-class level at such an intense and tough sport, requires a lot of energy, and, this year, Isla’s choice of energy is 3Bears Porridge. Read on to find out more about Scotland’s top cross country MTB athlete and our new Powered by 3Bears Porridge athlete.
Profession: Cross country mountain biker
5th place at the 2020 World Championships
5th place at the 2018 Commonwealth Games
5th is my lucky number it seems! Unless I continue to finish 5th at either of those events again…
Describe your discipline:
I race for roughly 1.5 hours on a 3-4km track with steep, steep climbs and techy, rocky, rooty descents, sometimes with some mud thrown in. We normally do around 6 laps and roughly 1000m elevation gain!
How did it all begin for you?
I grew up riding a bike. It was a huge part of my childhood with my family, so dipping my toes into racing was sort of inevitable, particularly because of my competitive nature. My dad raced Scottish MTB events, so I went along to support him and eventually joined him between the tape! I was about 14 when I started racing nationally and the process to now has been really organic and gradual.
Can you describe your most memorable biking moment to date?
My favourite RACING moment has to be my 5th at the World Champs. Everything was so chaotic between the finish line and that night that I never really got chance to process it all until I was in my bed that night, when I actually laughed out loud at how crazy the day had been.
In terms of pure, simple riding, doing my 100km MTB ride that covers all the best trails and hills around the Tweed Valley in January this year with my boyfriend is one of my special moments because there’s nothing better than starting and finishing in the dark, and filling the space in between with bike just great riding.
What is it that you like about biking?
I could write a book answering this question! But… I love the mountains and I love to push my body, so it makes sense to me to bring these two things together with a bike. All of the most special people in my life I’ve either met through mountain biking or have shared incredible moments with because of cycling. I love that racing has the ability to take me to both ends of the emotional spectrum, and I’m always grateful for the feeling that my love for cycling is unconditional.
What do you do when you’re not biking?
Fill the time before I can ride again? As a professional it’s pretty easy to fill the gaps between training with recovery, sleep, food and the social media aspect that’s becoming more and more relevant to professional sport. So, I don’t really give myself much time to have a hobby. I don’t feel like I need to though because my job is my passion and I gain a lot of fulfillment from every aspect. I love running, dogs and baking. Those are my most favorite three things after bikes.
Do you do any specific training? – weights? Bodyweight exercises? Running?
Yeah, my training is super specific to my discipline and to my strengths and challenges on the bike. I ride six days a week: in the winter it’s a lot of volume and base work with a focus on technical training on the mountain bike, plus two pretty heavy gym sessions and roughly 20km of running. Pre-season, I ramp up the intensity but reduce the volume and focus on my top end speed with intervals anywhere between 30 seconds and 5 minutes. During the summer it’s primarily about managing recovery between racing whilst trying to keep the form throughout the season. I then have a month off October time before going back to winter basics again.
What does an average training week look like for you?
Normally I train between 15 and 25 hours a week depending on the time of year. I try to do all of it outside (I hate the turbo) and love variety, so running has become a big part of my schedule. I take Monday off, always. It’s important for me to have one day away from the bike each week.
How has 2020 been so far?
Well, weird to get my head around, I guess! I had 7 months of really not very much at all, but I had my head down and was training hard and smart during that time. But I missed the intensity and desire that racing brings, and then I went and raced my best ever season in the space of three weeks which was super intense and exhausting mentally, but so good. And now I’m back to not much at all! It’s been a weird year for sure. But a productive one and one that’s given me the time needed to work on some things I really needed to improve on.
Tell us about your nutrition? Are there certain foods you have to include in your diet to ensure you have enough energy?
Well, I start my day with porridge. Every day. And it’s more than that. I’m pretty particular about my breakfast routine because it’s time to set me up for the day, prepare my brain and fuel up. I love this time. I’ve discovered that the key to riding optimally is to approach food with a relaxed but smart attitude. I eat a vegetarian diet with loads of variety but I definitely eat treats on a very regular basis. There’s obviously a huge focus on carbohydrates in my sport so I pay a lot of attention to getting enough of those. Protein requirements are pretty easy to fulfill with some creative recipes in my head. I really love food and dislike the stigma around the idea that you have to take all the fun out of it in order for it to be done right.
What is important to you when it comes to choosing your food and why? (E.g. Convenience, flavour, functionality, low carb etc.)
A mix of all of those except for low carb! I don’t believe in low carb. Definitely not for endurance sports. I try to eat consciously, choosing locally and organic when possible but this can be tricky when travelling a lot. I keep things simple, nutritious and tasty which is pretty easy to do.
What kinds of foods do you eat on a heavy training day? – give us an example of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks etc?
Well my breakfast is the same every day regardless of my training schedule. I don’t bother with portion changing because I just eat until I’m full and that works the best for me. Mornings are always porridge of some form. During an endurance right I tend to eat once an hour – usually flapjack, homemade cake, cookies etc. Lunch will almost always be eggs in some form with sourdough if we’ve done a bakery trip recently. Snacks might be hummus and oatcakes, banana loaf, yogurt etc. Dinner would preferably curry or Mexican but we mix it up with some other dishes now and again! Heavy training days mean porridge always bookends the activities. So, pudding porridge is my go-to pre bed fuel!
What do you eat pre & post competition?
On competition morning I usually eat twice as my races are often around midday. I start with my usual (porridge but without some of the accessories) and then about 3 hours before I’ll have a really simply pancake with chopped banana. I will never say no to a post-race pizza.
Why is porridge a good food for you specifically?
Porridge is an ideal way to start a training day because it’s a slow release carb, meaning it will provide energy throughout my morning activity. It’s got a reasonable amount of protein in it and it’s super versatile. I love mixing ingredients up every day with different fruit, nuts, milks etc. It’s a part of my day I genuinely get excited about! It’s also easy to prepare. I stick it on the hob (never in a microwave – slow and low is the key!) and then go get my bike ready or something. That’s part my ritual I mentioned earlier.
What do you like about 3Bears?
Uhm, everything? I love that I no longer need to stress about finding the right ingredients when I’m abroad. Taking a couple of 3Bears with me means my breakfast is sorted wherever I go. Not having to add syrup or anything is a huge plus in the flavoured packets because its ready to do, all you need is some water. It’s added a whole new element to my porridge breakfast too because now before I even think about my choice of toppings, I get to choose the flavour of the oats. I’m also just really into people who understand that food is fuel and 3Bears get that.
How do you like to prepare your porridge?
My absolute stand-out favourite is chocolate porridge with goat’s milk, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, ground seeds, chopped pecans, goat’s yogurt and almond butter. Not indulgent at all eh?!
Favourite 3Bears flavour?
Either chocolate, apple and cinnamon or the new winter magic flavour.
If we were to name a new 3Bears Porridge flavour after you, what would the “Isla Short” flavour be?
“Sweet Ginger Spice.” Guess who came up with that one… wasn’t me.
Goals / plans for the future?
Yep, big ones! 2021 is obviously going to be interesting because of the postponement of the Olympics. So we’ll see about that… Otherwise business as usual, working my way up the World Cup ranks onto the podium hopefully! Longer term, we have home Commonwealth Games and home World Championships in 2022 and 2023 respectively so a lot to get excited about!
Every adventure begins with a bowl of porridge. Share your adventures with us using #PorridgeStories and tagging @3Bears_uk. Gobble up and go get em.