Skip to content

Hillseeker® Interview Series: Fiola Foley, Specialist in Alpine Endurance Events

Alpine Endurance event

Today’s featured athlete hails from Ireland, was a 2-time All American and MVP rower at Boston University and is unlocking her full potential with a series of top 5 finishes at some of the toughest cycling and multisport events in the Alps in the past year.

Fiola Foley closed her 2012 racing season with a victory at the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race and for 2013 will focus on cycling with Swiss-based jedermann team!

Thanks very much Fiola for joining us. We’re excited about bringing your story and insights to the Hillseeker® community. Let’s get this started!

Do you truly enjoy running and cycling up hill and if so, how would you put it into words what it is about a climb that brings you joy?

Yes I do! The main enjoyment for me related to climbing is the idea of reaching a goal, in this case, the summit. Although I like pushing my body and embracing the discomfort of defying gravity, reaching the top of the hill and using my body in the most efficient way possible to do so, is really what motivates me!

What is your mental fuel on a challenging up hill run or bike? Silent focus? Anger? Music in your head?

It is usually performance based. If I am trying to get a PB then there is a special focus on not listening to negative thoughts about how much I am hurting and focusing more on controlling the situation. Otherwise I often imagine an upcoming race situation or a familiar competitor I would like to be faster than.

Favorite motivational song for climbing?

Maybe Extrawelt Soopertrack or something from Minilogue. It depends but I usually listen to techno when I have specific, hard training sessions.

Do you specifically train on hills (e.g. timed hill repeats) or just incorporate them into your normal training routes? Any favorite hill workout?

I do a bit of both. It really depends on the time of the year and what areas I need to improve on. Lately I have been more focused on the bike and once a week I do a session that has 3 sustained hill climbs of about 15 minutes each at about 80% of max heart race with about 10 minutes rest between each effort. I have a selection of hill sessions I pick and choose from in the pre-season (as I work full-time I try to work around the weather and available light) and in the depths of winter I primarily run during the week or do some ski mountaineering (backcountry skiing) on the weekends.


6 x 10 minutes @ 60-70% max heart rate (bike)

3 x Pass day – this is a bit special. A 100-180km bike ride with about 3,000 – 4,000mtrs in elevation gain.

On climbs I often do 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off until I reach the top. This really builds power on the climbs. I alternate sitting in the saddle with out of the saddle efforts.


20 minute time trial (4km + 500mtr elevation)

5 x 5 minutes @80-90% max (lactate threshold training)

What is your favorite climbing moment in your racing history?

Probably the first time I did the Inferno triathlon. I was elated on reaching the top! Now I am fitter and stronger than 3 years ago, so I really suffered to get to the finish line! There have been many others though, this year I have been so lucky to be leading the women’s field in a few races and that gives me immense satisfaction and motivation to keep the gas on the pedal on the downhill too!

What’s the top mistake you’ve ever made in a race on a climb?

Not getting my bike serviced! I think one of the most annoying experiences was in the Züri Metzgete last year, a local road race – whenever I hit a climb my chain would slip off the inside ring. I got dropped at the bottom of every hill (there were about 4 major climbs in total) as I had to stop and place the chain back on manually!  Disaster!

Any advice you’d like to offer to athletes struggling with climbs?

I think climbing has a lot of do with strength endurance. Its a real mixture of both so you need to have a good base first, then the only way you will become better on the climbs is by getting out there and doing them! But, start off slowly and pay attention to tightness and soreness before you increase the amount of hill sessions. If you are running, then pay particular attention to calf flexibility. If you are biking then get used to being out of the saddle but be aware of hamstring and stiffness in the lower back. Recover adequately – incorporate some gym sessions in winter with strength building excercises like squats and box jumps. When you are downhill running lean forward (I know, it goes against intuition) and keep your knees bent so your centre of gravity is closer to the ground.

Any preferred recovery approach: foam roll, ice bath, massage, other?

Definitely foam rolling and massage. I only use ice if I have strained something or on training camp if I need to recover between double session days.

Thanks very much for your time and thoughts Fiola! We wish you the best in 2013 with jedermann team!

More on Fiola Foley:

Fiola is an Irish native living in Zurich, Switzerland for the last 4 years. Fiola began her sports career in rowing where she represented Ireland internationally for over 6 years. Since hanging up her oars in 2005 and taking a 3 year sabbatical from competitive sports (replaced with surfing) she turned her attention to multisport events. Now a specialist in Alpine events, Fiola has achieved top 5 finishes in the Inferno Triathlon, the Alpinathlon, the Ironbike Race and the Engadin Radmarathon in 2012. In 2013 she will focus on cycling with Swiss-based jedermann team!

Make sure you sign up for the Hillseeker® Newsletter so you don’t miss out on future interviews, tips and articles. We’ve got an awesome list of interesting people lined up for the Hillseeker® Interview Series, so please sign-up, stay tuned in and enjoy!

Share This