Interview: Jill Kintner - 'It's Far Better to Focus on Positive Things That You Can Control in Your Own Life'

Apr 3, 2020
by Sarah Moore  
Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson

Jill Kintner finished second at the Enduro World Series stop in Tasmania which had us wondering if she would be focusing on racing the full EWS in 2020. When March rolled around, however, she was back to her winning ways at Crankworx Rotorua after a year hiatus. Heading home from Rotorua, she's leading the series by 135 points. I asked the five-time Queen of Crankworx why she decided to come back to the Crankworx World Tour this year, how she's changed up her training and how she's staying motivated now that Crankworx Innsbruck has been delayed, and how she's spending her extra time at home.

You’re coming out of the first stop of the Crankworx World Tour as Queen, what was the first round in Rotorua like for you?

It was super fun! New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to visit, and we had a good time taking in the sights, riding, and hanging with the locals before it was time to handle business. Five events in five days was a bit of a whirlwind once it got going, but I enjoyed the pace. Each day had new challenges, and a new event, so there wasn't much time to celebrate or dwell on anything. Getting a couple wins early and standing on every podium felt amazing obviously, and it was a great start. Looking back, I am so grateful that we had that opportunity to compete, and connect with all the fans in at least one event this year!!

Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson

Was Queen of Crankworx your goal coming into the 2020 season?

Yeah for sure! It’s a great title to win with a pretty good payday. I have a few other projects and events on as well (fingers crossed), but Crankworx is the big one.

You came second at the EWS in Tasmania, we thought you might be switching over to enduro and a new challenge. Why did you decide not to pursue that entire race series and go back to Crankworx instead?

Yeah, I was fully committed to enduro last year for a new challenge, and to mix things up. Tassie was insane, I didn’t expect to podium and win stages at my first ever EWS, but that was an incredible experience!! Learning the discipline tested my limits and was super rewarding. I grew so much as a mountain biker and evolved my skills quite a bit in new areas. The plan was to do 3 EWS rounds and some local enduros; so after Tassie went well, I gained a lot of confidence and fitness, then was peaking for the Whistler and Northstar rounds right on time!

Unfortunately, I got REALLY sick in Whistler through practice, and kept riding with a sinus infection, cough, fever, etc. Not wanting to give up, I made it through 2 stages; Top of the World, then in the rain the next day, but it was HORRIBLE, and I had to pull out. That move set me back a lot, and I spent a whole day and a half on the couch sipping DayQuil and binge-watching Stranger Things trying to regain some shred of energy for the rest of Crankworx. Over the next 3 days I just took it one step at a time; going from my bed, to a lap of practice, to a qualifier, to a race, but couldn’t stop coughing. I ended up on the start line for 3 events, tried my best, and it worked out that I won all 3 somehow. One of my grittiest performances I think. Thanks Ray (mechanic) and Bryn for making me go out there.

Anyway, I lost a lot of motivation for enduro after doing that much work without much reward, and I got sick 4 times in 10 months, with my Whistler plague lasting about a month and a half, in-turn crushing Northstar dreams. My body didn’t handle that kind of volume super well, and it mentally burnt me out on riding, which has never happened in my entire career. My heart wasn’t into sprinting up pinch climbs or riding for 6 hours, even though I proved I could do it. Some aspects of the sport I really enjoyed, but investing that much time and energy into racing it full time didn’t make a lot of sense for me. I might do another one someday, but I would never do a full series.

I struggled with the decision of going back to Crankworx as well, digging deep to find a new goal and motivation, but once we were there, I had a great time and knew it was a good move this year.

1st EWS and a second place. Jill Kintner has something to smile about.
Jill Kintner can now add an EWS podium to her long list of mountain bike racing achievements.

We’ve just found out the Crankworx Innsbruck has been postponed to September, how does that change your plans?

Well, everyone’s plans have changed. This pandemic rearranged the world’s priorities, so we will see what happens down the road. Hopefully, events come back and we can pick up where we left off!!! My main focus now is to stay HEALTHY, and take things one day at a time, just like everyone else.

Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson

Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson
Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson

What are some of your worries at this uncertain time?

I worry for the life of loved ones and medical workers, but there are a lot of unknowns. It’s far better to focus on positive things that you can control in your own life.

How do you manage goal setting at a time like this?

I write lists and try to create some kind of daily structure as to what I want to get done.

A big part of being a successful athlete is being able to deal with uncertainty, we wouldn’t watch racing if we knew who the winners were. How have you dealt with that uncertainty throughout your career?

Yeah, as an athlete, or in life, a lot of unexpected things get thrown at you, so people who can stay level headed usually have tools to deal with problems. Not overreacting or letting emotion take over will be key. I try to deal with uncertainty by just accepting what is in front of me and figure out a solution, or asking for help. Staying present is a good strategy to have, because worry feels like it lives in the future.

Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson

How are you staying motivated?

It’s tough to stay motivated without knowing when this will all be over. I find coffee helps and also having some sort of accountability. I use Training Peaks mostly to keep track of all that I do and chart progress. I also have a trainer who writes my program and gym stuff. Going for walks also help me process stuff, regroup, and come up with ideas. I like mindful meditation, just quiet time while doing something simple. Motivation sorta goes back to setting goals I think, and it's ok to do non-biking activities for awhile. Health, nutrition, and taking care of yourself are good directions to lean towards.

What has and hasn’t changed with your training and day to day?

Good question, a lot of things have been modified, obviously. We aren’t quite in full lockdown, but gyms are closed and all public spaces, so a lot of my activities are now at home or in the woods behind our house. I get up every day and try to do something productive to improve myself as a biker, and person. Some things that help are yoga in the morning, drawing, balance stuff, fixing bikes, riding rollers to burn energy, trail work, organizing, walking, lifting heavy things, etc.

Exercise twice a day takes care of my body and mind. You have to get creative with activities and work with what you have. I’m not stressing getting intervals done right now, just giving myself a little extra freedom to deal with anxiety and stress.

What are some of the other things you’re doing to keep busy aside from training?

This is a nice time to work on art projects at home and develop ideas. I’ve been drawing on my iPad in Procreate for hours a day and am kinda obsessed with it, but there are endless things to do with this time.

Simple living in a stationary place is kind of a new concept to me, and it’s been really grounding to slow down and take time to figure out what matters.

Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson
Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson

What’s been most difficult for you so far?

I've had a couple up and down days, just feeling sad, or mad at people for not taking the distance thing seriously. At the end of the day, I control myself and my choices, so that’s all I can really do. I want to be part of the solution so we can get back to the people and activities we love real soon.

What are you doing to protect yourself from getting the virus?

Staying home and avoiding contact with others. We took a little saying off our friend Byron, “Assume you are positive and act accordingly”.

Jill Kintner Photos by Bryn Atkinson

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And then, just like in real life ... its gone!
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 @brentkratz: Common sense has no place here. Come back when you have something to be outraged over.
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 Good interview. If just like to add that people need to be very careful of social media in these times (I think Waki called it Social Misleadia which was very apt!). Spending all day reviewing a stream of negative feeds, some of which may not be true / fact checked, is gonna mess you up. Stay positive everyone!
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 Long as everyone is social distancing and not watching Faux News, we’ll be ok.
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 Good interview with well thought out questions. This site is putting out some real quality content currently. I'd say better than ever..
  • 15 0
 Jill Kintner - 'It's Far Better to Focus on Positive Things That You Can Control in Your Own Life' This.
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 Sage wisdom in these uncertain times.
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"Always look on the bright side of life...."
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 @Poulsbojohnny: Thanks for the laugh! I appreciate the levity.
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 You're an inspiration, Jill. Thank you!
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 Pretend this is a funny comment
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 Nailed it!!
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 I like Jill a lot, crush? No, but she is always smiling and talks positive. The fact that she totally rips on a bike is a bonus.
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 My track coach ingrained the mantra "control the controllables." Its all you're really capable of. Defining controllables is the question.
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 It's a shame she doesn't want to do more EWS. She would give Cecile and Isabeau some real competition.
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 Not gonna happen. Finished one EWS then burnt out. Crankworx must haves are style too. Currently she reads it as Speed or Style !
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 @vggg: Yea that whole answer on the EWS seemed like a self-contradiction to me...If it was easy everyone would do it!
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 Her head, it is very level.
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 Just give her the trophy and cash now!!

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