Coaches Corner

Coaching is one of those jobs which often doesn’t receive the attention or credit it deserves.  Cycling is a challenging sport, requiring a pile of riding, good motivation and smart training.  More often it is the athlete who is training smarter, rather then harder, who comes out on top.   This is one of the hardest things we learn as cyclists.doncherryhnic20110426

I have struggled with this over the course of my career and I have put myself into the overtraining coma many of times.  It has helped me in 24 hour racing,  as after you’ve driven yourself into the ground enough times, it starts feeling normal.  When it comes to Marathon or XC racing, you need to be sharp,   and being in a coma isn’t going to get you anywhere.  This is one area a coach can save an athlete’s season and career.

 

DanandILast year I lucked out and had the opportunity to work with Dan Prouxl, Canada’s National Mountain Bike team coach, who happens to live in my current home of Victoria BC.  Dan gets paid to coach our National XC team as it is an Olympic sport. He is a great team builder, knows his stuff and has lead our National XCO team to many great results across the World.

Being a Marathon racer, I fall out of his job responsibilities as it has yet to become an Olympic sport.  Dan has always believed in my talents though and took his own time a number of times last year to meet for coffees and share some of his wealth of MTB specific training knowledge.  5 weeks before big races he would outline a program and some specific workouts to get me fired up. This had a huge impact on my performance, and helped lead to a Top 20 at the World Champs and to me winning our Marathon National Championship again, beating the current XC National champ in the process.    Last year was a breakout year for me and without Dan’s day to day MTB specific workouts, and Luke Way finding my weaknesses from a scientific viewpoint, there is no way I would’ve had the this season to remember.

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I’ve been working with my friend Luke Way for a number of years.  We grew up a couple blocks away from each other in Jasper and have stayed close since we ventured away from our Rocky mountain upbringing.  Luke now runs a successful coaching enterprise in Kelowna called Balance Point Racing and is also a master bike fitter.  Every year Luke fits my new bikes and makes sure my body is running like a machine with them.  This alone has turned around race seasons and is one of the single most important things I do each year.   He also runs tests 2-3 times a year to find out were my body is at, and which weakness I should work on.  My meetings with him have been great and I always come away with a couple of new tricks to tie into my training regime.

I’ve had many other coaches over the years and they have each taught different but equally valuable lessons which have brought me to where I am today..  Back at square 1, Dave MacDowell (Current owner of Wild Mountain) was running Jasper’s local bike shop Freewheel Cycle.  He kicked things off by being ultra motivating and encouraging me through the early years.  He also naturally hooked me up with my first couple of Konas!  From here he helped organize some rides with the local racers at the time, Dana Ruddy and Matt Decore, which further pushed me towards the racing scene.  Dana’s Dad Gordon, would make room in his heated garage so Dana and I could hit the rollers in the middle of the winter and keep some muscle memory through a long winter full of hockey and skiing.

My first bike specific coach was Tracy Shearer from the Juventus bike club in Edmonton.  He was our coach for the Alberta Summer Games in 2000 and can still be found teaching young cyclists to be top class racers and citizens at the same time.  He is a great motivator and the dedication he shows to his athletes and the sport of cycling is unreal.  Not only were we taught to be fast racers, but too love the sport as it requires a lot of loving to get through the tough times.freelogo98

Andy Holmwood was my next coach as he was working with the Alberta Bicycle association and took us on many provincial team projects, including the 2001 Canada Games in Ontario, road races in Quebec and the Maritimes, as well as various mountain bike races.  Andy would oversee my training for a number of years and was a huge believer in my talents and helped keep things on track.  Without him there’s a good chance I would’ve ended up as a fat kid at the candy store as there were some tough years in there once I hit the U23 ranks.albert-cycing

During this time I also had a brief stint with Dutch coach Tim Heemskerk ,who had a wealth of knowledge and is now the Dutch National Team coach.  His approach was very European, and very structured. At that time I would spend large amounts of my time tree planting during the racing season, In his eyes this wasn’t a proper cycling training method.  I learned a lot from Tim but the timing was off so our relationship only lasted a couple months.

I have also had help from many different athletes, and always tried to gather as much information as possible from as many different sources as possible. Being a free spirit I have a tough time staying on structured programs and have often been the cause of frustration for coaches, which I certainly understand.

Mathew Decore, was a Pro racer based in Jasper, when I was getting into cycling.  He took me under his wing early on.  Throughout the years I would call him up and he would lay out coaching plans for different periods.  His ideas were great and very useful as he grew up on the same trails as I did in Jasper, so he could give very specific workouts.  Still to this day I can call Matt up for advice. Because his approach is almost polar opposite to mine, it helps me fix my weaknesses and look at training from a different angle instead of just riding myself into the ground enough times until the legs eventually get fast.

Over the years it’s easy to forget how you got to where you are today.  It’s people like those listed above (and many more!) that keep dreams alive for many youth and help lead them down the right paths in this crazy game called life.

Enough writing for today, off to hit some rad Victoria BC single track!IMG_3076

Rumble in the Jungle

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There are good races and then there are great races.  It was Nov 17th 2014 and I was running low on fumes after a long season and a pile of late season races, but when Phil Evans and Kate Hobson invited me to their newest brainchild, The Rumble in the Jungle, there was no question I had to be there.  After racing the legendary Yak Attack earlier in the year, I knew these two only put on races which are super rad and the offer to race 4 days through the Sri Lankan jungles was guaranteed to be a wild adventure!

Sri Lanka is a small and diverse country just off the southeast coast of India with around 21 000 000 inhabitants and is often known as the teardrop of India due to its position and shape.  The country has plenty of charm; from incredible wildlife and pristine beaches to famous tea plantations and ancient ruins.  It was engulfed in a civil war from 1983 to 2009 but has since been peaceful and has generated a lot of tourist interest.

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Heading to Sri Lanka on a first class ticket thanks to title sponsor Sri Lankan airways, set the tone for the trip to come.  Landing in the country’s capital of Colombo was a welcoming experience as the Sri Lankan people were honoured to have you as their guest and made sure you knew it.  I had shown up late due to a race in East Timor but Kate and Phil had arranged a car to pick me up and drive the 6 hours to race start in the middle of some jungle.  The trip was rad, we stopped at numerous road side stands for fresh coconuts and fruits, then had a stellar Sri Lankan lunch full of rice hoppers, veg and chicken.  The cuisine in the country was a nice variety of milder Indian dishes, classic rice and beans, and some weird but tasty fried things.  What caught me off guard was the cleanliness of the country and the quality of roads we drove on through the rolling jungle.  The colours were out of this world with street stands looking like circus venders set to the background of the lush green vegetation engulfing the country.

 

15727475659_277c647973_mShowing up at race kick off was a family reunion seeing a bunch of familiar faces from the Yak Attack and race founders Phil and Kate who are two of the chillest, most down to earth people you will ever meet.  With their laid back attitudes you would think we were off on a trip to the ice cream parlour, not departing on a country’s inaugural bike race, a 4 day journey through the unknown depths of the Sri Lankan jungles and tea plantations with wild elephants and leopards roaming around.  It was a relaxing evening, getting the bikes in line, chatting with new and old friends, and listening to Phil give his pre race talk.  In the days before the race the organizers had sent out a memo on what to do in case of an elephant attack.  It sounded like a joke, but wasn’t, apparently your supposed to make sure your the fastest one in the group, and if your not, you should pack a blow horn or something loud to startle the mammoths with their enormous ears.  I might be forgetting some key points as I was crossing my fingers we’d come across some of the beasts.

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The accommodation for the night were some rad little jungle huts, pretty basic but providing all the necessities, and the sweet sounds coming from the jungle outside.  After travelling the previous 36 hours from a small south pacific island I was ready for a good sleep and passed out for a solid 13 hours.  Waking up we had a good buffet laid out with a pile of local Sri Lankan tea to kick start the minds and bodies for the adventure to come.  Leaving in a bit of a drizzle the first 20 km of the race was cruisey before we hit the jungle wall and a small path leading into it.  The next 1.5 hours was great as we ran across creeks, manoeuvred our bikes through technical rock and mud gardens, through open meadows and into the heart of elephant territory.  This ended with a steep cobbled climb onto a small paved road which slowly deteriorated as we started to climb up into the high plateaus of the country.  15912771502_e8d4f2d9d5_z

Unfortunately fellow Japanese racer Yuki and I, riding in 2nd and 3rd, beat the course marshals to a key intersection and were lost for 20 minutes climbing up the wrong road.  Eventually a race marshall on his motorbike caught up and turned us around.

Soon Yuki and I were back on track but fighting to regain motivation to hammer as we were now over 20 minutes down of the leader.    The race organizers had told us to use our Garmins with the course marked on it, but we didn’t bother and paid for it, while race leader Ismael Ventura catapulted his 1 minute gap into a huge buffer as his Garmin kept him on course.

The course soon climbed out of the jungles into the high tea plantations with the local woman out in force picking the leaves.  It was impressive how tidy they kept there enormous tea gardens as they terraced across the mountain sides.  The literacy rate in the country is 92%, making it the most literate country in southeast Asia and likely part of the reason there country is so well taken care of.    Reaching the top of the climb we road into some heavy clouds and soon the rain started and came down good till the finish line in the town of Haputale. 10633289_920615061284394_5891282160610351930_o

After the stage a few of us road 20 km downhill to the race hotel where we spent the next couple nights.  It was top notch with our room built around a big rock outcropping with great views from our patois over looking the Sri Lankan jungles.  The following stage was a loop, taking us up to a pleasant viewpoint, then down the roughest cobblestone descent I’ve ever done.

At the start of the descent we had to back track on the same course we road up and I came around one corner in the lead group of 3 and smoked another rider who was still coming up the climb but on the wrong side of the road.  Unscathed but needing to fix my twisted handlebars and brake levers, race leader Ismael jumped at the opportunity and attacked.  Once the bike was fixed and I was back on the road again I came unglued on the long cobble descent as my arms turned to jello half way down and my hands started to cramp up from the endless pounding.  Finally off the descent from hell, the rest of the stage was unreal as we’d climb up and down tea plantations, through some rad little villages and through a tight little gully surrounded by waterfalls.  Topping off the day we got to head back to the same hotel we started at which is always a pleasure after a long day of racing.15308921453_050b312e53_z

Stage 3 was the mother stage and didn’t disappoint.  Starting on an epic climb below some huge waterfalls, we wound our way up the mountainside, through some more tidy tea plantations and eventually topping out on the Horton’s plains.  This area was surreal, feeling like Africa on drugs.  After a cruise through some prime elephant terrain, we started a big descent through dense jungle, eventually popping into an oasis of a valley full of more tea plantations.  Ripping down the clean pavement was a nice contrast for a while before we found ourselves on the 12 km climb to the finish line at Nuwara Eliya.  Catching Ismael 3 km from the top was a big lift and I made sure to make the most of it and get some redemption from the first couple stages by taking the win.  
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Right after we finished some big clouds came in and a solid rain storm settled in for the afternoon.  That evening fellow Nepalese racer Ajay and I headed into town to check out the scene.  There were colourful fruit markets, grocery stores full of local teas and some fine little restaurants where we could buy huge plates of rice pasta with veg for a couple bucks.  The town is known for its refreshing climate and is popular for tourists and locals during the hot season down at sea level.

Stage 4 started with another cobblestone climb over a small mountain pass before hitting an epic 1300 meter descent to the finish line in Kandy.  It was another spectacular ride, this time capped off with a rally car race along the last 10 km of course.  It was sweet to watch but sketchy as the rally cars were ripping on an open highway, along with our bike race which created a masterful gongshow.  Like the first 3 days of the race, this day kept us on the edge of our seats, alert for whatever we may stumble upon around the next corner!    That night we stayed in a c10710473_10152385110286193_4140667187452674986_olassy old school hotel on the edge of a lake in Kandy.  Phil and Kate sure know how to treat there racers first class and this was no exception with a huge buffet meal on display for dinner.  This was a wicked little party by itself but was nothing compared to what was to come on the beaches of Sri Lanka the following evening.

Instead of catching a bus back down to Colombo, we were treated to a train ride through the heart of the country on a train that deserved to be in a museum.  This turned out to be a highlight of the week as we rumbled through tunnels, dense jungle, and countless little villages.  At points the train would go ahead 5 minutes, then backwards for 5, negating any forward progress.  This turned the 2 hour ride into 4.5 hours but none of us could care less.  At every stop, random vendors would hop on the train selling there goods and then jump off at the next station.  This was another great cultural treat to the Sri Lankan way of life.

After checking into another prime hotel on the beach front we all prepped for stage 5, a beach party at a 5 star hotel put on by Sri Lankan airlines.  There were 100 feet of buffet tables full of everything under the sun, 80 bottles of liquor for us 40 + racers, and a Sri Lankan DJ who really knew how to throw it down.  The Sri Lankan racers set the tone for the night with their impressive dance moves and pretty soon the dance floor was flooded15840281828_d21fda1e6a_o with us bike racers from around the world. It was the best post race party I’ve ever taken part of and that says a lot given some of the TransRockies shows back in the day.  After the legendary party we were all pretty thrashed and ready for some good R&R as we trekked back to our homes around the globe.10648211_921453734533860_8767737749303437188_o

The Rumble in the Jungle lived up to its name and was a highlight of a highlight real year for myself.  Sri Lanka is on the flip side of the globe from Canada but I’ll be going out of my way to make sure I get back there for another round of adventures someday in my life, hopefully sooner then later!

In 2015 the dates for the Rumble have been moved into June, out of the rainy season which should help dry things out a little.  Get on it quick if your keen for an unforgettable adventure as the limited race spots will fill up fast!

Over and Out!10805658_894761710557353_1437449523812385169_n

Icefields Parkway

10926355_10152494640201193_7363740462449083702_oA couple winters ago good buddy Leighton Poidevin from Canmore and myself road 205 km of the Icefields parkway from just north of Lake Louise to Jasper in preps for a big year of 24hr racing.   It’s arguably the most scenic highway in Canada as it runs over high mountain passes through the heart of the Rockies via Jasper and Banff National Parks.  That year we lucked out with some warm weather around -8 degrees but 8 inches of snow at the start which made the journey into a 13 hr slog.  This year we had an urge to revisit the ride but were having a hard time finding the right weather opening to make it happen.

The mission is pretty solid in the winter and takes a lot of convincing to get the mind on board. After some humming and hawing I finally convinced it this was a good idea and gave Leighton a call.  He’s a real trooper and up for anything We made a little plan and soon I was piling some stuff in a pack, hopped in the truck and left Jasper late afternoon.  Driving 140 km south to Rampart creek hostel, I ditched the truck there and set off at dusk for a 60 km ride south to Mosquito creek hostel, just north of Lake Louise.  The rather short ride turned into a nippy one as the temperature dipped from -17 to -24, requiring  numerous stops to adjust the clothing.  The body was holding up pretty good except for the legs which were getting frostbitten as the bike shorts and gore tex pants weren’t meeting the requirements.  It was a bugger stopping in the middle of the highway, stripping down, putting on long underwear and redressing but it was needed and after that the ride improved.   Traveling through the dark was a crazy sensation as I had no ide_H7A2088a where I was but after 4 hours I finally checked into Mosquito creek hostel for the night.  After a quinoa dinner and short visit with some ice climbers from Victoria, it was off to bed for some shut eye before meeting Leighton in the morning for the 205 km back to Jasper.

Meeting Leighton in the parking lot at 7:30 in the morning there was a bit of silence as we both new were in for a shocker.  All he said was, “hey, it’s -21.”  It was a comical situation as I had been the trip coordinator and was waiting for the right weather pattern to move in, but unfortunately I had been using a Norwegian weather website which turned out to be a dud and I unknowingly pick the coldest day in weeks.  The -12 temps it was calling for didn’t turn up.  We were frigid leaving but soon warmed up as we road over Bow Summit under a gorgeous sunrise.  A couple photographers had passed us on the climb to the summit and were set up a10896201_10152494641176193_7632963729539252404_ot the top to snap some rad pictures. These rad shots can be found at www.docnickphotos.com.  Thanks Nicholas for letting me use some of your sunrise pictures in this blog! Also Thanks to Karolyn George for the skidoo picture down below.

On the descent down we started to chill and were soon a couple of frozen ice cubes as we road along Waterfowl lakes.  We were both thinking, “what the hell are we doing” but neither of us wanted to be the one to wave the white flag.  After riding in silence for a while I looked up to see Leighton with a big patch of white frost bitten skin on his right cheek.  It was scary looking and I thought possibly our ticket out of the doomed mission.   As he stopped to put on a face mask he froze his fingers good, my feat were also turning to ice blocks so I started to run around on the highway like a chicken with his head cut off to get some blood back in them.

It was a nasty 1 hour or so of riding, the bikes weren’t really working great either as the grease in the bearings was getting gummed up from the cold.  Heading up one hill it felt like we were biking through sand with our brakes on so I got off and started walking at the exact same speed we had been riding.  It was a struggle, but finally the weather started to turn as we neared my truck at Rampart creek after a fre10918958_10152521396591193_158367937702596718_oezing first 4 hours of the journey.

Hopping in the truck we sat there for 30 minutes or so, warming up, having lunch and discussing the meaning of life.  We didn’t figure much out but did warm up a little. We were both in a crazy state of mind, already blown, but still knowing we had another 140 +km to Jasper to go.  Finding a bottle of Yukon Jack in the back seat lifted the spirits and soon we were back on the bikes trudging along, the weather had even warmed up to -17 which was a nice bonus.  From that point on the ride was unreal as the temperature warmed up further to -11 and there wasn’t a breath of wind in the air.  The bikes started to roll better and we were soon cruising down the highway, taking in the crisp fresh air, enjoying the endless spectacular mountain scenery unfolding in front of us.

Rolling into Jasper 11 hours later was a rad feeling and to top it off my Mom had a huge spread of wicked homemade food on the table topped off with a fresh apple crisp for desert.  Moms are the best!   That night we plugged in our Garmins to check out the ride stats and felt less like wussies when we found the temperature had dropped to -28 for the stretch when Leighton nearly lost his face and my feet wanted to fall off.  Next year we will try to be smarter and stick to the Canadian weather channels when planning this ride.10926782_10152494641691193_3540726150844797868_o

The following day my Mom dropped us off at Beauty creek flats and we had another unreal ride, this time just under 3 hours cruising by the Columbia ice fields back to the truck at Rampart cr.   Getting early season base miles in on the Icefields Parkway is a perfect way to kick off the year as it is dead quite this time of year and the mountains are looking great all dressed up in there white winter coats.

The following day any left over energy was spent on a 4 hour Fatbike ride with Mike Vine and Derek Anderson through Jasper’s extensive trail network.  Trainin10668799_10152521396451193_434882828030238780_og in the winter has really changed with the addition of Fatbiking and opens up a whole new possibility of rides.  They are a great training tool, requiring a lot of effort to ride and some real good balance through the icy conditions.  Freewheel Cycle had lent me a Kona Wo for the duration of my 3 week visit in town and it was used extensively.  If your in town this winter make sure to check out there Fatbike group ride leaving the shop at 7 PM tuesday nights!

 

The fat bike highlight of the year was riding up a side valley near Valemount BC on the Skidoo trails to Dave Henry hut over New Years.10914989_657826635912_3210309167733652065_o  After a couple solid days of skiing with some old & new mountain friends it was time to head back to civilization.  Thanks Karen, Reiner and the Mckirdy family for organizing the trip!   The ride down from the alpine was unreal.  Cruising down the skidoo trail in the dark weaving between trees was a rad luge run and faster then the skidoos, that was until I would hit the side of the track and get sucked into 3 ft of fresh powder causing some spectacular pile ups.  It was awesome.

As much fun as winter riding can be I was still stoked to get back to home base in Victoria to hit some dirt and above zero temps!   A good balance of freezing and not freezing on the bike seems to help keep the winter base training in Canada entertaining year after year.

Big thanks to Wild Mountain for supplying all the clothing needed for these winter adventures!

Over and out._H7A2071