Doing It All — Pro Triathlete Rach McBride on How to Race and Thrive at Triathlon, Gravel, and Mountain Biking

How do you reach the podium in not one sport, but three—and all in the same season? We chat with McBride and their coach, Mateo Mercur, to find out more.

rach-mcbride-running-pouring-water-on-head
Photo courtesy PTO

The days when athletes stayed in their lanes seem to be behind us. It’s increasingly common to see Tour riders take on randonneuring and triathletes mix it up in long gravel races. Besides being a top professional who’s won some of the biggest races around, including the recent Ironman 70.3 Boulder, Rach McBride is also helping to lead the charge as an advocate for non-binary sport.

McBride, who uses they/them pronouns, could have made a career as a successful triathlete, but that wasn’t enough. This season, they’re also racing elite level gravel and mountain bike races, including the Life Time Grand Prix Series.

What is extraordinary is that most athletes will tell you that training for Ironman races alone is a daunting task. Mixing in gravel and mountain bike racing seems like a huge stretch—but it’s one that is bringing an extra dimension of fun, adventure, and enjoyment to McBride’s training and racing—and that’s clearly paying dividends. Designing a training program that can deliver an athlete to so many different types of start lines is obviously a big ask, so in this episode we talk not just with McBride, but also their coach, Mateo Mercur, about how he’s getting the maximum bang for McBride’s training buck.   

Mercur explains how he’s given every workout a clear purpose, whether that’s doing interval work on the time trial bike on a trainer to minimizing the risk of injury from running or mountain bike riding. Listen in to find out how Mercur and McBride have excelled at making training as efficient and effective as possible. Their teamwork has allowed McBride to jump from the Leadville Stage Race, to 70.3 Boulder, and back to Leadville for the 100-mile mountain bike race—all in three weeks—and all with brilliant form and results.

So, bust out your running shoes, time trial bike, swim cap, gravel bike, and mountain bike, and if you still have any energy left after that, let’s make you fast!

References

Barbosa, L. P., Sousa, C. V., Sales, M. M., Olher, R. dos R., Aguiar, S. S., Santos, P. A., … Knechtle, B. (2019). Celebrating 40 Years of Ironman: How the Champions Perform. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(6), 1019. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16061019 

Etxebarria, N., Mujika, I., & Pyne, D. B. (2019). Training and Competition Readiness in Triathlon. Sports, 7(5), 101. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/sports7050101 

Harper, J., Lima, G., Kolliari-Turner, A., Malinsky, F. R., Wang, G., Martinez-Patino, M. J., … Pitsiladis, Y. P. (2018). The Fluidity of Gender and Implications for the Biology of Inclusion for Transgender and Intersex Athletes. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 17(12), 467–472. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/jsr.0000000000000543 

Knechtle, B., Knechtle, R., Stiefel, M., Zingg, M. A., Rosemann, T., & Rüst, C. A. (2015). Variables that influence Ironman triathlon performance – what changed in the last 35 years? Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 6, 277–290. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2147/oajsm.s85310 

Pigozzi, F., Bigard, X., Steinacker, J., Wolfarth, B., Badtieva, V., Schneider, C., … Pitsiladis, Y. P. (2022). Joint position statement of the International Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS) and European Federation of Sports Medicine Associations (EFSMA) on the IOC framework on fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination based on gender identity and sex variations. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 8(1), e001273. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2021-001273 

Episode Transcript

Rob Pickels  00:04

Welcome to another episode of Fast Talk. Today, we have someone special joining Trevor and I in the studio, Rach McBride. While it’s common for road and mountain bikers to transition to gravel, Rach is a bit of an outlier because their competing at the highest level in both long course triathlon, as well as off road, gravel and mountain bike events. In fact, we’re talking with Rach after their win at the Boulder Ironman 70.3, and a few days before they leave for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. In today’s episode, we’ll be talking with Rach and their coach Mateo Mercur about how to prepare for disciplines that are seemingly on different ends of the spectrum, and giving practical advice for you to make the leap as well. So put on your TT helmet, air up your knobby tires, and let’s make you fast.

Rob Pickels  00:50

Listeners, are you reviewing your post-race data or doing at-home lactate tests is crucial to understand how to test what the numbers mean, and how to change your training based on your data. We know that sifting through your performance data can feel daunting. Good news. We have over 30 years of coaching and data analysis experience. You go race, leave the analysis to us. Book your data analysis session today at fasttalklabs.com/solutions.

Rob Pickels  01:22

Rach, welcome to the show.

Rach McBride  01:24

Thanks for having me.

Mateo Mercur  01:25

Real pleasure having you on the show.

Rob Pickels  01:27

You know so the big thing today is that we’re talking about how disparate you’re competing. But I think we have to start with this weekend in Boulder outside our studio. Super hot day. You won.

Rach McBride  01:42

I know.

Rob Pickels  01:43

How did that even happen?

Rach McBride  01:44

I don’t even know but yeah, what an incredible experience. You know, I just jumped into Boulder 70.3 as like between, it’s like, oh, I have a free weekend, you know, in between the Leadville Stage Race and Leadville 100. So I’m here in Boulder, why not jump in and do it and Wow, I’m so glad that I did.

Rob Pickels  02:05

I hope I can get to the level where it’s like, you know, I think I’m just going to do a 70.3 this weekend. And when it you know,

Mateo Mercur  02:12

not just finish? Yeah, yeah, yes, let’s go with that – got nothing better to do.

Rob Pickels  02:16

And I asked how did that happen? But I think it’s pretty obvious how it happened. You destroyed everybody on the bike.

Rach McBride  02:23

Yeah, that bike was incredible. I mean, to be at this point in my life and my career and to have done the fastest 70.3 bike of my life was an incredible experience. I mean, I just like I had a plan for the race. And a lot of it was just to go and really nail that bike. And you know, my coach, Mateo was on the sidelines giving me splits and letting me know that I was like, gaining on everyone. And so that was a really big motivator to just like, keep pushing. And as soon as I could see folks, you know, in my radar, so like saw Lauren, and then I saw Holly, I just kept moving and got into the lead and just want yeah, kept going for it.

Rob Pickels  03:06

Nice. A lot of people had trouble with the heat. Obviously it was really hot as well. The race can can often be Did you do anything special? Was the heat affecting you? Did it affect you less? How did how did you kind of survive?

Rach McBride  03:18

I’m really surprised by that. Usually, I am pretty terrible racing in the heat. It’s something that’s really affected me in the past. I though have been in like Utah Boulder area for quite a few weeks, and have had some hot racing experience already this year. Racing in Kansas that Unbound, like, I guess I am have acclimated a little bit. And I was doing really well at keeping myself cool out there to just like dousing myself with water keeping ice on me and just felt like, you know, I wasn’t really overheating at any point. And just like, very focused, yeah. Awesome.

Mateo Mercur  03:57

So, so that was a little unique for you, as you were coming down from really high altitude to this where I think a lot of the competitors were coming up from sea level. How do you think that factored in?

Rach McBride  04:07

Yeah, I mean, I was just up in Leadville, racing the Stage Race for I think I was up there for four or five days or so. And I you know, even coming to Boulder, I have felt like the altitude doesn’t really affect me all that much, which has been really surprising. And so I think that’s also knowing the confidence that like, I can race it 10 to 12,000 feet, and I am totally fine. allowed me in Boulder to not really think about that, to not really think it was going to be a problem. Again, I knew that you know, I’ve heard Oh, even though if you’re acclimated to the elevation, it’s still a it’s still challenging to race at that at that at this altitude. But yeah, I think I just didn’t I didn’t have it in my head. I didn’t really think it was gonna be thing.

Rob Pickels  04:54

Well, Rach, I know that we just met 10 minutes ago, but you’re already kind of my new favorite triathlete. So, my old favorite triathlete was Cameron Dye, and that’s mostly because Cam is a good person, but he also crushed people in the bike. So now that he’s retired, and you’re the new bike crusher, then you’re my favorite de facto triathlete. You’re also my new favorite triathlete, because you’re really pushing boundaries in the sport of triathlon. Right? So first, by kind of this non traditional thing that we’re talking about, you just did Leadville stage race, you did a 70.3 You’re going back to Leadville soon, it’s a crazy schedule, you’re doing some really fun events that I would love to do, maybe not the triathlon. But we’re gonna get into that stuff later. Something I want to touch on now is that you’re one of the first athletes to compete in a non binary gender division. And as the first non binary athlete on our show, I’d love to hear in your words exactly what that means. What’s happening in the sport right now, kind of bringing in more of this inclusivity and allowing opportunity for people to kind of express and be who they are. Yeah, so

Rach McBride  05:58

Being non binary just means that I identify outside of the binary. So I don’t identify as a man or a woman, but as non binary. We are seeing you know, non binary folks and non binary athletes have always been in the world throughout the history of humankind. It’s just now that in especially in the world of sport, we’re there, we’re creating a space for folks to compete outside of the binary. You know, sport has been such a binary avenue that now creating a space for non binary folks and gender diverse folks to compete in a category that aligns with their gender identity is really powerful. What we are seeing now, especially in the world of gravel, is that all of the major gravel races have non binary categories now. And we are seeing an explosion of non binary folks finally coming out and having the courage to be able to compete and having a space like they may have been competing in in the binary, but now they have a space to compete in their own category. And so for example, at Unbound last year, we saw one non binary competitor finishing the 100, Abby Robins, and this year, we had 17 in the whole race. So it’s like you create the space and non binary folks are going to come out and show up and this year as well, just happening in the same weekend last weekend. USAT National Amateur Championships had a non binary category for the first time. So it’s really changing in the world of triathlon, as well as a lot more slowly in triathlon. But gravel is really I think, showing the way.

Rob Pickels  07:41

Gravel is certainly on the more innovative side of things, and I think it attracts a more diverse just type of person where you have a lot of people interacting with gravel in different ways from racing, to partying, to having fun. So there’s that aspect of gravel. And it makes sense to me that it’s going to be the discipline that is a bit more open and inclusive of doing things in a different way. But I’m happy that we are seeing this in triathlon, I hope that we continue to see it across other sports. And, you know, I think any progress is good progress at this point in time. So it’s awesome to say,

Rach McBride  08:13

Yeah, I think with gravel, you know, it’s an it’s a newer sport. And so it’s really started from a grassroots level. And so organizers have been able to, like create their own thing, you know, there hasn’t been this like template of how it’s done. And the community just seems to be a very diverse and open and accepting community.

Mateo Mercur  08:34

That’s fantastic. Just want to ask you a question about that, and how you feel about that having that third division, the non binary division within sports.

Rach McBride  08:43

Yeah, I mean, to be honest, my first race, as in a non binary category was Big Sugar Gravel last year. It was a really profound experience for me to finally, just feel like I had a comfortable place in sport. I describe, you know, in my career as a triathlete showing up at start lines and just feeling you know, before I kind of understood my own identity, feeling out of place and feeling like I didn’t fit in and feeling like the, you know, gender terms weren’t really landing with me and that I was a bit of an imposter. And so when I finally understood like, who I actually am and how I identify, and then being able to have that experience to race, in a category that validates and affirms my gender identity, it was really powerful and inspired me now then to continue in racing. You know, I was accepted into the lifetime Grand Prix. And in the all of the lifetime races, I’m able to race in the non binary category, and especially being on that podium with a full podium of fellow non binary athletes. It was really the proudest podium that I have been on in my 11 year career.

Mateo Mercur  10:01

that’s great to hear and I asked this as I was reading some position statements by the IOC last night and as you know, part of their charter is to be inclusive of everybody. And they have said this is this is a really, it’s a make sure they’re fully inclusive is actually a really big challenge. And that seemed to be the direction they were heading in is we need this third division, we need this non binary division.

Rach McBride  10:28

It’s neat to see there are a lot of organizations, national and international, who are coming out with different policies. And it really is, I think that we’re going to see non binary inclusion more happening at the amateur level first, before we see it in a more professional division. And I think that’s very reasonable. I think that we need to build up that population of non binary athletes and then figure out how on nonbinary professional category is going to work in different sports.

Rob Pickels  11:00

Yeah, so certainly steps are being taken, but a lot more work to be done. Yeah, there’s some some things to continue to, I don’t want to say solve, but some things to continue to improve as we move forward. Right? Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I hope that work continues, you know, to the listeners out there, I think that this is a really interesting topic. And if anybody wants to reach out and continue this particular conversation, then check us out on the forums, or feel free to tweet at me at Robert pickles. You know, we’d love to engage in more of this and maybe make it more of a topic kind of on the fast talk podcast moving forward. But beyond that Rach, I’d love to kind of get back into the training side of things. What’s your background in racing? Where did this all begin for you? And I’d love to talk through that and kind of bring us up to today and your motivation to switch into doing things like lifetime Grand Prix and these off road events? Because I don’t think that that’s where you started.

Rach McBride  11:54

No, I call myself an adult athlete. So I, you know, did dabbled in sports when I was a teenager, but quit everything when I was 15. And then decided I wanted to run a marathon when I was 25. And did my first triathlon at 28. And it totally took over my life.

Rob Pickels  12:09

Was it on a dare or a whim or anything like that? No. I

Rach McBride  12:13

mean, when I got into running, it was more I just was like, I felt really unhealthy. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything that was exciting for me. And I was living in Ottawa in the Canadian capital and the winters there are terrible, it’s like minus 40 Fahrenheit. He’d been there. Yeah, yeah. So I was just feeling really blah, and wanted to do something epic. And I was like, all my parents ran a marathon in the mid 80s. Like, I’m sure I could do that, too. So I just, yeah, started training and got into the community at running community. And then one of my running mentors just said, you know, I, Rach, I think you could be an elite triathlete.

Rob Pickels  12:54

makes a turn your head a little bit like I could watch.

Rach McBride  12:57

And I, you know, I think at the time, like I had a bit of a swimming background when I was a kid. So I like knew how to swim freestyle. I had been a bike commuter throughout my 20s. And obviously, I had gotten into running and had a bit of a talent. I my first marathon, I qualified for Boston, and then I ran Boston, and just was really enjoying that. And, yeah, I just took that idea and went with it. I was like, Yeah, I’m gonna be an elite triathlete. And so I moved out to the West Coast where the temperatures were more temperate and I could ride my bike outside all winter. We’re on the west coast of Vancouver, BC. Okay,

Rob Pickels  13:30

not what I was thinking. Okay. California is what I was expecting but Vancouver works.

Mateo Mercur  13:39

I lived out in Victoria for five years. Oh, beautiful. Yeah. So are you from Ottawa?

Rach McBride  13:44

No, no, I grew up in like the US and I finished high school in Germany and then but my parents are Canadian. So I came to Canada for University and was in Ontario for about 10 years and then I’ve been in Vancouver for over 15 years

Rob Pickels  13:58

now. So you moved to Vancouver he kicked off your training

Rach McBride  14:01

Yeah. And I you know, first race I did was a little local sprint race and I placed second overall and I add I just had like a blast at this race and loved it and then just jumped right in. So my first Olympic distance race I was it ended up being national amateur championships, which I won. And then the next year, I was amateur World Champion and got into like, more itu draft legal racing. And but you know, I was then like 29-30, and was like, Oh, it would really be really great to go to the Olympics, but like people are, like retiring at this age. So I raced bikes just for a couple of years because I burnt myself out and triathlon very quickly. And then when I got out of grad school, my coach at the time was like, you know, I think you should try this half Iron distance and did my first race. It was another local race with them. against some local pros won it by 24 minutes put, like did a time that would have put me top 10 At the World Champs that year. And I was like, I’m 32 I’m not getting any younger, I may as well just jump right in and see what I can do with this. And yeah, that was 2011. And I’ve been full time pro ever since.

Rob Pickels  15:18

Wow. That’s pretty incredible. I love hearing sort of the story and the journey and the finding your way to it. Right? Because you know, that fork in the road could have gone somewhere totally different, right. And we wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to be sitting here talking with this. Yeah, absolutely.

Rach McBride  15:35

And I am, you know, it is the world of sport and what sport has brought to my life is incredible. It has changed my world. And it really in one aspect, it’s like, I have found this thing that I am so passionate about that like getting up every day and training in the process. I love every minute of it. I am so passionate about it. And you know, as I am, I know I’m not going to be able to do this for the rest of my life. And so it’s inspired me to not go into another career that I’m just going to be like, Oh, I’m just like waiting for the weekend. hope hope the weekends coming soon, or whatever you know, to find something that I am so passionate about or take what I have learned from sport and put it into something that is really motivating for me. So it’s inspired me to live life more,

Mateo Mercur  16:25

Let’s hear from Rach’s coach, Mateo Mercur, about how he feels they’ve been able to maintain Rach’s zest for the sport.

Rob Pickels  16:32

Mateo it feels as though Rach has this real verb spark excitement for their training. Is that just to Rach is is that a product of training in this diverse manner? Have you seen that with other athletes? How does this wide ranging discipline fit into really the mental and the happiness side of training?

Mateo Mercur  16:53

Yeah, you know, a happy athlete is an athlete that’s going to want to get out and train be motivated to train. And that’s going to lead to success in racing. A big part of my work with athletes is relational. I want to have a really strong personal relationship with my athletes, so that they feel seen, and they feel understood, and they feel supported. And I think Rachel and I have that I know that region I have that. I spent the summer in 2016 in San Moritz with my coaching mentor, Brett Sutton. And he said something then that has stuck with me. So he said, I’ve never seen an athlete burnt out that wasn’t winning. And, you know, when an athlete is doing well, whether they’re winning or just breaking personal records, or still progressing and advancing, that tends to lead to them feeling good and happy and motivated. And Rach’s doing that. You know, this weekend at 70.3 Boulder, Rach had the fastest bike of the day, set their highest average speed ever in their racing career for a 70.3 course. And that’s at the age of 44. And Rachel may be the oldest athlete to win a 70.3. At this point. Now, someone from Triathlete Magazine is looking into that race might have race might have been decreased power out by about 90 days. Preliminary stats, yeah, we’ll call it a win anyway. But for me, you know, harnessing an athlete’s motivation, keeping an athlete focused is key. You know, running these training camps has been huge for rage, it keeps it has kept Rach really focused, and it has allowed us to just enjoy working together. And I think that has also been a real contributor to their pleasure. And I gotta say, you know, this weekend’s 70.3 was something that Rach proposed maybe a week and a half or two weeks before it, we sat down for a coffee. And Ray said, Hey, Coach, what do you think about Sunday, Boulder? 70.3. And I paused for a moment, gave it a moment’s thought. And I said, Yeah, let’s go for it. And I told Rach that their plan would be to race, the swim and the bike with total abandon, to leave nothing really for the run. And then to discover that they would be able to run after they exit T2. And Rach went up and did that. And Rachel and I think that is also a part of what keeps an athlete like Rach motivated when I said yes. And I said, and I want you to go off the chain and go for it. I think that was really exciting and motivating. Rach….

Rob Pickels  19:41

Is that passion? Is that the reason that you jumped off into the dirt side of things? What motivated you to go in that direction?

Rach McBride  19:49

The dirt process was like a was a bit gradual. So I started training with some folks in BC who would go up to this town called Lola wet For training camps, and there’s a lot of pavement, but there’s some gravel as well. And so we would just like on our road bikes were I was training with a bunch of roadies would just put like, you know, 28 millimeter good Gator skins and just ride the gravel as part of our riding, you know, training rides. And then all of a sudden in 20, I think 2013 some gravel races started popping up on the radar in the Pacific Northwest and I went down to Oregon and did my first gravel race on a cyclocross bike. And I graduated from a road bike was 22, cyclocross bike, marginally bigger. Yeah. And just loved it. It was, you know, even through the all of the triathlon stuff that I had, I had been doing, it was the hardest thing that I ever done. It was beautiful. You were out in these incredible forest service roads and amazing views, super hard climbs, which were my forte. And I, I just loved it. And so, you know, I continued to try and dabble in gravel, mostly local races for a number of years. And then it wasn’t until Yeah, the end of last year where I decided to finally try my hand at some of the majors. And it’s been hard to like, you know, these big gravel races that are coming up, it’s it’s hard to fit those in like, unbound is like a 12 hour race, you know, you can’t just like fit that in between Ironmans.

Rob Pickels  21:29

So the schedule you’re keeping right now it kind of sounds like you can, you know, maybe that’s just you, and it’s not everyone else in the world.

Mateo Mercur  21:39

So that really brings us to something I really want to ask you about, because we just recently did this episode with Ben Delaney, where we were talking about the future of virtual racing, and what impact that’s gonna have on road racing. And I think one of the biggest conclusions we drew out of that episode was that in the past, you really kind of had one discipline, you’re a road cyclists, or you’re a mountain biker, or you’re a triathlete. And I think what we’re seeing now is a lot more disciplines out there a lot more variety. And probably seeing racers jumping across these disciplines. You’re no longer just a road racer, or just a triathlete. And you’re really one of the people who who’s Breaking Trail on that where you are a triathlete on a gravel racer, which is nobody does that nobody does. So I’m interested in your take on this. Is it just because hey, I enjoy this and as challenging? Or do you feel it makes you a better racer? How do you balance all this?

Rach McBride  22:39

Yeah, I’m well, I think that a lot of the inspiration comes from, you know, I, in the past couple of years, have just started doing a lot of my training more on gravel roads, and recognizing just how much safer in terms of traffic wise and I think for virtual racing, it’s the same in virtual training, it’s very much the same. Like, you know, the more that you’re out there on the road, you realize like it’s a kind of can be a scary and dangerous place, and you get yourself away from cars more and it’s a lot more enjoyable. I mean, in terms of balancing race calendar. This year, I did feel like I had to put triathlon a bit on the backburner that all of the the lifetime Grand Prix was really taking over my season a bit. And, you know, for better or worse, I’m like, Oh, I really love triathlon. But this gravel racing is really exciting. And this is a cool opportunity. Mine. So I’ve just like thrown in these races, I knew I had St. George World Champs to fit in there. And that I thought was going to be my only triathlon. And so all of these other like the PTO, Canadian Open, and Boulder 70.3 feel like they’ve just sort of been thrown in. And my main focus has been in the more off road and cycling portion of things. And so I think that, you know, just training for long distance cycling, and, you know, riding off road is a lot more challenging on the body than just sitting in a TT position on the pavement, you know, and you have to be a lot stronger, especially in mountain biking. You know, there’s a lot more stability and just muscular endurance in more dynamic ways that you have to have. And I think that translates pretty well into triathlon, in terms of just maintaining for other sports, you know, my run training has been what feels like next to nothing. It’s been like maintenance minimally. And still, I’m able to, you know, pull off some pretty solid runs.

Rob Pickels  24:44

Let’s take this kind of transition as an opportunity to really dig into the training and the racing side of the different disciplines. So one thing that I actually wanted to know was having done both having experience on both ends of that spectrum. How are the Has events actually similar to each other? They’re both, you know, 70.3 Ironman, and these gravel races are both very long events. Maybe we can sort of start there. But what other similarities? Are there that kind of help you, as an athlete maybe be successful in both of them? Yeah, I

Rach McBride  25:15

mean, I think definitely the duration that you are out there is very similar for each. So it feels like I am just preparing for these multi hour races. And it just differs in what kind of sport and what kind of vehicle I am on. I’m on. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  25:32

you know, so given that long duration is common between them, maybe things like fueling strategy might carry over really well, between the two. Yeah,

Rach McBride  25:39

that’s where I feel like I have had a bit of an advantage over my off road competitors. So a lot of these folks are coming from like road racing, or mountain biking, where the races are a little bit shorter. And so as an iron distance, triathlete understanding, like what it takes to race for a nine, you know, up to 12 hours, like being aware of fueling and knowing how important that is, is definitely been an advantage. I feel like I’ve had a bit of a one up on my competitors in that sense. And as well, also pacing, you know, understanding how to manage efforts, understanding, you know, what the body is capable, and what you really need to have into that, like, eight, nine and over time period of being in a race.

Rob Pickels  26:26

Yeah, I’m glad you bring up pacing, because that’s something that I wanted to ask about. I think that we all assume, having never done a 70.3 triathlon, that it’s a very steady pacing strategy, you kind of go out and swim your speed, you go out and you bike, your speed, and you go out and you run your speed, and then you finish as fast as you can. That’s my assumption. Anyway, I could be totally wrong. First off, is that what it’s like in the 70.3? But then how does that compare to racing on the mountain bike or the gravel where, presumably you’re working easier and harder, and it’s a little bit more of a polarized sort of pacing strategy.

Rach McBride  26:58

Yeah, in in the bike racing, it is still really dynamic, you know, you are still racing in packs, they’re a strategy, like, you know, it’s important to try and stay with groups. And so the effort is, can be a lot of that over under that you see more and the road race racing side of things, or mountain bike racing, shorter mountain bike racing side of things. And that is something that going into, I hadn’t experienced, for example, Crusher, which was a race in Utah, I did right before the PTO Canadian Open. And going into that race, I knew I just needed to like it was basically two major climbs with a big descent in the middle. And I was like, I just I know, I need to just like go out and see how long I can stay with the front pack. And then maybe I’ll blow up in the end, maybe not. But let’s just go and experiment and see. And that was a huge the ability that I had to, like push really hard at the start. And then still maintain that into like, the fourth and fourth and fifth hours, gave me a lot of confidence going into these next races of like, to me 70.3 Racing is not it’s I’m coming from the Ironman distance. For the past five years, I have gotten into this mindset of like, it is all about pacing, you got to like maintain things, you can’t overdo it at the beginning, because you’re going to regret it at the end, blah, blah, blah, but 70.3 racing, I am just remembering now from my earlier in my career, that it’s not actually like that it is more about like, you really have to go for it, it’s pushing harder than you really think that you can. And then just like seeing how the cards lay and seeing how how long you can maintain it, it’s a really a much more challenging effort than iron distance racing and a lot more dynamic. And sometimes, yeah, you need to go and burn some matches at different points in the race. And that’s a lot less of a risk, I think in those shorter distance races. And so I took that experience from Crusher, knowing that I had just this really great experience of being able in these later hours to continue pushing into my triathlon racing. And recognizing that like, this is kind of the dynamic that you have to have going into these gravel and mountain bike races as well is that it is about managing your effort, but at the same time, you need to know where it’s okay to burn the matches, and how much you’ve got left in the tank. Like I think I really surprised myself in some of these efforts in the past couple of races, just like re tapping into just how much I know I can push myself in those later hours. And so it’s given me a lot of confidence. And it means that I’m having fun with it. You know, I’m going in and I am just like seeing how hard I can push and it’s like, if I have these expectations of like, you know what, if I blow up at the end of the race, I blow up and now I’ve learned to limit it. Lisa tried Yeah, that’s what I’m in sport for is to like learn where my boundaries are learn where my like physical and mental limits are. And if I can just keep pushing that and having fun with it, like, that’s what was for me at Boulder 70.3, I was having a blast, I saw some of my competitors. And they did a look like they were not having a good time at all. But I was like, just so happy out there, even though I was like pushing it and suffering. You know, I was smiling. I was like cheering on my competitors, and just having a really good time out there. And I think it makes such a huge difference.

Mateo Mercur  30:33

But it was enjoyed the challenge of balancing trap on a gravel, let’s hear his thoughts and how the disciplines fit together.

Rob Pickels  30:41

Mateo, Rach is competing across, really, I don’t want to say crazy, but a very wide range of events. How does the specific needs of 70.3 of gravel of mountain bike work into their training program? And are you considering specific events in this, such as the course for Crusher? When they went in did that? And then also the course for Leadville? Or is it more of a general training for mountain bike training for triathlon training for gravel?

Mateo Mercur  31:16

Yeah, so when Rach approached me about doing the lifetime series for gravel and mountain bike, I’m not sure if Rach thought I would be on board. Rach indicated to me that they felt that lifetime was doing a commendable job of advocating for, for non binary athletes, and the category and Rach really wanted to be a part of that, inside of a sport where that representation was, was at the front. And I wanted to support rage in that. And I knew, I know that Rach really enjoys gravel riding in particular and mountain biking as well. And I wanted to be able to make that happen. For Rach, if possible. I had my concerns. You know, there are two types of riders, those who have crashed and those who haven’t crashed

Rob Pickels  32:06

-and those who will.

Mateo Mercur  32:08

Yeah, haven’t crashed yet. So that is a huge consideration and factor, whether you’re on the road or off, but you know, it’s something that I really wanted to be careful about. And Rachel and I had had discussions about how best to approach these gravel mountain bike races in order to emerge from them as unscathed as possible. And that was my biggest concern going into them. For me, my intention was to use Rachel’s engine for gravel and mountain and not worry so much about becoming the best technical writer out there. And Rachel Reddy is a very accomplished technical writer. And so I didn’t have any gross concerns about it. And I thought, yeah, this is a good way to mix it up. If Rach already enjoys writing their gravel bike and riding their mountain bike, why not create a structure where this athlete can really get the most out of their season, I saw mountain biking and gravel biking as a great supplement to the work they were doing for 70.3 and full distance racing. And that these long distance races like Crusher would be a fine addition to Rachel’s preparation for long course triathlon racing.

Rob Pickels  33:25

Is there anything in particular about these events that have benefits to to the triathlon racing such that, you know, like to take Crusher, for example, is there something about how the effort plays out? That is just great training for triathlon? Or is it not, it’s just otherwise a great event to do, but maybe a different event could have stood in just as well? Yeah, Crusher

Mateo Mercur  33:50

is a great event. And there are a lot of things that that apply well enough to racing, 70.3 and long course triathlon. So much of crusher is written on your own. And therefore it is a sustained time, trial type effort and a modulated effort. So much of it is out in the sun. And so you have to manage keeping your body cool, and your hydration and your nutrition over time. The duration of the event is great preparation for a long Ironman event. And so all these things I thought, fit well and would work into a plan that was still focused on rage racing their best in the events that they’ve been racing as a professional athlete for so long, which are triathlon, long course triathlons.

Rob Pickels  34:44

It’s interesting. We recently did a potluck episode with our special guest co host grant holiday, and he asked about the mental states that we like to compete in, and he was very clear and very adamant that happiness is the biggest thing for him and I can see A lot of YouTube together in that, that it almost doesn’t matter what you’re doing as long as you’re happy and having fun, your performance is just going to be so much better than if you’re suffering or slogging or angry or any of these other emotional states. Yeah, absolutely,

Rach McBride  35:15

I think that have like being positive ad is so powerful in that your suffering is going to feel less because we’re all suffering out there. It’s all painful, like that’s one of my mantras is maintain the pain, I know, if I’m not hurting out there that I’m not going hard enough. And if I am going to be in there and be like, Oh, this sucks, and it’s so painful. And I’m like having a terrible time. Like, I don’t like being in this, then it’s not going I’m not going to perform as well as if, if I’m out there and enjoying myself it like, you know, helps us handle the stress and the pain that we are putting ourselves through.

Mateo Mercur  35:55

So I really want to dive into the training here. Because you talk to any triathlon coach, they’ll tell you that training for triathlon alone is tough, you have to balance swimming, running cycling, means you’re often training multiple times a day, you have to figure out recovery. It’s it’s tough, particularly if you’re training for Ironman. So you’ve thrown another element of gravel racing in there, I have to believe that at some point, something has to give. So how do you balance all that? Or? I guess the interesting question here is How would you feel your training is different from somebody who just transferred triathlon,

Rach McBride  36:34

it has been a very interesting experience train, I feel like I am training for like five different sports because I’ve got swim, TT bike run, but then I’ve got gravel bike and mountain bike, because even like gravel and mountain are very different. And I’ve been joking that I just feel half trained and everything, I feel like I’m dabbling in everything, because I don’t have such a strong focus that I’m used to in the world of triathlon. And I will admit, I do a lot of training on the TT bike on the trainer. So just like focused efforts, and I think that that really gives me that just like the base and the and being able to do the intensity without having to worry about, you know, traffic and terrain and all of that jazz, like it really feels like I can just sit and focus on the efforts, you know, maintaining certain heart rates, just really going at it, no matter if I’m in the TT position. But I think it’s, you know, it’s easy to translate into other bike positions as well. Where it’s challenging is leading up to for example, unbound, where I needed to spend 12 hours on my gravel bike, I had the Ironman World Champs two weeks before that, or three weeks, or, yeah, three weeks, I think before that. And so the majority of my training was on the TT bike, because that was the focus, and then all of a sudden, you’ve got a switch. And it’s like a little bit of recovery, and then like, do a couple of big rides on the gravel bike and just hope that it’s going to translate the same thing with mountain biking, even before like, I have never spent longer than three hours on a mountain bike. And next weekend, I need to race eight or nine hours on it, hopefully, that’s good.

Rob Pickels  38:19

I was gonna be maybe seven for you based on the rate you’re going now. So

Mateo Mercur  38:24

it sounds like based on what you just said, and you talked earlier about the boulder 70.3 that you hadn’t done a ton of run training and you just had to kind of hope that the the running fitness was there, it sounds like that’s part of the approach that you have to take you’re you’re jumping between the sports that you just have to hope you’ve got a general base of fitness, and it’s just going to carry over and when you get on that gravel bike or on that mountain bike and have to do eight, nine hours that you can handle that bike even though you’ve just done a ton of training on the TT or that that fitness is going to carry over to running if you haven’t had a lot of time to do run training. Is that the case?

Rach McBride  39:02

Yeah, absolutely. I feel like you know, I still maintain like a pretty strong swim program. So I’ve got that as like an aerobic base as well. And the running I you know, a lot of my runs are like off the bike. And so it just kind of extends that endurance training into longer workouts. And so I do feel like I have kind of, in a way been racing into shape. With bike racing, as opposed to triathlon, long distance triathlon, you can race a lot more, you know, you see so many gravel and road and mountain bike cyclists like the racing every weekend. I mean, that’s what I feel like I’m doing now, but I do I feel like I’m racing into shape and a lot of ways and so it’s, it’s, it’s less of the pounding on your body. And so you can just do a little bit more those race experiences. Obviously you’re building fitness and experience. And so yeah, it feels like I’ve just kind of had to crawl Is my fingers and hope that everything’s translating and surprise myself like the run that I had at the PTO Canadian Open blew my mind. I had no idea that I would be able to maintain that pace for 18k With such little run training that I have, and so it has to be like everything else has to be translating.

Rob Pickels  40:24

Coaches, we have a new guide for you at fast talk labs.com called how to grow your coaching business. In this free downloadable playbook coach Phillip hatzes explores how coaches like you can grow profits, create opportunities, and reach your growth goals no matter how big or small, visit Bastok labs.com. Now, to get this free download

Mateo Mercur  40:55

part of Rachel’s success has been a result of their trust in their coach. Let’s hear materials description of how they’ve trained Rach so successfully.

Rob Pickels  41:02

Let’s dive into that program a little bit more because Rachel mentioned that in quote unquote Mateo is program. Every workout has a plan. And given the diversity of their competitions, there’s got to be some pretty intelligent training design going on here. So can you tell us how you’re using each discipline from swim, bike run strength mountain bike gravel, to train effectively and also efficiently? Overall? How are you building their aerobic base? How are you figuring in high intensity with all of these different variables?

Mateo Mercur  41:36

Yeah, that’s also a really good question. There is a lot going on. But the truth is, it’s not rocket science, the body responds to certain training stimuli period, you know, you need aerobic conditioning, you need high intensity bouts, you need sustained muscular endurance. And when it comes to certain certain disciplines like swim, or gravel or mountain in particular, you know, skills and technique really come in. So, for me, going back to something I mentioned earlier, for Rach, it’s all about consistency, number one, and focus and deliberate planning. And when I’m drawing, when I’m building a plan for rage, looking to race, gravel, mountain, long distance or middle distance triathlon, it has to be focused and deliberate. And it really has to be consistent. And I’d be happy to talk about how I’m building the swim the bike in the run, to enable Rach to perform at a high level across these different disciplines.

Rob Pickels  42:47

Yeah, I’m interested in is the long aerobic stuff only coming on the bike? Or are you doing that only on the run? Do you have this sort of standard structure that you’re following? Or is it kind of just like normal training, and it happens to be on a gravel bike one day and a tri bike the other day?

Mateo Mercur  43:05

Yeah, it looks a lot like that. I’ll start with swim. Actually, you know, on the swim, Rach gets a lot of their intensity, strength and volume, we get to do you know a pretty high load overall in the water, because it doesn’t burn an athlete up, like running, for example. So we spend a lot of time in the water, the better an athlete is in the water, the better they’ll be set up to ride hard and fast, which will then set them up to run well. So you know, in the water rage and I have worked on technique. I remember the first time I was on deck with rage. When we got started together, we were at Ironman Chattanooga, and I was just there with Rach kind of seeing how we might work together as coach and athlete. It was unofficial at that point. And I gave Rach some direction with their kick in the swim, and it made an immediate change. And then, you know, we’ve been working on other technical elements like their finish or the recovery, and even their cadence on the swim. And these have all made a difference in the swim. But on the bike, as you’ve seen, reaches doing a whole range of different types of disciplines in their racing this summer. So I’m using the time trial bike for a lot of strength and intensity. And we’re doing a lot of that work on the trainer. So we really focus hard workouts on the trainer. I call them high intensity intervals where we’ll do bouts that look like vo to max kind of bounced best repeatable effort is what I say I prescribe workouts on perceived level of exertion for the most part and cadence. And then off the back of those sessions. We’re doing some sustained muscular endurance work, and then we’ll do rounds back inside of a very hard bike session on the trainer and that’s on the TT bike. bike, and then I’ll do volume and recovery on the gravel bike, and some stripes work on the on the gravel bike also. So just go on ride, and they can get volume that way. And sometimes I’m actually mixing it up, I might have them do a very high intensity trainer session on the TT bike in the morning, and then moderate to long ride on the gravel bike in the afternoon. And likewise, the mountain bike, we can do volume on the mountain bike, depending on if we’re, as we’re getting ready for Leadville, it’s been more volume on the mountain bike. But we’re also really focusing on skills on the mountain bike. And I’m always having Rach ride below their skill level on the mountain bike. Because right now, the most important thing is for Rach to get off of each session, unscathed to stay on the bike for this training session and to stay on the bike for the racing session, the worst thing that we could do right now is get injured on the mountain, or the gravel or the road bike for that matter. Which is why I really am a huge fan of smashing on the trainer. It’s safe, it’s focused, and it’s very high quality.

Rob Pickels  46:06

That makes sense, I think it’s really insightful that you’re using, the TT bike is ultimately getting the lowest amount of volume, but what it sounds like maybe the highest intensity. And I think that that might be really good to maintain the fitness and the adaptations that the body makes to that position, right? Because it’s a very different position compared to the gravel of the road bike. And, you know, we can kind of get into the weeds on the length tension relationship of muscles. But, you know, the high level is ultimately that I think it’s smart that you’re doing that low volume, high intensity stuff on the TT bike, and I bet you that that really preserves some of the specific attributes that rage needs to be successful on it. Yeah, that’s

Mateo Mercur  46:49

really astute. Rob. That’s exactly right. I’m really intentional about using the different bikes to train Rach in those different body positions. I want rage to be to have exposure to each different setup, geometry, and body position. under load. We may talk about this later. But the different races have different demands. And I want to be very race specific when we’re on different bike setups. But yes, being in the Titi position is key and critical and being upgraded, and even more upright on the gravel. And then the mountain bikes are also really important.

Mateo Mercur  47:34

So that was really what I wanted to get at and ask your opinion on this. Because you’re kind of a, you’ve created your own experiment, one experiment here. But there’s that whole question across over how specific do you need to be like, if you don’t do a ton of run training? Does your running suffer? Or is it a case that if you just build that general aerobic fitness, it’s going to translate into your swimming, it’s going to translate into your running, it’s going to translate into your cycling? What have you found? Because obviously, you can’t train all five of these? Do you just find you have a good aerobic base? And hey, even if you can’t run for a bit, you’re you’re gonna run? Well, when it comes to that race.

Rach McBride  48:13

Yeah, that’s what it kind of seems like is happening, I put a lot of trust into my coach Mateo to like really balanced things. And it does feel like you know, even if I am training for triathlon or mountain bike, I’m still like, I’ll have like one ride on the gravel bike, or, you know, with it, if even if I have a certain focus, I’ll still have like one or two rides a week on a different bike just to keep my mind and body in that position and riding those kinds of bikes. And just, you know, switching it up a bit, like you say it is an experiment is totally an experiment. And it seems to be working really well for me

Rob Pickels  48:51

reach something that you had mentioned before was that the pounding on your body is less and so you’re able to I think you said do a little bit more. Have you noticed any? And maybe this is a question for Matteo, we can ask him to has there been a change in the overall training volume in your training intensity? I know there’s big differences in the in the maybe the bike the modality that you’re choosing, but are you doing more hours now than you’ve ever done with including the bike?

Rach McBride  49:17

No, I don’t think that my volume has increased very much. I mean, Matteo and I started working together in I think September, October last year. And the training that I am doing with him does feel like there is every workout has a plan like there’s there is less sort of like just general recovery stuff and more like intensity and back to back days, especially on the bike. And I feel like that has been really key in getting my bike back up to where it is right now. And I do believe that things like you know, I spend quite a few days in the pool. You know, I’m swimming Seeing probably at least four or five days a week, the often six days a week. And I feel like swimming really as my former swim coach Jerry Rodriguez likes to sway, say, running loves swimming. So swimming is actually can be really beneficial to run training, even if you’re not doing a lot of run training, swimming can be a big boost to that

Mateo Mercur  50:22

that’s addressed. I haven’t heard that. So why did why did they say that?

Rach McBride  50:25

You’ll have to ask Jerry, for details on that. It seems to translate really well, I think because it just like it keeps the body loose, you’re still working on that aerobic capacity swimming is more of like a full body workout, you’re working on tightness in the body. So there’s a lot of core strength that you need, that I think helps with maintaining that in the run sense as well.

Mateo Mercur  50:45

So where do you feel you’re doing most of your aerobic work? Is it really split between swimming, running and cycling? Or do you find that there’s one that you’re particularly focusing on to build that big aerobic engine?

Rach McBride  50:58

It is definitely mostly on the bike, I would say that the majority of my training is focusing on the bike, but it’s also not like I am doing any massively long rides. You know, I think that my, my big ride days are my race days. So leading up to unbound I had a like one six hour ride and one five hour ride and a couple of weeks leading up to it. So it’s not like I’m doing big epic days. Yeah, it feels like, as I said, my right, I think my racing is is like the long, long ride days. And then otherwise, it’s very focused interval work. So that

Mateo Mercur  51:36

if I’m very interesting, how many interval sessions do you think you’re doing in a week, and all the different disciplines?

Rach McBride  51:44

Well, let’s see, I would say I have maybe three interval sessions on the bike, and then my swim workouts seem to be all hard. Okay, there’s never an easy day goes, yeah. never an easy swim day. And then my running is, you know, I feel like it’s just been not recovery runs, but just like steady runs with some pickups, or I think I’ve maybe I maybe recall, like three or four runs in the past couple of months that have actually had intervals in them. So that feels like it is bare minimum,

Mateo Mercur  52:24

that’s really interesting, because at least the way I was taught to train triathlon was a little bit different, which is, yes, most of the aerobic works done on the bike, because bike is so less damaging on your body. So if you’re gonna do long endurance type work, you get on the bike and just do that, you might do some interval work on the bike, running the I was always taught you do interval work running, because you need to build that efficiency, you need to build that ability to go at speed. And then if there’s anywhere that you’re gonna go easy, it’s in the pool, because that aerobic training you do and running and cycling is going to translate to swimming. And really, what you need to do most in the pool is work on the the neuromuscular side, the form your strokes, you’re doing something very different from that.

Rob Pickels  53:11

Maybe we don’t want to put this episode out because we’re exposing Matteo secret to the world right now.

Mateo Mercur  53:19

Doing that, gonna have a bunch of people killing you go, thanks. Thanks for doing that. Is that just your coaches style? Or does that have to do with the the mix of the disciplines?

Rach McBride  53:30

Well, I think there’s a bit of a mix there. So I feel like I respond quite well to a high swim volume. I learned that I when I started with Tarot 26, several years ago and Jerry’s program. And Matteo is also a very swim heavy coach, I would say in terms of, especially in terms of frequency. And for me, I have been injured running so much in my career, that I have had to maintain a low volume, I have had to learn how to run a fast marathon on like a 90 minute long run. And so that is just like for me how my body responds the best or how what I’m able to do you like I am not able to do a lot of intensity or volume running, because I’m so susceptible to injury.

Mateo Mercur  54:20

No, that’s fair. And I’ll actually say we had Melanie McQuaid on the show and she said something similar and said a lot of triathletes underestimate the swim. And definitely see what you’re talking about, which is you know, the issue with running is it’s so damaging on your joints so damaging, so damaged. And I see a lot of triathletes, especially when they’re getting into it will try to balance cycling and running and end up injuring themselves too much. Yeah, absolutely.

Rach McBride  54:47

And I mean, this is what I’ve learned over my now 1112 year career is that I in order to run fast off the bike, I don’t necessarily need to have all of that intensity and volume. I I think that especially as because I have been a full time athlete for so long, I have already a lot of underlying fitness from that decade of training full time. And I see inspiration and other athletes, you know, you look at like Jesse Thomas, for example, had was an incredible runner. And yes, I’ve had a history of, you know, being a collegiate runner, but his run volume during his triathlon career was quite minimal as well. And he still had some incredible runs.

Mateo Mercur  55:31

Running because of how damaging it can be has been a challenge for Rach, let’s hear how Matteo is fit running into the training routine.

Mateo Mercur  55:40

At different times, you know, different athletes will require different training structures. And Rach has been dealing with some injuries for the past, since the winter, reach came off the mountain bike and bruise the bone in their knee. And that would require a lot of downtime actually. And what I’ve done is used the bike to build fitness for the run. So we’re getting aerobic fitness, we’re getting muscular fitness, we’re just not getting sport specific run fitness. But you know, the stronger you can be on the bike, the less it will break you down. And the more you’ll have in the tekstil when you get off to run. And so what I’ve been doing with the run is doing a lot of run off the bike work so that it is sports specific. And that it kind of tricks the body into feeling like it’s a higher load, you know, if you do an hour run off of a two or three hour bike, that increases the impact of the quality of that run, in terms of volume and fatigue, pre fatigue before going into the run and race specificity. And so we’ll do an hour, 75 minutes, 90 minutes off the bike regularly. And we’ll also do those at race intensities. So Rachel do lower intensity runs for recovery, or endurance, which are endurance runs are not that long, we’ll do a little bit of economy work with some short pickups on shorter run days. And we’ll do a lot of what I call muscular endurance and race specific intensity work off the bike. And that limits the amount of pounding and damage on the body and maximizes the training effect of the running that we

Rob Pickels  57:30

are doing. It’s almost as if you’re applying the same principles with using the TT bike for high intensity on the trainer to the Run situation, right? What exactly does this by us? How do we maximize the contribution that the run can make? And it sounds like in your program, tying that to coming off the bike is how you get that efficiency to training as opposed to doing it as a totally separate session where you’re missing the adaptation or the stress on the body that rage needs to face in their race. It really emphasizes again, the efficiency I think you have built into your program.

Mateo Mercur  58:11

really sounds like you’re saying it’s not so much that there’s a secret sauce magic formula for training it’s there’s a secret sauce a magic formula for you.

Rach McBride  58:20

Yes

Mateo Mercur  58:20

That’s very individual for you.

Rach McBride  58:22

Absolutely, absolutely. I don’t know if this would work for any other person. But you know, this is just I am hoping I am becoming a smarter athlete. As I get through my career sometimes I don’t do very smart things when I have done some very stupid things this year already to hurt myself. But yeah, I hope that I am just I learned from my experience and I think it’s it really has taken me this long to sort of figure things out and the fact that I have been for so long now there’s several years that I haven’t had a running injury due to too much running I haven’t had any broken bones in my feet anymore. My my feet used to be my nemesis and now I’m really through all of the work that I’ve been doing. I have also in the past several years been working with a specific strength and mobility coach and like a natural movement coach that I think has been a huge game changer specifically for my running just in terms of understanding like what happens to my body under Fatigue and how to like just proper neuromuscular firing has really been huge for injury prevention for me. Alright, so

Mateo Mercur  59:33

I promised him a done with drill it with crutches, I just want to impress on everybody. Ironman triathlon is such a hard sport to do as I’m talking as a coach right now. To balance the disciplines that you’re balancing to be as successful as you’ve been. And for as many years as you have. I just really want to impress on everybody how difficult that is to do how difficult all that is the balance He said you kind of have your secret sauce, it’s has to be a pretty magical secret sauce to have been able to pull off what you’ve pulled off.

Rach McBride  1:00:09

Yeah, you know what I feel like I just I love saying yes to new adventure. And I think that for me, like I said, I just have this attitude of going out there and giving it my all and seeing how I can challenge myself. And I put a lot of trust into my coaches, I’m pretty terrible at like taking care of myself in a lot of ways and, and paying attention to like what I need to be doing blah, blah, I really just, I put a lot of faith into the folks around me and my team around me to take care of me. And to give me the training that is going to work the best for me.

Rob Pickels  1:00:47

Rach a little a little while ago, you mentioned your knees, and then you’ve been crashing your mountain bike. Which, which I think begs the question, because this is potentially a hurdle for a lot of people looking to make the transition? How do skills? How does equipment? How does that play into the transition from going from a onroad 70.3 focus into the gravel in the mountain bike world?

Rach McBride  1:01:15

Yeah, I think well, especially for mountain biking, it’s huge, like being able to understand your equipment and your setup can be night and day, you know, getting into gravel, I think is a little bit easier. And it is like a very welcoming community. So but in mountain biking, you know, I just got my bikes at the beginning of the year. And I’m still like a little bit lost as to how they work. And unfortunately, I am the type of rider who takes risks, and you know, doesn’t loves to go fast and may not see hairpins or obstacles in the way. Yeah, you know, I ride in on the north shore in Vancouver at some of the best and hardest, you know, technical mountain biking. And so that was my intro to trail riding. And I think I learned very quickly that I’m pretty good at just like holding on and going down things and surviving. Going up and over things is where I tend to have the most difficulty. And you know, even on the first day of the stage race last weekend, my bike was completely set up improperly, I had my tires, way over inflated, I accidentally locked out my front fork, and on the first somewhat technical descent, went down and crashed. And I had just healed myself from a crash on a descent from Crusher, I had no road rash on my elbow and my knee on one side. And then at the stage race, I crashed on the other side your

Rob Pickels  1:02:52

balance perfect, it’s actually a feature.

Rach McBride  1:02:56

And really, like I did something to my knee that was very painful running in the week leading up to Boulder 70.3, I would start out at about a seven out of 10 pain level when I would run. And so it was a big question mark as to I had to get an x ray to make sure it was not broken. And I wasn’t running on broken bones because I seem to also be really good at doing that. And I don’t want to continue doing that. And so knowing that, like the pain I was experiencing was like, okay, I can just run through this. And I’m not going to be injuring myself any further. Thankfully, in the race I it was no problem. But you know that first day of that stage race was a huge eye opener of like, if I had just had my tire pressure, right, and had to understand how like understood, we’re been paying more attention to my suspension on the mountain bike, it would have been night and day and under and then going into the second and third days with the correct setup. And having like way different experience and it being way safer, and having much more traction. That has been a huge learning curve for me. And it honestly has been quite overwhelming to figure out the mountain bike side of things because it is such a different sport, the technical side of things, and just understanding how all of these things on the bike work

Rob Pickels  1:04:17

there’s a lot of right yeah, there’s a lot of

Rach McBride  1:04:22

things to pump up and and so I learned the hard way that asking for help is really important. And I have also taken some skills courses so in I have had the opportunity to go and hang out in Moab for a couple of days and took a lesson there. And so understanding more the like technique of particularly mountain biking has been incredibly helpful. With the gravel riding I felt like it really Tran like to me it just because it’s a very it’s a lower technical style of writing. It’s a lot easier to get into. It’s really really just about, you know, getting a good bike setup and getting tires that are appropriate for the terrain that you’re riding. And just going out and, and getting used to riding on terrain that is not as stable as pavement, I think it’s more just about the feel, because you’re really not a lot of the gravel riding that folks are doing are just on, you know, pretty well maintained gravel roads. And so that’s a good place to start. And then you can graduate into more technical things, bigger rocks, single track, that kind of thing.

Rob Pickels  1:05:35

Yeah, I almost kind of liken it to the swim side of the triathlon, where technique is so important. And you can go into the swim. So I’m saying this because I think the triathletes will understand the comparison. You can go into that swim and just work so incredibly hard. But if your technique is off, yeah, you don’t go anywhere. No, right, yeah, and mountain biking. And to some extent, gravel can be like that as well. If you don’t have the mountain bike technique, then you’re slowing down too much for corners, which means you’re sprinting, to get back up to speed, you’re burning that energy and burning those matches. But I’m really happy and excited to hear that you have taken lessons. And I think that that is a big takeaway for people. There are so many mountain bike skills coaches, and they’re not all focused on downhill and huge jumps and everything that’s exciting that you think they’re focused on. There’s a lot of coaches that are really specialized in taking people like yourself, who are looking to make the change into into mountain biking and teaching proper technique that increases safety and increases speed. And frankly, going fast is a heck of a lot more fun than going slow so

Rach McBride  1:06:45

well and increases enjoyment as well. It’s like if you’re out there on the trails, and you’re just like scared of that just scared. Nobody wants. It’s not fun. It’s really not fun.

Rob Pickels  1:06:54

Rachel, I think you pointed out the transition from triathlon into gravel is maybe the easy first half step to make because of the similarities that are there. And for anyone who are looking to expand their racing disciplines, maybe the fold jump to mountain biking is is a step, a leap and a jump. You know, do you see kind of gravel being the good? The good first move?

Rach McBride  1:07:15

Absolutely, absolutely. I think because the bike position is very similar, the technicality of it is a lot lower, the equipment that you’re on is so much similar, that it’s very easy. I mean, I started on a road bike, I started riding gravel on a road bike. And that is sometimes I will now I go back to those gravel roads. And I’m like, What was I thinking like, that must have been so terrible and uncomfortable. This is a way better on a gravel bike. But you know, that’s what I tell a lot of folks who are interested in gravel is like, just like put some bigger tires on your road bike and go and try it out, go on a trail. And you don’t need to necessarily like go all in on, you know, 1000s of dollars on a new bike, when you can just experiment a little bit and see if you like it, see if it’s something that’s interesting. And yeah, there is I think such a welcoming community. The racing is just so inclusive, and a really cool environment. There’s often a free meal and a free beer at the end, which I always love. That’s definitely been a perk of gravel racing. And yeah, I think jumping into mountain biking, like even to me as an experienced gravel racer, jumping into mountain biking this year, I felt like I was way in over my head. And it was just, you know, trying to figure out how to ride these trails and like it crashing all the time and hurting myself. And although I love it, it’s something that I really think about in terms of my long term health, like do I want to be doing you hear these horror stories of people, you know, having really bad crashes on mountain bikes. And it really, I think, is food for thought in terms of getting into off road racing, and off road riding. And being that first comfortable in more varied and loose terrain, before getting into mountain biking can be really beneficial.

Rob Pickels  1:09:09

Transitioning from triathlon into gravel. Is there one particular technique that you’ve used or skill that you’ve practiced that has really increased your comfort? And your fun on the gravel bike? Is there been something that you’ve done that’s maybe unlocked sort of the secret on gravel for you?

Rach McBride  1:09:27

That’s a good question.

Rob Pickels  1:09:29

That’s a good question means I have no answer. Because it was a terrible question is really what that’s a good question. I mean,

Rach McBride  1:09:37

you know, I think it’s more so like translating mountain bike skills. So like understanding more about just my best friend Jill calls it like being big on the bike. So like, you know, your elbows out and your knees out and just having a bigger presence on the bike and more to absorb the shock. I think that that is It feels like a more stable position on the bike. It’s fear. It’s very counterintuitive to what triathletes are used to, you know, we’re used to being just small, very small and confined. And so it’s a different way of being on a bike is being big. I think the other thing too, for gravel is some of the details like your tire choice, your tire size, your tire pressure can make like night and day in terms of how comfortable you are on the bike and how stable it feels.

Rob Pickels  1:10:30

And that’s definitely an area that people can experiment with. Yes, go out and ride the same gravel road at 20 psi 30 Psi 40 psi, see how it feels differently for each? Yeah, go around some corners, feel how stable it feels. That’s something that you can do in your own neighborhood. Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Rach McBride  1:10:48

And riding with others who are maybe more experienced following them on the trails, like having that you know, someone to emulate, I think can be really powerful as well. Certainly,

Mateo Mercur  1:10:59

before we close out the episode, let’s hear Matteo talk about one last important piece of rageous training, race recon.

Mateo Mercur  1:11:07

So of course, recon is a huge part of our success. So I had a training camp leading into the Ironman World Championships in St. George in May, I was in St. George for five or six weeks before the race with a small squad of athletes. And race was a part of that. And we recon that course, every inch of that course, we swam in the reservoir when it was still freezing, and got very clear as to what that water temperature would be like and the impact that it would have. And I toughened those athletes to it, we stayed and even when it was cold, they stayed and I was on deck with my binoculars around the shore with my binoculars, and actually a walkie talkie. I had two ways walkie talkies, in my athletes, little float torpedoes and I could communicate to them while they were swimming. And, you know, we we immediately became clear that we were going to need to use neoprene beanies to maintain body temperature in those conditions. Thankfully, in the days before the race, the water temperature went up a bit. But my athletes were really toughened to some very cold water, we wrote every inch of the bike course, we got a very clear sense of the course profile. In the early part of the race, the mid part of the race, the latter part of the race, I exposed the athletes to the heat, and the wind and the UV exposure. So we got really clear about what the right gearing choices would be. I had athletes switch their rear cassettes for this race, I had athletes switch their front wheel choices to a slightly shallower front wheel reach went with a deeper set. But some of my age group athletes, what was slightly shallower wheels in the front to better handle on the crosswind and be able to stay down, put power down and ride confidently. And, you know, we saw where we could make gains on this course, one of my age group athletes had just one of the fastest sections on the long descent in that because of the big gearing that we were using on that course. And then likewise on the run, we ran that run course at speed, we ran that run course for just endurance runs, and really got it dialed as to how to best sustain high performance racing effort on the day when we knew it was going to be hot, and suddenly exposed and just unforgiving.

Rob Pickels  1:13:45

So I think that we’re getting toward the end of the episode here. And as always, we like to make sure that things are actionable for people. And so we oftentimes like to end with with the take home, which is sort of a one minute if you want to share the high level summary The take home information pieces, you know, throughout the episode that you think are the most important things for listeners to hear.

Mateo Mercur  1:14:09

You know, I just noticed what we’ve lost our five minute timer. We finished with one minute. Take Holmes Yeah, of course, we bought a five minute timer. Series is no good whatsoever, but I still like to flip it every once.

Rob Pickels  1:14:24

Yeah, fair enough.

Mateo Mercur  1:14:25

So would you like to go first you have one minute to kind of give us what do you feel is the most salient point from the episode or what do you hope the listeners really take from this?

Rach McBride  1:14:36

Well, to me, I think that how I have been so successful in this is that I just say yes to a lot of things and experiment and go out and have fun and follow. You know what feels good and fun for me. I think that you know, understanding that if you are you used to riding a TT bike for hours at a time, you can hop on a gravel bike and go ride for hours to it’s going to be the same type of fitness, it translates into that. And it’s a great way to kind of switch things up as well, if someone is, you know, maybe a bit bored of being on the TT bike or, and just wants to experience something different. I think riding gravel is a way that might be inspiring for a lot of people to continue is in sport to try something new. And that, you know, really your triathlon training is going to translate into that endurance training for gravel. Again, mountain biking, getting some skills training can be huge. Understanding that it can be scary and daunting for the off road racing and riding more writing, just because that surface is unstable. And so just going into it, knowing that understanding that you’re going to have some feelings around it. And that might be scary to start off with.

Rob Pickels  1:16:06

Yeah. Rach, I think I’m really similar to you and my take home. And that is, if you want to do something, you can do it. There’s nothing that says you have to engage with sport or gender in in a preconceived traditional notion, and that everybody has any opportunity that they want to pursue. And so if you want to change from being an on road racer to an off road racer, then great, go for it. Yeah, we talked about how difficult that is. But in some regard, that’s because we talked about doing it at the highest level. And that isn’t everybody listening to the show. So you don’t have to be afraid. But you might need to get some help. And a coach is helpful, a skills coach is helpful. Maybe somebody who knows about equipment that you don’t know about is very helpful. So it’s great to talk with people. But more than anything, the best is to just go after whatever, whatever your heart desires, right and take those steps forward. Yeah, absolutely.

Trevor Connor  1:17:06

Trevor. So I guess it’s probably pretty obvious where I’m gonna go with my take home. Based on my questioning, I’m just fascinated by the balance you’ve had, because if an athlete came to me and said, I want to do Ironman, and I want to do gravel racing, and I want to do mountain biking, probably my response would be I think we need to do an intervention here. But you’ve managed to do it, and you’ve managed to do it very successfully. And what I heard from you is two things that I think have allowed you to be successful one is really learning what works for you. And it sounds like you and your coach have done a really good job over the years of just figuring out, here’s what you shouldn’t be doing, here’s what you should be doing. And that’s how you can balance everything. The other thing that I heard that I kind of liked hearing, because it’s a little different from what’s popular right now. Because right now, everything’s specificity, specificity, specificity, but you can’t train all five disciplines to the level that you want. And it sounds like you’ve really done a good job of building a general engine, and then trusting that it’s going to translate when you get to the particular event. And so far, it sounds like that’s really worked for you.

Rob Pickels  1:18:18

Yeah, sure, as you say intervention, I say celebration. Yeah,

Trevor Connor  1:18:22

I agree. That’s, that’s kind of my point is if somebody had come to me and said, Let’s do this,

Rob Pickels  1:18:28

let’s do this.

Trevor Connor  1:18:29

I admit, I kind of would have said, I’m not sure that’s possible. But you’ve shown it is possible. And I’m really that’s why I’ve been so fascinated by this. I mean, that’s something that should be celebrated.

Rach McBride  1:18:39

Yeah, yeah. And you know what I really credit Mateo for saying yes to a lot of this stuff. You know, he’s like, okay, we’re doing lifetime Grand Prix. We’re doing Ironman World Championships, and we’re, I guess we’re throwing in some triathlon in there. And just, you know, I just even the fact of being like, Oh, hey, I’ve got a free weekend. Like, let’s, can I jump into boulder? 70.3. Like, what do you think about that? And he’d be like, Yeah, you know, it’s in your backyard. You may as well jump in. Go for it. The burning

Rob Pickels  1:19:07

question that remains. Do you have TT bars on your gravel bike? sure that this is going to split our audience. Do you have TG bars on you’re

Rach McBride  1:19:23

such a controversial topic? You know, I do not. And at unbound I really wished I did.

Rob Pickels  1:19:32

That was another episode of fast talk subscribe to fast talk. Wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on bass talk are those of the individual as always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums dot fasttalklabs.com or tweet me at at Robert Pickels. You can also head to fasttalklabs.com To get access to our endurance sports knowledge base coach continuing education as well as our inperson and remote athlete services. For Rach McBride, Mateo Mercur and Trevor Connor, I’m Rob Pickels thanks for listening!

Related Episodes