Transformative Endurance Challenges

Can a simple bike race change you forever? Jana, Ryan, Trevor, and Chris describe the lessons they learned in each of their respective N1 Challenges.

Jana Martin at Crooked Gravel
Jana Martin at the finish line of Crooked Gravel by Roll Massif.

In 2021, four of us on the Fast Talk Labs staff—our producer Jana, Head Coach Ryan, Trevor, and me—chose an N1 Challenge. You’ve hopefully heard us speak about it previously on the show. It was meant to be an experiment of one—each of us—offering lessons for all, particularly you, the listeners.

Today, we explore that last bit, those “lessons for all” that each of us gained from our respective events. The most common term used to describe our events was “transformative.” That’s a big word. Yet, in each case, the adjective is appropriate. In the case of Jana, for example, it’s so appropriate that she is traveling indefinitely, with her bike in tow wherever she goes.

Personal challenges, races, events of all kinds are meant to teach us not just how to train better or more effectively, to progress as athletes and hopefully people, but also to gain a greater understanding of what’s possible, what it means to be alive and healthy and able to do the things we love. That’s transformative. And that’s what we’ll discuss today.

One final note: Sadly, Trevor has had to call an audible several times on his N1 Challenge, after health issues and race cancellations disrupted his plans. Still, he learned lessons along the way that everyone can benefit from, and he shares those today.

Ready to be transformed? Let’s make you fast!

Ryan Kohler at Breck Epic
Head Coach Ryan Kohler at the finish of the 2021 Breck Epic six-day mountain bike stage race.
Chris Case got a little dirty during his “Alt Ring Iceland” bikepacking adventure in which he (and his riding partner) circumnavigated Iceland on a series of backroads and gravel tracks.

Episode Transcript

Chris Case 00:13
Hey everyone, welcome to Fast Talk your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host Chris Case. In 2021, four of us on the fast talk labs staff, our producer, Jana, head coach, Ryan, Trevor, and me, chose a N1 challenge, you’ve hopefully heard us speak about it previously on the show. It was meant to be an experiment of one, each of us, offering lessons for all, particularly you the listeners. Today, we explore that last bit, those quote-unquote, lessons for all that each of us gained from our respective events. The most common term used to describe events was transformative. That’s a big word. Yet, in each case, the adjective is appropriate. In the case of Jena, for example, it’s so appropriate that she’s traveling indefinitely, with her bike in tow, wherever she goes. Personal challenges, races, events of all kinds. They’re meant to teach us not just how to train better, or more effectively, not just to progress as athletes and hopefully people, but also to gain a greater understanding of what’s possible, what it means to be alive and healthy and able to do the things we love. That’s transformative. And that’s what we’ll discuss today. One final note. Sadly, Trevor has had to call an audible several times on his N1 challenge after health issues and race cancellations have disrupted his plans. Still, he learned lessons along the way that everyone can benefit from, and he shares those today. Ready to be transformed. Let’s make you fast.

Ryan Kohler 02:07
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Jana’s Crooked Gravel Race

Chris Case 02:56
Jana, you did it. Crooked Gravel done and dusted as they say, tell us a little bit about your day.

Jana Martin 03:03
I can’t believe that I got to experience such a fun race. I’m so thankful for the training and the preparation and the opportunity to do something as unique as a gravel race in the mountains of Colorado. I got to the race a day early with Sam our videographer and was able to pre-ride the course which true to Hanna Finchamp’s earlier advice was a great idea. It really helped me feel prepared and a little bit more in control as the race rolled out of the start. So the race rolled out and I felt like we were going pretty slowly. But I was riding in the peloton for the first time ever. And I looked down at my bike computer and we were going 21 miles an hour and I was barely even soft-pedaling. And it was really great to have gone on a few group rides before this as well. Because in those group ride experiences, I was able to learn some of the common communication that happens in a group ride. You know, slowing and you put your hand down to indicate that you’re going to go slower or you move your hand kind of to the side to show that there’s something in the road that riders behind you should look out for. I felt prepared, at least to some degree being in that situation having gone on a couple of group rides. Then I went out for the first big climb. I stayed with a really strong group and rode really hard all the way up to the first-aid station which was at the end of the first time segment. I did fairly well for my age and group. And then I hit the descent and I was tearing down that descent with great abandon, which those who have written with me may not believe. I’m usually a pretty tentative descender. But I was feeling it the moment. And then I started to see a couple of riders off on the side of the road, dealing with some flat tire issues. It was a very rough mountain dirt road with lots of big sharp rocks in the way, and I wasn’t necessarily picking my line very well. So despite the fact that I had this excellent mosaic bike with these beautiful wheels that were made for the job, I managed to puncture. And also big newbie mistake I didn’t bring any tubes.

Chris Case 05:46
Oh, man.

Jana Martin 05:48
I know. Just layer the shame upon me now. When this flat happened, I panicked a bit, I kind of crumbled, I stopped thinking about problem-solving and what to do next, I just kind of fell into the despondency of Oh, no, I failed. And I let that narrative take over for quite a long time. Eventually, I was able to get back on the bike, I got a tube in there, I got the tire pumped up, and I got back on the road. And at that point, I was just so happy to be back on those two wheels. And back on that beautiful course of Crooked Gravel up in Winter Park that I didn’t even care anymore about strategy or the plan. I just tore through the course as fast as I could. And I had a great time. And hundreds and hundreds of riders had passed me on the side of the road asking me if I needed help. And I smiled and said, I’m good, I’m good. And that got hard after a few 100 times. So by the time I got back on it was just fun. And then I cracked before I got to the finish because I went too hard. But I had a great time. It was a really wonderful experience. I hope to do more gravel racing in the future. And I’ve certainly learned my lessons.

Chris Case 07:12
Yeah, let’s, let’s talk a little bit about that. I mean, it’s pretty obvious. As a beginner rider, you need to bring the tools for the job for repairs out on course. And then you need to also know how to use them. -And I think you know this, you probably embarrassment or shame that you didn’t have that stuff out there.- So we don’t need to belabor that point but it’s crucial. Obviously, you don’t want a little thing like a puncture, which can happen no matter what you’re riding on and no matter how good your equipment is to ruin your day. And it kind of did for a little bit. I’m glad to hear that it didn’t ruin it entirely. So that’s great. Maybe we talk a little bit about some of the other things that got you prepared for this race. And the key or the highlights, if you will, of that preparation.

Jana Martin 08:09
Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about this through the N1challenge videos and the other couple podcasts that we’ve done here. So I just want to hit on a couple key things that I felt really prepared me well for this race, and I did feel strong on race day. And that is thanks to many things. One of them being fueling. Ryan Kohler and I talked many times about nutrition and the importance of fueling well, and honestly fueling quite a lot, even for a race like this. And I ended up drinking six bottles of scratch in a four-hour race 65 miles. And I don’t even remember how many bars and snacks I ate. But it was probably more than I needed, but it wasn’t it was perfect. And it wasn’t like I was enjoying eating them. I was chewing and choking things down as I went because I knew that I needed it. And I felt that really helped me make it to the finish line.

Chris Case 09:15
I think that that is honestly more bottles during that race than I had the entire time I rode around Iceland, but that’s another point. Let’s talk about the consistency factor when it comes to you as an athlete and we’re using you kind of as an archetype of the beginner rider How important was consistency for you?

Jana Martin 09:40
I know before I signed up for this race at the beginning of this year, Trevor had talked to me in the past about not just climbing- I love to climb I love to just ride up in the mountains. It’s beautiful. I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy the scenery, the cooler temps in the summer- He encouraged me to ride more flat. And I knew in order to do that, I would have to force the issue. So I moved further out of Boulder and established a commute, a daily commute, that ended up being about 12 to 13 miles one way. And I didn’t do it every day, but I did it a lot of days. And that consistency. Obviously, I still did the fun rides in the mountains on the weekends and when I could but just grinding out those simple miles, I felt really prepared me and gave me a better base for this race.

Jana’s Experience With Community

Chris Case 10:38
One other thing that you’ve mentioned to me a lot, and I think that you experienced on race day, was this idea about community the support of this community and how that was not only motivating, but just kind of rewarding, in it of itself.

Jana Martin 11:00
Absolutely. Looking at the actual race day itself. It was so fun to be there with Sam- again, our videographer, also an outsider to the sport.- I think we both had a similar experience of, Okay, we’re here at this race, it’s going to be really intense, you know, everyone’s going to try to go for the win. But the feeling there was one of let’s have a good time. And we’re all people that just like to get out on the weekend and ride on some cool mountain roads. And let’s all go on this fun group ride together. And you know, Sam even commented on the community aspect of it. Ryan told me beforehand, when I was nervously asking him about, Oh, no, what if I follow somebody wheel? And they don’t want me to do that, are they going to tell me? Or what am I allowed to do? What should and what should I not do in terms of riding with a group in a race? Ryan told me that the riders would just talk to me and everybody would be friendly. And that was so true. Not only were so many riders helpful, and offered to give me their time and their tools when I had my flat tire. But as I rode along, riders were commenting on my Fast Talk Labs jersey and telling me that they listened and enjoyed the podcast, and talking to me about my cool mosaic bike. And you know, we were just having a good time, it was such a fun ride. And then, before the race day, all of these months leading into the training, it was critical for me to have the support of Trevor and Chris and Ryan, and the other riders that I was able to meet out on the road. Having that support network and having that encouragement from everybody really went a long way on those days when maybe I wanted to do something else on a Saturday. But I chose to do the ride. And I always ended up having a great time on the ride. Sometimes it’s just a matter of when you sign up to do an event like this, you are committed to it. And it is important to follow through and do your very best with that. But it’s also important to not go too hard. And I had a great conversation with Julie Emerman. Being afraid of going too hard and burning out of another sport. As I did with figure skating, I wanted to approach this sport differently. And I want this sport to have longevity, I want to do it for the rest of my life. I want to enjoy it for the rest of my life. And I really believe that that’s possible. So, I wanted to start this with the mindset of let’s have balance. Let’s keep everything in check. Work hard, train hard. But also, don’t go overboard. And don’t let this become everything. Because I’ve experienced that before. And that generally in my experience has led to being burned out.

What Would Jana Do Differently For Her Next Race?

Trevor Connor 14:11
That’s a great observation. So I have one question for you. And I’ll start by saying I always tell athletes when they’re doing their first event or their first big event or going to Nationals for the first time. You can’t race an event like that until you’ve ridden an event like that. So if you were going to ride this again, now that you’ve had this whole experience, what would you do the same and what would you change?

Jana Martin 14:39
That’s a great question. And I feel that advice so strongly. Now having experienced this race, I do feel like when I was out there I was just so in the moment and it honestly feels like a dream. If I go back and do the exact same race or when I go and do my next race like this, I’ll definitely be more mindful of the time segments becasue everyone else was. In my mind, this is a race from the start to the finish, it’s hard to get that out of your mind. And it was pretty jarring to see everyone pull off after the time segments, and just stop and hang out and enjoy the moment. I wish I had actually done that a little bit more. Because of my flat tire experience after that I was so in the mindset of catching up all of my lost time, that I lost sight of the fact that there was just one other time segment that was the goal. And so I think that that’s one area, I would race differently. And one area I would train differently next time is to ride slower on the long slow distance rides, and to sprinkle in a few more strategic intervals as well, just to get that really good top-end built-in.

Chris Case 16:02
Well, you learned a lot. In this process, I think it’s also been very fun to watch this process play out. I’ve been riding bikes for a really long time, I still enjoy riding bikes, virtually every time I get on one. So it was really fun to see and in some very small part, help you understand the joy that can be had from riding bikes. And how it can honestly change your life in different ways. So thank you for sharing all of this with us.

Jana Martin 16:46
Thank you to both you and Trevor, so much for the support in every way possible. You guys made this happen for me. And I will never forget it.

Trevor Connor 16:59
Well it was a lot of fun going through this with you. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the experience of being the new person at a race. So I got to live vicariously through you. It was fun.

Ryan’s Transformative N1 Challenge

Chris Case 17:09
Well, Ryan, you’re actually most fresh, I guess you could say, from finishing your N1 challenge. In terms of your recollections and things like that, let’s turn our attention to you. Give us the one-minute take home, if you will, on the race itself. What was it like?

Ryan Kohler 17:31
So the way I’ve been describing it, probably since halfway through the event was transformative. Because you come out of it a different athlete than when you started.

Chris Case 17:44
So you really hadn’t ever done anything like this before?

Ryan Kohler 17:48
Not to this level, I did a three-day stage race before but the durations were shorter, the vertical wasn’t as big And that was about it. And I thought that helped prepare me somewhat. But this was so far beyond even my expectations of hard, that’s why It was so transformative.

Chris Case 18:08
Can you be more specific about that word, because that’s a big word transformative. How did you transform?

Ryan Kohler 18:17
coming out of it, I think the way, I as an athlete, now look at terrain and look at trails, -thinking about you know, just the mountain biking aspect of it is just different now -like nothing seems that hard anymore. So after probably the second or third day, I stopped looking at the terrain we were riding on and asking, like, why would someone put us on this? And I just started to say, I know what’s coming and we’ll just do this again tomorrow. And we’ll do it again the day after that. And that’s why halfway through it, that just becomes your new normal like rock gardens, slimy roots, slimy rocks that normally you would think twice about. You just stop thinking about it. You’re like, I’m just gonna go down it

Chris Case 19:02
a bit like being quote “in the zone” I guess.

Ryan Kohler 19:07
Yeah, I really felt a state of flow that you got into. Because everything, all the other small things that were going on outside of that didn’t matter because they didn’t help you move forward along the course that day. So everything was just like you take in kind of this big picture around you of like, what’s the overall goal for the day you take it all in. And that way, a little rock or a slimy route or a rock garden, It really doesn’t matter. Because the only option is you go past that and then you keep going. So there’s no other alternative.

Chris Case 19:44
Right. Well we talked before we hit the record button. And you actually said that physically It wasn’t as challenging as you expected. I just want to briefly have you tell us what you mean by that. Because I mean, again, this is Breck epic six-days, high altitude, lots of climbing, not massive mileage every day but when you’re out there what was the average stage length Four hours?

Ryan Kohler 20:19
Depends where you are in the pack, the leader is were three-ish and all the way toward the back of the pack was approaching seven hours. So a wide range. Yeah.

Chris Case 20:28
But physically, let’s just briefly touch on that.

Ryan Kohler 20:32
Yeah, physically. I was trying to- having ridden in Colorado and experienced the terrain I was, I was anticipating that it would be hard. -But then I think that was where a lot of the worry came from in the last few weeks was just like, Oh, can I ride 7500 feet one day, and then go ride another 7500 feet over 42 miles The next day, and there was some worry about that physicality of it. But once I got into it, everything else, every ounce of your preparation was tested during that week. But I noticed after the first day or two, the physical piece, like you’re gonna settle into what your body’s capable of, and then there’s really, you can go harder, but then you’re gonna blow yourself up and end your day. And you can always go a little bit easier, but not much, because the course dictates somewhat how hard you’re going to ride. But then what I noticed is once I sort of put that physical piece aside and realize, okay, I found my pace you find your people you find your group to ride with, and you see the same faces day to day. Then it was everything else it was the mental piece of just that constant forward progress. It was the logistics of what time do I wake up in the morning? And when do I eat? When do I have to leave the house to get there to make sure I get my bags dropped in time. And then immediately after the stage, when can I get food in? When can I wash my bike and go home and start resting. And then the other piece actually on the course was the skills of just feeling comfortable moving through those courses, because there’s like nothing about any of those days, that was really easy. And that’s what started to feel more like the balance shifted from physically Can I do this? To can I move through smoothly utilizing the skills I’ve developed over the years. So it became more of that mental and logistical and skill-based focus throughout the week.

Trevor Connor 22:23
I continue to be amazed at the body’s ability to handle what you throw at it. I actually can’t remember who it was who said this to me. But I always love this expression, you would be amazed what you can get through really, it’s more a question of how long it takes you to get out of bed after you’re done. Meaning you could throw something at your body that you don’t think your body can handle at all, and your body figures it out and just kind of gets into that mode and just get through it. Now if you were fully prepared for it, to get out of bed pretty quickly. If you weren’t then you’re probably gonna have some rough days afterwards once you are done.

Ryan Kohler 23:04
Yeah and there were some rough days. Yeah, I think that was one of the shocking pieces. Day one is-I don’t have any better way to describe it than- just like a kick in the teeth, where you’re just floored after that day. And I think from the physical side even that one day, I don’t think I had adequate preparation to go and do that really well and get through it. But yeah, then you’re just like, oh, what did I just do to the body. So you come back and do it again. But then everyday you do it, it gets a little bit easier. And it was interesting watching like heart rate response where that was just meaningless after a while you just ride by feel. And it was really, we were either climbing or descending. So I ended up having like two questions that kind of guided each of those portions of the course throughout the day. As we were talking earlier, Chris, with just how simple it becomes. It just became a really simple question of if we were climbing, I asked myself two questions and If we were descending, I asked myself two questions. And I was the only thing going through my mind.

Trevor Connor 24:10
What were those two questions?

Ryan Kohler 24:13
On the climbs It was one can I put more pressure on the legs on the pedals?

Trevor Connor 24:19

Ryan Kohler 24:19
And the second one was should I? And normally, it was a yes and a no 99% of the time.

Chris Case 24:26
Right. I can but I should.

Ryan Kohler 24:27
Exactly. Yeah. So that really helped inform the overall pacing. And then on the other side, it was the downhill of, can I go faster? And should I go faster? And in most cases, those were both a yes, because unless there was something -that really speaks to the skill portion of just feeling comfortable saying I can go faster. -And the thought with that was, well, if I slow down if I grab too much break, I need to regain that speed. So there was really a strong preference to does not have to overcome any loss of momentum. Just keep moving through it.

How Can Training Help To Overcome A Lack Of Confidence?

Chris Case 25:05
Yeah. One of the things that I wanted to bring up, – you’ve already mentioned how important the mental side of this was. And I hope this doesn’t embarrass you in any way.-But in the weeks leading up to the event, in the months leading up to the event, there was a constant sense that you were worried that you could do this. There was a lack of confidence there. I wonder how that changed as the race went on and did you work through that? Or just forget about it?

Ryan Kohler 25:42
Yeah, leading up to it, I think there was a lot of hesitation and a lack of confidence. And I think the physical training was always that piece that was going well enough where I could say, I’m doing what I can, I’m going to be able to ride my bike, it’s just a question of being able to make it through. And then in the last, probably two or three weeks during that taper period, that’s where the confidence was really being challenged. And it became like a worry. So even up to the very last day, before we started the first stage, it was this worry of just how can I even do this? But yeah, once we got started, I think getting through the first day, as tanked as I was at the end of the stage, it gradually got a little bit better. And then there was that day two lull, that occurred. But after that, when I got back on the bike day three, and realize that, okay, things aren’t as bad as they seemed my body bounced back, and you can continue on. And then as you go through that stage, as you do feel better, then the confidence started to come back. And then I would say from stage three through six, it only built exponentially throughout that week.

Trevor Connor 26:50
So as a coach, what were you looking for leading up to the event to help inform you. For instance yes, I’m ready. I think I’ve got the legs I need for this race, or no, I’m not ready.

Ryan Kohler 27:01
So I don’t remember the exact timeline of the testing. But I did this big bass block, bass focus, to help get ready for that a number of weeks out and then did some testing. I think we did a follow-up inside test. And then I did some workouts like Flagstaff was one of them where I went and did some workouts on. And I was looking for some performance indicators just to say that, okay, you’re better than this last time when we did that. And I saw improvements on the inside results in terms of threshold, there was a threshold bump there, and then had a really nice PR on Flagstaff, which was actually kind of a surprise. Just knowing how- I mean relative terms -how little time I was able to put into doing that. But on the coaching side, too, there was also this- and I think we’ve talked about this leading into it -where this taper it was it was probably three weeks, I almost started to feel like it was too much rest. But we had the wildfire smoke to contend with and there were other things that were kind of pushing the time down. But I wanted to feel a little bit of that edginess of like, oh, you’re resting too much, you’re not doing enough. And I wanted to feel some of that and felt it. So I knew that was good because it was more recovery than I would normally give myself. But then when that was paired with the inside improvements, and then that Flagstaff PR, those were the pieces that tied it up and said nope, you’re good. This is good. And the metrics showed it.

Trevor Connor 28:31
It sounds like I actually hit you with a text at the right time. I’ve lost count of the number of stage races I’ve done. So I am very familiar with second or third day you have this lull or you feel absolutely awful. And you wonder if you can get through this event. Because you feel this bad on the second day how are you going to feel On the sixth day? Sounds like you had that. So tell us a little bit about that experience.

Ryan Kohler 28:59
Yeah, it was exactly on the second day. So coming into that everything was already tired and sore. And I came out of that day feeling even worse than the first day. So I was expecting peaks and valleys throughout the week. And as a coach I expected there to be a big valley at some point and that day two was it. Even when you’re in it at that time it’s so hard to convince yourself otherwise that you’ll come out of it. So when you texted me on that second day and asked how things were going and I gave you that reply of I’m just tanked I mean i’m the valley. Then just hearing you say okay good you’re in that lull you’re gonna come out. That logical voice was so helpful because it just help to quiet my mind. And that’s the funny thing is we know what to expect, we know it should happen but when you’re in the moment you just can’t do it. So that was a big takeaway was like the supports structure of that text message from you, Trevor. And I had random messages from other friends and family throughout the week. And I think for something like this, it’s that support structure that was a huge takeaway, even just a one-line message from somebody, Hey, you got this. That was huge to help keep the motivation going and keep you positive.

Trevor Connor 30:24
Well, I’m glad I could do that for you.

Ryan Kohler 30:26

Trevor Connor 30:26
But yeah, I agree with you having that support,- you know intellectually about these things. -But when you’re in them, it’s really hard to say, Oh, boy, am I gonna get through tomorrow.

Ryan’s One-Minute Take-Home

Chris Case 30:39
If you had to give us your one-minute take-home on what you learned from this event, what would that be?

Ryan Kohler 30:47
So one, as far the physical side or the training side, It would be doing hard rides like really hard. Rides that at face value, you look at those and be like, that doesn’t look like fun. I don’t want to do it. But that’s the ride to go do, not to do it too much you have to pick and choose those. So you don’t over cook yourself, but find hard rides that are not the most enjoyable things.

Chris Case 31:15
Because they push you physically and mentally I would assume.

Ryan Kohler 31:18
Yeah, the mental part like to put yourself out there where mentally you’re like, why did I just put myself five hours from home because now the only way home is to ride. That’s the kind of scenario to get yourself into. I think you have to feel that, because when you’re out there on the course, and you’re on the Colorado trail miles from any sense of help or civilization, the only way back is your ride, or you stay there overnight. So, putting yourselves into those situations, smartly and at some consistent intervals throughout the training period. And the other piece, is the skills just being as well rounded as you can, you don’t have to be some you know, World Cup downhiller to actually go and ride all this stuff. But when you see it on the trail, you feel comfortable knowing Oh, I’ve seen this before, I’m not going to grip the bars super hard and freak out over it. But I’m just going to get off and walk it then I’m going to get back on my bike and keep pedaling. And there were a lot of times during that where I saw those skills come into play of just being able to ride calmly and just traveled through the course in a relatively calm manner.

Chris Case 32:29
Would you say that you actually in the course of six days became a better mountain biker?

Ryan Kohler 32:35
Yeah, Definitely.

Trevor Connor 32:37
Yeah That is a definite yes.

Ryan Kohler 32:39
Day six I rode like stupidly fast on things.

Chris Case 32:43
Well, there’s reason enough to do a six-day stage race, you will instantly become a better rider just purely from volume of riding, right?

Ryan Kohler 32:51
Oh, Yeah.

Trevor Connor 32:58
A few months ago, we ran a survey to ask our members what they liked and disliked about Fast Talk Laboratories. We got some great suggestions, which we always appreciate so we’re taking them to heart. One thing you are Fast Talk listeners asked for was to release a few of our member-only stories for free. So we’re doing just that in a new bi-weekly series we call F.T.W. that stands for free this week. Every other week Fast Talk Labs will release at least one member only story for listeners to enjoy. Already we’ve released cycle-cross skills from coach Grant Holicky, cross drills you can do with friends, and our workshop on the training peaks performance management chart. Don’t miss out on free stuff. Join today at our free listener member level at

Chris’s 12-Day Ultra Endurance Icelandic Ride

Trevor Connor 33:50
So now we get to Chris and his Snickers. How many Snicker bars did you eat in this adventure?

Chris Case 34:00
I jokingly estimate that it was approximately 27 in the course of 12 days, not that many really.

Trevor Connor 34:08
That’s actually not.

Chris Case 34:11
Once I drop some of these numbers, and, you know, estimates of kilocalories and stuff. The Snickers did not put a dent in what I did to my body physically.

Trevor Connor 34:24
So even though Ryan did this killer six-day stage race, yours was truly the ultra-endurance event. So why don’t you start with just giving us an idea of how big this was?

Chris Case 34:37
Yeah, by raw numbers 12 big days of riding- the 13th day we rode 42 miles but we had to go get a COVID test to get to the airport, all that sort of stuff. So I consider it basically a 12 or 12 and a half day thing.- 1,292 Total miles, essentially a century for 12 consecutive days, or a century plus. Some of the days, we did take a rest day in there, that was 80 miles. And our max day was 120 miles. Total riding time, 103 hours, if you do the calculation of that the average speed was not high. And that is because the terrain, the surface, the rolling resistance, the weight of our bikes, and the bloody headwinds of Iceland. We met locals, not that many locals, on bikes but every one of them was like, Oh, yes, the wind. No matter which way we turned, even if we did 180 degree turn, it was a headwind, small island, very few trees, North Atlantic.

Trevor Connor 35:56
Wind comes from everywhere.

Chris Case 35:58
Yeah, elevation, kind of a throwaway number, the Garmin said at the end of the 58,675 vertical feet, but it was all kind of all over the place. The barometric pressure is changing a lot et cetera, et cetera so I kind of throw that one out. There were some stout climbs. There were some rolling days, big rollers and stuff like that. Again, I’m not a numbers guy, but two more numbers. Load This is from intervals of ICU roughly equivalent would you say to TSS if people are more familiar with Strava.

Trevor Connor 36:34
Yeah, I don’t know the exact calculation on interval ICU, but it’s their equivalent to TSS.

Chris Case 36:39
Yeah so over the course of those days, 3,214 pretty big number is my guess. Max day that we had was 350 that was day two.

Trevor Connor 36:52
Thats a big day

Chris Case 36:53
Yeah and then total work in kilocalories was 59,762.

Trevor Connor 37:01
Now how many calories of Snickers did you eat? So you said 27 bars I think they’re 280 calories each. Don’t ask me how I know that. Yeah,

Chris Case 37:10
Well, good. I don’t know the math on that. But yeah, not

Trevor Connor 37:13
You are right the Snickers didn’t make a dent.

Chris Case 37:15
Not a big dent.

Trevor Connor 37:15
You needed more snickers a lot more Snickers.

Chris Case 37:18
Yeah, a lot more Snickers. Food was scarce at times. The longest we went between two substantial meals was 28 hours.

Trevor Connor 37:29

The Sour Cream Incident

Chris Case 37:29
Yeah. So I don’t remember which day it was. But we went from a really bad dinner- we were riding the second day, nine hours 45 minutes ride time, it was probably a 12 or 13 hour day, -we would get into towns that there was nothing besides maybe a gas station and we would cobble together a meal out of Snickers bars and chips. The classic goofball story that I have to share about it is, we were in this one gas station in middle of Nowhere and it was our only option for food. And, man, we were just sick of the food we were eating that day. And gas station food in Iceland is very similar to gas station food in the United States. I grabbed what I thought was yogurt, and a Snickers bar and some chips and all this other stuff that I really didn’t want to be consuming after a super long day. And later when I went up to pay, because we just ate as much as we could And then we paid. It was 10 or 1030 at night in this little convenience store. And the young woman behind the register was like you’re funny American you ate a tub of sour cream for dinner. I said no. That was a yogurt. And she said that was not a yogurt that was sour cream.

Trevor Connor 39:02
The fact that you ate the whole thing and you still didn’t know.

Chris Case 39:05
Well I don’t know that I’ve ever consumed sour cream before. I know it didn’t really taste like yogurt but it didn’t taste terrible. So I just ate it

Trevor Connor 39:13
You thought it was Icelandic yogurt?

Chris Case 39:15
Exactly. I had no other options. I thought it was you know the Icelandic yogurt skyr, I thought that’s what I had chosen but I was wrong. Anyways,

Trevor Connor 39:26
This shows how tired you were in the middle of this

Just How Intense Was This 12-day Ride?

Chris Case 39:29
This was big. This redefined what big was in my mind. It’s the thing about cycling is it’s all relative, right?

Trevor Connor 39:40

Chris Case 39:40
This to some people is not that big. But to most people this is big, to most human beings a six-hour bike ride is pretty damn big.

Trevor Connor 39:50
Well you said before we started recording here that this was the biggest thing you’ve ever done.

Chris Case 39:56
By far. Yeah, I’ve done tour of the Gila, which was miniature compared to this I think. I’ve done a lot of other stuff, but I’ve done the three-day Breck epic. And at that time, that was that was a big thing. Yeah. But this just far surpassed anything.

Trevor Connor 40:18
So what made this different from events like those,

Chris Case 40:22
I guess on one side of things, a significant difference was the fact that this was not a race. We were out there of our own choosing to do this and pushing ourselves even though it wasn’t a race. We were getting really crappy sleep. We were eating really crappy foods- at times not always ee had some great meals.- We were sleeping on the ground a lot. It was light out 24 hours a day. So our sleep, -I can’t emphasize how poorly we slept some nights and how little we slept. Because we were just so jazzed, we just wanted to keep riding the next day, and we knew it was gonna be a long day. -This was different because it was unrelenting and you had to get up, sometimes put on a dirty Shami and do it all over again, for almost two weeks. So it was really, you know, mentally something I’d never faced before. Mentally something that I surprised I dealt with really well, I would say and physically, certainly challenging. And also something I’m really surprised that I did handle it as well, as I did. The whole premise behind my N1 challenge was let’s see if we can turn this guy who’s built for shorter, harder efforts into somebody who can do this. And you know, lo and behold, proper training, proper background, proper mental attitude, all that you can do a real lot with a little. Now, I don’t want to discount what I did, because I probably get to train more than some people do. But not it wasn’t huge numbers, as you know, averaging maybe 12-14 hours on a good week is not a lot. But I pulled this off. And I was proud to have done it.

Trevor Connor 42:22
As you should be. I mean that was quite an accomplishment. But it goes back to what we were saying with Ryan, which is it’s amazing what the human body can do.

Chris Case 42:31
It certainly is. And I think it’s very cliche, kind of unfortunately, because I hope those people are like, Oh, that’s cliche, I don’t, I’m turned off by cliches or whatever. But you will not understand what you’re capable of until you put your body and your mind and yourself into a situation like this. And I want to go back to even Jana somebody new to this sport, redefine what she was capable of over and over and over again in just the first year. And you just extrapolate from there. You’re like, I don’t really know if I can do this. And then you get into it. And you just learn every day, multiple times a day that you can do this stuff. And yeah, there’s low points. There’s really challenging points, of course, but somehow you figure out how to get through it. And then you redefine what you’re capable of. And it becomes like Ryan said, transformative in that way, which is amazing that a bike can do that.

Trevor Connor 43:34
I think the other thing that really struck me about your experience, -so even with Ryan’s Breck epic, with my stage race, we’re dialing in our nutrition, we’re dialing in our prep, we’re making sure we’re in clean Shamis. We’re staying somewhere where we can get a good night’s sleep. Like we’re doing all the things to support the event. -You didn’t have any, as you said. If you had to eat sour cream, you ate sour cream, because that’s all there was. Were you surprised that despite the fact that you weren’t doing any of the things that you should be doing if you could have that you still got through it? Or do you think that have less of an impact than you expected or more?

Chris Case 44:18
I was pretty surprised that element didn’t hurt any more than it did. I think those that have done bikepacking trips before and people that have done backpacking trips before -and I’ve done some backpacking and I’ve done some other excursions along the way, but I’ve never tied it together with such demanding rides.- I think those people that are experienced in those ways realize that you run a bit on adrenaline, you run a little bit on excitement, or maybe a lot on the excitement of being out there. You’re putting this stuff in your body itt has calories. At some point, you kind of have to disregard that there’s no other option. You just have to make it work, you just have to consume stuff. And I’m certain that some people do a lot better with that type of stuff than others. Now, I’m not trying to brag at all, but I feel like I’m the crazy person that actually revels in that, the harder it gets, the more I cackle with joy, type person. Again, I didn’t necessarily know that about myself before going into this. I had hints of that. But this really made me understand that that’s kind of the sick mentality that I have. I mean, I have not mentioned the fact that on day two, in the highlands of Iceland, we got caught in a blackout dust storm with volcanic ash, not ash, but volcanic sand and dust flying around to the point where we could not see 20 feet in front of us. There’s video evidence of the fact that I was laughing out there. Other people might be scared for their life. Other people might be scared that they might get lost or something. And I was literally like, this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever been in. Of course, it sucked to at the same time, but I was still laughing.

Trevor Connor 46:19
I love the pictures of your face after that.

Chris Case 46:23
I just I don’t know.

Trevor Connor 46:25
It looked like you’d spent the day in a coal mine.

Chris Case 46:27
Yeah, exactly. And it is not for everybody. I realized that. But I discovered something new about myself. I like I said, I think I kind of had some indication that might be the case, I probably wouldn’t have taken this on, if I didn’t know a little bit about myself in that way. But certainly being out there taught me more lessons about that

Trevor Connor 46:51
I take it as you just been hanging out with me for too long, I’ve rubbed off on you.

Chris Case 46:55
Yeah, I mean, I’ve always done crazy things just never this big and on consecutive days.

Trevor Connor 47:00
So one of the things that I think is different about your event versus the rest of our events is mine, Ryan’s and Jana’s. Were all performance-based. We’re seeking performance where yours was that there was no finish line. Nobody really cares if you did it an hour faster or an hour slower.

Chris Case 47:18
Sure, the finish line was completing this cycle. Right?

Trevor Connor 47:21
So yours was more of a survival event. And I know in these type of events, often what ends it for people is injury or overuse, just something gets to be too painful. Did you have any of that sort of experience?

Chris Case 47:38
I would say basically no and thankfully. I developed, I would say very minor saddle sores after maybe day two or three.- and day two as a reminder that was the day when we were in the dust storm. That was the day we were in the highlands, we went back into the highlands later on.- But I think we were just so dirty. And who knows the hygiene and Shami stuff, let’s not go there. But not surprised, really that I developed some saddle sores and just spending that much time on a bike saddle inevitably. But they never developed into anything worse, I never had to do anything about them, they actually improved with time. The one thing that continued to get worse until the end were my sit bones, I guess you could say, just the pressure of sitting down. And when you’re in the wind, head down, working pretty damn hard to go about 12 miles per hour. You’re seated on the bike, you’re kind of bent over your arms are locked, your core is engaged. And you’re sitting for long periods of time taking turns on the front on these lonely roads. And that was probably the most difficult to get through in terms of physical bodily ailments. Because every time I wasn’t on the front, I’d be sitting up like stretching and trying to spend time off the saddle. I’m sure people have seen that in stage races where the guys at the back are just sort of trying everything to not sit down. And that was both of us. you know my partner, Matt Roy, he was the same way just like sit bones were the issue. But otherwise no. And I’m really happy about that. Really, I think fortunate about that. Because I know that can come up pretty easily. And then it gets out of control and then it can ruin your day and end things pretty quickly.

Trevor Connor 49:50
I’m glad you didn’t have that experience.

Chris Case 49:52

Chris’ Take-Home From This Ride

Trevor Connor 49:53
So Chris, let’s ask you if there was one take-home from this experience. So if you could offer to our listeners, what is your take-home?

Chris Case 50:04
I would say that if you have ever had an interest in stringing together, long days in the saddle putting some bike packing bags or panniers, on your bike, and taking a journey, whether it’s a race or not. I would say do everything you can to make it happen. Because there’s nothing like the sensation you get from journeying through a place, from point to point to point every day, instead of these loops we so often do. And there’s nothing like depleting yourself. On day one, getting up doing it again, feeling like you’re in a hole, getting up doing it again, and just learning what that feels like and learning that you can cope with it. learning that actually at some point, you’re probably going to improve feel even better almost feel like you’re thriving. Hopefully, if you do it right, and you don’t cook yourself too early. And I think Ryan stole the word. It can be transformative in that you can learn something about yourself that you can’t learn in any other way.

Trevor Connor 51:37
That’s a great way to put it. I hope that’s one of the big themes that we have for all these N1 challenges. I know Jana’s event being essentially her first race was same thing.

Chris Case 51:48

An Unfortunate Update On Trevor’s N1 Challenge

Trevor Connor 51:52
Before we launch into my N1 challenge, we need to give an update. We recorded this believing that I was going to be able to choose between the tour the Gila, or the tour of Tobago. Unfortunately, I suffered from what a lot of professional cyclists right now are suffering from, which is building towards races that once again got canceled. So both events are no longer on the calendar. Ironically, tour the Gila was actually canceled while we were doing this recording. And with that back to the show.

Chris Case 52:26
Well, let’s close, Trevor, by turning our attention to you. You don’t actually give us an update on your N1 challenge, but you have an update.

Trevor Connor 52:35
Yeah, we’ll be quick with mine because mine’s a bit of a bummer. We scheduled this episode thinking that I would have already done my challenge, which I haven’t. So I was going to do Joe Martin, I’m not doing that anymore. So we are going to move mine. At the time of this recording. We haven’t decided yet if I’m doing tour of Tobago or tour of the Gila, because they’re both at the same time. And we’re also waiting a little bit because this Delta variant’s on the rise and one or both races might very well not end up happening. So waiting to see on that, but the short version of mine,-and I’m going to give you the real short version because I’m just not a woe is me guy. -But we already had the episode about my friend in Moab who suffered the- I really do think he ended up suffering heatstroke. Well, what we didn’t talk about that episode was, I was so focused on him. I wasn’t noticing the fact that I was standing on the side of a mountain and 110 degree he given him all my water and baking in the sun. I probably did some damage to myself as well. And the weekend after Moab, I was out for a ride and just started noticing some issues and those issues just continued week after week. So I ended up going in to see a doctor but it was all July that they were testing me and I didn’t get an answer until early August. And not knowing what was going on with me. Particularly in June. I just wasn’t ready to train, I didn’t stop training. But I wasn’t able to train the way I wanted to or at the level that I wanted to. Plus on top of that, as you know, we’ve had a ton of work going on. And I also moved at the end of July. So just got to early August. And actually you and I talked about it and just said I’m not there. I did get the kind of go ahead from the doctor, they said I can do this. But just looked at what the next few weeks were like where my fitness was at because of all these issues and just said I’m not going to be able to do Joe Martin the way I wanted to do it. I would rather push back my N1 challenge and get closer to the fitness I wanted to be up for one of those events.

Chris Case 54:56
Despite the fact that you’re changing things, I think this offers several lessons for people and things hopefully that you’ve learned in this process as well. One being, sometimes there are bigger things than bike races, right?

Trevor Connor 55:11

Chris Case 55:11
And you should pay attention to those things.

Trevor Connor 55:13
Yes. And we’ve talked about this on the show, and I hope I’m setting an example there of health comes first. And you do have to be careful about your health. And, you know, this was tough for me. I don’t like giving up on a goal. And as you know, we rediscussed whether I should do Joe Martin three, four times, because I knew it was the right choice. It was just, I hate given up on a goal.

Chris Case 55:36
you’re stubborn too.

Trevor Connor 55:37
I’m very stubborn. But yeah, you have to take care of and look at other things first. And that’s ultimately, what led to the choice. I would say a second lesson though. This one I’ve known for a while is never be solely focused on an event at the exclusion of all else. So I always, whenever I’m targeting an event, I always make sure I know what the next event is. So that I don’t get so deep in the weeds I can’t see the big picture. Just because that comes naturally to me. Even when I was certain I was doing Joe Martin, I was thinking ahead to well, am I going to do Tobago, or tour the Gila? So you’re always thinking about what’s next, what’s after.

Chris Case 56:28
Right. Well, hopefully things continue to improve and progress. And you get to do one of these races. Hopefully, they’re held. Hopefully, they’re both held. And you have a tough decision on which of these cool races you get to do right.

Trevor Connor 56:42
I’ve secretly hope one of them gets canceled so I don’t have. Yeah I will pick soon. It’s a tough choice. I absolutely Tour of Tobago. I’ve gotten down there many times. So I really do. You know, my personal feeling is I’d rather do that race. But my concern is if one is- I’d absolutely love to do to Tour of tobago, but being on a Caribbean island,- if there’s one event where they’re going to say a week out, sorry, because of what’s going on with COVID. You can’t come down here. That’s the more likely one.

Chris Case 57:25
We hope you’ve enjoyed listening to our journeys. As we’ve taken them, each of us has had a lot of fun. Trevor, you’re going to have a lot of fun eventually. And we’ll hear more about that. Ultimately, we hatched this plan to inspire everyone out there to choose something. Obviously, we’re in difficult times, not everyone probably had the opportunity to choose an event like we did this year to make it their own N1 challenge. But hopefully next year, or the year after that, we want everybody to be able to experience something that has the potential to be transformative in the way it has been for each of us. So that’s the hope.

Chris Case 58:14
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. And be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback, join the conversation at to discuss each and every episode, become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories at and become a part of our education and coaching community. For Jana Martin. Ryan Kohler, Trevor Connor. I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening.