If you’re anything like me, ‘training’ is literally a metaphorical 4-letter word. I gave up on any pretensions to competence a long time ago, and my few races yielded resolutely middle-of-the-pack results – either as a result of my pathetic solo efforts, or in an astoundingly successful attempt to sabotage the results of my fitter and more capable team-mates.
If I get up early, it’s because I have two small children. I will feed them/stick them in front of the Electric Babysitter and try to get back to sleep. There are precious few times (measured in the ‘none’s) when I’ve felt inclined to use the time to my advantage and sneak off for a ride.
So I’ve always been somewhat in awe of those people with the dedication and commitment to push themselves and their bodies to the limit in the quest for results. Training can be fun, sure – but it’s also often relentlessly miserable, and it requires sacrifice – not least that extra hour or so of bedtime.
So once the hubbub has died down, and the season is finally over – what then? What do those people who, by dint of their dedication and hard work, have risen to the top of their respective mountain biking piles actually *do* when they’re faced with a few days of doing not very much? In short, what do they do to chillax? We asked them…
Manon Carpenter – one of those winning-type no-introduction-needed people. She’s been riding for Madison Saracen since she started, in 2011, and went on to win the Junior British Nationals title, the DH Junior World Champs and the Junior Series Overall World Cup in the same year. Not bad. She then went on to win the World Cup series overall (with 3 first places) and the World Champs in 2014. Yup, she can shred.
But relaxing? Read on, MacDuff:
“It depends how tired I am I guess! If I’m in the middle of winter training I’ll go for dinner with some friends, cinema or a night in with my parents’ pack of rescue dogs in front of the fire. If it’s summer time and I’ve got a bit of time to unwind from racing I love being outside, at the beach swimming in the sea or lakes if we’re in the mountains. Outdoors is best when the sun is shining!”
A varied library of R&R for the 2014 multiple World Champ, there – and she’s not wrong. Winter is sensibly based around indoor relaxation (if you’re hurtling through the clag in the day job it’s the last thing on your mind when you need to unwind), and summer sees a slightly slower take on enjoying the outdoors, and the wide open spaces.
Pro downhiller Steve Peat also needs no introduction. The word Legend might apply, and would probably get the job, though. He’s been racibng for a *long* time – he was with Saracen in the early to mid ‘nineties (when they were cool the first time round) – and has progressed through GT, Orange and SantaCruz racing teams since then. He’s also won pretty much everything going – multiple DH National Championships, multiple DH European Championships, DH World Cups (17 wins and a startling 52 podiums, people. FIFTY TWO!), DH World Championships – it’s fair to say he’s just a little bit handy.
But what does he do to kick back and relax?
Steve: “I ride motorcycles and spend time with my family for fun!!!”
Family is at the heart of many a sportsperson – often it is the other star (alongside WINNING, natch) in the binary system, and as manic as it can be, kids are ace. At least in my opinion… And motorbikes! Steve has a number of them. He’s got a Beta 300 Trials bike, a Husqvarna 250 Enduro bike, a Kawasaki W800 road bike (NICE) plus “a few minibikes and Ttr to play around on“. Braap indeed.
We now take a break from the world of downhill, and cast our beady (yet curiously relaxed) eye on those of our brethren who hurtle along, and up as well as down.
Specifically, our very own Terrahawk, Jason Miles – a man of singular focus. Reviewer of product. Mild mannered IT manager by day, Endurance Racing Specialist by – er – day. And Night. (And day. And night again, probably). Believer in dyno-hubs, and the perils of 70mph e-bikes. Not a lot of time to relax, you might think. And you’d be right:
“It’s been years since I had an ‘off-season’ – a proper one I mean. But this time, I’ve decided to do it properly and ride a lot less, go to the gym quite a lot and catch up on the backlog of jobs around the house.”
Go to the gym a lot doesn’t exactly sound like what I’d call down time, but hey, whatever floats your boat…
“Normally I’m training hard for the Strathpuffer during autumn and winter but this time I’ve decided to give it a miss. I think 5 or 6 consecutive ‘Puffers has earned me a year off – plus the list of jobs around the house is now so large that I’m worried the house might actually fall down if I don’t give it some TLC.
“Riding bikes less, riding bikes moderately fast rather than flat-out, running, lifting weights and DIY. Marvelling at how fast one can gain weight. Reminding the kids what I look like. That’s how you do off-season, isn’t it? That’s how I’ve been doing it anyway.”
Yep, that pretty much covers it I think – apart from the gym stuff, natch. Although I must admit, I’m a master at the ‘marvelling at how fast one can gain weight’. In fact I’m so good at that bit that I’ve even become rather blasé about marvelling… I just gain weight casually, like a pro. Go me.
Nick Craig is a multiple national champion for both Cyclocross and XC. He won his first Cyclocross UK champs in 1996, and his first UK MTB Champs in 2000. His first XC UK Marathon Champs was won in 2005, and so on and so on. He’s also an unfailingly lovely, polite and friendly chap, damn his eyes. But he has a secret – one that strikes fear into the hearts of lesser folk… Especially those lesser folk who don’t like fish.
For – despite protestations to the contrary, Nick is a fisherman…
“I’m no fisherman – but Charlie, my youngest, got me into it. He learnt from his grandad; first lake then river fly fishing, and now when we are on holiday we sea fish too. We usually fish of the rocks, with feathers or spinners, and we catch enough mackerel to feed the family – either barbecued the same day or sushied, with garlic, coriander, chilli, and lemon or lime juice. Lovely…”
Okay, now we’re *all* hungry. Thanks Nick.
“A lot of our success comes from the timing of our fishing with the tides. Our camping holidays on the Lyne peninsula in north west Wales are so simple – our days revolve around the tide times, and some days we get to fish twice in one day. We fit in some pedalling and surfing or just messing around with the fishing…”
And as well as the attraction of actually, y’know, catching the fish, Nick finds other reasons for its appeal:
“We usually get rewarded with some great sunsets and very close views of the dolphins, porpoise and seals. And gannets and puffins. I’ve even seen a reef shark (that freaked me out)… That was fishing with a line off the back of my kayak…
“I love to sea fish. It’s competitive without being physical; it rewards us with the sunsets the wildlife and it even feeds us… Maybe it’s the walk back to camp with the catch knowing my son and I have provided food for the family. Man shall hunt and all that…”
Hans Rey is.. well, let’s take a look at his Wikipedia page: “Hans Rey is a pioneer in mountain bike trails and also extreme mountain biking”. Says it all, pretty much. You think of your Chris Akriggs, your Danny McAskills – Hans was there first. He was the first MTB trials superstar, even appearing in the LA biking equivalent of Baywatch, Pacific Blue. That clip never gets old.
But what does Hans do when he’s not schralping something gnar with another legend? The answers may surprise you:
“I read books on different subjects – I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery and history of things, that ancient astronaut stuff. I’ve been into that for a long time. It’s been the subject of a lot of my films in the past; sometimes more, sometimes less. And a few other outdoor activities. Motorcycle riding; I like to play a round or two of golf a little bit if I can find the time. If I wasn’t a mountain bike rider I’d be a gentleman farmer! But I’ve got a metal detector already; where I live I’ve been out looking for artifacts…”
So, a huge variety of lots of different things then (an awful lot of them from Hans). Even when the goal is similar (winning) and the method to achieve that is similar (go faster/bigger/higher than everyone else) the ways in which people motivate themselves is always hugely different – and the resultant relaxational needs are different too. Aside from biking, what do you do to unwind? Let us know in the comments!