Rob Raede is a seasoned bike rider and has completed all of the toughest climbing Gran Fondo’s in the U.S. not to mention some of the most challenging events in Europe.
But despite all the years of completing long-distance and climb-heavy routes he had not completed them at the speed he wanted.
Most of his day at these events would be spent solo, slogging-out the miles without relief form the wind or the benefit of a peloton to work with.
Enter the Sub-Six Peloton Experience at the Mammoth Gran Fondo.
Although Rob had never ridden the Mammoth Gran Fondo he new that completing the 102-mile course in under six-hours would be a hefty challenge.
After numerous calls with Coach Brian and a detailed discussion regarding the execution of the event, Rob made the commitment to join the Sub-Six Peloton.
Little did he know that he would be in for the ride of his life!
After watching Rob “take it up a notch” all day at the Mammoth Gran Fondo and complete his fastest 100-mile ride EVER, it was clear that we had to get him to answer 4-questions for our BWC Athlete Profile Newsletter.
We are confident you will enjoy the story and take something from it, be it motivation, be it knowledge, or be it inspiration from his deep commitment to persevere when the challenge was toughest! Enjoy.
The Sub-Six Peloton descends from Dead Man Summit and heads toward the notorious Sage Hen Climb with Rob Raede tucked into the peloton. Photo Credit: Captivating Sports Photos.
Primary Sport/Discipline: Road Cycling
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 10-12hrs
Upcoming Goals: An Italian Cycling Vacation With His Lovely Wife!
Question #1: Congratulations on a stand-out performance at the Mammoth Gran Fondo, Rob! You had to dig-deep and utilize a fiery competitive spirit to complete, in your words, “the most challenging athletic accomplishment I have ever had”. What were the highlights, lowlights, and any take-aways you brought home from the experience?
Rob Raede:Thank you for the kind words. The whole Sub-Six Peloton Experience was great, with many highlights and very few low moments.
You (Coach Brian) and your team did a great job organizing the pre-race ride, and during the event everyone was fantastic. Someone was always there to help with water, to give instruction or words of encouragement, and even the occasional “Hand of God” push to get anyone back into the main group if they had fallen off.
I loved the camaraderie, the Esprit de Corps, and especially the cold beer at the finish line!
I owe you (Coach Brian) big for your persistent encouragement to join the Sub-Six Peloton Experience. When it was first mentioned to me, I recall responding, “what in our history together suggests to you I’m capable of riding something like this in under 6hrs?”
Previously my personal best time on a hundred mile event had been something like 7hrs20min’s. So this would be almost an hour and a half faster…
But Coach Brian told me over and over again that my training numbers looked good enough, and that I could do it, so I signed-up and did the training that was prescribed.
Frankly, I showed up on the start line with tempered expectations.
The night before the race, at dinner with my good friend and riding buddy Mike Pfau, who was also part of the Sub-Six Peloton Experience and is a BWC Athlete, we decided that a realistic outcome would be to hang with the peloton for 50-60 miles, get dropped and try to make it back in under 7hrs.
That would’ve been a new best by far, and we were good with that.
For large sections of the course I was hanging on by my fingernails, and did get dropped a couple of times. But Coach Brian was great about alerting the main group to riders “off the back”, then getting the peloton to slow temporarily allowing us to rejoin the group.
I’ll answer about the low-point in the next section, but what I took away from this experience was a fresh idea about what my limitations are, and more importantly, are NOT!
Additionally, I have a better understanding of riding tactics within a fast group, and a new appreciation as well as respect for the importance of consistent/steady-state riding both at an event AND on endurance training days.
Previously I had never really understood the benefit and use of an “Endurance Wattage 170w+/Cadence 85+” training day.
Coaches Perspective/Coach Brian: I am so proud of Rob for many reasons, but mostly it is for being willing to 'take a chance’ and try something new.
It is humbling that he and over forty other Athletes trusted Coach Joy and I enough to join us for this project, but the real prideful moment for us was watching each of them thrive in this team environment.
Certainly there were moments where Rob had to “dig deep” and “find more”, but each time he rose to the occasion and finished with the knowledge that he accomplished something very special!
Rob Raede has competed in Gran Fondo events around the world, but the Sub-Six Peloton Experience at The Mammoth Gran Fondo was the most challenging to date! Photo Credit Sportograf.com
Question #2: There was a point in the ride, around mile-40, when you introduced yourself to another rider as ‘toast’, because you thought you were ‘toast’! Despite that being only two hours into the ride, you rallied back to finish strong. Tell us about that moment and what changed so you could to finish strong?
RR:A bit of background…I have a heart arrhythmia that is triggered by sudden large influxes of adrenaline into my cardio system.
Like when a bear jumps out from behind a tree on a hike, or when you suddenly have to go very hard on the bike after cruising along. Each of those situations can throw my heart out of rhythm.
To keep it under control, I take medication every night, but still have to be careful about my accelerations on the bike. It’s not life-threatening, more annoying than anything, but it can definitely kill any chance of completing a long hard ride!
The nature of the Mammoth Gran Fondo is such that riders begin by descending for 5-10 min’s (at basically zero effort), turn onto Hwy 395, a steady uphill at 7,000’ of elevation, and then go really hard.
If I had to write out the perfect scenario for triggering Tachycardia, this would be it…
Consequently, after the first climb to Deadman’s Summit and on the descent I could feel my heart bouncing in and out of rhythm.
As we turned onto the road that leads to the Sage Hen climb, I came up to my pal Mike and said “I think I’m done on the next climb, I’m getting heart issues”.
Past experience suggested strongly that once we started working hard on the 2nd climb, my heart would go into and stay in arrhythmia and I’d be sitting in the car the rest of the day.
Normally the solution would be to slow way down, let things calm a bit, and then gradually ramp the effort level back up.
However, that was not an option with the Sub-Six Peloton. We started the climb up Sage Hen, and that’s when one of the ‘Sled-Dogs’ came by and asked my name, I replied ‘Toast’, because I figured it was only a matter of a few min’s before that would be true.
But right at that point I decided, "you know what, the hell with it, I’m just going to ride hard until my heart makes me sit down."
Around that time my buddy Mike rode up to me and asked “how’s the arrhythmia?”, it was then that I replied “F*&# a bunch of arrhythmia, I’m going!”
And then... a great miracle occurred—my heart settled back into normal rhythm, and never gave me any further trouble on the ride.
The rest of the ride was challenging, but I managed to hang in there and not only finish, but finish the Sub-Six Peloton Experience with the main group.
Coach Brian: I love this story, although I had no idea, in the moment, that Rob was having heart issues as he was so calm and collected.
Previous to the ride, I told Rob that I would help him in every way possible, but that his health was our highest priority.
With that said, it is incredible that Rob’s shear determination and will to persevere was so powerful that arrhythmia or not, he would not be denied completing the Mammoth Gran Fondo with the Sub-Six Peloton.
At Big Wheel Coaching we have a saying about commitment, rather more of a question, when the time is right and a decision must be made we ask ourselves, “are you committed or involved?”
That is our reminder that we must be willing to pay the “full price” to achieve all that we want to accomplish.
It is clear that Rob was fully committed and absolutely willing to pay the “full price”, great job Rob, you are such a stud!
Rob and his cycling pal, training partner, and fellow BWC Athlete Mike Pfau go to many events together. Both signed up for the Sub-Six Peloton Experience at The Mammoth Gran Fondo. Photo Credit: Rob Raede
Question #3: Following the Sub-Six Peloton Experience at the Mammoth Gran Fondo, and all that you accomplished, you have some new goals for yourself. What are your updated cycling objectives after achieving this new level of performance?
RA:In general, from now on I’m going to join more weekend group rides locally, which I think I can hang with using the new skills I acquired from the Sub-Six Peloton Experience.
That and with the improved fitness I’ve gained from the ride itself, and especially Coach Brian’s training program leading up to it, this is what I have in mind:
Over the past few years I’ve enjoyed riding the Maratona Dles Dolomites in Italy—the original Gran Fondo, which takes place in early July each year.
The ‘Medio’ course is only 65 miles long, but goes over 6 major mountain passes with 10k ft of climbing. It’s considered a “solid” time to complete the course in under 6hrs, and my best time so far is somewhat higher than that.
I think I can go Sub-Six on the Maratona next year!
Also, and very importantly—more date rides with my wife.
Coach Brian: Now those are some great goals, a Sub-Six Maratona dles Dolomites is absolutely do-able and will be a great accomplishment!
Our goal with creating the Sub-Six Peloton Experience was to help riders feel the exhilaration of riding with a team, but also to learn the specific skills and nuances of riding within a tight-knit peloton.
This is one of the most under-estimated skills to develop for every cyclist as learning to efficiently navigate a peloton takes experience, an appreciation for the groups “next move”, and a respect for how efficient a group of cyclists can be when they work together in a cohesive manner.
It will be exciting to work with Rob toward this goal and I look forward to helping him prepare for an assault on the 2019 Maratona!
Let’s get to work!
Before training for the 2019 Maratona, Rob is planning a cycling focused vacation this Fall with his wife who happens to be his favorite riding partner!Photo Credit: Rob Raede
Question #4: You got some new workouts in your training program leading into Mammoth, did you like them and what is/are your favorite workout(s) in training? Also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with BWC.
RA:Leading up to the Mammoth Gran Fondo, Coach Brian had me doing dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands (I don’t know, I lost track) hill-climb/time-trial type repeats. From 3 min. long to 5 mins. then up to 10mins. in duration, they seemed endless!
Sometimes I did 6-9 repeats in one 2hr session. With this one workout I got to know every inch of one of the local climbs near my home.
Late in the training for Mammoth, Coach Brian added something new—HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training.
Theoretically what you do is cruise easy, then explode into an all out effort for 10-20 sec’s.
For heart-related reasons, this configuration is not a good idea for me, but what I can do is spend, say, 1 min ramping-up to a 4 (out of 5) level effort and then hit it hard for 10-20 sec’s.
It’s the ‘delta’ between the two outputs that is important for avoiding heart issues.
Coach Brian and I talked extensively about how to incorporate this type of training into my program without triggering an issue and this is the modification we came up with.
So I did a lot of those, sometimes mixed with other intervals, sometimes just by themselves, and boy did that help!
The nature of the group in the Sub-Six Peloton was that you could sort of hide from the wind in the peloton for short periods (but you would still be working hard), and then from time to time we would have to really go hard to stay on the wheel ahead of you.
Having simulated those race efforts in training was essential.
My favorite workout is the one I just finished… Least favorite is the one I’m doing tomorrow!
Knowledge Bomb? I’d have to say riding with the Sub-Six Peloton completely changed the way I think about distance events.
Previously my usual approach was to ride hard on the climbs, and then relax on the descents and flats, saving my energy for the next climb.
Now I know that is not the most efficient approach.
Much better is the way Coach Brian and his Sled-Dogs planned and executed the Mammoth Gran Fondo:
Ride the climbs at a steady but not brutal pace, and then keep the effort consistently hard on the descents and flats.
In other words, keeping the energy output level stable over the entire course, rather than bouncing back and forth between hard efforts and recovery.
Coach Brian: There is so much great content in this answer, thank you for the thorough response, Rob!
It took a lot of good communication to figure out how to incorporate HIIT training into Rob’s training program without triggering arrhythmia, but together we figured it out.
Once Rob figured it out, it totally changed his riding experience because he could test himself to new depths and push himself hard without being worried about causing an ‘episode’.
What’s great about the Knowledge Bomb that Rob shared is that it can benefit so many bike riders. It’s a simple concept, but a difficult one to master.
Steady-state riding is very important to fitness development for cyclists and with this type of fitness comes something we call “depth”. When an Athlete develops depth they have both a “big engine” and a robust “match-book” of efforts.
It’s something that can totally change the experience of any rider.
It took a lot of focus and determination, but Rob accomplished his goal of completing the Mammoth Gran Fondo with the Sub-Six Peloton!Photo Credit: Rob Raede
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Rob Raede’s Sub-Six Peloton Experience at the Mammoth Gran Fondo and his feedback about the ride inspires you to consider a new experience of your own!
Something we communicated to our Sub-Six Peloton ahead of the event was that we wanted them to be “open” to wholesale change rather than searching for ‘marginal gains’.
Sure, it’s great to look for small improvements, and sometimes necessary, but to use a metaphor for illustration purposes, why pass up the dollar on the ground to pick up a couple of pennies?
So we’ll leave you with this question:
Are there major improvements, think dollars on the ground… that can help you be wildly successful as you prepare for your next event?
Chances are there is and we hope Rob’s experience encourages you to seek them out and embrace them because a whole new level of performance awaits you!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching