Athlete of the Month

November 2017 – Tim Bell

From Tim: Belt Buckle Fever

It’s dubbed the “toughest mountain bike race in Atlantic Canada”. With 120 km (75 miles) of mixed trails and plenty of climbing, the Elgin Mountain Bike Marathon rewards the first 25 finishers with the coveted and elusive “Elgin 120” belt buckle. This combination of factors elicits symptoms of Belt Buckle Fever. 

Having raced the 40 km event and won the 80 km event, the next step was the 120 km race, the only distance of the three with the possibility of receiving the belt buckle. I admit it, I caught the Belt Buckle Fever: I had to have a belt buckle of my own. To help me reach that goal, I connected with Grant Holicky of Apex Coaching in May 2017, and so began his work of crafting a plan to have me as prepared as possible for the October event. 

Throughout the summer mountain bike season, with Grant’s guidance, I was getting noticeably stronger, picking up speed and improving on results from previous years. In the back of my mind, however, I questioned whether I had trained enough and particularly, whether I had done enough long rides to prepare me for the 7 plus hours that would be the marathon.

Fast forward four months to October 7, 2017.  At the start line, I looked around and thought: “Oh No! There are a lot of riders here!” My anxiety was confirmed as I learned the turnout is a record sixty-eight riders vying for 25 buckles! This is going to be tough!

I then remind myself of Grant’s parting words before the race: “Pace, fuel and be smart!” At the sound of the gun, belt buckle fever consumes the field. Despite the 25 minute climb to start the race, the field splinters, with half giving their all to stick with the handful of lead riders. My mantra echoes in my head: “pace, fuel and be smart!” The belt buckle isn’t earned in the first hour.

Luckily, I had the good fortune of starting with two friends who had not only done the marathon before, they agreed to ride together for the duration. They reminded me off the start: fuel and pace. Unfortunately, our trio did not last long. As one of our group fell off the back, I stayed with the faster rider. Unfortunately, not long after starting the second of three 40 km laps, he started cramping and fell off the pace as well. With less than half the race under my belt, I knew I had to keep going alone. 

My biggest concern going into the race, alone, as a racer who often experiences cramping, was when, not if, the cramps would strike. However, as I finished my second lap and now 80 km down, I felt remarkably strong. My legs and body were holding up. Cramps were being held at bay. I refuelled and set out for the last 40 km lap. Knowing a belt buckle was within reach, the fever was taking hold. I picked up the pace slightly and started catching, then dropping racers. I reminded myself, over and over, of my mantra. 

As I crossed the finish line, 7 hours and 33 minutes later, sprinting it out for 15th overall, not only was I relieved that it was over, but I was extremely satisfied with the execution. I paced perfectly, if not a little too conservatively. In hindsight, proper preparation was key to my performance and execution on race day. This preparation was due to Grant’s attention to the particular event, my individual circumstances and his wealth of knowledge and experience. I honestly could not have asked for a better race!

Coming away from the marathon (belt buckle in hand), goal setting has already begun for next year’s event. Building on this year’s success, I’m ready to challenge myself even further. I’m confident that Grant and Apex Coaching will again be a big part of helping me get there. 

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October 2017 – Eugenio and Emiliano Mirafuentes

From Eugenio – APEX and my coach have helped me to improve my training program with profesional preparation, allowing me to be at the same level as others cyclists on international competitions.

From Emiliano – APEX and my coach Cody helped me during this year to improve my level and performance in the races, it has been a long and tough season but my coach has been very helpful to finish it with success.

From Coach Cody – Through the thick and thin, Eugenio and Emiliano push through all odds to excel during even the toughest of competitions and training environments. The brothers are lucky to have each other travel, train and race with, making both of them progressively faster year after year. As a coach, Eugenio and Emiliano are an inspiration with the success they’ve produced despite very little government support, most recently during the Road World Championships in Norway. We are all looking forward to the 2018 season! 

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September 2017 – Maxx Chance

From Maxx – I chose to work with Grant after deciding I wanted to focus on cyclocross and after seeing the success of his other athletes and getting to know him personally. Grant quickly challenge me to train harder and ride my cross bike off road more on dirt courses and in parks. He puts a strong emphasis on including skills while doing intervals. This switch to more cross focused training helped me almost win the under23 national championships after only six months of working with Grant. Also he is just fun to ride with, which helps

From Coach Grant – Maxx’s commitment as an athlete is incomparable. He is great at being a professional about his training and at the same time enjoying his time in the sport.

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August 2017 – Tomas Castillo

From Tomas – When I was planning out a race schedule for 2017, my main goal was to become a finisher of the Pennsylvania Triple Crown of Mountain Running. I had run Hyner 50k previously (31 mile trail run with ~7500 feet of climbing) and was confident to finish that one well, but saw Worlds End 100k as a bit daunting (64 miles with ~12,000′ of rocky ups and downs), and downright terrified for Eastern States 100. Now that August is approaching, I’ve completed Hyner and Worlds End, and have one challenge left to tackle. A few weeks prior to Worlds End 100k, I picked up Coach Joe with APEX. While I had put in a majority of the miles for the race, that was only one piece of the equation, and Joe helped me to hone in my attack plan despite being sick the week prior. A solid training block after Worlds End, with a variety of workouts and utilization of running power data, have left me much more confident that I have the tools and legs to finish the race. An ultramarathon is much more than just fitness, and Joe knows that, and I’m counting on his strong knowledge of physiology to give me an edge of confidence, as I’ll need every bit of help to finish this beast

From Coach JoeTomas is a model of consistency. He’s a strongly motivated individual who knows how to pull himself out of the most difficult periods during ultras and press on. Tomas is coached remotely, living in the Pittsburgh, PA area, and utilizes many of the great trail systems there for training. Having personally crewed/paced for Tomas during the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile Run in 2016, I’ve seen first hand his unwavering will to succeed and it has been an honor to watch his journey unfold.

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July 2017 – Omar Dickenson

From Omar – This June was my most successful month as a masters bike racer with a number of victories culminating with the Colorado time trial championship in the 40+3s.  Much of the credit goes to APEX Coaching who has helped me unlocked my potential as a bike racer in three key areas.  First, Coach Grant has had me focus more on intensity by structuring the right set of intervals to compliment my power.  Second, we have worked on time trial pacing again and again to try to get it right.  It is easy to say “do not start to hard”, but putting it into practice is the challenge!  The last area is helping educate me on the tradition, norms, and responsibilities of being a road bike racer.  This area is where the considerable experience of Coach Grant and Coach Neal really helps out as I make the transition from a recreational MTB rider to a road bike racer.  Understanding the sport, respecting the efforts of everyone you race against, and learning that road bike racing is about much more than just Watts or W/Kg continues to be a journey.  Thank you!

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June 2017 – Tayler Wiles

From TaylerI made a change this year to focus on my time-trialing and I wanted to work with Neal because of his experience in looking at the details in training athletes to prepare for TTs. We started working together late last fall and I’ve already seen changes in the type of training that I’ve done so far that have had an impact on my ability on the bike. I’ve already met one of my 2017 goals in winning the Tour of the Gila overall GC. I’ve been working on my weaknesses in my training, not just my strengths, but am still getting stronger in all areas. I’m looking forward to hitting more of my upcoming goals for the rest of this season with the help of Neal and APEX Coaching!

Check out Tayler’s Website:

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May 2017 – Matt Joyner

From MattAPEX Coaching has been a game changer for me. I travel a lot for work and without my coach at APEX, I would have never been able to stay in shape and make the advances I have made over the last three years. As a former division 1 athlete, I set the bar very high for myself and I have been able to surpass, even my own expectations. I am proud to say that because of APEX I am in the best shape of my life at 41. 

From Coach CodyAs coaches, we often need to teach athletes to embrace their very own “dark place.” Matt has no trouble embracing the suffering (literally, and figuratively, as he is a huge fan of The Sufferfest). Matt was able to engage in many of the on-site services APEX has to offer when he lived in Colorado, but now living in Pennsylvania, Matt is coached remotely to balance his hectic work schedule. Born a competitor and raised as one (he played football at Penn State), Matt jumps at the opportunity to race local crits and time trials, and loves the opportunity to beat up on his group ride buddies. I am proud to call Matt one of my athletes, and friends.

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Past APEX Athletes of the Month: