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Mar 15, 2023

This week we catch up with Amanda Nauman to discuss all things gravel. We touch on the Mammoth Tuff gravel race, Tuff Camps and how to continue to invite women into the sport.  Amanda is an OG in the sport and friend of the pod which made for a super enjoyable conversation. 

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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:

[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport

I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.

This week on the podcast, I'm super stoked to invite back. Amanda Naaman. Amanda is a big time friend of the pod. A podcast or herself as the co-host of the grody. Podcast. A very accomplished off-road athlete. With notable wins twice. At Unbound 200. Five times at the rock cobbler, .

We touch on rock cobbler this year, and some of the help she provided Sam aims with inviting and encouraging more female athletes to toe the line at this year's rock cobbler event.

She and Dave Sheik are also the co-founders of the mammoth tough event in mammoth, California, which occurs in September. Each year She's a member of the gravel cycling hall of fame advisory board. And according to her.

She's Walter, the dog's favorite. I'm not going to get into that domestic squabble, but we'll leave it at that. I'm excited to bring you a followup conversation with our friend, Amanda Naaman.

Hi, Craig. How are you? I am doing great. It's so good

[00:01:32] Amanda Nauman: to see you. Yeah, likewise. I'm excited. What, almost two and a half years

[00:01:36] Craig Dalton: later. Yeah. Yeah. And you know, the funny thing about our first recording I was recalling, we were doing an Instagram live at the same time. It was back when everybody was trying to figure out Instagram Live, so we were doing that.

And recording our conversation and I ultimately posted it to the podcast Feed .

[00:01:54] Amanda Nauman: Nice, nice. .

[00:01:56] Craig Dalton: What am I sort of, I would say to the failed endeavor into Instagram Live. It's not something I, I jam on. I'm much more comfortable in the podcast format where I can just talk to people and publish it later.

[00:02:08] Amanda Nauman: Yeah.

Yeah. No, it's hard and distracting. You get all the messages, you're like, what? What is that question? ? .

[00:02:14] Craig Dalton: I feel like we have so much ground to cover. We were chatting a little bit offline, but I, I thought what would be an interesting place to start knowing you participated in the Lifetime Grand Prix in in 2020 2, 20 22.

I just wanted to get your kind of overall perceptions as someone who's been around gravel racing for many years with that structure of your season. infused onto your life. H uh, how did it go and what were your thoughts on the, the lifetime Grand Prix in general?

[00:02:42] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, I signed up probably on the last day that was possible to turn in the applications that, um, winter before, cuz I really contemplated whether or not it was something that I wanted to do for a while cuz I knew.

You know, I had done Unbound Excel. They had put Leadville on the list for the Grand Prix, and I was like, man, I've always wanted to do Leadville. I can kind of shape my calendar around the rest of the series as well. So ultimately I decided to sign up for it knowing, you know, it's kind of a shoe-in to Leadville, which is one thing I had always wanted to do.

And at the same time, I get to do some gravel and some other mountain bike races that I hadn't necessarily done before. So I was very optimistic and excited about the Grand Prix last. . It didn't necessarily go how I had planned or anticipated, but uh, yeah, I think what they have created in the series and the opportunities for athletes to go race that, I think it's a great, a great thing and great structure for a lot of people, but it wasn't necessarily, let's say, the right fit for me last year.

[00:03:44] Craig Dalton: Did that make sense? I mean, just for the listener's sake, like if you go back a few years before that as a gravel racer, how would you go about picking your Cal.

[00:03:53] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, I mean, there's just some of the marquee events that. I would've picked, you know, in 2019, like for sure rock cobbler, mid-South Belgian waffle ride San Diego.

And then you'd go into Unbound, like for I think a California racer. That was sort of the way you would go. And then as summer happened, you know, you could pick and choose events. S B T I think was a was happening at that time. So it was a good summer. One gravel worlds. And then R P I. Was kind of sort of a season ender a little bit before you hit fall, and some people would race cycle lacrosse and whatnot.

So that was kind of the loose structure, I think, at least in 2019. And then 20 20, 20 21, everything kind of changed and there was a big reevaluation of what was important in terms of picking events, going to events or not , and then, Yeah, in 2022, everybody had the opportunity to apply for the Grand Prix, so that changed things.

But beforehand it was sort of what events were some of the big names going to, which ones had the most prestige, and, and if you were looking for sponsorship and stuff, you wanted to make sure you were at an event where there's enough competition there to show that let's say your results are are worth not.

[00:05:11] Craig Dalton: Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. It's so interesting to think, like, think of it from the professional athlete's perspective, going back prior to the existence of the Grand Prix, just the flexibility to kind of go do whatever you wanted and whatever was exciting to you. And then to see athletes be, uh, forced because as you said, this amazing opportunity and I think the Grand Prix.

Fits so many people's needs right now. It does exclude certain events and it certainly does drive your calendar and just looking at it from the outside and maybe talking to a few athletes along the way, there's definitely an increased stress when you've, you've got this season long endeavor that you're pursuing and you're trying to get points at every stop.

[00:05:51] Amanda Nauman: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And I think that was where it caused me some stress last year because I got sick a couple times and the kind of sick where had it been a normal year, I just would've like pulled the plug and not gone to Sea Otter, for example, cuz that was the first one that I was sick for. and in hindsight, like I probably should have done that, but when you're in the moment you're like, no, I can't skip this cuz I only have one scratch race.

I had to skip Schwa again because of Mammoth. So I was already in a tough situation of like, I have to do all of these other ones no matter what. And that was the stress for me, I think was feeling like I had to do this thing. And especially because last year we paid for it. So I was also like financially invested in the decision that I had made.

Um, so yeah, for me, like I said, that that feeling. Wasn't perfect for me because. Bike racing isn't my only source of income. So it, I've always tried to go towards what I'm doing has to be fun because if not, then like, what's the point? It's not like the money puts food on the table for me. So I have that ability to say, Hey, I need to pick and choose things that are important to me.

And I think I've come back a little bit more to that, uh, in 2023, which I would say I was at in 2019 for sure. Um, and then a period. A few years floundering of what, what was important for me, .

[00:07:13] Craig Dalton: I know you guys at the Groo podcast did a really great episode with, I think it was Michelle Duffy talking, just talking about your, how you felt the season went at the Lifetime Grand Prix, and some suggestions and some questions.

What were some of the key takeaways if you look back on that season to say, What would you recommend they changed in that program and did they ultimately end up doing that for

[00:07:36] Amanda Nauman: 23? Yeah, I definitely, I asked some hard questions. I think he, I told chemo I was going to ask some hard questions and he was like, yeah, okay,

But I, you know, I pulled some of them from like actual trolls on the internet that would say like these most. Outlandish things and you're like, really? Like, did you even pay attention at all? But I wanted to give them the opportunity to respond to some of that stuff. Like, like did, did social media matter?

Or you know, how could you charge everyone money and all the ENT entry fees to go do this stuff? And kind of. Pinpoint some of the things that people had complained about, I would say. Um, and yeah, they changed a lot. I mean, at that time they had already made 2023, like no fees so people don't have to pay for the entry fees.

Um, and I think they're doing a much better job with social media. And that was. , one of my major points that I wanted to drive with them was like the stuff that I was seeing, they had relied so heavily on the flow bikes deal that they had made. Yeah. And doing that live coverage and really just making sure that flow was going to do the storytelling for them and it just never happened.

And that was my, my main frustration. in March, like before we went to Mid-South, Flo did one-on-one interviews with probably everyone, and they had all this great content that they put out before Sea Otter, and it was very in depth and it felt like everybody was telling their story and it was fun to follow that part of it.

And then after Unbound, it just stopped. And then they had the issues in Utah and. . So ultimately for somebody like me, where being in the top 10 wasn't necessarily realistic and being in that midfield to back of the pack zone, I kept saying like, what is the point for somebody like me and somebody let, and now let's say somebody in the 20 to 30 range, what's the point of being in it if you're not giving me the exposure?

that I want if I'm gonna be in the series and like, invest in this with you. And so I hope that that's the biggest thing that they change for this year is not relying on the flow stuff, probably expanding the storytelling to more than the top five at each event. Yeah. And, and being able to tell more of the story of everyone

[00:09:52] Craig Dalton: I.

Yeah, that would be interesting. I, I sort of, when I look through the list of writers, both male and female, and I think about like who, oh, who might I interview over the cross cost of the cross of the season, as you know, this isn't specifically a racing podcast. Yeah. But even if it was like, I can't get to all those athletes and it's almost like I just need to get a dart board, just throw a dart and pick someone that I don't know and interview because I think you're right.

There's interesting. Across the board and the more that they can kind of create those personal connections with the athletes, the more excited people are gonna be to follow.

[00:10:27] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, for sure. And I think, like chemo said, his major goal was to get non-endemic sponsorship into the sport and to get these athletes able to make a living off of it.

Like those were his two main goals in making this series. And I was like, okay, if you do that, like you need to work more on the marketing side of it and you need to tell. All of the stories because if we're just gonna talk about the top five and we're only gonna pay the top 10, then what's the point of going 30 deep

So . Yeah, like that's, I think, I think they get that now and they'll probably work more on that this year. But for sure, like I'm, I'm gonna have Anna Ya mochi on Groo next. And she just won rock cobbler and she's doing the Grand Prix and she's one of those like up and coming names where it's a really exciting story to follow and if they go the same route they did as last year, which is like, well, let's just focus on the top five hopefuls at each event, like she's never gonna get any coverage then

So yeah, if they can expand the way that they tell those stories, I think that would be,

[00:11:31] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Similarly, I just launched an episode with, uh, Ian Lopez, San Ramon, nice. 19 year old out of Northern California who's joined. He's the youngest person who's part of the series. Yeah, and it's just, I think it's just gonna be an interesting timestamp for.

He and I to like look at this interview where he is at, what he's thinking about with his career in cycling and yeah, follow him throughout the

[00:11:52] Amanda Nauman: year. Yeah, I love that

[00:11:53] Craig Dalton: stuff. I love it. Yeah. So did you decide to, to throw your hat in the ring for 2023 in the Grand

[00:12:00] Amanda Nauman: Prix? I did not, and mostly because I think of the experiences that I had in 2022 and not enjoying that stuck feeling.

Um, if they had. another deal or contract, or if they had presented a way that they were going to do marketing for all of the athletes, I might have reconsidered it, but because we were just going blindly on the hope of like, yeah, we're gonna make it better than the year before, I was like, well, I'd rather focus on more of the stuff I think that I wanna do personally.

Um, so yeah, I'm, I'm optimistic about the things that they do change for this year. I just think it would've been cool for them to maybe present that upfront.

[00:12:42] Craig Dalton: When you saw the call of a Lifetime series on YouTube, did that make you. They might be approaching it differently or what were your thoughts on that series?

[00:12:50] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, I, I loved it. I think they, you know, they had told us initially that it was going to happen and before every race weekend they had said, Hey, if you're in the top three men or women, cuz they alternated. Genders throughout the the series. They told us all of that upfront and they said, if you are going to be in this top group, please make sure you make time for the interviews and all of that.

So that part of it we knew was for sure happening. And they made some of the vignette videos highlighting some of the athletes, but it just wasn't, it wasn't everyone, and it wasn't clear how they were picking the stories to tell essentially. Um, So, yeah, I think they did a really good job with the series though.

I, I joked that it's, like they said, make it like drive to survive with a little less drama, but, and a lot more cool bike racing. I think they nailed it pretty good.

[00:13:42] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I enjoyed it as well. Yeah. With with the idea that you can drop two races and now it's up to seven races, do you think that would meaningfully change, like what your experience would've been?

If that was the scenario last

[00:13:54] Amanda Nauman: year, yeah. It would've eliminated some of that stress of feeling stuck or knowing that. you had a little bit more flexibility. Uh, yeah, I think that, that that format will be healthier for people and I think that is for sure something that they realized last year with some of the injuries that happened already, like Pete racing through when maybe he shouldn't have with his hand still hurting and pacing.

So, um, yeah, just lessons learned, growing pains of how you set up a series from the get-go.

[00:14:23] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think that'll be interesting. I also think it'll be interesting if someone is riding through the series healthy. And just decides not to do something, you know, unbound obviously being a huge effort that maybe some people might not be suited for.

At least that was the speculation last year. Yeah. Um, wondering like whether they'll just opt out of one and save one in their pocket for either a bad day or an illness or injury.

[00:14:48] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, everybody was afraid of that and I felt like there were a lot of rumblings of like, oh, so-and-so's gonna skip unbound cuz they can.

But I think peer pressure might have just went on that and most of them ended up just doing it. So maybe that'll keep happening. I think everybody kind of feels that is the marquee one and if you skip it, cuz it doesn't suit you and you one people will probably be like, well they didn't do unbound. So


[00:15:12] Craig Dalton: I could see. Yeah. Little, a little asterisks, by the way.

[00:15:14] Amanda Nauman: Exactly, exactly. Uh, well they chickened out on that one. . .

[00:15:19] Craig Dalton: Love it. So what, what are some of your plans for 2023? Obviously, like over the last couple years, you've. Uh, become an event organizer with Mammoth Tuff, which we'll get into. Also started dabbling in gravel camps, which sound amazing.

But why don't you just, let's talk through what 2023 is gonna look like for you for both erasing and other gravel endeavor perspective.

[00:15:42] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, I, yeah, quite, quite a few people have asked me this, and I think it's important to. also reminds people again that like, this isn't my job, per se. You know, like I have a regular desk job.

And so the way that I've approached anything has always been fun first in doing things that I want to do. Um, and last year my dad got sick a couple times and the business that I work for is my parents own it. And so, and it's just me and my brother that work for them. So I think we kind of had this like revelation of.

All of this other stuff that we're doing isn't quite as important and putting my dad's health first and focusing on that kind of was, and it's one of those things where it puts stuff into perspective. And I'm like, yeah, I've been doing this bike racing stuff for a decade. It is, it has been a very selfish endeavor.

And there are kind of other things. in my life that I would like to focus on. Um, so yeah, that, that's, that's the background to all of it, essentially. You know, it's not as easy of a decision as like, oh, well I'd rather race mid-south than Unbound. Like, it was, it was never really that simple for me. For 2023, it was kind of more like, mammoth is very important to me.

Doing camps is very important to me. Having more time at work is also important to me. And, um, Going back to the goal that I had in 2020 of finishing the calera 500 was also a goal and something I wanted to do last year, but like I said, the like shiny object of the Grand Prix got in the way and I was like, oh, I could do this thing.

So I just put that on hold for another year. Um, so I'd like to, to go back to that and try and finish it. Awesome.

[00:17:20] Craig Dalton: Can you describe that, that attempt at Calera and what that

[00:17:24] Amanda Nauman: is? Yeah. So it is the Calera 500. Um, the person who started it, his name is Alan Jacoby and he lives in Idaho now. So he doesn't live in Mammoth anymore, but he was a big tour divide fanatic.

Um, and he came back to Mammoth after doing tour divide and was like, I need to do something similar here in my backyard. So he came up with Calera, which is a hundred fifty, two hundred fifty North and South Loops. And then the Calera 500, which is the big Mamma Jamma one. And most all of this is like, An Excel spreadsheet of maps and queues and like very rudimentary stuff.

I think over the course of the next year or so, it will be a little bit more updated Ever since, um, one of the bike people did a feature story on it cuz he finished the 500 last fall. So with more attention, more eyeballs, I think it's going to gain popularity. But essentially they're just like really stupid hard bike packing routes in the area.

And I think the fastest time on the 500 is just under five days. . So it's not really something that can be done in a couple, and it's more walking than you think, and it's, uh, a lot harder just because of the elevation and the massive climbs in the Eastern Sierra. So, . Yeah, that's, that's the backstory.

There's a cool video that Niner put out in 2020 when I had first started it and kind of the goal of finishing it has is still, is still there looming over my head. I've had a couple of times that didn't go right,

[00:19:01] Craig Dalton: and is it the type of thing now that in the bike packing community, it's this, Entity and people are starting to sort of check it off their list and make attempts to go at it fast.

[00:19:12] Amanda Nauman: Barely. That's why I said like I think it'll gain popularity now that bike did a feature on it because I think they're only five or six guys that have ever finished the 500. I'm the only person to ever finish the one 50 South Loop. Um, yeah. So it's very, very grassroots. I mean, there are probably.

200 people in the Facebook group that know about it. Um, but yeah, if you are interested, there is a Facebook group. It is private, so you can just request access for it for anybody listening. But yeah, I would love to see it blow up. Like I think it's a, it's a really beautiful route. It's very challenging and hard, but if you're looking for a good reason to, to get away, it's a, it's a good one.

[00:19:53] Craig Dalton: How did you fall in love with that area in the Eastern Sierra?

[00:19:57] Amanda Nauman: M uh, growing up, I think, um, yeah, we probably talked about this a few years ago, but my parents always took us to Mammoth growing up and same thing with David's parents. And so we both sort of fell in love with it in a parallel way as we were younger.

And then once we met, um, we were like, oh man, this place is awesome. And my parents saved up enough money to get a house there, I think in 20. 15 or 16 I think. And because of that opportunity to be there and stay there, I ended up doing a lot of my training for, at the time, DK Now Unbound. And so I attribute a lot of the success I had winning in 15 and 16 to training up there because it was just the most like wide open.

Not California, like in the way that you would think about California gravel. It was just more Midwest than anything I'd ever found in the state. And because of that, it gave me the opportunity to put my head down and go hard the way that you would in the in the back roads of Kansas . So that was sort of how we fell in love with it.

Definitely skiing and snowboarding first, then mountain biking over the years, and then, hey, like let's go down this road that looks like it goes off to nowhere. . Yeah.

[00:21:14] Craig Dalton: Love it. And then which year was the, was 2020 was the first year that you guys attempted to put on Mammoth Tough, right? Right.

[00:21:22] Amanda Nauman: Yeah. We came up with the idea in like, well, I'd say late 2018 or so.

Um, I don't know if I've ever told this story publicly, but we actually went. Maybe half a year of doing it with Lifetime and thinking it was gonna be a lifetime event. And ultimately Dave and I decided we wanted to do it on our own. And so in 20, late 2019, we were like, okay, we're gonna do it ourselves cuz this is how we wanna do it and present it.

And, and then with the intention of it kicking off in 2020

[00:21:54] Craig Dalton: and what year did it actually kick off?

[00:21:56] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, last year ,


[00:21:59] Craig Dalton: yeah. Yeah. I couldn't remember if it happened once or twice already. Yeah. No. So you got got one

[00:22:03] Amanda Nauman: under your belt. Yeah. Covid. And then 2021 was wildfires, unfortunately. And then, yeah, 2022 finally happened last year.

Which, one thing I do wanna mention, I just set up bike ride for. this in 2023. For me, I'm the tough, and they have a new insurance policy option for their event promoters where there's like a natural disaster thing. You can pay a fee into this insurance thing where they will cover refunds for natural disasters like wildfires, which is huge, especially so any promoter's listening in California, think about it.

It's only like 2.2% of your fees or whatever, and I think. The state that we're in and with, you know, some of the things that could happen in our areas like that is a, a pretty good opportunity for promoters. .

[00:22:53] Craig Dalton: Yeah, that sounds like it. Yeah. So the events in September, so end of the year each, each season.

[00:22:59] Amanda Nauman: Yes. Yeah, it is the weekend after Labor Day. So traditionally the Mammoth Grand Fondo has Labor Day weekend, and then we are that next Saturday after that, which is the closing weekend of the Mountain bike park. So we had a lot of people that were up there. You know, you have siblings or other family members that wanna just go ride park all day and.

Go do your little grapple adventure.

[00:23:22] Craig Dalton: Nice. A little I'd I'd do a little bit of both if given the opportunity. .

[00:23:26] Amanda Nauman: Yeah. A lot of people went and rode mountain bikes on Sunday. .

[00:23:29] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Um, and tell us a little bit about the event. Like if someone's considering it for their calendar, what, what is it like? Obviously Mammoth Mountain is at a high elevation as you referenced before, but how did you design the, the, the event?

What are the, the roads and trails like up.

[00:23:45] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, it's one thing. So when we first started it, we had a short course and a long course. We were gonna do a 40 mile and a hundred mile option ish. And then in 2020, One, we had a bunch of people come out and we tested sort of a medium route. Even though the event was canceled, we were like, Hey, go ride part of this and tell us what you think.

And that was the genesis of the medium distance. So in 2022 last year, we had three routes, even though that was never the initial plan, but some people felt like, oh, the short one's too easy and the long one's too hard. So we need an in between. And that was where we came up with the idea of doing three different ones and they.

Very different. Like they're in completely different sections of the, of the valley of the mountain. They go in different areas. So I wanted to be able to sell a different experience for each distance and sort of have it as a stepping stone leading up to challenging yourself over a hundred if you want to, and letting those first two on the way kind.

get you ready for what to expect for the, for the long one, cuz the long one you go pretty much all the way to Bishop and back essentially is the route.

[00:24:57] Craig Dalton: Yeah. And how much climbing is in the long one?

[00:25:00] Amanda Nauman: 7,500 or so? It's not too bad, it's not like raw cobbler where it's a hundred feet per every mile. It's a little bit less than that.

So I think it's, um, it's not as like punchy and brutal in that regard. .

[00:25:15] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Are you doing sort of long duration climbs on the course or is it

[00:25:19] Amanda Nauman: rolling? Yeah, it's mostly you just like kind of get in the zone and climb for. Good chunks of time. It's a lot less, like five minutes as hard as you can go. You're kind of like, yeah.

All right. Kick it into gear for the next hour, essentially. . .

[00:25:37] Craig Dalton: Nice. And then the, the, um, the, the short and the medium courses, what are those

[00:25:42] Amanda Nauman: distances? Yeah, the short is about 40 miles, very palatable. You go by, uh, the the Hot Creek area, which is cool, so you can stop and go down there. And then the medium distance is about 75 miles or so, and it has some pretty technical descending in it, I would say.

And for folks who aren't used to riding or navigating sand as much, that feeling. Riding in Palmist stone is very different from anything else in the state, essentially, cuz you're just riding in old lava fields. So, . It's very unique. So I had a lot of people tell me last year like, oh man, you weren't kidding when you said it was gonna be hard.

I'm like, yeah. It wasn't, it wasn't like some like silly marketing ploy to be like, this is gonna be the hardest event ever. I was like, I was serious. Like it's not easy. Um, and so it was, it was funny to have a bunch of people come up to me afterwards and being like, yeah, you were right. Like I know I wouldn't lie to you

[00:26:40] Craig Dalton: What does that end up translating wise for equipment? Like what do you sort of recommend people ride up?

[00:26:46] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, 40 minimum tire width. And I tell people like, go with as wide as your frame would allow, essentially. So like I could fit a 48 Oracle ridge on my R L t if I, if I needed to. And I think that would be the most fun realistically for the day if you were just looking to have a good time.

And a lot of it is because some of the softer stuff, if you're not used to the like fish taily feeling of your bike, With when it has two narrow tires and sand, then go wider because you, it'll be more stable and a lot less like wiggly, I guess. So it kind of depends on. Number one, people's handling abilities and number two, what your frame can allow.

And then, yeah, just go big. It's safer. ,

[00:27:32] Craig Dalton: did people listen to you or were people showing up on 30 twos? Yeah,

[00:27:35] Amanda Nauman: no, people listened. I think that was, that was the thing we tried to scare everyone with. I was like, if you go under 40, you're not gonna have a good time. Just trust me. .

[00:27:45] Craig Dalton: I love it. I love it. So overall, how was the first year of the event?

Did it meet your expectations?

[00:27:51] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, yeah, it was, it was great. I think the one thing, I don't like gloating, but I will toot my horn on the safety aspect because the one thing about that area is there's, you have very little cell service. You're kind of really, truly in the middle of nowhere and the only people who ever go out there are just going in their side by sides or motorcycles to, to get away.

So we made it an an emphasis on safety and having a hundred percent rider accountability, which you'd be surprised looking into events that you're trying to sign up for that. That's not really the case for most events that you go to. Promoters kind of put it on you to, oh, well, if you're out there, you're kind of on your own and if you don't get back like, and you tried calling, sag, whatever, like you'll figure out how to get back essentially.

And there's not really making sure that everybody is back. Okay. Whereas in our case, if you get out there and you get lost or. Can't find your way back. Like there's a, like you go into the risk of like making it out alive essentially, cuz temperatures can drop overnight and there's kind of more risk factors involved.

So we wanted to make sure that we knew where everyone was. And TBG timing had a really good setup where you could text them if you dnf, if you got back to your hotel room on your own. And then if you got picked up by people, obviously we knew where you were. We got that idea from, there's a, there's an ultra, a Bishop Ultra that happens in May every year, and they have a policy where if you don't report your DNF or like that you left the course and just went home, you're never allowed back.

like they have a very like hard. Stance on that, and they just don't want people back that disregard that rule. So we were like, well, we don't wanna be that strict, but we want to make sure people know that we care about where they are out there. Um, so yeah, safety, I think was, was the biggest thing that we wanted to, to shoot for.

And hopefully everybody's told me like, you're never gonna be able to scale that if you have 2000 people. And I don't know, I'd like to take on that challenge just because I think making sure everyone's safe is, is always gonna be our biggest priority. Yeah, for sure.

[00:30:03] Craig Dalton: That sounds great. I remember in the first year you guys were advertising that it was kind of co-located alongside Octoberfest in Mammoth.

Did that turn out to be the case?

[00:30:13] Amanda Nauman: It didn't. They, uh, they ended up canceling their festival. They like, I. Covid stuff and the people who ran octoberfest have other businesses in town that they were kind of more worried about than, than putting on the festival last year. So they canceled. And so that is why we did our own beer run on Friday.

So we ended up doing what used to be theirs. They handed it off to us and they're like, yeah, if you wanna do this, Stupid beer run. Go for it. Which we did cuz I had done it the year before and I was like, this is awesome. Um, so we took that over and, and we obviously last year didn't have time to like throw together a full on music festival like they had had in the past, but cuz they canceled sort of last minute.

So this year the village is kind of helping us. Get talent involved for kind of having it be a little bit more of a festival and live music and entertainment for Saturday. Um, so yeah, no more October Fest, but, but we're trying to make the party .

[00:31:10] Craig Dalton: Love it. Um, now I know you guys have been through the ringer as far as event organizers are concerned between the pandemic and the fires.

But let's put those two years of waiting aside. Like how would you, what. , how do you think about the amount of effort required to put on Mammoth? Tough. And was it a satisfying enterprise for you guys to put together, or was being an event organizer just like this crazy amount of work you never anticipated?

[00:31:40] Amanda Nauman: It was a crazy amount of work. I never anticipated a hundred percent. Um, I think that Sunday after the award ceremony when we were all cleaning up, I was like, somebody asked David, like, oh, are you guys gonna do this next year? David was like, uh, I don't know. And I was like, yes, . So we had very different, I think, immediate reactions to it.

David ended up doing a lot more of like the manual labor, I would say, and I did a lot more of like the computer work and logistics and all of that. So we came at it from different perspectives, but in, even though it was more work than we had anticipated, I would say it was a lot more rewarding than we had anticipated as well.

because I have always told the story that Mammoth was like the special place to us. Like so much so that we thought about just keeping it a secret and not really like displaying it as this gravel destination, I guess you could say. But doing that and having the opportunity to share this place that has meant so much to us, I think was.

Ultimately the biggest gift and the thing that we were the most proud of because everybody was like, yeah, I come up and ski here in snowboard and mountain bike. I never thought to bring my gravel bike and just go explore. And people have spent so much time on the 3 95 and just never really thought about those roads that are out there.

So that part to me was very rewarding. I think Visit Mammoth now knows that it is a really great destination to, for people to go bring a gravel bike and explore. and that part I think will be the thing will, will always be the most proud of is kind of sharing that adventurous spirit up there.

[00:33:17] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Did you think about the event from like, um, you want this to be a hyper-competitive event or was it something else in your mind when you conceived of it?

[00:33:27] Amanda Nauman: Um, that's it. That's kind of hard for me because I am so competitive. So we wanted this fine balance of making everybody feel like they were competing for something, um, because I don't want to exclude all of those people. Like I always appreciated that Sam aims with the rock cobbler. He was always like, this isn't a race, but two people are going to win.

Like he's always said that. and he's always acknowledged me or whoever else was winning those years, but he didn't like do categories for all, you know, the age groups and whatnot. But re I really wanted to do that for our event because, As a swimmer, as a triathlete, having those goals for everyday regular people was something that was important to me, cuz it was important to me a decade ago before I got into anything super competitive.

So I think it's important to reward. . Um, yeah. The people that are doing the thing and going how they can as fast as they can for their certain categories, I think is still important to me. Um, but in that sense, I also just wanna make sure people can come and have a good time and not feel like the pressure to, to perform.

[00:34:37] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Well, it sounds like you've covered both bases, right? You've, you've, you, you've allowed the racer types to go at it, go hard and get some recognition at the end, but you've also built that safety net to make sure that there's no man or woman left

[00:34:50] Amanda Nauman: behind. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. , .

[00:34:54] Craig Dalton: The other thing I wanted to touch on that seems like it's been growing in your portfolio of gravel offerings has been the camp.

what can you just tell me about like what a tough camp is like and what are tough? What's the vision for 2023? Yeah.

[00:35:10] Amanda Nauman: Yeah. I. I will go as, I'm gonna go a decade back real quick. So when I was, uh, I finished my master's degree in 2012 and I had planned a trip to Europe with my best friend from high school, and we signed up for one of those like v i p experiences with the Tour de France.

And so we did like this like. 10 days in the NY sort of thing and blew all of the money that I had made in college to go do this trip. Cuz I was like, whatever, I'm starting work after this. Like I can make money later. And it was like a very, I don't know, transformative, life-changing trip that we did. And I think, you know, the, the people I had spent a week with, I still talked to you today and uh, I think that experience was important for me cuz it made me realize how much.

Travel and sharing cool experiences on two wheels was to me. And then, you know, shortly after that, I met David, I was working at, felt all of these things kind of stumbled into bike racing and bike racing became the catalyst to going cool places and riding bikes with friends. and then now I am like moving that pendulum sort of back into to what was really important to me 10 years ago, which was like just going and doing these trips and riding with people for fun and like sharing kind of all of the experiences that I've had in the past decade.

So that was the impetus of it. And like I knew we were gonna have this conversation and I was thinking a lot. Why I wanted to do camps and why they were so important to me and Dave working as a coach for Carmichael Training Systems, like they have always done a really amazing job with camps, and I've had the pleasure of helping coach some of those and being a part of them.

And every time I'm like, this is where it's at, like the like intimate, like group setting. You know, you have good food, you hang out, you just talk about important life stuff. That I think is always something I enjoyed. So that was the impetus of of all of it. We started some of the camps in 2020, a couple more in 2021, a couple more last year, and to where we are at today, making all of them sort of under the Tough Ventures umbrella and expanding it to a couple camps in Kansas.

[00:37:31] Craig Dalton: Super cool. I do, I do think for many cyclists, the idea of a camp evokes this. Training camp mentality, which is like, oh, I'm going because I'm trying to do well at Unbound, or what have you. Yeah, and I think it's an inter really interesting opportunity to kind of shift that mindset to more what you're saying, which is like, I'm gonna go somewhere cool.

I'm gonna ride my ass off for four days. I'm not doing that for necessarily for anything beyond the sheer pleasure of writing. For four days and getting access to people who are knowledgeable about the sport and learning a thing or two.

[00:38:07] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, exactly. I think it's a middle ground of a training camp and like a vacation trip, , because I want, I want to bring value and the way I've been explaining it to everyone is like, Dave and I made a lot of mistakes in the past 10 years.

We did everything the wrong way and I would like to make sure that people coming into this discipline now, Kind of learn from our mistakes, start doing everything the right way, because you will have a much more pleasant experience doing these long adventures if you have, you know, some, some semblance of like how you should take care of yourself essentially.

[00:38:42] Craig Dalton: Yeah, definitely. There's just a lot of low hanging fruit in terms of if someone just tells you something simple like make sure you eat every hour in these long events. Yeah, yeah. You're gonna be a lot better off than

[00:38:52] Amanda Nauman: or some people that are like, oh man, I only had a bottle in four hours. I'm like, well, that's why you feel like crap.

[00:38:58] Craig Dalton: Yeah, . Exactly. I like you had the benefit of doing triathlons. You sort of learned those lessons very quickly. Yeah. If you didn't fuel in one activity for the next one, you were pretty much

[00:39:09] Amanda Nauman: hosed, right? Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. And I, again, one of the other things that happened was we had so many people that came to Mammoth and did the short route last year, and it was like their first gravel event.

And that was very intimidating for me cuz I was like, this is going to be like their introduction to this experience and this discipline. and I wanted it to be good, and I wanted them to have resources at their disposal to make it comfortable. So much so. I feel like I over-delivered and overshared on some of that information.

And I had a couple people emailing me and say like, you know, you don't really have to like handhold so much for all these people. I was like, yeah, I do, because some of them literally have no idea. So like if it's annoying to you that I'm telling you to drink a bottle an hour, like just ignore me. Then , this isn't for you.

[00:40:03] Craig Dalton: So most of the camps, well all the camps last year were up at Mammoth. And obviously like just being able to showcase all the great trails and roads up at Mammoth was an obvious thing for you to do both in terms of getting people pumped about that region that you love so much and getting people excited, maybe specifically for your event, but now you're expanding to Kansas.

Let's talk about like, what's the orientation of those camps in Kansas? Is it just yet another great place to ride that people should go? Or is it trying to get you ready for any particular event?

[00:40:35] Amanda Nauman: Uh, yeah. Yeah, they, so the first one is with the Flint Hills gravel ride, and the second one in July is with the Rockridge gravel.

And so both of those events are run by Bobby Thompson and Dave and I met Bobby. . Like way back in 2017, the Dirty Kansas production or promotion company was the company that was, that DK was under at the time. They had dabbled in this idea of travel trips as well. So they did this like test run to do the Dirty River in the uk and Bobby was on that trip.

So we met Bobby in that like travel trip, bike thing, atmosphere, and we became really fast good friends, and they had come out to Mammoth a couple times, um, in 2020 or 2021 and 2022. So we have always had this relationship with Bobby and he wanted to build his. Camps, or sorry, his events in Kansas that were more of like grassroots, like OG gravel style there.

And that's very much the stuff that Dave and I fell in love with and we were like, well, , let's see if we can do tough camps in Kansas. Because Bobby came to me and said like, Hey, I'm not getting enough women signing up for these. Like, what am I doing wrong? And I was like, well, I don't think you're doing anything wrong necessarily.

I think just like what you're offering is still intimidating for women. So let's try and maybe bring this camp idea to to soften. That experience or make it feel more palatable for women and for anyone as a whole. Um, so that was where that idea came from to build those camps there. And o obviously I have a really good reputation and love for that area in terms of what I've been able to do, um, with Unbound and all of.

The experience that Dave and I have with that event. So I think sharing what we know and doing that and again in a place that um, means a lot to us was kind of why we wanted to do. .

[00:42:35] Craig Dalton: So will those camps actually culminate in participation in the those events?

[00:42:40] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, so that's how we structured. It was like a three day leading up to that event so that that final day you get to sort of execute everything that you've learned in the three days prior, which is, which is a fun way to do it.

[00:42:54] Craig Dalton: Yeah, that's super interesting. I want to touch on something that you mentioned offline, but just kind of reference there about just. Finding a way to bring more female athletes into the sport. And you mentioned some work you were doing with Sam at Rock Cobbler this year. , can you describe what you were doing?

[00:43:11] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, yeah, so Chris Hall was on the marketing team helping Sam out this year, and he sent me a message a couple months ago and was like, Hey, Sam's at like 16% female participation. And he was like, how do we make that bigger? I'm not happy with it. And I was like, yeah, I'm not happy with that either. That's not a great number.

So I was like, well, let's, you know, open 50 spots on the backend for any women. Sign up after it sells out. And I was like, I will volunteer my time if people wanna ask me any questions about it, if they're nervous, cuz maybe women don't necessarily want to email Sam or an unknown face behind an event and say like, Hey, is this for me?

Maybe they'll feel more comfortable if it's for me. So they put a whole special section of the website called Ask Pan. People could email me their questions if they were concerned about stuff, and we got quite a few people that emailed and women that were just uncomfortable. Or didn't feel great about doing the short distance cuz it, it didn't feel like enough or they felt like a failure cuz they wanted to do the peb.

And it was very eye-opening in the sense that I was like, yeah, maybe just women need that safe space to be able to say, Hey, I am uncomfortable. And they need somebody to tell them like, it's gonna be okay and you are fully capable of doing this. or maybe you're not fully capable and it's okay to do this other part of it instead, you know, it was, um, yeah, again, just a very eye-opening thing because women traditionally can just have a lot more self-doubt, I think, than men, and that idea that they perhaps might not feel like it's a space or.

a discipline that's for them necessarily. So the more that I can try and crack that code on making women feel like they're more capable, I think that that's something that I'd like to, to focus on in the

[00:45:09] Craig Dalton: future. . Yeah, I think that's super cool takeaway for a lot of event organizers listening. It's just like, find a female athlete that can be supportive and be open to questions like that, just to make people feel welcome.


[00:45:22] Amanda Nauman: Yeah. It seems so simple, but really like, and again, a lot of that has, has stemmed from talking to other women or like even my best friend, the one that I was talking to, that we went to Europe together. I always kind of use her as my litmus test. Like a better representation of all women in terms of how they're looking at the stuff.

And she'll always second guess herself or say like, I don't think I can do that. And most of the times it's, cuz I feel like she's comparing it maybe to things that I do or things that she sees other women do, these like epic things and she's like, yeah, that's not for me. I'm like, no, it is like, you have no idea that you are fully capable of doing this if you want to.

And a lot of times they, they won't even take the step to do it because. They're unsure. So the more that I can help, like, no, you can do it. If you want to do it, you should do X, Y, Z to, to get there. Um, yeah, those conversations I think are so important and for men listening to this too. You all have also a responsibility I think in to like make your female friends feel comfortable.

Because a lot of times, like women just are too afraid to ask or they think that their questions are stupid. So the more that men. dads especially, um, brothers, the more that you all can make your female counterparts more comfortable, I think the better off we'll all be. Cuz it's not necessarily my job, only either , I think it's everyone's job to, to make it, to make it feel like something that they can do.

[00:46:55] Craig Dalton: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for doing that by the way. Yeah. Yeah. It's important you've got a busy calendar of your own activities. , are there any events for the rest of the year that you're excited about doing?

[00:47:09] Amanda Nauman: Oh, I don't know. I sort of don't, I don't really, I don't think I have anything. I was like super excited about rock cobbler and I even just did the short one this year.

Um, yeah, I'm, I think I'm putting all of my eggs in the, the camp and mammoth basket and really focusing on calera because it is something that, Of steep learning curve, like obviously I haven't, I haven't finished it twice. So there's a reason why, and it's just a lot of like learning things the hard way I think when it comes to backpacking.

So the idea of like even more self-sufficiency than I've been used to in the past is the, like that learning thing that I'm most excited about for this.

[00:47:53] Craig Dalton: Is, was that the, if you could point to like the reasons why you haven't been able to complete the route, or is it a self-sufficiency issue?

[00:48:02] Amanda Nauman: I would say it's equipment, honestly.

Like the, well, the first year I couldn't even start it cuz of wildfires. So that was, that was a whole nother thing. Yeah. And then the second time I got stuck in like a lightning storm and on top of that my knee was bugging me cause I had picked. , I had made wrong equipment decisions, essentially. Yeah. And it's something where, you know, if I'm used to a certain position riding style and I have so many hours in that same position, I was jumping into something different, more weight on my bike, more everything.

More walking. Yeah. . So it was just a, yeah, a learning curve of equipment and how I need to manage like, I don't know, just a very different style. Goal chasing essentially.

[00:48:49] Craig Dalton: Yeah. It's so, it's so different. Yeah. I mean, just, just, just having a loaded bike in and of itself is like a game changer in what, how your knees feel in particular.

[00:48:59] Amanda Nauman: Exactly, exactly. Because I, so I had like a frame bag on my frame, and so I thought, well, I'll make my Q factor wider so that my knees aren't rubbing my frame and that. Q factor thing, just royally effed up my left knee . That was the thing that ultimately did me in, was changing one thing that I thought was gonna help me.

But really, like your bodies are so fine tuned to a certain feel that if you throw that off and you're trying to do it for five days in a row, like, forget it. . Yeah.

[00:49:27] Craig Dalton: Yeah. And cycling because of the repetitive nature of it, it's. , you get something wrong it you're doing over and over and over and over and over again.

Eventually it's gonna add

[00:49:36] Amanda Nauman: up. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Just again, stupid things where if I was telling somebody, I would say like, yeah, nothing new on race day. That's like one of my main mantras, and I of course, like I did something different for this major goal that I shouldn't have. ,

[00:49:53] Craig Dalton: something that was even harder than race day.

Arguably. Yes, exactly. , . I love it. Well, I'm super excited for all the camps. I think for anybody listening like that is a good way to spend four days. Yeah, and I love that Mammoth tough went off well, and I'm excited for you guys doing it again. And obviously I'll put um, a link in the show notes to registration, which just opened up so.

People listening, make sure to go out and grab your spot.

[00:50:18] Amanda Nauman: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks Craig. Yeah. I think, and for anybody that's listening to this that does, hasn't listened to a bunch of the, the Gravel Ride episodes, go back and listen to the one that Craig did with Trek Travel in Jerron and. just be inspired to go, to go do a fun bike trip cuz I think yeah.

I'm, I'm really gonna push that more for a lot of people who are, you know, race or event anxious and just need, like, need a good reason to go explore and do it in a different way. Yeah.

[00:50:50] Craig Dalton: Gravel travel, it's where it's

[00:50:52] Amanda Nauman: at. Yeah. Yes, exactly. .

[00:50:55] Craig Dalton: So good to spend some time with you again and hopefully we catch up later this year.

[00:50:59] Amanda Nauman: Yeah, thanks Craig. I appreciate it.

[00:51:02] Craig Dalton: That's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Amanda as much as I did. She's such a great member of the gravel cycling community. I always learn a lot listening to the grody IO podcast and appreciate her perspective.

She's been doing all these gravel events for a while. So just offers a great historical view as to what it was like, what it's like now and what are some of the ways that we can chart the course forward. I encourage you to check out all the tough ventures work. It's As she mentioned during the show, they're doing the mammoth tough event, but they're also doing a series of camps this year, which I think will be super fun and informative to anybody who can attend.

If you're interested in connecting with me, I encourage you to join the ridership. That's If you're able to support the show, please visit buy me a gravel ride or ratings and reviews are hugely appreciated. Until next time here's to finding some dirt onto your wheels.