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Nov 9, 2021

This week we sit down with Brian McCulloch to discuss how to mentally prepare for big days on the gravel bike. Brian is a coach at Big Wheel Coaching, former BWR Champion and current Masters Category Marathon MTB National Champion. Beyond that, Brian is stoked guy we know!

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Automated Transcription (please excuse the typos):

Brian McCulloch 

[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello and welcome to the Gravel Ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton this week on the show. We've got Brian McCulloch. Brian's a coach, a father, a husband 2018 BWR champion and current marathon mountain bike nationals champion in the masters 35 to 39 category for the purposes of this conversation. I wanted to have Brian on the show because I've wanted to do a show about getting stoked for game day.

[00:00:31] Your training's behind you, but how do you approach the actual day of a big gravel event? I couldn't think of anybody better to talk to than Brian. I got to interact with Brian out at the envy, grow DEO in Utah this year. And I've not met someone with so much enthusiasm and knowledge and passion for the sport of cycling than Brian.

[00:00:52] Hopefully you'll walk away with this episode with some great tips on what kind of mentality you need to be successful in endurance, gravel race. Before we get started this week. I need to thank this week. Sponsor athletic greens, the health and wellness company that makes comprehensive daily nutrition.

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[00:03:54] With that important business behind us. Let's dive right in to this week's interview. Brian. Welcome to the show.

[00:04:01] Brian McCulloch: Oh, thank you, Craig. I'm really excited to be here. So a man. 

[00:04:05] Craig Dalton: Yeah, let's do this. I was thinking for a while that I really wanted to do a show. That got people pumped for the moment they get to the start line. We've talked a lot on other episodes about nutrition and the idea of coaching, but there's something to be said for just getting the right mindset, getting everything into your rear view mirror, and being ready to do a big event, whether you're going for the win or just trying to finish and have fun.

[00:04:31] It's important to have the right mental mindset. And I couldn't think of someone better to come on and talk about that than.

[00:04:38] Brian McCulloch: Oh thank you, Craig. Thank you. I'm really excited about it. It's such a, I think it's such an overlooked topic. When we talk about obviously as a cycling coach, but also as an athlete, it's so easy to just look at all of the preparation and we look at all the time, money and effort, the blood, sweat, and tears that we put in to preparation, but then we often forget or neglect that race.

[00:05:00] Is everything. And it's not, it doesn't have to be a race. If you're not at the front of these gravel races, that doesn't mean it's anything different. It's your tour de France. And this is what my wife and I, we have a coaching business, big role coaching, and we always look at it like, Hey, what is your tour de France?

[00:05:14] Yeah, it can be the one ARIDE at BWR, Kansas, or it can be gravel worlds. It can be anything in between. Okay. So you don't have to be riding a long race or be at the front of it for you to actually spend some time plan out your pacing. Think about your nutrition, go over the course, look at all those things and know we're going to get into so much of that.

[00:05:32] But having your best race day performance is not always about what's the motor you brought to the start line. It's what about the check? What about the mindset, all of these other things. So I'm really excited to have this conversation. 

[00:05:44] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Also true. And I always like to set the stage for the listener and just learn a little bit about your journey. Obviously like the notion of riding a gravel bike is something relatively new in the world of cycling, but how what's your journey as a cyclist? How did you come to be where you are to.

[00:06:02] Brian McCulloch: Oh, that's a great question. I I should tell everyone that I used to race motorcycles or motocross and Supercross professionally. And so that was I didn't know it at the time, but that was going to be like going to the dirt on gravel. And even now mountain biking, a little bit more is going to be like, to me, it feels like coming home.

[00:06:17] But yeah, when I was basically, when I went. 12 years old, I got a dirt bike and was like, oh my God, I want to be professional. And then I just poured myself into that. And long story short was my father was a big influencer there. And he was like, Hey man, as long as you get good grades, we'll take care of it.

[00:06:33] Like you're good to go. And anyway, somewhere along the way, I ended up stepping away from that and thinking I had this boy in my life where I. I didn't have any athletics in my life. It was about a year that I got out of motorcycle racing and I thought I'm washed up. Like I was never, I never achieved my goals, really et cetera, et cetera.

[00:06:51] And then someone reminded me that we used to.

[00:06:54] train on road bikes and mountain bikes for For motorcycle and racing. And so I was like, oh, okay, cool. I'll check that out. And I went on a group ride with some friends and in the area that I'm from or where I live now in the Redlands area here in Southern California, there was this really robust community of cyclists.

[00:07:13] And they went on this, they still do. They go on this Saturday group rides called rain cross. They've been doing it for 30 years on the same route. You know what I mean? So there's like all this heritage and I just became. Totally enthralled and met some really good people. All of them were, 35 to 40 when I was 25 and I was totally hooked.

[00:07:29] So got into the. Started racing almost Right.

[00:07:32] away. And then it was like, wow. It's like riding a bicycle is great because it's work in equals results out. So I just poured myself into it. Like I did when I was trying to be a professional motorcycle racer ended up getting my category one road up. Got a call from Paul Abrahams who was starting this team that would later develop into elevate Webby, Plex pro cycling.

[00:07:53] And I was the first person that signed for him. So I did 11 years racing pro on the road which I'm really humbled to. That's one of the longest careers in American cycling, which is pretty cool. There's definitely some people like Mike Friedman and Brad Huff and other people who've had really long careers as well. Those are good company. If anyone knows those guys there, they're pretty legendary and I'm by no means on their S their level. But anyway, in 2018 actually in 2017 funny story, how I came to gravel was I did we were supposed to go to the tour of the Heela that year and that coincided with 20 $17 and waffle ride.

[00:08:27] And I didn't make selection for that team. And at the time Paul Abraham's, my team director was like, Hey, bro, don't take it personal. We just have more we don't have a GC guy this year, so we don't need a domestic cause I was a domestique on the team and that's a really hard race it's for climbing.

[00:08:45] And I'm not a very good climate. So my team manager was like, don't take it personal dude. Like we're not going to take you to Hilo because we don't have a GC guy we're just going for stage wins. So we don't really need you right now. Like we're going to take our time. And I was like, I was so bummed, Craig.

[00:09:01] I was so bummed because like that's one of those events. If you're a road guy and you say, oh Yeah. I've done this many tours, ILA. Everyone's dude, you're gnarly. And so I didn't get to go. And I be honest, I had a chip on my shoulder cause I was like, oh, I'll show you, I'll show you. And I'd be willing to bet your listeners have a bit of that in them too.

[00:09:17] You know what I mean? They're like, oh, somebody said you can't climb that hill. We'll Washoe you. And so I literally, that was. Like reached out to the guys from Belgian waffle ride who run it and they were like, please come. And I ended up going down there. I ended up crashing and breaking my hand.

[00:09:31] But I finished the race and I ended up winning the KLM Jersey that year and that Belgian waffle ride. And I just, I like fell in love with it, man, because it was old school, dirt bike, grit, like dirt bike riding. You have to you're the dude that finishes like no one No one in my once you're out on course, it's just you, right?

[00:09:49] There's no mechanic. There's no none of this stuff. And so you have to have the grit and the determination to finish. And so when I crashed and broke my hand, I was like, I'm an 80 miles. What am I going to do? Call my wife. She doesn't care. She's you got out there, you get back. And so I'm not I'm a proud man. So I'm like, I'll finish. And I finished and kept passing people. And I think I got like top 10. Anyway. But. That brought me that made me fall in love with BWR and being able to have breakfast with everybody, go do this incredibly crazy ride and then get into go after and share all the experiences afterwards.

[00:10:22] So anyway, I came back in 2018 and I told the team I'm not going to heal it. I'm going to BWR. And anyway, I went to VWR in 2018 in San Diego, and I ended up winning at beating Ted king in a sprint. And that's a pretty cool story how that all came together. But then that got me. And we don't have that much gravel in dedicated gravel in California.

[00:10:41] It's not like the Midwest and back east, which just has such crazy robust swath of events that are so cruel. So when we go to do it, we have to travel a bit. But it's such a big part of my program right now. And I'm so thankful for it. It's such a great group of people. So I hope that's a long story, but that's kinda how I got into gravel.

[00:10:58] And I'm like, I want to be in it all the time.

[00:11:00] Craig Dalton: Yeah. As you were telling that story and talking about, your accomplishment of achieving an 11 year professional cycling career, I was thinking to myself Brian, you haven't exactly hung up your cleats just yet. Have you.

[00:11:11] Brian McCulloch: No, not at all. And somewhere along there your. The gravel ride podcast listeners. I'm sure you all know of Neil Shirley. Neil Shirley is absolutely legendary. Like I joked him cause a good buddy of mine, but I, we call them the, grab the prophet, right? Like he, he, so you gotta think of set the stage a little bit of history because history is important to me.

[00:11:30] Basically what happened was at the time. He, and I went on a bike ride one day and he was like, Hey, I got some news. I'm going to quit racing pro. And I was like, oh my God that's super exciting, but I'm like, how are you feeling? Anyway he was like, Yeah. I'm going to work for road bike action magazine.

[00:11:44] So he goes to road bike action magazine. As this event, as gravel is becoming a thing. Like at that time there were no gravel bikes. They were like rode bikes or it was just weird kind of time, right? Especially on the west coast, east coast had some more than what Midwest has more Frank and bike things going.

[00:12:01] Long story short is he goes there to road bike action. And he just is like on the nose cone of this rocket and starts riding up. He goes to Belgium waffle ride. I think he's one of three times. I can't remember. But anyway, he's a dear friend of mine. He was at my wedding. And so he was like, Hey dumb I should back up.

[00:12:17] He was my coach for 10 years as well. So all the time when I was racing road, he was my coach and he was like, dude, you have to come to a gravel ride. And so he had this, his own event called pedal Palooza one year and I went there on this rickety, old something or other with. Ghetto tubeless with duct tape for in strip and not even tubeless tires that I somehow got to seat and I got obliterated, but had a blast.

[00:12:40] But anyway, so the point is like this whole thing is so new. And so to come to it and have all of this Just incredible history behind it and then be able to then see like people that have this great history or like foundation of it, like Neal and then have their support and like to be now here now where it looks like.

[00:13:00] You could do a gravel ride every weekend. And they're just like some of the most epic adventures you can have on a bicycle is pretty incredible, man. So it was a, oh, I, the reason I brought this up was because he told me I should at some point be a coach. And I thought he was crazy. And here we are now I've worked for my wife.

[00:13:15] Who's our head coach. And we're coaching. Like we have a very successful coaching business. I'm very thankful for the athletes that we get to support along the way. So it's yeah, it's our world, man. We're just, we're pretty detailed.

[00:13:25] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I love hearing about that journey and excited to get into sort of some of the things we opened up with around. How do you approach what I call game day when you show up on that start line and, with gravel, as you've just been describing in your journey, like so many of these events have such a different profile and a lot of times.

[00:13:44] These athletes, myself included. It may be the first time we're visiting an area and we're doing a 100 mile event. Let's talk through, if in that scenario where you're going somewhere, you haven't been before, what are the things you can do from a research perspective, set aside the specific training advice for a second, but what would some of the research and prep you can do if you're going to do an Unbound for the first time or an SBT?

[00:14:09] Brian McCulloch: Oh, that's a great question, buddy. I think that research and preparation, excuse me. I think research and preparation. So key to what we do. And it's just, it's the absolute game changer because once you're on game day, once you're on the starting line, there's nothing else, but just grit, determination, and good nutrition and hydration.

[00:14:29] That's going to get you through the day, right? Like you got what you got, but leading up to. Th our destiny is in our hands. Okay. And save for the specific training and looking all that. But I think YouTube is a wonderful resource. And so is Strava. And I know a lot of your listeners, a lot of our listeners, they are always like, Hey, there, they're researching and delving into this trouble.

[00:14:47] So if you're going to do something like SBT, you can look at. The people that are doing well, what that course looks like, where are the Hills? Where are the aid stations? Where are you going to stop all these other things that are really important? Because here's, I'll give you an example, Craig. If you were to go to an event that said had 7,000 feet of climbing, and it was a hundred miles, that sounds like a pretty hard ride. But what if that 7,000 feet is in the first half of the bike race, right? So think about something like crusher. Like you have an hour and a half Kline. That's it like you just go uphill and you don't stop. Like you just keep going up.

[00:15:24] That's a very different look, especially if you're from the Midwest and you're training for something like that. That's a very different way to get 7,000 feet. Then if you were to say, go to Unbound right at, on mound it's death by 1,019. Right or pinpricks. But what you don't realize is each of those little things has a 14% kick at the top.

[00:15:43] So you're like, oh it's not that big of a deal. It's only a three-minute climb. When you go try and sprint 300 times up a 200 mile, oh, I'm only going to do the hundred and Unbound doesn't matter. You're going to go up a hundred little, three minute climbs triangle sprint for a hundred times for three minutes.

[00:15:59] It's very turns out it's very difficult. So I think it's really important to recognize. What I call the critical factors are the critical elements the critical moments of an event. Okay. So what are those critical moments like? Oh, okay. I've got an hour and a half climb. There you go. Or, Hey, I have a hundred of these really challenging areas or, oh, Hey, there's this single track section say you're going to go to BWR Cedar city, right?

[00:16:23] That final format. Single-track called the tollway is Uber brutal and you have to build a bike around that final four miles, much more than you have to build a bike for the first 120. You see what I'm saying? Totally different because those rocks are super sharp. They're super brutal. So you could be lulled into the idea that, Hey, wait a second.

[00:16:45] My race performance is best done on a semi road bike with some facts. And then you get to that section and then you're walking four miles. You want to not have fun on the day walk four miles. That's no fun. So that's what I would say is. It really helpful is do your research, look at Strava, look at YouTube watch videos of things.

[00:17:05] And that's why I did before Belgium waffle ride, I did a race series. We called it slang the sector. So if any of your athletes or listeners want to check it out, we did a sleigh the sector series on basically some of the most difficult and challenging. Pieces of Belgian waffle ride San Diego. And my hope was that people would watch it and go, Hey, that's action.

[00:17:24] I got it. That's action. Okay. Wait, that's a little outside of my wheelhouse, so they know. Okay. At mile 67, this thing's a little outside, my wheelhouse, slow down, get through it and then press on after that. So I think a lot of that stuff, it can be super, super helpful. We have a lot of great resources that we just didn't have 10 years ago. 

[00:17:41] Craig Dalton: Yeah.

[00:17:41] that was a great series. I think at the basic level, when you sign up for an event, you start, you'd look at the course profile and start to understand, is this similar to what I ride at home? Can I simulate some of these efforts? Can I find an hour and a half climb, like crusher in the title?

[00:17:56] Certainly many people can't but understanding how you can simulate it to the best of your possibilities in your home territory is critical. And then as you said, that next level of, Hey, if there is course beta out there, it's amazing to just get eyeballs on it, to say oh crap, I've never written through rocks like that.

[00:18:14] I really need to at least be mentally prepared for it. If I can't physically prepare for it in my local.

[00:18:21] Brian McCulloch: Oh, absolutely. And even with a trainer now you can do so much. Okay. And by the way, I'm not a massive fan of doing all your workouts on trainers. Like I, I think being outside in the real world is absolutely the thing to do. That's why we love. But I, again, we have folks that just, they have busy lives. If you listening have busy lives and you're on the train, especially going into winter.

[00:18:44] And you're going to be on the trainer four or five days a week. There's guys that I coach in the Midwest right now that they're getting ready to be like, oh Yeah.

[00:18:51] I'm not going to go outside for two months straight. If that's your jam, Use your trainer and simulate this stuff. You can go up the outdoors with, you can do any of these things, right?

[00:19:00] You can use Ruby. You don't have to be a slave to swift. You can use Ruby, you can do a lot of these other things that can help you achieve that. Like old school was, I met a woman when I was very early in my bike riding career who literally trained for an iron man. 100% inside. She had just had a child.

[00:19:18] She did all for running on a trip. She did all of her swimming at the local pool. And it was an open water swim that she did. And she did all of her riding on her trainer. She literally did not go outside, get a full distance iron man all off of it. And this was 10. It's probably 15 years ago.

[00:19:32] No, it's gotta be longer than that. It's probably almost 20 years ago now. Gosh, I'm old, but. That was back then. We didn't have smart trainers. She was just staring at the wall for five-hour trainer guys. Like folks, it can be done if you are determined and you have fire in your belly and you are really committed to being prepared for this event, there's a lot of tools you have to get through it.

[00:19:49] And and believe that. You are mentally stronger than you think you are physically stronger than you think you are capable of so much. And that's something I love as a coach is helping tease that out of people because you put them in the environment and they have to rise to the occasion, right? So I'm not saying don't set yourself up for success and, or show up unprepared.

[00:20:10] That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is let's set goals that really challenge you and stretch you so that you can achieve. These great things, because once you're there, you've got nothing it's sink or swim. And if you're like me and I know you listeners are like me, because I'm an athlete and a coach, you're like, I didn't come this far to sink.

[00:20:27] Like I got no other option than to swim and you can do it. So to some degree, we work really well in that environment too, where it's I sink or swim. I have no option. Because I'm not going to sink. I'm not going to quit, but I'm going to keep moving. 

[00:20:39] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think it's so critical in these ultra endurance kind of style gravel events that you have that grit and determination that you mentioned earlier, because the truth is for anybody who hasn't done a big event or a massive long ride, something will go wrong. Period. It's highly unlikely. And if you track the first men and women or last everybody's on a journey, and it's the people who understand that.

[00:21:04] Flat tires are going to happen. Mechanical is going to happen. Hell you, you can have big hiccups in your hydration and nutrition plan as well, but it's your ability to push through those adapt recover, make adjustments. That's going to be a telltale sign of success.

[00:21:20] Brian McCulloch: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Something that I think is really a good. Metaphor here. So if you think of like special forces, right? There's obviously been a lot in the news over the last number of years about Navy seals and other, Rangers, Delta force, these kinds of, they train them to be extremely self-sufficient.

[00:21:38] And I think that is something that's so powerful for us as athletes to think we are much more like them than we are say like a V like a Marine infantry unit or something like that. And so they are, thanks for everyone who's listening. Who served? You guys are wonderful. Guys and gals, of course.

[00:21:54] But when I look at this. Who we are as athletes, we have to be generalists. It's not like you're on the NFL defensive line and you don't care about catching a past. Cause all you're trying to do is stop the refrigerator in front of you from coming through you, right? That's what you do.

[00:22:09] If you're on the offensive line, it's a very specific task and requires a very specific training. For that, if you're going to go do SBT, if you're going to go to a BWR, you have to be able to do it all. You there's no time out if on the client, right? There's no time out on the downhill. You have to be able to ride that bike and the technical stuff.

[00:22:29] If you get a flat tire, you have to change it. Especially if you're going to do something, self-supported say Unbound, right? There's no support. So if you don't know how to use that Dyna plug that you. Uh, problem. You have to be able to do all these things. So again, one thing that I would say is so important for your listeners and for everyone listening to just get a grip on is everyone has good moments and everyone has bad moments and here's the thing, neither of them will last.

[00:22:55] So when you're a ride in the high and you're like, man, I feel really. I don't, it's not going to last you're going to go through a bad moment. But then also correspondingly, you would be like, oh, Hey, I feel really awful. And my quad is cramping or my feet are numb, whatever that will end to it might end at the finish line, by the way, it might it might be bad all the way to the finish line, but it will end up promise you.

[00:23:16] And so that just should bring you some sort of just comfort and recognize that like you're in control of this. And one thing that I would say. For our listeners and everyone who's just okay. Some of how do you eat an elephant? You look at SBT or you look at, all these massive events.

[00:23:32] How do you accomplish that? It's so massive range. Just say one bite at a time. That's how you eat an elephant. And so one thing I would say is let's keep it simple and recognize some of this just boils down to the first rule of endurance events, whether you're a runner, whether you're psychos, whether you're mountain biker, graveled person, whatever, it doesn't matter.

[00:23:50] You don't have to move fast, but you do have to keep moving. So sometimes slowing down is better because what we're trying to do is get through the end of the race. So if you're in a bad moment, the default should not be, Hey, I just plow through and just hope it ends. Cause you could make it worse.

[00:24:07] You really could make it worse, but you certainly should like, just keep moving. If you. You just have to keep moving. That's so important for our athletes is just recognizing that movement even slow is still forward. Progress. Baby steps still make it. 

[00:24:22] Craig Dalton: Absolutely. So we talked about prepping and understanding the course that you're going into, obviously making sure that your gear is performing well, you're not coming on old tires or something that's going to unnecessarily cause you trouble. You've got to have your repair kit built out.

[00:24:38] If you get a flat, where your Dyna plug is, you can pop it in there. Hopefully you can recover quickly. And to the last point of our conversation, just be mentally aware that these things are gonna happen. So don't stress. Like it's going to happen to 20% of the people in the event. So just move through it, keep a positive attitude and always keep moving through.

[00:24:58] When you're looking, I did want to touch on planning from a nutrition and hydration perspective, just at a general level. When you look at a course, maybe like crushing the Tasha or something that has a very pronounced climbing feature, that's going to be a huge chunk of time. How are you thinking about nutrition and hydration and making sure you're staying on top of.

[00:25:20] Brian McCulloch: love to look at the course profile. And this is just some of my stuff that I share with our athletes is I don't like people to stop at the bottom of the. Okay. Old school back before there were gravel events, we had all these, centuries and grand fondos before they read the grand fondos they were 200 mile rides or whatever.

[00:25:39] And notorious, like it would always be that there would be at the bottom of the climb would be like, Hey, we have chocolate covered bacon and everyone would be like brilliant pulling over. And then they be trying to start the climb basically fully loaded and with a gut bomb. Okay. I think obviously when we're talking about, say crusher and Tuscher, you're going to have to stop at some point, if at all, possible, try to make your stops plan your stops so that you're stopping at the top of climbs.

[00:26:06] Okay. I think that's the best thing to do stopping at the bottom. Client of climbs kills your momentum. Okay. I like to build a plan. Based on building and maintaining momentum. Okay. Because gravel riding as a whole and even bicycle riding as a whole is essentially boils down to building momentum, maintaining momentum, and then when you lose it, repeat, okay.

[00:26:29] So there's features all along the way, whether they're Hills, whether they're rocks, whether it's single track that loses your momentum. And so part of that mental. Fortitude is being like, oh, okay. I got into the single track and I went really slow. Cause I don't really feel that comfortable and it drops on my bike.

[00:26:46] So I just went really slow. I come out of it. Now I've got a road section I'm going to build momentum again, go through. So again, if we're going to talk about. As much as you can try and start at the top, if we're going to, or excuse me, stop at the top. Or just don't stop at the bottom. It's probably the best thing to take from our conversation.

[00:27:04] And the other thing that I would say is based on the amount of climbing, you might have to re adjust or rethink what your nutrition strategy is. Why do I say that? Okay. So back in 2017, I did the tour of Utah for the first time. And. Once I got into breakaway on stage one and I was in the breakaway for about four and a half hours.

[00:27:23] But, so we're going super hard for four and a half hours. And it started with a 90 minute climb, straight up, straight out of the gate. Okay. And the breakaway went about 45 minutes into it. So I still have 45 minutes climbing, at threshold you can't eat solid. Okay. So I'm not telling you that as a coach and saying, Hey, I read this data where you can't eat solid foods.

[00:27:42] I'm telling you that. Cause like I've had my heart in my throat for an hour and a half, and then you're like, okay. Like the only thing I can do is have liquid options. Okay. And there's lots of great companies that are coming out with liquid option or semi-solid right. Whether that's a gel or something like that.

[00:27:58] So I don't have an ax to grind and with any particular nutrition company, cause there's lots of great ones out there, but what I would say. If you're going to be on a long climb, if you're going to be on sustained climbing please consider getting your nutrition from liquid sources, because that allows you to work harder on the climb.

[00:28:16] If you then have some solid food, say at the bottom, even if it's solid food, you packed and you're, Hey, Brian, I kept moving, but then you ate 250 300 calories in solid food because you brought an Uncrustable or you made a an energy bar or something. That is going to take away from your ability to ascend the mountain at a rapid pace.

[00:28:35] Okay. And I'm not saying you've got to go bananas on the climb, but you don't want to do anything that pro that makes it worse. So as much as you can, if you look at the clients and their sustained climbs, you're probably going to want to opt for that period only of your bike. You're going to have to think I'm want more liquid sources of energy.

[00:28:53] Okay. So then we come to oh, there's a downhill. That might be the time when you supplement with solids. So it's not as easy as the old school. Craig, when you got into it, it's Hey, every hour drink a water bottle, Hey, every hour eat 250 calories. So it's people would set timers on their garments or their walkthroughs.

[00:29:09] And an hour, I just, crammed back a cliff bar. That's not how we do it anymore. Or, we're very specific with our nutrition. And not just the kind of nutrition, but it's the style of nutrition. Okay. So it's I have liquid sources for this portion of the race I have, and those could be gels, or those could be semi sellers, like a product that I really is infinite tripwire we used to be sponsored by them years ago on the road race team.

[00:29:31] And I just buy retail. Like I just buy from my local shop. Cause it works good. But anyway try some stuff like that allows you to. Maintain a high output without upsetting your stomach. 

[00:29:40] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I think when you look at those course profiles, not only is it climbing and descending, but oftentimes it's technical terrain where you can't pull your hand off the bar. So having an understanding of, when you're unlikely to be able to hydrate are unlikely to be able. And making sure you're not dropping behind the eight ball during those periods, I think is one of those things that you need to learn as a gravel athlete.

[00:30:02] And, in some cases it may, you might have to do the unthinkable and wear a hydration pack on your back. I know aesthetically, some people don't like that, but it's very practical in certain situations. And I will tell you that, if you're in rough terrain and you've got that tube available to you, you do have the opportunity to be hydrated.

[00:30:18] Versus if you're trying to grab that.

[00:30:21] Brian McCulloch: Spot on buddy. Spot on. I'm going to tell you a real an anecdotal story here. I there's a gentleman that I've coached for about four years and he does Leadville every year. Okay. So same genre of what we're doing, right? Uber. Kind of event. And even though Leadville is not known as the most technical course, it's still very challenging, very bumpy.

[00:30:39] So it makes it very difficult to get into your pockets this year. I, he and I went back and forth, cause again, aesthetically you're like, I don't want to pack and I am much more I don't care. I just want pre. I'll put it, I'll put a bento box on the front of my bike. I'll wear cargo shorts.

[00:30:53] I don't really care. You know what I mean? I'll put the bag on the front. What matters is ease of use. Okay. Because again, I look at the bicycle and I hope your athletes or your listeners will look at that.

[00:31:04] Start to look at their bicycle, like a tool that's meant to serve us. I don't adapt my body to a bicycle, the bicycle adapts to me.

[00:31:11] Okay. I make all of this to help me. The pilot. I am. You listening, you are the pilot, you're the race car driver. You're the fighter plane. You know what I mean? You're the fighter pilot. Okay. That should be an extension of you. It's not that you just ride this thing, you know what I'm saying? And so when we talk about that stuff, I generally don't like to put weight on my back.

[00:31:33] Okay. But in this case, we talked about it with my athlete and he was. Dude, it just makes sense. I just have to do it. I just have to move beyond it. And it made an incredible difference on what he's doing because gravel like mountain, it's very difficult to reach into your pockets again. So you've got to think essentially on the timeline of ground. Many people were already on drop bar. They were roadies that didn't want to get mountain bikes. And so now we started venturing we're roadie centric, and now we start getting more and more capable road bikes to now basically they're like drop our mountain bikes. And so you have this roadie aspect of the code.

[00:32:10] That's Hey, I want nothing in my pockets. I want my bike to look super sleek, all that's cool. But the reality is when you're doing a hundred mile ride or you're doing 140 mile ride, or even a 60 mile ride, you may not be able to take your hands off of the bars. Okay. So minimizing movements is really important. So one thing we talked about with my athlete was like, Hey, how much can you drink during this eight hour shift? And it was like if I have to take my, if I have to use bottles, it's very difficult. And you start self rationing, those things. So you're immediately dehydrating already.

[00:32:45] You're behind the eight ball. So once we put the hydration pack on, yes, there was a penalty for weight. You know what I mean? Was it frustrating? Yeah. Did it hold a little bit of heat on him? Yeah.

[00:32:54] But he's doing Lego. Like it's not that big of a deal. But the trade-off was here. He is I want to say it's like 15.

[00:33:01] 51 or 52, like he's very early fifties. Okay. And his best, he did Leadville for the first time, I think 10 years ago. Okay. So totally different athlete. If you're 40 and you're doing Leadville and you're 50 doing level and this man came from Ironman. So he was very fit when he was 40. We obliterated his time, his very best time from 10 years earlier when he's 50 with a past.

[00:33:24] And so when your listeners are like, man, I'm not going to wear a pack. It's just going to slow me down. I want to share with you 10 years older, this man went 45 plus minutes faster. 

[00:33:36] Craig Dalton: Amazing.

[00:33:37] Brian McCulloch: minutes. And again, it was because we nailed the hydration. We nailed the nutrition, we nailed the preparation, we nailed the patient.

[00:33:44] It was all of those things. And I couldn't be more proud of him and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of his journey, but he did that. I, that was the best part. Like we. Dude and he wasn't executed and it was rock solid. So when your athletes or your listeners are doing this please.

[00:33:58] Like when you do the preparation and it all comes together, it's just like the recipe and like making your mom's favorite meatloaf for apple pie or whatever. Hey, Thanksgiving's around the corner. You just like pumpkin pie or Turkey. Who's got the best stuff. It's a recipe and everything has to come in together and you got to find your recipe and it's super cool.

[00:34:15] When you can add someone that helps you. Add to your recipe. Whether that's a coach or a friend or a mentor, whatever. I'm biased towards coaching but there's lots of great ways to get knowledge transfer can be from YouTube, but something that helps you have that successful event and just helps you look at things differently because the critical elements of a bike ride are not always just, oh there's a climb.

[00:34:37] Maybe the critical element is actually when you eat maybe the critical element. Hey, I'm going to let this whole group ride away from me for one hour, because I'm going to set a heart rate ceiling at 145, and then I'm going to, unroll the carpet, so to speak and just get faster and negatively split this, right?

[00:34:54] There's so much of that. 

[00:34:56] Craig Dalton: It's funny. I love that. You mentioned that sort of aesthetic road bias that maybe permeated a lot of the gravel scene in the early days. And it's so true. I think, lot of the earliest athletes were coming over and they had a suspicion. Visual of what a drop our bike would look like.

[00:35:11] And now with the influence of these long events and mountain bike technology, I think it's proven that being more open to things like hydration packs or bento boxes, you don't have to be there all the time. They're not necessarily there on every ride, but making sure that bike serves you in these alter endurance events is critical.

[00:35:31] Brian McCulloch: Oh, absolutely. Again, it's a tool and it's meant to be adapted to. Okay. And that's just so important. And again I think that in all things like whether it's a bike fit, whether it's shoes, whether it's anything, like people would just go, oh, I just got the gloves from the local bike shop.

[00:35:47] And I'm like why did you do that? Let's get the ones that fit you. You're like, oh, they're baggy. And they, it, and you're like, no, like this should be like, we start thinking about one thing. I want to make sure I bring up. Race day is your day to have your best. Like you talked about, I think you nail it so good.

[00:36:04] Craig, when you talk about game day, if we think about the culture of football or we think about the culture of hockey, or we think about the culture at any of these other things, even running like cross-country running, right? They wear their best shoes on race day. They have. Best stuff like everything is prying for race day.

[00:36:23] And so I want your listeners are athletes. I want them to be like race day. I want a little pep in your step. I want a little extra recovery in you. I want oh man, I get my favorite water bottles. I know that sounds silly. But you can get water bottles that like, they don't put out the flow that you want.

[00:36:39] Make it easy on yourself. All of these tools, you have access to incredible tools to help you be successful. Don't be like, Yeah.

[00:36:46] I wear my old socks that have a whole. Like, where are your best thoughts? And guess what, if you wear them out, go buy another one. I don't care. Like, where are your best sham?

[00:36:54] You know what I mean? This is not the day to be like, oh Yeah.

[00:36:56] I got that old to Shani butter. I'm not going to, I'm going to use it. Dude, crack open the new tube of Shandy butter and go, go for it. Make sure you have all the tools that are there to support you. And that they're the best tools it is.

[00:37:08] Game day, treat it like such and get after. 

[00:37:12] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I've always felt doing those little things and making sure you feel great. Look great bikes. Ready to go. That it gives you like, for me, it seems like it gives me like 20% more capacity to suffer that day. If I've really put my game face.

[00:37:28] Brian McCulloch: Oh, Yeah, Oh yeah. And it should be the culmination of all of your preparation. It should be the culmination of the hard work you've done. This is where I think of it. Like how much time, money, and effort people invest in going to a big event. I'll give an example. Just last week I went to a mountain bike marathon, national championships, and it was in Maryland and I've never raced in Maryland before.

[00:37:53] And I'm really actually fairly new to mountain biking to be candid. I have one season of it. But. What happened was we flew out there early. We pre-rolled three or four days on the course and it made such a big difference. And then when I got into the race, I had some adversity, the guy dropped me, the leader dropped me. And it was in that moment that I was like, Hey, I've invested so much. I don't even care. I'm all in. If I blow up, who cares? And I went for it and guess what it worked out and I won. And it was great because I had invested all of this stuff.

[00:38:26] I had everything going in that direction and then I. Uber committed and the right moment, when you have that critical moment, you have to dig deep and find something special. And so when you've invested in that, and I hope your athletes and your listeners, when they're listening, don't be afraid to pay that full price, to pay the full measure of what you do and be like, yeah, I've invested all this.

[00:38:47] I've done all this. I've done this, I've done that. And it gets a little bit hard leaning into it, man, when you get in the pain cave, pull up a folding chair and hang. Get after it. You know what I mean? Who cares? Like you've come this far, you've made all of these sacrifices. You've dragged your family for California or New Mexico or Washington DC all the way out to Kansas.

[00:39:07] It's important, Kansas. Dude, get after it. Don't just be like, okay, I'm going to sit back and absorb it. And whatever, lean in, you can do it. 

[00:39:15] Craig Dalton: Et cetera. One of my old coaches used to talk about putting things in the bank and whenever I would complain about a tough workout or whatever, he would just remind me, Hey, that's in the bank. And when it comes to game day, when you suffer in which you will suffer, think about this workout, think about how deep you dug and know you're capable of going there and even more on, on race.

[00:39:38] Brian McCulloch: Absolutely. I always think of it like this. You. When I look out at the pier, like if you're out on the beach and you look out, oh, there's this beautiful pier, it's the boardwalk, it's at Santa Cruz or whatever, that was a big thing. When I was growing up in Northern California, it was like, oh, let's increase beach boardwalk.

[00:39:55] That was still cool. But you look at the pillars that hold that up. And they have to withstand the abuse of the. And they stand rigid and they stand firm and they're just the waves beat on him, feed on them and feed on them and guess what they have to be replaced. Like that thing has to be replaced every number of years.

[00:40:12] I'm sure. I don't know what the number is, but they have to get replaced. Because the C's so powerful. The forces of nature are just incredible. If you're the seek help, what if you're the seek help? What is the. The sea kelp waves with the influx and with they out, it goes with it, and that's a very, like if your listeners are into books I, if you look at very Eastern philosophy, Chinese philosophy and you look at the towel to Chine, or you can look at the sun, SU the art of war, you can look at any of those things. And it's very much that kind of thing.

[00:40:42] And I think for athletes in gravel, you have to be able to do same thing. Like suffering is going to wash over you and you can either fight it and be like, oh, when you can be rigid and death grip and all this stuff, or you can be like the seek help and you can just be like, okay. And then my pain came for a little bit, this stinks, and I don't really want to be here, but I'm going to be here for 90 minutes on this crazy climb up crusher in the Tasha, but I want to finish.

[00:41:08] Got to do it, so I think w going between both, because there's a time to be rigid and be like, yes, I'm getting after it. And there's a time to be like I'm going to embrace the suck. Like it just is what it is. We just got to chop some wood here and just get out. 

[00:41:20] Craig Dalton: Exactly. Exactly. This was a full of great information. One of the things I wanted to conclude with was you had made mention to me in our discussion back and forth just about celebrating properly. And I think your mentality as a coach, I just wanted you to speak to that a little bit.

[00:41:40] Brian McCulloch: Celebrating us so important. I'm working on something for our athletes right now, where we're going to do a, basically a coach led performance review and a and so it's performance review is going to be like, Hey, how did the year go? What went well, what didn't go well, and one of the things, if you look at we're going to bridge into goal setting for 22, and one thing, if you look at kind of goal setting 1 0 1 and all the books on that is you have to celebrate, and we live in this world that we're always like next. And you never come back to it and go, Hey I didn't celebrate. And so one thing you need to do is think about you need to treat yourself like a valued employee. Not like you're a tyrant, right? So you treat yourself like, Hey, I did really good.

[00:42:21] Craig, you have wonder you're a wonderful, successful businessman, right? And so like when you have valued employees that go above and beyond. You don't just be like, cool, here's your next project? You go, great job. That's fantastic. You know what? It's Friday go home at noon. We'll see you on Monday.

[00:42:38] And we'll plan from here. That's how you treat valued employees, right? You're like, Hey, that was really great. That's how you treat your kids, right? You're like great job. I'm so proud of you. We're going to pizza tonight, right? Like good effort. And we don't do that to ourselves. We don't do that to ourselves.

[00:42:55] We hold ourselves hostage sometimes and we're like, yeah, I could have done better. You know what I mean? Oh Yeah.

[00:42:59] I got eight at Belgium authorized Cedar city and got the hard man award. But you know what, I wasn't in the top three, so I'm not happy. Okay. Loser. That's not a cool way to talk to yourself.

[00:43:08] And that happened to me and my wife like slaps me and she's what are you doing? Try to have more fun. And I'm trying to talk talk, tell her your listeners and our athletes. I'm telling you that because I have not celebrated a lot of things. I always moved on to the next thing, because I was always something bigger and better.

[00:43:23] What I'm trying to tell you is that I want you to stay in the sport a long time and you're, I want you to seek mastery and to do that, we have to do the full range of emotions, right? Like you have to have those stressful moments. You have to overcome those stressful moments and then you have to celebrate all the things you did along your journey.

[00:43:38] Okay. And I'm not saying you give yourself a pat on the back. Finishing a forty-five minute trainer workout. You know what I mean? But I am saying when you sign up in October or November for Belgium waffle ride, Kansas, it's 10 months away. You've got to celebrate when you get to the end. And whether your celebration is having a beer with your buddies or giving your eating half of a of a carrot cake, it doesn't matter. That's not what. With what it is for each athlete, but I think celebrating is so important. And what I would also say to tell your athletes, and we talk about celebrate. Make this a family affair. Most of us are, have kids. Most of us have spouses. Most of us have busy lives and there's more people.

[00:44:24] So don't make this about what you accomplished, make it about what we accomplished. As a coach, I'm a part of your performance team. Okay. So I want. I didn't pedal the bike for you, but I'm really excited to play the role that I get to play. And I know joy is to my wife. She's really oh my gosh, like you just won a national championship.

[00:44:40] That's amazing. But so make it a part of, we, we did this together. When I tell you the, when you're setting goals, tell your friends, right? Tell your buddy Craig Hey, because of this podcast, I decided to sign up for this. And then not only did you sign this, sign up for it, you come back and you're like, I never thought I would do a sub nine Leadville.

[00:45:01] Oh my God, I got a big belt buckle. Or whatever your thing is, like I never thought I would do a sub nine hour builds, waffle ride, whatever 

[00:45:09] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. I think

[00:45:10] Brian McCulloch: Celebrate that and tell people about it because that accountability is what makes us great. And I'm telling you, you are capable of more than you think So hold yourself accountable, put it out in the world, go after it work hard. And if you fall a little short, that doesn't mean you don't celebrate, still celebrate what you did accomplish and then move on and it's.

[00:45:30] Bree adjust, recalibrate reengage, set your sights higher and go for it. 

[00:45:34] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think those are great words to end by Brian. Thank you for such an enthusiastic conversation. I hope for the list. Everybody's stoked and keep this conversation near ear, particularly those words about being able to do more than you think you can. Cause you, you all are capable of more than you think you are.

[00:45:50] Brian, thanks so much again for the time.

[00:45:53] Brian McCulloch: Oh, thank You so much, Craig. Thank you for the opportunity. And if anyone ever wants to check us out on big real coaching, please do. It's just my wife and I, and we have a lovely coach. She if there's ever anything we can do to help you, we would love to, but also please. Just get out there, get after it, have a great time.

[00:46:09] And let you know, come see us at the races. We're always at the races. We love seeing you. We want to hear about your celebrations and Craig, I want to hear about some of yours. So I'm going to put it on you. I want to hear about what your goals are. And then I want to hear about the process, your preparation, how the race day stuff goes, and then we can have another one of these conversations soon.

[00:46:25] Craig Dalton: You got it, Brian. Thanks. 

[00:46:27] Brian McCulloch: Rock and roll brother. 

[00:46:27] Craig Dalton: So that's going to do it for this week's podcast. Big thank you to Brian for joining us. I hope you got a lot out of our discussion and another big thanks to athletic greens for sponsoring this episode. If you're interested in joining our free global gravel cycling community, please visit the

[00:46:50] And if you're interested in supporting the podcast around. Please support slash the gravel ride. And finally, if you have a moment rating re ratings and reviews are hugely important in the podcast business. I appreciate all your words and I read everything that comes through in terms of the reviews.

[00:47:11] And I have to say,

[00:47:14] and finally, if you have a moment, ratings and reviews are hugely appreciated. They're very important in the podcast business. And I read everything you write. So I appreciate the effort and those kind reviews until next time here's to finding some dirt onto your wheels.