XXC Magazine had the chance to talk to our friend and Pro endurance racer Jonathan Davis on the XXC Podcast a few months ago (XXC Pod #11) and we have had some past coverage in the magazine featuring his son, 12 year old Tanner Davis (see XXC Magazine #14′s 25 Hours of Frog Hollow piece). But now, for the first time- XXC contributor Heidi Volpe had the chance to talk with both Jonathan AND Tanner and get a unique view of stage racing through the eyes of a 40 year old AND a 12 year old.
Was this your longest ride to date?
JD: This was year two for me racing TSE (Trans-Sylvania Epic). TSE is the only seven day stage race I have competed in so while mileage-wise it was not the longest, it is the longest in terms of consecutive days of racing. I’ve competed in many 24 solo events where the total mileage in one day is higher than all seven days of TSE. What makes TSE so tough is not the mileage, but the day-to-day, full-out XC efforts, those get hard by day four.
TD: Yes, it was, at least for a one week period, but not in a single day. I have completed a few 24 hour solos with one of them being over a hundred miles.
Which stage was the most challenging and why?
JD: Stage 2 was my toughest day. The rocks were very wet from recent rains and I had not gotten my “east coast legs” yet. Riding slippery rock gardens is not something I see often living in Colorado and they take a certain finesse to navigate them at speed without flying over the bars. The stage also ends on a tough fire road climb that, if you have good legs, can gain you a few spots or, if you have bad legs like I did that day, you can lose a spot.
TD: I would say stage 2 because of the rock gardens. The slippery rocks made it harder to ride and it was technical. I crashed at least five times that stage. It was also long and I was out there for seven hours.
Did you think about each other during the race?
JD: I thought of Tanner all the time. Every tough climb I would think, “Tanner’s going to kill this climb.” On fun sections, “oh T is going to love this”, and gnarly crazy rocky descents, “man I hope T does not try and ride this.” I have a lot of confidence in my son’s ability to ride safely and make a wise choice when it would be better to walk a section but with that said, he is 12 and I do sometime get a little worried about his safety.
I always looked forward to seeing his hopefully smiling face when I would catch up to him. Passing by, we would both high five and encourage each other which of course would always make my day.
TD: I wondered how my dad was doing and if he was in first place and if I saw someone that was in front of him I would tell him when he passed me. I also told him how far he was off from the lead and that he had better get going.
East coast riding takes some technical finesse, how were those roots and rocks? Flowin’ it or flubbin’ it?
JD: Day 1 flubbin’, day 2 flubbin’ and some flowing, by day 3 it was mostly flowing. I had some very talented competition in the Masters class this year that I felt had a little more power than I did and would often gap me a bit on fire road sections. My strategy as the stages progressed was to let them go on the section that required a lot of power and wait to push it in the technical singletrack where I could most often reel them back in. My Trek Superfly 100 also ate up the rock gardens which most definitely helped me survive the entire week without any crashes.
TD: I rode some of the rock gardens but I was flubbin’ it on the ones that were gnarly. It had rained so they were slippery.
Any technical issues with your gear?
JD: Not a single flat or mechanical all week! My Maxxis Ikons with Stan’s sealant preformed perfectly once again. Bike maintenance is a huge part of successful stage racing. Every night I would tear Tanner’s and my bike apart and re-lube, clean and replace cables, bearings etc. as needed. The goal was to start each stage on a perfectly-running, like-new ride. One bad mechanical and your week is over!
TD: My Trek rode fine all week and I made it through with no flats. My butt was pretty chafed from riding so many hours
How did you fuel for the race? Was there any food you looked forward to on the ride?
JD: Two scoops of CarboRocket 333 per hour and some Honey Stinger chews is all I needed for these shorter days. In longer events I love Skittles but don’t find them needed in short days like those at the TSE. The most important fueling would happen at the dinner where most nights I skipped the cafeteria meal and made a buffalo steak, spinach and sweet potatoes. Stage racing requires staying healthy and recovering well day after day and proper healthy food is a huge component in making that happen. With that said, within 30 minutes of the end of the final stage I was eating butter pecan ice cream, salt and vinegar potato chips and a double cheese burger. Gotta earn your treats!
TD: I looked forward to the oatmeal cream pies, salty potato chips and Coke at the aid stations. I drank Gatorade and CarboRocket while I was riding.
Did this race uncover any surprises for you, about your riding and or your mental game?
JD: I found that riding up front and battling every day within seconds of fellow competitors is very nerve wracking. Stage racing takes a lot of good luck to pull off a win. A five- or six-minute lead can falsely make you feel like you’re way out front and then in a single stage that lead can be eaten up with one flat or a crash. I learned that no matter how much my lead grew I never felt confident that I could take the win. I’m glad I felt this way as it kept me racing focused and hard every day, never getting lulled into thinking I had the win wrapped up.
TD: I was shocked that I did the whole thing. I wanted to finish all of the stages but it kept getting harder to get out of bed as the days went on. After I went down and started I felt better.
What was your recovery program like after each stage? Tell us your routine.
JD: Hammer Recoverite as soon as possible after each stage as well as a good bit of water to make sure I was getting re-hydrated. If there was a lake nearby I would soak my legs and get a nice break from the PA heat. I would usually head back to my RV pretty quickly to get some food like hard salami, pineapple, peaches or some homemade chicken salad. Getting calories back in you quickly is key to starting the recovery for the next day. After I ate I would take a nice cold shower and then as long of a nap as I could. After the nap I spent a few hours prepping both our bikes and by then it was dinner time. After dinner we would head for the awards, get the low-down on the next day’s stage and then watch the killer videos and slideshows from the day. These slideshows that let you experience a piece of everybody’s day is one of the things that makes TSE an exceptional event and fosters a sense of community within the event. After that is was to bed usually by 8-9 pm to allow for 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
TD: I ate Goldfish and drank Coke and ate ice cream. I went swimming after every stage with Duncan and Andrew and we also rode bikes and went on the paddle boats. I was eating big dinners every night including a lot of good desserts. My mom made sure I was always drinking something.
Did you have different or special food for Tanner? Was he allowed to have anything he wanted to eat? Doughnuts included?
JD: Got to admit a bit of jealously on my part with what Tanner can eat, ha! At 40 I just can’t get away with the oatmeal cream pies, chips and Coke that T does. So, yeah T can pretty much snack on what he is craving during an effort like this but we keep his main meals to the same healthy food his mom and I eat. My hope is that he is learning that snacks are earned and are only eaten when big efforts are put out to burn them off. As a parent it is my responsibility to teach my children to enjoy healthy eating and that treats are just that: a treat, not everyday food. But hey, if you work seven hours on the bike and want an ice cream or a donut, well enjoy. We encouraged carbohydrates however we could as well as asking him to keep drinking.
TD: There was lots of ice cream which was good in the heat.
Tanner, did you have any other buddies to ride with during the race?
TD: I rode with Joel, Kathy, and Stephen most of the time. I had fun because we got to encourage each other and keep each other company especially on the long stages
What is it you like most about doing stage races?
JD: The challenge of gutting yourself for seven straight days. Personally I find riding shorter distances at higher paces tougher than say a 100-mile race where you can settle in a bit. Hard, fast efforts like this are building blocks for my true love which is long distance racing. So I do them for the challenge and to get stronger. I also love the camp/community feel. Spending seven days with your family surrounded by the coolest folks on Earth is so enriching. I wish every day of life could be lived like a camp at a stage race.
The 2013 Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Race takes place May 26 thru June 1 in Central Pennsylvania. Registration is open now! Go to tsepic.com for more information.
Interview conducted by Heidi Volpe. Photos courtesy of the Davis family.