The Optimal Athlete | 5 Insights That Elevated My Performance Last Week


AR Weekly: Race/Workout Report

Valley of Tears Gravel (181km gravel race in Turkey, TX)

Race Description:

Like most of my competitors, I learned about the Valley of Tears, because of its substantial prize purse (52k, divided equally between men and women). The race, occurring a week before the Mid South gravel and just a 4-hour drive away, served as the perfect preparation for it.

We started at a comfortable 10 am, allowing for a great night’s sleep. Right from the start, I sensed significant nervousness in the peloton, justified 2 km later when we hit the first sandy road. Not long after, there was a high-speed crash at the front of the group, sparing only the first six riders. Unfortunately, I saw it coming and was among the last riders to go down, but I had no problem getting back on the bike. After a long chase, I found myself in the second group, which eventually grew to 5 riders. We rode well and caught up with 4 of the 6 riders who hadn’t crashed. We were now a group of about 9, chasing Keegan and Chase. The next 100 km were quite uneventful; we rode well, but without regular time gaps to the front, it was challenging to judge if we were working hard enough to close the gap. Everyone was contributing to the chase, but some riders clearly hadn’t recovered from the intense first 40 km.

140 km in, with only 40 km left in the race, we hit a 15 km long double track that promised to be the deciding factor. Right at the entrance of this sector, Brennan, Finn, and I assumed the responsibility of drastically increasing the pace in hopes of catching the leaders and also to start thinning our group. It wasn’t long before it was just the three of us in front with Julien Gagné, a fellow Canadian rider. From there, our group of 4 rode in a disorganized manner with many surges; by this point, it was quite obvious we were racing for 3rd. After a good 25 km of cat and mouse, we sprinted for the podium. There was a tight turn right before the line, and Julien was the first to attack. Being at the front, I wasn’t fast enough to respond and took the turn in 5th place, where I ultimately crossed the line.

Number Analysis:

  • Intensity Factor: 0.758
  • TSS (Training Stress Score): 285 TSS
  • Calories Burned: 4,786 cal

#1 Takeaway: Racing Legs (& Mind) are a Real thing. 

Staying in Quebec for the entire winter has generally served me well, allowing me to get in great shape while enjoying the privilege of being home for an extended period. However, this strategy limits my training to only Fat Biking and Zwift and comes with a clear drawback: I tend to lose some of the attributes crucial to high-speed racing, both physically and mentally. On Saturday, my leg speed and driving ability were noticeably lacking, with the latter especially affecting my confidence in the final sprint. This serves more as a reminder than a takeaway. Fortunately, in the past, these disadvantages have faded quickly when I give them more attention in training.


AR Weekly: Energy Tip

After my daily 30-minute foam rolling or massage session, I’ve begun incorporating a 5-minute visualization session.

The visualization unfolds as follows:

  • I engage in a quick breathwork routine consisting of 3 rounds of an 8-second inhale, a 2-second sharp inhale, a 10-second hold, a 10-second exhale, and a 10-second hold to center myself.
  • I bring to mind 5 things for which I am grateful. These can stem from the past, the present, or the future.
  • I visualize what I plan to do “love-wise” tomorrow. I make it person-specific.
  • I visualize what I plan to do “work-wise” tomorrow, including training and everything else that comes with being a professional athlete.
  • Finally, I repeat 3 phrases (mantra-like), that assist me in transitioning to my 10-minute meditation.

AR Weekly: Book Suggestion

Bravey by Alexi Pappas

 3 Quote I’m pondering from the book:

  • “Your body is like a pencil: If you sharpen it too much, it will break. You can’t stay “peaked” forever; you need to recover so you can build up again for the next thing.
  • But contrary to what some people might say, chasing a dream is not a waste of time. It’s only a waste of time if you’re doing it halfway.
  • When it hurts, force yourself to smile.

AR Weekly: Technologie(s) that Enhanced My Work

Valley of Tears Bike Check: 

AR Weekly: Note To Self

Diligently study the individuals who have achieved feats similar to those you are pursuing. Regularly focusing on their journeys can help you bypass some of their failures, thereby accelerating your growth rate. While failure is inevitable—making and learning from them is necessary and beneficial—it should not justify a lack of effort in minimizing mistakes by understanding what to avoid based on your predecessors’ shortcomings.


BONUS: “Big Red Machine” by Aaron Dessner & Bon Iver

Thank you for your attention, and as always, take care of yourself by making the most optimal choice in every moment and do the same to take care of the ones you love.