Jed recently had a great result at the Belgian Waffle Ride and a big personal accomplishment of finish the Tour of the Gila in the Men’s 1,2 field in Silver City, New Mexico. He’s kindly offered up some advice on time-management with a career and training as well as how to choose a bike for mixed surface style of gravel grinder racing. Thanks Jed and good luck at your upcoming summer gravel events!
Name: Jed SchneiderJed Gravel Riding
Event & Category: 2016 Edition of the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) – Open Men
Brief event/course description: 146 mile mixed surface course. 42 miles of dirt road, single and double track. 12,000 feet of climbing. My finish time was just over 8 hours.
How’d the race/event go down for you? 
I’m terrible at blow by blow race reports, but I got 16th overall and for many reasons this felt like a win to me. Going into the event, I was targeting a top 20, so I was able to keep that goal.  I stayed on top of my nutrition and felt pretty comfortable the entire day. Given my longest ride all year was about 80 miles, I was really happy with how good my endurance was through the day. Having coach and friend Adam Mills in that group with me was an added perk to the day. We knew what our strategy was and both made the most out of the situations that presented themselves.
Which coach do you work with and how did your training help you prepare for the event?
Adam Mills is my coach! I participated in the BWR Training Camp mid-January. Not being a local, knowing the course was a huge advantage (it always is in these events). Usually you get that knowledge from doing the event in previous years, but since I didn’t have that luxury, having a training camp to ride all the important sections really helped my mental preparation beforehand and my strategy on race day. Every camp participant I saw at BWR agreed with this. Being a bit new at fueling for events over 4 hours, I followed Grant Harrison’s nutritional advice he laid out at camp and this really served me well.
At BWR, I had 3 opportunities to make the front group, maybe hit the podium with some significant luck, but it was nice to be in the right place, strategically, to place much better than I did. Adam Mills and Source Endurance have helped me immensely to be prepared adequately for this race. But honestly, the most helpful part of my coaching experience is not how well I was prepared for the day of BWR, but how well prepared I am for every ride on my bike. It seems crazy that just having a workout to do would change my outlook on training, but it has. I like to think about the money I pay in coaching as time management consulting.
I never have to wonder what to do, but just the time to do it. After many false starts trying to get back into riding again over the last 7 or so years, seeing the value of 45 minutes on the bike in the context of the overall process has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
What advice do you have for someone up and coming in your cycling discipline?
My first piece of advice I’d give is to the experienced cyclist that is looking to maybe give this mixed surface racing a try. I think cyclists get too hung up in the equipment necessary to race one of these events. In my experience, either a hardtail mountain bike or a cyclocross bike is almost never a poor choice, and a mountain bike is often a better choice than a ‘gravel grinder’ bike. Less often, but course specific, you might be able to get by with a road bike using wide road tires (25-32mm). Belgian Waffle Ride is a bit unique in that a road bike is a pretty reasonable solution because of the distance of the event, but BWR is the exception to the norm. Even still I would encourage someone that is looking at BWR to ‘just finish’ to consider a much more off-road capable bike than a road bike. When you consider that you are hitting dirt singletrack after 9-10-11 hours on the bike, the last thing you want to think about is falling down. Most important, go out and try one. Dust off your mountain bike and show up. You’ll probably surprise yourself with how much fun you have, and how well you do.
From a training perspective, it seems that this mixed surface type of racing is rarely a ‘first sport’ for most people. Lots of riders start in cyclocross, on the road, or mountain biking, and then find a love for this type of racing. Riders that come from the road side of things, they generally need to work on the technical details of how to handle a bike on an uncertain surface. Mountain bikers are typically fine on the loose surfaces, but tend to lack the race awareness the road racers do. And cyclocrossers are generally the best prepared, as the event itself is most similar to cross in terrain and equipment, but they often lack the endurance necessary to stay at it for 5 or 8 hours. For each of those groups of riders, I think I’d try to get better at the technical aspects of the related sports that you find is your weakest.
Dealing with circumstance is a huge part of being successful in these events. So you have to train the basic skills necessary; things like keeping your bike in working order, general mechanical work, hoping over curbs, planning ahead, always having a contingency plan, eating and drinking on the bike. These seem silly in some ways, but can make or break a performance in these types of events.
Finally, don’t look to the pros to decide what to race. This goes hand in hand to my first piece of advice for doing your first mixed surface race. It is typical in most bike racing for us to look at the winner and think that riding the same setup as them will lead to the best result, but because the equipment you ride is a direct consequence of the skill set you are bringing to the table, you have to make equipment decisions that are best for you, rather than what is best for the fastest riders. In BWR, the winner is finishing in 7 hours, hitting the last dirt section at 6 ½ hours. If your planned finish is 12 hours, that is a much different race for them than it is for you, because you will be hitting that dirt after 11 hours of riding. Given the same ability to handle the bike you will still be at a disadvantage because you will have almost twice the time to become more tired and less capable of piloting a bike over uncertain terrain than the winner.
What is your next event?
I just finished 51st at the Tour of the Gila in the 1,2 category. Just finishing there was a huge success for me in my first year back on the bike. Now that that ‘vacation/training camp’ is over, I am hoping to do a couple mixed surface events through the early summer and fall including Crusher in the Tushar, Gravelpalooza, and others that I can fit into the calendar. I also have some off road touring trips planned. At this point, my main focus will circle back to getting to some regional cyclocross racing, with my long term focus looking ahead to 2018 Cyclocross Nationals in Reno.
Check out some of the other successes Source Endurance athletes have had.