FKT Record Holder and Coach Rab Wardell Shares his Tips for Going Fast and Building Confidence [Podcast #274]

On this episode

Rab Wardell is a mountain bike athlete and coach living in Glasgow, Scotland. He recently set the fastest known time on the West Highland Way, a 96 mile off-road route connecting Milngavie and Fort William.

In this episode, we find out what makes a Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempt different from other mountain bike races, and why Rab chose to challenge the FKT on the West Highland Way in Scotland. Rab outlines the steps he took to prepare his body and his gear for the attempt and shares some of the issues he faced during the ride.

In addition to competing, Rab is also a cycling coach, and he shares his tips for building skills, confidence, and fitness that any rider can apply.

For more info and to connect with Rab, visit rabwardell.com.


Support this Podcast


A full, automatically-generated transcript of this podcast conversation is available to Singletracks supporters.

Please log in to your account to access this content.

Transcript

Jeff 0:00
Hey everybody, welcome to the Singletracks podcast. My name is Jeff and today my guest is Rab Wardell. Rab is a mountain bike athlete and coach living in Glasgow, Scotland. He recently said the fastest known time on the West Highland way, which is a 96 mile off road route. Connecting. Not gonna say right, Nolan Milligan Neve Hill give? And Fort William. Is it correct, am I right?

Rab 1:12
Yeah, we’ve we’ve definitely Scottish Do you hear? It’s actually pronounced more guy

Jeff 1:17
More guy. It looks nothing like that. I’m gonna have to put that out there like that in the show notes.

Rab 1:23
Scottish people get that one wrong all the time. If you’ve never it’s one of those as one that will always catch you out. Nobody. Nobody can figure out how to say that from reading that. So? Yeah.

Jeff 1:36
Good. I don’t feel as bad. Well, thanks for joining us.

Rab 1:39
It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much.

Jeff 1:40
So tell us a bit about your background. How did you get into cycling,

Rab 1:44
I I’ve ridden a bike since I was a sort of child. But I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t classify myself as a cyclist until I was a teenager probably. So I got into cycling through mountain biking. And my family were on a family holiday and in the highlands in a place called Aviemore. And we hired her bikes and went for an exploring the forests, just just north of Aviemore. And that was I would say that was a first ride I ever did. And I wasn’t instantly hooked my my older brother, my older brother, David actually was the was the really passionate, one of us when we were teenagers. And he, he bought bought a mountain bike from a local bike shop, which had a great cycling club associated to a great mountain bike cycling clubs, which Sandy Wallace cycles. And so you know, fairly well known club and Scotland for sure. And he basically just just was immersed in mountain biking to start with and really got into it in a big way. And, you know, started racing the Scottish mountain bike series, and even raced the british series as well, the following year, I can’t follow them into it and started right and we would go away as a family and the whole family would go away. And we’d write, right and you’re Scottish and British mountain bike series races and you’re the club that would ride like twice a week for the club. And every evening after school would be kind of riding, riding the streets. And I grew up in a small town wasn’t necessarily in the moment. And so we started kind of street and write down steps and all kinds of that daft stuff you ran the big, big kind of fan of trails cycling your trails, right. And so when we were when we were teenagers, you Martin Ashton and Martin Hawes were two big names. Who appeared in an ember UK a lot of the time Hendry as well. Ryan Leach and these guys were were writing so we would generate our cross country bikes like trails bikes, when we couldn’t ride and forests are in the house. And then when we could we would you’ll generally be riding with the club and rather than around Scotland to the different random spots.

Jeff 4:08
Yeah, cool. Well, you’ve competed in a number of different cycling race format. So what makes this you know, fastest known time people call it the FK T? What makes that different from other types of races?

Rab 4:21
I think, I think one of the draws is the fact that you can, you can set your own challenge. You don’t have, you know, if you’re if you’re competing and other other events or race formats, you have to, you have to go to the race. You need to have a race organized, you need to have people to compete against. Whereas whether you’re an FK t, you can effectively just you could you could even make up your own route and just see see how you’re gonna, how you’re gonna go and it’s, you’re really just competing against yourself more than anything and trying to conquer the trail. So I think that that’s what really It drew me to it this year, it was, it’s been a challenging year. In the UK, pretty much every mountain bike event and most cycling events for was cancelled or postponed due to due to cord. And, yeah, it was a kind of, I guess it was an outlet for me to kind of set, set a goal set a challenge and, and try and then try and complete that and basically try and better myself and just see what I was capable of this year.

Jeff 5:32
Yeah, yeah. What was it like lower pressure to in some ways, like you because you kind of set like, when you’re ready to do it, you don’t have to, like, optimize your training for like this specific date, you can kind of just wait and be like, Okay, I’m ready. Now I’m gonna do it. And there’s not people there to like, see you, you know, kind of on your own and, and heck, if you don’t, if you don’t set the FK T, maybe you don’t even tell anybody, right? You wait until you until you do break it. So is there like less pressure in that situation, or they’re like different kinds of pressures that you face?

Rab 6:07
Well, and in theory, all the points you make are valid. But in my case, I opened my big mouth and decided to make a felt make a film about it. So it was working with a wahoo and Santa Cruz bikes, and a few other few other partners. And we decided to document the the attempt and the rain, and which added so much pressure, you know, and so much unnecessary pressure, you know, but it was it was fantastic to be to be making a document in the rain and filming. That was the film was really more about mountain biking the West Salem way rather than me going for an fkT. But I think in theory, yes. Being able to you’ll just set our set a route and have an attempt when when you feel good and have your you know, when when the conditions are good weather, I think that’s that I think that’s really as a, you know, a draw for for doing an FK T or doing or just setting your own time on a particular trail. But in this instance, we did have to set a date, we did have to go ahead to target my train and towards the end, a lot of the the pressure that you would you would associate with a typical race was was there for sure. I felt it felt really high pressure going into actually I was there really, really stressed out. But thankfully it was able to do the job.

Jeff 7:40
Yeah. Well, I guess two big differences that you don’t you don’t see the people that you’re racing against, right? I mean, I guess you have the clock. And so is that kind of what you’re paying attention to the whole time is like, you know, the time that you need to hit along the way. And that’s kind of where you’re competing against the clock versus against, you know, other people in the field.

Rab 8:01
Yeah. So I mean, you don’t have to react to other writers or other wrestlers. And I guess it’s not really about winning and losing and that kind of in that in that kind of way. But I was aware of what what schedule I needed to stick to, if you like, and my schedule changed with yours. Only a few weeks before I plan to go from attempt when the record was broken. It was it was broken about six weeks before a record that interested for four and a half years was broken. Just before I decided to make more. I was planning to make my attempt. So a guy called Gary McDonald, who’s from Fort William. He’s a really great all round cyclist.

Jeff 8:47
Did you have any idea that he was going to attempt it?

Rab 8:50
Yeah, I had heard that he was planning it. I didn’t know that he was going to do it at that time. But I think you’ve seen or has been seen that in the the kind of fk T attempts and records have just been learning so many this year because of the events being canceled due to due to Coronavirus and COVID. And so it creates is is kind of Blessed a lot of people with a bit of time to be able to actually target something different. I think a lot of writers normally wouldn’t do something like this because it maybe conflicts with their race season or what they had planned what they would normally be doing. So when you’ve got a you’ll when we come out of we’re quite tight restrictions here with our lockdown earlier in the year and then around about I think it must have been around about June, the restriction started to ease and you had a lot of fat people who are motivated to try and do something and I think that’s why you’re what what really, you’re kind of, I guess more of it had Gary to set his tone As the same motivation I had really I was I was feeling fit. And I was feeling better than I have been for a number of years. And, you know, this opportunity was there. So it was a, that’s, I think that’s why he he went for it, then.

Jeff 10:12
Yeah. Well, why did you say your sights on the West Highland way, in particular for your fkT? Attempt? What’s, what is it about that route that’s special to you? Or why do you why do you enjoy it?

Rab 10:25
Yeah, that’s a good question. And I’ve, I’ve walked and ridden on the west Salloway a number of times over the last, well, maybe 12 or 13 years. So I walk that over six days, 2007, I think it was. And when, when I was walking, I just couldn’t believe how, what a great journey it was, you know, to go from this big city to, to the outdoor capital of the UK, and your Fort William and Lacava, to kind of travel in the highlands. And the mountains just get big, you know, we’ve only got little moments, but they get bigger and bigger as we as you make your way north. And I just thought this would be a fantastic bike ride. And a few years later, I came back to mountain Baker and I didn’t know anyone who had read in the hallway, when I did when I did that. And that was in 2000. And I think it was 2011 that I did that. And yeah, I kind of I just wrote it to see if I could. And I did it once more after that. And it was just, it’s just a fantastic. You know, it’s it’s iconic, you know, what really well known for you’re really well known by walkers and cyclists, not just in Scotland in the UK, but from your the world over. And it’s one of the it’s one of those challenges. I think, I really like as a mountain biker, when somebody I don’t want somebody finds out that you’ve mountain bike from or guide to Fort William on the west end on way that, you know, most walkers are in disbelief or when you when you meet people, when you meet people on the route. There. You have a bit of chat and they say no. So where are you off to? And you go, I’m going to Fort Riley, I’m gonna Oh, where did you start and you got started. And again, they just, you know, they can kind of can’t get their head around that. So it people seem to like that. And yeah, that’s, I think that’s what drives me to it as is a fantastic invention.

Jeff 12:24
Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s crazy to think too, that, you know, it took you almost a week to walk it and then to be able to, to bike it all in one go. That’s, that’s pretty exciting and impressive. So how long did you prepare for this attempt? And what did your preparation look like?

Rab 12:42
And the I mean, I guess I have to answer to this question a little bit. Because, I mean, I write all the time I’ve, I’ve, I’ve been writing you even when I’m not training for something, I ride my bike. So I think I’ve got a reasonable level of fitness and a year round and have done for, you know, for most of the most of my adult life. But my my real preparation, I will say I think once when we when we had our lockdown in the UK, which I think would have been around about March and I’d been training quite well through the winter. Just just I’d been racing on the Velodrome and I’d been I’d been raving fairly consistently and I just got a kind of pain cave set up in our new house. And yeah, I’ve been I’ve been starting to get that better. And then we had locked down and my girlfriend and I my girlfriend’s name’s Katie Archibald. She’s a professional track cyclist. So she was training and towards Tokyo Olympics, which was was yet to be postponed but she she’s a full time professional athlete so she and I just are I just there tagged along with her and we started trade started training and a lot more when we’re in a blast with this time so your march into June I was I was getting really fit and then as we as a pitch the idea to set as a record attempt on the West Ham way and got your secured the support from from wire whom? Santa Cruz and that really I guess it kind of leveled up my preparation and my training at that point. So that would have been maybe June into September so how long it takes me to prepare I guess when

Jeff 14:29
you’re you’re hoping and all that sounds like

Rab 14:33
preparing all and was three months but yeah, it’s kind of I guess I’ve yet you say I’ve been I’ve kind of in the doing this kind of stuff. I’ll feel like for a long time 20 years where we can either there’s two answers. There’s either 20 years or three months thank god yeah, thank God you ever when you like,

Jeff 14:52
right, right? But so yeah, once you did decide like I’m gonna go for this like, what did that preparation look like? Was it did you Change sort of your fitness routine, like what you were doing to work out? Or did you also look at your bike? And like, how am I going to, you know, set up my bike for this?

Rab 15:10
Yeah, so initially, the first month or so was was a lot of rope time on a road bike. So just starting to get the ride and time up. So I did a few actually the my longest ever bike ride at that point I did 207k, which is about 160 165 Mile Road rate of over about, I think it took me about nine hours to write that. So it was your, basically we’re starting to get the writing time up, just to know that I could actually actually survive your writing further the time that was even before the kind of power that I was expecting. So a good bunch of time on the road bike initially. And then I transferred that to the mountain lake a little more. And did did some some longer rates. On on the west seventh way that a little bit of racking and making sure that I felt confident knowing where the when and, and which which sections, I could ride on which sections, I knew that I would would have to kind of get off. And also that I maintained like probably twice a week, like a gym session. So mobility, I wasn’t doing any real heavy lifting at that point. But it was just your regular gym training, make sure that it was your mobile and balanced and basically healthy. And then specific sessions were done on on the kicker indoors. So interval training, view to Mac sessions, or was doing some fasted sessions as well. So we’re looking at carbohydrate sessions where I would say, right at what I would call my fat max intensity. And just you’re just really aim to be as fat adapted as possible for for doing the right. So there was a there was a lot going on. In terms of specific sessions. I think the key ones I would really focus on what are the what are the longer rates to give me the confidence to know that I could ride the distance fast enough.

Jeff 17:15
Cool. What was your bike setup? Like for the attempt? Did you? I mean, obviously, you’d have to bring all your fuel and hydration with you. Yeah, what kind of bike were eroding? And what did you bring along?

Rab 17:29
Yeah, so I took most of them. I feel like most of my gels and food and that kind of stuff was me, but I was actually getting bottle hand ups. So the previous record times that have been set on the west end and where I’ve been supported and that way, I kind of I kind of stuck to that a little, a lot of a lot of fk T’s are self supported or unsupported. And that’s something that I’m I’m keen on doing in the future. But on this attempt on this attempt, I stuck to the stick to the status quo and had bottle hand ups but I had my bike I spent a lot of time looking into it. So I wrote the full suspension, cross country bike 100 mil 100 millimeters of travel on the rear, and 110 millimeters of travel on the fork, Santa Cruz blur frame. So super lightweight, carbon wheels as well as kind of Santa Cruz reserve carbon wheels on industry nine hubs. Around a dropper post, which was for me, was a big change from what I’ve previously done. So it was quite a long travel dropper post as well. You know, if you look at Cross Country standards, most people run fairly short dropper posts and ad 100 125 millimeter drop Rockshox reverb. I had a really Yeah, it was a it was a seriously it was a dream bike to ride add a SRAM access electric wireless shift in desperate Rockshox suspension and and reverb post. And the tires I was using something called cush core.

Jeff 19:05
Oh yeah. Yeah, good flat protection, I guess for an attempt like did you have any flats along the way?

Rab 19:11
Dead Yeah, had had a puncture drop and kinlochleven. And I have a long actually had a long way to ride until I could collect the spare wheel. So again, we had some mechanical support along the way as well as both again sticking to the the status quo from previous records. So but know how to ride for about 6k down a really rocky gravel road and to kinlochleven and curse quarters there’s no way the wheels would would have survived so

Jeff 19:44
so you just left you left it no pressure, but you had the cush corps then yeah, just wrote it out.

Rab 19:51
Yeah, just yeah, just wrote the flat, flat tire all the way at the bottom, and it’s it’s seriously rough. The other thing with the cush corridor I like is that you can run lower tire pressures, and so that the feel of the tire feels a lot. It just feels, it feels nicer. So you can run a bit softer tire, it kind of takes out a lot of the bumps and the, I guess the trail vibration, which is really good for reducing fatigue over time. That’s one of the things. So, I mean, you could read, some people might look at the West End, and we’re certainly about read on a gravel bike or hardtail, cross country bike with CF, and that you just get, you really get shook up and almost beaten up. And it really adds to the fatigue. So that’s why I really wanted full suspension bike with cush core set up and around quite high volume, super fast but high volume tires as well from Continental,

Jeff 20:47
it seems like the lower pressure to would would add some resistance for you. But I guess, I guess it was worth that trade off.

Rab 20:54
Yeah, I don’t. I don’t exactly know the science of this, but it’s from what I can gather, it doesn’t really add any, any drag. You know, I think I think there’s been a lot of not really sure where this idea of higher pressure and harder tires. Going faster.

Jeff 21:09
Seems to work for road bikes. Right. But yeah, yeah,

Rab 21:13
I mean, it kinda does. But I think people are running a lot softer tires in the Easter on road bikes and the rain a lot bigger tires now. So you know, if you, especially if you look at something that Ruby, with the pros that probably Ruby, they run like super soft tires, real big, fat, real big, fat tires and crazy low pressures. And they’re all they still roll pretty well. I think if you if you have really good tarmac like really good pavement and super smooth surfaces, right in the heart tire can come work, okay. I like on the Velodrome as well, like you would ride hard tires. But and I don’t think it makes you for talking from the difference of 30 psi to 18 psi, I think a lot of the time that’s because the your the roughness of the trail, it will actually I think it’s a lot the same, it’s actually slower to go too hard. And I think that can even translate to the roads as well as you’ve got any rough, rough sections of tarmac you’re running. You’ve, if I think about what we used to race on, when even in the early 2000s, you would have like, you almost wanted your your road tires to be as narrow as possible and as hard as possible. And it seems to be going completely the opposite way. So if they’re racing on 28 mil tires at 90 psi,

Jeff 22:32
bouncing around, I guess on higher pressures, and you know, you’re losing traction that way. So you’re gonna you’re gonna lose it either way. I guess. And you might as well be comfortable.

Rab 22:42
For sure. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, like I say, I don’t know, the science doesn’t have a good enough or a good law fair reason for it. But the main reason was for me, it felt faster. It felt felt better. I liked it. Yeah.

Jeff 22:56
Well, it worked. It worked. So that to me that you’re right. It’s got to be right.

Rab 23:01
Yeah. always learning, always learning. Yeah.

Jeff 23:05
So what was the most challenging part for you during the ride?

Rab 23:08
The most the most challenging part without a doubt it was after, after the puncture rating of kinlochleven. There had been some other challenging parts beforehand. So the weather conditions weren’t ideal. And it had a really long section a headwind that two hours where I was riding into a headwind, which was had, which had a big effect on the on the time, you know, so I’d myself was writing to a schedule, I was ahead of schedule, which was, which was reassuring. But, you know, I knew that I wasn’t taking, you know, taking the time that I was, was hoping to be able to do and that my big goal beforehand was to just, you know, I kind of just wanted to do this once and do it really, really well and set a time you’re set a time that I thought was like a real representation of how fast can I do this. So, it was it was I guess it was getting into my head a little bit the fact that this headwind was having an impact on my time and then to puncture you obviously took a lot of time off again. So I was in a bit of a negative headspace right now of kinlochleven was also very, very anxious about puncturing again. The the the it’s called, it’s called the military road from kinlochleven to Fort William and it is big sharp rocks as it’s a double track or like a Jeep track a four by four track, but it’s your The rocks are pretty big. So and you can have some fairly high speeds on it as well. So puncturing on that is is quite, you know as a serious possibility that that would happen. I was anxious about functioning again and also dealing with the disappointment of having these mishaps and you’re having a function headwind. I felt kind of you I was in a bit of a negative mindset and that and that, and that translated to me. It was just harder. So it was, it was a big challenge. And thankfully, my, you know, my my support crew that I saw them just before, before going on the final stretch to Fort William, and saw them for some fresh water. And I got a bit of a rallying speech from a friend James McCallum he he Yeah, yeah. Got, you got a bit excited. And you’re kind of encouraged me to push to the end. And that kind of build me back out of the depression, if you like, was it kind of a negative negative headspace and I was able to finish the job off.

Jeff 25:44
Yeah. Well, now that you’re looking back on it, do you think? Do you think you could do it again, and do it faster? Or are you past that? Are you like, Nope, that was it. You know, because if you do it again, who knows? There could be more headwinds. Or you get two flat tires?

Rab 25:59
Yeah, I think yeah. The time the time will be beaten for sure. Whether or not but by me or not, I don’t know. I think if I if I do it again, I’ll do it. Self Support. I, you know, I’ll take my own spiritual take my own food and hydration and look to set. I guess. Not not a more legitimate but like a, I guess, a self supported fkT on that route. And I even think doing that. You’re taking my own spares and taking my own hydration food. I think I can still break the 914 set on on the day, I think some nine hours is definitely possible. When I was going into the day, I was even thinking something like it 45 Or well, you know, there will be people who go eight and a half hours f the kind of we kind of get into people’s head and they want to they want to try the the you know, try try and take the fkT on the west Ellen way. It’s it’s BS, definitely as beatable, I think was good conditions and a clean run. And there’s, there’s there are better writers in there. I’m sure. So we’ll just wait and see what happens. But I think yeah, definitely, definitely underline ours as is. As on for sure.

Jeff 27:16
Yeah. Well, another challenge you’ve set for yourself is best described as Monroe bagging. So tell us what’s a Monroe in? How do you bag one?

Rab 27:27
So a Monroe is it’s a mountain, a Scottish mountain? That’s 3000 feet high, so that the summit has over three 3000 feet or higher, so 900 914 meters? And yeah, so every hell of that hate. It’s called the Monroe and there’s a list of Monroe’s. And a lot of people do Monroe bagging, and Scotland. And we’ll, we’ll walk and try and tackle them all. I’m not sure exactly how many there are. Hold on. Originally, there were 283 Monroe’s. And so the list has grown and shrunk over the years. So it says, So, you might, you might have noticed that I’m reading this now. And that’s the current total is 282 Monroe’s. Okay, so yeah, some people will try and collect them if you like. So that’s what Monroe bagging is. And it’s basically what you go into the next month or something and and I guess completing the list, it’s like having your your sticker book of Monroe’s. So yeah, there’s there’s quite a few of them, which are, are possible to do on bikes and actually, fairly, fairly good fun to ride. So it’s always exciting to go and ride one if you’ve never done or revisit one that you are raising revisit a kind of past favorites. So I’ve done a few over the years, a friend of mine called Pete Scully, and he’s always poring over his maps and looking at your Google Earth and being like, Oh, this one looks amazing. And I don’t know anybody who’s done it before. And that’s normally a bad sign. If you don’t know anyone who’s written it before, it probably means it’s not going to be that great in a moment. But yeah, we’ve done a couple in the past where we’ve, we’ve spent more time carrying our bikes and we have raised them better. So at least there has taken one off the list. So yeah, favorites, I would say would be Ben Lomond is one I think it’s the furthest south Monroe actually. It’s just it’s on the banks of Loch Lomond. And it’s just a fantastic bike ride. And also Ben Lars and Ben Glass. You can you can read to to Monroe’s, and in the same look, and it’s actually not not too long. All right for us to do so. My friends do. Steve Thompson, who is actually the I’m going to get this wrong and he has a production product Panetta or director, I never know, I don’t know that I don’t have the right titles. But he was working on the film. He and I wrote Ben Lars and being glass couple of years ago and an evening in Scotland and I think we were out, we’re on the rain for two hours. And we summited two mountains. So you can, you can get out. And I think it actually took us longer to drive there and drive home to actually to actually write the route. So now it’s really good fun. It feels like it feels like home and baking used to feel when I was a kid, and you’re going on an adventure, you’ve never ridden this place before. You’re you’re kind of venturing into the unknown. Yes, just exciting. And also, I think the other thing that’s exciting about it is you don’t actually know how much of it you’re going to be able to write how much is there’s going to be too difficult to write or, or if it’s possible, and it’s always exciting when you get one that you can, you can write almost the whole way. It’s a lot of fun.

Jeff 31:00
Yeah, yeah. It sounds like a good, like physical challenge and technical challenge. And then also just navigational challenge. I mean, a lot of these, just kind of picking them off the map, aside from the Monroe’s. And the West Highland way, obviously, do you have other favorite trails or places that you’ve written?

Rab 31:20
Yeah, there’s, I mean, there’s so many. I love riding in new places. And but one place I always go back to is, is again, a really accessible trail near Sterling. And there’s a forest called Canvas barren. And then there’s another section called North third, which is a series of clifftops, above a reservoir. And there’s three crags and three clifftops or three crags that you can ride along the tops of, again, it’s originally a walking trail, I should add that in Scotland, or land access, we have what’s called the right to roam, which means that you can, you can walk, ride a bike or ride a horse anywhere, and effectively so you can we don’t we don’t have we don’t have any, there’s no such thing as trespassing. So we can, we can basically go anywhere and ride anywhere, as long as you’re responsible. And the height and the hierarchy really is if you’re on a bike and you approach a horse rider or a walker, you must yield and kind of slow down and giveaway and that’s, that’s fine with me. I’m quite happy, saying saying hello and seeing how people are one gram cool on another tangent here. But years ago, when I was doing my mountain bike Leadership Award, Jules Fincham said, your job as a mountain biker is whenever you come across a walker, or as a horse rider, or somebody else in the outdoors, you’re the the best job you can make is just make their day a little bit better. So after you see them, you almost Yeah, I think that can often be a bad relationship. Sometimes somebody has a bad experience with a mountain biker who’s done your reading too fast or not being not being polite as is so easy to just say hello, and ask if somebody hasn’t just take a moment and hopefully improve their day a little bit. So I always think about that, when I’m when I’m out riding train just, I don’t know, represent mountain bikers and cyclists in a good way.

Jeff 33:26
Yeah, yeah. And it’s such a small thing. And a lot of us, I think, probably have been told that and, you know, maybe we believe it, or maybe we don’t, but, you know, there have been plenty of examples here in the US, you know, with one of the recent things was at the kingdom trails, well known trail location. And, you know, apparently, some of the landowners had just a handful, maybe one or two bad interactions with mountain bikers, where the bikers were not courteous. And after that, based on that limited interaction, you know, they they shut the whole thing down and said, No, no bikers and so, yeah, you never know, kind of what your your interaction can lead to.

Rab 34:08
Yeah, for sure. I think. I think it’s something you need to be mindful of. Because, like I say, in Scotland, we’re, we’re really lucky to be able to rate rate almost anywhere. But it’s, you know, it can become an issue if you if you, if you take it for granted, or you take it too far, you know, you think you can just do anything and not be challenged, the your things will, things will change, or have the there’s always the potential for things to change. Yeah, as long as we act responsibly, and I guess just just try and try and do what’s fair. And big, be courteous. Fingers crossed, we’ll be able to continue with your the the awesome land access that we have.

Jeff 34:55
Yeah, well, now I’m curious. I mean, were you able to do that during the fkT attempt. Did you were you mindful of that? Or, you know, because you hear a lot of a lot of people, you know that what did they call them? Strava holes. Yeah. You know, like, we get into that mode where we’re like, okay, you know, I’m doing my thing, and I’m trying to break my time. You know, I don’t have time to be courteous or like, That guy’s in my way, I gotta go around him. Like, did you run into that? Or was that in your mind? During the attempt?

Rab 35:24
And no, I tried to say hi to as many people as a kid, and yes, it was. So it was a natural, if it was a natural moment, where if you were were passing at the same time, I would say, Hello, please, thank you. You know, there was one one point when I was was going over a fence or what we call like a style. I don’t know if you’d call it that, but like, a stair step over a fence. And there’s lady in front of me that was, you know, it was quite an awkward, tricky one to walk over and quite a steep hill, and she was gone before me and, you know, let her go before me and

Jeff 35:59
didn’t Yeah, well, I’m in a race here. I’m trying to set the fastest.

Rab 36:04
Now, it’s like, we have a bit of a joke, you know, even an even in races. You know, if you’re, if you’re passing another rider who’s another race or another category, and maybe do you give them a shout, and you say, right, but I think a pleasing the Thank You always goes a long way. Especially if they pull off the side of the trail to let you pass, you know, it’s pleasing a thank you is definitely the way to go. And we always laugh about the end of them. The bad example of the guy, race leader coming through, or just just being just taking themselves a little bit. too seriously, you know, and, you know, for some people, it can get a little bit too aggressive or aggressive or tied up in the whole race. And you know, so no, I was, yeah, took it took a moment and said hello, and tried not to put any pressure on on anyone. And, you know, as you know, I’m not saying I was perfect, but I certainly was mindful and did did what I could to say hello, and please and thank you to as many people as a as a regular say, interacted with on the trail. I didn’t go out of my way, like it didn’t. I didn’t share it like 30 meters over to somebody who is Savin a picnic.

Jeff 37:13
Yeah, after, you know, after you. Yeah.

Rab 37:16
Yeah, I did try my best. Yeah, for sure.

Jeff 37:20
Well, in addition to writing and competing, you’re also a cycling coach, tell us how you got into that.

Rab 37:26
And I thought about being a cycling coach from a very young age, you know, when I when I started cycling, I was lucky to actually be a part of the Scottish National Program, Scottish National mountain bike development team or whatever it was called at a time and be on the receiving end of coaching from quite a young age. And when I finished school, I actually started a coaching qualification in college, which I did drop out of, I dropped over to focus on my racing. And once I basically I wrote for the Scottish National Team for two seasons after coming out of school, and Rhodes, the mountain bike World Cup Series, as a as an elite, and straight and straight and with their fit in with the big boy sort of speak, and wrote an event, a pretty big event for us called the Commonwealth Games. So it’s basically it’s nations like Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Wales, and a whole lot more are in the Commonwealth Games and competed in Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. When I came home from that, it became fairly clear to me that it wasn’t going to be a sustainable career path that I was unable to turn professional as a as promo and Baker, which was, which was a bitter pill to swallow at the time. But the blessing was there was a new team of development coaches being employed at Scottish cycling. So it’s a completely new team a really fresh development to try and basically develop, develop young cyclists and increase opportunities for young people in cycling Scotland. And I was I was asked to apply for a job and applied and interviewed for it and was, thankfully, thankfully, I secured a job as a Western Scotland development coach for Scottish cycling as at the age of 21. So yeah, pretty young going into it. But you’ll think if I hadn’t gotten that job, I would have I don’t know where they ended up actually said I’d stopped riding my bike. I was quite disappointed about the fact that I wasn’t able to become a professional. And wasn’t a it wasn’t a sustainable way to live. So I stopped racing I hadn’t ridden my bike for six months, maybe longer when this opportunity came up, and, you know, I guess I fell in love with the sport all over again, and got back, right and coaching as well. So it was a, it was a it was a fantastic, fantastic job. And it’s been really exciting to see how a lot of the riders that I worked with, or you started coaching, you know, just just in schools or in summer holiday programs, these kind of things have stayed in the sport and, and gone on to your progress. It’s been, it’s been quite cool to see that. And yeah, my coaching career has been, it’s, it’s the main way that I’ve sustained my, my hobby and my racing have have gone back to this world cups, went back to competing to read World Cups, and 2012 till 2014. And say I do still race a lot. So the reason is not that tricky, but it’s generally been the training, that’s always been the harder bit for me to fit there. And then and do that well, but it’s uh, yeah, it’s. So I know, a balance, you have coaching, I actually have my own coaching company now called Wardell cycle coaching. It’s a little plug that allows a lot of plug in. And, yeah, and it’s a really nice balance that I have at the moment to be able to coach and also right and potentially go back racing next year, once, hopefully, once the races are back on.

Jeff 41:40
Yeah, yeah. Well, one of the focuses of your coaching seems to be building confidence for writers of all skill levels. So are there any shortcuts to gaining confidence that you’ve found? Or is it something that people have to sort of gain slowly over time?

Rab 41:55
I think, I wouldn’t say there are shortcuts. But I think one thing that I like to, I like to think is that, you know, I, I’ve basically made every mistake in the book over 20 years. So you know, all of the common mistakes I think, I’ve been guilty of, and people are generally really guilty of these kind of common mistakes, if they’re, if they’re eager to improve, or they’re ambitious, it’s really easy to just almost try try too hard a lot of the time, or mess some of these little kind of fundamental things that you can do well to, to improve. So one thing that I hope is that if, if a writer or an athlete comes to work with me, I can help them learn from my mistakes, and they can learn a lot a lot faster. You know, it’s, it’s as I would say that if you work with a coach, you can make progress a lot more quickly than if you try and figure out for yourself. But I wouldn’t say there’s particularly a shortcut to gaining confidence. And one thing that I generally find this just is, it’s tricky to kind of put over but a lot of the time, in terms of technical writing a lot of times slow is fast. And you know, actually learning how to do things smoothly, is probably the better way to do it. So not not raining at a frantic manner. And always aspiring to be composed when you’re writing so often say that. The one thing that really links a lot of top performers is composure. Whether or not you’re looking at someone like Lewis Hamilton, recent Formula One or Roger Federer playing tennis or Egan Bernal, right in front, France, you generally look pretty composed and the person that’s winning generally makes it look really easy. And I think it’s trying to put yourself in that place of how does it feel for that person? And how does it feel for you when you’re when you’re writing? Does it feel frantic? Does it feel crazy, and a writer that I was I worked with a few years ago, I used to work for a company called Dark School, which is based in tweed Valley in Scotland, a real mountain bike hotspot. And one of the one of the actually, one of the the key parts of the business is working with borders college and they have a college course for mountain biking. And it’s called borders Academy sporting Excellence, which is based in the Twin Valley and Reese Wilson was a student on that course. And maybe five or six years ago now. And he is now the UCI Downhill world champion, elite World Champion when she said and like a really, you know, it’s our it was a it was a I don’t know if you watch the I don’t know if you saw the race and Austria this year, but the conditions were insane. Really deep mud, right? Yeah. And most riders just crashed and couldn’t hold together a restaurant and race. You’re stuck there in a perfect run from top to bottom. And in something it was almost like did the impossible and again, if you speak to him, he was saying that you had a fairly calm Restaurant from the outside that looks from the outside look crazy. But as an inside has held that it felt like composed. And he knew exactly what he was doing. So, yeah, I think that’s really, it’s really easy to do, especially when if you’re thinking about downhill mountain biking or an enduro mountain biking, a lot of people think that they just have to go, try not to be scared and go as fast as possible. And it’s, it’s almost, it’s almost the opposite of what you should do.

Jeff 45:24
Yeah, yeah, that’s really good advice. And I had never thought of it that way that instead of pursuing, you know, speed first, what a lot of people could benefit from is pursuing that composure, that calm and that confidence and, and seeing where, where that sort of runs out, I guess, right. Like, like, as long as you’re, you’re calm and composed, then the speed is going to follow. Yeah, but But trying to jump right to the speed. Yeah, like you said, you can end up frantic and kind of all over the place.

Rab 45:57
Yeah, speed. I say this a lot as well, like speed is a byproduct, speeds, not speeds, not the objective speed. It’s not, you know, anything, you do all the right things and you go fast. And it’s generally going to be things like slowing down at the right places, or to or choosing the right lane, or you’re making sure that your body position is right, going into a corner or down a dropper, you actually even having the fundamentals of you know, knowing how to jump or how to how to ride a drop off, or how to corner for example, if you can break down and, and learn the fundamentals and the simple parts, you know, then you just have to start piecing the jigsaw together. If you if you have an idea of how it feels to ride smoothly, and you can start to, you know, maybe, maybe get to some time in the pit stop watching something or check your Strava PRs or whatever it ends up being is, you can start to see that progression. And you maybe there are points where you should write faster that you can try out and if it feels like you’re going over the limit, and it’s starting to feel frantic, you know that you actually need to just back that off and renew it. And so lots of us another thing, I guess it’s not really a shortcut to confidence. But a way to gain more confidence is to practice the right things, purposeful practice, as we call it, and do it over and over and over again, there isn’t really a secret, it’s just repetition, and just, you’re putting in putting in the time to do it. You know, just as this

Jeff 47:31
is not what we want to hear, but no, not what we need to hear. No, I

Rab 47:35
think about like my guitar teacher used to, you know, we still always warm up with skills, or we would every lesson you start off with scales, and you’d be like, I just want to play sweet, sweet child. And Mike. Just wanted to say, Yeah, unless you can do your scales. Well, you and if we’re gonna play the play the guitar, Wang, whatever. And, yeah, it’s like, it’s the same as it’s the same as fitness training, you know, it’s like, you see it all over the place like this, this one session, you know, this is the session that’s going to make the difference. It’s like, it’s probably going to just be riding your bike a lot, you know, asleep, but sleeping, well, eating well, riding your bike a lot. Rest? And well, you know, is there. You know, there’s, there’s plenty of papers out there to prove that that it’s going to be, you know, it’s not that it’s not that complicated. But the tricky bit is, is maintaining the motivation and keeping doing it and staying consistent over a long period of time. You know, that’s the, that’s the tricky, but

Jeff 48:35
yeah, that’s what I was gonna ask you is about fitness in the struggles that people have. And, you know, you mentioned your training for the fkT involved a lot of road biking, and I know, mountain bikers, you know, we hate to hear that, because it’s like, no, you know, I ride mountain bikes, I don’t ride road bikes, and can’t I just, you know, put in eight hours on the mountain bike, and instead of getting on the road bike, I mean, are there what are the kind of excuses people make the especially the folks that you work with, in your coaching, you know, in terms of their fitness, what are the kind of the roadblocks that they face,

Rab 49:11
I think one of the things is actually being able to manage the intensities. So, it depends on what you’re training for. And it also depends on your lifestyle and what it is you’re doing. So one thing that I do like to say is that you can make improvements, even if you have limited time, even if you are kind of time crunched, but a lot of the time is, is again, it’s not about forcing it is about right and a lot of famous writing at lower intensities. And that that’s really tricky to do when you mountain bike because when you go mountain biking, it’s the power file is going to be it’s like a sawblades you know, it’s up and down and up and down, up and down. So it’s it’s like a lot of a lot of European mountain bike racers will do a lot of the road riding on their mountain bike, or they’ll do gravel road riding or dirt road stuff, and I guess it’s just making sure it’s You don’t have to ride a road bike, I’m not gonna say to anyone, you have to let a road bike, but it’s like, choose your routes, you’ll put a bit planning and thought into the route that you’re going to ride. And if you if your goal is to do a two hour or a one hour steady endurance ride, you know, kind of keeping your heart rate below 75%, and really doing some good quality aerobic endurance conditioning, better pick a route that’s gonna let you do that. So you’re gonna have to just be, you can’t have too many steep hills, you’ve got to, or if you’ve got, you need to make sure you’ve got the right kind of gear and if you’re gonna be doing steep hills and, and having the discipline to hold yourself back when you’re riding the hills, because it’s really difficult to believe that that Raven slowly is going to make you faster, but it’s as trading is taken, tested and proven. You know, it’s, it’s a big, big part of any kind of endurance training and even riding downhill, you know, it’s a four minute event is still very much endurance, you know, it’s, there’s gonna be a big aerobic contribution to a downhill Raider, not seeing as all aerobic, but there will be a big, big contribution of that it’s going to be aerobic. So best way to do that as read as much as he can. Nice and nice and easy. Keeping there.

Jeff 51:15
Yeah, keeping it steady. I mean, that’s, that’s huge. Like, I mean, you you summed it up really well for me, because I think I had that kind of confusion about it, too, you know, like, two hours on a bike is two hours on a bike. But, you know, if you think about a mountain bike ride, it is like that, it’s kind of that whipsaw where Yeah, it’s very intense for a short period, and then there’s a rest and then you know, it’s just kind of up and down. Whereas on a road bike, it’s, it’s much more steady. Yeah.

Rab 51:42
And like, you have those, those mountain bike rides, where you go up and down near you, and you do have to ride hard, it’s great to you know, it’s great to do them. But if all your rights are like that, you’re gonna, you’re gonna burn out probably. And again, it’s like it’s having a if you’ve got a plan, and you know what, if you know where you’re going, and you know where you’re starting from, you can make the plan to, I guess, to fit your goals and try and achieve what you’re looking to achieve. If you just go out right now all the time, you know, you’ll have loads of fun, you know, as you know, it’s great to just go and have a blast and kind of wrap up the hell up and down the house sometimes, but you know, you have to, I guess there’s going to be a bit of give and take, you’re gonna have to try and fit in the right rates. One thing, one of the general rules I really like for for keeping your insurance rates right or the friend of mine that Craig is a make Olympian he rode 70 Olympics and he’s he’s basically just known as a real mountain bike legend in the UK. He’s was a friend as a fantastic writer still, has he still, you know, I’m not gonna say the wrong age here. But I’m sure he’s, I think he might be over 50. And he still reps, elite races. Wow. He tears in the pieces. And one of his things when he does his insurance raters, he just talks about nose breathing. If you have to open your mouth to breathe, you’re going to and it’s it’s simple, but it’s effective. It’s, it’s, it’s a good way to go. So if you’re doing your face, see how, you know, try and see when when they have to open your mouth to start to pan or can you do the whole thing breathing your nose? Sir? Yeah, and you’ve got to keep pedaling as well. You’re not allowed to just freewheel. Right? You got to be fair,

Jeff 53:28
it’s a good one. I’m gonna have to try that. That’s yeah,

Rab 53:31
give it a try. If you’ve got one or keep an eye on it as well and see see what things are saying. It’s okay to open your mouth every now and again. I don’t want anybody doing anybody suffocating. But yes, it’s a it’s a nice little trick.

Jeff 53:44
Well, what are your plans for 2021? Are there other fkT attempts you have your sights set on? Or are you looking forward to maybe getting back to in person racing?

Rab 53:54
Yeah, that’s a it’s a good question. What are the plans for 2021? It’s so hard to plan at the moment. And the one I think probably the biggest plan is for me to not not lose the fitness gains that I that I got this year. You know, I really enjoyed and like, I fell in love with training again. And I was really enjoying and it was great to be working towards a goal and to have the time to actually be able to train for it was brilliant this year. So that is definitely top of the list just to to maintain or even build on on what I’ve achieved this year in terms of fitness in Cape Town toFKT’s Yeah, I think that will be decided on what events we have this year. So I do really want to get back to in person racing. I’ve got a vague, fairly vague goal of writing the Andalusia bakeries in April in Spain, which were which isn’t set in stone and isn’t Chiron but I’m hoping to go to write that with marks Got his are an professional mountain biker in Scotland. He is he’s reading the Enduro World Series, the downhill enduro race. And he’s a former that then whole World Cup Racer, but he’s really fallen in love with riding your bag, cross country ethics, and he’s done some crazy bike rides this year. So we’re hoping to get out to under this year, it’s a peer stage race, and it’s around the UCI mountain bike marathon World Series. Six, I think it’s a six day race. So potentially aiming for that. The British cross country mountain bike series dates have been announced as well. So I’ve got them in my diary. I think I’ll go back to some cross country racing. And yeah, I think I think the UCI mountain bike marathon series is it’s just been announced, the UCI announced it a couple of months ago. So it’s a series of either there’s two stage races to Cape epic, and under Lucia, and then a number of one day races as well. So if I can make those happen, if we can make any of those happen, that would be the cape epic, is still on my bucket list. I wrote it in 2014. And had to pull out on the final day where was with health issues. I can actually go stretch it out of the place, but it was a Yeah, it’s one thing to I need to go back and kind of take that one off the bucket list. So I’m not sure when hopefully that will happen one day as well.

Jeff 56:34
Yeah. Right on. Well, thank you, Rob, for taking the time to talk. And I’ve really enjoyed it and best of luck to you next year.

Rab 56:43
Thank you very much.

Jeff 56:44
Well, you can keep up with Rob on his website, Rob wardell.com. And we’ll have that link in the show notes. So we’ve got this week. We’ll talk to you again next week.

Never Miss an Episode