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Photos by Lori Swanstrom

PCC athlete Caleb Bender competed in the 2020 Time Trial Challenge at Westshore Velodrome in Victoria last month coming away with a gold medal. Here is his account of the competition.

Mid August last year I was wrapping up a long season of racing with the track provincial championships, slowly shifting from a race every other weekend to off-season base miles. Of course 2020 is far from a typical year. August 22 marked my first race weekend since February, with a day of safely run and social distanced individual timed events courtesy of the Greater Victoria Velodrome Association. With a few weeks of Dr. Walker/PCC track time in the legs and a bike themed mask for between races, it was time to get back to racing.

The day consisted of three timed events, with different age groups running at different times throughout the day to minimize athletes on track at one time. A flying 200m kicked things off, followed by the Kilo and the Individual Pursuit. With minimal wind it was set to be a good day against the clock, and I was looking forward to testing the legs at race pace for the first time in quite a while. The weekend also presented an opportunity for me to do my first 4km IP in a race.

Despite being a day of solo efforts under the conditions of the new normal we all know so well now, the time trial challenge still felt like any other race day. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d miss all the planning and prep involved pre and post race, but the warm-up, recovery, and nutrition between events oddly provided the atmosphere I’d missed in this “training year.” Even a bit of the pre-race nerves kicked in!

Overall, I was satisfied with the efforts I had on the weekend, setting a new PB in the 200m and pushing myself for my first 4km IP. Another plus from the weekend was the chance to identify what needed a little bit of fine tuning in my efforts. Finding the little things that I could work on gave the chance to set some motivating short-term goals: something that is always tricky to do in the necessary absence of competition.

My thanks go out to the GVVA for hosting a safe and responsibly run day of racing. I’d also like to thank Houshang and Pacific Cycling Centre for the training, direction, and support over the past few months (and years). Looking forward to what comes next, whatever that may be!

TT Challenge results

Just under two weeks ago Alex Amiri and Caleb Bender successfully completed their Everesting for MS. Alex reflects back on the day and how the idea originated.

A few weeks ago I reached out to a friend of mine, Caleb Bender and pitched the idea of Everesting instead of just doing the Virtual MS Bike. He was all over the idea and luckily, Caleb has a ton of experience with MS Bike. We were also fortunate that our coach Houshang Amiri has an endless amount of experience in training athletes to perform and recover at their best.

First off Caleb and I set up a donation page through MS Bike deciding on a team goal of $2,000, ($1,000 each). At the time of writing this we upped the team goal to $4,000, $2,000 each and we are happy to say we have PASSED this goal. The feedback has been incredibly humbling. The involvement of the local and the cycling community was the real motivator when things got tough during the ride.

Alex near the top. Photo by Jay Wallace.

So to the ride. We planned on a time just over two weeks from our decision date, which landed us on August 1. Neither of us really knew just how hard it would be, or just how important it was to pace our effort. Two weeks before our August 1. effort we agreed it would be smart to see what kind of pace we could maintain.

First, we talked to Houshang, and he told us what sort of pace would be realistic. We both did 10-15 efforts, once a week for two weeks. We hit the climb on the first week and we felt the pace was manageable. We agreed to do this again the second week. But this time we had a bit more riding in the legs. The pace still felt fine by the 11th effort. Once we got off the climb that time we started thinking about nutrition as that was going to be even more important on an effort like this, compared to the Zone 2 riding we had been doing.

After a nice slow ride to get to Goldstream Heights, south of the Cowichan Valley, where we were going to do the climb, we were ready to start at 7:30 am. We set our own respective performance goal of what sort of time we want to finish in. I was aiming for 8:30. Starting out, we were a bit ahead of pace so we quickly adjusted and carried on. For the first five hours I was feeling comfortable with the pace I was holding, and the speed I was targeting on the climb. As the fifth hour carried on the wind started, first it was a cross-headwind, then by the sixth hour it was a headwind, and it only got worse. While the pace waivered it became more and more difficult.

 

The support helped moral. Photo by Jay Wallace.

Thankfully around this time is when people started to show up in support. We had friends on the side of the road, and fellow cyclists riding up with us. This helped the morale. Around this time my mind was blank, and the effort along with the 31 degree heat and the headwind took its toll. The pace dropped but this was okay because until this point I had been ahead of schedule. After 45 minutes, I slowly rebuilt the pace back to what was comfortable. For the last hour of the ride, I was doing okay mentally. The legs hit a point where I couldn’t go much slower, but I couldn’t go any harder either. You start to think about everyone who supported you along the way, and each person you think of makes you feel a little bit stronger. This is what really drove the final hour home for me (the two cokes I had during this hour might have helped to). I ended with a time of 8:40, completing the first section of Goldstream Heights Drive 73 times.

It has been 12 days since the effort now and its given me time to collect my thoughts and get the body properly recovered. That effort sucked but now it’s probably one of the things I’m personally most proud of. Beside the effort, the fundraiser went incredibly well. Our donation pages are both still active, I urge you to check it out and read the donor list, as all those who supported us there are listed and deserve recognition beyond what I can provide.

Alex’s fundraising page

Caleb’s fundraising page

Team fundraising page

If any of you out there want to try Everesting, talk to Houshang, He’ll set you up for success no matter the effort. Photo by Jay Wallace

 

PCC Athletes Caleb Bender and Alex Amiri successfully everested for MS on Saturday – raising much needed funds for the MS Society of Canada. Choosing the gruelling hill of Goldstream Heights, south of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island here is Caleb’s account of the training and the day. 

Wow, what a crazy couple of weeks it’s been. From when Alex and I decided to Everest for the MS Society of Canada to now, three weeks later having raised a combined $3,800 (and counting) the community support for the cause and the effort has been absolutely insane. I’d like to start by thanking everyone who read about our connections with MS, to everyone who donated, and to everyone who came out and supported us on the day. I feel so lucky to be a part of such a close-knit cycling community, and your support of the MS Society of Canada the past few weeks has been beyond belief.

Caleb on the climb. Photo by Jay Wallace

When Alex and I decided we would Everest for the MS Society of Canada, we were hoping to raise a bit of money and to raise some awareness to a cause close to both of us. This year, MS Bike had to cancel all of their in-person bike tours in exchange for the “Virtual MS Bike.” The idea was for riders to challenge themselves on the bike as a means of fundraising over the summer months in leu of an in-person event. An Everesting qualified as a challenge, so when Alex pitched the idea, I was 100% on board.

This was my 10th year fundraising for the MS Society and participating in MS Bike, and I’m happy to report that despite funds being raised entirely online (rather than my usual door to door approach in my small home town) this was shockingly also one of my most successful years of fundraising, having to up my standard fundraising goal of $1,000 after just over one week. The support from friends, family, and fellow cyclists far exceeded expectations, and for that I am extremely thankful. The donations and awareness make all the difference for those in my family and my hometown who live with MS, and so the support means the world to me.

After two weeks of adapted training and pacing work thanks to coach Houshang Amiri and Pacific Cycling Centre, Alex and I were ready to take on the Everest Challenge last Saturday. Knowing full well from the experiences of those who had done an Everesting before I knew the challenge was going to be a big one, but I don’t think I fully realized the challenge until that morning. The 70+ efforts up our chosen climb on Goldstream Heights was bound to be a challenge, but the repetitive nature of the effort really did take its toll. Thankfully, we had Houshang at the top of the climb giving bottles, food, ice, and words of encouragement throughout.

Coach Houshang Amiri providing support at the top. Photo by Jay Wallace.

The support on the day was incredible, with friends and fellow cyclists joining us for the climb and cheering from the roadside. The cheers and the faces were amazing, and at times were the only thing to keep me sane (sort of) through every rep.

Albeit by far the hardest day I’ve had on the bike, I kept motivated knowing what we were working so hard to do. At the end of the day we’d end up sore and exhausted for a few days and then be right back up and training as usual. However, we both knew that climbing a hill all day doesn’t compare to the daily challenges those living with MS deal with every day. There are no rest days from MS, and so as hard as the effort was, stopping was not an option. Rep after rep I encouraged myself with the strength and courage I’ve seen from those in my family and community facing MS. And rep after rep I was reminded of an old joke between Dad and I at my first MS Bike Tour 10 years ago; “just one more climb”. Year after year Dad and I would ride the MS Bike at Riding Mountain National Park (which was surprisingly hilly for the prairies) and would repeat this joke after every hill knowing full well there were more on the horizon. The joke was oddly fitting considering the effort, and brought back good memories from the 10 years at MS Bike and the stories that kept me motivated during those early years when a 75 km day on the bike was just as much of a challenge as an Everesting.

The experience on Saturday was incredible, and largely made possible thanks to the help of Pacific Cycling Centre and the support from the entire cycling community. Without this support the funds raised and the ride itself wouldn’t be possible, so I want to thank everyone who made the day great and our fundraising a huge success. This experience sure won’t be one that I will soon forget.

You can still donate to the Everest team by going to:

Caleb’s fundraising page

Two PCC athletes have announced they will be taking on an incredible challenge. Alex Amiri and Caleb Bender will be Everesting for MS on August 1 as part of the Virtual MS Bike.

What is Everesting? Alex and Caleb will ride a hill multiple times until they reach an elevation gain of 8,848 metres which is the height of Mount Everest. They will climb a 1.3 km portion of road (average of 9%) on Vancouver Island, south of the Cowichan Valley on Goldstream Heights Drive 73 times in order to reach the target elevation.

Alex Amiri – photo by Jay Wallace

Both have been personally affected by MS. Alex’s mom has had the disease for over 20 years, and Caleb, who has ridden for MS Bike before, had a family member diagnosed 10 years ago.

“This year I haven’t been able to spend real quality time with my mom, and have been limited to window visits,” said Alex. “It’s difficult to see her some days, and now I feel I can really make a difference, no matter how small or how large.”

“I quickly realized how heavily my local community was impacted by MS when raising funds for my first tour,” said Caleb. “This disease can have a profound impact on families and communities, with Canadian MS rates being one of the highest in the world.”

They are asking for donations to help continue to fight this debilitating disease and assist in funding leading-edge research and support programs. They are encouraging anyone in the area on August 1 to cheer them on in this challenge. They are hoping to start between 6 – 7 am depending on the temperature.

Caleb Bender

“Our team will take the spirit of the Virtual MS Bike and strength of those we know living with MS with us, as we push our limits for a hard day in the saddle,” they said.

To donate:

Alex’s personal page

Caleb’s personal page

Everesting for MS team page

 

 

A forced winter training schedule allowed PCC Athlete Caleb Bender to do time on his indoor trainer. But now back in Victoria he is getting back into a routine and planning a mammoth challenge.

The past four months have been eventful to say the least. From quarantine to race cancellations it’s been quite a crazy few months on the bike. The first race cancellations happened midway through a month and a half training block down south in Tucson AZ while preparing for my first year of U23 racing. From there plans quickly changed from preparing for a busy year with my TaG Cycling teammates to getting home as quickly as possible while talk of border closures was still up in the air. After a quick rebooking of flights, I was back at my home in Saskatchewan a week later.

For me, having a sense of consistency and routine was an important step to adapting to an ever-changing situation. Spending some time at home was an important step to this, although there were some challenges. The biggest of these involved the two feet of snow that greeted me when I got home. Being mid-March I’d came home with a month of winter weather remaining, meaning a month of trainer miles. On the bright side, being winter in small town Saskatchewan the following two weeks of quarantine didn’t feel like much of a change from my usual winter training routine at home.

After the snow melted, things slowly started to pick up again, with longer rides and some intervals training. Unfortunately, in typical Saskatchewan fashion there was also wind, and lots of it. Over the next couple of months there were weeks where I would be stuck on the trainer over half the week just because it was unsafe to ride outside from the wind. Thankfully with coach Houshang’s guidance I was able to adapt my training in a way that made the best use of the weather (and single paved road) I had to work with on most days, while still maintaining fitness under the less than ideal conditions. Despite the weather, I was still able to get in some 200km days in the legs. I also kept motivated with weekly trips out to my “local climb,” a valley an hour and a half drive from my house for a few 4-5 hour “climbing days” (with a few KOM attempts thrown in).

Now midway through July I’ve been back in Victoria for about three weeks, and slowly things are back on schedule. With Tuesday TT’s, Wednesday training time on the track, and lots of long rides in the mix there’s a lot to keep me motivated. Now that I’m back on schedule I find the long endurance rides to be the most motivating part of my training and enjoy pushing to reach a set distance or elevation gain target each day.

What’s keeping me especially motivated these upcoming weeks is an Everesting that Alex Amiri and I have planned on August 1st, in support of the MS Society of Canada. This will be a huge challenge, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to push myself for an incredible cause. Watch this space to find out how you can support us!

Although racing is still on hold, I’m looking forward to finding new challenges to push myself in the meantime. Although far from ideal, I’m learning to enjoy some of the opportunities I have this year that I wouldn’t normally have in a full race season, while of course waiting for the time we can all race again safely. In the meantime, I’m looking forwards to more big days in the saddle to come!

Photo by Alex Amiri

PCC’s Caleb Bender was training in Tucson last month. Here is his report and an update since he returned to Canada.

Reporting post ride, shower, and recovery meal, at the time of writing (before current events created the necessity to stop group rides) I’m getting mentally prepared for a massive day in the saddle as part of my pre-season race preparation in Tucson, Arizona. Tomorrow, I’m taking part in the “Shootout” group ride, a drop ride that leaves downtown Tucson and turns any long, quiet, and stop-less road into a full gas effort as intense as some races, if not more so. My group leaves at 7:00 am and splits into two options; a 60km ride for short intensity, and my challenge, a roughly 160 km ride turning around at the top of Madera Canyon – a gradually increasing gradient climb, 20 km long and 750 m of climbing, with finishing grades well above 10% in the final kilometers. And yup, the last 7 km are flat out to the top. North American Conti and Pro-Conti riders regularly attend to fire some shots off the front and take advantage of the perfect desert weather this time of year. With my commute to downtown, I’m looking at 230 km and over 1500 m of climbing. I’m anticipating a mid-afternoon nap in my near future.

This will be my third time taking on the full shootout ride in the five weeks I’ve been down, and my fourth ride over 200 km in that span of time as well. I arrived down south on February 6th, and for those who know of the tendency for Saskatchewan winters to follow me, I didn’t even bring a blizzard to the desert! (this time… yes it snowed last time I was here). To get prepared for my first season of U23 and Cat 1-2 racing some huge miles are needed. Thankfully, Tucson is the perfect place to get in those miles, complete with rolling hills, false flats, and Mount Lemmon; a cyclists’ dream of a climb taking the best in the world over 1.25 hours to get up, and the opportunity to replenish all the carbs you’ve lost in the past week with a fresh baked cookie larger than your face at the top.

A couple days after Pacific Cycling Centre’s February training camp, which provided me with a solid five-day training block with a great group of people to get the legs back into race form, I flew off to Tucson. My first three weeks down south were part of a team training and race prep camp with TaG Cycling Race Team, which included Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix Arizona. Although my Cat 1 race debut was a bit rocky, the team did a superb job working together and throughout the camp we had the opportunity to develop a needed sense of comradery between us, and to motivate each other to push ourselves to the limits during our rides. Between Shootouts, leadout drills, TTT’s, and Lemmon rides (one of which may or may not have included a caffeine gel at 7:00 pm to get through a post ride shower and meal) we got the teamwork going that we needed in order to prepare us for our time racing together for the rest of the season!

The last couple of weeks after team camp have been a full block of training. After a few days to get well recovered, Houshang gave me a schedule filled with race specific hill intervals to push my limits and get ready for the efforts I need to prepare for in competition, as well as long 5-6 hour endurance rides to keep the baseline fitness high and get me prepared for the longer days in the saddle that U23 and elite racing brings. He also threw in a few shootout rides to work on pack skills, tactics, and the top end power. Mixed with adequate R&R amid my online courses, the past weeks of training have brought huge personal improvement, allowing me to routinely smash personal bests, and putting me in some of my best form to date. Houshang’s personalized training plan has allowed for me to develop my strengths and work on my weaknesses so that I am prepared as best as possible for the season ahead.

That being said, I’m looking forward to the remainder of my time in the sun! I’ve got a few more big days, and another run up to the top of Lemmon in my time down here, and I’m looking forward to replenishing a month’s worth of carbs with a cookie at the top! After that, it’s a couple weeks back to Saskatchewan for some recovery, and I guess we will see where the season ends up going! That being said, I’ve got to get my equipment ready and some rest before a big day tomorrow. 4:30 am wakeup call! (I’m going to need a lot of coffee!)

PS – To provide an update on the time between writing and editing this, after a stressful few days trying to get back into Canada, I’m back at my home in Saskatchewan in self isolation until 14 days have passed and I’m cleared to be back outside. Although the circumstances aren’t great I’m glad to be home with my family, and have been keeping motivated to train, using my spare time to work on the different areas that make a complete athlete such as mental training, core stability work, and stretching. I’m taking a couple weeks fairly easy to relax and keep the immune system going strong, and then transitioning to more intervals with some Zwift racing to keep the motivation high. I’m looking forward to taking this time to enjoy the ride and better myself. I’m also really looking forward to the new PCC Zwift group rides on Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:00 am to keep the riding going! There’s been lots to adapt to, but I’m glad to have a coach that is quick to adapt, and that I know I can trust to adjust my plan so I’m in the best place I can be whenever racing can resume in a safe manner!