Come ride with me and learn the complete approach to becoming a better rider all while enjoying a spectacular vacation at one of BC’s most epic backcountry locations, Retallack Lodge.

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Arriving in the evening of August 27th, you will then settle into 3 days of gravity specific mountain biking in a luxury location! This 3-day camp aims to improve your ability and confidence on downhill terrain while tackling some of the best riding British Columbia has to offer. Experience two complete days of skill specific coaching and instruction on Retallack’s signature trails and skill park as well as 1 day on the infamous Peak to Creek heli drop!

Mmmmm mmmmmm . . . sweet alpine single track!

Mmmmm mmmmmm . . . sweet alpine single track!

Loam like you've never experienced before.

Loam like you’ve never experienced before.

Retallack has been approved for the World’s largest mountain biking tenure. Currently there are 3 trails with over 6000 feet of descending, 3 trails between 2500 and 4500 feet of descending as well as 15 kilometers of true alpine riding.

Not photoshopped.  This is really and truly what it is like!

Not photoshopped. This is really and truly what it is like!

Who: YOU!! Retallacks’ trails are suitable for almost all bike types and rider skill levels.

When: August 27-30, 2015.

Cost: $1,500 + GST

Includes:

  • 4 gourmet meals a day + après.
  • 2 days of shuttling Retallack’s infamous trails and 1 heli drop on the infamous Peak to Creek.
  • 3 nights of luxury lodging that includes a hot tub, sauna, lounge, games room, disc golf course and pump track.

*Add-ons available:

  • 2nd heli drop drop (70 % off!)
  • 4th day of riding/coaching on Monday!

Contact me at info@strandtraining.com for more information.

Fall is one of my favourite riding seasons in Whistler. The main season madness is over and there is a blanket of mellow on the town. Nice time of year to get out for a trail ride, just for yourself.

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So I migrated south again for winter. Back in the heat of Australia until hitting up NZ in March, Cali in April, then heading back home to Whistler in May. Looking forward to starting another year aboard Intense with some exciting new partnerships, projects and adventures planned for 2015.

Mt Beerwah, Glass House Mountains QLD.

Mt Beerwah, Glass House Mountains QLD.

Revisiting this book too. It’s so cute and quite wise, highly recommend it:

While Eeyore frets...and Piglet hesitates...and Rabbit calculates...and Owl pontificates...Pooh just IS.

While Eeyore frets…and Piglet hesitates…and Rabbit calculates…and Owl pontificates…Pooh just IS.

Here is a little excerpt that rings true for me right now:

A saying from the area of Chinese medicine would be appropriate to mention here: “One disease, long life; no disease, short life.” In other words, those who know what’s wrong with them and take care of themselves accordingly will tend to live a lot longer than those who consider themselves perfectly healthy and neglect their weaknesses. So, in that sense at least, a Weakness of some sort can do you a big favor, IF you acknowledge that it’s there. The same goes for one’s limitations, whether Tiggers know it or not-and Tiggers usually don’t. That’s the trouble with Tiggers, you know: they can do EVERYTHING. Very unhealthy.

Once you face and understand your limitations, you can work WITH them, instead of having them work against you and get in your way, which is what they do when you ignore them, whether you realize it or not. And then you will find that, in many cases, your limitations can be your strengths. 

For example, when Owl’s house fell down, who was able to escape, even though there was a heavy branch across the door and the only way out was through the letter-slot?

Piglet, the Very Small Animal. 

This trip was quite some time ago, and you may recognize it from a print version last year, but now it’s available on line!  Woo!  Check it out here!

Here we are again, Dylan Wolsky and I, cruising through the burn in Pemberton, Robin O’Neill Photography.  On a day like today, where it’s -5,000 in Whistler, I’m really missing my t-shirt!  Pemberton, Dylan Wolsky and Katrina Strand

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Happy 14th Birthday to my best friend MAXIMUS!! He started off the day by sprinting down the street, last week he biked to Cheakamus Lake and a couple months ago he hiked up to Joffre Lakes! Max clearly has some good advice here . . . Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter :)

I love you Max!!

Hi Folks!

A couple little nicks and nacks . . . First two articles in the local papers to check out, PiqueNewsMagazine and The Whistler Question.

Also, I filmed this short little vid for Juliana Bicycles for their newest campaign to recruit new racers, ambassadors and juniors to represent the brand.

Check it all out!

Every year I encounter quite a lot of people wanting to get into racing. Whether they are mature riders or young teenagers, making a first step into racing mountain bikes isn’t always simple. Here are a few common questions we ask ourselves:

What’s the best way to go into a race in order to perform my best? What’s the trick to figuring it out fast? How do I figure out what works for me?

Seriously, this had to be my biggest personal struggle with racing: Figuring out how to mentally approach a race.

Riding and training is the easy part! We know how it’s done; there are certain guidelines, rules and lessons literally written on paper. You read it, you understand it, you do it. Easy. As for what goes in between your ears once you are in the start gate, no matter how much you read about this, you need to figure out what works best for you.

I remember my first tries at racing! I would show up at the race, meet with a girl friend and practice with her not really thinking or knowing what would happen on the sunday event. When it was time to race, I would be in the line up leading to the start gate wondering: “What am I doing here???” “This doesn’t feel so good, I’m super nervous!” So my first thought to go down the hill for my race run was to do what I had done all weekend. I literally imagined my friend being ahead of me as if I was riding with her again! hahaha! She actually started her race just ahead of me and so I was imagining that I was chasing her down like I did in practices… It didn’t take me too long to see it wasn’t a great approach. My thoughts were all over the place during my race run and not so much on the trail. That was my first trial and error.

At that point I realized I shouldn’t be thinking so hard when I’m racing. I started to race not really thinking of anything. I was still pretty nervous at my starts, didn’t really know why but I was! That gave me okay racing results but I would still make mistakes or take crashes that I didn’t quite understand… I knew what had made me fall but I didn’t understand why I had gotten to that point; why I wasn’t focused. That was an ongoing issue that I couldn’t quite figure out. Some races were good and some were bad. One time I had a pretty good race at my local hill, Bromont. The following year, Bromont hosted another race on the same race course. I thought: “Sweet! I did good at that race last year, I’m comfortable on that track.” A small mistake followed by an over-confident Vaea ended in a big injury where I broke my femur and pelvis. I was definitely going to come back from it but I really had to do some thinking and try to figure out how to race to be more consistent while still performing! Injuries suck. Period. And even though I really want to stay away from them by riding and racing smart, I still learned the most from them.

After that injury, 3 years ago, I started riding very conservatively. For the longest time I couldn’t perform my best, couldn’t commit to ride as fast in races as I did in practice. Every year after my injury, I posted better and better results. It wasn’t all mental. I trained better in the off-season, I learned a lot more riding skills and got more and more confortable on a dh bike… So mentally I was getting more confident too. I wasn’t fully satisfied and wanted to do something else to help myself.

book_in-pursuit-excellence

I decided to pick up a book on mental preparation called “In Pursuit Of Excellence” (which I totally recommend to anyone wanting to act better on anything in their lives). It taught me how to find my best focus and how to keep it when racing. Key things to reflect on: When did I perform my best? Why did I perform my best there? How was my mindset at that race? In contrast to: When did I not perform my best? When did I loose focus? What made me loose focus? Did I gain my focus back? How did I gain focus back?

The main thing really is to find what brings you back into your best focus. We all loose focus at some point, I still make mistakes and think: “Oh damn I got completely off of my line there, I’ll tell my peeps when I get at the bottom!”. WHAT IS THAT!!? It’s so ridiculous that sometimes -still while racing- I’ll think to myself: “Vaea! Stop talking to yourself and focus on riding!” Funny isn’t it? Well, that whole chat going in my mind is exactly what not to do. It is at that exact moment that you make more mistakes. Slipping a pedal or missing a line is not that big of a deal. Not many people get perfect runs (maybe 1 racer per event gets an unbelievable fast and perfect race run!), but not recovering from an error right away and getting into more mistakes is what costs you time and possible injuries.

What works for me? “Braaap!” A very simple expression. Haha! As funny and stupid as it may sound, that is what I came up with to keep myself focused! I am a big fan of motocross racing and I love to see those guys shred the way they do while racing a super stressful event. That motor sound “Braaap!” makes me stoked on riding, simply. I ride my best when I’m enjoying it, when I’m confident in my riding and when the track is sweet! That friendly reminder pops in my head when I make a slight mistake and just tells me to get right back into it, keep my rhythm and keep shredding! It cuts all other thoughts and makes me focus only on what I am doing, racing.

Braaap tshirt

That’s my personal trick and what works for me. You get the idea and I hope that you can figure out how to find your best focus too!

I think that a good preparation and mental readiness are key to perform your best. You learned your lines, you practiced well, had fun and hit what you wanted to hit, your bike is ready, you trained hard for this and you’re going to do your best. Because we can only do our best.

As for the start gate, I believe that an empty mind is the best you can give to yourself. You know your lines, you know you are ready, just do it. I feel like this part of our brain just functions better when you let it react freely. Just focus on racing, your lines memorization and riding skills should follow automatically.

2014 World Championships - Focused and smiling, ready to rip it!

2014 World Championships – Focused and smiling, ready to rip it!

This year was a big big step up in my racing performances. I won the National Championships, got solid results on world cups and finished 6th at the world championships. The season started with a set back when I lacerated my liver while training in May, but I somehow carried a great mindset into the start gate and performed so much better as soon as I was back racing. I feel like after years of races, crashes, injuries, frustration, motivation, progress, etc, I came to realize that it is not worth stressing too much. I mean if you’re like Greg Minnaar and you’re trying to be a World Champion 10 times in your career, that’s one thing. That guy gets really nervous about racing, and handles stress really well, and wins. For me, and I think of youngsters out there getting into racing and wanting to make it on the world cup circuit, I think that the best way to find your groove and perform your best on stressful events is not to worry so much about it. I was told once: “It’s only racing bikes Vaea, it shouldn’t be so hard.” Thanks to Duncan :) Whether it’s a local race or a world cup, you are racing on your bicycle in both situations. It shouldn’t be any different in order to perform. It means: enjoy it, embrace it, evolve with it and let it fulfill your life with happiness and radness! Worrying about the outcome of my race run would only make me nervous, ride a ragged run and make my racing journey not as enjoyable… So I just have fun with it and give it my best. And it works!

Working hard and getting stronger performances is the best feeling out there! I can’t let set backs make me so frustrated or nervous, because I perform my best when I’m enjoying riding. Take 2 riders: Gee Atherton and Josh Bryceland! See where I’m going? Gee is the super serious athlete, calculated and particular that won’t settle for less than winning. And then you got Bryceland, being rad, throwing crazy lines, having fun with it and looking like he’s playing with the race course while everyone else is struggling to hit some lines. For him having fun and not worrying is what works best. In both cases, one is World Champion and the other is World Cup Champion.

Different approaches work for different people. Find where you perform your best and don’t worry about the rest, because that works for you!

I just got back from an amazing month of riding, racing, adventuring in France and Italy.  What a trip!  So much happened that there would never be anyway I could possibly paint the right picture . . . so I’ll keep it short-ish and sweet :)

Trans-Provence

Custom race plates for everyone!

Custom race plates for everyone!

I could honestly say this was the best week on my bike ever.  I seriously enjoyed every second!  6 days. 300 km.  8,500 meters ascending, 15, 000 meters descending.  24 timed stages.  Amazing people.  Amazing scenery.  Amazing trails . . . . holeeeeee shit it was incredible!  Words cannot explain the epicness of the week and I feel incredibly lucky that I got to be a part of this event.

The TP is BIG.  The shortest day was 6 hours, the longest was 10.  After having a somewhat rough start – getting lost and a major mechanical that both really bit into my overall time – I started getting a better feel of the terrain, riding faster, not getting lost and biting back time.  I ended up 5th overall and was stoked on some great stage results.

Just the beginning . . . Jamie Nicoll and I stop to take in the view.  Shortly after I took an accidental 'detour' that brought me down the wrong side of the mountain and had me riding/hiking an additional 10 km on an already big day.  Oops.

Just the beginning . . . Jamie Nicoll and I stop to take in the view on Day 1. Shortly after I took an accidental ‘detour’ that brought me down the wrong side of the mountain and had me riding/hiking an additional 10 km on an already big day. Oops.

No shortage of hiking during the TP.  This day was huge!  4.5 hours up and over a mountain pass with bikes on our backs . . . a true adventure.

No shortage of hiking during the TP.  Day 2 was huge! 4.5 hours up and over a mountain pass with bikes on our backs . . . a true adventure.  Gary Perkin pic.

Hiking, hiking. hiking . . . .

Hiking, hiking. hiking . . . . Gary Perkin pic.

In and amongst all the hiking, there was some climbing too.  Gave the blisters a break :)

In and amongst all the hiking, there was some climbing too. Gave the blisters a break :)

Chris Johnston didn't mind the hiking with views like this!

Big days means big views.  Chris Johnston, smiling of course.

Camp life.

Camp life.  Gary Perkin pic.

Blind racing is a weird thing . . . you definitely find yourself in hollleeeee shit moments!  It's amazing what you can pull off on instinct alone.

Blind racing is a weird thing . . . you definitely find yourself in hollleeeee shit moments! It’s amazing what you can pull off on instinct alone.  Gary Perkin pic.

Lots and lots and lots of these. Switchbacks.

Lots and lots and lots of these. Switchbacks.  Gary Perkin pic.

Almost there . . .

Almost there . . .

Santa Cruz teamies Wolsky, Iago and Chris celebrate the end of a big, great week.

Santa Cruz teamies Wolsky, Iago and Chris celebrate the end of a big, great week.

I could really go on and on and on about this event. Everyone made it unforgettable, but a real highlight would have to be spending a lot of time with Ines, Anita and Caro – The Füstli Crew – who are my new fave girls.  Funny, fun, inspirational and in all of this for the right reasons . . . wish they lived closer!  Thanks girls for all the laughs, good stories, encouragement and saying it how it is :)

Yep.  This happened.  A race that ends in bikinis at the beach is the epitome of best event ever.  #thefüstlicrew

Yep. This happened. A race that ends in bikinis at the beach is the epitome of best event ever. #thefüstlicrew

EWS Finale Ligure

Wow. Wasn’t easy going from the TP straight into an EWS.  Especially Finale.  The transitions were tight and the riding was tough.  Training was challenging due to shuttling logistics.  I was enjoying myself but finding it tough to push hard.  Didn’t have much of a choice though . . . lots of climbing, tight transition times and riding that really needed precision, focus and power.

Teamie Anka Martin and I about to get Day 1 started.  Gary Perkin pic.

Teamie Anka Martin and I about to get Day 1 started. Gary Perkin pic.

It was a good race.  Welllllll.  Haha.  Kind of!  I had two big falls in the first two stages.  Broke my visor blah blah blah . . . but then I pulled it together and rode my best otherwise.  The problem was that my best wasn’t as quick as I would have liked, I finished 16th overall.  Not disappointed whatsoever with this though – 47 girls were registered, 36 started and 32 finished . . . these races are HARD!!!  Around 2 hours after the race was done, I got hit hard by the flu and shivered and sweat for 3 straight days . . . hmmm, wondering if this had something to do with my low energy over the weekend?  Maybe.

Day 1, Stage 4.  No shortage of epic Mediterranean views in Finale!  Pic by Gary Perkin.

Day 1, Stage 4. No shortage of epic Mediterranean views in Finale!  Gary Perkin pic.

So the season is over and I am on some major R & R time.  I think it’s incredible that after all these years of riding and racing my bike, I still giggle and laugh and love riding my bike every time as if it’s the first time.  Sometimes I really can’t believe how much I love mountain biking!  I had such an amazing season, and am thankful to everyone who was a part of it – you know who you are :)

The Füstli Crew celebrating our epic season!

The Füstli Crew celebrating our epic season!

Claire has a neat little profile and interview up on xtremespots.com. It seems to be a pretty big community website full of “Extreme” Sports athletes from all over the globe. Click here to read the full interview

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