Why even non-racers could benefit from a cycling coach

As I sit here in a coffee shop sucking down a espresso and chowing a pastry I cannot help but reflect on my life as a coached person. Yes I said it –  coached person! I do not consider myself to be a racer; I have raced maybe a dozen times in my life but I am more of a deeply passionate trail rider. Now the fact that I am not a racer doesn’t mean I’m not competitive or don’t push myself; I would actually consider myself to be fiercely competitive and tend to push myself to the rev limiter on a regular basis, but for one reason or another I never caught the racing bug.

Over the past 10 years or so I really started taking my riding more seriously and putting a lot more effort into it. I would ride at any chance I had and usually go as hard as I could because it would give me such a rewarding, positive feeling afterwards. After some years of that though I started to develop stress related injuries during peak times of riding and I was in hard denial about it being because of the riding. My internal feedback loop would go something like this: ride hard, and keep riding hard until I blow up and then take a couple days either off or slower than usual, then pound my body until it exploded again. Being someone that is obsessed with performance in all aspects of my life this sucked because it had to be probably the most counterproductive cycle I would ever find myself in. Finally after my last stress related issue (shingles) I knew I needed to change what I was doing and exchange it for something that would allow me to pursue the sport i love for a lifetime.

Knowing (after years of reinforcement) that I was not disciplined enough to not ride hard I reached out to one of the slowest guys  I know, Neal Burton at MTB Burton Coaching, to get his secrets on how to ride mellow. Now, just to clarify, Neal is one of the strongest and fastest riders i know, he has been a top pro-XC racer in new england for as long as I can remember and now at the prime age of 42 he is still crushing it. What I really want is longevity in performance and health like he has and knew it was a combination of the right workouts at the right time, ample recovery and discipline, all of which I knew intellectually but not how to combine them to get the desired results.

So I reached out and explained my goals that started first and foremost with “not to blowing up”. Beyond that I put some cycling events and big rides that I wanted to do but none of which I knew if I could actually take the time to do, however  it is always good to have targets. So after a chat about goals, cycling history and the amount of time I had to ride weekly, Neal crafted a specific plan for me that would keep me on track.

We use training peaks which is an awesome resource for coaches and athletes to plan and communicate. It shows me every day what I should or should not be doing and then allows me to upload my rides as well as give feedback to neal so that he can keep an eye on me.

In the first month with Neal I have not ridden so slow or mellow in as long as I can remember. When out with my usual cronies I  would literally find them riding circles around me, to the top of the hill and looping back down to come back to me and then riding up again in the time that it takes me to get to the top of the hill now, and I am ok with that. I am ok with that because just after a month of sticking to my prescribed plan I have never felt more energized or excited to get back to riding hard again. I have found that motivation and energy again that I had back when I initially started taking riding seriously.

Now I know I am only about a month in but I can safely say that I am beyond ecstatic with the results thus far. Before starting this plan I was feeling seriously tired, demotivated and just bummed on my energy levels in general and now I feel like I have addressed those 3 things all while riding MORE than I was before, just smarter.

Now I am not saying that coaching is for everyone but what I am saying is that coaching can be for a lot more than just racers. Whether you ride a lot or a little having a good coach will help you ride smarter, not harder and be able to make cycling a lifelong pursuit.

Non-cyclist’s guide to the KT/Burke area

We get asked ALL THE TIME for suggestions on things to do for the non-cyclists. Maybe you are traveling with your SO or another family member that doesn’t ride, maybe you are injured and need to take a break from riding, or maybe you are just heading to the area and aren’t necessarily interested in the cycling element. Read on for some great things that the area has to offer!

A day in the neighborhood  

Start the morning with pancakes and  local Vermont coffee at Juniper’s at the Wildflower Inn. If you can, get a table on the porch right by the window – the views are gorgeous no matter the time of day.

Head over to Burke Mountain and prepare to take in the sprawling vistas from the top. If you’re feeling up for it, hike up the toll road, taking in the numerous look out spots the road offers. The hike takes roughly an hour to an hour and a half, from top to bottom. It is not particularly beginner-friendly, though, so avoid it if you’re not up for the challenge. Email us if you’re looking for a more beginner friendly hiking route; we’d be happy to point you in the right direction!

On your way back down the mountain road into town, do not miss stopping off at Auntie Dee Dee’s for some truly exceptional baked goods.

Take a drive to Sanderson’s Wooden Bowls, located on an idyllic farm. The owners are super friendly and will gladly go into detail regarding their woodworking process. An added bonus is that their farm also houses donkeys and Nigerian dwarf goats, making this stop fun for the whole family.

Next up is Burke Mountain Confectionery, a delightful chocolate shop in East Burke. Their truffles are out of this world, so be sure to take some home!

Just up the road is D-N-D Stables, which offers guided horse rides for those with no experience, and also non-guided horse rides for those 12 and older with previous horse riding experience. It was also named a “quintessential Vermont experience” by Trail Riding Magazine, so definitely not be missed for horse lovers!

After all that activity, it’s time for a drink! Head to the Hub Trailside, and sit outside (preferably just around sunset) overlooking the Willoughby Gap. It’s a truly perfect spot!

For dinner, take your pick of one of several great restaurants in the immediate area. Some of our favorites, in no particular order are:

Juniper’s (their salmon is delicious and we can never resist a slice of Elaine’s daily pie)

Cafe Sweet Basil (rotating specials, delicious burritos, and insane drinks & dessert)

The View Pub at Burke Hotel (delicious pub fare with creative drinks)

Foggy Goggle (their pizza is our favorite!)

Day 2 – A little R & R

Start your day with a delicious, local, and organic breakfast from the Freighthouse. We love their avocado toast topped with an egg, and their vegan protein balls. They also do delicious smoothies and have a great organic market for some goodies to being home with you.

From there, head to the Serenity Spa for a facial treatment and massage. Their facilities are brand new and their massage therapists are fantastic and can help you choose the perfect treatment for you.

After your massage, grab a good book and head to Cafe Lotti. Hunker down for a few hours  – their coffee, espresso, tea, baked goods, and panini are fantastic!

If you’re meeting up with your significant other after their ride, surprise them with a unique experience at the Willoburke Nordic Spa. You can book a private experience for two, which begins in their Finnish wood barreled sauna to stimulate blood circulation. The next step is immersing yourself in your own private cold tub, which closes your pores and helps boost the immune system. The final step is to take a dip in your private hot tub, then repeat the process!

Thanks for joining us on our weekend guide to the Burke area for non-cyclists! Please let us know what you would like to see next.

10 unique things you didn’t know about Iceland!

  1. Iceland is the safest & most peaceful country in the world! According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the most peaceful and safe country in the world, for the 8th year in a row! Iceland has no army, navy or air force and is so safe that, as a tourist, you can access the president’s house and even take photos outside without being met with much security.
  2. There are no mosquitoes! Iceland is one of the two places on Earth (the other being Antarctica) where mosquitoes simply do not exist.
  3. The sun never sets. Well, not quite, but almost! In August (when we will be traveling to Iceland), the sun will “set” for 6 hours, (called nautical twilight) which will resemble sunset more than it will complete darkness.
  4. Iceland is roughly the size of Ohio.Iceland clocks in at roughly 39,000 square miles.
  5. Last names don’t exist. Icelandic “last names” are actually made up of either the father or mother’s first name, combined with “-dottir”, which means daughter or son. In fact, the Icelandic phone book actually lists people by their first names.
  6. Don’t call their traditional horses “ponies”! Icelanders do not appreciate their horses being called ponies. They are Icelandic horses. They actually have two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. The first additional gait is a four-beat lateral ambling gait called the tölt.
  7. Icelanders take their names seriously. All first names must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee. If they don’t approve, you need to find an alternate name. The purpose of this is to preserve the traditional Icelandic language, which is derived from ancient Norse.
  8. Iceland inspired Led Zeppelin. Traveling to Iceland inspired the “Immigrant Song”
  9. Reyjavik is both the northernmost and westernmost capital city in Europe.
  10. The only mammal native to Iceland is the arctic fox.

Best off the beaten path spots near Kingdom Trails

While you might have come to the area for Kingdom Trail’s exceptional trail network, there is so much more to see if you have the time! Maybe you are traveling with your family and they don’t want to spend the whole day riding, maybe your significant other doesn’t ride, or maybe you want to explore what the area has to offer! Read on below for our favorite off the beaten path destinations near Kingdom Trails.

Lake Willoughby

Lake Willoughby is stunning. Seriously, this is a spot you don’t want to miss! Sheer cliffs tower over deep blue water – you’d have no idea you were in Vermont! There are two beaches, one on both the North and South sides, and we recommend that you check out both. Pro tip: make an afternoon out of it and take the scenic route back to Burke by way of Parker Pie. Eat pizza on picnic tables in the middle of vast farmland surrounded by endless fields.

The Flume Gorge at Franconia Notch

The drive through Franconia Notch alone is worth the drive from Burke! The Flume Gorge  is an absolutely beautiful and impressive piece of natural architecture. Keep in mind that the Flume Gorge does charge an admission fee, and is not dog friendly. However, there are several other hiking spots (the basin, for one) in the area that are totally free and dog friendly. Pro tip: make it a day trip and stop off in Littleton before or after for a bite. We love Chang Thai for delicious thai food, or head to Bethlehem and stop in at Rek-Lis brewery!

The Newport Bike Path

Ok, this one is really under the radar but is one of our favorite things to recommend to clients! Newport, VT has an exceptional bike path that follows the natural path along Lake Memphremagog. The views are stunning, and the path is very beginner-friendly, making it perfect for a family outing. Make sure you park at the hospital as opposed to the center of Newport in order to cut out cycling through some traffic.

Protip: Bring your passport! Go through the border crossing by bike (such a unique experience) in Beebe and head into the town of Stanstead for some crepes at Le Tomifobia. We also love Cafe Chansons pour Elle. Both are easily  accessible via the main road as you cross over the border.

Photo by Cory Tanner on Unsplash


Photo by Thomas Tucker on Unsplash