Thursday, January 05, 2006

PRQ#6: Mike Curiak

This is part 6 in the PRQ Series (Pro Racer Questionnaire)
*Note: Mike is a little bit 'different' kind of racer than the XC or even 12/24 endurance rider. But his answers to the questionnaire are just as relevant to the things that most of us do.

Mike Curiak



I'm sitting here trying to write an introduction for this PRQ. And words are just escaping me, because words just cannot do justice to describe the kind of accomplishments this athlete has achieved.

Just read this and then come back here. This stuff is on a whole different level than what most of us even dream about. Yet he's down to earth, and a regular joe like all of us. Working, living, and making ends meet.

Mike has been quietly churning away in the endurance world before endurance racing was cool. His exploits include:
• 2005 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, 1st overall, course record
• 2005 142-mile Kokopelli Trail Race, 2nd overall (singlespeed)
• 2004 142-mile Kokopelli Trail Race, 1st overall, course record
• 2004 2,500-mile Great Divide Race, 1st overall, course record
• 2003 340-mile Grand Loop Race, 1st overall, course record
• 2003 142-mile Kokopelli Trail Race, 1st overall, course record
• 2002 1,151-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, 1st overall
• 2001 544-mile time-trial, Colorado section of the GDMBR, course record
• 2000 1,151-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, 1st overall, course record
• 1994-2002 34 total 24-hour races, multiple 12-hour and • 100-mile races, with several wins, singlespeed records, and course records

And he's been at the forefront of the other biggest thing in cycling the 29"er movement. He's building some sweet 29"er wheels, and you know he's got some experience to back up the builds.

It is just amazing to see what he has done and it just shows you what the human body is capable of. This motivates me to push my own limits.

I'm still at a loss for words, but anyone who has currently jumped onto the ultra endurance bandwagon or the 29"er thing just needs to buy this guy a beer and thank him.

'Nuff said.




General

-Who are your sponsors that you’d like to recognize?
I’ve been supported by the fine folks At
SRAM
Clif Bar
Lake Cycling
*Editor's note: The standard for winter footwear. Can you guess who tested them?
DT Swiss
*Editor's note: Light weight yet strong enough for ultra endurance.
Hayes
Oakley
seemingly since the dawn of time. When you think about it, this little niche of ultra-endurance racing ain’t exactly huge today, so what do you call what it was 10 years ago? Whatever you call it, realize that these companies had some vision, a little bit of a budget to blow, and faith in this guy who’d never had any results but was sure they were gonna come someday…

I also need to mention the efforts of the people at Crank Brothers
White Brothers
Zipp, and
Syntace
*Editor's note:One of the best value/grams in stems. I have a F99

If you know nothing else about these companies, know that they care about the product that they produce more than the bottom line, and that they DO listen to feedback to improve their already stellar products.


-What makes an athlete a 'good investment' for a sponsor?
I once had a long conversation with the marketing director of a mid-sized US bike CO. His words, paraphrased for brevity, were that sponsorship = charity. In other words, money spent on sponsorship was basically just given away, with no means for quantifying if it had any impact on sales. So he believed that sponsorship dollars had ZERO effect on sales. To answer your question, I don’t have a clue, but some folks think that sponsorship simply isn’t a worthwhile investment. Take it for what it’s worth.

-How long have you been racing mountain bikes, how long as a pro?
I started racing in 1990. Since I still have a job, can I be considered a Pro? Or, if less than 10% of my income is derived from racing/endorsements, can I say that I “Make a living from racing”? Rhetorical questions (DUH!), but they illustrate that point that so many wisened pro’s have driven home in interviews for decades: Do it cuz you love it, not cuz you think you’re gonna make a living at it.

-What are your goals for 2006?
To find some semblance of the form I had in early 2004, before I did the 2500-mile Great Divide Race and tore myself down lower than I ever thought possible. I’d like to believe I’m on the upswing, but I won’t know for sure for a few more months. Note to prospective GDR racers: you have no idea…


Bike Geek Stuff.

-What bikes do you race on? What other bikes do you own?
For any race that requires more than 24 hours on the bike (hence requiring that I be able to carry some extra gear/food) I race my Mooto-X Ybb. Yep, that’d be a 29 incher, folks.
moots1

For races shorter than a day (100 milers, 150 milers, and other sprint-type races) I’ll usually reach for my single speed because I’m just too slow to be competitive over such a short distance. The single speed takes the difficulty up a notch, and that keeps me happy.
moots2

When I’m not racing I’m generally riding my LenzSport Behemoth. 5” travel 29” FS bike. Simply can’t get enough of it.
lenz
*Editor's note: Lenz was one of the first making FS in 29"

And lately I’ve had a bit of an obsession with this little number:
blacksheep
Can’t begin to guess why…
*Editor's note: For more on this bike check here

I also have a road bike, a scorcher, a Lenz Leviathan, and am working on a new snowbike for some upcoming (cough) projects…
Editor's Note: Ti/simple bikes for ultra endurance. Hmm? Less to go wrong.

-How do you see XC technology changing over the next 5 years?
Irresponsibly light and correspondingly non-durable seems to be the trend. Oh, you asked how it would CHANGE? Short travel (~3”) 29” bikes with dual hydro discs and UST about sums it up.

-What component or cycling gear would you pay full retail for if you had to?

29” UST.


Training/racing

-How many hours a week do you train (min, max, average)
10, 32, ~22. Depends, of course, on where I am in the yearly cycle.

-Do you have a coach?
Yep, John Weirath. Find him at thresholdsport. Cheesy home-brew site, but don’t let that fool you.

-Do you follow a scientific periodized cycling specific training program or ‘just ride’?
I’m not into the Morris plan or the Carmichael hype because focusing that hard on the specifics of an interval or burying my nose in an HRM just isn’t why I ride bikes. That said, I do own and use a PowerTap, and my training is structured and periodized.

-Do you strength train?
Yes--I run, ride singlespeeds, race junglecross all winter, and tele ski whenever the local area gets 10” of fresh overnight.

-Do you do specific technical skills training, if so what?
Yes, I follow the local Freeride crowd around every chance I get. It’s exciting, humbling, and educational, not to mention highly addictive. See Behemoth photo…
*Editor's Note: A freeriding-ultra-endurance rider. That is cool. Rock on Brah.

-How do you recover after a hard ride or workout?
If the ride was so hard/epic/grueling that I truly need to recover, then my body takes over and I end up horizontal. Otherwise there’s far too much to be done to make ends meet, so I work, write, wrench and do all the other things that keep the lights on and food in the fridge. Your body adapts to that, too…

-What is your nutrition protocol during a 12-24hr endurance race?
Gag me with a Gu. I’m embarrassed to admit that I used to have a protocol for the hamster races, but that’s long since gone. Thank gawd. I completed my 33rd (or 34th??) 24 hour race at ‘worlds’ in 2003:

And I ain’t doin’ ‘em no mo’

-What is your pacing strategy for a 12-24hr endurance race?
Ha! Ha HA! Next question.


Life

-How do you balance the stresses of regular life with training and recovery?
Poorly. Too much to be done, not enough time to do it, coupled with an obsessive compulsive personality (Who’re you lookin’ at?) means that I’m rarely in bed before midnight and rarely get enough sleep. Someone’s gotta do it.
*Editor's Note: This is the first pro to give the same answer that I would give.

-Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Not really. Just ice cream. And peanut butter. And maybe a little chocolate. Sometimes I’ll plop down on the floor at the end of a ride with a tub of PB, a vat of ice cream, and a cinder block of chocolate. But that’s all. Really…
*Editor's Note: Chocolate and Peanut Butter. Ok, NOW I think Mike's cool, before he was just ok.

But honestly, I try not to let the guilty part interfere with the pleasure part. Life’s too short.

-What advice do you have for those of us with families, and full time jobs who want to race our best?
Prioritize. Then race your best, be happy with the results, and get back to living. This is just bikes—and life is a lot bigger than that.

9 Comments:

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Jeff Kerkove said...

This is great! I am glad Mike got back to you. What Mike has done on the bike and for his "sponsors" products elevates what the rest of us should be doing. It's not about getting free product. It's about testing and developing good products into GREAT products!

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger Guitar Ted said...

Mike has got to be the most under rated, under appreciated athlete in the endurance circles and for sure in the bicycling world. John Stamstad was the pioneer, and got all the glory and the name to go with it, but Mike has certainly surpassed anything that Stamstad has achieved. What does Mike get for props? Nary a nod of recognition outside of ultra endurance circles. What a shame!

And I know Mike would poo-poo all of that anyway! He's a great guy, and I'm proud to have had him come and do our little ol' Trans Iowa thing!

Thanks for reaching out and giving us another opportunity to see the wisdom of this talented man!

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger Joe Partridge said...

I had a chance to ride with Mike at Trans-Iowa and Lumberjack 100 last year. What a great guy-very down to earth, helpful, and fearless.

Quick story-a group of three of us were lost in Iowa at night. I was a bit freaked out, but Mike relaxed. I guess if you've been to a race where nature is is trying to KILL YOU, being lost in Iowa is not a big deal...

 
At 12:12 AM, Blogger Paddy Humenny said...

very cool.

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger ACME Panel Systems said...

Anyone that associates with Mike whether as a sponsor, in a business transaction or as a friend should count themselves as very fortunate.

Bob Poor
CB, CO

 
At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Mike Hufhand said...

Curiak Rocks!

Mike came to our humble state of Indiana (yes...there's mtbikng in IN) and gave our membership (HMBA)a fantastic presentation on his cycling exploits. Of course, I got sick and missed the whole thing. But nonetheless...Curiak is a legend in the making.

 
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