Written by Christopher Kelly
Aug. 9, 2016
Christopher: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive Podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I am joined by Jeremy Powers. Hi, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Hey, thanks so much for having me on, Chris. Pleasure to be here.
Christopher: For people who don't know Jeremy, Jeremy is the current US Cyclocross champion and the top ranked American rider in the world. Hey, Jeremy, I've got a question for you. Do you know that cross is coming?
Jeremy: Yes, cross is definitely coming. It's funny how it's moved up. When I first started racing, it was much, much later in the year that we started to talk about cyclocross and now it's at the end of the cyclocross season. So, we started talking about the next season in January. It's really funny how it all works out but cross is definitely coming in August. Everything is cyclocross in my world. So road racing. The Tour de France is over and it's now cyclocross season as far as I'm concerned.
Christopher: Awesome. You better explain to the people what cyclocross is. I think most people would know what cyclocross is. But for the people that don't know what cyclocross is, can you explain it?
Jeremy: Yeah. Cyclocross is a form of mountain biking and road racing, road cycling, I guess, combined. If you imagine a road bike with sort of mountain bike-esque tires, we race on tracks that are about eight minutes long, about 80% of them are off road and the start to finish and maybe another section of the course is a road or a dirt road. They're usually very technical. The difference between a road race is where you go off and you do four hours of racing and then you come back through and then you finish it, maybe another point, or you do a circuit.
Cyclocross is short and intense and we go over the same course over and over again. We get off. We run over obstacles. We kind of -- Again, Tour de France would be more like 400 watts up a hill going as hard as you can. Cyclocross kind of marries technical ability, running ability in some cases, and fitness all in the same thing. So, it's more of like a tough motor event than it is a mountain bike or a road race event.
Christopher: That's an interesting analogy.
Jeremy: Yeah, yeah. That's what I'm trying to say. I get asked that a lot like in the airplane. What is cyclocross? And so you kind go into that. You try to paint a picture but it's tough. It could be tough.
Christopher: The moment you see it though. You have to go attend a local cyclocross race, which many people do, especially in Europe. It's amazing when you see it on TV like how many people attend the race just to watch it. You don't really see that in Northern California. But the moment you see it you get it. It's like not difficult. It's not like roller derby with my daughter the other weekend. We sat there for an hour and have no idea how it works or what's it about. Whereas cyclocross is very intuitive. As soon as you see it you'll get it.
Jeremy: Yeah. And it is. It's really, again, like when you go you see that it's very encapsulated and it can be done in a really small area. That's what made it very popular in the United States and, I think, it's made it very accessible for parents with children who want to come out and get involved and take their kids out. They can see them the entire time that they're going around this eight-minute loop. I think it's a nice way to get into cycling. If they go from cyclocross to mountain bike or to road racing, that's great too. But definitely cyclocross is for sure a great way to get involved in the sport of cycling. Period.
Christopher: Well, let me take you back to when you were 20 years old and I understand that you went from being a Cat 5 cyclist, which is not very good -- that's like a total novice -- to being Cat 1, which most people will never achieve. It's a very, very high standard of competition. In just a few short months. Can you tell me about that, what it was like and what was going through your mind at that time?
Jeremy: Yeah. I had already been mountain biking for some time at that point. I started racing when I was like maybe 13 or 14. And then at 15 I was taking it pretty seriously. I had been racing mountain bikes exclusively and road racing. We always thought when you were coming up -- Again, this is like the late '90s -- that road racers are really snobby. We didn't really associate with road racers. We didn't ride road bikes.
And then so, eventually, as I think I got to 18 or so, I had turned pro-mountain biking and I had won some races as a junior. We needed to start training on the road. And that year I had gotten mononucleosis pretty bad and I needed to take off six months. And when I came back I decided that I was going to go to college, something that wasn't on the radar when I had turned pro-mountain biking at 17. So, I was thinking like, okay, we're definitely not going to go to college. We're just going to go race bikes.
But my mom and I went, looked at some schools. We found one in Western Massachusetts, where I still live, and I linked up with the cycling community here. They were all road riders. So, around 19, I joined the Northampton Cycling Club Elite Team. I met two of my great friends and moved in with them ultimately, Alec Donahue and Mukunda Feldman. Those guys started telling me about everything from power meters to how to cook for myself and train and really it went from there.
I entered a bunch of road races. I started out. Actually, I did start out. I had to do some early season races as a five and a four but quickly won those or did well in them and got the points. And then I don't remember how it happened but I had had a Category 3 sticker from a friend's old license and I remember just putting that on and entering the 123 race.
And I don't even think I applied for the three upgrades. So, it was Andy Guptill, my good friend, had given me his three sticker. So, I jumped up to three even though I probably could have done it easily but it was a time thing for me because I really wanted to do these pro 123 races and get those miles in and start riding with Al and Mukunda in these pro races.
I think I did pretty well. I don't remember every single race but I do remember that I needed to win one Category 3 race outright and I think I got second in it and a sprint finish. That was enough to get me through a Category 2. And then when I was a Category 2, I did pretty well but majority of those events, and then that year Danny from Jelly Belly had given me a call and had offered me a contract. I was 19. So, it was pretty cool. That was pretty cool to be -- At that time, there weren't a ton of opportunities.
Now, there's a lot of teams that are out there doing developmental programs for the road. But Danny had always been really involved in under-23 riders and that type of -- He had a type of mindset. And so, he was very outgoing and he promised me to raise five or eight races, could be stage races as well. I did really well my first year on the team and I ended up doing a lot more than that. So, it was a very, very quick learning curve.
There might have been a race, the Philadelphia International, some people would know it. It's 160 mile road race. I might have gotten off my bike and walked into the feed zone to get what we needed and got back on my bike and kept going but when I say there was steep leaving curving, we learned a lot. We learned a lot over those years.
Christopher: That's awesome. So, you had no contact with Jelly Belly before that then? They just saw you, saw your results, and they just contacted you and said, "Hey, Jeremy, how are you?"
Jeremy: I didn't but there was a local rider here. And a lot of times this is how it happens when you start. You have a rider that has lot of experience and he's doing well, kind of IDs a talent in their local and then sees what they have going on. I had been doing really well in some road races. I think I had done really well in a bunch of cyclocross races racing for the Northampton Cycling Club when I was on that elite team that winter and so that's what I got the call for. It was because I was very motivated and I was doing well at 19 in the pro races in cyclocross.
Typically, cyclocross has been a breeding ground for a lot of good road riders. I think someone saw the talent. Kirk Albers is the gentleman that I'm speaking of. He told Danny and Danny gave me a shout and kind of rest was history after that.
Christopher: What type of road ride were you good at, road race, I should say? Were they hilly? Were they different type of road race?
Jeremy: Yeah, all around really. I was not a gifted endurance athlete. That's why I really was drawn to mountain biking and cyclocross when I was younger. But I think I was an all rounder. I was a fairly good, I think, leader. After, in my later, once I had the experience nailed down, because I had been doing it for a long time, I think I became a good team leader on the road, not necessarily like the person that was going to win the race but maybe the one that kind of got the troops in line and kind of talk about the tactics and got everyone to the front at the right time and talks about what went wrong and what went right.
Yeah. So, I was more of an all-rounder and I didn't really -- I never really had ambitions on the road and it was a way to make a living and something that I love, which was cycling outright. It didn't matter what kind. So, road became the thing that I ended up doing. For ten years, I was a pro with Jelly Belly.
Christopher: Why not stay on the road? I can see, as a mountain biker, I think there's probably far fewer people on the planet that earn a living as a professional mountain biker. Of course, there's one or two, Nino Schurter and a few others. But I'm sure, compared to road, it's like a fraction of professionals. And then you could probably say the same about cyclocross although I'm not quite as competent about that. But why make the change? Why not stay on the road?
Jeremy: Yeah. There just became a point where I was racing a lot. I was racing, so I was racing a full cyclocross season which is anywhere between 30 and 40 race days. That's not including the travel to get to and from. And then I was also racing sometimes 70 or 80 race days on the road, which is, if you do that Math, that's like a pro tour level rider. And pro tour being like the Tour de France, as in a tour rider. That does a lot of races. 100 race days for a cyclist is a lot. You start to put the travel on that and you're talking about 200 days, minimum, being away. It's insane.
So, that was kind of what I looked at. I really wanted to bet on my strengths, and cyclocross was somewhere that I had a lot of success already and I saw an opportunity. The market, I would say, was a lot better for cyclocross rider later in my career, which is ultimately why I switched to just cyclocross. I felt like road racing was trying to hold me back and my ambitions in cyclocross were growing and I felt like if I didn't start to really focus on this and just do cyclocross then I wasn't going to be able to reach my goals.
And I wasn't going to be able to satisfy the staff at Jelly Belly and specifically Danny because, Danny is the manager and the owner of the program, because he really wanted me to focus on cyclocross, sorry, on road racing, and prologues and time trials and that whole thing. And it didn't make sense for me. And there was also monetary component. There was quite a bit more in cyclocross for me. So, it was no question.
Christopher: And what were the bikes like? I'm wondering. The equipment has evolved very, very quickly. I watched an old DVD. There's some really fast local guys here in Northern California and one of them, it turns out, is a local here in Bonny Doon, and he actually installed by well. It's just a small world. His name is Justin Robinson. I saw him on this old DVD talking about the first time he saw a dedicated cyclocross bike in his local shop and he couldn't believe it because cyclocross bikes were almost something that you just cobbled together and you just ran whatever you had. So, what do you think about the way that the equipment has changed since you started in cyclocross?
Jeremy: It's changed a lot, yeah. I mean, the bikes, when I first went to Europe, we didn't even really -- In the United States, we had so little access to a lot of the unique and, I guess, dedicated parts that you need for a cyclocross bike. And if you know nothing about cycling, it's things like handmade tubular from France, which is a tire that -- Anyway, I won't try to get into that. But basically, it's a handmade tire that's very supple under conditions because a cyclocross bike doesn't have any suspension.
So, when I got over to Europe, finally, when I was 20, I remember just learning about tubular tires and that being like, wow. And now, I'm riding on an electronic wireless bike with hydraulic breaks on. It has changed significantly. There's 1X system with clutch derailleurs. The tires are infinitely better and much more traction and much more comfort. The bikes are so much lighter. And the composites that they're using, they can switch the grades of carbon fiber and the layups and they ride differently.
The geometry is based more on World Cup races that we're currently doing where they might have one time been like modified road bikes. Now they're dedicated cyclocross geometry. What does that mean? It means that basically the bikes are a little bit better for your back, a little bit more upright, a little bit higher bottom brackets. They don't get caught in mud and stuff like that. But, yeah, I mean, just what I looked on in my bike, I've said this before, but it's like riding on a machine, something that's electronic, something that has hydraulic disc brakes.
I feel really lucky and super -- I think the bikes are super special. It's something that I'm always, yeah, I've always had kind of a passion for that part of the sports. So, definitely into my equipment and love seeing the improvements and upgrades year to year for sure.
Christopher: And do you think the Europeans -- It seems like the cyclocross is more popular in Europe, or at least that's the way it appears to me as a relative outsider. But the Americans seem to love their equipment a bit more. All the Americans running disc brakes and then the Euros are still running cantilever brakes. Do you know why that is? Do you know why the Europeans seem to be slow with the uptake of the old equipment?
Jeremy: Yes. It's sort of where the sport is. The sport, I wouldn't say the sport is massive anywhere. I mean, it is big in Europe. That's no question. But some of it is smoke in mirrors too. We have a world cup. We have big races. Sometimes we have hundred thousand people come out to a race like the world championships in Belgium. The sport is big. But there's still a lot of old traditions. And what I mean by that is it's still someone's dad helping wrench on their bikes on the pit and bring their equipment to the races and stuff like that.
That's going to change in the coming, I would say, five years or so. I think that we're at a point where cyclocross is about to really, I would say, boom and there's going to be a lot of bigger programs and there's going to be a lot more -- It just seems like there's a lot more at stake and a lot more TV and interviews and internationalization of the sport in general. There's a world cup that goes to nine countries now.
Yeah, the Europeans are really traditionalists. They want to see -- They don't see a need for these things. I understand it from some points. The other part of it is they don't know how to adapt some of these things because they're not trained to do so. I think it's a combination of factors that has kept them on older style braking systems and so on and so forth. But I see those times changing very quickly. I see it in my own. I see it definitely happening in the United States.
But what's typically happened is we're sort of the testing ground over here and then the Europeans take a look at it and then another look at it and then another look at it and then eventually they bring it on. So, disc brakes has been one of the big ones and for a long time the biggest reason was just the weight penalty of them. There's no question that it's a better braking system and it's more applicable to cyclocross than probably any discipline. Maybe mountain biking, it's obviously equally as applicable but cyclocross without question, it's a better braking system under nasty gnarly conditions like we see pretty often.
Christopher: Yeah. I think here in Northern California, I run a mountain bike and that's kind of my thing. I get a lot of heckling for that. Some people think it's not really cross. I can understand why but at the same time I would argue that, like we said, more like I said, in the beginning there was no cyclocross ride. You just run what you had.
And part of me wants people to know that you can be successful on perhaps inferior equipment. So, part of getting more people involved into this sport is the equipment. If they think they're going to need hydraulic disc brakes and wireless shifting and all this fancy stuff, as cool as it is, it may stop people from having a go because it's so expensive. I really wanted to people to know, if you're listening to this interview, that if you have a mountain bike, especially a Hardtail mountain bike, then you basically got what you need to take part in your first cyclocross race.
Jeremy: Absolutely. All my first races were on my road bike and my mountain bike with just -- On my mountain bike, I ran [0:15:38] [Indiscernible] like 1.85 tires and on my cyclocross or my road bike which I modified to become a cyclocross bike, I just put like 28c little knobby tires on it and I just went to my first races and, yeah, had fun with it. I mean, that was a very long time ago but it's how you get into it. You got to see if you like it.
I always say it's walk-jog-run. Just start at a nice slow pace, see if you go out and see if you enjoy it. And then, yeah, you can think about getting a cyclocross train. And it can be as expensive as you want to be but cyclocross is one of the, I would say, one of the ones that there isn't a huge barrier to the entry, if you're crafty about it and you know your way around eBay a little bit.
Christopher: And I found with cyclocross that the more serious I got about it the worst I got, the slower I got, the more I crashed, the more things went wrong, the more I flatted, the more mechanicals I had. And since taking a much more laid back attitude where I don't even bother warming up, that type of attitude, things had gone much better for me. And I'm just wondering, how do you cope with that at the highest level? I mean, you must know what I'm talking about. The more stressed out and serious you get about something, the more likely is that something is going to go wrong. So, how do you deal with that at the level that you race?
Jeremy: I'd say one thing first which was technique is really important in cyclocross because otherwise you can really hurt yourself like getting back on the bike and remounting over an obstacle or something like that.
Christopher: You land on your nuts.
Jeremy: Yeah, exactly, yeah. You can definitely get, you can definitely ruin your groin and put your leg into the back tire. We see that a lot and I'm always thinking like, oh my gosh, if you had just come to a cross camp or if you had just known someone that could have helped you with that, that technique, that would have been a lot better for you. I've really grown into this. I started out as a junior. It was a lot of fun. And I've sort of refined what I just, being a total crazy person, talking really fast and not really giving a crap about any part of it, diet or otherwise, you start to refine that.
And so, for me, I do, I work really well off systems and having things in place as I've learned later in my life. I think it's helped me. But at the end of the day I had a coach that once said, "Just go out there and flap your wings." I seriously love that quote. There's some part of this whole being, everything in life, and at some point you just have to go do it. and with cyclocross it's like, yes, there are some things that would definitely make my life a lot better like having a couple of bikes or having, in my case, it's like having an RV would be really cool with all the races.
It's not something that we can do at every race logistically or financially but that's like at the world cup level it'd be really great to have an RV to be able to kind of jump into. That's on the highest scale. When you're just coming up, it's like I wish I could have a second bike that was identical so in case it gets muddy. But at the end of the day you go out there and you go as hard as you can and you just flap your wings and you have fun with it and you see how you do. And then you let all those things come to you.
I try to focus less on the things especially that are out of my control and that comes with a lot more maturity than when I was younger but I've definitely -- I found that especially at the really high profile races that I'm feeling a lot of external pressures, kind of like erasing that and doing something that I call like a blackboard technique where I think about absolutely nothing in the lead up to it, has been the most successful I'd say version of myself at the races.
Christopher: I'm wondering about the RV now then. So, what do you have? I always think that that must be so hard for the American riders when they go to a foreign country and then try and figure out what the hell to eat and how to just get around. There's a foreign language that you're not going to speak. You don't have an RV. So, how does that work? What do you have?
Jeremy: Actually, we work out of sprinters. They're fairly duped out, sprinters. I mean, we have like a seating area and a changing area and they don't have bathrooms in them but we usually, in the American races, it's usually all really close. Like we have the pits. Everyone is set up. All their tents and all their equipment and everything is all in an area so it's kind of like going to a NASCAR event but fans get to walk around and grab stickers and grab autographs and things like that. It's a nice atmosphere especially for a fan.
And those races are super simple. We have heated tents that kind of drape off our team sprinter and then we have also -- We also have a trailer which the mechanics work out of and so on. We don't have a small footprint. We have quite a bit of space and we're very comfortable here. When we go to Europe, it does tighten up a little bit. I'm working out of, again, as something like a sprinter, I believe it's actually a VW maybe that we're working out of that's owned by USA Cycling.
So, it's a little bit smaller area. But in general, I still have shelter. I still have a place that's warm. It's just not like a massive RV that I could bring you and four of your friends into and you guys could hang out and relax and I could be warming up on the trainer in the back. So, a lot of Europeans have that mainly because they've been successful on the sport and because the races are two hours from their house every weekend. So, it makes a lot of sense for them to have a home on wheels really.
To deal with the European stuff, at some point, it's another one where you're just like I have to let this go. Because there is all those things. Things close at 5 o'clock. There is a language barrier. There is a lot of things. And the better you become at just being dropped into a situation and not really having, not really knowing the exact outcome, the better you get at sort of navigating that and feeling comfortable with it, at least for Europe, the better off you're going to be. There's a lot of things you start to figure out like, "Man, I guess I don't need Google Maps because I don't have those here."
Christopher: My phone doesn't work.
Jeremy: I can't have those.
Christopher: Yeah, that must be so hard. Congratulations on everything you've achieved in Europe, by the way, in the face of these barriers that we talked about.
Jeremy: It's changed a lot too. I mean, things have, in Europe, like when I first went there, I remember not even being able to like find like an almond milk or soy milk or whatever it was because I always had had problems with lactose. Especially when I was younger, I did really have problems. Finding alternative things, finding peanut butter, stuff like that are staples of an American's diet are things that just aren't there.
And then you're in Belgium and you're like, "Man." And these things close at 1 o'clock in the afternoon and I don't know when they come back. They're open from 2:00 to 4:00. They came back. They went on lunch. It's just there's so many little things. But over the last ten years that has a changed a lot. They have a lot more alternative stores, organic stores and it's caught on quite a bit there so people are definitely taking a second look at health and the food that they're eating. In general, the food in Europe is of pretty good quality depending on where you go but in general I found it to be of pretty good quality at the supermarkets.
Christopher: Well, tell me what approach you take to your diet. Because I can't remember when I first heard this, maybe you can confirm or deny it, but I think a long time ago, I was watching an episode of Behind the Barriers maybe or perhaps it was something else but you were described as being quite serious about your health and your diet. So, is that true? And if so, what approach do you take to your diet?
Jeremy: Yeah. My diet has evolved a lot over the years. I would say I am fairly serious. I mean, there are certain things that I would consider staples of my diet. We have a list and we have a manager and she goes to the store and gets those things and brings them back and put some on the fridge so that we have them every single weekend or they live in the trailer, in the refrigerator. And so we have some staples.
It's a general diet but for me the biggest thing is, I think, around 28, 29, 30, I started to have a lot of problems with my blood sugar and so I really started to focus in on a lot less sugar in my diet overall and a lot more fats. So, that has definitely changed, I would say, the 33-year old, which is I'm 33 now. My diet now is even significantly different than five years ago and even two years ago. It's changed a lot. So, I would say a lot less refined and sugary foods and a lot more whole foods and a lot more fat really. So, yeah, it's changed. I think you probably go into a day by day. I'm happy to do that but--
Christopher: Yeah, do. But before you do, tell me about ten years and talk about how you knew ten years ago that you have a blood sugar problem. And this is incredible for someone that's as active as you are and have a blood sugar problem and we know that exercise is really good at disposing with sugar. So, tell me about that. How did you know you had a problem and what was the problem?
Jeremy: When I was really young, I remember eating dinner, and I'm talking about 12 or 13, and running outside and going and riding my bike just ripping it up with the kids in the neighborhood. And then maybe like 15 minutes later I'd come back inside and my mom would look at me and I would just be crushing everything. And she'd be like, "Did you just eat all of that? We just had dinner." I'd be like, "I did." And she's like, "Why?" And I'd say, "I was so hungry." I don't know what happened. I'm so hungry. Like I feel like I want sugar.
She was like, "Okay, well, let's eat four bowls of cereal." I mean, that's what we did when I was really young. So, that's probably the first time that I realized that I was really -- I think I had. And this is, again, me just kind of going off my own personal experiences here. I think I secrete a lot of insulin and over the years of doing testing with different endocrinologist and different people, it turns out that I have almost what we call like a super pancreas. I eat something and I secrete a lot of insulin. That brings my blood sugar down, which in theory, is just makes me think or want more sugar because my glucose has gone down.
And so, the general thing that's happened to me over the years is that as I've gotten more fit and leaner and lost a lot running on 7% to 10% body fat for the majority of the year, those swings became more and more vicious, I would say.
And so, I swear to God, in this thing where I was really lean, I would say sub 155 for me, which is pretty lean, and then I started to have a lot of coffee and I was doing a lot of volume and it was kind of this perfect storm up like every morning I was just dropping my blood sugar up into the low 40s. And it really felt like I was maybe something was actually wrong.
I chased that pretty strongly. I chased that to see if there was some type of insulinoma or something going on with my pancreas. It turns out there wasn't. We did a lot of scans and a lot of things to make sure that there wasn't anything there. And then it really came back to me changing my diet. And so I'd say version one of that is kind of like the, like lentils and greens and things like that in the morning because this was really particularly bad for me in the mornings. Lentils, greens and protein in the morning.
And so that was one version. I found it helped me a lot. And then I went to mostly fat and then that was another version of my first morning breakfast. And now that I've sort of gotten my body out of that cycle, I would say where we are today is that I don't ever experience those glucose drops like I did and it was specifically around not having a lot of sugar or processed food in the morning like cereal or muffins or croissants or things like that. But it got pretty bad. I was at a point where I was feeling like I was shaking and I do really mean my blood sugar was down in the 40s. I documented it many times.
Christopher: 40 milligrams per deciliter?
Jeremy: Yeah, it was really crazy. And a lot of doctors took a look at that and were like there is something wrong here. But in the end it wasn't. It wasn't as bad. It really had a lot to do with just -- Literally one of the doctors dubbed it as a super pancreas.
Christopher: So, I'm sure you're aware of this. The standard of care for type II diabetes is maybe you reduce your carbohydrate intake a little bit but for the most part they're still going to have you fed with carbohydrates and then give you short acting insulin to cover the carbohydrates and that seems like total madness to me as a lay person on the outside. It's a bit like you're outside and get sunburned and so treatment is, well, you only go outside for 30 minutes a day at midday. How about that? That will work.
And, of course, the obvious solution in the sunburning case is, well, you're still going on the sun and you let your skin heal. And you could say the same thing of the type II. How about we reduce the carbohydrate in your diet to zero even, maybe just some fiber, and up the fat content? But that seems like quite radical an alternative thinking in medicine. So, how did you find an endocrinologist or some other specialists that suggested a high fat diet? Or maybe you didn't. Maybe you figured this out for yourself.
Jeremy: Yes. I did figure it out for myself, for sure. I went to Boulder through someone that was also a cyclocross racer and sort of got some testing done there. And at first, I think majority of people really didn't believe that this was happening the way that I was describing it and so there was a bit of a period where I needed to convince some people of what was happening. And it typically happened in the off season for me when it was its worst and, I think, that that comes from -- I could blunt the effect of this low blood sugar by going out on a cycling ride almost immediately after having breakfast.
That window where it's like my blood sugar is going to drop, my insulin is going to go up, but if I get on my bike directly after I eat breakfast and I started going then it will kind of keep this at bay. And so I was sort of masking that for many years, that 29 through 31, I would say, age for me are those two years, I think, I did a really good job at just dealing with it and getting out on my bike immediately after having breakfast and so kind of walking through that.
Yeah, when I finally got to Colorado, I did the testing. I think it was like three years ago now. I replicated exactly what I was talking about. I was able to eat breakfast in the office and do what we call a mixed meal type test and we saw the wild spike and kind of the drop in my glucose, really low, and then really high insulin level and, I think, C-peptide. They tested a bunch of different things. And, yeah, they did say that it was very abnormal.
It was abnormal but despite it being abnormal they didn't believe there was something there. I dealt with it and that was sort of that lentils and greens period of my breakfast because, again, it was really bad in the mornings. I dealt with it like that for a year and then I went really strict. I started to get into ketosis type breakfast and see if that would help, like literally zero carbohydrates. I had to try something to be able to kind of change what was happening.
And so I did that and I started to have better results almost, not immediately but over time, as my body sort of got out of this cycle of dropping my blood sugar. And then I ultimately chased it to the Mayo Clinic. And so I went to the Mayo clinic and I had them really dig in to make sure that there was nothing wrong. And that's kind of where I took my takeaway. Like, okay, I've gone this far with this. They've done everything that they can do in the Mayo Clinic I would consider as the gold standard especially in endocrinology. So, at this point there's not something there. They did see that there was, obviously, some, again, the results that I have are slightly abnormal.
But it was not something that, they could not find a small tumor in my pancreas or anything like that. And so it was really back to diet. And so that's when I started to chase more of the ketogenic style diet. I think that that's kind of where it ended for me. And I've been doing great with it. I've been feeling so much better and the blood sugar issue is almost completely gone in my life now.
Christopher: That's awesome. And the thing I'm wondering about is how is your performance on the bike? Everybody knows or perhaps they don't know, they think they know but they don't, that carbohydrates are essential for exercise performance. And in particular, cyclocross, which if I was to just look at the data from your power meter, I could perhaps conclude that cyclocross was a series of short sprints. How was your exercise performance been whilst eating a high fat diet?
Jeremy: Yeah, I think it's good. I mean, I have not seen -- Just so I can say I did go into some states of ketosis a couple of times and it was not good for my high end cycling. I did not find especially in cyclocross and in VO2 type efforts where my heart rate was above 175. I didn't have success in kind of nailing that down. And that could have been time. That could have been a bunch of factors. I just did not find that it was -- It didn't make me feel good. My legs did not feel good. I did not feel good in that state.
And so I stepped away from that and I sort of went more towards a moderate carbohydrate diet. And so now it's very low fat in the morning and as I get out on my ride I sort of, I reintroduce carbohydrate as I'm going. I sort of fill my glycogen back up throughout the rest of the day and into the next day I seem to be fine. So, I actually forgot your original question as I went off there.
Christopher: No, you answered it perfectly. And can you tell me how many -- I mean, maybe you don't know this or maybe you do -- how many grams of carbohydrates you eat per day?
Jeremy: Gosh. I would say anywhere from probably like -- It's probably around 200 maybe on a bigger four-hour -- Again, this completely changes with what I'm doing. It's like I'm really looking at what my, the volume of training that I'm doing because that definitely changes it, and the intensity that I'm doing. And so it changes a lot. But I would say average is probably like 200, maybe 250, 800 to 1000 calories of a 3000 to 4500 or 5000 calorie output a day.
Christopher: So, it's still relatively low carb.
Jeremy: It is, yeah, but it's not in that -- It's not in that ketogenic type.
Christopher: It's not ketogenic. Let's take a step back and walk me through your years. So, one of the things, I think, is interesting about professional cyclist is you probably don't do the same thing all year round. How does your training and your diet look like through the average year?
Jeremy: Yeah. I mean, really, I race basically in cyclocross season, September to February. And then in February I sort of take a break usually about -- This year I did five weeks which was the longest break I'd ever taken but there's been a lot of studies or a lot of kind of -- I would say there's been some interesting things around taking extended amount of time off for endurance athletes. I would still consider myself an endurance athlete because I do put in 25 to 30-hour weeks pretty often. That's a lot of volume. I consider myself an endurance athlete still.
And so I did. This year, we took off five straight weeks of very low intensity. So like I kept my heart rate on hikes and things like that all sub one, 140 beats. And that was different. It was definitely tough for me. But that started, I think -- So, February, I raced in Tokyo at the end of February so I probably got back on the bike doing base training, which is about six to eight weeks long, I do that almost from that period, middle of March, all the way through to About May, middle of May.
And then I almost jumped straight into racing. I did a small stage race up in Vermont this year and really after that I sort of started to get that tempo and that work there. I do do some work in the gym. I do a lot of work home, at home now with weights and such. But that's kind of come down a little bit. Last year I went way into the gym and I felt like I did too much. I put on a lot of muscle mass. I stepped away from that a little bit more this year. It's more based around core and plyometrics type stuff. Now, I'm doing--
Christopher: Oh, tell me. Can I interrupt you? What kind of strengths training did you do when you put on a lot of muscle mass?
Jeremy: A lot of legs, quads, glutes and I did do quite a bit of upper body work as well. I was working with someone that was more like a crossfit type gym so we were doing a lot of free weights and I just immediately put a lot of muscle mass on. It was very clear like in my chest and in my arms. I mean, I immediately put on what would have probably been 154 pounds for me was probably like158 but I could just see it especially in my chest and in my arms and in my neck area. I just put on a lot, what I would have considered a lot. I looked different and I was like, gosh, this is -- And I could feel that extra weight. I definitely had -- I found from the leg work I got a lot better in my sprints and sprint finishes.
I felt like I had a lot more bursts of power. But overall, for what I was doing, for what I thought I was going to gain from it, I didn't find the benefit to be there at least specifically for cyclocross. But I do think when I'm retired I will absolutely go back in the gym. I really enjoyed that work and I found, yeah, I found it to be beneficial just not for what I was doing. So that's why I said I paired it back and I really took some of the exercises specially the leg work that I was doing and I continued to do that throughout the year this year.
Christopher: Yeah. It's a really nice problem to have, gaining muscle. It's really nice problem. I'm surprised that didn't do well for you in cyclocross. There's virtually no climbing compared to road racing. And then, as I said, when you look at the power data, it looks like a series of short sprints. And you would think, okay, maybe the chest is not super useful but certainly the series of short sprints through those tight sort of hairpin corners. You would think that that extra muscle would do you really well but you don't think that's the case.
Jeremy: I think, for me, I don't think I'm the strongest guy that's on the circuit. Actually, I know I'm not. So, for me, there is a weight component and hanging on to four, five extra pounds of body mass, for me, it didn't help my power to weight ratio. So, there are races where there's long uphill drags especially in the European cyclocross races. There is some pretty hilly steep hills that you really need to navigate and every five, six minutes, you're having this climb. It can add up and I just didn't feel like the benefit were worth it in the end for me.
But, again, it's something that I've sort of said, okay, I'm willing to do this because I did feel like the leg strength was really there especially with low cadence type efforts. And just general health. I feel stronger. So, I'm still doing that and I'm definitely core planks, side planks, back exercises. Those are all things that are sort of without question, those are status quo for me.
Those are baseline and then adding on top of that more of like the 15 to 25 pound weights and doing a lot of stuff with my legs, one-legged squats, two-legged squats, things like that, glutes, things that -- Yeah, stuff like that. And then really that back strength. That's the stuff that I find to be, for me, again, personally -- This is all individual. But for me, I find that I get the most benefit from that. It's kind of that whole what -- If I'm doing this 110%, like I felt like I was last year, what is the 80% that version that takes me a lot less time, I still quite get a lot of benefit from? It's true.
Christopher: Yeah. It is true, yeah. So, those are quite light weights. You said 15, 25 pounds. That's not very heavy.
Jeremy: Yeah. No, it's not. But it is enough that I feel like after 12, three sets of 12 on that, as I work up to that 25 pounds, I feel like that is the amount that I need to get exactly what I was talking about.
Christopher: So, you're holding a dumbbell or a kettlebell, how does--
Jeremy: Exactly, yeah, dumbbell, yeah.
Christopher: Okay. And then what did you like Bulgarian split squats or something like that?
Jeremy: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Just like that. just one leg down, right knee, left knee kind of bend at 90% and kind of going down back up and then down on the other leg and kind of just switching those up and doing a lot of stuff like that. When I was doing the crossfit, we do a lot of box jumps. We do a lot of step-ups, things like that, with weights. So, those are the types of efforts that I felt like did help me and made my legs much stronger.
And again, especially pushing those big gears which, for those listening that don't know about cyclocross, sometimes you get into a race where it's very muddy and you have to do a cadence, revolutions per minute, RPM on the cranks are like 40 or 50 for a long period of time, that's the almost exactly what this work is for, for that type of effort.
Christopher: And do you think -- I find that when it's really bumpy it works better to push low cadence.
Jeremy: It can, yeah, definitely in the slimy muddy conditions. It's almost a dirt bike theory. Whereas, if you punch in first gear and you kind of wheel out versus if you have it in a harder gear and you sort of let off the clutch easily, you don't wheel out. And so that's kind of the sense or the theory that I use when I'm thinking about how I get traction. So, low cadence would definitely give you better traction and something like cyclocross where you have a small contact patch with the tire and the ground.
Christopher: Okay. To go back to your yearly plan, so your base period on the bike, how do you do it? Do you do like 140 beats that you mentioned? Do you keep it? Or below 140 beats and then how many hours a week or what does it look like?
Jeremy: There was a time when base was very strict for me and it's a time to get lean, to really burn off fat. So, yeah, you go into these periods where it's an ebb and flow but you put some weight on and hopefully your body becomes, you get a lot more sleep and you put some weight on and your blood values come back up, things like that. So you feel a lot better. And then you get out there and you do a lot of volume to bring it down. And you also kind of create that efficiency in those muscles and using that energy again.
Because I've been a pro for a really long time, what used to be like 30-hour weeks back to back to back for the majority of my base training that has changed a lot.
And it sort of tears up. We usually do like 15, 18, 22 hours, kind of the first couple of weeks, to get going. And then the next -- We take a small break in between that and then we do another big three weeks of training. And the volume is sort of based on -- Everyone is different with how much volume they can hold or what they can do. A younger rider might start out at ten hours and go to 15 or 16 on their first three weeks and then older riders doing 15, 21, 25, and then that second week is just basically can I start out at the third week's number?
So, if it's 21 hours that you did in your third week of base and you take a break, then the next week be 21 and then 25 and then maybe 26 or 27. But for cyclocross riders really, getting up all that 25, 25 hours a week is like -- That's a lot. It's probably unnecessary. And as I've gotten older and my days is sort of, I would say, almost OG -- I'm like old now. I don't need those 30-hour weeks as much as I once did. So that's sort of that whole base period.
And really it's bout efficiency. It's about getting, kind of doing a lot of stretching, doing some core work, getting back going, and setting that foundation so that when you do add those high intensity efforts back in that you have something to rest on. And if you get injured, you still have that base and you got the miles and there's no question that you never build a house down. You always start with a good foundation and that's what the base period is for sure for all of us.
Christopher: And all the riding is done on the road?
Jeremy: A majority of it is although I do do quite a bit of mountain biking. But it's less, it's more variable on the mountain bike. So, if I really want to control my power output and my heart rate I tend to lean more towards the road. And it's easier, in some ways, I would say, on your body. It's much more specific. But if I'm feeling like there's no way I'm going to be able to do the power anyway and I need to go out and do this four-hour ride then most likely I'll call up a bunch of the crew and we'll go out and we'll do a four-hour mountain bike ride and just have fun with it and kind of throw the power meter half of the day and just enjoy the day.
Christopher: Awesome. And then in the base period, do you do any intensity at all? Do you ever go out and smash it during the base period?
Jeremy: Not really. I mean, that's changed a little bit over the last couple of years. I'll do kind of like some -- I'll dupe my heart rate a little bit just to see if I can kind of get my zone, my heart rate zone back up because you can get your heart rate to be really depressed with a lot of volume back to back to back. So, sometimes we'll do some exercises to try to get it up there so that it can stay up there when it gets depressed but, honestly, I've had a lot of success just with sleep and drinking a lot of water and staying on top of my diet and overall like my feeling.
If I'm not feeling good then I might take a second day off. If I'm feeling like I'm not recovered. And then I'll just add the next seven days on. I'm not as hyper type A as I once was about like is this exactly like three weeks on one day off? Like whatever that once was. Now, I'm more like am I recovered enough to be able to do quality work? And if I am then that's great. And if I'm really sore and I'm feeling like I did too much core or too much riding or too hard at some point then, yeah, I'll back it off. I'm not afraid to do that. I'm much smarter than I once was about what I'm doing.
Christopher: And you're not trying to quantify recovering in anyway like maybe with heart rate variability or resting heart rate in the morning or anything like that?
Jeremy: I do do resting heart rate in the morning and that has been really good for me and I can definitely, I've been able to stave off some pretty good head cold by kind of killing it when I knew I was definitely -- Typically, for me, it's 38 to 44 depending on where I'm at in the mornings. And I would say, if I know I'm up in the 50s, then I know, yeah, we need to kind of can today and take a rest and let my body recover. So, it's general but I do it every day on my iPhone and it's been great. I've been doing that for probably three or four years. It's been really good for me.
Christopher: Interesting. Then how does your diet there? So, you mentioned the off season there. Would that be when you're hardly consuming any carbs at all and then you up the carbs when you go into the base period or how does it work?
Jeremy: I mean, this year, during my base period is when I went into ketosis. I started playing with that a lot. That was very interesting for me. But generally, yes, it's less. During base, you're mostly burning fat. So, it's like why would I be eating a ton of carbohydrate during my base period if my goal is to burn fat by adding carbohydrate? It doesn't make a ton of sense if the majority of the work I'm doing is basically my highest fat burning state.
So, yes, there is some carbohydrate but I can get away with eating a couple of handfuls of cashews and a half a piece of bread with some peanut butter or something like that. That's not every day. Some days, it has like bacon on it and some days it has eggs and bacon and some days there's all kinds of things that we make. But it's less -- I would say, now, I can get away with it on a four-hour ride because I've been eating more carbohydrate and I've been racing quite a bit. I can get away with having a cliff bar or an almond butter sandwich or something like that while I'm out training.
That has no effect on me and those carbs would go to good use. I can see the power up, staying up when I'm taking those carbs. And so, during base training, it's mostly I can see kind of what's happening with my heart rate, how I'm feeling and where my power numbers are at. And so those are all kind of key indicators and I go off those and I use the numbers from the year before and if I'm hitting those or if I'm not. This year, going into just fat, 90% of my calories coming in being fat or something like that, which was insane, that definitely killed the power outputs. So, this year will not be a good day to set for next year.
Christopher: Okay. And would you care to speculate on -- I'm sure you've seen some of these stories in the press. There was one about Chris Froome that I'll link to in the show notes. And then there's another. Romain Bardet has talked openly about a lower carbohydrate approach. And my friend Marty Kendall did a good write up on his blog and I'll link to that too. But do you see a big difference between your diet or your carbohydrate intake specifically and other riders that are your peers?
Jeremy: I think it's all things in moderation. I mean--
Christopher: Including moderation.
Jeremy: Exactly. Yeah, well said. Everyone is so, holds their cards so close to their chest. It's hard to know exactly what people are doing or not doing. I know for me that when I decided I want to cut carbs that, yes, my power is going to go down but I'm going to be able to lose some pounds. It depends on how you, the periodization of what training you're doing and when you're doing it. I will be really surprised to see the Tour de France guys doing a low, strictly low carbohydrate diet in a Tour de France type effort. It's jus -- I don't know.
But again, everyone is different. It's very interesting. I know that, I've seen some pictures of Froome like an avocado with eggs. I totally get that. That's like, yeah, he's probably doing a fasted ride and he's probably had some coffee and he's probably going to go out and kind of just noodle for two and a half hours with his team and that's a good ride for him. And then he's going to have a low caloric day overall on that day.
So, when you're someone that's as paper thin as Chris Froome is, he must have really rock solid blood sugar to be able to tweak with his body that way. That's what I would say. And so for someone like me, that's not as possible. I can't really do that because when food comes in my body freaks out.
Christopher: And have you experimented at all with exogenous ketones, these supplements that's starting to hit the market? Have you tried any of them?
Jeremy: I haven't, no. I haven't. I think as far as I got was some MCT stuff. But, yeah, I mean, when I did do the ketosis I hadn't even -- I was just listening to a ton of the podcasts and kind of educating myself on it. And so I just did it. I used nothing. I used no MCT. I used no anything. It was just coconut oil maybe with my cooking was probably the extent of it. But, I think, if I were to advise someone I would tell them definitely use some of the Brain Octanes or the MCTs that are out there, whatever those things are that help push that along just because it was not good.
There was some days there that were really crummy for me and I felt horrendous as I kind of went through this, yeah, this terrible -- I felt terrible for a couple of days as I kind of got into that blood ketone range that we would consider to be ketogenic.
Christopher: What range, what did you get up to? Did you measure with one of your handheld meters?
Jeremy: Yeah, I did. I think I got up to 1.8, was probably my highest and I think probably at .8, even at .5 I felt like there was some extreme mental clarity and at .8 I felt like I was reaping a lot of benefits. I got the skinniest I've ever been even at that range. Yeah, I felt like I was getting a lot for even doing just a little bit but I know what I was doing. I was getting a lot of cardiac drift at the end of my long rides and that was probably kicking me out and so I was starting to burn -- who knows what I was burning?
Christopher: Your bicep?
Jeremy: Yeah. I didn't smell -- My sweat had changed. I actually heard you talking about that.
Jeremy: Yeah. Certain things started to change for me. Like one day I just looked down and I felt like my hands were literally like completely numb. I just felt like I am not -- this is not good. Like I feel like really out of it. Yeah, so I just -- I sort of left it at that point and I went into that for probably like four, maybe five weeks I had done that for my first trip. And then I teased it a couple of times and popped in and out but what I did find in the end is that carbohydrates are going to be part of my world as long as I'm racing.
I do think that for a recreational cyclist or someone else that their body is different, it's probably a good fit for them. But for me, with the cyclocross efforts and the way that I burn fuel my whole life, right now I need to continue to have some carbohydrates and a ketogenic state is not necessarily the thing that I'm going to chase for racing or for performance increase. At very minimum, I felt that there was no, outside of the weight loss, which was incredible and makes you feel good when you look in the mirror, I didn't find that it helped my performance at all.
Christopher: Obviously, I agree with you and you are the national champion after all. I got super duper skinny. When I first went on the diet and my power to weight ratio still sucked because it's still a power to weight ratio, right?
So, yeah, I totally agree with you on that point. But do you think, have you heard -- Can I force you to speculate again on whether any of the other teams are using exogenous ketones? I'm really interested to know whether, if you went up to your average pro cyclist and say, do you know what a ketone monoester is, do you think they would know or would you think they'll just look at you like you have two heads?
Jeremy: No. Maybe at the pro tour level, they're probably using it or have at least educated in it. It may work for some of the riders. But definitely as an average or semi pro, pro level, I don't think that it's as abundant or widely used. But I do think that that will increase as they become more and more popular and there's more research done on it and kind of the formula of how they work will be -- Yeah, I think it will become part of cycling culture and sports in general.
Because I do think having gone into it completely without any of these exogenous ketones that are kind of out there, for me, I definitely felt like the mental clarity and my overall ability to concentrate and some of the perks that I had from it were undeniable and they made me feel awesome. I loved it. But when I started going hard on my bike, which is my job, I didn't feel like I got the same benefits though.
Christopher: We backwards and forwards in email before this interview and I sent Jeremy a paper that came out just last week. I'll link to this in the show notes. That was one of the key points in the paper, was our current understanding of ketone body kinetics during exercise is insufficient to warrant their use as an ergogenic aid in any practical sport setting, which I thought was interesting.
But there's another paper that came out later that week and I didn't send you this one, Jeremy, but I will link to it in the show notes. It's a paper in the journal Cell, quite a prestigious journal. And this was done by Kieran Clarke and Dr. Richard Veech. I interviewed Kieran Clarke. They showed improvement in time trial and performance with the combination of a ketone ester and carbohydrates. But the one-hour time trial, it was done at 75% exercise intensity, which one hour at 75% isn't cyclocross, right?
Jeremy: Yeah. I mean, that's very interesting. Yes, I would believe at that 75% to 80% range that you could probably conquer the world if you race only or if you're strong enough to only need to go 80% then absolutely, in a ketogenic state, you would bring that fat burning up and I think you become extremely efficient at that. So, whatever that heart rate is, let's just say it's 150, you might bump that up in ketosis up to 155 or something like that.
I could envision that your fat metabolism and the way that you use fat as fuel would increase, no question. And then you add ketones exogenously, I mean, it makes sense. No, cyclocross 110% and a lot of the time trials, especially at the world tour level, are 110% especially the shorter prologues. So, that's where I see differently. That's interesting to me but I would -- That's totally believable but, it think, again, at that VO2, talking for pro tour rider 500 plus watts for minutes at a time, from what I experienced, and this is again just me, I haven't seen it. But I do think that the formula probably exists in some way for it to be a thing that people are using in the future.
Christopher: There's some really interesting images in the study actually and they did some muscle biopsies and they looked at glycogen and then they stained the glycogen before and after the time trial. And you can see that in the group that took the ketone ester plus carbohydrates. So, both groups had carbohydrates. But one also had a ketone ester. And you can see post exercise that there's clearly more glycogen still present in the muscle after the one hour time trial.
I mean, that could be interesting for a road rider when it's 30 minutes of game time at the end. Like if you're sucking down these ketone esters on top of what you're already doing, then you might end up with more glycogen to play with at the end of the race could be interesting.
Jeremy: Absolutely. Yeah. I think some of those riders probably do have, again, I think each of them probably deals with it differently but a large team, Sky or Tinkoff or someone that has the access and the ability to kind of play with this and has the resources to be able to buy something like that is most certainly at least, if not using it, educated in it. There's not a lot of things in pro cycling at least at the Tour de France level that kind of get by us potential legal performance enhancements. Yeah, no question.
Christopher: Well, take me back to the rest of your year. I'm really interested to know how this all fits together. So, you do six to eight weeks of base and then you said you jumped straight into a stage race. Was that on the road?
Jeremy: It was, yeah. I actually nipped podium on the first day of the race, a small race but it was still great. I forced to move at the end and got broken away with like maybe seven riders and then I sprinted out. I got third, which I would not consider myself a sprinter by any stretch of the imagination. So, I was happy with that. And then actually the next day I had to fly to -- I did two days or three, yeah, that was two days of a three-day stage race. It was just short, like long weekend type thing. So, I really did two days back to back, two long road races.
And then the next day I had to fly Iceland and I did a photo shoot over there for a new bike that my sponsor Focus is doing. So, we were in Iceland for five days and then I came back and I jumped into some more racing. I did some criterium racing in Oklahoma. I did another stage race out in Minnesota. So, yeah, I was shooting around just doing local races and kind of combining volume. I would say interval training, five, eight, 12, 15 minute type efforts here in between those races and sort of getting my high end dialed in and then doing those races and sort of letting that just happen.
And then we have our big charity event that I personally put, like help a lot with. So, that takes a lot of my time and I tend to take a break around the fourth of July so that brings us up to July where I'm just doing basically like integral training up to that point and racing. So, I'm just kind of getting on with it and doing that. And then, yeah, in July, take like about a week to two week-break, week and a half, ten to 14 days, kind of easier off and then I start back up.
So now, I'm kind of back in the base period where I've done about three weeks of good base training now and then I will do some, start some intensity after I take a short break here, kind of the middle of August, and then I'll do an altitude camp in Colorado out in Boulder, starting on the 15th of this month. I'll be there until the starts on the 10th of September.
Christopher: You're going to spend some time in altitudes, and do you look at any blood markers before and after?
Jeremy: Yeah, we have in the past. I've used -- I've just gone in every -- I'd say every two weeks when I'm there. I would consider myself a big responder to altitude and, I think, that that's something that I've learned over the years. Some people are huge responders. They get a lot of benefit from being at altitude. And other people, they just kind of get beat down and they don't ever really get on top of it and they don't see a huge increase.
For me, I've always had a lot of success starting my season out at altitude and if I go back during the season, I think, I just -- my body works extra hard to kind of get the ability to do work up at altitudes. So, it's producing more red blood cells and making me feel better overall. I just feel like that's a great place to start my season. It's a nice way to kind of get everything going. If you've ever been to Boulder there's so many resources. Everyone's out riding. There's tons of people to ride with. There's great motor pacing.
And I also do a cyclocross camp out there in August with FasCat Coaching which I'll be doing again this year. It kind of all fits together. My mechanic also lives in Boulder. For me, it's about resources. It's about the altitude training and just a great community of people to ride with and hang with. So, yeah, I definitely have looked at blood markers. My numbers do go up, not insanely but, yeah, they do. They definitely do go up.
I'm actually using a pretty cool device called Ember right now which is owned by, I think it's called Cercarcor, the company. But it's a daily -- you can check your hemoglobin, daily with it. You just put your finger in it. It's been pretty cool. I've been playing with that for the last, I don't know, ten days or two weeks. I'm excited and interested to see how it reacts when I'm at altitude and what actually happens day to day with my hemoglobin.
Christopher: It takes a while to make red blood cells, right? So, you might see the changes much later.
Jeremy: Yeah. And, I think, it's going to be cool either way. I think it's been pretty accurate. I checked it against -- I get some monthly blood work done. So, I checked it against that. It was really accurate. So, I'm pretty excited about seeing what exactly happens because you don't really have the ability. You can look at it in the macro way, like your blood work, but you can never really look at it in a micro way.
I'm not like hyper. I mostly use blood work as am I [0:58:36] [Indiscernible] or am I not? Should I be resting or should I not? And when you're in the middle of a cyclocross season in November and you see all of your values are really low then you know, yeah, okay, we're not going to push it anymore. It's a good time to take a rest. And so, I think getting any more, any deeper than that, for me, at this point, or what I understand at my own blood work, is kind of out the window. But I look at it more for just generally how do I feel, how am I waking up, how am I sleeping?
And when you're going back and forth to Europe for the world cups, you can get thrown off pretty quickly. And so that stuff starts to add up and that's why I really keep an eye on my values.
Christopher: Did you say that you track blood every month?
Christopher: Okay. And the other types of testing you do, is it just like a standard complete blood cell count with comprehensive wellness profile or what other markers have you added on that are interesting to you?
Jeremy: Yeah. Ferritin is really great. Ferritin just keeps to kind of iron your iron So ferritin. Sometimes we'll do testosterone just to see like if your testosterone is really low, you're feeling like crap and your testosterone is really low. All that means is that it's just a marker of fatigue really. I don't do that one as often. Sometimes we'll do cortisol just to see what's that like in the morning especially. Is it really high? Is it non-existent? What's going on with that? But, yes, CBC kind of a complete, what is it, like a CM and I historically had really low vitamin D. So, that's been one of the things over the last year that I've been tracking pretty seriously and actively trying to get up because I was down, like my number was ten and I'm not exactly sure what that measurement is.
But just going off the range that they put on there, ten is deficient. So, I've been really working on trying to get that back up into like 30-ish range for myself.
Christopher: That's really low. How can someone that spends so much time outdoors in the sun have vitamin D that low? Are you sure it's that low?
Jeremy: No, it was. When I first checked it at the end of the last season, I was really surprised. I felt horrible at the end of the last season. I had had a back injury and I just felt really low. So, we went and did a lot of strong panel blood work and just -- No, it was just one of the ones that really stood out. I was like, you're absolutely deficient in this. And by getting it up into the 20s and 25s, I did heal. I feel a lot better. Whether that's from the D or that's from just taking a rest and having the season be over, I don't know, but definitely not good to have it that low, that's for sure.
Christopher: You should check parathyroid and calcium as well. Just like a couple of other markers that you can look. Sometimes we see people with vitamin D that looks quite low, like say 30, and the parathyroid is also less than 30. And that means that that's just fine. So, I'll link to an episode of Chris Masterjohn's podcast where he talks about this in detail. He's super technical but really, really good for people like me, really, really geeky.
Jeremy: Yeah. I mean, I would not consider myself -- Like I said, I really use it as something that is if there's something that's very much out of range that I'm concerned, I really just take a rest because 99% of the time that I've had anything done, I feel like it's always just been -- it just take rest. And I know that I run it pretty hot and I'm doing a thousand things at any given time. So, I run. It's like four hours of riding and then a podcast and then three hours of yard work, hike the dog, come home, make dinner. It's very fast paced so I know how to drive my body into the ground. Somehow, looking at it, it has a way to kind of keep up with just how I'm feeling overall and kind of, I would say, pinning that against how I feel and what it's saying as well.
Christopher: How many hours do you sleep every night?
Jeremy: Gosh. I always strive for -- I'd say eight is great. I really go for eight hours. I think I can get away with seven. If I'm going less than that I just feel like I really don't recover appropriately and I'm feeling the effect of lack of sleep, anything less than seven. So, where does that really get in the way especially in Europe? It can be tough especially when you're switching those time zones pretty frequently, once a month? It can be tough. So, yeah, I could really try for seven plus and I feel like under that I'm just -- Sometimes, especially if it's less than six, then I'm just not training that day. That day just became a spin.
Christopher: And do you take naps? So, would you go for long ride and then take a nap and do something else in the afternoon?
Jeremy: Yeah, more so now than I did when I was 25-6-7-8. But, yeah, now I feel like it's almost -- it's like, for me, that is work. If I take a nap then I'm going to feel better and I'm going to get better value, better power numbers and things like that. So, yeah, if I do, I sometimes try to put it down 20 or 30 minutes. Sometimes I pass out, just fall asleep for a bit. Yeah, I do. Not like every single day though. That is not part of my ritual every day. I feel like I've got far too much going on. But if I'm doing a big training block then, yeah, for sure I will absolutely try to schedule or put in for just like -- I'm going to read for a while, if I fall asleep amazing.
Christopher: If you're able to give your 20-year old self some advice, that Cat 5 20-year old self, some advice, what would it be?
Jeremy: At that time, because I was such a nut, I was sort on that journey at that point, anyway, which was like surround yourself with really great people and sort of emulate the things that you like about that and try to make it your own. And so, I did try to do that but I think I wouldn't say that I wasn't serious. That would not be the right way to put it. But there's a difference between doing 95% as a pro and doing 105%. And the amount of people, I think, in this sport that are willing to do the 95% are pretty big in numbers.
But the guys, men, women and me, that are out there that are willing to do 105% or 110% of what they should be, like everything is perfect, those are the ones that really do see the success. And I always say to the riders that we have here that ask for my opinion or whatever, you can do a lot at 95% but it's about doing 110% and going past what you believe you can and really proving to yourself that you can. So, that would probably be the thing that I would have told myself just because it's so mental.
This sport specifically, it's so mental. I think every sport is. But what you believe is what you're able to achieve, I believe in. And so that's -- and really focus in on that part of my life as well and the psychology around that to be able to push myself to believe that something is possible, to be able to get on the podium of a world cup frenzy, is something that I really do believe. But if you don't even believe then you have zero chance of being able to get to that level.
I'm definitely -- That would probably be what I would tell myself is have fun but going out and having beers with your friends or having that pint of Ben and Jerry's every other night or whatever the things were that you do when you're 19, 20 years old because they're fun and that's what your friends are doing, those would have been things that if the most important thing to me was winning a world championship, then I would have probably looked at things differently then.
Christopher: I just discovered the JAM Fund Cycling.
Christopher: I just saw the link in your email signature. Can you tell me about that? I hope I'm pronouncing it. Do you say jam or do you say J-A-M?
Jeremy: It's jam. Yeah, we call it jam. JAM is an acronym for Jeremy, Alec and Mukunda, the guys that I had reference earlier that I moved in with when I first came to this area in Western Mass. Essentially, it is -- By design we have events that raise money. We're a registered nonprofit and we kicked down the financial barriers for young riders from our general geographical area. I can go into it a lot more but we're doing some great things and kind of -- I'd say that we share a common passion to help people and kind of push -- So, we really enjoy just straight up helping people and at some point we looked around and realized that a lot of the kids that we were riding with are riders in the areas had our old shoes, our old jerseys, our old bikes, were asking us for coaching advice.
And so by creating JAM, we really put a name to that and we started, we turned the volume up on that. And so we have a charity event called the Grand Fundo, not a grand fun-do which some people are probably familiar with, but an American version called the Grand Fundo. And so, yeah, we actually just finished that up a couple of weeks ago and we had about 400 riders come out and participate and so that's our major fundraiser for the year.
It's been great. We have a cyclocross team that's associated with it that we've had a lot of success. I think we've turned maybe six or seven riders professional that continue to live here in this area where I live in Western Mass and make a living racing cyclocross. So, they're pretty great and that's the community that I call on to go do a four-hour ride with like I did today.
Christopher: That's awesome.
Jeremy: We were out there with a couple riders. Yeah, it definitely is really good. It feels great. And I think we've helped changed some lives in the process. So, that's what it's about.
Christopher: That's amazing. I'll link to this in the show notes so people can look at this jamcycling.org.
Jeremy: Yeah, thanks.
Christopher: Tell me about the coaching that you do as well.
Jeremy: I don't really do coaching. I would say I do mentoring. I'm not very much a coach, mainly because I don't feel like I can give a lot to the riders that I would be coaching. And so I have tried. I dabbled in coaching a little bit but more than that I think I'm a better mentor right now with my racing. I do own the program, the racing program that I have, Aspire Racing, and we have signed a new rider this year, Ellen Noble. In between that and the staff for that, two mechanics, and my manager and then, obviously, the 20 sponsor relationship. There's quite a big going on in my world and I just feel like coaching is so individual and it takes a lot of time and you really need to be dedicated to that and I just -- I'm not much of a half-asser.
So, if I can't give 100% to someone then I'm just like I'm out on it. And so I feel like more -- If you can get me on a long ride and ask me the questions about the things, sort of like we did today, then I'm happy to share that and to give as much insight into whatever it is that I know about. And I'm not afraid because, I've always said, it's extremely hard to make it in this sport and even if I told them everything that I knew it would still be insanely hard for them to make it. It's a lot of work. In the end, I'm more of a mentor. I'm not a coach. I don't have any clients. But when I'm done racing, I hope that I can kind of take the knowledge base that I've accumulated over the years and give that to some riders for sure.
Christopher: That was going to be my next question. Do you think what's next for you? I mean, will you still be -- Say, you're 42 years old and you're still the national champion, would you keep on racing or do you have an age in mind or…?
Jeremy: No, no. Definitely not. I think we're sort of in the end of, I would say, the last couple of years of my career, for sure. I love it. I've been racing for a long time though. And I still love every day getting on the bike and I still have a lot of passion for what I'm doing and I find I'm still learning things and I'm still changing, like things that we talked about all day, even diet all the way down to putting myself into ketosis or whatever these things are.
You get to like really tweak and push your body and it's a lot of fun for me to do that. And I love racing. I love cyclocross. I love the technical aspect of it. But I think the next version of my world will probably be more, a little bit more family-oriented. When you're traveling a lot and you're racing and you're high end athlete, like thanksgiving dinner isn't the same as if you're not. Christmas, I think I made it to like one or two Christmas in the last 15 years. Things like that will probably increase for me. And I'll probably be home more.
But still definitely involved in the sport. I love cyclocross. I probably still own and expand the program, my Team Aspire. And, yeah, I'll probably fall into a role in there somewhere in coaching and helping riders but I could go on a completely different direction too and start a bakery. I have no idea what will happen but that's the beauty in it, right? We'll take it as it comes.
Christopher: Awesome. Jeremy, is there anything I missed? Jpowers.com is the website and I will, of course, link to that. Is there anything else that people should know about? BehindtheBarriers.TV or anything else?
Jeremy: There's going to be -- We could talk all day, Chris, but I think we did a good job here just getting people familiar with cyclocross and what I do. And so, yeah, I appreciate everyone taking the time to listen and I thank you for your time and all the podcasts that you've done that I've listened to on my rides and I've learned quite a bit from you and people you've interviewed. So, hopefully, I was able to teach some people a little bit about what I do.
Christopher: I think you're amazing. I think it's amazing that you're listening to my podcast. It's kind of weird and self referential at the moment. I think it's amazing and I think it's amazing that you took the time to come on to this show and talk about some of the things that you've been doing to make you a national champion. I'm not sure that I would do that. I'm not sure I'd want everyone else to know what I was doing that made me better than everybody else in the country. Yeah, of course, thank you so much for your time and this insight. It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you.
Jeremy: Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you.
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