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Shane Sigle, Adventure Racer - Part II
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 1/2/2003
Shane Sigle, Adventure Racer - Part II
Part II

Team Montrail has steadily climbed the ranks in adventure racing over the past three years. Two years ago, the team placed third in the World Championships and had a few other top five finishes. In 2002, they placed second in the Primal Quest (most competitive field of teams in a race ever) and first in the Raid the North Extreme (a major race). The team also traveled in the top four for most of the first six days of Eco-Challenge until an injury forced them to abandon.

One of only two American teams to consistently place in the top five in major races, they are known for an ability to blow away the competition in the paddling legs of the races and were once thought of as poor cyclists. However, after contacting Wobble-Naught, Thompson, and Moots last year, the combination of these three sponsors greatly improved this leg of their racing.

Currently in negotiations for a 2003 title sponsor, they are planning to race full time starting in February. Shane Sigle is available for radio interviews and may be contacted via e-mail or cell phone.

DP: Tell me a bit about your Team and Team mates, their strong points, and who can hold on to their sense of humor and lift the others up when it gets tough out there. How important is it to keep the team in communication with each other without losing sight of your goal to conquer and win?

Shane: To simplify our team is to say that everyone has a specific role and the entire team will breakdown if one of us cannot fill their role. That is not true and the roles on a team change as different people are feeling good and others are feeling bad. My team is composed of Rebecca Rusch, Patrick Harper, myself and Novak Thompson.
Patrick is our head navigator and his job is to think and make sure we do not get lost. His mind is always on a map. Novaks job is to navigate when needed and back up Patrick. Novak is arguably as good of a navigator as Patrick and the two of them work together to get the team where we need to go. Novak is also a very strong man. He can regularly be seen carrying a very large pack so other have less weight to carry. Novak is an Aussie so his language provides regular entertainment for us American "sepos". Rebecca is the organizer and strategist. She brings many years of experience to the team. She knows what to do and when to do it. I'm still not sure what my role is but I try to bring a really good attitude and lots of positive energy when things are not going well. We don't have a joker on our team but the team can regularly be seen laughing at me and not with me!

DP: In the whole run of the race, is mental strength or physical strength the most important in doing well in a race?

Shane:  Mental strength is more important in the longer races while physical strength is more important in the shorter races. 

DP: At first I was trying to see how adventure racing might fit into the Daily Peloton's cycling coverage other than one leg always has cycling. Now I see from your responses that the common thread is the testing each of us does of ourselves whether that is in cycling, racing, or our personal lives. As Lance Armstrong said on the title of his book  "It's not about the bike,"  it’s about seeking your personal limits and improving your life and surviving.

Shane: Vaughn, you too have pushed yourself to mental and physical limits. I don't need to explain much to you why we do this type of racing. If there is one thing I hope you can convey from talking to me, it is that there are incredible personal gains to be had when challenging oneself. Whether it is a walk around the park, a weekend bike ride, bike racing, or a 1000 km adventure race, challenging ourselves physically brings a richer life.

DP:  I agree Shane.  I got started mountain climbing when I foolishly took the challenge to climb a 1200 ft cliff with a novice climber.  It could have come to a tragic end with us roped together with 1200 foot fall below  with no protection  in the rock. You heard that correct, no pitons, no chocks ,no carabiners, no protection to secure the ropes in the event of a fall. Lord have mercy. We must have looked stupid roped together with a clothes line. If one of us fell, it only would have dragged the other to certain death.  My climbing partner knew nothing, and I knew less.  I got the shit scared out of me that day. I was hanging on to the granite, shaking so much with terror, I thought I might vibrate off the wall, and as one of my instructors said later, "one mistake and you whistle to the turf  4000 ft. below.
I had to continue climbing until I could climb without fear; which I did for the next several years.  I learned that fear is a valuable companion and that panic can be avoided and controlled.  Beyond this, I think I explored the "terra incognito" of my own limits... which in the end made me realize, as you have, that these were self imposed and nothing more than barriers to cross on the way to new vistas.

Part of the challenge with a team must be keeping an emotional anchor or equilibrium as exhaustion and physical stress accumulate. Are there tactics, tools, or nutrition (like vitamin B-1) the team uses to overcome this challenge? Have you seen others "crack" emotionally? 

Shane: First, everyone cracks emotionally at some point. Even the best will lose it. The thing that separates the best is that they recover quickly, whether it be physically or mentally. If someone is not at the edge of all their abilities, than they are not helping the team. I have had teammates that are the last to crack, but they don't help anyone out, they don't carry extra weight, and they don't give anything to the team.These racers seem strong to onlookers, but they are the weak ones.

The funny thing about holding it all together is that we use the same tools that any person uses in their everyday life. We always stay positive and we always support each other. We are always there to help a teammate when they are down and we always look out for each other. We are a machine that operates with four cogs. We all know what the strengths and weaknesses of each team member are and we each look to the stronger one when we are not doing well. A good racer is humble when they are strong. They pull other teammates with ropes, carry their bike through jungle sections, or they take some of their weight. I have seen teammates simply hold the hand of someone to provide emotional support. On the other hand, the best racers know when they are hurting and they accept help without having an ego or too much pride.

Adventure racing reduces each and every racer to nothing at some point during the race. The race sucks all hope, energy, passion, desire and will out of each racer. It replaces them with anger, pain, and unending and constantly nagging despair. On the other hand, the race gives a deep sense of pride and confidence that is unmatched.

We are big proponents of nutrition. We use Emergen-c (vitamin C and other multi-vitamin energy supplement), Met-Rx products, and gels. But, when all is said and done we live on four things: fat, caffeine, sugar, and salt. That is what the human body needs for survival

DP:  Amazing, not so different than mates on a pro cycling team in a stage race. I am wondering how you train for so many disciplines. Do you cross train daily or spend days where you mountain bike, then days you run or hike?
I mean what does the teams training look like? I imagine most of the training is done separately and then some together as a team?

Shane: We train together as a team during the season and go our separate ways during the winters. We all have specialties. Patrick is a cross country skier, Rebecca is a rock climber, Novak is a triathlete, and I am a paddler. We all try to work on our weaknesses while not losing our strengths. Personally, I try to follow a regimented training schedule while Rebecca tries not to train. We don't train a whole lot together and team training usually involves going out for dinner or a drink. We spend enough time together at such a high intensity that it is nice to sit and have a beer together.

DP: Ok, now I imagine on a trek like this you carry your food and all supplies, or are there food drops or some basic support? What is the nutrition like during a race? Supplementation? The calories per day must be something? 

Shane: There are transition areas where you will change from biking to hiking or hiking to paddling. At these transition areas, you have access to a box with all of your gear and food. The legs of the race (a leg is a length of the race without access to our boxes) can range from a few hours to 30-40 hours. If it happens to be a hiking or biking leg, you must carry a lot of food. It is also legal to find local help along the way. If you know you will pass through a town and it is not the middle of the night, you bring money because it is a lot lighter than food. Most of the time we are in the middle of the jungle in Fiji or the forest in the Yukon territory so local help is not an option.

There is also mandatory gear that each team is required to carry. The mandatory gear rarely is less than about 5-10 pounds per person and can be as high as 40 pounds. One sign of a good team is their ability to distribute the weight between racers so everyone is traveling at the same speed.

The nutrition is basic: sugar, fat, caffeine, and salt.  Some racers live on "powerbars" and "powergels" while some racers throw a slab of salami and some cheese in their packs. Everyone is different, but the common theme is an intense connection with the body and knowledge of what it takes to keep it alive and moving. Later in the races, the body is not able to handle a lot of whole foods and racers resort to liquid foods such as Ensure and Met-Rx protein shakes.

I eat the most on team and I guess that I can put away about 6000-7000 calories a day when we are racing. As you know, the average person eats about 1500 calories in a day.

DP:  Shane it looks like you had a great 2002, quite a change from 2001. What made the difference and will there be any changes this year?

Shane:  Team Montrail is known for it's ability to blow away the competition in the paddling legs of the races and were once thought of as poor bikers. Last year we made contact with Wobble-Naught, Thompson, and Moots. The combination of these three sponsors has greatly improved our biking and struck fear into our competition once we get in the saddle.

We are currently in the process of negotiations for a title sponsor for 2003 and plan to race full time starting in February, also the Team Montrail site will be up in the next few days.

DP:  So you and the team  are riding the Moots titanium bike?

Shane:  Yes, a Moots titanium YBD Softail.

DP:  I interviewed Tom Coleman and wrote an article on the fitting system.  Did that system help you?  What did the other members have to say about the Wobble-naught fit.

Shane:  Well,  you quoted me  in the earlier Wobble-naught article.  Most of the team made a quick transition with the system to a better fit.  My position before the fit was completely wrong as I wasn't really a mountain biker, so it took me about a month of riding to make the transition.
Before the fit I had groin and hamstring cramping on most every ride over three hours.  After the fit, the cramping stopped and I felt the workload being transferred to the larger muscle groups. By the end of a month, I felt my cycling had improved and now I regularly do 5 to 6 hour rides with no cramps.
The difference is huge, I am climbing stronger and I can train longer without the pain and the cramps.
This was true for all of us after Tom Coleman fit us.   Rebecca Rusch, the team captain said, " The comfort that comes from the Wobble-naught custom bike fitting is the kicker. We’re able to ride longer and without any discomfort. We all found ourselves riding much better, more efficiently... we had our bikes set up for better climbing and with no change in our descents. We were moving much better individually, as well as a team."

DP: So where can we expect to see you in the next few months before February when you and the team start racing?

Shane: I can be found somewhere between Atlanta and DC riding a trail or paddling a river. I'm finishing my masters degree in Water Engineering as we speak but plan to move back west as soon as I am finished out here in the east.

DP:  Thanks Shane, let's keep in touch, eh.  Maybe let us know how you and the team are doing this coming season.

Shane:  Thanks Vaughn, will do.

Related links:
Moots Bicycles
The Holy Grail of Bike Fit
Team Montrail
Rebecca Rusch
Quest adventure group:

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Shane Sigle, Adventure Racer - Part I

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