My social media feeds are full of people lamenting how horrible 2016 was, but from where I’m sitting the past twelve months were AWESOME! I am a big believer in taking time to recognize and appreciate goals you have accomplished and feats you have achieved. Some people are too quick to dismiss or gloss over accomplishments, and instead only look forward. In my view, if you respected your goals enough to pursue them you should respect them enough to reflect on them. So here are some of the accomplishments, events, and people I’d like to acknowledge and remember from 2016.
Note: Use the comments section below to share your top accomplishment, event, or personal shout-out for 2016!
Kaci Lickteig – Western States Endurance Race Champion
“The Pixie Ninja” finished a strong come-from-behind 2nd place at WS100 in 2015, and returned in 2016 confident in her ability to contend for the win. As her coach, Jason Koop, notes frequently, success in ultrarunning comes down to great fitness, thorough preparation that minimizes the risk of problems, and good fortune. All three, plus a positive outlook, carried Kaci to the biggest win of her career!
Greg Daniel – US Pro Road Race National Champion
There is so much to like about Greg Daniel. He’s a bike racer in a peloton that spends too much time looking at the computers on their bars or waiting for direction from their earpieces. On top of that he is a genuinely good kid who has a tremendous work ethic. A product of Axel Merckx’s tremendously successful Axeon program, which has matriculated a seriously large number of athletes to the ProTour, Greg is personally coached by CTS Coach Jim Lehman. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Greg rode aggressively in breakaway groups on a hot and humid day, and then still had the power and savvy to attack the lead group on the final climb and solo in for the victory! He’ll be taking the stars-and-stripes jersey to Europe as a member of the Trek-Segafredo Pro Cycling Team in 2017.
Mara Abbott – 4th Place, Olympic Road Race
As an endurance athlete you rarely have the opportunity to say you did everything right. Mara Abbott can say it. Her performance at the Rio Olympics was flawless. She made the right decisions, the right moves, and had the support of a great team. Years of experience and work with Coach Dean Golich led her to make great choices that put her in position to race for the win. Alas, a team of three chased her down and all three medals vanished within sight of the finish line. As a coach I am as interested in the person and process as the result, and I don’t think I have ever seen anyone ride a one-day race more perfectly than Mara rode the Olympic Road Race. You can argue the perfect race has to end with victory, but I would argue the perfect race happens when you are at the peak of your physical abilities and execute everything in your ability to win, from preparation to attitude and nutrition to strategy. The hardest thing to accept about endurance sports is that sometimes not even perfection results in victory.
Amanda Nauman – Dirty Kanza 200 Champion
Don’t let the moniker “Amanda Panda” fool you. While panda bears don’t evoke visions of strength, tenacity, or resilience, behind that cuddly appearance there’s still a bear you don’t want to mess with. It takes a special kind of toughness to specialize in cyclocross and ultraendurance gravel racing. In 2016 Amanda – with the help of her coach Dave Sheek – leveraged her power from cyclocross season to develop the speed and deep endurance necessary to defend her title as the Queen of the Dirty Kanza 200!
Ernst & Young Legacy Builders – 50-59 4-Person Mixed RAAM Champions
Mark Gibson and Peter Zofrea provided just one of many great examples of what focused time-crunched athletes can achieve. Mark and Peter were half of a 4-person RAAM team, even though neither had any experience with racing across the entire United States. They worked with CTS Coaches Jane Marshall and Julia Geischen, stuck to the program, were open and receptive to the guidance from their coaches, and together with their teammates, the Ernts & Young Legacy Builders team won the 50-59 Mixed 4-person division at Race Across America! On top of that, the team raised $250,000 for the Ernst & Young’s College MAP program.
Book of the Year – “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning”
A lot of people want to have a big impact without doing the work required. Jason Koop worked and learned as a CTS Coach for 15 years before writing Training Essentials for Ultrarunning, and the result is a book that will long be the benchmark training book for ultrarunning. What was most impressive was Koop’s diligence and respect for the subject. He didn’t stop at “close enough” when it came to facts. He respected the readers’ interest and intelligence by deep diving into complex sports science and still making those subjects approachable for anyone. Even if you are not an ultrarunner, I think it’s a book any endurance athlete will benefit from reading.
Tour du Mont Blanc – My Best Day on the Bike
I love riding in the Alps in summer, but after leading a number of camps centered around following the Tour de France I decided I wanted to do something different. The Tour du Mont Blanc is a one-day ride that circumnavigates Mont Blanc. As a relay team or a solo rider you ride 330 kilometers through three countries and climb more than 8,000 meters. It’s beautiful, it’s tough, and it’s still a relatively small event. I’m going again in 2017, and while everyone else is crammed together at the Tour de France, we’ll have the unbelievable roads around Mont Blanc virtually to ourselves!
Best Gear of the Year – Wahoo ELEMNT
The best tech disappears as you use it, and that’s what the Wahoo does best. The setup is the simplest of any computer I’ve ever used. The companion app pairs with the device in seconds and you use the app to set up the screens, etc. When you return from a ride, the computer syncs automatically with TrainingPeaks, Strava, and a bunch of other software programs. Go for a ride outdoors, and the ELEMNT can recreate it on a Wahoo smart trainer. In ergometer mode we can even use them to run a lactate threshold test. Wahoo has also continuously upgraded the firmware for the ELEMNT, making a good device progressively better without requiring buyers to purchase upgrades.
Best Non-Training Book I Read in 2016: “Back from the Dead”, by Bill Walton
I’m a Bill Walton fan. Not because I’m a basketball fan (although I am), and not because I like the Grateful Dead (I do, but not nearly as much as Bill does); I’m a Bill Walton fan because I have had the pleasure of spending many hours riding alongside him. He is wise, funny, insightful, challenging, generous, tenacious, and humble. I always leave a conversation with Bill feeling better about the world and our respective places in it. That’s how relentlessly and genuinely positive he is. The more you learn about the struggles, injuries, setbacks, and surgeries he’s endured, the more amazing his current personality becomes. I highly recommend Back from the Dead. The man has been to the top of the mountain and to the depths of hell, and come through it all with grace and wisdom and the generosity to share with the rest of us.
There are many more experiences and people I could add to this list, and I would leave someone or something off no matter how long I make it. I am truly thankful to all the amazing coaches who work with me at CTS, the thousands of athletes who trust CTS for their coaching, and the dozens of companies we are proud to partner with. 2016 was a hard year, full of turmoil, violence, and an oddly long list of artists/athletes/icons who died (Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, John Glenn, Dave Mirra, Harper Lee, Gordie Howe, Pat Summit, Elie Wiesel, Arnold Palmer, and Gene Wilder… to name a few). I’m looking forward to 2017, not just to put 2016 behind us, but because a new year is a new opportunity to build upon past achievements and reach new heights!
Happy New Year!
CEO/Head Coach of CTS