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Jason Walker: A different kind of athlete in a different kind of bike sport of Cyclocross

By on November 24, 2019 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
Staying in the groove in the sand is very important for Jason Walker during this cyclocross event on the westside. Photo by Woodinvillebicycle.com

By Sarah Shaffer

Question: Jason, we heard you moved to Wenatchee from Reno. What brought you to our area?

Answer: Multifactorial decision. Honestly, the impetus was the vaccination laws and schedule in Nevada. 

Kerri and I aren’t anti-vax, but we definitely don’t agree with the currently recommended vaccination schedule. We started looking at states with vaccination laws that allowed flexibility. 

Washington was the top choice since I grew up in the state and had most of my family living here, Kerri’s were in Portland, and I could be close to work. 

We considered Spokane but Wenatchee won out due to proximity to Seattle (to pop over for work), access to the outdoors and the climate.

Question: What do you do for work, do you have kids or dogs? Tell us a bit about yourself.

Answer: I work at Microsoft, playing with spreadsheets and data; I’ve been there 22 years. I have two kids — Louden who is about to turn 10, Lander who is 8 and a little dog named Pepper (we think she’s two or so). And I’m married to Kerri, who owns a business locally.

Cyclocross requires racing through a mixed set of conditions… and having lots of biking gear.

Question: What do you enjoy about Cyclocross? We heard you got sixth in the nation for a Cyclocross competition this last year.

Answer: It was probably one of the best all around races I’ve been a part of, all things considered, and not necessarily because of my finish.

Cyclocross is very dynamic, I think that’s what I like most about it. 

For those who’ve never seen it, it’s basically a road bike with skinny mountain bike tires and you race on a course normally less than two miles over grass, pavement, dirt, sand and various barriers for between 45-60 minutes. It gets really fun when it rains or snows.

Beyond needing to be physically fit, you also need to be able to get on and off your bike effectively, be able to run and understand the conditions of the course for proper tire and pressure selection. 

You run because often times conditions necessitate getting off your bike because it’s impossible to ride — and/or they put up barriers or there can be stairs in the course.  

It’s really a great biking discipline and requires more athletic movement than any other biking discipline.

There’s a lot going on. I did a lot of road bike stage races where you’d have a TT bike, a road bike and couple different helmets and I thought that was a lot of gear. 

The amount of gear in cyclocross dwarfs all other biking disciples; this isn’t what attracted me to it but races are won and lost based on tire tread choice and/or tire pressure. 

Honing the craft takes time and it’s fun to talk with other racers about it. 

Serious dudes/dudettes will have eight sets of wheels at their disposal for race day and at least two identical bikes. 

I’m semi-serious as I only have five sets of wheels and my bikes are different colors. 

Question: Do you train year around for your Cyclocross races? 

Answer: No, it’s very specific. I try to simply ride my bike from the end of April or so through September to keep the weight lowish, and to build my aerobic engine or base. 

Once real training starts it gets very unglamorous, basically I look at a little computer on my bike for about two to three minutes at a time, six times. These are called intervals and they really suck. 

But they work. I also mix in some type of running with my bike, like over at the dunes off the east side loop or anywhere with a steep slope. 

I also will break out barriers made out of PVC and try to hop over them. Silly stuff really but important come race day. 

I’ve been riding/racing a cross bike for about six years now but have a long history of pedaling circles.

Question: What other activities/outdoor sports do you enjoy?

Answer: I really like skiing, especially with my family. They are a hoot to watch evolve athletically. I’m also getting back into rock climbing thanks to my oldest son Louden, and I think I could be more of a typical “sportsman” soon with fishing and hunting now interesting me. 

I recently finished a bike ride in Derby Canyon and at the bottom of the canyon were five hunters skinning a bear. I stopped and talked to them for about 20 minutes and watched. 

I started thinking I could do that on a bike or better yet, on an e-bike with a trailer and a bow. I think that’s in my future.

Question: What kind of diet/nutrition do you keep while training? 

Answer: My diet/nutrition is nearly identical all year round. I geek out on nutrition and take it fairly seriously (just ask Kerri). 

The only caveat is I probably eat a few more carbs during training/race season and maybe drink less beer (maybe). 

My diet consists of mainly organic meat and veggies with some fruit sprinkled in. I’ve mostly cut out all dairy, non-beer gluten and high lectin foods, like legumes and nightshades. 

Some of this is tragic for sure, but I’ve been experimenting with the instapot lately as it supposedly can destroy most lectins. Early results are positive.

Question: Can you give our reader’s a tip or trick for becoming a better rider? 

Answer: I’ll give conflicting answers, the first for the novice and the second for the more experienced rider.

For the novice: Ride more, especially off pavement. You’ve heard about the theory of 10,000 hours; well, I think it’s true, so the more riding you do the better you will become. Off-pavement riding will also make your bike handling better and give you confidence.

For the experienced rider: Ride less, rest more. Rest is probably the most underrated part of being fast. I’ve always been a very good rester, which helps me when I need to be fast.

I actually like to not eat while riding. You can do things to help your body become fat-adapted, i.e. preferentially burning fat instead of glucose, and riding in a fasted state is one of them. I do this often. 

However, if I am going to eat something, real food, like a sandwich is fun and satisfying. I once had a leftover reuben sandwich in my back pocket for a road race.

Question: What is your favorite ride to do around the Wenatchee area?

Answer: Probably the Stemilt Loop for the road, Lake Creek trail for mountain biking and all the fire roads up Entiat for the cross/gravel bike. The riding we have here is really world class.

Question: What are your current Cyclocross goals for the future, or what other physical activity outdoor goals do you have?

Answer: My only cyclocross goal is to win the national championship this year. It’s in Tacoma in December. After that I’m not sure. 

My goal may be to not have any goals like this in the future. It’s hard to overstate the strain wanting to win puts on my inner circle. It will be nice to just enter a race without any expectations, or to just support someone else racing.

The full version of this story appears on Wenatcheeoutdoors.org — the site covers such topics as hiking, biking, climbing, paddling, trail running and skiing in the region.

Sarah Shaffer is the Executive Director of WenatcheeOutdoors.

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